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Ask PFW: Pats passing on the run

This week we look at the Patriots decision to scrap the running game, potential draft targets and a whole lot more in this edition of Ask PFW.

We've seen this year that the Patriots have probably the best air game in NFL history, not to mention probably the best team ever. However, the running game still seems to be lacking. Kevin Faulk is great, but he is getting old and Sammy Morris was great before he got injured. The problem is that Maroney does not seem to be living up to his 1st round pick. Arkansas RB Darren McFadden might be the best player in the draft and he could be a perfect fit in New England. The combination of McFadden and Maroney could produce a strong ground game, which could in turn make the air game even deadlier. So what are the chances that the Patriots could wind up selecting McFadden in the 2008 Draft?
Josh Strzeszkowski

It's obvious that we need to draft a Corner and/or an above average Linebacker. I don't see Samuel staying after this season I think it would be a big shock if he did. We are going to have a top 5 draft pick in 2008 and even if Darren McFadden is there when it's our pick I might have to pass just because we are so thin at DB and LB. My questions are... Would you take Darren McFadden if he were there? Is Malcom Jenkins a possibility? Maybe even Dan Connor? What are your thoughts on who we should draft?
Kris Whiteley

Well, like I've said before it's a little early to talk about the draft because we've yet to go through all of our draft preparation. McFadden is obviously the guy Patriots fans are looking at right now because Maroney hasn't lived up to expectations. In my opinion, the top five is too high for Conner or Jenkins. They would be more likely candidates if the Patriots traded down. Right now, I believe that's what they'll do. There are a lot of top linebackers in this draft class that can play in the 3-4, so I think the Patriots trade down and grab the one they like best. If they were to stay at No.2 right now, I think they would take McFadden. We still have a long ways to go and we'll have a better grasp on the draft once we return from the Combine.
-Tom Casale

Guy's, what the heck is going on with Maroney? I don't know about the other Pats fans, but what is the deal with this guy? We have no running game. I want to give this guy a chance, but every time I see him run I cringe. I was screaming at the TV yesterday "don't give him the ball" I hate the Colts but I sure wish we got Addai instead of Maroney. He's dancing around instead of hitting the hole hard. Is it me, or does he just suck! I'm glad I didn't buy one of his jerseys, I'd be embarrassed to wear it now. I hope he does something soon, or dump him for someone who can run.
Dave Bennett

Hello, The moose from Idaho here, I'm a lifelong pats fan, born and bred in central NH. Thanks to technology, I am able to watch every pats game here. Off to my question. Every since Sammy Morris went down our running game has been less than stellar. I appreciate the fact that we are able to still dominate with the passing game...but leading into the playoffs, I get more concerned weekly about not having a running game. What are we now, about #32 in the league for yards running per game? How are we going to fare in the playoffs and or Super Bowl being so one sided? Has any team ever won it all with just the pass? I appreciate all your comments throughout the years.
Greg Bourdon

It's hard to criticize the Patriots for not running the football because they're 13-0 and have scored over 500 points on the season. No team in the past has ever won the Super Bowl running the ball at this rate but those teams also didn't have Tom Brady. I just think the Patriots use the short pass as their running game. Bill Belichick obviously feels that spreading defenses out is the best way for New England to move the ball. My argument against Maroney would be that if he were any good, he would get more opportunities.

The Colts have had great passing teams over the years but they still found a way to get the ball to Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai. The Rams had a great passing game but they still found a way to get the ball to Marshall Faulk (except in the Super Bowl). I think it's an excuse to say that Maroney isn't getting touches because the Patriots want to throw the ball all the time. Plenty of great passing teams still run the football. I just don't think Maroney is very good and the Patriots know it. Are you telling me if Addai were in New England he would only get 10 carries a game? I can't buy that for a second. Maroney may have a big game against the Jets but it's obvious that against good teams, the Patriots have no desire to run the football. Let's see if they have that same approach next season should they draft Darren McFadden. I seriously doubt it.
-Tom Casale

Why do Patriots fans only stand up and make noise on third downs. I have been to quite a few other stadiums in the league, and I noticed that fans there stand up and make a lot of noise an every down, not just on third downs, to help their defense out. I have brought signs to the stadium pointing this out but nothing has worked so far. Help me out here please.
Elaine Trudel

We travel to a bunch of different stadiums every year and Gillette is by far the quietest one I've been in. The fans here only cheer during obvious situations. The rest of the game they sit down like they're at a piano recital. The fans were really loud for the Chargers game but they don't bring that kind of energy every week. All fans should go to Kansas City to see how to act during a game. The Chiefs fans are by far the best I've ever seen when it comes to getting into the game.
-Tom Casale

So the Pats beat a good team in the Steelers but performed terribly against mediocre teams Philly and Baltimore. What gives? Could it be that the Pats simply did not devise a gameplan specifically for the Philly/Baltimore and had a specific one for Pittsburgh?
J Bains

Well J, it's the NFL and all these guys are professionals. While the Patriots are the most talented team on paper, it's extremely difficult to be at the top of your game every single week. That's why no one has gone undefeated in 35 years. Plus, all these other teams are trying to make history too by being the first to knock off the Patriots. When I was waiting for Brian Billick's press conference in Baltimore, one of the Ravens beat writers said, "If the team played like this every week, maybe they wouldn't have a six game losing streak." I thought that was a great point. The Ravens gave it everything they had against the Patriots and almost won the game. Then what happens the next week? They don't show up and are trailing the Colts 30-0 in the first quarter. To do what the Patriots are doing is extremely difficult, which is why if they go undefeated it will be such an impressive accomplishment.
-Tom Casale

Could Bill be holding back his skills for the post season? People used to describe him as one of the most formidable Defensive minds in the game but the defense has been lacking lately, even though they're still ranked among the top, could he be holding back his creativity to take advantage of a lack of information for opponents in the playoffs?
Pascal Rawls-Philippe

If you know anything about Bill Belichick you would know that this theory is impossible. Belichick does whatever it takes to win every single game, regardless of who the opponent is. He'll worry about the playoffs when that time comes. There's no way he's holding things back. Everyone knows the Patriots are going to try and get the ball to Moss and Welker. That's no mystery. Its just Brady and the offense is so good, no one can stop them. To quote Bill, "They are just taking things one week at a time."
-Tom Casale

Hey PFW, I noticed that the Pats cut 4th round draft pick Kareem Brown last week. So, does that mean Brandon Meriweather is the only player still on the team from the 2007 draft class? What gives? I realize they traded a couple of those picks in exchange for 2008 picks (both of which are looking pretty good right now), but why pick a bunch of no names in the later rounds when there were higher rated players still available?
Tony Ramazio

This draft will always be remembered for the guys the Patriots didn't select. They got Moss, Welker and a top five pick in 2008. That's pretty good if you ask me. The team obviously didn't like this draft class. When people say a lot of their picks aren't on the roster, well most of those guys were selected in the fifth, sixth and seven rounds. It's not like they were high picks. Remember, New England only had one pick on the first day of the draft. Most of their selections were in the later rounds and I just think it's hard for guys like that to make one of the greatest teams of all-time. I'll take Moss, Welker and a top-five pick in a much more talented draft any day of the week.
-Tom Casale

I have two questions that I think are relevant. First I know it's hard to complain about a team that is 12-0, but Coach Belichick always talks about playing your best football in November-December. The best football the Pats have played has been early in the season, and they seem to have struggled a bit the past month. Is this a concern or is it nothing to worry about? Secondly, it seems to me that the defense just isn't as physical as it once was. They used to hit you in the mouth, but lately that has not been the case. Is this product of the personnel or simply the defensive gameplan for these specific games?
Jeremy Ribadeneyra

Jeremy, I know you wrote this before the Steelers game so I'm sure you're not quite as concerned anymore. I think we need to give credit to the Eagles and Ravens. I thought both teams played great games against the Patriots. Plus, I honestly believe that the Patriots were a little out of gas in Baltimore with that being their third straight night game. I just work for the team and I was wiped out. Just imagine how the players and coaches felt. They showed against the Steelers that they are back to normal so I wouldn't worry.

I am a little bit concerned about the front seven on defense. I thought the Baltimore game was an aberration but then Willie Parker ran all over them as well. Let's be honest, the Colts are the only team we're really talking about in regards to beating the Patriots. When those two teams meet again, the front seven will need to play well because when Indy gets Addai going, they're tough to stop.
-Tom Casale

Dear Mr. Belichick, You are the greatest coach in NFL history and you are still getting better. I am an English Professor and would love to work for you one day. Maybe as a scout. Anyway, I am sending you this email because I am curious about Maroney. He doesn't look sure of himself. I don't like to give advice when I don't know exactly what is going on, but he did run better when Corey Dillon was around. Perhaps, you could bring back Dillon for the home stretch. You need a power back anyway, and he seems to inspire Maroney. I new fresh face in the locker room will also help. Thanks for being the coach of the New England Patriots. You can't imagine what you have ment to me and all of my long time Pat's fans friends. Sox are second fiddle to the Pats to us.

PS Don't hate the media so much. Anyone one with half a brain understands your situation. Pretend you enjoy the interviews. Thanks again, Good Luck against Pitt. Stop the run. Run the ball well, and joke with the players more. They need it. Show them the game they you lost to Pitt when you had a 21 game win streak going and then Catty Shack. It works with my students.
John Belly

I've always said John that English professors make the best scouts. May I ask where you teach? I'm just curious because you misspelled about five words in your e-mail, including "Catty Shack," a movie you claim to show your student for some reason. Why you show your students that movie? Sounds like a tough class. Watching Patriots games and Caddyshack. Where do I sign up?
-Tom Casale

Tom Brady is talented. So is Randy Moss. That is all.Brian Bim

So simple, yet so true. That's the season in a nutshell right there.
*-Tom Casale

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