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Ask PFW: Playoffs at last

What does it mean for a lineman to "stunt" on a play? I've heard this a few times and I can't figure out what is meant by it. Secondly, if weather is a significant factor in the Colts game, what are your thoughts on which team will benefit?Shawn
Silver Spring, Maryland

The term stunt is used to describe action taking place on the pass rush, usually between the defensive linemen. Generally defensive linemen rush the passer by trying to beat the blocker in front of them either by pushing back or trying to avoid him. When a stunt is involved, two or more linemen might rush to different areas to confuse the blockers. I defensive end and a defensive tackle might criss-cross before starting into the backfield, which occasionally allows one of them to go unblocked and get after the quarterback. Linebackers can get involved with these stunts as well. Basically it means the rush came from somewhere other than the normal straight-ahead position.
Paul Perillo

Now that we know Ty Law is on IR, and we'll likely be watching the Steelers celebrate a Super Bowl championship this year in Jacksonville, why haven't the Patriots been signing CBs not signed to any team? There's gotta be somebody better than Earthwind Moreland. I love our Pats, but truthfully, we're in trouble without Ty Law, especially if the Colts come up here.Kenny Hyde

I don't understand why the Pats aren't looking to sign any free agent safeties or corners. I know there are much better corners in the free agent market that are better/have more experience than Earthwind Moreland.Drew

Assuming that Bill Belichick knows what he's doing, and I think we can all make that assumption, what makes you think there is anyone out there better than Earthwind Moreland who the Patriots have chosen not to sign? I believe if there were a player available they felt could do the job better than what they have, they'd sign him.
Paul Perillo

How did Ben Watson get put on injured reserve? How serious is his injury, and will he be able to see some action next season?Jeremy Cahill

Watson hurt his knee early in the season and eventually underwent surgery. He's been seen occasionally in the locker room and says his rehab is going well and that he expects to make a full recovery and return next season. Before he was injured he was showing great athleticism and signs of being a key contributor.
Paul Perillo

With Rodney Harrison getting up there in age, do you believe that the Pats have a replacement player to take over when Rodney can no longer go? I was thinking Dexter Reid, what do you guys think?Max Yovanovitz

First, I don't think Rodney Harrison is going anywhere. He had one of his best seasons ever this year while holding the secondary together in light of all the injuries. He shows no signs of leaving anytime soon. But, he is 32 and a replacement will need to be groomed. My guess is Guss Scott, who missed the entire season on injured reserve with a knee injury. During training camp he was getting a lot of reps at safety while Eugene Wilson was recovering from his groin injury. In my opinion, Dexter Reid looks more like a special teams player like Je'Rod Cherry. He's still young so that could change, but my guess is Scott figures more into the secondary than Reid.
Paul Perillo

Do you think using a 4-3 in passing situations against the Colts and Steelers makes sense with this team as a way of increasing pressure on the QB or does the 3-4 create more pressure. It seems like when they use the LBs or even the DBs to attack the QB they don't quite get there in time. Why not attack up the middle with Wilfork/Traylor or even Seymour/Wilfork with Warren/Green at end?Paul Oppedisano

The Patriots use a great deal of both fronts in all situations so it's tough to say which creates the best pressure on the quarterback. Sometimes there may be only two or three defensive linemen on the field but the linebackers play up front from the down position as defensive linemen, giving them a four- and sometimes five-man front. Creating pressure against Indy and Pittsburgh is important, but against Indy in particular that can be dangerous if they need to send more than four rushers after the passer. Manning can pick you apart so the Patriots need to pick their spots and make sure they get there if they blitz.
Paul Perillo

I wanted to look ahead to 2005 because all the playoff speculation is making me nuts. With the Pats aging linebacker corps, do you think Lofa Tatupu of USC might end up here (assuming he goes early), or would he want to avoid following Mosi's footstep again? Or am I just dreaming? Also, will David Givens stick around, or do you think the Pats staff likes P.K. Sam enough to let him go? Sorry to look ahead, but as I said before, I've gone a little haywire.Chris W.

Boy Chris, this is supposed to be the fun time. If you can't enjoy the playoffs what do you like? But looking ahead, I think the Patriots definitely need a linebacker, preferably one that can play inside. I'm not sure how highly regard Tatupu is but whether or not he'd want to follow in his father's footsteps would be irrelevant. If the Patriots want him and he's available, they would draft him. As for Givens, that's a tough question. I think David will get an offer or two as a restricted free agent and the Patriots would have the right to match it. If he gets a reasonable lucrative offer, I think the Patriots will let him go. I haven't seen anything from P.K. Sam yet to make a determination on his future. I'm guessing the Patriots must have liked him enough to keep him around for a year by putting him on injured reserve.
Paul Perillo

I have had Norm Chow as a Charlie Weis replacement since Charlie said he was going to Notre Dame. All my Patriot Nation friends in Florida say no way. Why not? Norm certainly seems to have the job covered for USC and I would bet he could handle the Patriots as well.Patricia Lupien
Palm Beach, Fla.

Would the Patriots consider pursuing someone like Norm Chow of USC to take Charlie Weis' place? And maybe we should be checking out USC's defensive coordinator too?Mary Benisek Northampton

There's been very little talk about Weis' replacement but I think Bill Belichick will look closer to home and try to fill the position in house. Jeff Davidson is the logical candidate if he does so since he was the one who filled in and called the plays when Charlie was sick during the 2003 preseason. I think it would be tough for someone to go from college to the NFL as a coordinator without pro experience and Chow would have to learn the Patriots system because I feel Belichick would like to keep it in place rather than make wholesale changes to the offense. As for the defensive coordinator, your suggestion would basically amount to bringing Pete Carroll back because he serves as his own defensive coordinator. Plus, I think secondary coach Eric Mangini would be the perfect fit for that vacancy should Romeo Crennel get a head coaching job.
Paul Perillo

Are there no players in the NFL that are taken directly from high school or that 'walk on' to the team? I have heard the term 'undrafted player' but I don't know what that means. Is there such a thing as a 'walk on' or 'open-tryout' for NFL teams?Andrew Wilson

There are some occasional players in the NFL that didn't attend college. One I can remember off the top of my head is Eric Swann, who played for the Cardinals from 1991-99. There are certainly others, and some like the Pats Stephen Neal who didn't play football in college. There aren't any open tryouts for NFL teams but sometimes a player who has NFL aspirations can make arrangements to get a look. Neal contacted the Patriots through his agent and received a tryout. An undrafted player is just what it says: any player who isn't selected in the seven rounds of the draft.
Paul Perillo

I know I am going to sound like a newbie here by asking this but there has been some confusion as of late about this. If a team is on their 2nd down, how may tries can they go for a field goal? I think that it is just one time, so what would happen if they went for it on 2nd down and missed? Does the defending team take over at that spot just as if it was on 4th down, or can they try again?
Jeff C

Ask PFW takes no points taken off for asking questions, Jeff. If a team attempts a field goal earlier than fourth down, and the kick fails, the opponent takes over at the spot of the kick or at their 20 if the kick was attempted from inside the 20. Teams often attempt game-winning kicks on second or third down in case they mishandle the snap, which would give them another opportunity. As long as there the kick is never made, the play is just like any other so if there's a bad snap on a third down attempt and the holder is tackled, the kicking team could try again on fourth down.
Paul Perillo

I know it's kinda early to be thinking about it, and there are more important things like the playoffs to be worried about, but what are the Patriots draft picks looking like this year? Do we have an extra first rounder again, and whose would it be?Jay Miller

The Patriots do not have an extra first-round pick this year. As of now, and this is certain to change between the end of the season and draft time, the Patriots have all there regular picks from rounds 1-7. The Patriots also traded Quinn Dorsey to Chicago for a conditional draft pick back in training camp. So there is a chance the Patriots could have one additional pick, likely a seventh-rounder.
Paul Perillo

The resurgence of Ted Johnson as THE RUN STOPPER is, to me, more responsible this year for the Pats success in that area than Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork/Keith Traylor and even my favorite LB, Tedy Bruschi... but I don't see him see him in at LB on many run situations. Anything to it? 2. Rodney Harrison may be one of the hardest hitting defensive backs in the NFL, but he seems to take too many chances and gets way to many stupid penalties. Do you think he is capable of balancing his positive aggressive play with a smarter game or is he always going to be a big plus with a dangerous downside? 3. Come playoffs, will we see more of Graham in the offense (assuming he is healthy) or will he be relegated to protecting Gorin and blitz pick-up?Otis Hill

Lots to chew on there, O-T-I-S. First, Ted Johnson is almost always on the field for running situations. He usually comes off when the subpackages come in. I wouldn't expect him to see too much action against Colts and passing teams like that, but against the run he's one of the keys. Second, Harrison is what he is (as Bill would say). He's very aggressive and sometimes walks the fine line between being physical and taking penalties. I think that's the only way he knows how to play and if he toned it down that might limit his effectiveness. I think the team can take the occasional dumb penalty in exchange for all the big plays he makes. And finally, I'd expect to see Graham blocking quite a bit against strong pass rushing teams like Indy and Pittsburgh. If the Patriots leave Matt Light one-on-one with Dwight Freeney the Colts will be very happy. I think Graham will see his share of passes, but he also will have to block quite a bit.
Paul Perillo

Any chance the Patriots could sign a wide receiver like Plaxico Burress during the offseason?Rian Bednarz

I'd be very surprised given Burress' checkered reputation. First, he'd likely command a pretty hefty salary and I don't think the Patriots place a huge price tag on wideouts. Plus, he's been a controversial, albeit talented, player in Pittsburgh and I doubt the Patriots would want to take a chance on someone like that. Of course the same stuff could have been said about Corey Dillon before they brought him in and so far that's worked out OK so you never know.
Paul Perillo

I am enamored with the Pats D-Line - their youth, athleticism and maturity of play at their combined young ages. I was wondering if you could provide a report on how you think Marquise Hill has progressed this year and where he is in the Patriots future plans.Keith Morton

I agree with your enthusiasm about the Patriots defensive line. I feel that group could be one of the team's biggest strengths for years to come. As for Hill, it's tough to say how much he's developed in his rookie season since he's played so little. We haven't even been able to watch him in practice to monitor him there. He was considered somewhat of a project even though he was taken in the second round and I would think he would get many more opportunities next season.
Paul Perillo

I know you don't want to rush injuries but Ty will of had 2 1/2 months to heal up going into the playoffs. To me this is when you play hurt, you play till that foot falls off and then you play some more. It's all about winning championships and if I don't see Ty in there helping his team and honoring the fans that make it possible for him to "put food on his table" then I don't need the man on OUR NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS.
Mike Fessenden

With all due respect, that is one of the most laughable emails we've ever received. Do you actually think Ty Law is faking his injury and would be sitting out if he could play? The man has an ego the size of New England and you're suggesting he'd rather sit out than play? He went on IR because his foot wasn't well enough for him to play. He's probably going to have surgery at some point if he hasn't already. And he's entering the final year of his contract, which means he has a sense of urgency to get back out there and proved to the rest of the league that he's healthy. He can't do any of that from the sideline so if it was his choice you can bet he'd be out there playing. And I'd like to know how the fans made it possible for him to earn millions of dollars as an NFL player. Last time I check, his ability is what earned him the big contract he received – not the fans.
Paul Perillo

Everybody talks about the depleted secondary. My biggest concern is the right side of the o-line. Do you think that Dante will catch a break and get some talent to work with? Maybe a couple 330 lbs road graders not only to open holes for Corey, but to keep Brady alive. Granted the o-lines combined salary is what Woody alone got from Detroit. No disrespect to Gorin or Neal. They got killer instincts but size wise only Denver is lighter. Does the free agency veteran o-line curse end this offseason? Can we draft a hog or two on the first draft day?
Mr. Jules

I think the Patriots offensive line, when healthy, is fine. Don't forget that Gorin is actually the third right tackle the team has used this season. Ashworth and Klemm are both on injured reserve. I don't think there are many teams that go three deep at tackle without feeling the effects. Neal is a young developing player who is showing much promise in his first year as a starter. He's only going to get better. Light just re-signed his deal and will be entering just his fifth year. And Koppen is also young. The only member of the group who will likely need to be replaced soon is Joe Andruzzi, who will be heading into his ninth year and will be a free agent. Other than that, I think the group is pretty solid.
Paul Perillo

With Troy Brown enjoying a renaissance of sorts in the defensive secondary, and given his learning curve versus his current rate of improvement, what chance does he have to make it as a full time defensive back? For offense it seems his value as a receiver and a punt returner are on the decline. With that is mind, is it defense or bust then?
Mike Luster

I don't think Belichick wants Troy Brown to be exclusively a defensive player. The main reason his production offensively is down is because he's played almost exclusively as a defensive back. It's tough to catch passes on offense when you're not playing. If Troy is back next season it will be as a wide receiver first and an emergency defensive back second.
Paul Perillo

With Weis officially leaving the Pats, do you think the patriots may try to bring in someone like Scott Linehan? He is one of the better coordinators in the league and his deal ends after the season and I think he would make a good fit in New England's system. What do you think?Andrew Williams

Truth be told I don't know anything about Linehan's system so I can't say whether or not it would be a nice fit in New England. I know Minnesota has a great offense but I'm not sure how great it would be without a guy like Randy Moss making all those incredible plays. Like I said before, I think the Patriots would probably rather stay within the system to find a replacement.
Paul Perillo

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