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Patriots Replay Fri May 29 | 12:00 AM - 11:58 PM

Ask PFW: Receiving more attention

In light of current situation, how do you see WR duties being handled? Can Gabriel come in from another offense so late in the game and be a factor? Is he essentially a replacement for Caldwell in the No. 2 who can't learn the system?Chu Snow

Having such little information to go on regarding the two new receivers, Gabriel and Smith, it's really tough to say how they will fit into the rotation, if at all. Gabriel appears to be a promising player who has produced in the limited opportunities he's gotten to do so. As the Raiders third receiver the past two years he's averaged about 15 yards per catch and has been a first down machine. How quickly he learns the offense with such little time to do so is the big question here. Even Bill Belichick admitted it's almost impossible to know how much to expect from him given the lack of preparation time. For the opener I'd expect to see Troy Brown and Reche Caldwell as the starters. After that, it could be a matter of whomever the coaches feel has a better grasp of the system. I'd expect Gabriel to see action against the Bills.
Paul Perillo

Here we go again with the "I am better than everyone" reasoning from Branch. I say make the Jets bleed if they want him bad enough. If not, Branch can be a spectator this season and make much less than $1.2 million. What do you think about the latest WR signings? Are they a suitable replacement for Mr. Greedy? Are there not tons of Pats fan that are snickering at Adam's sprained ankle in Indy? $3 mill for that? I love it! Brady could make me look good and I am slow and old.
Steve Bean

Steve, you're my favorite kind of Pats "fan," the type that roots for other team's players to get injured and then is thrilled when it happens. That's great. As for the wide receivers, like I just said I like Gabriel's potential based on his production per play in Oakland. Basically, when he got a chance to make a play he generally did, and that was on a bad team. Like you said, with Brady throwing him the ball he's likely to improve. But he'll be under the gun trying to learn a new system in a hurry so we probably need to temper our expectations at least initially. And not that it matters, but Branch wasn't scheduled to make $1.2 million in 2006. It was $1.045 million.
Paul Perillo

Guys, I know I'm not a football scientist or anything, but it looked to me like Bam Childress played pretty well in the preseason. It's OK that he was cut, because the Patriots were able to sign him to the practice squad, but is there something a fan would miss like poor route-running, poor blocking, that makes that guy from Buffalo a better receiver than Bam?
Chris Brownlee

I'm not sure how much better Smith is than Childress but obviously the coaches thought it was significant enough to make the move since the fact that Smith now has to learn the offense in less than a week while Childress has been here for two years wasn't enough of a factor to stop the move. Childress has now been cut by the Patriots twice and cleared waivers both times so obviously the demand for a 5-10, 185 pound (and I'm 6-2, 225) receiver wasn't that big. If Smith doesn't pan out Childress will be back on the roster. But neither player will be a difference maker anytime soon.
Paul Perillo

I'll get right to the point: 1. Dante' Stallworth for a second round and Ashley Lelie for a third: shouldn't we have gone for one of those? 2. What's your take on Gabriel on this team? 3. Bam on the practice squad he looked better then some of our guys on the roster aren't we going to lose him? 4 Isn't it clear after Branch filed grievances that he isn't going to be returning to this team 5. Monty released, he was being groomed to run our defense, isn't that a huge sign of trouble when the leader of a defense can't make a team, is junior in charge as long as Tedy is out?
Alty

You should have said, points because you just broke the all-time Ask PFW record for most questions asked in one post. But I'll try to help you out a bit. First, I would have jumped on Stallworth, who actually was traded to Philadelphia for a fourth-round pick and linebacker Mark Simoneau. Simoneau has started in the past but was slated to be a backup this season so that purse wasn't anything the Patriots couldn't have mustered. I wanted no part of Lelie, who in my opinion is a one-trick pony – straight go routes down the field with an unwillingness to go over the middle and make the tough catch. A second-round pick for him was too high. Two, I've already talked about Gabriel above so I'll just summarize and say I liked the trade and an optimistic that he'll be able to learn the ropes in New England. Three, Who exactly are you referring to in regards to Bam being better than guys that are on the roster? Caldwell had a great camp even though that production didn't translate to the field in the preseason games. But don't confuse Childress' preseason production with the regular season. Most, not all, of his catches came against the backups. He did make a nice play against the Redskins early in the game, but for the most part Childress did his best work against guys that are no longer in the league. And while there's always a possibility that some team will get injuries and look for a receiver like Childress off the practice squad, he did clear waivers for the second year in a row so the demand for his services league-wide doesn't appear to be all that great. Four, I somewhat agree that Branch's days here appear numbered. It would be hard for me to imagine him returning after filing these grievances, but stranger things have happened. Ty Law called Belichick a liar and he was able to return. So I wouldn't give up all hope on Branch just yet. But it doesn't look good. Five, this one I really don't understand. Where on earth did you ever get the idea that Monty Beisel was going to be groomed to run the defense? He was scheduled to start next to Bruschi at the beginning of camp but injuries forced him off the practice field and he never regained his position. But nobody ever had any designs on him being in charge. That's Bruschi's role and with him out, Mike Vrabel will fill in and call the defense.
Paul Perillo

The Pats have made a few trades this offseason, most recently for Doug Gabriel. I was wondering what picks we have accumulated so far. And was the pick we got for Ross Tucker taken away from us because Tucker didn't make the Browns roster?
Josh

So far the Patriots have picked up two draft picks for next season and traded one. They acquired undisclosed picks (likely sixth or seventh round) from Arizona for Brandon Gorin and Pittsburgh for Patrick Cobbs. They traded a fifth-round pick for Gabriel. You are correct about Tucker. Since the Browns released him they do not owe us a draft pick in return.
Paul Perillo

I don't know if you guys are familiar with a middle linebacker named Liam Ezekiel, who grew up in Arlington, played at Northeastern, and spent last season and this preseason with the Buffalo Bills. He was released because the Bills new defensive scheme calls for smaller, quicker linebackers, but he is a big, strong, and smart run-stuffing middle linebacker who works extremely hard and is a force on special teams, seemingly a good fit for the Pats. Is there any word on the possibility of the team brining him in? Thanks!
Pat

Because I'm the resident loser on staff – well, unless you count Andy Hart – I'm well aware of Ezekiel and his terrific career at Northeastern. I've seen him play in person dozens of times and he's a solid, old school middle linebacker. Unfortunately, most NFL teams are going away for his style of player and are looking for more athletic playmakers. I used to compare Ezekiel to Ted Johnson – obviously not as good as Ted but in style and mannerisms. The Patriots like to have stout inside linebacker and Ezekiel is certainly that so perhaps they will take a stab at him. Before the 2005 draft I asked some Patriots scouts about him because of my familiarity with Northeastern (I told you I was a loser) and they thought he was a fringe guy who might have a chance depending on the system he wound up in. Since they didn't make a run at him I assumed the Patriots weren't one of those systems.
Paul Perillo

Corey Dillon is in what year of his contract with the Patriots?Brian Mead

Dillon has two years left on his contract after this season. He restructured his deal in the offseason and reduced his base salary for 2006 from $3 million to $710,000 and presumably received the difference (about $2.3) million in a signing bonus. Just after the draft the Boston Globe reported that Dillon was due a $3 million option bonus in 2007, which could make him a candidate for release depending on his performance this year.
Paul Perillo

Who or what makes the decision that a player is released or waived? My understanding is that a 'released' player is a free agent that all 32 teams can sign. A 'waived' player then has a system in place, I believe, that uses last year's final standings as who gets first shot at the waived player (eg. The Texans would get first shot if they put in a waiver claim). Can a team waive a player if they know that another team in their division needs that position but has no chance of receiving him because of their record from the previous year?Harold Freiter

If a player has less than four years of service time and he gets cuts, he is waived and goes through the claims process that you accurately described. After the third week of the season, the process reverts to 2006 records in inverse order. If a player has four or more years of time, then he is released and thus becomes a free agent. The only change to this occurs after the trading deadline, at which point every player is subject to the waiver process. I'm not sure I understand your question about the division. If a team wants to release a player it's not likely going to be affected by another team's needs. Like Belichick always says, he's going to do what's in the best interest of his team. He's not going to worry about another team. And whether a player is waived or released there's no way of knowing for sure which team, if any, are going to claim him.
Paul Perillo

Let's say the Patriots do not sign, release, or renegotiate any players this year (through Jan 1, 2007). Do they "lose" the extra cap space or is it on a March 1 to March 1 calendar? Relatedly, let's say the Patriots do not renegotiate Graham or Branch or Koppen etc., and have $10 million plus in cap space for this year, when can or must they accelerate Seymour's roster bonus to charge it off against this year (2006 season)? The reason I think this is interesting is that the Patriots are sitting there with tons of cap room, and it's explainable to me by the fact that they want to see if they renegotiate Branch. But if Branch continues his holdout long into the year, at what point do they say, "forget it" and accelerate Seymour so as to cut down on next year's cap? Or do new deals for Graham/Koppen/Samuel/whomever? At what point do they lose the "advantage" of the cap space they are holding open (presumably) for Branch?Jason Jarvis

If your original hypothetical were to happen the Patriots wouldn't lose the cap space. Teams always have to be under the cap. March 1 generally signals the start of the new league season and thus that's the date that players have option and roster bonuses due. Many times teams have to make moves in order to pay out these bonuses to stay under the cap. If the Patriots close out the 2006 season $13 million under the cap (which is virtually impossible, by the way), then they head into 2007 $13 million under the cap and would go even further below the mark once the new cap figure is set for 2007. Paying Seymour that bonus (I believe it's $6.6 million) before then is a definitely possibility, as is re-signing any of the potential free agents you mentioned. So the Patriots would never lose the "advantage" of having cap space, although I'm sure they didn't expect to have the amount of room they currently have at this point.
Paul Perillo

How come breaking news on the Patriots is usually available from other news sources before it is available on the Patriots website. (ex. Eyewitness News from Hartford, Conn., was reporting on the Patriots cuts six hours earlier than Patriots.com). I would think that the "Official Site" should have the news first. This is where I come for my Patriots news?
Jonathan Simons

Evidently you didn't come to Patriots.com for the news during the past cuts, Jonathan. The first wave was actually announced live on Patriots.com on Aug. 29. The rest were posted on the website Sept. 1 and 2 via a press release when the team actually made the transactions. You can't get any earlier than that so my guess is Eyewitness New in Hartford, like many other media outlets, checked Patriots.com first and then reported their "news."
Paul Perillo

Do you believe as I do that the Patriots will concentrate on linebacker and defensive back spots with their top picks next year after taking 3 offensive players with their top picks this year? I know the Pats like to take the best player available but I really see this area as a glaring need to get more depth with top picks next season.
Charlie Coulouris

You answered your own question – the Patriots draft the best player available so I don't necessarily agree that they'll take a linebacker and defensive back early. I do agree those position are probably the thinnest on the team and in a perfect world that's where Belichick will look. But I can't predict which players will be available and Belichick won't just take a linebacker regardless of who is available.
Paul Perillo

Do you think the Pats will bump up Maroney's role if Dillon struggles early? I think he has looked great and Dillon hasn't been impressive. Also, do you think the Patriots will attempt to draft a linebacker next year? Any predictions?JD McGrath

Definitely. Assuming Maroney is healthy I can definitely see him getting the bulk of the carries over Dillon. He's been quick and explosive during the preseason while Dillon has looked mostly like he did last year. If Maroney continues to produce I can see Belichick slowly turning things over to the rookie, but the coach has said he will play it week to week and do what he thinks is best for the team.
Paul Perillo

What is the Patriots record, or even NFL record, for receptions, touchdowns and yardage by a tight end in a single season, and am I the only one who thinks that Ben Watson has a chance to destroy all of those records if he stays healthy? Just a thought and I know its way premature, but if this guy stays healthy through his career I think he is destined to be accompanying Brady and Seymour into that Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ryan Oak

The Patriots record for catches and yards by a tight end in a single season is held by Ben Coates, who caught 96 passes for 1,174 yards in 1994. Coates caught nine touchdowns in 1996, which is tops for a tight end. As for the NFL marks in each category, Tony Gonzalez caught 102 passes for the Chiefs in 2004 (breaking Coates' record), Kellen Winslow piled up 1,290 receiving yards in 1980 and Antonio Gates caught 13 touchdowns in 2004. All are single-season bests for tight ends. While I think Watson is an emerging talent, I don't see him putting up those kinds of numbers in New England he certainly won't destroy them if he even approaches them. Watson has intriguing athleticism but he caught 29 balls last season. Even if he doubles that production this year he'd still be light years away from those totals. I like Watson a lot but I'm not planning on watching his induction ceremony anytime soon.
Paul Perillo

Could you comment on Junior Seau's role in the new look defense? I would imagine he is going to be relied on for first and second down run stopping and maybe an occasional blitz from the outside. What do you gentleman think?Mike Bingham

I agree Mike. Belichick has said Seau will play inside linebacker for the most part and based on the preseason games it looks like he'll get more time on early downs and come off the field in sub situations. When Bruschi comes back, I don't really see his role changing much. He could be asked to blitz occasionally but I don't see that being a huge part of the game plan unless he gets really comfortable in the system and things are going very well. But Seau should provide some stability on a part-time basis.
Paul Perillo

Last year, or the year before, I was reading either Brady or Belichick saying that he likes to have 4 QBs on the roster instead of 3 because it keeps their arms from tiring out by the end of the season. Well, this year they have 2. The Dolphins just released Jay Fiedler. Would he be a good 3rd QB to have, or does he stink too much?*Andrew *

First of all, neither Belichick nor Brady ever said they like to have four quarterbacks on the roster. Belichick may have indicated that he likes to bring four to training camp to keep Brady's arm fresh, but he never said he likes to keep four on the roster. He did so in 2000 because Bledsoe, Brady, John Freisz and Michael Bishop were among the best 53 players on the roster; not because he wanted to necessarily. Jay Fiedler is now two teams removed from Miami. He played with the Jets last year and signed with Tampa Bay this offseason, where he was released last week. Fiedler is a guy who makes some sense for the Patriots but Belichick feels Cassel is a better option as a backup and based on the preseason I'd agree with that assessment. Bringing in a veteran at this point makes no sense unless there's an injury. Trying to get a new quarterback up to speed in terms of the offense now would be a difficult task.
Paul Perillo

What happens when a guy like Barry Gardner, whose chances of making the final roster aren't that great, suffers a serious injury during a preseason game? Is he just unconditionally released? Is the team responsible for his rehab? Is he compensated during his recovery?Paul Bissonnette

I'm going to disagree that Gardner's chances of making the team weren't that great before the injury. In fact, I'd say with some degree of certainty that he was a virtual lock to stick around. But in terms of his future, he was placed on injured reserve, which means he's out for the year but technically still a member of the Patriots. The team could have released him but would have been forced to reach an injury settlement with him, which is fairly common around the league. If the players remains, like Gardner has, generally he conducts his rehab with the team. And most importantly for the player, he does receive his salary.
Paul Perillo

OK, this one baffles me. They trade Cobbs to Pittsburgh. Now my first thought is that they traded him because he could probably generate a better trade than Patrick Pass, or Heath Evans, (whom I think Cobbs has more upside than both of these guys), but then I realize it's to the Steelers. Who probably won't have that great of a draft pick next year, considering they just come off a Super Bowl run, and should do pretty well this year as well. So how good of a draft pick could they hope to get from the Steelers?
Darius Dempsey

The draft pick the Patriots get from the Steelers isn't going to be very good whether Pittsburgh goes 16-0 or 0-16. Either way, it's likely going to be a seventh-round pick, possibly sixth, so even if it's at the top of the round it won't be very good. And comparing Cobbs to Pass or Evans really isn't accurate. They don't really play the same position – Evans and Pass are more fullback types with loads of special teams responsibilities. Cobbs is a much smaller scat back type like Kevin Faulk. He doesn't really translate on special teams unless he was to be used as a returner and I don't believe he has enough speed for that. So saying Cobbs has more upside than Pass or Evans, while possibly true, doesn't really tell the full story. The 2006 Patriots wouldn't get nearly the contributions from Cobbs they will from Evans (or Pass if he gets healthy). Trading Cobbs, an undrafted rookie who wasn't even invited to the combine, for a draft pick rather than simply releasing him was an excellent move by Belichick.
Paul Perillo

Is the game film that coaches and players watch commercially available to the press or to the general public? Or is this information only available to the coaches and players? If it is available, then how can you get it?Erik Zoltan

It is not available to the general public. The individual teams shoot the coaches film that is used for scouting purposes and that information is not for sale.
Paul Perillo

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