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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Fri Apr 16 - 12:00 AM | Sun Apr 18 - 11:59 PM

Ask PFW: The offseason marches on

What do you think of the possibilities are of Eugene Wilson at cornerback? If Merriweather can step in immediately, (which is not THAT much of a stretch seeing as how Wilson converted from corner to safety 2 weeks into his rookie year) and Samuel decides to sit out, Wilson seems a natural fit to return to the cornerback slot. He knows the system and the plays and can obviously pick up a position quickly.Alex Belisle

I wouldn't say that Wilson is a natural fit at cornerback. Bill Belichick is a pretty good coach and if he thought Wilson was that effective at cornerback, that's where he would be playing. Every year we talk about Wilson playing corner and he'll even line up there during training camp quite a bit. However, once the season starts he's back at safety. There has to be a reason for that. Obviously the coaching staff believes Wilson is better suited to play safety than he is corner. I think Wilson is always a possibility as a fill-in at cornerback if injuries arise but my guess is he'll begin the 2007 season at safety once again.
-Tom Casale

With Drew Bledsoe retiring, is there any talk of him doing a one-day contract and retiring a Patriot? In my mind it would be a fitting tribute to a man that was a very important part of the Patriot's revival.Darrell Fitzsimmons

No. Those things are really ridiculous and I'm glad Bledsoe didn't pursue it. Did Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith really need to sign one-day contracts when they retired? Rice will always be a 49er and Smith a Cowboy. Nothing will ever change that. Bledsoe will always be remembered as a Patriot and in my opinion, signing a one-day contract isn't a proper tribute to Bledsoe. Electing him into the Patriots Hall of Fame is the kind of tribute Bledsoe deserves after a great career in New England.
-Tom Casale

Whatever happened to Patrick Pass? I don't see his name anywhere and I don't remember him being traded or released.Fred Rosenthal

Patrick Pass is currently an unrestricted free agent. He's no longer a Patriot and has the freedom to sign with any team. He wasn't released because once a player becomes an unrestricted free agent, the team he played for no longer owns the rights to him. Right now, Pass is still looking to sign on with a new team.
-Tom Casale

A lot has been made of Tom Brady benefiting from all the new additions at WR. But Ben Watson was double covered on a regular basis last season and still had what must be considered a breakout year. He will surely receive single coverage now with Stallworth (the teams #1 receiver despite the addition of Moss) and Moss out wide, Welker in the Slot, Maroney or Faulk in the backfield. Who will teams give the extra Coverage to in that 3-wide set? I can only imagine Josh McDaniels is drooling over that 3-wide formation with Watson at TE, Maroney or Faulk at RB!! I'm ready for the season to start right now!Chris Clark

I agree with your overall assessment but I have to correct one thing you said. Watson was rarely double-teamed last year. Actually, teams used their safeties and linebackers to crowd the line of scrimmage against the Patriots and stop the run. I didn't see Watson receive a lot of double-teams at all to be honest with you.

I do agree that he could be the wild card with all the new receivers in town. First, Brady is already comfortable with Watson, so he's likely to look his way a lot early on in the season. Second, despite dropping a few balls last year, I think Watson kind of had an underrated season overall. People sometimes forget that Watson was in only his second full season and with the way the Patriots offense spreads the ball around, I think he had a very solid year. Watson has all the physical tools to be one of the NFL's top tight ends. If he can become more consistent and eliminate the drops, he'll have a big year. Maybe not in his overall numbers but in the impact he has on a game.
Tom Casale

Now that the Pats are stacked at WR and only have one workhorse at RB, do you see them employing more of a Run 'n' Gun type offense as opposed to West Coast? For anyone who's unfamiliar with Run 'n' Gun, and if my source is correct, it's an offensive style that uses 4WR, 1RB formations. I think it could give opposing defenses a lot of trouble. If they spread out too wide, Maroney will run all over them. If they don't, Stallworth, Moss, Welker, Washington, Caldwell, Gaffney, and even Chad Jackson (provided he plays) all have a chance to tear up the defense. It looks like Brady played better in the Shotgun formation last year, and I'm tired of watching him throw little 5 yard passes. You can argue about accuracy, but then again, Brady only completes roughly 60-63% of his passes anyway. I'm sure longer passes wouldn't make much difference and with Moss and Stallworth, it would be a waste of their talent to continue employing the West Coast offense.Dru Nguyen

The run and gun is what the Phoenix Suns play in the NBA. Are you thinking of the run n' shoot offense? If so, that's not what the Patriots will be running this year. I'm sure they will use a lot of four receiver sets, but so do all teams. I think you will see pretty much the same Patriots offense that you have in the past with one exception: more big plays. The team will still dink and dunk but with Moss and Stallworth, there will be more 80-yard strikes as well. I don't think you'll ever see a defensive coach like Belichick use the run n' shoot. Especially when guys like him and Buddy Ryan exposed that offense for what it was in the 90's: a nice high school and college system that won't sustain long term success in the NFL.
-Tom Casale

Seems to me the Patriots have made plans- by signing Cory James, to go next season without Asante Samuel. Do you think the James signing says to Samuel and his agent in effect, we will win without you?Chip Heard

I don't think so Chip. While James is a solid reserve cornerback, he's nowhere near the caliber of player that Samuel is right now. Could James start at cornerback if Samuel doesn't sign? Sure. However, I don't think that's the reason why the Patriots signed him. They signed James because he's an experienced corner and the Patriots needed more depth at that position. My guess is James would have been signed regardless of what happened with the Samuel situation. Let's just hope in a couple of months, this question becomes a moot point.
-Tom Casale

Do you guys think that Ellis Hobbs is ready to take that next step and be a shutdown NFL cornerback?Jim Richards

I think Hobbs is ready to take that next step, I just don't think that next step is a shutdown NFL corner. In my opinion, the next step for Hobbs is to be a consistent player week in and week out and we started to see that at the end of last season. Remember, there are very few shutdown corners in the NFL. I think Hobbs will continue to progress this year and be a steady No. 2 corner. However, I'm not ready to give him the title of shutdown corner at this time. Hobbs still has a ways to go before we put him in the same class with Champ Bailey.
-Tom Casale

I am hoping you can answer this question. Is there any NFL rule stating that players cannot work together during the offseason to get a head start on working with each other. For instance, can Tom Brady work with his receivers to get their timing of pass plays down before spring training opens?Chris Meyers

No Chris, there aren't any rules preventing players from working together. Brady and his receiver could meet everyday and toss the ball around if they wanted. Actually, Brady has been doing that both this year and last year. If you remember, last season he talked about all the time he and Reche Caldwell spent together trying to build chemistry with each other. It paid off as Caldwell actually had a productive season for the Patriots. Since Randy Moss is somewhat new, I'm not sure how much time he and Brady have spent together. However, my guess is Wes Welker, Donte' Stallworth and Kelley Washington have already seen a steady diet of Brady missiles come their way this offseason.
-Tom Casale

With all the new additions to the team and with Jr. Seau coming back and everybody healthy, which side of the ball will be the most exciting for the fans to watch and the most difficult for the opposing team. Is this the best Patriots team ever on both sides of the ball?Russell Durham

In my opinion Russell, it's way too early to call this the best Patriots team ever because they haven't even played a game yet. I will say that on paper, this is probably the most talented overall team at this point in the season, especially offensively. If you are asking about pure excitement, I'm going with the offense. We all know a Bill Belichick-coached defense is going to be solid. I think on offense, the fans of New England are going to witness the kind of fireworks they've never seen before if everyone stays healthy. Because of that, I'm looking forward to watching the offense a little more. Even though the Patriots are getting old at linebacker, I don't really worry about the defense with Belichick calling the shots. The offense is where all the intrigue is this season.
-Tom Casale

What are your thoughts on Chad Jackson? Do you think he's a bust?Mike Robbins

Well Mike, if we call Chad Jackson a bust, then we would have also called Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith, Plaxico Burress and Santana Moss busts, along with many other receivers who didn't set the world on fire in their rookie year. First, you have to remember that Jackson was battling injuries all season. Then throw in the fact that most receivers struggle in their first year to begin with and I'm not overly concerned about Jackson yet. I give a receiver three years before I start throwing around the term "bust." Granted, Jackson probably won't make a huge splash this season with all the firepower the Patriots have at receiver, but many of those guys probably won't be here in 2008. If after next season Jackson still isn't doing anything, then I think we can start talking about him being a bust, but we do need to give him some more time to prove himself.
-Tom Casale

Hello PFW! I am concerned that with Teddy, Mike, Junior, and Rodney, we have mostly aged legs to keep up with fast RB's and TE's. How can we stop Manning killing us over the middle again, or Tomlinson running around us in the playoffs? I have one more point. Yes, we were minutes away from SB, but we all know the SD game was going down 21-13, and 38-34 score in Indy game might have been less close if not for a big early lead. My bottom line is that I do not see our defense improved enough to be buying SB just yet. I think, we are missing only one fast ILB/SS on the inside. I know, I must be smarter than BB to realize that. As a proof that I am not, I am asking what is Pats scheme of defense in the middle?Ed Tumanoff

Well Ed, before you jump off a bridge, the Patriots did sign the most sought after defensive free agent this offseason. Let's not forget that. I know it seems like a long time ago and the team has signed a lot of offensive weapons since, but in my opinion, the addition of Adalius Thomas is still the biggest offseason move New England made. I think Thomas is even more important than Randy Moss for the exact reasons you mentioned. The Patriots needed to add some speed at the linebacker position and I think Thomas is going to be a beast in this defense. I understand that you are concerned about the inside linebacker position but it's really the only weaknesses on this team right now. Actually, I should rephrase that. It will be a weakness if Bruschi or Vrabel gets hurt. Then I think depth could become an issue later in the year but right now, this defense still looks pretty good to me.

I think you bring up a good point about covering quicker receivers over the middle. In my opinion, the team could still struggle in that area. But they struggled in that area last year and managed to set a franchise record for points allowed. So they might give up a few more points this season. With the offense they have now, who cares? Unlike last year, the Patriot have the ability to outscore opponents if they need to. I think we are all a little concerned about depth at inside linebacker but if that's the biggest obstacle facing the Patriots heading into the season, I like their chances of going all the way. You have a legitimate concern but if you look at the rest of the teams in the NFL and some of the holes they have, I don't think the Patriots overall speed on defense is anything to get overly worried about right now.
-Tom Casale

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