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Ask PFW: Touching all bases

What kind of impact do you see rookies Guss Scott and Dexter Reid making this year? Do you think there's a chance they could make a similar contribution to what Asante Samuel and Eugene Wilson did last year?
Jay
Westboro, Mass.

First, expecting rookies to make the kind of impact that Wilson and Samuel is a bit unrealistic. That was one of the things that made the Patriots so special last year. Scott and Reid have looked good thus far. They played together as safeties starting with the third series against Cincinnati and fared well. Unfortunately Scott's knee injury proved to be serious and was placed on IR. But I do believe Reid can contribute on defense this year, just not to the extent that Wilson and Samuel did last year.
Paul Perillo

Do you really think the Patriots got dominated by the Bengals or was this one of Coach Belichick's clever tactics to not show the Bengals much in the preseason?
Rian Bednarz
Portland, Ore.

I think the Bengals, plain and simple, dominated the Patriots. Now it was only a preseason game and it's no reason to push Red Sox-like panic button here, but the got beaten up. I agree the Patriots didn't show much in the game in terms of game plan, but I don't think the Bengals did either. There was nothing fancy about lining up Rudi Johnson 16 times and pounding him into the middle of the defensive line for almost 5 yards a carry. There was nothing intentional on Belichick's part to create the debacle we saw Saturday night,
Paul Perillo

Why so much doom and gloom from the press? Pats played vanilla and it wasn't a real game.
Griff Thomas
Lexington, Ky.

I agree and disagree. First, I haven't really seen all that much gloom and doom from the press. Most of the analysis I read (and wrote for that matter) after the game indicated that the game might have been just what Belichick needed to get his point across to the team. The Patriots are not good enough to sleepwalk through a game against anyone and not have an outcome like Saturday night's. Belichick tried to tell them that last week, but evidently the message wasn't clear. Now it has to be. I agree that it's not an alarming cause for concern since it was a preseason game. I disagree about the vanilla aspect – both teams were as plain as could be in terms of their game plan. Like I just told Rian, Marvin Lewis didn't turn into the second coming of Bill Walsh with an innovative offensive scheme. It was good ol' fashioned smashmouth football with a couple of big passing plays mixed in. Nothing fancy. The difference was Cincinnati showed up to play with some intensity while the Patriots didn't. In my opinion, the exact opposite was true the week before against Philadelphia when the Patriots out-hit and out-hustled the seemingly disinterested Eagles. I bet no one in New England was claiming the Eagles played "vanilla" that night.
Paul Perillo

As far as I see it there's only one spot for the 3 rookie DBs the Patriots drafted (Reid, Scott and Morton). Which has the best chance to make the team?
Paul
Boston, Mass.

This situation has obviously changed with Scott lost for the year with a knee injury. Before that, I felt both he and Reid would make it. Morton could wind up joining him since he's missed most of camp with an injury. It looks like he has little chance of making the 53-man roster given his status. If he stays, it will likely be on IR or the practice squad. Reid looks like he's ready to contribute on defense and special teams. Belichick needs to find some safeties who can, you know, actually play safety in a pinch. It looks like Reid can.
Paul Perillo

At 5-6, 175 pounds combined with a 6.2 40, my hopes of playing in the NFL are pretty slim. For this reason, I have always taken a special interest in the player development aspect of football, particularly the draft.Thus, when I read about the Quinn Dorsey trade earlier this week, I was disappointed about the lack of available information describing the trade. (Perhaps I wasn't looking in the right location.) Apparently, the Patriots traded Quinn Dorsey to Chicago for a future conditional draft pick. Do you have any additional information on the trade? What conditions are there? Does he have to make the team? If he does, what do the Patriots get? What if he makes the team and starts 10 games? Do we get a fifth-round pick instead of a seventh-round pick?To many people, this may sound trivial, but Belichick and Pioli have proven themselves to be quite adept toward the end of the draft (Brady (6th round) and Givens (7th round) are just two examples). In this salary cap era, one key to consistency is the ability to keep reloading the roster with 5-8 rookies each year. Finally, with all the talent the Patriots have and limited roster space, do you foresee any similar trades before the start of the season?

Derek
Acton, Mass.

Welcome to the world of dispensing information – Patriots style. The trade information we received stated Dorsey was dealt for a conditional pick. No further information was given. According the Bears website, the deal was for a conditional 2006 draft pick. In the past, they made a similar deal with the Rams involving Kole Ayi where they never received any compensation. My guess is, and this is strictly a guess, that if Dorsey sticks with the Bears and becomes somewhat of a contributor the Patriots will receive a low-round pick (maybe fifth or sixth).

Now my question to you, Derek … was that 6.2 40 time a typo???? I've always billed myself as the slowest man on the planet (kind of the anti-Mo Green if you will). But I could run the 40 in 6.2 running backward. You need to consult speed guru Tom Shaw!!!
Paul Perillo

Is it possible that the addition of Corey Dillon could actually hurt the Patriots? I know everyone thinks that because we have a good running back now that we're set. But in the past we've relied on Brady and his short passing game, which he's always been very good at. If Dillon takes plays away from Brady, and is not successful in his runs, that could potentially really hurt us I think. That seemed to be a huge problem against the Bengals. Once plays started going to Brady rather than Dillon, they started making drives. The 5 yard passes last year seem much more effective than 2 yard runs.
Nathan
New York, N.Y.

I understand your point here Nathan but I think you need to heed that great baseball philosopher Crash Davis' advice: "don't think so much, it can only hurt the ball club." This offense will still revolve around Tom Brady and his accurate passes. He spreads the ball around and keeps everyone involved. That won't change. What might is the team's ability to put opponents away, and Corey Dillon will need to do that. The running game failed to execute late in games last year and that allowed opponents to hang around in games. I don't see Charlie Weis turning the offense over to Dillon and forcing Brady to take a back seat. The Patriots will remain a game plan team and more often than not that means Brady and the controlled passing attack. By the way … I think I missed the part of the Bengals game when the offense starting moving. It had one drive in the first half, which resulted in a field goal. Other than that, there were three Josh Miller punts and a Brady interception. So whether the focus was Dillon or Brady against Cincy, the results were not good.
Paul Perillo

We all know Richard Seymour is consistently ranked first or second in the many different player rankings for defensive tackle. It seems, however, that his position has changed to defensive end. Yeah he still takes some snaps in the interior of the line, but he is predominantly a DE. With all the great pass rushing ends in the league like Michael Strahan and Simeon Rice, would Seymour still be ranked among the elite in the DE category? I think you have to take into account the fact that our linemen are taught to hold the line, not break it.
Bobby Boucher
Jackson's Bayou, La.

Maybe you should ask your mama about this after you finish getting the boys their water. Bobby Boucher's mama would tell you that Seymour's position is defensive end only because the Patriots run a 3-4. Their ends are like most teams' tackles. That's why Seymour is ranked among defensive tackles and not defensive ends, even though he's played end in the Pats 3-4 since 2002. If you were to rank Seymour strictly as an end against the top pass rushers, he wouldn't rank nearly as high. Ends in a 4-3 are much different kinds of players than Seymour. They're asked to get after the quarterback off the edge with speed and Seymour, while being a great all-around defensive lineman, doesn't necessarily do that.
Paul Perillo

When the Pats are making roster cuts, are they allowed to protect players by placing them directly onto the eight-man practice squad, or must they risk losing those players by placing them on waivers first?
Brian
Coventry, R.I.

All players must clear through waivers before being added to the practice squad. Teams are not allowed to cut players from the active roster and place them directly on the practice squad. However, if another team claims a player off waivers, it must keep him on the active 53-man roster for at least three weeks.
Paul Perillo

Transplanted Patriot here in Cowboy country. I have what may be a stupid question. What exactly is a "Scout squad" used in practice. I understand they are used to prepare teams to play specific opponents any running certain plays and looks, but who are they? Are they members of the practice squad? Are they not members of the team, but hired to practice with the team?
Nathan
Oklahoma City, Okla.

The scout team doesn't actually exist in a formal manner; it's just a term used to describe the backups and practice squad players who usually create the look of the opponent during practice in order to prepare the team for its next game. The players are all part of the team – both the active roster and the practice squad. The run plays off cards to try to simulate what the opponent may do during the game on Sunday.
Paul Perillo

Why do the refs blow the whistle sometimes and other times they don't, especially during the Super Bowl when a Panthers catch and clear fumble was blown dead. It doesn't make sense why would they blow the play dead making it unreviewable.
Pete
Williamstown, N.J.

The officials are instructed to call the action as they see it. When a play happens, like the one you described in the Super Bowl, they react in what they determine is the correct manner. The play in the Super Bowl was unfortunate because it did appear the catch was made and then the receiver fumbled. But the official on the field didn't see it that way. He cannot ignore what he sees in order to wait for the replay. He must react and in that case he did by blowing the play dead. In my opinion it was a mistake and sometimes these reactions lead to situations like that. But it's really the only way the game can be officiated. You can't have the refs ignoring what they see just to wait for the replay.
Paul Perillo

I've heard and read a lot about the Pats lack of depth at safety, is there any chance that they would consider bringing back Larry Whigham to fill this spot or will they roll into the season with what they have?
Jim
Assonet, Mass.

The Patriots already have a Larry Whigham on the roster – his name is Je'Rod Cherry. Neither has ever done much as a safety but both bring plenty to the special teams. If the Patriots want that type of player, Belichick will stick with Cherry. But neither does much to fill the lack of depth at the position.
Paul Perillo

Andy, you don't think they should be using Troy Brown as a DB because he's one of the Pats "most valuable receivers?" There's where you're wrong. I think that Troy is in a battle against a good group of receivers, most of whom are faster, and some more physical. Now I don't mean that Troy should be released, but I do think he's back to being the No. 3 guy, and therefore needs to expand his role to stay useful. On a similar note, have they given up on using Seymour in the backfield (I hope) since Klecko now seems to be doing that as his alternate role?
Craig
Ithaca, N.Y.

Anytime anyone wants to say Andy is wrong I'm all for it. But I can't really commit to that in this case. Even if your scenario is true and Brown is now a No. 3 receiver, why does that mean he has to play defensive back as his alternate role? Do all No. 3 receivers have to contribute on defense? Deion Branch and David Givens haven't the past two years. Givens played there in an emergency as a rookie during the preseason, but he didn't see the practice time there that Brown has. Age aside Brown remains one of the Patriots most important offensive players. Even though the Patriots have other capable receivers, that doesn't make him expendable. I haven't seen much of Seymour in the backfield this summer while Klecko has been there from time to time, including to start the Philly game. My guess is if Belichick feels he needs Seymour in the backfield, he'll use him.
Paul Perillo

Can you please tell me why the Pats haven't secured some real offensive linemen. This is THE major weakness on our team. The fact that the Pats managed not to concede any sacks last year was very much due to Brady and the offensive plays. BB has invested a quality draft pick (Rd2) in Dillon, who I am a real fan of, and has no OL of note to block for him.
Peter Williment
Gloucester, England

The offensive line play wasn't particularly strong in the first two preseason games, but with Matt Light and Tom Ashworth just getting back from injuries that should improve. Both looked a little rusty against the Bengals and more reps in practice should help. I agree with your assessment from last year's postseason – the no sacks had more to do with Brady than the protection. But my question is this: Won't Brady still be the quarterback? Since he will, why will it be a much bigger problem this year than it was last tear? Bottom line – I think the offensive line could use some improvement, but I also believe this group is pretty tough and somehow finds a way to get things done.
Paul Perillo

What is your opinion on the current experience of watching the NFL on broadcast television? I'm tired of the overblown halftime talk from egotistical former players heavily biased toward their teams. They provide little insight to the games being played and their pregame analysis is often worthless (for ex: Mike Ditka recently on the Pats two wins vs. the Colts last season: "They tricked Peyton a little bit — that won't happen this time." What logic.)Also, the commercials right before and after kickoffs, and constant plugging of stupid sitcoms take away the fun of watching the game. Lastly, there's too much over-analyzing of all the stats (passer ratings, for instance). I'd prefer to just sit back and enjoy the action, but nowadays TV makes that difficult.

Pete G
Suffolk, England

Another Pete in the UK … and this one's not very happy. C'mon Pete, it's just a football game. Why let these inane commentators ruin your viewing pleasure. I agree with a lot of your points, particularly your complaint about ex-players and coaches getting analyst jobs. So very few of them seem to offer much insight. But there are some – like Phil Simms, who I think is terrific at breaking down the game. Ron Jaworski on ESPN also is great. So rather than let guys like Ditka bother you, just tune them out and search for guys like Simms, Jaworski and others and take what they say seriously. You may not always agree with them (I don't) but at least I know they work hard and put some effort into what they're saying. As for the commercials … how do you think the networks pay such outrageous fees to show the games in the first place? Without the "constant plugs" the games wouldn't be televised at all.
Paul Perillo

With Davey having a great preseason game what is that going to do for his role on the Patriots team? And with Ben Watson signing what is his role going to be?
Robbie Arnold
Lincoln, Maine

I don't want to beat up on Rohan Davey here, but I think I missed his great preseason game. He's been rather erratic in both of his performances so far. Now I think he's still young and learning, but from what I've seen he's not quite ready to be the top backup. Right now I'd say he's either going to be No. 3 or he'll be elsewhere. Just my opinion. As for Watson, I expect him to become part of the offense in multiple tight end packages with Graham and Fauria. His athleticism is intriguing and it will be interesting to watch him develop.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, a couple of years back, they announced Patriots opponents through 2009. I was wondering if you could post it again since it's not on the website anymore. I have a tattoo bet with a friend who says the Pats will be in Baltimore in 2005 and I'm pretty sure they don't play in Baltimore until 2007.
Keven Kling
LaPlata, Md.

That information is still on the website. You have to click on the 2004 schedule link on the left side, then click on the link for 2002-2009 opponents underneath. Here's the link: /news/FullArticle.sps?id=13548&type=nfl
By the way, technically win the bet. The Pats aren't scheduled to play in Baltimore until 2007. But, if the Patriots and Ravens finish in the same position within their respective divisions, New England will travel to Baltimore in 2005. The one unknown road opponent for that year is against the AFC North.
Paul Perillo

Much is made of Tony Dungy of Indianapolis being the only active head coach who has beaten all current 32 NFL teams (including his own while with the Bucs). It makes me wonder how close Bill B. is to that milestone (knowing he beat our Pats while coaching the Browns). What current teams has he yet to beat?
Dan Goodin
Greensboro, N.C.

Belichick has yet to defeat two teams as an NFL head coach: Baltimore (which he'll face for the first time this season) and Washington. He is 0-2 against the Redskins, losing in 1991 with Cleveland and last year with the Patriots. There are four other teams Belichick has yet to beat as Patriots coach: Green Bay, Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona.
Paul Perillo

How come Graham was able to sign a five-year deal instead of six against team policy? And does that extra year really hurt a player from cashing in in the future?
Moses
Berkeley, Calif.

There's really no way of answering your question with certainty. Maybe the Patriots didn't have the same policy back in 2002 when Graham signed that they do now. Maybe the Patriots lack of tight ends back then gave Graham more leverage than Watson had with Graham and Fauria already on the roster. Maybe the fact that Graham has been slow to develop has caused the Patriots to re-think their stance. But there almost no way of knowing for sure unless Belichick or Pioli come put and tell us … and you can be sure that ain't happening. As far as that final year is concerned … if I was a player I would definitely not want to sign a six-year deal. I think there's a big difference in that extra year. NFL players dread turning 30, and since a lot are 23 or so when they enter the league, the sooner they can get to free agency the better. That's their only real resource in terms of cashing in and it's the only time they control their own destiny since the team cut sever ties with a player any time it wants.
Paul Perillo

Because most of the Pats LB vets are over 30, do you see any youngsters as potential contributors (I'm not counting Klecko, or TBC - we know how you feel about him)? Eric Alexander has made special teams in preseason, Flugence got some NFL Europe experience, and Justin Kurpeikis had a decent stat line vs. Philly's second-teamers.
Chris W.
Bronx, N.Y.

After Klecko and TBC, the one guy who has stood out to me this summer has been Kurpeikis. He has shown some athleticism on the outside, which is essential in the Pats 3-4 scheme. He's shown up against the run, rushing the passer and in coverage. Alexander opened the Bengals game on the kickoff team, which is a good sign for him. He'll need to forge a role for himself in that capacity in order to stick around. Flugence has been less noticeable, but that doesn't mean he can't play. Unfortunately for all these guys, linebacker is top-heavy with veteran talent, which leaves very little room for many youngsters. Even if Belichick keeps 10 linebackers, none of that group is guaranteed a spot.
Paul Perillo

As I understand it, the center on the offensive line usually calls the blocking assignments before the snap (Koppen did a great job last year). The QB also directs blocking and route adjustments (Brady was the top QB in my mind last year, period). But who tells the FB and RB where to block? We sometimes hear announcers criticize backs for missing a blocking assignment. If the back is in a down position, he can't see the defense moving around. It doesn't seem like the QB always turns around and directs the backs.
Scott C.
Woburn, Mass.

The center definitely makes the line calls at the line of scrimmage, but quarterbacks aren't necessarily responsible blocking and route adjustments. If the quarterback sees something he doesn't like, he has the power to change the play through an audible, and Belichick has said that Brady will have more freedom to do that this season. But Brady isn't generally responsible for telling the blockers who to block. When he calls an audible, he will make sure that everyone can hear him, even the backs. Players can't rely on someone else telling them who to block. They have to know their assignments in order to be successful. And the receivers have to know the routes and route adjustments depending on the defense. If a defender is lined up a certain way, a receiver can't rely on the quarterback to tell him what adjustment to make.
Paul Perillo

With all the mixing and matching of players at different positions, do you expect Ben Watson to see any time at Fullback? He has incredible speed, the hands of a receiver and good size as well. In a two back set, with the D focusing on Dillon, a play-action pass to Watson in the backfield could be a potent offensive weapon. What do you think?
Bob
Nantucket, Mass.

Definitely yes. Especially after Fred McCrary was released on Tuesday. Watson has rare skills for the position, and Graham does as well. Both can be used as pseudo-fullbacks and my guess is we'll see all three tight ends on the field together quite often as long as they're all healthy. It will be interesting to see how Charlie incorporates all of his new weapons into the offense.
Paul Perillo

I would like to start off by saying thanks to Kevin Faulk for accepting his role on the Patriots. My question is do you think he could have been the feature back on this team if Corey Dillon wasn't part of the picture? I know he's small and his hands could be a lot better, but I see a lot of talent in this guy.
Jason Pelletier
Springfield, Mass.

I don't think Kevin would be effective as a 300-plus-carry lead back in the NFL. I think he would lose a lot of his elusiveness by taking the constant pounding that's required of a between-the-tackles running back. I do think he's exceptional in his role as a third-down back. And I disagree about his hands; I feel he has great hands and has made many huge plays for this team over the past several years, mostly as a receiver.
Paul Perillo

The offense and defense have a starting lineup. Is there a "starting lineup" for special teams? Like for kickoffs. And if so who is typically in that line up?
Bill D
Hoptown, Ky.

No Bill, when it's time to punt or kickoff, whichever 11 players get out on the field first make up the punting or kickoff team. Of course the special teams have starting units!!!! Just kidding. Sorry for the sarcasm there. All of the special teams have regular units – there are kickoffs, kick return, punts, punt returns, field goal and extra points and field goal and extra point blocks. Those are six teams and all have their own members. Many of the same players are on all these teams. The units haven't been set yet for 2004, but guys like Larry Izzo, Patrick Pass, Don Davis plus Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and other starters usually comprise them.
Paul Perillo

I understand that if David Givens signs with another team next season as a restricted free agent the Pats would receive a first- and third-round pick. My question is: Do you think this would be a good move for the Pats to let him go for those picks? I am a fan of Givens and do believe he has a positive upside, but is a first and third pick too tempting to pass up? And if they did elect to take the picks is there a receiver coming out of college that may be an upgrade or at least as good as Givens?
Dave B.
Everett, Mass.

Isn't that just like an Everett guy? You're missing some facts here. (Before you get too upset, Dave, I'm an Everett guy, too). Givens will be a restricted free agent but the Patriots potential compensation for losing him won't be determined until they make him a qualifying offer next year. Assuming they don't agree to a long-term deal before then, Givens can receive a high, medium or low tender offer. If the Patriots give him the high, then they would be entitled to the first- and third-round picks as compensation. But it's rather doubtful any team would sign him to an offer sheet if that were the case. The medium tender requires just a first-round pick while the low tender would require a draft pick from whichever round the player was drafted, in this case the seventh. In your scenario, if you're asking would I trade David Givens for a first and third, my answer would be a resounding yes.
Paul Perillo

Regarding the Watson/Condon split - wish someone (you)could find out directly from Watson, when he was told that Condon would not execute a 6-year deal. If it was upfront then Watson is to blame for the 18-day delay - if it was late in the process then I believe Condon must be liable in some way for not representing his client.
Barry Gowen
Reston, Va.

Watson is understandably not talking much about the entire incident since he's just trying to keep his head down and learn the ropes as quickly as he can. But from what has been written in the papers and quotes from Condon that go back to the start of camp, the agent never had any intention of signing a six-year deal. I'm not blaming either side, but judging from Condon's comments all along, it should have come as no surprise to anyone that he refused to sign for six years.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, can players placed on the Practice Squad be taken off later in the season if need be?And who do you think will have a better season than expected besides TBC?

Alex
Abington, Mass.

Players can be signed to the active roster from the practice squad at any time as long as the team has a spot available. As for players who could surprise, I'll go with Tom Brady (just kidding). How about Asante Samuel? I think he'll be starting at corner before too long. Also, Dexter Reid is coming on and with Guss Scott out his role could expand in the defense.
Paul Perillo

I've read that some local sports writers disagree with Coach Belichick's use of Troy Brown as a defensive back. I couldn't disagree more. I think it proves his football brilliance once again. The article I read was premised on the fact that it's not worth risking injury to a player of Troy's caliber. I say you can't play football scared. If you play to avoid injuries, you are playing not to win. With all the depth at receiver, I think it makes all the sense in the world, especially with Troy because he already has the WR position mastered and plus he reads defenses as well as anyone. It allows them to keep and develop 1 more talented receiver, who'd normally have to be cut. What do you guys think?
Dick
Woods Hole, Mass.

I think your premise is accurate but I don't see the risk/reward making it worth it. If Brown is being used as a DB in order to keep an extra WR, as many of us have written and suggested, then I think it's a move worth trying. But potentially losing Brown, who is 33 by the way, by using him as a three-way player is an unworthy risk. Why not try someone else in that role? Is Brown the only receiver with enough experience to make this switch? I find that hard to believe. It's not about playing football scared; it's about playing smart. In my opinion, using Brown on defense is creating an unnecessary risk.
Paul Perillo

Andy Hart said that there is a possibility that Cedric Cobbs may go on the PUP list. It is my understanding that a player put on the active PUP list for camp cannot be put on the PUP list for the regular season. Since he signed late, does this mean he is not on the active PUP list?
Bruce Manchester
Amherst, N.H.

Geez, this is twice I have an opportunity to rip Andy and I can't because he's right. You have it backward Bruce. A player can't be place on PUP for the start of the season unless he's starts camp on the active PUP list. Cobbs had an injury to start camp and has been on active PUP since. Belichick has the option to place him on PUP to start the season unless Cobbs returns to practice between now and the start of the season. If that's the case, Belichick would either have to keep him, cut him or place him on IR.
Paul Perillo

Can a player put on waivers refuse to go to the team who picks him up and shouldn't these players have rights in the CBA system?
Fred MacDonald
Salem, Mass.

Any player who is claimed off waivers must go to the team that claims him. If a player could pick and choose what team he wanted to play for, then the better teams would almost always get the players they want. The players don't really get any rights until they become free agents, which comes after they've been in the league for at least four years.
Paul Perillo

Several weeks ago, I asked what was stopping the Patriots from trading their cuts. The thought was that the Pats are so deep at several positions especially wide receiver that many teams would want to sign them. You initially said other teams would be nuts to work a trade, but in answers to other fans you have since seemed to modify your position. Does the NFL allow retractable waivers whereby the Pats can attempt to waive a player to the practice squad and if there are bites recall the waiver and then work a trade?
Otis
Boston, Mass.

First, I remember your question about trading potential cuts and I was the one who wrote that other teams wouldn't likely want to give up anything for a guy who was going to be cut anyway. I still feel that way. But as I said the other team might look at it as a guaranteed way of getting a player it coveted rather than having to potentially outbid the other teams for his services. For example, if the Patriots had no room for J.J. Stokes, as an opposing team I'd rather wait for him to

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