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Ask PFW: Training camp rush

Training camp 2010 is well under way in Foxborough.

Do you remember the play by Willie McG. who sacked P. Manning on 4th and goal preserving the win? This and other plays like that by OLBs are one big reason why Pats got to and won 3 SB's. I just don't get why coach BB cannot staff this position as well as others? One more playmaker is all it takes for this defense and the entire football team to become a contender again.
Gary Juval

I think you are combining a couple different McGinest plays, but your point is well taken. Belichick clearly has struggled a bit at filling and restocking the OLB depth chart. The signing of Adalius Thomas didn't work, even though the whole football world raved about it at the time. Drafting Shawn Crable never panned out. Hopefully things will go a bit better with Jermaine Cunningham. In my mind the biggest problems at the position are the strict physical and skill set requirements. I think it's a very difficult spot to play and very few players have all the tools to do it. We were spoiled with guys like McGinest and Mike Vrabel. There are only so many big, long, strong, athletic edge players on this planet. Of late, Belichick hasn't gotten his coaching hands on the right ones. But right now I think the team has to be worried more about adding any body, more than the right body. The time to look for the perfect player has passed. Right now it's about simply adding someone, anyone to the depth chart. All hands on deck!
Andy Hart

I know its only a stop-gap (pun intended) measure, but, Aaron Schobel, formerly of Buffalo says he wants to play one more season. He's been harassing Tom Brady for years so BB is very familiar with him. Can we, should we or are we crazy to sign him? What's the story on him health-wise and does he fit into our system? Thanks and Go Patriots.
Gary Abrams

I heard that Aaron Schobel was released today, this makes perfect sense for us to sign him and gain some more security on our D line. I'm sure you got 1000 emails as to why we should sign Schobel, who was just released but ill keep it simple. Just sign him he is worth it. It could be him or ongukueley...not sure if i spelled his name right, but still lets not pass up the opportunity of a solid proven veteran that we can sign to the defense at a good price. I believe in Bill, I trust and he will make a decision but we need some playmakers. Let's get some!
Jonathan Trujillo

Any truth to rumor of Aaron Schobel coming to NE? It would seem to make sense on 3 levels 1) our obvious pass rushing need, 2) a mentor to Cunningham, and 3) to keep him from pestering Brady anymore. Your thoughts?
Kyle Witkoski

What are the chances that the Pats will pursue Aaron Schobel now that he's available?William Skiff

I'd sign my mother to play OLB right now. Schobel – if and when he actually becomes available -- is a proven NFL pass rusher coming off a 10-sack season. He also seems to fit the mold of Belichick adding players that have hurt the Patriots over the years. He has good length and decent size. The two biggest problems may be that he's been primarily a 4-3 guy and it sounds like he wants to play near his Houston ranch. Like Derrick Burgess, it seems that on some level Schobel may already be mentally retired. But, that wouldn't necessarily stop me from signing him. The Patriots need bodies on the edge right now, and Schobel would be one of the best options available. I'd feel the same way about adding either Greg Ellis or Adewale Ogunleye, who are also both free agents at this point. Each had six sacks a year ago in Oakland and Chicago respectively, a number that would have ranked second in New England behind Tully Banta-Cain's 10. Which guy has the most left? Who would cost the least and make the most sense financially? Who'd be most comfortable most quickly in the 3-4? I can't definitively answer that at this point. But I'd take any of the three, or all of them, and be happy to add them to the competition at outside linebacker/rush end.
Andy Hart

Is Julian Edelman considered the teams third string QB? Have you guys seen anything thus far at training camp that would lead you to believe he is going to take any snaps at QB this season in certain situations.
Rian Bednarz

Seventh-round pick Zac Robinson is the team's third-string quarterback at this point. Not sure that he'll make the regular season roster, in fact I doubt that he will. At that point it's hard to say who would be the emergency third-string option. Kevin Faulk has been that guy at times. Troy Brown, too. A year ago WR/QB Isaiah Stanback filled the bill. I've not seen Edelman take any snaps in camp. We did see him motion under center in a game a year ago – it didn't work out too well -- and as a college QB he'd obviously be in the mix on game day if it all hit the fan and both Brady and Hoyer were knocked out of action.
Andy Hart

When I read your blog comments that Ninkovich was swallowed up by Vollmer, that's good news and bad. Do we have even a single OLB playmaker on this team? How can we think of going anywhere in the playoffs without one?
Al T.

A year ago Tully Banta-Cain proved himself, to some degree, a pass rushing playmaker. It's not easy to get 10 sacks in the NFL, whether five of them came against the lowly Bills or not. I'm not saying TBC is L.T., but he's at least a competitive NFL pass rusher. Beyond that, no, no one is proven (at least in the positive) at the position. That's the weakest spot on the team right now and the biggest question heading into preseason and eventually regular season action. It's why I'm very much for the team adding someone, anyone, to the OLB depth chart. If that doesn't happen, then I think a lot of playmaking pressure will fall on second-round pick Jermaine Cunningham. Without additions to the roster I think it's a must that the former Gator play and contribute, or, I agree with you, it will be hard for this defense to overcome a lack of playmakers on the edge.
Andy Hart

Was Adawale Ogunleey working out for the Pats and is he a suitable replacement for burgess? I haven't seen much of Ogunleye so that's why I ask. Thanks guys!
Alex Hyun

I think that ESPN's Adam Schefter had the Ogunleye workout report, and he's pretty good in those things. So I assume it to be true. Ogunleye had 6.5 sacks last year in Chicago, so he's at least still competitive in NFL action. Although having not seen the Bears much, not sure how much of an impact he had on that defense. Remember, Burgess had five sacks last year but we all pretty much agree that he wasn't an impact player.
Andy Hart

If the Rams can dish out a cool $50 million up front ($78 overall) to a rookie without a new CBA. Why can't the Patriots, Colts and Saints get new contracts done for their Super Bowl winning QBs? Thanks.
Brett Larson

Any of the three teams you mentioned could sign their quarterbacks today if they wanted to. The difference is that Bradford wasn't already under contract. In order for the Rams to get him in camp they had to sign him, and as such do business as business is done with top picks under the current labor agreement. There is no rush for the Patriots, Colts or Saints to do a deal now, especially given the uncertainty on the labor front, as all three teams already have their star, starting quarterbacks under contract for 2010. (And by the way, Brees is under contract for 2011, as well, so he's even less of an urgent issue.). By taking Sam Bradford – who I think is going to be a major star in this league – with the No. 1 pick in April, St. Louis knew exactly what type of contract it was going to have to give out. If they didn't want to hand him that money, they should have traded the pick. Again, they had to do business as business is being done. The Patriots, Colts and Saints don't know how business will be done in the future and by no means have to do deals now in order to play out 2010. That's a huge difference.
Andy Hart

Looks like the Pats have finally given up on Shawn Crable. Too bad. I had high hopes for him. Do you guys feel that Ron Brace may now fill that role? And by "role" I mean perennially injured, high draft pick that disappoints.
Hermey The Great

Brace certainly isn't off to a great start to his second season, missing the first six days of camp on NFI. After a very disappointing rookie season in which he was passed up by sixth-round pick Myron Pryor and then got pushed around in the little playing time he did get, Brace is clearly not going down a great road. Every day he misses he falls further and further behind. At some point, he won't be able to make up the missed time. His second season is already on life-support. The parade is passing him by. I don't have high hopes for his future in New England at this point. I just don't.
Andy Hart

Hey PFW, I don't remember if you do it here, on the blog or in a separate article on the main site, but I was just wondering when you guys are planning on projecting different aspects of the roster? (e.g.- how many players BB is going to keep at each position, who is going to be the surprise cut, and who is going to be the sleeper to make the roster)? Just wondering, because this is generally one of my favorite pieces of the summer. Thanks from a Pats fan from RI who lives in Atlanta and is currently in England following you from 5 hours ahead!
T.J. Capaldi

Love England. Just don't wander around London aimlessly like Paul and I did last year in our short visit there. As for your question, that's a story Paul does every year in print in Patriots Football Weekly. Look for that about a week before New England actually makes its cuts and gets down to a 53-man roster. Glad you've enjoyed the story in the past.
Andy Hart

Hey guys first things first, great, great job! Your blogs and columns are a part of my blackberry daily readings. Now my question is about the scout team, who is the scout team? Is it a third party or is it a group of people Mr. Belichick hires? And don't you guys think we need a better scouting team? I mean it seems to me that almost every other team has found a superstar in the last 3 or 4 drafts, but the Patriots. idk what do you guys think? Thank you
Jonathan Castroposada

Jonathan, I think you are confusing the scout team with the team's scouting department. The scout team is a "look" team on the practice field, generally wearing colored helmet beanies (if that's what the call the over-helmet caps they wear??!). They serve as the opposition for the "real" Patriots offense, defense or special teams unit in a specific practice segment. They are all players from the roster who are not involved with the drills already. The scouting department, on the other hand, is the team's group of scouts that creates reports on all pro and college prospects as well as the other teams in the league. They are all hired by Belichick and follow his orders. New England, to my knowledge, is one of the NFL teams that does not used an outside scouting service. And as far as the last couple drafts go, don't give up yet. There could still be stars in the making as guys like Darius Butler, Sebastian Vollmer, Patrick Chung, Julian Edelman and the entirety of this year's class could be fighting not just for starting jobs but key roles on this team. My guess is that there are at least a couple stars in the group.
Andy Hart

With creatively in much subject line, this email will probably get auto-routed to Erik the artist. Let's hope it does...For the question...It appears we are going to have 3 studs at ILB. Technically they can't all be on the field at once...why dont' we think about moving one of the 3 outside to play OLB...the one that can best set the edge, drop into coverage and rush...Is this absolutely insane, or is there some logic here?
John in Dallas

Sorry, Erik isn't answering this week. Get over it. And I'm not sure your first sentence is even English. There is a very fine line between thinking creatively and trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Or a round peg into a square hole. Regardless, if a guy doesn't have the skills required to play a position it doesn't matter if you have an overload at one spot and a thin depth chart at another. I am of the belief that while you could line them up there and give them a shot, that none of the names at inside linebacker – Gary Guyton, Brandon Spikes, Tyrone McKenzie or Jerod Mayo – is a suitable option at outside linebacker in the Patriots 3-4 scheme. So to put it bluntly, it would be creative to line Tom Brady up at wide receiver and put Wes Welker under center. That doesn't mean it would be good for the team. But thanks for the email, John. And be sure to call us on PFW in Progress so we can argue about this verbally, again. I know you're always up for that.
Andy Hart

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