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Ask PFW: What have you done for me lately?

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, fans are on the attack when it comes to PFW's defense of one Tom Brady. It seems the PFW crew has been too lenient on the Patriots quarterback and emailers are looking for Brady to take more heat.

Why is it that Tom Casale refuses to address Tom Brady's struggles on offense in this week's Ask PFW? Brady has not looked sharp so far this season. Although I feel a lot of the overall passing game problems are related to the "chemistry" issue, I also think that Brady has been pretty off with some of his passes. Watching the games, you can see several examples every week where a receiver is open and the ball is thrown behind him or way over his head (and even if the receiver makes the catch, they are not in a good position to gain any YAC). I'm not expecting Brady to be 100 percent accurate but I think it is clear he has struggled and it makes me wonder if Brady is being affected by his shoulder?

I am surprised to see how defensive the PFW team has been with regards to Tom Brady's performance this year. In reality, I believe, TB has been below average at best in these five games. Does that mean that he should be whipped? Nope. It is just the fact that TB is taking more time than expected to settle with his WR team and there is no shame in admitting to it rather than defending him with his past record.
Kalyan Chatrati

I'm not defensive. Why are you saying I'm defensive? What do you mean defensive? OK, I'll stop. I can't speak for the rest of the boys but the reason I've been quick to defend Brady is because I don't believe the struggles have been his fault. From watching the five games this year (not simply basing it on the past) I just haven't seen a lot of open receivers consistently. Has Tom made some errant throws? You bet. But in my opinion the percentage of bad throws is far outweighed by the percentage of throwaways that have resulted from receivers simply not being open. I don't agree that he's been below average, even though his statistics certainly point in that direction (at least by his lofty standards). You say Tom is taking more time adjusting to his new receivers while I say the receivers are taking more time getting up to speed on the offense. Just a difference of opinion – and you're right, it's one borne from five years of watching greatness.
Paul Perillo

I know a lot of people have been worried about Tom Brady developing timing with the new receivers, but it looks to me (from what I can see on TV) that progress is being made each week. What concerns me a bit is the number of passes that were batted down in the Buffalo game, granted the first of the year, then again in the Miami game. It seemed as though Miami took a page out of Buffalo's defensive plan to disrupt the Pats passing game. My question is do you think that the batted passes were just the result of really good, heads-up defense or should we be worried about the Pats offensive line not creating enough throwing lane space (or just poor pass protection) for Tom Brady in those games?
Tom Bell

Batted passes aren't necessarily the fault of the quarterback (although I bet I get killed for absolving Brady of blame once again). Most of them aren't even the fault of the blocking. In fact, many times the opposite is true and the blockers do such a good job that the rushers never get off the line, wait for the pass to be made and them reach up and knock it down. Obviously there have been times when rushers have jumped right in Brady's face and batted passes away. Those clearly are the fault of the offensive line. Most of them against Miami came at or near the line, though. And I don't think Miami did anything even remotely similar to what Buffalo did defensively. The Bills couldn't stop the Everett High rushing attack while Miami completely bottled the Patriots up. The schemes were strikingly different with Miami using big defensive tackles up front while Buffalo is much smaller, and therefore easier to run against.
Paul Perillo

It seems like the Patriots haven't run a lot of running back screens this year. New England is one of the best screening teams in the NFL. Why haven't we seen more of this, especially considering some of the struggles the offense has had in the passing game?Jeff H.

I think that's a good question and one that we've talked about amongst ourselves over the past couple of weeks. I'm not sure exactly what the answer is but I'll take a shot. I think running screens against exceptionally quick linebackers is difficult. Denver and Miami would qualify in the department. In some of the other games the running attack was so dominant there was no real need to slow down the pass rush (which screens are designed to do) with screens. Still, it has been strange to see so few of them considering how successful the Patriots have been when using them over the years. I'd expect them to be featured more prominently as the season progresses.
Paul Perillo

I know the talk throughout Patriots nation is all about how much the passing game is out of sync because they lost Branch and Givens. However the offense have been successful in the past without a No. 1 superstar receiver, instead opting to spread the ball around to the WRs, RBs and TEs. In my opinion, the reason for the struggle is the loss of Charlie Weis last offseason. Charlie always had that offense so prepared for what the defense was going to throw at them. He was also one of, if not the best play-callers in the NFL. Weis' offense always seemed to have a successful game plan. Whether it was a screen pass or a reverse, everything seemed to be called at the right time and to possibly set up the defense for something else later. I don't really see this from the offense any longer. It was never more evident than last January in Denver when the offense had trouble handling the blitzing Broncos. The only thing that can cure the offense is time. Josh McDaniels, working along with Brady and Belichick, will get more experience calling the plays and the offense should look better come playoff time. They will be fine with the receivers they have.
Anthony Gorgone

Of course the offense is going to be affected by the loss of such an experience coordinator as Charlie Weis. That's obvious. But I think you're forgetting some of the complaints we used to get about Weis using too many trick plays and having some curious play calls from time to time. It's easy to look back and think everything was always great. But it wasn't. In fact, I'd strongly disagree that the offense has been overly successful in the past without solid wide receivers. I'd assume you're talking about the 2001 Super Bowl championship team that won despite having Troy Brown and David Patten at wideout. Yes that team won it all but no it did not possess a very good offense and passing game in particular. Antowain Smith ran well down the stretch and Tom Brady was excellent at avoiding mistakes and making just enough plays to win. With very few exceptions (at Indy was one) that team won with defense and special teams. So while it's accurate that the Patriots have won without solid receivers it's not entirely so to claim they've had great passing games without them.
Paul Perillo

Do you think the Pats will be able to put it together every week from now on and clinch a playoff spot? One other random question too. Why doesn't Tom Brady make Troy Brown his go to guy?Woori Kwon

I fully expect the Patriots to continue improving as the season goes on because that's been their history. When the weather turns cold and starts to become a factor in the game, the Patriots generally play their best. I'd expect the division to be sewn up by mid-November and the Patriots will be in contention for one of the two byes in the AFC. Obviously injuries and other unforeseen problems can arise before then, but that's how I see it now. And I'd say that Troy Brown is Brady's go-to guy, for whatever that's worth.
Paul Perillo

I was wondering if Rookie TE David Thomas has shown any promise as being a reliable pass catching TE in the offense? I don't think he is particularly big or fast, but at least in college he got open, caught the ball and made plays. I know that the NCAA is not the NFL, but in practice does he show any potential to be a productive member of the offense? Or, is just going to be lost behind Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson?
Dan Isenbarger

Thomas had a strong camp and definitely showed the ability to get open and catch the ball. He hasn't had many opportunities thus far during the regular season but when he has he's made the most of them, including a terrific catch against Miami. Thomas is developing but I think you answered the question yourself – he has Graham and Watson ahead of him so it might not show right away. I expect him to be a factor as the season wears on.
Paul Perillo

What games still to be played do you think the Patriots will have trouble with? I'm thinking Chicago toward the end of the season, but the Colts will be the usual Patriots domination.
Andreas P.

You mean domination like last year – Colts 40, Patriots 21 – that kind of Patriots domination? Because last time I checked it was Indy coming to Foxborough doing the dominating. I'd expect the Colts to give the Patriots a tough game, although with the way Indy has played on defense New England might be able to run the ball very well that night. I'd also expect Chicago to be a tough, physical game. Jacksonville will be a difficult road test late in the season. Even Minnesota on a Monday night could be a tough challenge. And I never dismiss a trip to Miami as an automatic win, no matter what the Dolphins record is.
Paul Perillo

What has happened to Dan Klecko? I have not seen or heard anything about him, either that he was released or injured and would not return? Is he still in the Pats system or has he gone elsewhere?Carl

Klecko was cut by the Patriots before the start of the season and signed with Indianapolis the next day. He has two tackles thus far with the Colts.
Paul Perillo

Six weeks into the season and David Givens is living the good life in Nashville alongside Albert Haynesworth, a rookie QB and the 1-5 Titans. Just out of curiosity, how do Givens' stats compare so far with Gabriel's? Actually, I already know that Brown, Faulk, Gabriel and Caldwell each have more catches and/or yards receiving than Givens. Gabriel's two touchdowns beat Givens' zero end zone trips. Givens is 4th on his team in catches. But wait you say, this is not a fair comparison, Givens has missed one game with an injured thumb and will likely miss another. Still missing him?Lyle Johnson

In a word, Lyle, yes. The Patriots do not have a receiver currently on the roster who is playing as well as Givens did the last two years. I'm not picking on you here because your thoughts on departed Patriots are very much in line with the majority of Patriots fans, but I think you miss the point entirely. Everybody wants to look at what the players do once they leave and if they aren't overly productive that means it was no big loss. I don't see it that way. I know Givens was productive with the Patriots and he was in his prime so there's no reason to believe he wouldn't have continued to be productive. Unfortunately for the Patriots he got a contract offer that was bigger than they were willing to give so he left. But just because he's playing for a 1-5 team and with a rookie quarterback doesn't mean the Patriots don't miss him. The question isn't how do Givens' current stats stack up against Gabriel's or those of any other current Patriot receiver. That's apples and oranges since Tom Brady and Vince Young aren't exactly on par with one another. The better comparison would be Givens in 2004 or 2005 against Gabriel and Caldwell this year. I bet you get different stats, but then that wouldn't suit your argument.
Paul Perillo

It is simply human nature that, in the last few weeks, fans have written in with complaints of the Patriots not looking good in the passing game. This is understandable when you are used to winning Super Bowls. I am especially appalled at the lack of confidence in our rookie kicker, who everyone loved in the preseason. Relax, he's only missed a few field goals. The receivers look fine too, other than a few drops and not getting open enough. Here's my question- why are the writers at PFW giving Brady a free pass? You guys defend him in almost every case citing the Super Bowls, etc. That's fine- he has been the best thing that has ever happened to the Pats, but in the spirit of Belichickian ideology, what has he done lately? New receivers, no Branch, no Givens, blah, blah. He is the leader of the offense, and he is responsible for its failures and its successes. His passes are off, and he still has trouble completing those beautiful deep balls like we saw McNabb do against Dallas. Of course, putting things in perspective, he is still in a lock with Peyton for best QB in the NFL. But why give him a free pass? Hold him accountable... that's why they are called field generals.Toby Ryan

Wow, where to begin with this one. First, the receivers look fine other than a few drops and not getting open enough? Other than that, how'd you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln? So what exactly are the receivers doing well … blocking? Catching and getting open are two pretty important elements to receiver play so if they're not doing those well enough I think we can stop the insanity of the rest of this email now and understand that Brady is not the problem. As I said earlier, you guys can call Tom, Andy and I homers who aren't telling it like it is all you want but the bottom line is we'll stick with Brady. The truly remarkable part of this is that your willing to overlook the kicker missing three early field goals and wide receivers dropping passes and not getting open but you want to know what Brady has done lately. Gee, I don't know, maybe possess the NFL's all-time best winning percentage as a starting quarterback and have his team 4-1 at the bye. Other than that … again, wow!
Paul Perillo

When the Patriots traded Drew Bledsoe to Buffalo, how many draft picks did they acquire? Who did the Patriots draft with those picks and are any of them still on the team?

The Patriots dealt Bledsoe to Buffalo for a 2003 first-round pick (14th overall). They then traded with Chicago to move up one spot and took Ty Warren with the 13th pick. Warren is enjoying perhaps his best season with the Patriots, leading the team in tackles with 38 through five games.
Paul Perillo

I was totally confused over a couple of moves the Patriots have just completed. First, the addition of Jabar Gaffney to the squad. I agree, help is needed with the WR position but he's been available for quite awhile and we did not bring him in, but during a buy week he's here to get ready for Week 7. What's the reason for the practice squad? When given the chance Bam Childress hasn't been terrible, but he's always being pushed back. I have to agree I know nothing of Kelvin Kight or Matt Shelton but if they're good enough for the practice squad they should be better than a free agent who knows nothing of the Patriots offense. The addition of punter Danny Baugher seems like a waste of a practice squad position. I doubt he will be around long but BB making the comment that kicking in NE in Oct., Nov. & Dec is different than August seems like a reach. Unless BB has a vision that Josh Miller, who's done very well is going to get injured very soon, I would think that spot would be better suited for a DB.
Darrell Veilleux

A fair question with regard to Gaffney over Childress or Kight. As a point of clarification, Matt Shelton is on injured reserve and not the practice squad. While Childress or Kight certainly would know the offense better than Gaffney, neither is as good a player. Gaffney is an NFL caliber wide receiver who has been productive in the recent past (55 catches last season). While it's perhaps unfair to say this, I don't believe that either Childress or Kight is capable of that. So I can understand why Belichick opted for Gaffney, who also has some experience in a system similar to the Patriots from his days under Chris Palmer in Houston. As for the punting situation, I do believe that Baugher was brought in for insurance in case Miller is banged up. Before the Cincinnati game he left the field with a trainer and appeared to be limping just a bit. Perhaps not so coincidentally he then went out and had his two worst games of the season against the Bengals and then the Dolphins. So it's possible Miller is dealing with an injury and Baugher is here in case of an emergency. And I think you misunderstood Belichick's references to kicking late in the season. He meant that in terms of Baugher, who he watched during the summer but obviously wanted to get a better look in Foxborough now that the weather is starting to turn. In other words, instead of waiting for the need for a punter to arise and then signing Baugher, he wanted to watch him kick in New England while determining whether or not he believes he can do the job if the situation comes up.
Paul Perillo

I have been reading lately comparisons between Reggie Bush and Laurence Maroney. I have a vague recollection going back to O.J. Simpson's rookie year. Did the Patriots have a less known rookie running back that year who had a pretty good rookie season?
Fred Rosenthal

I'm going to guess you're talking about Carl Garrett, who was a rookie third-round pick with the Patriots in 1969, the same year O.J. broke in with Buffalo. While he obviously never approached Simpson's production, Garrett did enjoy a solid four years with the Patriots. As a rookie he carries 137 times for 691 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. He also caught 29 passes (tied for the team lead) for 267 yards and two touchdowns and returned kicks (28.3-yard average) and punts (13.3-yard average) as well. Incidentally, O.J. had only 697 yards rushing and two touchdowns as a rookie, although he did catch 30 passes for 343 more yards.
Paul Perillo

I understand that Troy Brown and Kevin Faulk are two very sure-handed (usually) punt returners, but I feel like they will never break one. While watching Willie Andrews return punts during the preseason we saw some flash and he was picking up good yards. I felt as though he could break one at any moment. Where with Brown and Faulk it just seems like the only thing we know is that they are going to catch the ball. What do you think?

I too was encouraged by Willie Andrews' return abilities during the preseason but I think there are two reasons why we haven't seen him. First is ball security, as you stated. Both Faulk and Brown are excellent handling kicks and rarely bobble or misplay the ball. I know Faulk has had occasional troubles handling the ball but those have come during the return while carrying the ball. Andrews was a little shaky at times during the preseason field the ball so I'd bet that scared Belichick a bit and caused him to go with the veterans. The second factor is Andrews' roles on special teams as a gunner and vise guy. He's been excellent in the kicking game and neither Faulk nor Brown would factor into special teams except for as returners.
Paul Perillo

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