This week's Inside Slant in USA Today focuses on the achievements of Patriots Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli, who last week was awarded his second consecutive NFL Executive of the Year award. The Slant credits Pioli with a number of savvy moves, including the Corey Dillon trade, but also praises him for building a team with the depth to overcome the losses of seemingly indispensable personnel, such as Ty Law or Richard Seymour (in the playoffs).
Kevin Mannix of The Boston Herald followed up on last week's allegations from New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett that the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s were substantial steroid users, by speaking with Pat Sullivan, son of former Patriots owner Billy Sullivan. "The Steelers set the tone,'' said Sullivan. "On our team, it was fairly limited in that it was a positional thing. The offensive linemen felt that it was a competitive necessity for them to bulk up. The league didn't test for steroids back then, so there's no concrete evidence of steroids being used, but all you needed to do was look at some of the guys to realize something was up."
The Boston Globe's NFL Notes describes Nick Saban's progress as he forges ahead in his new role as Miami Dolphins head coach. The Dolphins has one of the league's worst records last year, though it was one that belied its talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The notebook also features comments from another AFC East coach, Herm Edwards, extending high praise to Pats QB Tom Brady.
Tom Curran of The Providence Journal examines the Patriots needs in the upcoming draft, focusing in on the wide receiver and linebacker positions. Both positions hold considerable question marks for the Patriots. At linebacker, the Pats have lost veteran Roman Phifer and possibly Tedy Bruschi, while the wide receiver position is noticeably thin after Deion Branch and David Givens.
The Journal also features an expose on one of football's least understood statistics: quarterback passer ratings. The ratings formula is complicated, taking into account percentage of passes completed, as well as touchdowns and interceptions.
Finally, Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News takes an in-depth look at one college player who will likely find himself on the Patriots radar as draft day approaches. Florida linebacker Channing Crowder played only two years of college football, but is eligible to enter the draft being three years removed from high school. Crowder is an undeniable talent but, as Reiss notes, has found himself surrounded by question marks. His knees have both been operated on and his character has been called into question. However, Crowder dismisses these notions and indicates he just wants to play football.