NFL Quarterbacks on the hot seat

Tony Romo (en) at a Dallas Cowboys (en) preseason.

Tony Romo (en) at a Dallas Cowboys (en) preseason. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well the football season is almost upon us and I think it’s time to judge a book by its cover and put out theories of what quarterbacks are on the hot seat, in my opinion, and need to step it up without seeing anything yet.

Dallas CowboysTony Romo
He has been surrounded with some talented players but has yet to lead them to the Super Bowl. At first, it was blamed on the lack of experience, then it was the locker room, and now it is that he cannot play well when it counts. Romo is running out of excuses and while he is a better quarterback option than what other teams put on the field. So now, they still have Jason Witten, Miles Austin, the emerging Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray who came out of nowhere last season. Romo has to earn his paycheck and get them a ring. You can blame whatever, players, locker room, the division he is in, lack of a 3rd WR, golf, Jessica Simpson, Satan but truth is that has not stopped Eli Manning and the New York Giants. Maybe the Cowboys brought in Kyle Orton to compete with Romo but he is just an upgrade from Kitna but with Orton on the roster, it could give the Cowboys confidence to bench Romo if he has a few bad games in a row. Even with a weird voice telling me to predict that, Tony will be benched at some point this season I predict he will be the starter for the Cowboys.

Houston Texans- Matt Schaub
Matt has played well for the Texans but T.J. Yates did play well and the Texans could have a decision to make if they go back to playing sub .500 football. Yates would benefit from sitting back and learning for the next year or so because who knows what he can bring in a full season and how high his ceiling is. Matt Schaub is the clear starter next season I do believe but like I said, I do not see the coach or GM or Owner accepting a .500 or less season because winning is everything. I predict that Matt Schaub will be the starter until an injury forces the Texans to play Yates. Predicting this seems unfair because it is like predicting the ending to a movie after seeing it for the fourth time.

Kansas City Chiefs- Matt Cassel
Matt Cassel has to prove that he is not just a back up who benefited from a good system in 2008 when Tom Brady went down back when he was in New England. He has some talent around him now and only he is in his way. They do not have many other options at quarterback but if Cassel does not play well they will have to see what someone else can do. With Todd Haley gone Matt has to prove himself to the new coach and earn back his starting quarterback status. I predict that Cassel will finish the season as the starter because the Chiefs do not have many other better options.

Buffalo Bills– Ryan Fitzpatrick
Ryan has played well at the beginning of last season but really trailed off. Some could be blamed on the injuries, especially to Fred Jackson but with the losing record that the Bills have had I do not see them waiting for Ryan to straighten things out. I will be honest though the only reason he made my list is because one. They are the Bills and the coach has immense pressure on him since they have such a losing history lately and two. The Bills signed former first round pick quarterback Vince Young. The Bills were so happy he played well last season that they paid him as if he is the second coming of Jim Kelly. So tells me that they are desperate and should be but I do not think Ryan is the answer, neither is Young but Vince will benefit from a team that is still searching for an answer. I predict that Vince Young will see some time as the starter for the Bills this season.

New York Jets- Mark Sanchez
This just seems like a “duh” to me, like me asking out Jessica Biel, we all know what is going to happen. However, it is still worth mentioning because Mark did this to himself. The locker room is divided and the leaders need to step in but Mark does not seem to be the one. Already Tim Tebow, whom the Jets acquired via trade with the Denver Broncos, made an impact as a leader and even played better than Mark in the games they faced each other. Rex Ryan is a good coach and he is on the hot seat I believe so he will not let Mark continue to not develop. If he does not see Sanchez getting better, he will give Tim Tebow a chance because he is not with the Jets to make friends, he is there to win and give his team the best chance to do so. Sanchez needs to starting developing and showing that he can be better than he was. I predict that Mark Sanchez will remain the starter for the whole season, unless injured. Although, a debate could start when the Jets go on a cold streak.

Worth mentioning? Cleveland Browns- Colt McCoy. He does not have much talent around him so is it his fault? However, Brandon Weeden is already taking first team snaps so McCoy might not be on the hot seat after all, because he is not the starter anymore.

Why no Alex Smith? Well because I do believe that if he does well the 49ers will be happy but they will not be surprised if he does not. Alex was the best option they had since he did so well in Harbaugh’s new system and if he continues to develop it is a bonus, if not is anyone surprised? I, for one, am hoping that he does well again this season.

Overall- Tony Romo has the most to prove out of all of these quarterbacks, with Mark Sanchez in second. The Dallas Cowboys have a storied history and Jerry Jones wants to win so with those combined make Tony the one with the most pressure on him.

New England Patriots: Wide Receiver- Who makes the team?

New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker ...

New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker on the field prior to an away game against the Oakland Raiders. The Patriots won 49-26. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wes Welker This is a given that he will make the team, it is just about when he arrives. His contract dispute will no doubt hold things up and draw some attention that the Patriots do not want.

Brandon Lloyd Although I am not a fan of this signing just because everyone is treating it like this guy is Randy Moss V.2 but he’s not people, and neither was Chad “Ocho” Johnson and we shouldn’t expect those kind of results. Lloyd has talent, and he knows McDaniels’ offense so for those reasons I see him landing a spot.

Deion Branch He will make it but his role will be heavily reduced but he will be competing for time playing the second WR. Even if he does not make the team, I do not see Branch going to another team but might pull a Tedy Bruschi and retire.

Jabar Gaffney Still has some in the tank and will beat out Stallworth for a spot on the team. Gaffney seems to have Stallworth’s number because he beat him out back in 2007 here with the Patriots and again with the Redskins last season.

Chad Ochocinco This might be an unpopular decision to say that Chad will make the team over Donte. Why? Well, because if Chad actually gets the playbook and plays well then he has more talent left than Donte ever had to begin with. I think that we put too much into knowing the playbook and sometimes forget talent. Chad may have diminished skills compared to two years ago but that is still more than Donte ever had.

On the outside looking in

Donte Stallworth Donte was beat out for time by Gaffney so we know that will most likely happen again so it will come down to Chad versus Donte and like I mentioned Chad I believe will win. Donte, while he does know the playbook, never had as much talent or was a top talent like Chad was. Now, of course, Chad has to get the playbook down but I am going on a limb to say that he will. Maybe I am basing too much of my decision on the past but that is okay with me.

Anthony Gonzalez While Gonzalez was a decent signing because of the talent he does actually have, he has some injury issues and I believe he will somehow end up being injured and either be cut just like Torry Holt a few years ago. Most likely he’ll get hurt stepping out of his car or mowing the lawn. (joking on the last part) If he does make it and doesn’t get injured then he could help this team, I’m just not holding my breath.

Julian Edelman I don’t think he will make the team as a Wide Receiver but will definitely make it in some other form. Whether that be on special teams or defense or trick plays, he will find his place. That’s not to say that he does not have some sort of future as a Wide Receiver but as of right now the depth chart changes his position.

Jeremy Ebert– He will most likely be a practice squad guy for the first year or so and will have to prove himself in order to stay on this team. He has a good chance to make the team in the future as an Edelman or Slater kind of player but with the failures of Taylor Price, Chad Jackson, Brandon Tate and the millions (and millions) of the other players I am being cautious.

Overall Chad will have to prove himself to make this team but that is obvious. You can call it a “mark” move of me to choose him over Donte but I just have a feeling that Chad will have it together and if he does not then we’ll be just fine. We are loaded at Wide Receiver and if Chad does not have it again then he will not make it and someone else will step up. This is a win-win situation for Bill and the Patriots.

So what is my quick analysis of the running back and fullback positions? Well I believe that Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and Tony Fiammetta will make the team. Spencer Larsen and Eric Kettani I think will make the team in some other position whether it be special teams or practice squad member. As for Joseph Addai I am not sure what kind of role he will play on this team. I just hope that it doesn’t hinder the development of Ridley and Vereen because honestly they can’t progress and get better if they aren’t playing on the field during games that matter. With that being said I thought the signing was decent because they need someone who can come in and help Ridley, Vereen and even Woodhead develop but hopefully not hurt them. I think that Ridley and Vereen are talented and have the potential to be great running backs but not as practice squad guys.

New England Patriots 2012 draft

National Football League Draft

National Football League Draft (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chandler Jones DE/OLB from Syracuse University An athletic guy who has a big wingspan. He needs to work on his pass rushing moves but could develop into a great player. He could step in right away as the starter or play some significant time on sub packages so either way they have some options. He is a versatile player who can play in either defensive set but I do not see him being a “making waves” kind of production in his first year. His kind of size and athleticism does not come around all of the time so I love that the Patriots saw him still on the board and grabbed him then traded back up to get the guy they really wanted. GRADE- A

Dont’a Hightower ILB from Alabama– I do not see him being used as just an ILB but I can see him playing in different positions. I am a little surprised that he was still on the board but I am glad that Bill traded up to grab him because Baltimore would have otherwise. He is a guy who can play in the middle with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, but I also see him playing some time at OLB or even in coverage. He is good at blitzing up the middle but I do not think he is a pass rusher, he might contribute to that but will not be the main guy. The only thing that might hurt him is the development of Brandon Spikes, which could cut down his playing time, unless Bill has a plan to move either Mayo, Spikes or even Hightower to another LB position. GRADE- A

Tavon Wilson CB/S from Illinois- Officially labeled by NFL.com as a free safety but spent the first two seasons in college as a cornerback then converted over to a safety before the 2010 season. I do not know where he fits in the Patriots defense, whether it is as a cornerback or a safety but I do think that this pick was a head scratch especially since so many other defense backs were still on the board at the time. Defensive backs that are more known, most likely higher potential, and will most likely be in the league later. I do not get this pick and I just do not know if Tavon will be an impact player. I will trust Bill on this one I guess but the fact that they did take a DE later on in the draft kind of gets to me. They could have picked up a better, more productive DE at this pick and still picked up Wilson at 90. GRADE- D

Information on Tavon Wilson

Patriots trade 62nd pick for the 90th pick and the 163rd pick. SHOCKING. Did you really think that Bill was not going to disappoint us all and avoid drafting some players who can actually start and instead end up with a new class of practice squad members. Maybe I am being a little harsh on this move but I am just a little taken back by the second round moves that they made, especially after such a great start. First they pick up someone who MIGHT sniff the practice squad and then they trade out of the second round. Okay, so let us see where this goes and be optimistic about this. Belichick is the coach with the rings and we are the fans who are just anxious and want the Patriots to pick up everyone with a name we know but that is not going to happen. GRADE- F

Jake Bequette DE from Arkansas– This was taken from NFL.com on Bequette.

“Bequette was a strong player for Arkansas, though his productivity could be attributed more to competitiveness and intelligence than great athleticism. He stood out as a leader and high-energy player for the Razorbacks. He had the strength to rush, set the edge and hold his ground in the run game, able to battle bigger linemen and go hard until the end of the play. He is a solid tackler around the ball and consistently pursues plays from the backside. His versatility across the line makes him a good value for NFL teams, especially those running a 3-4 defense. He will likely be taken in one of the later rounds.”

His weaknesses summarized that he gets lost on double teams, not too athletic, not a factor in the passing game, does not play as fast as he could. Jake seems like a decent pick and will contribute in his own way but not sure, how often or how big that impact will be. He could compete with Jermaine Cunningham for playing time and who knows who will win that battle but either way the Patriots will get a good player out of it. GRADE- C

Something to worry about Patriots fans is that the Patriots have the fewest draft picks left with just one pick, which is 163, a 5th round pick. We always hear the same thing, the word value is thrown around, and it just gets annoying. Yeah you can trade all kinds of picks for later picks in the draft because you can get some value players… wow… great… how about players who can start and make an impact on a game that can say… I do not know… help you actually win the Super Bowl versus not being able to stop the other teams offense. Would it have been so bad if you did not have any picks after 62? Does that spell a bad draft if you only have four picks? Well it is quality not quantity, and while Hightower and Jones are quality picks the rest of the picks are not. However, let us be positive here and say that for whatever place they do not hit they can always plug-in another free agent because you still have some talented names available on the market.

I’ll update this again when they make their final selection but most likely the player won’t be any good so does it matter, I think not. Who will the pick be? A new practice squad member or bench guy.

*UPDATE*  4/29

Nate Ebner DB from Ohio State- A kid who will come in and contribute on special teams right away. Not a bad pick at all, a nice depth move for the Patriots and considering the injury problems they have had in the past at both CB and S this is a good pick up. Bad part about the pick is not sure he will be anything more than a special teams guy. GRADE- C

Alfonzo Dennard CB from Nebraska- This was a high risk-high reward pick for the Patriots. Dennard could have gone a lot earlier in the draft. He was once considered an early round pick until performance and bad decisions pushed him down the board. At that point in the draft, in the seventh round, if you miss it’s not a huge deal but if you hit you’re a genius and Dennard could be a hidden gem if he can get his act together. If anyone can do it it’s Bill Belichick and that core group that they have and leaders like Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and Tom Brady to show him. I have to say that I did really like this pick from the Patriots. He is shorter and can get blocked by more physical receivers but will also try to be involved in the play which is good, and according to the breakdown at NFL.com, is NFL-ready which is good for a seventh rounder. Now it is just up to Dennard to get his act together or he’ll be a newcomer with WWE or the CFL. GRADE- B

Jeremy Ebert WR from Northwestern- Could eventually be the replacement/competition for Julian Edelman as a slot receiever and special teams player. The fact that he came on strong his last two seasons at Northwestern tells me that he will get better with time and will learn the system eventually. He’ll most likely be a practice squad guy since they have a lot of receivers on the roster but still a decent pick for that late in the draft. GRADE- C

Overall- A very good draft for the New England Patriots as they were primarily defensive oriented which is an area that needed to be addressed. Not that I put a lot of stock into the grades on NFL.com, because it is based on others opinions at the combine and pro days and if you don’t go then you have a low-grade but aren’t neccessarily a bad player. However, the player with the highest grade according to NFL.com is actually seventh round pick Alfonzo Dennard at 85.7 then Dont’a Hightower at 85 and the lowest being both Nate Ebner and Jeremy Ebert who didn’t have grades at all. Again, doesn’t really mean much but I thought it was a little interesting. Why didn’t I like the Tavon Wilson pick? Well because I see him as a blend in kind of player which means that he won’t do anything great but most likely won’t do anything bad either but I don’t think you use a second round pick on that kind of player. Hey, if I’m wrong, that’s awesome and I’m more than happy to be wrong on this one but I see him as a guy who you can forget is even playing just because he won’t stand out positively or negatively. He had a private workout with Bill and the Patriots however and seven other teams worked him out so teams had a different grade on him then the scouts and analysts did so I do trust Bill but I’m not going to be surprised if he is not on the team in a few years.

 

Can Tim Tebow fix the New York Jets’ locker room?

Tim Tebow, a player on the Denver Broncos Amer...

Tim Tebow, a player on the Denver Broncos American football team. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All of last season it was one of the constant things that you heard. Back and forth from the Jets’ players and them talking trash about opponents and even other teammates. Whether it was Holmes quitting on the team, Sanchez calling his team gutless, Holmes calling out Sanchez and the OL and it was just an NFL soap opera. I mean if Mark Sanchez ended up being related to Rex Ryan it would have been soap opera gold, goodbye HBO hello CBS. Therefore, you have to wonder what the Jets’ angle with Tebow was. Competition for Sanchez? Converting to a hybrid type of player? An attempt to fix and weed out the poison in the locker room? I am leaning towards all of the above because by nature, we humans are creatures of habit and we often mimic each other. Good deeds, good people, habits, personalities and other things can leak out on each other and with the Jets; it was in the negative side of the tracks the last few years. Trading for Tim Tebow will help alter that path, change that state in the locker room and I think provide a real role model and potential true leader of the locker room.

Antonio Cromartie and other Jets can say whatever they want on this subject but the fact is they brought this upon themselves by not being a team. The negative attitudes and egos in that locker room have also changed the path of Mark Sanchez and the path he was once on. From here on out who knows what he will turn into but it will be a product of that locker room and atmosphere. Ladainian Tomlinson walked away from the Jets saying it was the worst locker room he had been in, and I think LT did attempt to change the ways of the room but the dark “aura” that surrounds the team is overwhelming.

Whatever flaws Tebow has as a QB I think the biggest impact he will have on this team is off the field. However, LT had the same heart of gold and he could not change a thing. I think maybe it is time for Rex Ryan to step in and change this culture just as Belichick did with Adalius Thomas, Shawn Springs and the other negative influences they had. I give Rex Ryan credit in that situation as well, believe it or not, because he did not sign “AD” after the Patriots released him, even though he had a past with him. Rex I think identified that even though Thomas might have had some talent at one point, his negative influence on the locker room would not be worth it.

Bringing in Tebow will also be a football move, obviously, and Tony Sporano new Jets Offensive Coordinator, will figure out how to use Tebow whether it be as a QB, HB, FB, TE or WR or all of them. It will put some pressure on both Sanchez and Tebow, which could make them play better. As of right now I believe Mark Sanchez is the starter and it would take a lot for Tebow to take over but the fact that the Jets could has the potential to push Mark to play up to his potential and be a better QB. Mark Brunell did a good job as a back up QB but I do not think that Sanchez ever thought that Brunell was ever going to be a threat to take over his job so never felt the need to improve. His ego simply told him that he was the best QB on the team, which he was, but he owed it to the team to improve and be the guy and compete with the other young QB’s for the title of the next elite QB and he did not. Will this signing make the Jets a super bowl contender? No, I do not think it does but it could make them better then last year but they need more positive influences in that locker room to help guide Sanchez and other young players in the right direction.

It would benefit Tebow if he played some other positions and shows that he can be a team player and not so stubborn. He has said in the past that he wanted to be a QB but he would really benefit from changing that stance. He can still come out and say, “I still see myself as a QB but right now I’m doing what is best for the team and winning games.” If he can somehow master the hybrid position, I think he could really change the league in the future. Players like him, Brad Smith, Aaron Hernandez and some others will not be limited to just one position but could move around and not be seen as odd or a trick play but a smart play by a versatile athlete and a smart coach. Is Tim Tebow ever going to be an NFL QB? I don’t think so, at least not the level of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady but maybe he could be a game manager and end up leading a team to the super bowl but he REALLY needs to work on reading defenses, accuracy and playing from the pocket. If he does not then he will end up just a bust, which I think he is not. He would be a better HB/FB or TE then a QB and if a team wants to throw in a wildcat play or an option play with him then that would be smart. The Jets could also benefit from picking up a real speedy running back to play behind Shonn Greene in those situations.

I am a Patriots fan all the way and I love that the Jets did not win the division last season but I also like a competitive division. I think Rex Ryan is a good coach and the players are doing an injustice to him by being so egotistical and selfish. The Trail Blazers players got a good coach fired and it was their own fault and the Jets can make a stand to be better players, better people and be more positive. With that being said, I hope they do not ever win a Super Bowl, ha, just kidding. If they do then good for them and hopefully, it means that all of the heads in the locker room are on straight. Bottomline is I do not think that Tim Tebow will fix the New York Jets‘ locker room on his own but the TRUE leaders of the team need to STEP UP and make the others listen and start a positive culture on this team because Rex Ryan is a good coach and deserves better.

**cough** Go Pats!! **cough**

One statement spelling out past and future draft strategies by Belichick

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England P...

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watches the preseason game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on August 28, 2009 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was going through ESPN and saw the Patriots Mailbag with Mike Reiss and something caught my attention with one of his answers. The question was about Belichick and trading up for an impact player.

“It sort of ties in to Belichick’s thoughts as relayed in Michael Holley’s “War Room” book about the Falcons trading up to No. 6 to draft receiver Julio Jones in 2011. Belichick didn’t endorse the move because he felt the difference between Jones and Jonathan Baldwin (a later first-round pick) wasn’t worth all it would take to move up.”

Now I can see what Belichick was talking about and sort of agree no doubt about it but I might also see where some of the Patriots drafts woes have stemmed from. Now both Julio Jones and Jonathan Baldwin were first round picks and both saw some significant time on the field but there were some clear differences in performance.

Jonathan Baldwin played 11 games, had 21 receptions for 254 yards and one touchdown. A decent season for a rookie wide receiver I must say.

Julio Jones played in 13 games, had 54 receptions for 959 yards and eight touchdowns. That is a great season for a rookie wide receiver.

While the Falcons did give up a lot to get Jones, I think it paid off in the end. As of right now I think the difference between the two is upside and other little things. Julio Jones, I believe, has a higher ceiling and has more upside than Baldwin has. Baldwin is no doubt talented, maybe as talented as Jones but I don’t think he has as high a ceiling as Jones honestly. Now the argument can be made that there were two completely different quarterbacks throwing to them. One is Matt Cassel, who is a slightly above average quarterback who benefited from backing up the great Tom Brady. Matt Ryan however is a first round pick who came to the Atlanta Falcons after they fell from grace because of the whole Michael Vick situation. Therefore, you would be right to make that connection and bring that up but either man could have ended up on the other team and I will argue that the results could be the same. Jones would still out perform Baldwin, even with Cassel as his quarterback.

Therefore, Belichick is right, sort of, and that giving up all of that might not have been worth it but comparing the two, right now it seems that the Falcons won. Would the Falcons, if they kept all the picks they had, and chose Baldwin and filled some other spots they really needed like defensive line, secondary and getting someone to eventually replace John Abraham, have made it to the playoffs? Maybe, maybe not but drafting Julio Jones did not hinder that at all, they still made it… granted they lost but they made it.

So is that why Brandon Tate, Taylor Price, Darius Butler, Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite, Shawn Crable, Chad Jackson, Laurence Maroney, Tyrone McKenzie and some others haven’t worked out and why Jermaine Cunningham and Ron Brace are currently not working out? Did he see that they had just as much talent as someone else in the draft but that they had a little less of an upside? While a good strategy by the mastermind Bill Belichick sometimes you have to take that “higher upside” talent to be surrounded by the others. Therefore, you have some adequate young talent surrounding one or two superstars and now you have a team.

However, hey, who am I? Just a fan, someone who watches the games and has an opinion on things. I am obviously not a part of the NFL or any station that follows them, but this is just my opinion and what I see.

I will say that in the last few drafts he has made some key hits with Brandon Spikes, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourt (well, judge is still out with his horrible season last season but for now I’ll count him), and Zoltan Mesko. Judge is still out on the 2011 NFL draft class but so far some hits seem to be Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon and who knows how Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Ryan Mallett turn out but right now, they seem to be a part of the Patriots’ future. Ras-I Dowling is a question mark for me because of his past with injuries and the fact that he ended up on Injured Reserve last season. Before going on IR, he was doing okay but you were, well I was, just waiting for him to end up on that list and he did.

Although, some key misses at least from 2011 was Brooks Reed who went to the Houston Texans and when Mario Williams went down him, Conner Barwin and J.J. Watt made it not so bad that they lost Williams to the Buffalo Bills this past off-season. Another I think was Torrey Smith WR who went to the Baltimore Ravens. I am not going to rehash all of the other misses from the other years because quite honestly, they have been talked about repeatedly and we all need to forget about them. I think it just seems that the Patriots miss more because Belichick piles up so many picks. I still think Brooks Reed and Torrey Smith were misses in time they’ll be in the same category as the others… under a file that just says, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

In my opinion in this 2012 NFL draft that is a little over a month away Bill has to be aggressive, or at least stand pat with his picks and not trade down. Bill, Nick and the powers that be will have the master plan and do what is best for the team but with Tom Brady getting older and his seasons numbered, I think it’s more important than ever to snag a playmaker or two sooner rather than later. However, with what he said I see him continuing to trade down unless he sees an incredible talent on the board that is a once in a lifetime type of talent.

With whatever criticism we all have of coach and General Manager Bill Belichick it comes with an understanding that he is one of the best in the game. He has made questionable moves but we’re lucky to have someone who can win constantly and run the office side of things for as long as he has and like I said still have an “elite” team. At least we don’t have a revolving door at coach and G.M. like some other teams in the NFL. Of course, you could say that Tom Brady is the person who makes sure the Patriots keep winning but Belichick is the one who brings the talent in. Brady can’t do it by himself… don’t believe me? Well 2006 seems to point that way and if they had better talent at that time, they would have won it all instead of the Colts.

It was an interesting mailbag check it out:

ESPN Patriots Mailbag with Mike Reiss

Patriots off-season grades and thoughts part two

NEW ENGLAND Patriots Wallpaper

NEW ENGLAND Patriots Wallpaper (Photo credit: Axel.Foley)

TE- Daniel Fells A good move for the Patriots because it adds some depth behind Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. It will also allow Hernandez to play in the WR position more, as he did last season and still have the option to have a 2 other TE’s on the field to help block or run a pattern or both. Grade: B

WR- Donte Stallworth It’s been about 4 seasons since Stallworth has played in a Patriots uniform and while he was good while he was here back in 2007, what does he have left? This gives the Patriots some insurance if and when Gonzalez gets hurt and could be the nail in the Ocho experiment. Although since leaving, the Patriots Stallworth has not exactly been lighting up the stat sheet. His best season since leaving was last season with 11 games played, 22 receptions, 309 yards and 2 touchdowns, that’s not much of an upgrade over what Chad Johnson but I still like the move. You know that Donte knows the system, so adjusting will not be a problem for him. The only thing I don’t like about this move is that it most likely pushes Deion Branch out of the picture, even if they did trade or release Chad. Grade: B

DB- Marquice Cole- Who? This is a depth move and a player who will play on special teams mainly. Not the move I wanted to see but at least they are improving the depth, something that they needed to do. Hopefully they don’t forget that they need playmakers not just roster fillers. Grade: D

OL- Robert Gallery- Robert, who played for Seattle last season and was a first round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders back in 2004, is a good depth signing. He was pretty healthy for both Oakland and Seattle, except towards the end of last season where he missed 4 games because of injury. Belichick apparently had some interest in him during that 2004 draft and claimed if he had the first overall pick he would have taken Gallery (he was selected 2nd overall) He could jump in and start depending on what happens with Brian Waters and Matt Light who have been toying with the idea of retirement and also could step in if someone gets injured. Definitely like this signing. Grade: A

Visit of DL Luis Castillo- This tells me that Bill is not done on defense and has a plan in mind and is just playing his game of chess. He is just 28 years old but is coming off an injury. He, however, is not a pass rushing type of player either with just 2.5 sacks in 2010 and 2 in 2009. Therefore, I can see why they put him in and tried to see what he had, he can add to the depth of the DL but is not a game changer in my opinion. Some names are still available: Mark Anderson, Andre Carter, Shaun Rogers, Matt Roth, Aaron Smith, and Gerard Warren to name a few.

Jets sign LaRon Landry This is a blessing in disguise because Landry has a history with injuries for some reason (look up his recent photo and you’ll see why this is actually sarcasm). If he does well for the Jets, hey cool, but I’d rather give a chance and time to someone who can stay on it. Some interesting names still available on the market: OJ Atogwe, Melvin Bullitt, Bob Sanders, Jim Leonhard, Brian Dawkins, and Jarrad Page just to name a few.

Trade Rumors of Tim Tebow to the Patriots- While the Patriots were interested in Tim Tebow during the 2010 NFL Draft a lot has happened since then. Mainly, Brian Hoyer has got better and we drafted Ryan Mallett so I don’t know where he would fit. The idea though is intriguing and Josh McDaniels, who did draft him, is on the team and can share the ideas he had for using Tebow with Belichick. However if he came here he would have to change positions, to something like TE/RB/FB hybrid who can occasionally take a direct snap, or run a wild cat type offense. You can do many things with Tebow on this team but he would have to agree to be something other than a QB, even if you have to sell it to him that it’s just for now. You can have Tebow in the backfield with Brady and Woodhead, in the shotgun formation and Tebow can take the direct snap, Brady does his typical fake and then the Pats can run some form of the option-offense. Tebow can either throw it, run it, or hand it off to Danny but of course that’d be only one play but Tebow I think can fit as that TE/RB/FB type of hybrid. So many options, but I honestly don’t see him on this team because I don’t know if he’s ready to put his “dream” of being a QB aside, especially since Tom Brady is the main man and you don’t want to take the ball out of his hands. Message to Tim Tebow- don’t be stubborn, if Bill Belichick a Hall of Fame bound head coach wants you and asks you if you want to change positions… you change positions man. Also, just a fun fact, the Broncos need some WR help and the Patriots have an abundance of them and one in particular could be odd man out… sooo maybe you offer Chad Johnson and a pick to Denver for Tebow. I think that Chad has plenty left in him even though he is 34 and if he can’t prove it to New England fans on the Patriots then we will on another team… they I could be wrong but I just don’t see it that way. Do I see Tebow in a Patriots uniform? No.

The Patriots could also look at the draft to upgrade the pass rusher position but I am not going to hold my breath. Free Agency is not over so we’ll see what the Patriots do with the time they put into it but safety is not deep in this drafting according to some analysts so the only key I think would be getting some sort of impact DB. Belichick has done a good job this off-season focusing in on needs but getting mid-range players who aren’t horrible options. We’ll see what happens, so far it’s been pretty decent.

UPDATE: Dolphins continue to go in the opposite direction by planning to cut starting Safety Yeremiah Bell. Um, sure, Ireland is nuts I think… this is like Timberwolves and Kahn… entertaining. I mean they went from maybe one, two or three pieces away to rebuilding… already.

New England Patriots off-season grades thus far.

New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker ...

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WRWes Welker This was a must move for the Patriots. People can try to say or claim that Wes could be just a result of the system and if put into a different system wouldn’t be as good but why test that argument? He’s a good fit and it’s smart to sign him to a 2 or 3 year deal and get him off of that franchise tender contract that is tying up 9 million. Grade: A

WR/Special Teams- Matthew Slater This was a good signing and was a top priority for a good reason. Slater has really paved a place for himself with this team and if he keeps performing well then he could in the same class as a Troy Brown or a Kevin Faulk. Grade: A

DL- Jonathan Fanene– He is not an impact player and will not make the same impact as Anderson or Carter had, most likely but this was a good signing. He is a versatile veteran who can play DE or DT and will play in sub-packages mostly. He is a veteran presence and one that will only help the locker room. Grade: B

WR- Anthony Gonzalez I am not sold so much on this idea because while Gonzalez had some decent upside at one point, at this point I think he is too injury prone. Who knows, maybe he can turn his career around and give us some good production, but I think if I had to choose between Gonzalez or Branch I’d choose Deion but apparently the Patriots chose Gonzalez. Prediction for catches next season- 20. Grade: C

DE/OLB- Trevor Scott- This has the potential to be a great signing. Before his injury Trevor Scott was on his way to being a decent pass rusher. He was a better fit as a OLB than a DE but he wasn’t horrible at DE either. He’ll get his chance to play both positions in this system and has a chance to resurrect his career.Grade: A

OL- Dan Connolly- A good signing for sure since it doesn’t seem that they will bring back Dan Koppen, although I think that it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Connolly played very well after Koppen went down and really made it easier for the Patriots to even contemplate letting Koppen walk away. A nice surprise honestly, he was a solid back up but seems to be making a name of himself. Grade: A

S- Steve Gregory- He will play some sub-packages and shouldn’t be a starter honestly. He could be just a special teams player however depending on what the Patriots do with the rest of free agency and the draft. This was a depth signing for me, just because you can’t have Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman playing significant time on defense. It’s awesome that those two are versatile and willing to do whatever it takes but we need some true defensive guys. Grade: C

DL- Marcus Harrison- Probably just a depth/try out sort of deal just to see what he can bring to the table. I honestly don’t hate this signing but I don’t really like it either, if he makes the team then great… it means that Bill believes he can make an impact but I am just not sure he will make it to the final roster but if he does good for him because that will mean he worked hard for it. Grade: D

WR- Brandon Lloyd As I said before, Lloyd will not be the savior at WR that some Patriots fans want him to be. He had one good year in the Josh McDaniels system but it is overlooked that he did not play at that level in any of his previous seasons. I think anyone can have a good year, and that’s all I believe that his “productive” season was. Not saying he’ll be a complete bust but I just don’t see him being in the conversation of Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney or some others who have come in here and performed well. I think of Lloyd and I think of Reche Caldwell. Patriots fans can call me completely nuts for what I’m about to say but if I had to choose between him or Chad “Ocho” Johnson I’d take Johnson. Why you may ask? Well just because  Chad has a better record of consistency over the years. Just like someone can have a good season, they can also have a bad one. Chad needs to show what he can still do and bring to this team and win playing time over Gonzalez and Lloyd. Just as an add on I think it’s funny that I read some posts on ESPN saying that he is a beast, he will be good at getting behind the coverage and despite his past was always known for great catches. So why did other teams let him go? He was a part of 5 other teams and you mean to tell me that those coaches missed this “diamond in the rough”. I think the posts were a little over exaggerated, but that’s okay. He’s not a beast, but he’s not on the lowest rung either. Lloyd is a slightly above average WR and if he can stay consistent will be decent, but in the end whatever his production is, it’s replaceable. Prediction for catches next season- 50. Grade: C

Free Agent scouting report: Brandon Lloyd

So we’ll see what the next move is for the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick. LaRon Landry visited over the weekend but will do his due diligence before signing to a team. I think this is a 50/50 shot for them, in terms of him being healthy. If we can get him cheap then let’s go but otherwise I’d work out OJ Atogwe instead. With the signing of Gonzalez and Lloyd however I can see that Chad Johnson’s time with the Patriots could be numbered, of course it depends on whether the Patriots will pursue Deion Branch, which they most likely will.

NFL Free Agency Frenzy and the Patriots options

New England Patriots logo

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Free Agency is going to begin today and so let’s look at some of the options for the Patriots, in my eyes.

Wide Receiver: Brandon Lloyd is not your savior New England Patriots fans. Can he be productive in the Josh McDaniels offensive system? Yes, because of what he did in Denver during McDaniels’ time there as a Head Coach but do not forget that before that year he was a journeyman. No that doesn’t mean he followed Journey around, he was a fill-in, a role player and not an impact player by any means. He is almost 31 years old and had his career year just a few years ago and I ask 31 is when skills start to decline right? So what happens when your declining skills were limited anyway? Is he a good player? Yeah, he is a great role player and can fit into this system most likely but he is not going to be your savior in my opinion. I do still think that he could end up being a bust signing, much like Ocho. However, I do believe that Chad has a chance of having a good year to rebound his career.

Who’d I’d rather have?: Danny Amendola, has a 2nd round tender on him by the Rams but could be a Wes Welker type of WR. Mike Wallace, Eddie Royal, Donte Stallworth. I also hope that they bring back Deion Branch.

Running Back: The Law Firm needs a new client. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been a good player for the Patriots and considering he was an undrafted rookie when Belichick signed him, it was a steal. He out played the Patriots 1st round pick Laurence Maroney and most likely his play gave Bill the green light to cut ties with Maroney. He has not even fumbled yet, which makes you sit and think… how did every team miss this person in the draft? However, he is not a home run running back and not going to break any records or even really be a running back that will be the premier back.  The Patriots drafted last season Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in the second and third round and played little last season but showed signs that they are both good running backs and deserve time with the ball. So, right now, you committed two picks to those two, you have Danny Woodhead, and all three of these players will make an impact on the offense so it makes Green-Ellis expendable. Maybe if you can get him cheap but honestly I think that signing him will just impact negatively on the development of Vereen and Ridley, who with consistent time on the field could be better than Green-Ellis. That is the last thing you want, to hinder any development, because I believe that is what happened with Taylor Price. They want Vereen and Ridley to get better? They need to actually see the field, and not just during practice.

Whom would I rather have? Lousaka Polite or pretty much a FB who can help block and in short yardage situations. The Patriots offense can be a little predictable so making a real commitment to run the ball at least more than you have can make some real waves in your offense and open up that playbook.

Offense overall is a low priority to me with really just one position that needs one or two players and that’s Wide Receiver. All of the others are in pretty good condition.

What about on the defensive side of the ball? This is an area that is more important than any other in my opinion. Defensive End: Andre Carter, Mark Anderson, John Abraham, Jonathan Fanene, Kyle Love, Gerard Warren, Aaron Maybin (yes I did mean to type that name) Shaun Rogers, Aaron Smith. Why Maybin? Well, the Jets used him well as a pass rush role player and he did well; he was never going to be an every down guy but can do well if utilized correctly. Rogers, Fanene, Maybin and Warren could be some cheap talent who could make an impact. Abraham could be a little expensive but not Mario Williams money.

Safety: Melvin Bullitt, Bob Sanders, OJ Atogwe, Jim Leonhard, James Sanders. The Patriots could benefit from some guys who were just cut from other teams like Bullitt and Atogwe and should consider looking there way. LaRon Landry could also be a name to add to the interest list here but I don’t like how injury prone he has been. Sanders might never be the same guy he was with the Colts but if he can stay healthy he might be able to make an impact and will be cheap. Leonhard played well in Jets and Ravens defensive systems and will be an upgrade over who we have now.

Corner: Gibril Wilson, Eric Wright, Marcus Trufant, Sean Considine, Sterling Moore. Some of these guys are hybrids, sort of, between safety and corner, that can only help the Patriots since McCourty, and maybe even Dowling could play some snaps at safety. Versatility is a good thing in this system and if a guy can also sub in as a corner can really increase his value, at least in Belichick’s mind.

Linebacker: Manny Lawson, Jarret Johnson, Sergio Kindle, Ernie Sims, Mario Williams, James Farrior, Keith Brooking, Mike Peterson. I know that Farrior and Brooking are Inside Linebackers and that the Patriots have there starters with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes but Brooking or Farrior can be subbed in and make an impact and can make an impact on a young defense by teaching them off the field. Mario will be too expensive but you have to look his way. I think that the fact that Adalius Thomas burned Belichick doesn’t mean that he won’t spend on defense because in the case of Mario Williams, he is not Thomas. Kindle is still young and might develop into something, Sims is a tackler but has started to disappear since leaving Detriot but might be able to resurrect his career.

The wild card for linebackers? Kamerion Wimbley, who could be cut by the Oakland Radiers because of his big contract even though he was a producer for them.

Whom do the Patriots bring back? Deion Branch, Andre Carter, Mark Anderson, Dan Connolly, Matthew Slater, James Ihedigbo, and Kyle Love.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the big signing by the Patriots because they are most likely going to look for talented players but cheap(ish). They will spend but wisely just like only the Patriots can. I will also say this, I know that Tom Brady is a sure first ballot Hall of Famer and we’re lucky to have him playing for us but he needs to be more patient with new players. The Patriots have a complicated system and to expect everyone to be on board with it 100% right away is crazy. You can’t shut someone down and not look at them just because they made a mistake. Tom… don’t be Dan Marino or Peyton Manning because Marino never won a Super Bowl and Peyton only won because he was going up against the Chicago Bears. You’re better than they are and we all believe in you.

NFL should inflict harsh penalties against ‘BountyGate’

Gregg Williams at the 2010 commencement ceremo...

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In case you live under a rock, you know that the New Orleans Saints and Gregg Williams, ex-defensive coordinator for them and now with the St. Louis Rams, have come under a spotlight because of a bounty system. A system that rewarded players for hurting other players and knocking them out of the game and paid them for it, a bonus check. The NFL must come down hard on Gregg Williams for this, especially if he had such a program in place when employed for other teams. Let’s get this straight, this isn’t about just hard hits, or bang-bang plays, it’s about hurting someone on purpose and being rewarded for doing so. How can it be seen any other way really? I understand that hard hits happen in the NFL, will continue to happen and I wouldn’t want it any other way but when it comes to taking people out… that’s wrong.

Think of it this way and maybe you can see it in a different way. Did Bernard Pollard get a “bounty check” for taking out Tom Brady in 2008? Was it bigger because it was a season ending injury? Did Kerry Rhodes and Eric Smith get a “bounty check” for taking out Anquan Boldin, then with the Arizona Cardinals? How about Philip Daniels and his wrenching of Peyton Manning’s neck back in 2006, what did he get for that? Does it matter that those actions most likely changed Peyton Manning’s life and career? What about Kimo von Oelhoffen and his hit on Carson Palmer in the playoffs? These are just a few instances that I can think of and if these players got what I call, a “bounty check” for what they did that’s just wrong and shouldn’t be in the NFL or any sport.

Other hits like the Dunta Robinson-DeSean Jackson, the hit Kurt Warner took in the 2009 playoffs and some others… those will happen and those are different. How are they different? Well, they are football plays and will happen and can happen at any given moment in any game but someone going out of there way to hurt someone because they’ll get paid extra for it, that’s the difference. If you fall during a foot race then it’s just something that can happen but if someone is paid to push you over, that’s different.

I am not sure what the penalties will be but considering how much Williams has lied I don’t see it ending well for him and serves him right. You know you can have a performance incentives plan and base it on getting interceptions, sacks or breaking up a big play… no one is getting hurt in those, at least not intentionally. Personally, if he was to be fired from the Rams or banned from the game it’d be harsh but you can’t go lightly on him just because other teams do it and he was caught. The NFL has to make a statement to other teams that, ‘if you have this kind of plan in place, end it now.’ From what I’ve read, the NFL is now going to investigate the Washington Redskins since Gregg Williams spent time with them, next maybe the Tennessee Titans and his time with them. Matt Bowen, former Redskins safety, did mention such a program existed when Williams was there as Defensive Coordinator. Williams also spent time with Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills (where he was the Head Coach), and Jacksonville Jaguars. This isn’t just on Gregg Williams though; current General Manager of the New Orleans Saints Mickey Loomis also knew about the program and lied about it but so far, his job seems to be safe.

In addition, just to throw in that this is much worse than SpyGate. You can spy all you want but the players still have to go out and execute and make the plays. You can argue that in most cases the other team knows what you’re going to do just by watching all the film that they do and still usually can’t stop you. As if teams had no idea this season, that Tom Brady, in crunch time, was going to pass it to Rob Gronkowski or Wes Welker. Bottomline is that this is wrong, not just in sports but in life. You should never intentionally hurt someone, it’s immoral and against the law, and to pay someone to do it… that’s low. It will be interesting to see what kind of penalty they give out and something tells me it will be a harsh one.

Where do the New England Patriots go from here?

NEW ENGLAND Patriots Wallpaper

NEW ENGLAND Patriots Wallpaper (Photo credit: Axel.Foley)

After losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl you have to think, where do they go from here? Well it was obvious, to me anyway, that the Patriots have some holes that really need to be filled if they want to win another Super Bowl ring. The score of the game cannot blind them, yes, if they scored a touchdown then they would have won and ESPN and other outlets would be swamped with comparisons of Tom Brady and Joe Montana, and we would be trying to find a channel that was not talking about it and most likely failing. However, the Patriots defense could not stop the Giants on that last drive and even on other drives made some crucial mistakes and they lacked playmakers on that defense. The Giants had 114 yards rushing and 282 through the air and they won the time of possession battle. So where do the Patriots go from here?

So out of all of the Patriots free agents, a list can be found here, who comes back? Wes Welker I believe is a given, Deion Branch, Dan Connolly, Matthew Slater, I do believe will all be back. Who is on the fence? Andre Carter, Mark Anderson and BenJarvus Green Ellis– all had decent seasons and could be offered contracts that the Patriots don’t want to match or beat. Especially with Green Ellis who hasn’t fumbled yet, what team wouldn’t want that and by letting him go you make a commitment to the two young running backs that you drafted last season, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, they deserve to play more than they did last season and bringing back Green Ellis will just stunt any production I believe. The top priority is obviously Wes Welker but Matthew Slater is also on top of that list as well and as for Branch, well if he is willing to take a reduced role then we should sign him.

So what positions should be looked at in free agency? They need a pass rusher we all noticed the impact Andre Carter had so to have that consistently and from both sides would really make a difference. Defensive backs- they need better corners and safety. Bringing some impact defensive backs can really turn around a defense and a game. I’m not sure any team respects our corners and safeties. They also need an explosive Wide Receiver, only one who is strictly a deep threat but just an explosive WR that will get teams to respect the talent and notice he can be a deep threat. Even with the pending retirement of Brian Waters, I believe the Patriots are okay with the offensive line but grabbing a player or two in free agency or the draft would not hurt.

As much as we say it’s an offensive league, a defense still wins championships. Since 2004, every team who won a Super Bowl had at least a good defense, except the Indianapolis Colts but they were against the Chicago Bears who probably should not have been there. Maybe it’s not all about where you rank but more about the players you have and the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers this season I believe proved that but they shouldn’t be fooled, The Patriots deserved to be last especially when they released Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders without getting anything in return.

So who do the Patriots look at in free agency? Well this is a little tricky because they will look for talent but most likely not top talent because they will command big money. So with that being said who could be on the radar? Well you have Wide Receiver Reggie Wayne, something that former Patriots Willie McGinest pointed out. I know he’s a top WR but I have him because he played with Peyton Manning in a complicated offense, so you know he will grasp the playbook and know what is expected of him from another future Hall of Fame Quarterback Tom Brady. So what other names jump off the page? Well Defensive End Aaron Smith is one name, if healthy, can provide some energy and make an impact. Also obviously, Mario Williams would also be worth looking into but who knows if the Houston Texans will franchise tag him. Corners and safeties that could be available- Rashean Mathis, Marcus Trufant, Eric Wright, LaRon Landry, Chris Hope and Jordan Babineaux. Also some decent linebackers available, which could be on the radar as well. What should be watched is the situations in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Oakland because Pittsburgh and Philadelphia want to dump salary to make room for others and Oakland is going under a change in direction, strategy and everything since Al Davis passed away and is looking to release some “bad” contracts.

Some moves might be based on how they feel about Ras-I Dowling who was a 2nd round pick and was on injured reserve, also has a past of injuries. In addition, do they cut or keep Ron Brace, Jermaine Cunningham, Myron Pryor, and Chad “Ocho” Johnson and will they move Devin McCourty permanently to safety. This is certain though, Bill Belichick will make some moves, just as he did last off-season and with a whole off-season to teach the playbooks and system it will make a difference.

Key areas to improve- Cornerback, Safety, Defensive End, Outside Linebacker, Wide Receiver and Offensive Line.

Whom to target in the upcoming NFL draft? Safety Mark Barron from Alabama could drop to them since he has an injury and his time at the Scouting Combine will be limited. If he is still on the board at 20 or so, they should try to trade up and snag him. DT- Michael Brockers, DT- Dontari Poe, DE- Fletcher Cox, WR- Mohamed Sanu, OLB- Courtney Upshaw. It’s hard to predict what Bill will do in the draft but this is what I predict- Mark Barron will indeed fall to the Patriots at 27 but Bill will trade down for another second round pick and the Baltimore Ravens will pick Barron. Why? Well they will see someone else who maybe has the same skill set as Barron but with a lower ceiling and will be cheaper.

Franchise Tags can be applied- February 20th

Free Agency begins on March 13th

NFL Draft starts April 26th