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

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Chad Ochocinco doesn’t know the playbook still? I don’t buy it!!

English: Chad Ochocinco praticed in 2011 New E...

Image via Wikipedia

Yes a bold statement from a guy who watches sports and maybe a little too much and has a blog who no one reads but still… I would like to think I have at least minimal knowledge. At least more knowledge gained from listening to the radio, reading about it, watching it, and etc. than some have who actually play football claiming that they learned what they know from Madden the video game. Madden, really? You learned about a team’s defense or offense by playing MADDEN and that’s how you see the NFL in real life? So if you let a corner beat you and coach asks you what happened you reply… what? That guy is an 86 overall, I’m only a 79 of course he beat me? You realize the coach is going to test you for drugs every hour after that right?

Anyway, sorry for the rant but I found that funny but annoying when I read that, back to the point. Chad Johnson has been less than productive this season for the New England Patriots and you hear a lot of chatter about him not knowing the playbook. You also hear that he doesn’t know where he is supposed to be on the field at a particular time and his 15 catches for 276 and a TD certainly does draw those conclusions but I do not agree, maybe it was that at first but I’m just not sure. I mean we are missing something, he is still on the team, still getting praised by his teammates and Bill, so I have to say… what are we missing? They didn’t defend Joey Galloway, Torry Holt, or any of the other epic failures that have worn a Patriots uniform, usually when asked they give a typical “Patriots answer” and move on but not with Chad. Is it because Bill, Tom and teammates respect Chad and genuinely like him as a person so they defend him more? Or is it because we are not seeing everything? Or is it both? It’s not like we are in the locker room all the time, or in Bill’s meetings with his players and coaches so we diagnose what we are seeing on the field quickly and assume and lean on this one idea until proven otherwise… and so do I.

I believe Chad knows the playbook, knows where he is supposed to be and even knows what Brady and Bill expects out of him but what holds him back? Could it be as simple as him trying too hard, being nervous and afraid to screw up? I think so. When you go from driving a 1980 P.O.S. that you’ve been driving since you got your license to years later owning your dream car, or a new car you don’t drive it the same way right? No, you drive paranoid, nervous and might make some stupid mistakes that you normally wouldn’t make because you’re thinking too much and 9 times out of 10 you think “crap, why did I just do that?”. So why is he still nervous, or thinking too much you ask? Well it’s because he is trying to prove himself, no not to us, but to Bill and Tom and is just making mistakes he wouldn’t normally make and when he does he gets pulled or not looked at when on the field. Is it right? No, but are they wrong for doing it? Not necessarily.

Chad went from being the number one guy for the Bengals to someone who is probably close to last looked at while he is on the field. Not his fault, Brady will look at Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez before Chad if all are on the field at the same time so sometimes he might have to get open 2-3 times on a play and by then he has abandoned the route but before Tom can get back to him he must dump it off or hit the hot receiver cause he doesn’t have forever back there, 2-3 seconds tops. What has stood out to me during his time here is that he has seemed to really buy into the Patriots Way. He’s been quite, hasn’t complained about anything really and has been a true professional and from what I can tell has done everything that they have asked, that stands out because if this was the Bengals I don’t think we could say that. Almost like when the Boston Celtics were in the playoffs two years ago and Nate Robinson came into the game and made an impact on defense, yet when he came here all you heard was he is “uncoachable“… Doc didn’t seem to have many issues coaching him… it just didn’t work out and he has become a solid role player for the Golden State Warriors and even contributed heavily in a win they had against the “almighty” Miami Heat.

Has Chad worked out as a Patriot? No he has not, I’m not denying that but I don’t believe that his lack of production is because he doesn’t know the playbook. The Patriots offensive system doesn’t help him much either, but I’ve already talked about that, you can check that out on my page. For you guys out there it’s like this: you’re in a relationship with a girl who is 7 out of 10 and then one day you meet a girl who is a 25 out of 10… You really don’t want to mess up the opportunity but yet with each mistake dig yourself into a deeper hole and after a while, you’re digging up and that is not easy. So in conclusion I will make this BOLD statement: I think the Patriots should bring Chad Johnson back next season and see if he is any more comfortable… after all what do they have to lose really? Not working out again then see you later.

Why hasn’t Chad Ochocino played well for the Patriots?

Photograph of Chad Ocho Cinco during warm-ups ...

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The Chad Johnson experiment has not worked thus far for many reasons but the one thing I look at might be largely overlooked by everyone, probably for a reason, but anyway it’s still on my list and close to the top if not the number one thing. Coming into the season I did not think that we needed WR help really at all. Also when talent is acquired from another team you often hear the phrase “can he adjust to not being the guy, the man.“ However I think that the other element of that statement, not said, is that not only do the players have to make this adjustment but also the fans must make this adjustment as well. Okay, anyway, back to my main point. You look at the depth chart we had coming into this season and we had this:

Wes Welker
Deion Branch
Julian Edelman
Brandon Tate
Taylor Price
Matthew Slater

We also had two young Tight Ends who we just drafted who had GREAT first seasons in:

Aaron Hernandez
Rob Gronkowski

So I am not even taking into account the RB’s we had who could catch out of the back field, so explain to me why we needed a WR? I see it this way and call me crazy, dead wrong or an idiot on the topic of football I’m okay with that. You are going to have 4 main guys pretty much who are targeted most of the time, or at least on the top of the depth chart for receivers (counting TE’s) and Welker, Hernandez and Gronkowski were always in the top 3 of that list so that leaves you with one real spot for someone who will see a good amount of playing time and everyone else below number 4 are parts that will be in the games sparingly at the most. So I always assumed that the spot would be Branch’s to lose basically and I didn’t see Tate or Price really winning it from him. You can say that the Patriots needed a 3rd WR and I will rebuttal that Hernandez is that player. When I heard of the trade with the Bengals to bring in Chad Johnson I was so happy but I still understood that he still needed to beat out Branch for the last of the significant playing time. Either Chad or Deion was going to be living on the bench for most of the games since the title of 3rd WR really doesn’t mean that it is a WR that holds that label. If I had to tell you what the depth chart for receiver is including TE’s it’d look something like this and it has nothing to do with how they line up on the field but rather value and the order in which Brady will look when on the field.

Wes Welker
Aaron Hernandez
Rob Gronkowski
Deion Branch
Chad Johnson
Matthew Slater
Taylor Price

So to people saying that Chad is the 3rd WR they are looking at it differently than I am, I see him as the 5th now and he is playing like he is the 5th. Has he been disappointing and making some bad mistakes that someone of his caliber shouldn’t? Absolutely. Is he close to being labeled a bust as a Patriot? Definitely. Is he washed up and a has-been? No.  The plays that the Patriots call just simply need the top 4 main players and he is not one of them now. I think that Chad is at a fork in the road and he could go one of two ways. One way is he does great in practice, better than any other week, and cracks the top 4 or he will remain the 5th guy and catch just about 40 catches. Also Chad I think is great in the red zone and has not been used much or at all in red zone situations, which I find weird. Based on this analysis if the Patriots wanted to get rid of Chad they can and it wouldn’t impact the offense very much at all because he was not high enough on the chart to make that impact. I don’t blame Chad for his ineffectiveness in this system at all nor do I place any sort of blame on Bill either it was just going to happen because of how good the two young tight ends have become and the exceptional hands of Welker and the trust/familiarity Brady has with Branch from years past and that’s it. I do think though that he can he valuable in the future, especially playoffs if/when he can ever show that he can/has learned this system.

You can not compare him to another WR in another system really, I mean you can but I don’t think it’s a fair assessment. Teams have different schemes, different situations and different loyalties by the starting QB and that is why when someone claims or points out that WR (enter name here) has more catches than Chad and is an undrafted free agent. Okay, so what is the situation on that team? What is “the list” of that QB? Is the coaching staff putting more time in this rookie because they see something in him? Also saying that we should have Randy Moss back and that would be an improvement, well would it? Randy Moss was here in different circumstances, no young TE’s, Welker was still proving himself, so Moss was the 1st guy on Brady’s list than Welker. If Moss is back? Well he’d probably be getting just about as much time/looks/reps as Chad or Branch. Remember what happened when Randy was here and the young TE’s started catching on and Brady was looking at Welker and them more than Randy? Yeah me too and he went to the Vikings and the rest is history.

Believe me or not, look at this like me or think I’m a complete idiot but I still think that the opportunity is still available for Chad to explode and end up with a decent season but with that being said I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Chad was a bust here. I don’t blame him, I don’t blame Bill or Tom or even the offensive scheme… just a perfect storm really with the lock out cutting into the off-season, Chad basically having to learn football all over again due to the differences in the systems, the “Patriot Way” weighing on him, filling Moss’s shoes in fans’ eyes and living up to the productive seasons he had in Cincy. Other players and teams are kind of having the same problem, Derrick Mason who was just traded by the Jets to the Texans, the Eagles roster, McNabb and the Vikings situation and some others I’m sure just elude me now so Chad… you’re not alone… technically. So Chad Ochocinco Johnson Riviera Snickers bar whatever you are calling yourself, play smart like we know you can, don’t be afraid of being you and just do what you do best on the field because I think that some Patriot fans still believe in you, I do anyway.