I’ve never hosted a roundtable before. This is kind of exciting.
I suppose when you’re talking roundtables, you’ve got to start with the Algonquin, but permit me to suggest a close second in The McLaughlin Group.
I think that one suits me. I’ll shout out a vague, sometimes unsettling premise and the rest of you – Bruce (Mort Kondracke) Allen and Greg (Jack Germond) Doyle – thrash on it, like sharks feeding on chum.
Then I’ll come in after to point out where you both are fatally wroooooooooong.
Actually, I won’t. The order of our appearance was decided off-stage by a coin flip.
I know what you’re thinking ..what’s this got to do with the Patriots?
Look, Bruce said to write a lead, and this is the best I could come up with. You deal with that kind of pressure. And in this heat? Forget it.
Issue One.. On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 representing impossibility and 10 representing complete metaphysical certitude, what is the chance that Eugene Wilson will be one of the two starting cornerbacks to open the 2006 season? Greg Doyle!
Greg: I will say 8. Wilson has always had the tools to be a top flight corner. He was drafted as a corner. His skills in terms of size, speed, athletic ability, etc. are more suited towards corner. And they have a need there. He has done a fine job at safety for 3 years, but I think this shows they have a lot of confidence in Artrell Hawkins, who is similar but older than Wilson, and must think Rodney Harrison will be back at some point.
Bruce: I’m thinking no greater than 5. The last two seasons have each seen the secondary get decimated with injuries. I see the increased work load at corner by Wilson to be more insurance should that position again become thin. His working at that spot means guys like Hawkins and James Sanders get more work and experience in the preseason at safety, where they will likely be needed at some point as well. I do think that the Patriots would like someone…Warfield, Gay, Chad Scott, to step up and fill the number two cornerback across from Ellis Hobbs. Perhaps it will have to be Wilson, depending on how well the other safeties work out. This would allow Asante Samuel to be just a nickel back, where I think he is better suited.
Scott: Wrong! The correct answer is 9.5. I don’t buy this business about flexibility and versatility, not when your starting free safety has yet (by reports) to take a snap at that position, as he is otherwise occupied as a starting cornerback. Seems like if he was going to be the safety, he’d be back there even at these earliest stages of camp, considering they will likely be without bellwether Rodney Harrison to open the season.
I’d even go so far as to suggest that this move may be a by-product of the team getting outbid on Ty Law. They seemed to make a competitive bid for the former Pat, which would indicate a certain level of intent on New England’s part… is it so outrageous to think that they moved Geno (cool nickname) only when it became evident that they could not get Law? It brings to mind a brief mention in Pro Football Weekly after the Denver playoff loss… one of those “insider” columns mentioned rumblings that the team (in so many words) was dissatisfied with Asante Samuel as a starting corner, and were intent on addressing the alleged “problem” by the time they took the field in 06. I didn’t think much about it then, but I do now.
A quick note to finish – next time we bring up Duane Starks (“They’re not PERFECT!”), let us remember that Artrell Hawkins has become a pretty useful player for a guy nobody wanted. Now it looks like the heady vet has the angle for the starting safety job alongside second-year guy (and Mike Reiss favorite) James Sanders.
Issue Two…Brady Blabs! Bruce Allen!
Bruce: Um…what’s the problem here? The problem with these types of articles (Silver in SI) is that we have to rely on the interpretation of the writer as to what the tone and intentions of the interview subject are. Silver clearly went for sensationalism here, as was evident by the way the article was hyped. (CNN linked the article with this title: “Why Tom Brady is mad at the Patriots.”) In fact, Brady himself stated on Wednesday that the Silver came to him with the statement that Branch wasn’t as good as…and named a bunch of receivers. Brady said that got him fired up and defended his guy. The article alleged that Brady was “Mad as hell” and was very “grumpy” about the situation. If anything, I get the impression that Brady is angry at Deion’s agent for making this a public confrontation with the club, rather than a low key matter like the Seymour holdout last summer.
Scott: I’m usually the first guy to say “shut up” when a Patriot goes on the record with anything but “we play them one week at a time”. No different on Tuesday when word began to surface that SI’s Michael Silver had Brady whacking the tight-fisted Pats (essentially). But it’s obvious now that the reporter and Brady have differing views as to the particulars of their conversation. I don’t imagine it will amount to much, and in the end, it might be a plus in the team-building column. I can’t say for sure, but I would imagine there were a few players in that locker room that noticed when Mr. Untouchable took up for a teammate.
Greg: Much ado about nothing. The comments Brady made were more benign than portrayed by Sports Illustrated and a couple agenda-prone local hacks. Of course he is going to say nice things about Branch and that he wants him here and thinks he’s the best. He’s a teammate and a friend. What’s he supposed to say?
Issue Three….where in the world is Richard Seymour? Scott “Beetle” Benson!
Scott: I’m lousy at geography. Can I say at this point that I don’t care if Richard Seymour is practicing right now? If he’s a little tweaked somewhere, so what? For crying out loud, it’s August 4th. Roll somebody else out there.
Greg: Probably with some minor injury. Is it contract related? Maybe, but with an injury last year, I am willing to guess he would have started on PUP either way.
Bruce: It doesn’t have anything to do with his contract. It appears to be a minor issue with his quad, but it’s not really a major problem right now. There are plenty of young defensive linemen on the roster who need the reps and work in practice. I’m fine with them getting the work, and Seymour getting the rest before the real games start.
Issue Four..He’s the Feel Good Story of Camp 2006! Who is he? Greg Doyle!
Greg: I’ll go with Reche Caldwell. From all reports he is performing well and taking hold of his opportunity. Of course, it’s early. Many an early camp star has faded since I have been watching the Patriots. Still, its encouraging given how there was somewhat a collective yawn at his signing and the fact the Patriots have a need there. Maybe he was just stuck in Marty-ball for a few years and needs a more wide receiver oriented offense to excel. We shall see, but it would certainly be a shot in the arm if he can grab hold of the #2 wide receiver slot.
Bruce: The peril of going second in these groups is what happens when the first guy takes your answer. Isn’t it amazing what happens how good receivers can look when they’re getting passes from Tom Brady? It seems every blog entry we see, there is some mention of Caldwell making a great grab. That’s encouraging. I think fellow receiver John Stone has been opening some eyes as well. A friend of mine went to camp on Tuesday and said the guy who made the biggest impression on him was Matt Shelton, the undrafted receiver from Notre Dame. I don’t think he’s got much of a shot, but I wanted to give a name no one else has mentioned. Other than the receivers, it’s hard to tell who is making a good impression or who is the feel-good story. I like the reports on the Dillon/ Maroney master/pupil relationship thus far. It seems that Corey, while acknowledging that Maroney is the future and is helping the train the rookie, isn’t conceding anything on the field thus far.
Scott: I was all set to wax poetically about Tedy Bruschi’s first full training camp in two years and how it was going to be great for his game and for the defense as a whole, and how he was really re-asserting himself as a team focal point, like his run-ins with rookie Maroney, and how there was no way the Patriots defense gets hammered again this year, not with an all-the-way-back Tedy Bruschi.
And then he broke his goddam wrist.
Issue Five…Mediot of the Week! Bruce “Ivory Tower” Allen!
Bruce: Can’t these guys spread it out a little? So many targets, so little time. There are the little inaccuracies in the Globe, plus Gary Tanguay declaring emphatically on FSN last week that “THIS GUY IS A STIFF” in regards to Reche Caldwell…before the guy had ever had a formal practice with the team. Reche seemed to be the early target this week, as John Tomase made sure to tell us that Caldwell was shoved out of bounds while running a play in which he ended up catching a TD. It was Ellis Hobbs who took Caldwell out of bounds, and even though the receiver recovered to catch a TD, Tomase said this was a bad sign because Caldwell is not considered physical enough. Caldwell has since been earning rave reviews from observers at camp. Then there was Wednesday. Tomase went 1-2 on this day. It appears he was right about Tedy Bruschi’s wrist, and he was wrong about Richard Seymour. Of course, on the radio in the afternoon Tomase’s colleague Michael Felger said Bill Belichick was lying about it. Now what possible reason would Belichick have to lie about Seymour if his absence had to do with his contract extension, as Tomase had claimed? I’ve received separate confirmation that Tomase was in fact WRONG about this, yet, they continue to insist the Patriots coach is lying. Then there is Ron Borges, who eagerly leaped on the Mike Silver SI story, even though it was clearly slanted to read one way, as mentioned above. His fake “mea culpa” over whether Brady is a “team guy” was pretty sad. I think that’s my winner for the week.
Scott: This one’s pretty hard for me because as you know, I’m a great admirer of all the reporters and columnists and broadcast journalists …I’m talking credentialed people… and quite frequently the lone voice defending these fine men and women…in most unfavorable conditions, mind you – on the BSMW message board.
I did get a kick out of Jerome Solomon writing that Adam Vinatieri signed with the Baltimore Colts. But even I will admit that’s a minor mistake, unless you’re Steve Myhra, I guess.
Greg: I’ll go with Pete Sheppard, who perhaps should also be in line for some sort of lifetime achievement award in this area. Pete fielded calls on consecutive days from the same caller lambasting the Pats for not spending to the cap. Although Pete vehemently disagreed that this was a negative, he was unable to state a cogent argument why. And there are plenty of reasons he missed. Instead, he kept disagreeing but displayed no knowledge of how the cap works. The first day Pete insisted the Pats would be at the cap by opening day, which is patently ridiculous considering what stage of the off-season we are at. The second day, he dropped that claim, but still could not explain rationally why the caller was an idiot. Bottom line is, the caller was completely disregarding the effect spending to the cap, which is at a much higher level due to the new CBA than in the past, would have on future seasons. Pete didn’t mention this even once. He did say you don’t spend money just to spend it, but missed the larger explanation. He may have passion for the Patriots, but he lacks much knowledge.