by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
As we head into the news abyss of NFL vacation time, six players on my mind this week:
Where There’s A Wilfork: Anyone else concerned about the contract status of Vince Wilfork? Because it sure scares the bejeebus out of me. Thinking that rookie Ron Brace can take the place of Wilfork this year undervalues the impact that number 75 has had on opposing teams (both literally and figuratively).
Maybe the Pats need money to sign a veteran pass-rusher like Greg Ellis. Makes sense. But it’s worth asking if a defense with Wilfork and, say, Pierre Woods on the outside is stronger than a Brace/Ellis combination. For whatever it’s worth, I think it is. It would feel awful to look back on 2009 and see this team as one top-level player away from gaining its fourth Super Bowl, much like the 2006 Deion Branch-less Patriots. So, please: sign Vince. It’ll be worth it.
Grading Pass/Fail: When New England went out and signed former Pat Patrick Pass, it told us a few things. Mostly that – despite plenty of chatter to the contrary – the Patriots need a fullback.
If anything, Coach Bill Belichick wants options. Former Pat Heath Evans never caught more than 10 passes in a season, but his blocking improved steadily in his time at Foxboro. BenJarvus Green-Ellis lacks the same receiving skills as Pass. Russ Hochstein? Really? We’ve got to stop looking at last December’s performance against Arizona, a warm-weather team who would rather have been collecting tolls on the turnpike than making tackles at Gillette. Right now, as the all-around fullback New England would want, Pass looks like the best option.
Seems a shame they didn’t give a longer look to former PD Q&A subject Tony Fiammetta, though. We would have totally had an in with him. Sigh.
Vinny, Vidi, Vici?: Not sure whether linebacker Vinny Circiu will make the team, but he’s got a solid chance to get a spot on special teams. While New England will miss players like Larry Izzo and Kelley Washington, it looks like they are cultivating a new crop of special teamers who have a chance to contribute as backups. Add 2008 starter Paris Lenon to the group (leaving all Lions jokes aside), plus stalwart receiver Sam Aiken and second-year pass-rusher Vince Redd (seven special teams stops in five games), and new coach Scott O’Brien has some bodies to throw around.
Go Fourth, Young Man: New Patriot Greg Lewis has been something of a forgotten man of late, especially with the return of Tom Brady and his two favorite receivers (Randy Moss and Wes Welker, for those of you new to this whole NFL thingy), plus the signing of zephyr-like vet Joey Galloway. Lewis, who joins Welker and Sammy Morris in the “If the Pats can’t beat ‘em, they sign ‘em” group, hasn’t garnered a lot of reports from camp this spring. Spring debates over whether or not Lewis would be a suitable third receiver have morphed into summer discussions over his special teams work.
In other words, this team is freakin’ loaded.
New Kid On The Blocks: Penn State’s Rich Ohrnberger joins the ranks of what New Englanders hope will be a class of underrated offensive linemen. As it’s near impossible to judge his ability when he’s kept from hitting anyone, we’ll have to wait and see how Ohrnberger (and Sebastian Vollmer and George Bussey) work out once the pads get donned.
Far be it from me to make a prediction (I think my call on safety Marcus McClinton making the team more or less puts the kibosh that happening again soon), but with plenty of contracts up in 2010, it’s a good year for the kiddoes.
Back In A Flash: Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman remains one of the more intriguing picks of the draft. The former Golden Flash has shown great quickness and agility in running routes at receiver, and according to reports from the usual suspects (Mike Reiss, the PFW guys, etc.), Edelman has spent a lot of time with Coach O’Brien working on special teams. At the very least, he’s got a shot to make the Michael Bishop school of preseason excitement. If he sticks with the team, he’ll become a fan favorite within about 24 hours.
That’s all for now. Next week, we’ll try to put together some thoughts about non-NFL football, which may be coming to a stadium near you.
You can email Chris Warner at [email protected].