December 23, 2014

Does Bill Like Mike?

Since Michael Vick was released from prison and then reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, there has been non-stop speculation in the press about where Vick will ultimately wind up. Naturally, since in the past the Patriots have provided employment to such troubled souls such as Corey Dillon and Randy Moss, the Patriots emerged as a top destination among the media.

I’ve tended to dismiss such talk, mostly because I didn’t see how he would fit here. As we learned last year, it seems to work best when your backup quarterback has a game that closely resembles that of the starter. It also seems hard to believe that Belichick would keep a guy on the roster who would only see action in a few gimmick plays here and there, and also that Vick would sign here for that role.

Beyond that, there are some roster implications to having Vick on the roster when he isn’t yet eligible to play in regular season games. Is it worth using a spot on the 53 man roster so he can practice but not play?

The last couple of days though, when pressed on the matter, Bill Belichick hasn’t dismissed anything about Vick. It’s not his style to definitively make a statement one way or the other, but his comments have been interesting. He called him an “outstanding player” yesterday, and today didn’t rule him out either.For what it’s worth, Rodney Harrison apparently thinks Vick would be a good fit with the Patriots as well.

I’m still skeptical, but I’ve certainly been surprised by Belichick and the Patriots before. If Belichick thinks he can help the team, and the Krafts are OK with having him here, it just might happen.

Edit: Please don’t take this post as an endorsement of signing Vick. I’m not ready to go there.

Patriots All Access Tonight at 7:00

Patriots All Access returns tonight at 7:0o p.m. on WBZ-TV. If you’re outside the Boston area, you can watch the show at 7:30 p.m. right on Patriots.com. If you’ve got Verizon FiOS On Demand, the show will be available to watch any time.

Hosted by Steve Burton, tonight’s episode promises an inside look right from the practice fields as training camp 2009 opens. Other highlights:

  • Former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak and former Patriots tight end Christian Fauria provide an inside look at a portion of a Training Camp practice
  • Zolak goes one-on-one with Head Coach Bill Belichick
  • Steve Burton sits down with 2008 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Jerod Mayo, who’s starting his second training camp for the Patriots; his first as a “veteran.”
  • Patriots All-Access reveals the committee’s 50th Anniversary picks for the Top 10 Personalities in Franchise History

In other Patriots programming this weekend, NFL Network is replaying the 2007 week 17 battle between the Patriots and Giants that clinched the first-ever 16-0 regular season in history. The game is being shown at 2:00pm on Saturday. That’s also the game in which Tom Brady and Randy Moss set NFL records for TD passes thrown and caught, respectively.

Belichick Remembers Jim Johnson

I thought one of the nicer moments from this morning’s activities down at Gillette Stadium involved Bill Belichick speaking about Philadelphia Eagles Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who lost his battle with cancer earlier this week.

When Belichick was asked for his thoughts on Johnson, he said:

Jim’s  probably as good a defensive coordinator as I’ve seen in the league, in the time that I’ve been in it. I spoke with him frequently and we exchanged a lot of ideas.

I have a lot of respect for his philosophy, his schemes, the way he attacks offenses and his ability to utilize personnel. He’s got a real good football mind.. I tried to work with him several times and it never quite worked out. I first knew him when he was at Notre Dame, and I’ve always had great respect for him

He was a good friend, a good football coach, and a tough guy to compete against.  Certainly, on behalf of  our team and the organization, our condolences go out to the Eagles and Jim’s family.

With everything else that is going on today, I’m glad the reporter asked him about this, and I didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle.

Season’s Greetings – the Special Teams

Kickin’ It Old School – Special Teams

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

When Adam Vinatieri was allowed to go to the land of racecars and sweater vests in 2006,  many thought it would take forever to replace him. Well, forever lasted a few months, until New England drafted Stephen Gostkowski.

Other components of the unit have yet to be determined. While punter Chris Hanson has done enough to stick around, snapping duties will change hands for the first time in almost a decade.

What I Like

Ghost In The Machine: Gostkowski made 36 of 40 field goals last year (90 percent), and has made 85.6 percent in his career. We’ll take it.

Gone With The Wind: So went the concerns with Hanson after his phenomenal punt against a Buffalo gale in the 2008 season finale (I’d love to link video for this, but I only found that “To Catch a Predator” guy). Bill Belichick called Hanson’s punt “the play of the game.”

Warrior, Come Out To Play: New England drafted Hawaii long snapper Jake Ingram in the sixth round, securing the number-one-ranked player at the position. He’ll compete with former Cardinal Nathan Hodel.

And He Gets Your Gunner: New players (Vinny Circiu, Brandon McGowan) and a new coach (Scott O’ Brien) should bring some excitement to coverage and returns.

What I Don’t Like

Snappy Comeback: Former Pat long snapper Lonnie Paxton never missed. You can’t improve on perfection.

Punt Of Argument: Will the real Hanson please show himself? While he had an overall solid 2008 (43.7-yard average), his less-than-finessed punts have led to mediocre career numbers (36.2).

Is That All There Izzo?: Special teams maven Larry Izzo left for Purgatory, bringing uncertainty to a once-consistent position.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Today in Patriots History – First Preseason Game. Ever.

Today in Patriots History – July 30, 1960

In the AFL’s first ever preseason game, the Patriots defeat Buffalo 28-7 at War Memorial Stadium. Patriots DE Bob Dee recovered a fumble for the league’s first touchdown.

To get to this point, the Patriots had started training camp on July 4th, 1960, with 350 players in attendance. Yes, you read that right.

Season’s Greetings – the Cornerbacks

By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff

As with many things, Patriots fans have been somewhat spoiled this decade when it comes to cornerback play. Ty Law and  Asante Samuel were Pro Bowlers, Terrell Buckley and Tyrone Poole were pretty good supporting players. Randall Gay had his moments, I remember a big play or two from Terrance Shaw, and even Ellis Hobbs III gave us some solid play on the corner the last few years. Last year though, the cornerback spot was a major weakness for this team. The Patriots apparently recognized that and went about re-stocking the position this offseason.

What I like

New FacesShawn Springs and Leigh Bodden were the big signings of the offseason at this position, and this pair projects to be the opening night starters. No more Deltha O’Neal!

Young Guns – Last year’s rookies, Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite both showed flashes of skill last season. They should be better this season. Rookie Darius Butler was someone Bill Belichick was impressed with at his Pro Day at UConn, he could be a second round steal.

Grizzled Vet(s) – Springs especially, and to a lesser extent Bodden, give the team veterans that have been around, and seen just about anything. If healthy, I think Springs could have the impact to the cornerbacks that Rodney Harrison had to the safeties in 2003.

What I don’t Like

Health Concerns – Springs has had some injury issues, Wheatley saw his season ended prematurely last year, bubble player Mike Richardson is another who has battled injuries in his career. If we’ve learned anything about cornerbacks from watching the Patriots this decade, it’s that the injuries come in bunches, and depth is a necessity.

Experience – Outside of Springs and Bodden, this is an inexperienced group. Wheatley and Wilhite are second year players, Richardson is in his third year, Butler is a rookie and the only other cornerback on the training camp roster is undrafted rookie free agent Jamar Love. (Edit – Love was waived the night before camp when Jake Ingram signed.)

Brett Did Vikes a Favre

By Dan Snapp, Patriots Daily Staff

For once, Brett Favre made a wise late-game decision, and the Minnesota Vikings are better off for it. Brett was built to disappoint, so better it happens now than in January.

An ESPN report Friday stated Favre was anguishing over his pending decision, fearing his body couldn’t handle a 16-game season. But here’s the thing: the Vikings wanted him for 19 games; else the whole campaign is pointless.

They only had to look to last year – when Favre’s body checked out in early December – to see the reality of the situation: Favre or no Favre, one of Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels will be helming the Vikings at some point this season.

Neither name elicits confidence, but neither does a 40-year-old Favre. If Brad Childress really believed quarterback was the last piece to the Vikings’ Super Bowl puzzle, he should have addressed it earlier, and in a more substantial manner than Rosenfels (Matt Cassel perhaps?), when he had the chance.

Instead, he cast the team’s fates and the fans’ hopes on football’s equivalent to cotton candy. Favre was great, but that was 10 years ago.

Childress explained the pursuit, saying he thought this was a rare opportunity. He’s right: It’s rare for an NFL coach to promise a starting job to a 40-year-old quarterback coming off arm surgery. Hopefully for Vikings’ fans, Childress’s folly will be rewarded with a pink slip at season’s end.

Most shockingly, Favre’s reason finally won out over his ego and his pride. He finally wasn’t like a kid out there, much to the benefit of his Packers legacy.

He’ll probably change his mind tomorrow.

E-mail Dan Snapp at [email protected]

Season’s Greetings – the Safeties

by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff

They’re often the last thing between you and a traumatic “oh, shit!” moment, so today let’s preview the Patriots safeties for 2009.

What I Like

Smarts: I like having a 25 year old, fifth-year player on the backline who understands the defense and communicates it so well that a five-time Super Bowl winning coach acted quickly to re-sign him once he became a free agent. No, James Sanders isn’t quite fast enough to suit our taste, nor does he hit quite hard enough to satiate our blood thirst. But this just goes to remind us that we rarely see or understand the whole picture.

Speed: Everyone’s a little antsy after Brandon Meriweather didn’t participate in off-season practices, but the third-year strong safety (warning: the Patriots don’t define these things the way you and I do) is the most promising of the Pats’ backline team. He moves well in both space and close quarters, has some coverage skills, and though the results haven’t always been great, he winds up around the football a lot. He’s a work in progress (tackling and just plain physicality need continued improvement) but the pieces are there for Meriweather to be around for a long time.

Springs: Color me grateful that Shawn Springs can play safety if he needs to. I don’t know if you’ve looked recently, but the other veteran backups at safety are Brandon “Injured Reserve” McGowan, Ray “Terrorist Fist Bump” Ventrone and Matthew Slater.

Second Rounders: We all have our little draft pets and this year the Pats chose mine. If Patrick Chung is anything less than the Tasmanian Devil in the center of the Pats defense, I think we’ll all be a little disappointed. But keep in mind – one day soon Meriweather will prove that you can’t judge every single one of them on their first 16 or even 32 games.

Sustainability: I thought an awful lot of Rodney Harrison, but I’m very glad both he and the Patriots have turned the page here. The King is dead; longer live the new king, whoever he may be.

What I Don’t Like

Shallowness: Like I said, the other veteran backups at safety are Brandon McGowan, Ray Ventrone and Matthew Slater.

Suspense: One of the problems with upside is that it hasn’t happened yet. This applies to items 1, 2, 4 and 5 above. Ouch.

Off-Topic Thought

I think anyone who loves the NFL feels the loss of longtime Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who passed away yesterday after a short battle with cancer just six months since he last worked. Some of those Eagles defenses could flat out rake, thanks to the hyper-aggressive calls of Johnson. The game is better for his having coached it.

E-mail Scott Benson at [email protected]

Season’s Greetings – the Linebackers

Who’s Got Your Back? – The Linebackers

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

With a recent injection of youth and ejection of age at linebacker – sorry, Mike Vrabel – Bill Belichick has sought to revamp the position that took a starring role in the Patriots’ championship runs.

Former Patriot Willie “Methuselah” McGinest has publicly considered coming back to Foxboro. It says something about New England’s linebackers (and fans’ nostalgia) that this seems only half crazy.

What I Like

A Young-ian Philosophy: Three top-90 draft picks in two years (Jerod Mayo, Shawn Crable, Tyrone McKenzie), plus some pleasant rookie free agent surprises (Pierre Woods, Gary Guyton, Vince Redd), have brought much-needed fresh faces to the position.

Highway To Health: Before breaking his arm last November, Adalius Thomas had five sacks, leading the team after nine games. He’s a frontrunner for this year’s sack race.

From The Crable To The Rave: Crable has been praised in camp for his speed off the edge, a hopeful harbinger of QB harassment.

What I Don’t Like

Can Tedy Bear It?: When a player gets asked if this is his final season, it’s time to look at his age. Tedy Bruschi has reached 36, past retirement age for linebackers not named Junior Seau.

Hey, No Rush: We know Thomas can get to the quarterback. We don’t know if Crable,  Woods or Redd can, if and when all three are healthy.

Stuck In The Middle With You: We’ll avoid the requisite condiment joke and just tell you what might go with Mayo: Bruschi; a free agent from a semi-pro club (former Lion Paris Lenon ); an undrafted second-year player (Guyton); an undrafted, oft-injured sixth-year player (Eric Alexander); not an injured rookie (McKenzie). The middle of this defense seems about as stout as a wine spritzer.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Season’s Greetings – the Defensive Line

Three’s Not A Crowd – The Defensive Line

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Admit it: neither the Richard Seymour nor Ty Warren selection ushered in dreams of glory. Vince Wilfork drafted at 21 overall? A gift, gratefully accepted.

However it happened, the Patriots compiled one of the finest defensive lines in football. That’s a good place to start.

What I Like

A Thick Blue Line: The aforementioned trio sets the tone for playoff-caliber defense. Having them around is like having a security blanket. One that smothers opponents.

All The Wright Moves: New England signed Mike Wright to a four-year extension, bolstering their depth while rewarding the undrafted free agent. Watch for Wright to take more reps as a situational pass-rusher, especially from an interior line spot.

You Do, Ron, Ron, Ron: The drafting of Clydesdale Ron Brace provides New England with their first true nose guard rotation since they signed Keith Traylor during Wilfork’s rookie year.

What I Don’t Like

They Do Run, Run, Run: Did you know that the Patriots defense gave up 4.1 yards per carry last year? It’s true. It makes one wonder (and by “one,” I mean me) how much the same front can improve that statistic.

Fit To Be Ty?: After Warren’s knee surgery and two (two!) groin surgeries, he’s currently on the PUP list.  Considering I cry after stubbing a toe, I can’t imagine how he’s feeling. Also, Jarvis Green comes off an ankle injury that kept last year’s numbers below par (two sacks).

Depth Charges: Plenty of defensive linemen come into camp, but how many of them can play? Can Le Kevin Smith reach his potential? What support can rookies Myron Pryor and Darryl Richard provide? The position is deep, but so’s a quarry: who knows what’s at the bottom?

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Today In Patriots History – Victor Kiam Agrees To Buy Team

Today in New England Patriots History – July 28th, 1988

Victor K. Kiam II, the owner and chief executive officer of Remington Products, Inc. of Bridgeport, Conn., agrees to purchase the team from William H. “Billy” Sullivan, Jr.

The Kiam era was an embarrassment on and off the field for the Patriots.

Kiam’s Obituary in the New York Times written, perhaps fittingly, by Jayson Blair:

Victor Kiam, 74, Entrepreneur Who ‘Bought the Company’

Season’s Greetings – the Tight Ends

The Ends Of An Era? – The Tight Ends

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Call it The Position That Never Was. While New England has had the premier QB since 2001 , Our Tom has lacked a consistent tight end target in the Ben Coates mold. With some off-season pick-ups, Bill Belichick looked to change that.

What I Like

Each End Is A Beginning: Chris Baker and Alex Smith bring experience to Foxboro. Smith (not to be confused with the disappointing San Franciso QB) becomes a prime candidate to take on H-back duties.

It’s Open, But Not British: This version of Thomas/Watson has a different kind of playoff in mind. (Get it? Tom Watson? British Open?… What, too soon?) David Thomas has shown flashes that he hopes to string together. Benjamin Watson comes into the last year of his contract trying to prove he belongs in NE (or somewhere else for lots of money). Let the competition for TE of NE begin!

One DeVree Of Separation: Backup Tyson DeVree seems to catch every rare pass thrown to him. Currently lowest on the depth chart, that 6-foot-6 frame could come in handy along the end line.

What I Don’t Like

Position, Heal Thyself: It’s fair to say that Watson and Thomas have lacked consistency. Simply put, Wile E. Coyote gets injured less often.

The Need For Speed: Though some may see Watson (and his lobster hands) as expendable, his fleet feet set him apart. Baker and Smith weigh 258 each. DeVree was timed at 4.75 at Colorado’s pro day last year. Can Thomas exploit the open seam route (when he gets on the field, I mean)?