September 25, 2016

Initial Injury Report – Week Four

The bumps and bruises of the NFL season are starting to show, as the Wednesday injury report appears for another week.

Three Patriots did not practice today, two of which were not a surprise, while the third was a bit unexpected. A report from old friend Christopher Price this week had Jerod Mayo walking through the locker room without crutches, brace or a limp, which would be an sign that his recovery is progressing. Not enough, however, to allow him back on the practice field this week. Vince Wilfork left Sunday’s game in the second quarter with an ankle injury, and did not return to the game. He was not at practice today, either. The third Patriot who did not practice today was tackle Nick Kaczur, who is also listed as suffering from an ankle injury.

In the limited participation group, Randy Moss and Wes Welker were still limited in their work, let’s hope those two are both able to play this weekend, because not having Welker against the Jets really hurt. We know that Jonathan Wilhite was injured, not on the field, but rather running for his safety. Darius Butler and Shawn Springs appeared on the list last Friday, but not last Wednesday. Mike Wright is a new addition, apparently having suffered a shoulder injury against the Falcons. Matthew Slater is still on the list with his elbow injury.

So who’s not on the list? It’s good to see that rookies Julian Edelman and Myron Pryor are not on the list for the first time. Brandon Meriweather who was listed last week with an ankle injury, is also not on the list. Dan Connolly and Chris Baker were also able to fully participate.
Did Not Practice
OT Nick Kaczur (ankle)
LB Jerod Mayo (knee)
NT Vince Wilfork (ankle)

Limited Participation
CB Darius Butler (thigh)
WR Randy Moss (Back)
WR Matthew Slater (elbow)
DB Shawn Springs (knee)
WR Wes Welker (knee)
CB Jonathan Wilhite (groin)
DT Mike Wright (shoulder)

Full Participation
QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)

Around The League, Week Three

By Jeremy Gottlieb
Patriots Daily Staff

So Randy Moss is a dog, eh Mike Freeman? An “unbelievable dog,” even, as you so eloquently put it in one the columns you filed from Foxboro for CBS after last week’s game against Atlanta.

Sorry to be late to the party on this issue, dear readers. I know it’s been discussed and dissected around here since Monday. But I had to go there. It’s just so patently, amazingly stupid, so obviously biased and non-objective, so incredibly reeking of a “look at me, I’m a big boy writer for a national website!” stench that I had to devote a few sentences to it.

To be quick and to the point, Mike Freeman is an idiot. He doesn’t like Randy Moss. He made that clear a couple summers ago when he covered Pats training camp and wrote a pissy column about how Moss is an asshole because he didn’t talk to the press that day. So now, after covering a game in which Moss not only was the most important, valuable offensive player on the field all day long and did that while playing with a sore back that rendered him questionable to even suit up, he writes another piece complaining that Moss is a bum because he didn’t block on a few running plays and jogged off the line of scrimmage on a few pass plays that weren’t designed to go in his direction. “None of the Patriots professionalism has apparently rubbed off on Moss,” he writes. Obviously.

Never mind the fact that he caught 10 passes for 116 yards. Who cares that he made three second half receptions that were not only outstanding but all helped the Pats prolong a big, time-consuming scoring drive. It doesn’t matter that without WesWelker playing, Moss was the only guy in the passing game who was remotely capable of helping out, and did it by transforming himself into the world’s tallest, fastest, most talented possession receiver for a day. And don’t even bother examining his numbers from the last two years, especially 2007 (98 catches, 1,493 yards, 23TDs). He’s a dog because he didn’t sprint off the line on every single play he was in for.

To be fair, these criticisms have been leveled at Moss in the past. When he was with the lowly Raiders, especially, he was accused of half-assing it from time to time, and the evidence on tape was that such accusations were true. But now? It’s old news, Mike. Call us when Moss being, “one of the laziest,” receivers in the NFL or his “terrible work ethic,” cost the Pats a win or cause a rift between himself and his buddy Tom Brady, whom you note, “must be privately irritated,” with him despite having exactly zero evidence to back up that sort of claim.

Here’s an idea for you, Mike. The next time you cover the Pats, instead of imagining up another warrantless attack on a player you don’t like to draw attention to yourself, why don’t you write something that has an actual bearing on the outcome of the game? If you want to be taken seriously as a pro football columnist instead of exposed as a fraud with a hair across his ass, that may be some pretty good advice.

This Week’s Five Best Teams

1. New York Giants: Two of their three wins have been against cupcakes (Washington, Tampa) but the Giants have proven thus far that their quarterback – with his 8.2 yards per attempt and 64.8 completion percentage – and their defense – first against the pass and second overall – are as good as anyone’s.

2. Baltimore: The Ravens are second in points per game (34.3) and total yards per game (430.3) and have scored more offensive touchdowns than every team except New Orleans. Oh yeah, their defense is pretty good, too.

3. Indianapolis: The Colts, who have now not lost in the regular season in nearly a full calendar year, barely jump the Saints this week because their interconference road win was slightly more impressive. When Indy gets the kind of dominating performance from its defense that it got Sunday night in Arizona, watch out.

4. New Orleans: Because Drew Brees actually had just a decent game at Buffalo as opposed to another superhuman one, we dock the Saints a spot. Life just isn’t fair.

5. New York Jets: Once again, I have to portray loudmouth Rex Ryan and his merry band of mini loudmouths in a positive light. I guess after blowing a big lead to Tennessee but still finding a way to come back and win in the fourth quarter to run their record to 3-0 is a legit reason.

This Week’s Five Worst Teams

1. Cleveland: Read a column earlier this week (on cbssports.com, again) in which the writer called Eric Mangini an ass or some variation of one five times, as well as a jerk, a “power-drunk bully,” malignant and “the most dislikable coach in the NFL.” And, he looks like a UPS driver on the sideline.

2. Tampa Bay: Here are the raw numbers from last week’s Giants game, Bucs fan(s) – 86 total yards, no third down conversions, one first down in the first three quarters and five for the entire game with the cherry on top being former top 10 pick Byron Leftwich going 7-for-16 for 22 yards and a pick. Them’s high school numbers, folks.

3. Kansas City: I understand there’s not a lot of talent here and that Scott Pioli and Todd Haley are basically starting from scratch. But Matt Cassel completed 14 of 18 passes for 90 yards. How is that even humanly possible?

4. St. Louis: The Rams hung around against Green Bay last week, trailing by just six through three quarters, which is why they’ve moved up a bit on the suck list. Then, they got blown out in the fourth quarter and lost, 36-17, which is why they’re still on the suck list.

5. Oakland: This ranking goes out to JaMarcus Russell (12-for-21, 61 yards, two INTs against Denver), Richard Seymour (six tackles, no sacks since opening night) and knucklehead Raiders exec John Herrera, who tried to ban the last great Raider, Rich Gannon, from the team facility for saying the team “needed to blow it all up and start over,” and actually invoked 9/11 in the process. Stay classy, John.

What’s Trendy

  • Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia: Kolb has passed for over 300 yards in each of his first two career starts, making him the first quarterback in history to accomplish such a feat. His reward will be a spot on the bench in Week 5 when DonovanMcNabb likely returns following the Eagles’ bye.
  • Guys Named Pierre: Saints running back Pierre Thomas ran for 126 yards and two TDs – all in the second half – against Buffalo. Colts receiver Pierre Garcon has 136 yards and two scores on just seven catches, the definition of a deep threat. Hell, we could even push Patriots linebacker Pierre Woods, who is now a moderately effective, every down player after spending the first part of his career exclusively playing special teams.
  • The Detroit Lions: They won. For the first time since December, 2007. And I called it.

What’s Not

  • Jim Zorn, Redskins: The Captain Obvious award of the week goes to me for naming Zorn here. He’s only gone 3-8 in his last 11 games at the Washington helm with last week’s loss to the Lions cemented in there. Once considered an offensive guru, his team has scored less than 20 points 13 times in his 19 games as head coach.
  • Chad Pennington, Dolphins: A torn capsule in his throwing shoulder means injured reserve and his third operation in that spot over the last six years. Never mind last season’s great showing by Miami being a fluke or the fact that this season may well be lost. Pennington’s career is probably over.
  • The Steelers D: Arguably the most ferocious defense in the game has caused exactly zero turnovers in its last two outings, both gut-wrenching losses. By the way, that’s the same amount of time all-world safety Troy Polamalu has missed.

And finally…

There are a slew of great games this week, starting with the Ravens/Pats tilt in Foxboro, another Chargers/Steelers slugfest from Pittsburgh and the Cowboys bringing their awesome running game to Denver to face the unbeaten Broncos, whose defense has only allowed 16 points all year (Josh McDaniels , defensive genius!). But the game of the week, despite what the slobbering buffoons at ESPN will beat into your brain, is not Packers/Vikings and all of its boola boola, Brett Favre against his old team crap. It’s Jets/Saints from the Superdome . The best offense in the league against (so far) the best defense. If New Orleans wins and rolls up another 400+ yard, 30+ point performance, it would be hard to keep them from the top spot in next week’s rankings, especially with the Giants playing the woeful Chiefs. But if the Jets can make the Saints works for it and score enough points behind their rookie QB to quiet the hostile New Orleans fans, then what? It’s a fascinating matchup to say the least. Wish it wasn’t on at the same time on the same network as the Pats.

50th Anniversary Minute – 1976 Patriots

by Brandon Rosenau, Patriots Daily Staff
September 30, 2009

One name can sum up the 1976 season; Ben Dreith.

The name conjures up thoughts that evoke nightmarish memories to Patriots fans that were alive and witnessed his epic miscall first hand, as well as those who have had the legend passed down from their forefathers.

Yes sir, 1976 indeed was a special year in New England. Despite the painful memories of Mr. Dreith and those dastardly Oakland Raiders, 1976 is a year that is fondly remembered in New England.

A year after the team went a dismal 3-11, the ’76 season didn’t exactly start with a bang. In the opening week of the season the Pats were downed by the Baltimore Colts 27-13 in a game that saw starting quarterback Steve Grogan throw an unimpressive four picks. However, the next week the Pats stormed back to crush Miami and kick start one of the more impressive win streaks in franchise history.

New England followed up the win over the Phish with a comeback win at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Trailing 20-9 heading into the fourth, Grogan threw a 38-yard TD pass to tight end Russ Francis and a 58-yard score to Darryl Stingley for a 23-20 lead. Grogan carried the mail from six yards out for the next score. The next week Grogan threw three more TD’s and ran in another in a 48-17 shellacking of the Raiders. New England would play tremendous football the rest of the way and would finish the season by winning their final six games.

The Patriots finished the season 11-3 and reserved a date with Oakland in the Divisional round in what would be turn into one of the most memorable and controversial playoff games in history. After Jess Phillips scored on a 3-yard run in the third quarter, N.E. led 21-10. Of course we all know what happened as the Raiders came back and stole the game late in the fourth. Along with a phantom roughing the passer called on Sugar Bear Hamilton, Russ Francis had his nose broken and there were several other questionable calls.

The fighting Patriots of ‘76 may not have made the Super Bowl, but they will always be one of the most beloved Patriots teams of all-time.

What are your memories of that fateful playoff game? How about the season in general?

Leaders

  • Steve Grogan 1903 yards, 18TD (T-4th in NFL), 20 INT (2nd), 60.6 rating; 60-397, 12 rushing TD (4th); 13 total TD (3rd)
  • Sam Cunningham 824 yards, 3TD
  • Andy Johnson 699, 6 TD; 29-343 4 TD
  • Darryl Stingley 17-370, 4
  • Russ Francis 26-367, 3
  • Mike Haynes 2 PR TD (2nd); 8INT (3rd)

All Pro

Russ Francis (TE), Leon Gray (LT), John Hannah (LG), Mike Haynes (RCB)

Pro Bowl

Francis, Gray, Hannah, Haynes

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Mike Haynes

Take a Lap – Me

by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff
September 29, 2009

I don’t want to be that guy. I really don’t. You know the guy – “fahking Galloway SUCKS, man…they gotta CUT his ahss.” But I am becoming that guy.

It’s been painful watching Joey Galloway try to play wide receiver for the Patriots – allegedly a field stretcher, he’s had the opposite effect.

But this is already becoming a tired subject – as ‘that guy’, I don’t even really know what I expect the Patriots to do. Yeah, they boxed themselves in all right, by choosing a receiver that hasn’t yet demonstrated that he understands his responsibilities (even though he’s been a Patriot since March 14th) or shown that he could execute them even if he did. They filled a hole (the third man in with Moss and Welker) with a void.

What do I expect them to do about it now? So really what I’m doing is howling about that choice in the first place, which is okay, but I really have to get off Joey Galloway’s ass.

I say that because I was getting ready to tee up one of my new catchphrases, “how are you in the league fifteen years and you can’t run a fucking route?” when I was reminded that Galloway has had six seasons of a thousand yards (and a couple of near misses) over the past fourteen years – and ten thousand in all. He’s been in the end zone 77 times. That’s 5 ½ a season every season for the last decade and a half. He’s been doing something right.

If all we’re seeing here is simply an old dog without enough left to learn a new trick, then Galloway shouldn’t have to listen to our shit while he – or somebody else- figures it out. So I’m heading out for a run.

E-mail Scott Benson at [email protected]

PD Game Ball – NE Line of Scrimmage

by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff
September 29, 2009

There is any number of individuals who could have taken this prestigious (cough) award for their play in Sunday’s eminently solid win over the Falcons at Gillette Stadium. Despite what that asshole Mike Freeman says, I’d start with: Randy Moss (Freeman had more credibility when he was lying about his resume), who came off Friday’s injury list to almost singlehandedly create a Pats passing attack; Fred Taylor, who started on the sidelines but came to the lean-forward rescue with some tough inside running; Stephen Gostkowski (when will it be all right to shorten that to Steve?) who drilled some top-notch kickoffs while making four-of-four on field goal attempts; or Brandon McGowan, who gets primary credit (though he usually had help) for limiting perennial all-pro Tony Gonzalez to just one catch on the day.

Yet this august panel will go ball-less this week (you know what I mean) as this game was won up front, on both sides of the ball.

The offensive line hit me where I live by clearing the way for 39 rushing attempts, and even better, 168 yards of production. Not only was their movement startling (they had no trouble getting to the second level, or to the flats for well-blocked screens), they cut way back on those awful clusterfucks that occur when all six men end up pushed into the backfield at about the same time the running back is taking the handoff. You know when you see that there will be precious few clouds of dust on that day. But it was a rare occurrence on Sunday, thankfully; instead, they were so capable that their head coach had no compunction about going for a 4th and 1 from his own 24 yard line – with a six point lead. Be still my heart. They were so good on the ground I barely noticed that they ran their streak to 134 straight pass attempts without a sack. Special recognition goes to veteran Matt Light, who acquitted himself well against John Abraham, one of the league’s top pass rushers.

The defensive line lost their best player when Vince Wilfork went down and Mike Wright rolled up, yet they really facilitated the rest of the team’s defensive success by shutting off the point of attack and removing ace running back Michael Turner from the game entirely, for all intents and purposes. Atlanta had just 17 rushing attempts, thanks in large part to a monster game of space-eating by the always underrated (and now double-teamed) Ty Warren, who led his colleagues in helping linebackers Adalius Thomas and Gary Guyton to flourish. It is the decision of the Game Ball judges that safety McGowan and his rotating partners – nor the corners, often left out on an island to battle Roddy White and Michael Jenkins – would not have remotely been in contention for this coveted (cough) award had Turner been allowed to post his usual 100 yard game.

So, you fat hairy guys on both sides of that line, this ball is for you.

E-mail Scott Benson at [email protected]

Making The Grades: Game 2 vs. Falcons

by Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff
September 29, 2009

Nearly three years have passed since the Patriots lost consecutive games. Naturally, it will happen again some day. Just not this week. Not when the offense piles up 445 yards, holds the ball for nearly 40 minutes and still doesn’t look completely in sync. Not when the defense plays its best, most complete game of the season against one of the more dangerous offenses in the NFL despite losing yet another of its anchors in Vince Wilfork. Not when the kind of pride the Pats still possess and the ability to generate enormous chips on their collective shoulders are still in play. All of these factors contributed to the Pats running their record to 2-1 with a 26-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons. There is still a long way to go, as evidenced primarily by Tom Brady’s continued rustiness. Four field goals in five red zone trips also won’t cut it many weeks and if Wilfork, who left late in the first half with an ankle injury, is sidelined for long, the consequences could be really tough. But the Pats will take it and so without further ado, here’s this week’s report card.

OFFENSE: Overall Grade: B-

It was a breakthrough day for the offensive line, which plowed the way for 168 yards rushing and allowed Brady time to throw all day. The backs obliged, led by Fred Taylor. But Brady, who did get better as the game went on, is still very much a work in progress.

Quarterbacks: C

Brady finished 25 of 42 for 277 and a touchdown, most of the yardage coming from about the midpoint of the third quarter on. Mostly, it was another tough day as the lack of accuracy from the first two weeks lingered. There were more overthrows on all kinds of passes; deep throws, crossing routes, sideline throws, an so on. Brady wasn’t aided by a few drops, the most glaring coming courtesy of whipping boy Joey Galloway at the goal line toward the end of the second quarter and had Brady barking at anyone in a 20-foot radius, including Bill Belichick. In a way, it was more frustrating than last week’s stinkbomb against the Jets as he was under constant pressure in that game. Sunday, he had all year to throw but even with that ample time to survey every option three times, he still was doing plenty of misfiring. Again, he did get more accurate as the game went on and he made some huge throws in the second half, none bigger than the perfect, fourth-and-3 fade to Randy Moss. As he continues to get re-acclimated to the speed of the game, Brady will keep getting better but while he goes through that process, the results aren’t that pretty.

Running Backs: A-

It was Taylor’s day, as he finished up with 105 yards on 21 carries and a TD. Good to see the veteran still has it and he really does given how forcefully he ran this week. He steamrolled the Falcons defense and set a tone for the rest of the running game (168 yards on 39 attempts) with how physical he was when he had the ball. Hopefully, Sunday’s performance will lead to him becoming the leader of the Pats back-by-committee set up. Sammy Morris, in his most extended time of the season, also played big, with multiple big short-yardage runs (including the fourth and inches from his own 24 in the third quarter, arguably the play of the game), and three catches for 46 yards out of the backfield. Kevin Faulk was solid as usual, making a couple plays in the passing game and doing his blitz pickup thing to a tee. The only reason there’s no straight A here is of course because of the endlessly disappointing Laurence Maroney, who after a few nice first quarter runs was injured yet again and missed the rest of the game. It’s just not meant to be for Maroney in these parts, I think it’s safe to say, don’t you?

Wide Receivers: C+

Don’t blame Randy Moss for the iffy grade, here. He showed up big after his out-of-nowhere, Friday practice back injury left him questionable, and was Brady’s saving grace with 10 more catches for 116 yards. Brady looked to him 16 times in all and if it weren’t for a couple of overthrows and one slight miscommunication in the end zone, it could have been close to a career day for No. 81. It was nice to hear some of the fawning over his amazing ability from Joe Buck and Troy Aikman that was so commonplace in 2007 after his stunning sideline catch in the third quarter converted an important third down. As for everyone else… Without Wes Welker again, Brady had to throw to Galloway more often and Galloway continued to bury himself with a couple more outrageously bad drops. Kind of hard to believe he has the kind of pedigree he does. As for Julian Edelman, well, he’s got a lot more learning to do and Sunday’s rough performance was ample evidence.

Tight Ends: B

Ben Watson and Chris Baker only combined for three catches and 65 yards, but all were pretty important. Watson’s one reception was a huge play on one of the Pats’ two third quarter scoring drives (the second of which resulted in a field goal five seconds into the fourth quarter) and sort of made up for a key, red zone drop later on. And Baker only caught the nail-in-the-coffin TD pass, which Brady said he and Belichick, “just kind of drew up on the sideline there.” Baker said he just kind of improvised it but really, who cares? It was a great play and it represented a huge step given the team’s inability to get the ball in the end zone the last couple of weeks. Brady now has three TD passes on the year, all to tight ends. And newcomer Michael Matthews saw his first action as a Patriot, contributing to the outstanding run blocking that was one of the marks of the day.

Offensive Line: A

I’m guessing these guys were a little pissed off all week. After a weak performance on opening night followed by getting pushed around by the Jets last week, the line really came to play this week and it was arguably the biggest key to the Pats win. Not only did this unit pave the way for Taylor and the rest of the backs, they assured Brady would stay upright yet again, neutralizing Atlanta’s pass rushing demon John Abraham as well as everyone else in their path. Brady has now not been sacked in his last 134 pass attempts and a stat like that gets the utmost praise from the folks here at Patriots Daily U.

DEFENSE: Overall Grade: B+

Big day for the D, playing its best, most complete game yet. Atlanta converted just two of nine third downs, Matt Ryan was held to under 200 yards passing, super stud running back Michael Turner had just 56 yards and a costly fumble, big-time wideout Roddy White looked like Joey Galloway with all of his drops and then of course, there’s Tony Gonzalez. Belichick talked about him all week then the defense showed why, holding the future hall-of-famer to one harmless, fourth quarter catch (though to be fair, the Falcons inexplicably only targeted him twice all day). To top it all off, the Falcons scored exactly zero points and ran just 15 plays with four punts on four possessions in the second half. And a lot of this was done without Wilfork, which says a lot.

Defensive Line: B+

Big ups to this group, not only for its huge contribution to holding the explosive Turner in check, but for perhaps playing even better after Wilfork’s departure. Ty Warren continued to be the new Richard Seymour, drawing one double team after another but still causing havoc (his trip up of Turner on a first quarter run in which his arm was the only thing separating the Atlanta back from a big gain was hugely impressive). Wilfork was immense as usual until leaving but when he did,  Myron Pryor saw some meaningful time and along with Mike Wright kept a great big plug in the middle. Jarvis Green also nicely continued his metamorphosis from pass rushing specialist to every down lineman. There was even some pressure up the middle on Ryan. All in all, a very nice day for the D-Line.

Linebackers: B

Who is this Gary Guyton guy, anyway? I’ve said it all along, the kid’s a player. Seriously, though, Guyton continued to reward the coaching staff’s faith in him while making dopes like me look, well, dopey. He had 10 tackles on the day which, along with Adalius Thomas’ nine and another solid game from Pierre Woods, made for an almost excellent day for the Pats backers. I say almost because once again, recent import Derrick Burgess was absolutely nowhere to be found. I wonder whether Burgess will soon be allowed to simply rush the quarterback, his supposed specialty. Because whatever he’s being asked to do, he’s not looking like he’s able to do it and since he was acquired for two draft picks, it would be nice to see him do something, anything.

Secondary: A-

Defensive game balls to this group for playing short-handed (Jonathan Wilhite and rookie Darius Butler were out) and still showing up big. For the third straight week, safety Brandon McGowan was probably the Pats best DB, forcing Turner’s fumble, adding 10 tackles and earning huge praise from Belichick, who singled him out for his stellar play in the coach’s postgame news conference. Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden showed more of the veteran savvy they were brought in to provide, each contributing mightily to the shutting down of White and Gonzalez. James Sanders recovered the Turner fumble and Brandon Meriweather led the team in tackles despite a couple of plays on which he looked bad being dragged for extra yardage by Turner. And second-year man Terrence Wheatley made his season debut and played soundly in coverage. It was a great day for this unit with no one looking better than the unheralded McGowan.

Special Teams: B

Good on Stephen Gostkowski for being able to convert all of the offense’s red zone foibles into points in the form of four field goals. Not as good on the kickoff team allowing Atlanta runback specialist Eric Weems a nearly 28-yard average on his five returns. Chris Hanson had one boomer of 51 yards and wasn’t asked to do much more and the rest of the punt team didn’t have much to do as neither of Hanson’s kicks were returned.

Coaching: A

If the players bounced back big-time from their lousy day in the Jersey swamps last week, so did Belichick and his staff. For starters, identifying that the Pats could run the ball all day on the porous Atlanta front seven worked wonders, not only allowing for a huge time of possession advantage (thus keeping the ball away from Ryan and all his weapons) but forcing the Falcons to key on the threat of the run, which in turn gave Brady even more time to look for the open guy on pass plays than his line was already allowing him. Secondly, the defensive game plan of doubling Gonzalez, putting some heat on Ryan up the middle and pretty much taking away the middle of the field proved to be top-notch. If you care to match Belichick’s job up against that of Atlanta’s Mike Smith, the reigning NFL Coach of the Year, it was a blowout. Ultimately, kind of like the game itself.

Media Observations – Joe Buck Is Still Annoying

I don’t know how it is around the rest of the country, but I think New England sports fans would just prefer that Joe Buck never set foot in their fair region.

Red Sox fans hate when he calls their games on FOX with Tim McCarver, especially against the Yankees, while Patriots fans just find him incredibly annoying. It’s not so much even for what he says about the team, he just rubs you the wrong way, in a hipster-doofus sort of way. The smarm-meter hits high levels with Buck in the booth, and while Troy Aikman isn’t a barrel of laughs, he’s a solid analyst, and could be even better if he had someone in the booth with him who wasn’t there simply because of his voice and family legacy.

Really, why are FOX executives so enamored of Buck?  He’s their version of Jim Nantz or Al Michaels, but why?

Pregame Shows

On the FOX pregame, four of the five analysts picked the Falcons to win. The only one to correctly pick the Patriots was Howie Long.

The CBS pregame also touched on the Patriots, with the following comments:

(On whether Patriots are same team than before)

Boomer Esiason: Right now I’m going to say no but this is still going to be a great Patriots team.  Tom Brady isn’t even a year removed from his surgery on his left knee for the ACL and MCL tears.  He’s rounding back into shape.  The defense has a lot of different names.  They’ve played reasonably well but you can’t expect Tom Brady to average 50 pass attempts a game and this team to win.  I say today they’ll go back to run the ball, take pressure off Tom Brady and I am not going to panic yet on my Super Bowl pick.  I still tell you he’s the best quarterback in football and that will bear itself out.

Bill Cowher: I say no and I say this for a lot of reasons.  They’ve got a lot of missing components on the defensive side: Seymour, Vrabel, Bruschi, Rodney Harrison and Asante Samuel.  I agree with you, Tom Brady is going to work into it, but this is a football team that has a lot more questions than they have answers.

The NFL Network had the following quotes on the Patriots during their Gameday Morning show:

“The reality is Tom Terrific isn’t Tom Terrific. I saw him missing guys on the goal line last week.” – Michael Irvin on Patriots QB Tom Brady

“Bill Belichick has had to take out about 40 percent of the defensive playbook with all the new faces.” – Patriots radio analyst Steve DeOssie in ‘Word on the Street’ segment live from Foxboro

There was quite a bit of Patriots-related talk on the ESPN Sunday Countdown pregame show as well:

On whether Tom Brady is struggling as a result of the knee injury which forced him to miss last season …

Keyshawn Johnson: “Any player with a major knee injury is going to struggle out the gate. That’s just it. … As the season continues to go, Tom Brady will continue to get better. Now, I don’t know if the team will continue to get better but Tom Brady will continue to get better.”

Tom Jackson: “There are players who have had knee surgeries who are never the same again. That has happened in the past. So we don’t know whether that’s going to happen. … He certainly doesn’t look the same right now. The other thing is, he’s a victim of game plan. When you drop a guy back 50 times a game to throw a football, you not only make it hard on that guy – empty backfield – you make it hard on the five guys in front of him. But what were they going to do? They won 18 games in row doing this.”

Cris Carter: “I don’t know what Brady I’m going to see because I don’t know what kind of protection he’s going to get. … There’s only one guy that I could see that could take pressure, and that was Joe Montana. That’s why when people ask me who’s the best quarterback, it’s always Joe. What I saw last week was a guy who didn’t want to get hit.”

Mike Ditka: “When you have success, you get confidence. When you have failure, you get doubt. Now this is not his failure as much as the football team’s failure. They don’t have the people, the receivers. I don’t care how good Randy Moss is, you can take one guy out of a football game, and they don’t have the other weapons around. … This kid’s a great football player, but he’s got to have some help.”

ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer (pre-recorded): “Let’s not get too caught up in his mechanics. Sometimes that’s the easy thing to say. The NFL position of quarterback is played under chaos. You must throw from multiple platforms and multiple arm angles. The problem is Tom Brady is being asked to do it too much this year, and that’s the problem. It’s with the Patriots, not Tom Brady.”

On the Patriots’ struggles this season …

Jackson: “You have to make some commitment to the run game. When you look at the Patriots’ offense, it’s all about throwing the football. … As the game goes on, they tend to get away from the run game to where you get to the fourth quarter – the last three full games that Tom Brady has played, they’ve only run the ball four times, four times in three football games. When you do that, you make yourself one-dimensional and teams are taking advantage of that and putting pressure on top.”

Johnson: “There’s a lack of personnel on the defensive side of the football … and the depth offensively is just not there.”

On NBC’s Football Night In America:

ON TOM BRADY
Rodney Harrison: “Brady is obviously not himself right now. He has to learn patience. He has to know he’s coming off an ACL-MCL injury. It’s going to take a year or year-and-a-half. I had a similar injury as Tom Brady. It took me at least six-to-eight weeks to really feel comfortable. As a quarterback dropping back, looking downfield, the timing is going to be off course a little bit and he’s not going to be the Tom Brady of old.”

Game Broadcast

With the score 10-10, Buck was telling us that the Patriots offense needed to get going since their defense wasn’t very good. He didn’t have much to say about the defense the rest of the way.

The duo failed to pick up on the sarcasm of the Gillette crowd when Joey Galloway was mock-cheered following a catch after a a series of mistakes. “They like that here in New England” was the comment.

Aikman managed to make a few good points in the course of the afternoon. He pointed out that Falcons coach Mike Smith’s challenge of play that he thought was a fumble was an “emotional” decision, and showed that Smith had the flag out immediately, before seeing a single replay. Aikman also noted that Brady’s frustration with his receivers would be “analyzed and over-analyzed” this week.

Following the game on the 98.5 postgame show, Gary Tanguay could be heard still trying to stir panic. “The Patriots win 26-10, but was Tom Brady ACCURATE ENOUGH?”

What stood out to you during the broadcasts yesterday?

Gut Check – Game Three vs. Falcons

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
September 28, 2009

Facing a hot NFC team after a disheartening loss, New England needed a break. It didn’t come when the inactive list went public. It didn’t happen when Vince Wilfork left in the second quarter and didn’t return.

The break occurred when the Patriots started executing the little things. They converted short yardage and prevented the Falcons from doing the same, playing their best game thus far for a 26-10 win. Below, some quick reactions.

Who’s Inactive? “Welker,” Texts A Stranger: Fears for the Patriots offense arose when word got out that Wes Welker, their very own action hero, would not play for the second week in a row. Yes, they still missed him, but Randy Moss (10 grabs, 116 yards) and Julian Edelman (three for 20) helped close that gap. (By the way, Sammy Morris as a receiver: a none-too-shabby three catches for 46 yards.)

Hey Joe, Where You Going Without That Ball In Your Hands? At the end of the first half, quarterback Tom Brady seemed to sing this little ditty to veteran receiver/slow learner Joey Galloway, who let a pass bounce off his hands at the three-yard line. On the next play, Sam Aiken got open in the end zone but slowed and came up short. Brady missed some targets, but at times his receivers moved the bull’s-eye on him.

Taylor Deigns To Run: When constructing his game plan, Coach Bill Belichick had to tell it to his heart that Fred Taylor would become a big part of it. Taylor responded with 21 carries for 105 yards and a TD (the team averaged 4.3 per tote).

Turner For The Worse: On the other side of the ball, nice work by the Patriots’ defense stopping running back Michael Turner. The punishing rusher with a frame that frightens bowling pins managed only 56 yards on 15 attempts and fumbled once at the Pats’ 31. New England also held Heisman hopeful Matt Ryan (some campaigns never die) to 17 of 28 passing (60.7 percent), lowering his percentage coming into this game (68.3).

Go Fourth And Prosper: New England converted two fourth down attempts during their seven-minute field goal drive to wrap up the third. On fourth and one – from their own 24-yard line, no less – Morris gained two. Later on fourth and three, Brady lofted his finest touch pass this season, a 21-yard beauty to Moss along the right sideline. The ensuing kick put New England up by two scores (19-10) at the top of the fourth.

The Refs Fumble: Just a quick note on the worst non-call of the day, Ryan’s batted pass that somehow turned into a fumble and 53-yard runback “touchdown” by Shawn Springs. Hey, guys? Next time, call Jeffrey Wigand.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Spawn of Dumb Girl

by Dan Snapp, Patriots Daily Staff
September 27, 2009

Two years ago, I wrote a piece saying Pats fans were entitled to root for the team in whatever manner they pleased. In hindsight, I was high.

Some people are just too stupid to be football fans. They should switch to one of those games in which the outcome is never in doubt, like wrestling or politics.

The Patriots entered Sunday at 1-1, an element which – in concert with a New Moon and Jupiter in retrograde – apparently signals the onset of The End Times. That is, if the fans are to be believed.

Mike Reiss has long had to deal with the unhinged in his weekly Globe mailbags or in responses to blog posts, but now these people seem to be everywhere.

Callers to WEEI suggested rookie receiver Julian Edelman needs snaps at quarterback, that the departed Jabar Gaffney is the x-factor the team’s missing (guess his gaffes have been forgiven), and that it’s all over anyway so the Pats should trade as many players as possible now for draft picks. One pointed out “Brady has lost two of his last three games,” and who can argue when facts are brought into the mix?

Which reminds me, two of the three major cogs of “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” are dead; is Doc Severinsen next?

On the Globe, it was a wall of stupid. Tom Brady’s to blame, to be certain, but what caused the precipitous drop in his play?

“It’s so obvious, Tom’s top priority is not football anymore,” said one commenter. Another tells Brady, “You are not playing well because you’re walking around like a zombie instead of being a motivational quarterback.” Others point to Giselle, because it’s well known that supermodels weaken knees with a force mere mortal Moynihans just can’t summon.

The fans in Tom’s court instead pointed to play-calling. “The Pats have no offensive coordinator this year. This is a big problem.” But would that really help? As “Eric” pointed out, “The offensive coordinator is gutless,” which makes sense, because a non-existent OC would logically possess non-existent guts.

The Pats this week traded for a backup linebacker, Prescott Burgess, which offers new grim portents.

“I guess that means Mayo is out for the year,” was one conclusion. “Who? What? Isn’t Derrick Brooks sitting at home?” said another, among many who count name recognition as a clear sign of ability. Others keyed off on the Burgess name, including one strange chain of references leading to the revelation that Candice Bergen played the Penguin on the old Batman series. Don’t ask me how.

Comments Topple Two
In a not-so-rare occasion of form meeting malfunction, the Boston Globe held a live chat during the game last Sunday. Chad Finn and Chris Forsberg gamely moderated the affair, which promptly surrendered reason as the game devolved.

Among the highlights:

“good call on dumping Seymore.”
“thought this offense was suppose to be better then 07”
“Is it me or is Moss barely breaking a sweat in this game?”
“NE has no hope. Giselle has done Brady in. He no longer has any motivation”
“toms terriFIED”

Lo and behold, there’s no chat scheduled today.

Lose today to Atlanta, and they’re gonna need sentries along the Tobin to dissuade potential plungers. Or with a nod to Darwin, they could direct them to the launch points that offer the best return on investment.

So who are these people, and why are they so breathtakingly stupid? I’ve got a theory.

My freshman year, finding a good place to watch the Patriots proved an obstacle. With the Pats fresh off their Super Bowl appearance with the Bears, the dorm lounges were crowded. Add to the mix a bi-polar resident, an ape who toppled furniture every time Irving Fryar fumbled a punt. Given Fryar’s flair for flub, no sofa was safe.

Fortunately, I got an invite from a friend in an all-girls dorm. A few present were into the game, while others watched because they thought Tony Eason was cute (“Take your helmet off, Tony!!”). The commentary was killing me.

“Why are they giving the ball back? Didn’t they just get it?”
“They got a touchdown on that play. Why don’t they just do that play every time?”
“Why does he give him the ball between his legs? Couldn’t he just hand it to him?”

Temptation beckoned this way for the better part of a half, but I held strong. Finally, I could hold it in no longer. One girl asked, “Why do they fall down after going two yards?” I laughed, and that was the end.

“You make us feel stupid,” they explained as they threw me out.

I’ve always wondered what happened to those girls, but now, mystery solved. They’re right there, plain as day, in the comments section for the Globe and Herald, chatting with Bill Simmons (Yup, these are his readers), or calling in to WEEI; Dumb, dumb girls, pining desperately for Tony Eason to remove his helmet.

We need to lay down some rules for membership. Not unlike the character in “Diner” who made his fiancé take a Baltimore Colts quiz before agreeing to marry her, we need to know we’re dealing with some modicum of understanding of the game

So here are a few basics:

  1. On occasion, your team will lose.
  2. On occasion, your team will call run plays. Use the down time as an opportunity to wonder what is wrong with Brady.
  3. It’s a business. Management and the players already get this. Best you do, too. Craziest thing, some other things you enjoy come from businesses as well! Doritos – made by a business. Guitar Hero – made by a business. Breast implants – made by a business. Sports radio – made by a business.
  4. “Two Words” is not an argument. “Duane Starks” is something Michael Felger teaches his parrot. Don’t be a parrot, unless you’re crapping on the Globe.
  5. The player you know isn’t necessarily better than the one you don’t. Four words: “Drew Bledsoe Tom Brady”
  6. Second-and-six is an acceptable first-down outcome.
  7. Choose: more experience or more youth? “Experience” and “youth” are opposites, like “Jets fan” and “no priors” or “Charlie Casserly” and “employed as a GM.”
  8. You can’t call a game better than the offensive coordinator, even a non-existent one. So put down the pipe, Mouse; the run-and-shoot is dead-and-buried.
  9. The refs will make crappy calls against your team. Crappy ones for your team, too. Get back at them by refusing to spot Hochuli at the gym.
  10. There’s a reason a guy is fourth string. Despite the omen of having in the middle of his name the name of the guy Simmons thought drowned in Lake Pontchartrain, BenJarvis Green-Ellis isn’t the answer at tailback.
  11. Supermodels have no bearing on an NFL game’s outcome. Pitchy country singers, on the other hand…
  12. You can’t trash a guy when he’s on the team, then yearn for his return when he’s gone. Nor can you yearn for a guy on another team, then trash him on yours when he’s only been here a month.
  13. Two games do not equal a season. Pace yourself. You’ve got at least 14 more to which you can overreact.
  14. If a player isn’t living up to your expectations, there’s a small chance he’s living up to the Patriots’ expectations.
  15. Just because a guy was a good contributor here 5, 10, or 15 years ago does not mean he:
    a. wants to come back here and be a position coach;
    b. is in any way qualified to do so;
    c. should have his number retired.
  16. When someone says Belichick is withholding information, ask yourself, “Is he censoring what channel the game is on, or how to get to Foxboro?” No? Then you have all the information you need to be a fan.
  17. People doing pre-game shows aren’t good enough to run a team (see Casserly, Charlie).
  18. Let the dynasty die. Jerod Mayo was a red shirt freshman the last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl. Let him, and his teammates, create their own legacy.

I’d suggest these fans need some sort of football 101 refresher, but if they haven’t learned a blessed thing after a decade of Belichick, what hope have they got? A decade of the best football any of us have seen in our lifetimes, and this is the best they can do?

Colleague Scott Benson put it best this week: “The enduring thanks of a grateful fanbase. I feel like we should warn the Steelers or something.”

Matchups of the Week – Patriots vs. Falcons

by Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff
September 26, 2009

With the week 2 Super Bowl over and the Patriots suffering a rare defeat against the obnoxious Jets, it’s time to stop the mourning and look forward to the Falcons, this week’s opponent. Despite the apocalyptic meltdown on 98.5 and WEEI, the season in fact is not over. A very competent Atlanta team is in town and the Patriots need to bring their A game in order to thwart this valiant opponent. Here are the top 5 matchups that the Patriots need to focus on in order to be successful.

1) Tom Brady vs. the Pass Rush

Teams have been gunning for Tom Brady to see if he still has the “Tom Terrific” glow to him, and so far he hasn’t been able to make opposing defenses pay. Despite all the clamoring heard on the airwaves this week, this isn’t something to freak out about as Brady is still getting acclimated to his new knee and the Jets and Bills are formidable conference opponents with great pass rushes. However, the Patriots can’t spend too much of the season hindered by growing pains. This week against the Falcons, it’s time to show the league that Tom Brady can’t be bullied around and that he can still make opponents pay for constantly and blatantly blitzing.

2) Patriots Wide Receiver vs. Falcons Corners

The Pats receivers have not distinguished themselves this year. There has yet to be a long ball caught to force the defenses to be honest with their coverage. If the Patriots wideouts are able to break for a few large gains, it will stifle the Falcons pass rush. Also, Wes Welker was out for week 2 and his absence was clearly felt.  Hopefully, he can return at a 100%.

3) Patriots Offensive line vs. Falcons D-line

So far the Pats O-line has been pushed around, forcing Brady to get rid of the ball much sooner then he would like. Last week, the Jets were able to generate significant pressure with just a four man rush. This is completely unacceptable for a top notch offense and the Offensive line needs to step up and do their job. Within this matchup, the spotlight will be put on the lackluster Matt Light versus the explosive John Abraham.

4) Tony Gonzalez vs. Patriots Linebackers

The Patriots linebackers have their hands full with arguably the greatest tight end of all time. If they are able to contain him or at least prevent him from converting key third downs, it will bode well for the Patriots team as a whole.

5) Patriots Pass rush vs. Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan’s sophomore campaign as Atlanta’s quarterback has started out with quite a bang; he has 5 TD’s to 1 INT and a QB rating of 108.5. So our pass rush needs to finally step up its game and force him to throw the ball before he is able to go through his progressions. This quarterback is too smart and too good to be given time in the backfield to pick the Patriots’ defense apart. If the Pats force him to make some rash decisions, it could spell a long day for the Falcons offense.

Media Notes: FOX Comes To Town

FOX

The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons will clash this week for the first time since 2005 and for only the 12th time ever. Atlanta will be making its first trip to Gillette Stadium, becoming the 30th different opponent to come to Gillette for a regular-season or playoff game. Following this week’s game, the only club that will have not appeared at Gillette Stadium in a regular-season game is Carolina. The Panthers visited the Patriots in a preseason matchup at Gillette Stadium in 2002 and will play their first regular-season game at Gillette on Dec. 13.

This week’s game will be the first of four games the Patriots will play against NFC South opponents. The Patriots will travel to London to play Tampa Bay on Oct. 25, travel to New Orleans on Nov. 30 and then face Carolina at home on Dec. 13.

With an NFC opponent coming into town, the Patriots will be on the FOX network for this Sunday’s game against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.

In the Boston Globe on Friday, Chad Finn had a few thoughts from FOX analyst Troy Aikman as he prepares to call the game with Joe Buck.

Note: If you live in Berkshire County, you’re not going to be able to watch this game. According to the Berkshire Eagle:

WXXA, the Fox affiliate in Albany, N.Y., will air the New York Giants’ game at Tampa Bay on Sunday at 1 p.m. instead of the Patriots’ home game against the Atlanta Falcons.

According to Brian Johnson, the cable commission chairman for the City of Pittsfield, WXXA has not granted rights for an alternate out-of-market affiliate to air the Patriots game.

“Fox in Albany will not grant us that privilege,” he said. “They won’t give Time Warner Cable an alternate station for us to use. That’s what’s blocking the Patriot game on that day.”

The article tries to explain more on the situation, but the bottom line is that you live out in that area, you’re going to need a friend with Sunday Ticket, or a trip to a local sports bar to see the game.

Check here for your full week three NFL TV distribution maps.

Other outlets with coverage this weekend:

National Radio
This week’s game will be broadcast to a national audience by Westwood One. Mark Champion and Dan Reeves will call the game with Scott Graham handling the sideline reporting.

ESPN
Sunday NFL Countdown

Michael Smith reports from Gillette Stadium, Trent Dilfer goes in the film room to show what’s different this season about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and how he it can be fixed.

NFL Matchup, Sunday 3 A.M. and 7:30 A.M.

Falcons @ Patriots – Hoge goes to the ‘Film Room’ and breaks down how Atlanta would create mismatches with tight end Tony Gonzalez against New England’s linebackers.

NFL Network
NFLN will have Kara Henderson reporting from Gillette for NFL Gameday Morning.

AFC Playbook (Sunday, 7:00 A.M.)
What’s wrong with the Patriots’ offense and how New England can get back on track versus the Falcons

Some material from this report was taken from the official Patriots game notes, as well as from releases from the various networks.


College Scout, September 26, 2009

by Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
September 26, 2009

Indiana at Michigan (ESPN2 NOON EST)

A match up of two undefeated 3-0 Big 10 teams. A win here would be huge for the much improved Indiana, the underdog. More than likely, they’re overmatched here talent-wise. They’ve only beaten Michigan once since 1966. But Michigan is young and could conceivably be looking past the Hoosiers. A good game with lots of offense is at least a possibility.

Indiana RB Demetrius McCray (#22)

A versatile and quick running back who adds value by being an effective kick returner. He has worked his way into being a feature back this year and has 235 yards for a 5.4 average coming into the Michigan game. If he can run effectively against the toughest defense the Hoosiers have seen so far, he may work his name into the minds of NFL scouts as a potential Sunday player. Really, his kick return ability should get him a look. He hasn’t distinguished himself yet, but has clearly improved a lot into his senior year. One weakness is he hasn’t shown much ability to catch passes, so if he can add that to his game, he may be the kind of versatile guy who can stick on a roster as a backup running back.

Indiana Defensive End Jammie Kirlew (#57)

Easily the best player on the Hoosiers roster is the 6’3″ 263 lb. 1st Team All-Big 10 player Kirlew. A relentless force who shows up all over the field, Kirlew had 10.5 sacks last year on a team that struggled to rush the passer from other spots. He has added another 2.5 through 3 games this year. If the Hoosiers have any chance of going into The Big House and upsetting Michigan, Kirlew will have to be a major force. Kirlew may have the ability to switch to linebacker. He actually reminds a bit of Adalius Thomas. He disrupts, rushes the passer, causes fumbles, tips passes. But a lot will depend on his speed and how he tests. If he shows good speed and mobility in things such as the shuttle run at the Combine, his productivity is a given and the Patriots may seriously give consideration to drafting a guy like Kirlew to convert to OLB.

Michigan RB Carlos Brown (#23)

Brown is a running back who seemingly has been a bit player in the Michigan offense for years. He has always seemed overshadowed by more hyped, more highly recruited blue chip recruits like Brandon Minor, Sam McGuffie and Kevin Grady. Last year, new coach Rich Rodriguez came in and Brown became even more of an afterthought, rushing only 29 times for 128 yards all season. It’s not that he isn’t talened. The 6’0″ 206 Brown has good size, nice moves and good speed. He seems to do everything well. But for whatever reason, Rodriguez and Michigan coach Lloyd Carr have never tried to spotlight him. That seems to be changing this year. Brown is off to his best career start with 238 yards thru 3 games and is averaging 8.8 yards per carry. Maybe finally he’ll get his chance to be a star. He has never complained about his role and seems to have earned his shot to be the man by covering punts and waiting his chance. He is a solid player who right now rates as a low draft choice, but if he can continue the good to spectacular performances he’s had this year, that too could change for Brown.

Michigan WR Greg Mathews (#13)

Mathews is a big receiver at 6’3″ 209 and is miscast in the current Michigan offense. But he is a talented player, adapting and even improving the skills that haven’t really his strong point. The Michigan offense is more designed for smaller, faster receivers. Guys who can come on reverses, get deep, run middle screens and wide receiver screens. That isn’t the strong, physical Mathews game, but he’s still shown a lot by contributing and even becoming a threat in the offense. Last year, he managed 35 catches and 2 touchdowns. This year, he has a modest 7 catches but that is tied for the lead for the Wolverines in an offense that spreads it around. More than likely, his modest stats will put him in the middle of the draft at best. But he could be a steal. Strong, decent speed, and good hands with blocking potential to boot, he could be a better NFL player than college player. I would hope the Patriots would keep an eye on an underrated player such as this.

Michigan DE Brandon Graham (#55)

A big 268 lb. defensive end who is probably not skilled enough to switch to linebacker, so he instead fits best in a 4-3 front where he can disrupt. He did a lot of that last year, making 20 tackles for losses, tying for the lead in NCAA Division I. He is an excellent pass rusher who had 10 sacks last year. Look for a team like the Vikings to go after a player like Graham.

Iowa at Penn State (ABC 8:00 PM EST)

Iowa upset the Nittany Lions in Iowa City last year, ruining the national title hopes of Penn State. They want revenge and this time they’re at home. The teams are fairly evenly matched, but Iowa comes in with some key injuries. That should be the difference, so look for Penn State to even the score here from last season and get the victory. Here is hoping for an entertaining, close matchup.

Iowa WR Trey Stross (#86)

Stross is a 6’4 receiver who also adds great leaping ability. A good athlete, he has become the Hawkeyes go-to guy this season. With All Big-10 caliber TE Tony Moeaki ailing and either out or limited for this game, this would be a great opportunity for Stross to show he is more than a mere solid college player. Came into this year with 570 career yards receiving, but already has 167 on 11 receptions this season. Stross isn’t overly fast or quick, but if he can use his height, leaping ability and good hands consistently as a receiver, he can be effective enough to at least get a look from the NFL.

Iowa RT Kyle Calloway (#60)

A massive 6’7″ 315 lb. tackle with All Big-10 type ability. Last year he was on the 2nd team. Not as hyped as Junior left tackle Bryan Bulaga (who has been injured much of this year), but a very good NFL prospect who comes from a program with excellent offensive line history and coaching. The Patriots have at least three of their young tackles locked up long term and that may reduce their interest in Calloway, but if he slips far enough, Calloway very well could be someone that they consider taking given Bill Belichick’s relationship with Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz,. Some  reports on Calloway say he isn’t tenacious or competitive enough and this could hurt his chances if NFL teams begin to buy into that. Today is a chance for him to shine versus a top notch opponent in Penn State.

Penn State DT Jared Odrick (#91)

A 306 lb. All American candidate, Odrick would likely be an end for the Patriots. He is strong, athletic and productive. Very impressive as a pass rusher from the inside. Strong and stout enough to hold up inside in a 4-3 as well. In fact, Odrick is a major reason the Nittany Lions are fourth in the nation against the run. Teammates say Odrick is a passionate player who plays with furor and a (mostly) controlled rage. That bodes well for his future. He likes football. As Odrick himself recently told The Big Ten Network “I don’t want to be a good player. I want to be a great player.” Music to our ears, Jared. He’s well on his way. Watch him today and see for yourself.

Penn State CB AJ Wallace (#4)

A big time recruit when he came to Happy Valley, Wallace’s career has been somewhat disappointing. He’s been a good kick returner, but as a corner he has struggled to get onto the field as anything more than a nickel or dime back. Coming in as one of the top corners out of high school, no one could have predicted he’d have made only 4 starts through his junior year. He’s had some injury and academic issues that have contributed to that, but now as a senior he’s rotating at one corner spot with fellow starter Knowledge Timmons. He seems to have accepted that as a good soldier, and he’s started to show progress on the field that may warrant increased time. Wallace may be one of those hidden gems that go late or undrafted, but there is no question he has NFL talent and size at 6’1, 195. A team could find a real steal here. His struggle to become a starter is an issue, but a team should look at his improved play and good attitude this year, and his upside potential, and give it some consideration.

E-mail Greg Doyle at [email protected]