Pats Off-season Review (Pre-Draft Edition) - Offense
Well, its sure been an exciting few months since my last off-season review with a lot of changes in the Patriots. Here are my updates.
QB - Brady, Cassel, Mortensen - Cassel showed that he has real potential. Mortensen is playing in NFLE. I think Mortenson is TC fodder to keep Brady from having to make a lot of throws. I also believe that the Pats will bring back Flutie or sign someone like Fiedler to be the #3 and help with the scout team.
RB – Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk, Earl Charles– This is a need area for the Pats. Faulk hasn't been able to stay healthy the last 2 years and this was Dillon's 2nd time in 3 years being hurt. The Pats picked up Dillon’s option and re-structured his deal. The Pats worked out a BUNCH of player during the season because of injuries, including Quentin Griffin and Amos Zereoue. Zereoue was signed, but was a dud because of injury. Pats lost Kory Chapman to the Colts who didn’t use the kid hardly at all. Charles was invited to camp last year, but was cut. May just be TC fodder, but he was assigned to NFLE. I would expect either a draft pick or a free agent to be added here. Possibly someone like Jonathan Wells who is still available. Rumors have it that Chicago is shopping Thomas Jones for a 3rd rounder. He would be a definite upgrade for the Pats. I used to think that White and Maroney would be potential picks, but I have since changed my mind after re-searching them. Joseph Addai could be a 2nd round option. Maurice Drew could be a more likely pick since he small, compact, and a bowling ball type player with speed. Drew could possibly return kicks and punts for the Pats. Late rounders could include P.J. Daniels and Cartlon Jones.
FB – PatrickPass, Heath Evans – Pass did well, but he will be remembered for putting the ball on the ground during the Denver Game and forcing Dillon to enter and play injured. The Pats could use another H-back type player who is more FB than TE. Possibly someone via the draft like Matt Bernstein. Heath Evans is returning because he did well in limited duty, but he is more likely a RB option.
O-Line – Matt Light, Nick Kaczur, Logan Mankins, Brandon Gorin, Dan Koppen, Russ Hochstein, Jeff Roehl, Nick Steitz, Wesley Britt, Stephen Neal, Ross Tucker, Gene Mruczkowski, Billy Yates – The Pats lost Ashworth and re-signed Stephen Neal. A back-up at tackle is also in order, though Wesley Britt was very highly touted before he got injured prior to the 2005 draft. The Pats have shown they need at least 2 back-up tackles. And they have shown this every year BB has been a coach. I don't care for Brandon Gorin. Bringing in someone who could possibly replace Koppen should he decide to leave after the 2006 season could also be an option. Having Tucker and Mruczkowski around is insurance incase the Pats don’t draft someone. BB did this when he drafted Koppen to replace Woody and Woody bolted after the 2003 season. Box has been giving a good account on the play of Roehl and Steitz in NFLE. The 2 back-up tackle positions will be a heated battle between Gorin, Britt and Roehl and any draft pick the Pats bring in. Players I wouldn’t mind drafting include: Jonathan Scott, Jeremy Trueblood, Pat Ross, Greg Eslinger, Will Montgomery, Daryn Colledge, Charles Spencer, Chris Kuper, Jhari Evans.
TE – Daniel Graham, Ben Watson – Graham and Watson are entrenched as the top 2 TE s for the Pats. Watson should end up being the primary receiver of the two, but Graham has shown to be able to make some BIG plays happen when he’s given a chance. Graham continues to be a monster in blocking, but injuries caught up with him again. I would like to see BB draft another F-Back or H-Back type player (TE/FB combo) who can really throw opponents for a loop because they won’t know WTF is going on when all 3 are on the field. As I mentioned in the full-back section, another H-back or F-back type player would be nice here. Someone like Bernstein or possibly David Thomas would fit nicely on this team. My only concern with Thomas is his blocking abilities. However, the Patriots have shown they can teach blocking as they did with Graham. The Pats have shown some interest in a college B-Ball player as a developmental pick and they could also bring back Jed Weaver if they feel he could be an adequate 3rd TE. Other players besides Thomas that interest me are Pope, Klopfenstein, Scheffler and Tim Massaquoi.
WR- Deion Branch, Bethel Johnson, “BAM”Childress, Rich Mushinski, John Stone, Reche’ Caldwell, Troy Brown, Mike McGrew, Zuriel Smith– Givens is gone for the big payday, getting a 5 year, 24 million deal. Andre Davis is goen to Buffalo. Tim Dwight to the Jets. P.K. Sam signed with Cincy. I honestly think that Bethel will be cut unless BB knows something no one else does about Bethel’s situation. I have changed who I like in the draft. Previously, in the draft, I liked Maurice Stovall, Jonathan Orr, Todd Watkins (who can ALSO perform kick off duties), Cory Rogers, or possibly another late rounder like a Miles Austin. Now, I still like Stovall, Orr and Watkins, but also like Mike Hass, Jason Avant, Brandon Williams, Jeff Webb and Greg Jennings. Watkins I like because he could be for the Pats was Wes Welker is for the Dolphins. Orr has some height and very good speed. Hass and Williams are hoovers out there and could very well take the #2 spot or #3 spot right out of camp because of their ability to catch most anything thrown to them. Like Box of Rocks, I don't care for Derek Hagen because of the inconsistency he showed when the spotlight was on him. One has to wonder if he can handle the pressure.
I'm sure I sound like a broken record, but WR is a glaring weakness on this team.
I know I've argued with some of you who insist we're deep with this roster, and that its unlikely ALL these guys will be as lame as they have been in the past, but when you've got a weapon like Tom Brady on your team, doesn't it make sense to give him some armor piercing bullets rather than BB's?
To me this is an area where the Patriots don't seem to be employing their "strong middle class" mentality. We've got Branch as the unquestioned #1 - yet even he, who although he caught 78 passes last year hasn't come close to that in his other seasons. Let's hope last year was the rule and not the exception.
Caldwell was a decent signing - but with a career high 28 receptions last year, he and Brown are as good as it gets for the Patriots right now among the rest of the corps. I love Troy but at 40 years old, can we really continue to expect him to be a go to WR grabbing 30+ tough catches?
As far as the rest - Johnson, Childress, Musinski, Stone, and Smith - while there might be a diamond in the rough there (Childress is my prediction) you don't go into a season depending on that happening. The reality is that you could count each of their receptions from last year on one hand.
So where does this leave us? RFA is over. There are still some leftovers in FA - but seemingly neither we, nor any other team feels like any of these guys are in demand.
There's the draft - but of course, barring some of the top WR choices one doesn't generally expect WR draftees to contribute right away - and no one here thinks we'd ever use a top pick on a WR anyway.
That leaves trades with other teams - which means we're dependent on other teams to be willing to trade their players to us. ... players that probably are being dealt for a reason. (Either that or camp cuts from other teams)
So I continue to be in the huge minority here who will not be surprised to see the Pats take a WR with their 1st round pick. And no, you don't draft based on need, but you don't allow yourself be blind to it either.
I am still hopeful that the Patriots have a plan to restock at WR - whether that's a trade or high draft pick. If not I'll drink my Kool Aid and hope for the best.
Just 2 additions....OL--Isn't Billy Yates still with the team?? I haven't heard anywhere that he was not tendered; certanly a young and versatile lineman.
Also WR--Mike McGrew who was on IR last year. He's 6'1" about 200; played for Virginia. I have to think he may make it onto the PSqd if he's got some potential down the line.
The offense is young, more mature, and complete save for two or three backup depth type players.
Because Givens was lost to FA, everyone seems to think there is a massive need at WR. i disagree nad I beleive so do BB and SP. BB and SP simply went out and signed an injured #1 candidate WR with very good credentials, and whose development and performance was on schedule but was interrupted by injury.
I think they actually upgraded the position's potential.
As backup for Deon and Reche, they have Troy and BJ, an ex-probowler whose career is fading, and a high draft pick speedster whose performance has been spotty to date. For every spectacular play BJ has produced (and there are several), he has disappeared for long stretches.
Still the depth lrder is not bare. Then there is the cast of thousand hope-to-bes.
I actually think the backup RB position is more of a concern.
KF has shown he can't carry the team for any amount of time replacing Dillon's 20 carries a game. OTOH, I am not sure that thereis a better 3rd down, and back out of the backfield guy, than KF in the League.
The depth is very thin. Pass can catch and back up KF, but he is nowhere near the 3rd down back. And he just doesn't have the run skills to replace a franchise back like Dillon othwer than for a blow or two.
This draft is poor in big backs; there are lots of KF understudies however. Were I the Pats, I would get a KF understudy in 2006 and wait for the Dillon understudy until 2007.
Addai seemed to be a good compromise as the understudy, but on close view he seems to be a Patrick Pass clone rather than a KF clone.
I am much more impresssed with Maurice Drew from UCLA. He has great speed, open field elusiveness, and good hands. Exactly the specs for a KF clone and dimensionally they could be twins.
KF has been a KO returrner, but not an impressive one, since for KOR you need speed and that is not a KF surplus commodity. OTOH, Drew is probably the best Punt Returner in college with 6 return TDs to his resume. I always wondered why KF was not a PR, as his elusiveness would seem to be better suited there, has not been used in that capacity. Another real longshot for 3rd down back is Taurean Henderson who holds the college record for receptions by a RB.
A third string TE might come from the draft and so would a QB. More likely though they will sign FA vets for both jobs.
I do not beleive there is any room for drafting OL talent better than what they have, outside of the first round. Britt looks like a coup to me, and Mankins and Kaczur are decade type pros. That issue was addressed last draft.
Now healthy he has the talent to be a #1 WR and MIGHT, undeline might, return to his early third year form. In which case, he is a #! WR candidate, above and beyond the physical limitations that will likely prevent Givens from taking that next step, and probably the reason he was a 7th and BB/SP didn't pay to keep him.
Ok, Caldwell could be a #1. So Could Childress. He's looked great. After all, Givens did it. How many catches did our entire WR group have last year?
Could we use a replacement for Pass or Evans? Sure. But it's not happening. We might draft a 6th rounder to push for the practice squad. If we need a running back next year, we'll pick one up, or draft him,, and expect him to play next year. I really don't like developmental running backs.
We have Roehl, Britt and Gorin competing for two spots. We probably could use another competitor. We need four badly.
We need to extend Koppen or Hochstein or we need to develop a center (at least a backup center), The 5th round is fine, although Mangold and Cook could be picked earlier. Also, I expect Koppen to begin the season on the PUP list. Even so, we have plently of players. We do need a backup center.
We need someone to compete with nobody for a roster spot. I expect a 2nd round, and another for camp fodder in the 6th or 7th (could be a free agent). Graham is in his contract year. This is the easiest pick in the draft (a TE at 52).
Please pass the koolaid. We have several question marks, including Branch's frailty and contr5act length. If we started today, did our entire staff have 100 catches among them last year? I know, Brady has to throw to someone. He;ll spread it around. After all, we have Brady. Before Brady sues for non-support, we need to vring in two first day wide receivers (or one from a trade).
That's five spots. Hopefully, a trade will reduce the need to four.
Why would the Chargers let a potential #1 WR go without trying to even match the low $$ the Patriots offered if he's a potential #1 WR? Would you go into a season with him as your #2 WR in FANTASY FOOTBALL let alone the real thing?
Everyone's just hoping that "early" 2005 wasn't a fluke and that the vast majority of his career isn't the norm for him - once that's dealt with he might want to start showing all his detractors in SD who are pissed they wasted a #2 pick on him that he can be a #2, let alone a #1.
I like guys with potential as much as the next guy, but for my #2 WR spot (or #1) I prefer guys that actually have proven track records rather than ACL tears.
There's no way BB & SP are standing pat with Caldwell as their #2 WR.
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