Camp Questions....and perhaps even...

Discussion in ' - Patriots Fan Forum' started by patfanken, Jul 25, 2009.

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  1. patfanken

    patfanken Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

    #91 Jersey

    .....a few camp answers.

    Its been a while since I had enough to say to actually open a thread in my usual long winded manner, but since everyone else and their grandmother has had their say ( made available thanks to Box), I thought I'd offer my thoughts. Hopefully I will offer enough to make the read worthwhile, and if I can't offer more than Donaldson, feel free to delete it. ;)

    Now I am one of the lucky ones who is semi retired and living in SE MA, so I will get to a lot of practices this camp and I've been giving careful thought about what I want to consentrate on. We all know the OBVIOUS questions, such that they are, so I will try dig a deeper than "who will be the OL opposite AThomas".

    So in no particular order lets start with the OL. Now on the surface that would seem like an no brainer because the starters seem to set...and I agree. I saw a post (on a Jets site surprisingly) that showed the Pats individual OL grades. A score of .80+ was considered good. A score above .90+ was an all pro. It was interesting to note (as did the author) that the Pats were among a VERY few teams who had ALL five starters with grades over .80. What was somewhat more surprising was that local whipping boy Nick Kazcur had the 3nd highest score, only behind Mankins and Neal (who didn't play the entire season) Now when you concider these scores where accomplished admist the turmoil of Matt Cassel's education as an NFL QB, (which included 47 sacks) they are quite good, and by the end of the season the offense was amongst the best in the league.

    BTW- it should be noted that they Pat OL DIDN'T have any players with scores OVER .90 either...though I'm sure THAT little nugget didn't surprise anyone. ;)

    Now all that stuff is well and good, HOWEVER what I'm intrigued about, are the back ups. Over the next 3 years we are going to see a transition on the OL, just like we saw in the secondary, (and we should plan on a long discussion on this topic in 2010) and BB has been building toward it over the last couple of years and he reached a climax with the drafting of 3 OLmen in the top 5 rounds this year.

    So I find it fascinating that along with the THREE good looking rookies, we have the usual crowd of players looking to graduate from Scarnecchia U, like Britt, OCallahan, and Yates, along with the grizzled proven vets like Hockstein, and Al Johnson. And there is Marc Levoir....

    Here is a young guy who was an UDFA we very quietly found on waivers from the Rams very late in camp, after 2 very unspectacular seasons on the Bears PS, and he not only had a couple of very good starts, he managed to show flexibility and athleticism with a lot of special teams play. Quite frankly he very quietly opened some eyes down at Gillette

    Now here are some of my OL questions. Is LaVoire going to CONTINUE to be the primary backup to Light as he was in OTAs? How much time with the first and second group will Sebby Volmer play. Is he a 2-3 year project, or is his right out of the box, ready to compete for time? The same goes for Ornberger. Will Al Johnson, who was a 2nd rounder, and starter with BOTH the Cards and Cowboys, push Koppen for playing time. Johnson is a little bigger and taller than Dan, who had some trouble with big powerful NTs like the Jets' Kris Jenkins.

    Now to the Offensive backfield. Obviously it going to be RB by commitee with the talent laden Pats. This is a team that is planning for January right from the begining of August, and there is NO need to over burden ANY of the RBs with too much work over the course of the regular season. We have 3 guys who are pretty much interchangeable, even though they have dissimialar running styles, PLUS Kevin Faulk. So here are my questions

    Will a healthy Maroney be a slasher at last and fullfill his potential, even with a minium of carries? Will he stay healthy? Can Fred Taylor recapture a bit of the burst and vision he showed for SOOOO many years in Jacksonville. You know with running backs it can go so quickly...just ask Shaun Alexander. And will he ever catch a ball out of the backfield? Can Sammy Morris keep being....Sammy Morris? The same for Kevin Faulk. All but Maroney are really getting up their in RB age. Will they grab a FB off FA or will they use a combination of TE's and OLmen as blocking backs?

    Now to the QBs. Well we all know the QB quesitons. Let me give you a QB answer.. at least from what I have heard. Not to worry about the backup QB. They LOOOOOOVE Kevin O'Connell. To make it simple, think of Matt Cassel with a slightly better arm, and who is a faster more athletic version. (Brady must be sick with envy to have watched these kids run around) He also had FORTY college starts at SD State (take THAT Mark Sanchez)

    My questions for him will be to see improved accuracy and quickening decision making. Seeing him develp a comfort level in the pocket and the presence to STAY their and move WITHIN the pocket instead of running for cover at the first sign of pressure. (see the difference between Matt Cassel game 2 and Matt Cassel game 14)

    My questions on Brady are the same one we all have, and we'll save a lot of time by leaving it at that. :D

    Now moving over to the defensive side:

    The big three is set, and I expect big things, especially from Seymour in a contract year. This is his chance to make Albert Haynesworth money and I don't think he'll fail to take advantage of the opportunity. But like the OL the real interest for me will be what is going on with the rest of the unit.

    Now I expect to see some immediate dividends with the Brace signing. If he is as good as I expect, the Pats will be MUCH improved on the GL and short yardage this season. The Pats with Brace, can run some 4-3 with some REAL conviction, and run 2 different kinds with a combination of Wilfolk and Brace as DTs and one with Seymour and Wilfolk for somebig push up the middle. So the questions are: will he work out with Just the NTs or will he get some reps at DE and how many. Will the Pats show some 4-3 in camp and how much. What will be their alignment when they practice GL?

    I want to see if we see a healthier and more productive Jarvis Green. Will he be supplanted by Mike Wright or LeKevin Smith as the primary DE back up. Will either of the 2 rookie DTs show any promise?

    Now the LBs. For YEARS everyone has complained about our aged LBs. Well know with the exception of Bruschi and Thomas, we HAVE young and athletic LBs....a TON of them. and now we are going to see them play.

    I'll be looking to see if they keep Guyton strictly on the inside and who he's replacing in coverage packages. I'll want to see WHO they are playing on the strong side, Thomas or whomever. Will they flop sides or stay on the same side and flop responsibilities. I'll want to see if Vince Redd flashes any of that enormous athletic ability, or is he our version of "Vernon Ghoston", only a LOT less expensive. I'll want to see if they keep Thomas on the field on passing downs strictly to pass rush, or will he drop in cover as much. And then the obvious one Pierre Woods or Shawn Crabel. THAT WILL BE FUN to watch. And IMHO, we will be VERY happy with the results. No one ever heard of James Harrison during his first years with the Steeler either.

    Now the DBs. I'm kind of getting tired and their are just SOOO many questions here, but let me add this. I don't know how this will work out, but this is the DEEPEST and most TALENTED secondary I've seen in the BB years. Yes we might have had some starting units with more talent, but never almost 3 deep. Let just take CB for instance (and I've mentioned it before) We have 2 experienced vets, EACH of whom were their team's best CB last season. We have young guys BOTH of whon flashed starting talent with the limited experience they had last season. AAAAND we have rookie in Butler, who EVENTUALLY just may be the best of all of them, and right now he's just a luxury, where on a lot of teams he'd be expected to compete for a starting position.

    We not only added talent, we added SIZE and strength at the CB position with Boddin and Springs, along with Wilhite who is a long armed 5'11, (which is big for a Patriot CB ;) ) This will BE a factor in the improvement of our GL D this season (along with Brace up front)

    Compare this with say the Jets, who have very good front line talent, almost equal to ours except at QB and WR, but after their starters sit down or go down, they are dead in the water...and you can say that about the rest of the division... and there lies the key difference between the teams.

    Now one of the more interesting and untalked about issues that will be PARTICULARLY difficult to track during camp will be SPECIAL TEAMS....along with the NEW special teams coach. Its always hard to see whats going on from the stands. Our special teams last season were pretty UNSPECIAL. Now some of that can be explained by al the injuries, but some of it must have been partly the reason Brad Sealy is no longer the special teams coach. At any rate, the special teams have long been a priority of BB, and it will be interesting to see how several of the pickups, ie TBC will improve that production.

    Finally after thinking about last season. All the injuries, especially to Brady. The bad secondary. The spotty LB play. The long 3rd and longs given up. The lack of QB pressure. The 47 sacks. The horrid red zone play, No Tom Brady, etc, etc, etc. How the F did we manage to win 11 games....and now that we hope to have Brady back and a HOST of others, including our new additions, can we NOT manage to win just 3 more. :D

    Just food for thought
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2009
  2. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks Supporter Supporter

    De nada

    Copius note sharing is required.

    Yup, and "surprising" to who? ;)


    Yes, but 40 college starts reinforcing bad mechanics and a run-for-your-life pocket reality does leave me nervous over the short term, if he can get three years behind Brady/Cassel to reshape him, I'll feel better.

    Will a "healthy" Jarvis return to "normal," which is by definition "productive?"
  3. ctpatsfan77

    ctpatsfan77 Supporter Supporter

    #3 Jersey

    Well, clearly, despite those bad habits, they felt he represented good value in the third. :eek:

    That said, it does seem kinda ironic that with Cassel, they basically had to teach him that there is a clock, while with O'Connell it's basically teaching him that the OL is actually there to protect him. :)
  4. Mike the Brit

    Mike the Brit Minuteman Target Supporter

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    Yes. +1

    Add: fullback. Will the Pats go without one -- it looks like it? If so, how will that role be allocated? How much diminished? Candidates: the tight ends (but which ones?), Hochstein, and possibly BJGE.

    To be Devil's Advocate.

    We played two really horrible divisions (AFC and NFC West) and didn't really put away some of them -- games with Seattle and Rams were too close for comfort.

    We were way off the pace in three of the five games we lost. The two that were close were the Colts and (**curses**) the Jets. The only good teams we beat were Miami, the Jets (but only once each) and, arguably, the Cardinals (although that was a meaningless game for them).

    On the other hand, the team was on an upward curve for the last six weeks of the season as Cassel really grew into the starting role. I still believe that, if that team had made the play-offs, they would have been a match for anybody.

    For me, there are three big questions -- the linebackers, the secondary and the loss of McDaniels -- and lots of small ones (backups, the future of the lines, tight ends, special teams).

    I look forward to hearing all about all of them from you, Ken -- thanks!
  5. I was gonna read this post but I think I'll wait for it to come out in paperback:eek:
  6. fluoropolymer

    fluoropolymer On the Roster

    Not a peep about the Tight End position - which I think will be key this year. I expect teams to challenge the OL up the middle (let's admit it, Koppen is a bit light and can be moved) and as a result the other OLs will shade to the middle. That combined with the need to give a little help to Matt Light against speed rushers indicates to me that the TEs are going to play a major role guaranteeing that Brady stays upright. That being said, if the OL is as good as we want it to be and the TE can release, then a seam route down the middle to the TE should be a thing of beauty for this team. Do we have the TEs on the roster to accomplish this?
  7. patfanken

    patfanken Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    Box do I sense a feeling of forboding here. Trust me when I say that they feel they have anther kid who can start as an NFL QB, and while I doubt if it will be with the Pats, but he WILL be good enough to give us another first day draft pick, (or at least a second day pick based on the new draft format. ;))

    As to his mechanics, It will be something to watch, but remember they've had a lot time to refine any mechanical malfunctions Kevin might have had from his college days. BTW- wasn't his college coach an ex NFL QB (Chuck Long) You'd think he'd know enough to watch his mechanics. And on the plus side, 40 games game him hundreds of full speed looks at the defense. Hundreds of pressure situations. Hundreds of leadership opportunities. Its not full proof, but it gives him a foundation to build on, certainly a lot better than the one Cassel started with and as we know first hand, the guys down in Foxboro are pretty good at building unknown QBs into NFL starters ;)
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2009
  8. patfanken

    patfanken Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

    #91 Jersey

    All fair points about the schedule, but we should know that ALL NFL teams have "scholarship" players, and the gap from the Raiders to the Pats are small enough. Just look to the Miami turn around. That being said, I didn't say that it would be easy to win more than 11 games, but given the additions, it will be a lot easier than doing it WITHOUT Brady, Morris, Neal, Green, Thomas, Wheatley, Sanders, Bruschi, etc, etc for better parts of the year like we did last season.
  9. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks Supporter Supporter

    Linebackers: IMHO, this is trending in the right direction. The two veterans whom we positively know were on the radar (Taylor and Burgess) would have been situational players at best. They offer veteran leadership for the youngsters, and minor comfort for fans. I'm excited to see Woods, Crable, and Redd this season (Seymour's comments in the piece linked yesterday are a must read).

    Secondary: Meriweather a year wiser, Sanders back in place with his General's stars burnished, a fine mix of youth and veteran knowhow, speed, some potential for "pop" in the hitting department, did I mention speed? What me worry?

    B. O'Brien (presumably): BB poached Weis from Parcells to develop the base offense and offensive philosophy the two of them must have had numerous, and fascinating, bull sessions designing in the 90's, he plucked McDaniels from the Saban bush and groomed him under Weis (and himself no less), and now he has a former college OC groomed under McDaniels (and "no less" again) - promising line of march so far. Further, please note how all three OC/OC prospects of the decade worked alongside two crafty and oft overlooked veterans - Scarnecchia & Fears. Parallel to this discussion, (He-who-is-scraped-off-your-shoes-at-the-dog-run and maverick4 are excused from this exercise, we know your "thought."), name a Patriots' position coach or coordinator developed by BB who did not turn in a more than competitive performance during his tenure (Mangini haters please try for objectivity).
  10. patfanken

    patfanken Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

    #91 Jersey

    Naw, I have questions, but I was getting "winded" at that point. I think you make a good point on the TEs. The real question will be how many we keep and how they will be used. 3 WRs looks like it will likely continue to be our basic set, so you have to ask yourself how many TEs do we need in a roster that is overcrowded with legit NFL talent already.'

    On the other hand, "BB LOVES his TE's" and if we go W/O a legit FB, then we could very well keep all 4. That's one of the interesting things to watch for, though we likely won't know for real until the last cuts....or an injury makes the question moot.
  11. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks Supporter Supporter

    Foreboding - no. Objectivity in the wake of Cassel euphoria - an attempt, at least. I'm quite confident in O'Connell's tools, but I'm declining to too closely compare him to Cassel at this point.
    -- Cassel came into Foxboro with all the tools and a strong set of fundamentals, there was no talk of his mechanics needing remedial work.
    -- O'Connell, by his own admission, spent much of his rookie spring/preseason working on remedial throwing. He came into Foxboro with athleticism and toughness proven under fire, but as a Quarterback - a Brady as opposed to a Culpepper, for instance - he clearly needed to learn control, precision, and perhaps patience to take that exemplary tool set to the "next level." I believe one need only look at his won/loss record over those forty starts to say there was room for significant improvement.

    Should there be reason to need O'Connell as a starter, I don't wish to create expectations such as those some media, bloggers, and fans have created in the wake of Cassel's cheery raspberry at his doubters. I think the kid is okay and would - in time - develop into a solid starter with the aid of a Belichick coaching staff, but just as you caution against paranoia, I caution against euphoria. ;) I know only too well how easy to is to slip into bad habits under pressure, and as someone who trained people to conduct, survive, and succeed during hazardous operations, I look at O'Conell to date and pray he gets another year to reinforce his newly acquired skills before he gets his chance in the meat grinder.
  12. patfanken

    patfanken Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

    #91 Jersey

    And if he were a rookie, I'd agree whole heartedly. But he isn't he's a second year guy, and this is where you see the biggest leaps in improvement. I think he has BETTER tools than Cassel, not by any leaps and bounds, but his arm is stronger his athletic abilities are marginally better, and thats saying alot because, as we saw, Cassel is a hell of an athlete.

    The truest test comes, of course in the preseason games, and we will get a better idea of his progress there. Most likely he'll be better than you think, and not as good as I hoped, but we will NEVER know for sure how he'll do until he gets into regular season action, and we BOTH hope that won't come anytime THIS decade

    Suffice it to say, I wouldn't hate it if we went with only 2 QBs on the 53 man roster (is Guts still elegible for the PS). Weve done it before to add another position player. As it is we are going to have to let go some pretty good guys, I'd hate to add another so we can keep a BACKUP clipboard holder. We could always sign a vet (Griese) and have him in camp to learn the offense then cut him to save the roster spot, then have him on speed dial in case the unthinkable happens to back up OConnell (btw I do understand the need to have 3 QBs for practice. We just don't have to have all three on the roster)
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2009
  13. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks Supporter Supporter

    I'll be looking to see him executing the offense. Rookie or second year, it's still early days and kids in pressure cookers risk backsliding at the wrong time. Cassel's early games certainly gave us some examples. I expect the coaching to bring O'Con along, I'm just in no hurry.

    Gutierrez is eligible for the Practice Squad, but I'm not high on trying to sneak him there if he turns his preseason around from last year. Going with only 2 QBs doesn't attract me as much this year, though I'm tempted whenever I look at some of the depth at other positions and get that covetous impulse.
  14. PatsWickedPissah

    PatsWickedPissah Supporter Supporter

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    This is where the Eperson can make the team. Do well on STs, don't flunk out at WR or whatever and learn enough QB to be able to run out the clock (no turnovers) with the 2 starters out and the score ahead. That's enough for the 3rd QB.
  15. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks Supporter Supporter

    I don't want him anywhere near QB except on the Scout team. :snob:
  16. MoLewisrocks

    MoLewisrocks Supporter Supporter

    You could say the same about O'Connell in comparison to Brady coming into year two...and it would mean nothing because it was the intangibles Brady had and possibly Cassel has as well that allowed them to do what they did. Sometimes the best thing that can happen to a QB in college is not starting 40 games...particularly against inferior competition. Rather having to fight to start if at all and yet staying the course in, as Tommy so aptly put it, the tall grass.

    The truest test of a backup QB's viability in preseason is where BB slots him on the depth chart in week 3. And even then there is no guarantee he can actually run this offense under pressure in the regular season. BB gets a sense of that over time based solely on the way they handle the pressure of being coached by him while being evaluated alongside a HOF'er... Do they panic, do they overcompensate, do they give up...or do they embrace criticism and learn from rather than repeating their mistakes and do they continue to improve even in the face of a career roadblock destined for Canton who intends to play for another decade or so... Those here who base their assessments on moving the chains in pre season or sailing a pass in camp or what they've heard from the media are just deluding themselves when it comes to assessing a backup.

    They have Cassel as well as Brady to look forward to emulating now, but it will still require patience in the face of the distinct possibility they never see the field in a meaningful game for the duration of their time in which case they not will have the opportunity to produce the kind of body of work here that will get them tagged or land them a $60M deal or us a #34 pick...

    Heading into his second year here Cassel was pronounced more than competent by a guy who should know, since desided to retire as a result. Oddly two seasons later the vast majority of pundits and media and fans wanted to trade him to Walmart...because he threw a pick in garbage time during one of the rare Brady backup appearances in most seasons.
  17. Mike the Brit

    Mike the Brit Minuteman Target Supporter

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    Well, I'm optimistic too. But there's a "training camp fallacy" that (sorry for being a downer) we should be aware of. It's to say "think how much better we will be this year with all of those injured players back". The fallacy is that OF COURSE there will be injuries this year too. We don't know who they will be -- and let's hope they're not as serious as last year. But just listing the guys injured last year doesn't settle matters -- last year's team net of injured players and this year's before training camp or games have eroded the roster isn't a fair comparison.
  18. Mike the Brit

    Mike the Brit Minuteman Target Supporter

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  19. Mike the Brit

    Mike the Brit Minuteman Target Supporter

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    Well, I don't want to come over all negative, but I do get the feeling that the first season for each of our co-ordinators has been less good than what followed. Mangini's single season as DC was not great, although he is, I believe, an excellent coach, and I was more impressed by McDaniels last season than the season before (not, of course, that the offense wasn't much better that season!). I don't have an opinion on Dean Pees, but it's clear that the defense, for whatever reason, hasn't matched the heights of its days under Romeo.

    So, yes, I agree that Belichick sure can pick 'em -- but I'm still concerned that they need to get experience in the job.
  20. JMarr

    JMarr In the Starting Line-Up

    Until Brady proves that he's back physically and mentally, there's no way the Pats go with a depth chart of him, O'Connell, and Gutz/(Edelman) IMO. And even if/when Brady is back close to 100%, I really doubt BB would be entirely comfortable with O'Connell as his backup at this point--2nd year player, totally unproven, with what, zero NFL snaps at this point?

    Deja-vu to last summer: the Pats will be looking the bring in a vet backup. :ugh:

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