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Evaluating the Pats' offseason

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by Brady#12, May 20, 2006.

  1. Brady#12

    Brady#12 On the Game Day Roster

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    Retentions:
    OG Stephen Neal
    WR/CB/PR Troy Brown
    DB Randall Gay
    DL Richard Seymour
    DB Artrell Hawkins
    DB Chad Scott
    DB Guss Scott
    FB Heath Evans

    Analysis
    The key names here are Richard Seymour and Stephen Neal. Seymour was a free agent after the 2006-7 season, and many teams would've broken the bank to have him, because he's easily the best 3-4 defensive lineman in the league. The Pats locked him up through the 2009-10 season with a lucrative 3-year extension, which shows just how valuable of a presence he is. Seymour's sack numbers haven't been great the last couple of years, but he's nonetheless been a force as a pass rusher, and it was no coincidence that once he returned to full health after missing several games last season that the Pats' run defense once again became its former stingy self.
    As for Neal, one need only look at what he did in the game against Atlanta last season to see how valuable he is. Possibly the most athletic guard in the league, Neal has made a name for himself by developing [under the tutelage of Belichick and OL coach Dante Scarnecchia] into one of the premiere guards in the AFC, particularly on screens and stretch plays, which the Patriots run with great frequency, despite not having played any football in college. Teams like the Vikings, Bills, Texans and Cardinals showed great interest in him, but ultimately he decided to stick with the winner.
    Among the others, DBs Gay and Hawkins look to compete for playing time at both corner and safety after having contributed significantly in the last two seasons, with Chad and Guss Scott, both of whom missed most of last year, should also figure into that mix. Troy Brown brings a veteran presence and reliable hands to a young wide receiver corps, which he has since his pro bowl season in 2001, as well as incredible versatility. Evans will likely miss the final cut.

    Losses:
    DC Eric Mangini [Jets]
    OLB Willie McGinest [Browns]
    WR David Givens [Titans]
    K Adam Vinatieri [Colts]
    OT Tom Ashworth [Seahawks]
    TE Christian Fauria [Redskins]
    WR/PR Tim Dwight [Jets]
    LB Matt Chatham [Jets]
    CB Duane Starks [Raiders]
    CB Tyrone Poole [Raiders]
    LB Chad Brown

    Analysis
    A lot of people like to talk about the Pats going into a decline this season because of all these losses, but let's look at just how much they did lose.
    The one that hurts the most, in my opinion, is McGinest, because he leaves an unknown at the rush linebacker position, where he has provided consistent production over the last decade-plus. His 4-sack performance in the playoffs against Jacksonville clearly showed that he still has something left in the tank, despite his age, and he will be a boon to a young Cleveland defensive unit.
    David Givens' departure shocks noone, because it was widely believed, even before the offseason began, that he would seek #1 receiver money, which he was unlikely to get from the Patriots. Now, Givens had been a pretty reliable target for Brady since his emergence in the middle of the 2003 season, and because of that the team gave him a competitive offer to get him to stay, but there was no chance of him accumulating pro bowl numbers in an offense that spreads the ball around as the Patriots do, so he ultimately bolted for Tennessee, where he'll be the go-to guy for either a mediocre veteran or an unpolished rookie, rather than being a #2 receiver for the best QB in the league. Ultimately, that's his loss.
    Adam Vinatieri defecting to the arch-rival Colts did shock a lot of people, myself included. But he had more sentimental value than real value at this juncture. Yes, he was one of the most accurate kickers in the league, but he wasn't always consistent. In 2003, for instance, he only made 73.5% of field goals [only 9 of 16 from over 30 yards]. The next year, he bounced back with a remarkable 93.9%, but after that he settled at 80%, which is about his career average. Yes, his clutch performances are unmatched in league history, and there's no taking away from that, but what it really means is that the offense will have to work harder and make extra yardage, and perhaps go for it more often on 4th down [they made 13 of 17 attempts on 4th down last year, by the way]. I have faith that Stephen Gostowski will do a fine job in Vinatieri's place, and Gramatica will be an improvement over him in the kickoff department.
    Hiring Eric Mangini as their head coach was a huge gamble by the Jets. The guy did a decent, but unspectacular job with the Patriots defense last season, in his only year as defensive coordinator. Certainly not enough to warrant a promotion, in my opinion. Perhaps it will pay dividends, perhaps it won't, but there's no reason not to believe Dean Pees won't do a better job in that role, especially with so many players who were injured last season returning.
    The rest of the personnell the Pats lost consisted primarily of veterans who were past their prime, and special teamers/bit players. Tim Dwight did a fine job as a punt returner last year, but is a marginal receiver at best. Christian Fauria did a fine job as a starting tight end in 2002, but had since then dropped to third on the depth chart, and didn't have a single catch until week 10 last season. Matt Chatham was primarily used in the kicking game. Duane Starks was a complete bust last year, after the team had, lamentably, given up a 3rd round draft pick for him. Tyrone Poole was a key performer on the 2003 super bowl team, but had been injured for virtually the entire '04 and '05 seasons. Tom Ashworth was a guy who did a decent job as a starter on two super bowl champion lines, but had lost his starting job to Brandon Gorin last season. The fact that the team did not make an offer to keep him around is telling, though I believe he can and will be a solid starter for the Seahawks, just as he was here.
     
  2. Brady#12

    Brady#12 On the Game Day Roster

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    Additions:
    WR Reche Caldwell [F.A., Chargers]
    SS Tebucky Jones [F.A., Dolphins]
    K Martin Gramatica [F.A., Colts]
    SS Mel Mitchell [F.A., Saints]
    CB Eric Warfield [F.A., Chiefs]
    RB Laurence Maroney [Draft, Minnesota]
    WR Chad Jackson [Draft, Florida]
    TE David Thomas [Draft, Texas]
    FB Garrett Mills [Draft, Tulsa]
    OT Ryan O'Callaghan [Draft, California]
    K Stephen Gostowski [Draft, Memphis]
    OLB Jeremy Mincey [Draft, Florida]
    OG Dan Stevenson [Draft, Notre Dame]
    NT Lekevin Smith [Draft, Nebraska]
    ILB Freddie Roach [UDFA, Florida]
    OLB Pierre Woods [UDFA, Michigan]

    Analysis
    As usual, the Patriots decided to build their team through the draft, rather than splurging in free agency. Why mess with such a successful approach, after all?

    The 'big' F.A. additions look to be Caldwell and Warfield. Caldwell, I believe, can be a solid slot receiver here, as he was in San Diego the last two seasons. He will not replace David Givens, though he has similar measurables [and arguably better speed]. He has been working on building a rapport with Tom Brady since his acquisition, and Brady seems to have developed a good deal of confidence in him, which is a good sign. The guy still has plenty of upside, and may be another David Patten in the making.
    Warfield is a guy who was brought in to provide depth and veteran leadership to a young CB corps, but will compete for a starting position. He's a big, physical corner who fits well into the Belichick defense, despite lacking great speed. He does have some playmaking ability, having registered 4 straight seasons with 4 interceptions from '01 to '04.
    Tebucky Jones is, obviously, a guy who knows how to play in a Belichick defense, and will be a solid fall-back option in case Rodney Harrison isn't ready to return at the start of the season.

    Our draft was, as usual, full of surprises, focusing primarily on the offensive side of the ball, despite question marks on defense. Laurence Maroney was either the 2nd or 3rd running back on most draft boards, bringing to the table an ideal combination of size, speed and quickness. The rushing offense in which he played in Minnesota has a lot of similarities to that of the Patriots, and he's used to splitting carries, which he will likely do as a rookie. Maroney is a guy who uses his blocks extremely well, and should benefit from a very active, athletic offensive line.
    Chad Jackson was one of the big steals of the 2006 draft, being taken with the 36th overall pick [same position as another guy named Chad, by the way], despite being the top-rated wideout on most draft boards. Jackson is clearly this class' most complete receiver, with tremendous hands, speed in the 4.35 range, and excellent route-running skills. Jackson looks to be an upgrade over David Givens at the #2 WR position, and looks to challenge for a starting role right off the bat. With his speed and size [6'1", 212 lbs], Jackson, for the first time in a long time, provides the Patriots with a wideout who can really stretch the field, and may warrant double-teams. If he can live up to his potential, he, along with Deion Branch and tight end Ben Watson, should help make the Patriots offense into one of the league's most explosive.
    Taking David Thomas in the third round and Garrett Mills in the 4th after spending first round picks on tight ends in '02 and '04 puzzled a lot of people, but on closer inspection, these choices aren't so strange as they're made out to be. Daniel Graham, used primarily as a blocker and short-range receiver is a free agent after this season and will likely not be brought back. Thomas will likely take his spot as the #2 tight end on the depth chart behind Ben Watson after a stint as the #3 guy in an offense that uses a lot of multi-TE sets. He was rated as having the best hands in this year's class at the position. Mills projects to fullback/H-back as a pro because of his lack of ideal size. In college, he lined up all over the field on offense and broke a number of receiving records. He should make for an excellent 'safety valve' type target for Brady.
    Jeremy Mincey was rated as a 3rd round or 4th round pick on most boards, but the Pats managed to steal him in round 6. He will challenge 4th year veteran Tully Banta-Cain [who has logged an increasing number of snaps with the first-string defense over the last two years] and 2nd year linebacker Ryan Claridge [last year's 5th round pick, who was placed on IR during training camp] for Willie McGinest's job. Mincey only ran about a 4.85 in the 40 at the combine, but plays faster than he times. He's got a tremendous motor and was very often in the quarterback's face as a DE in Florida. He's a project, make no mistake, but he has the potential to be a solid starter at the NFL level.
    Lekevin Smith should provide a solid option at nose tackle if Vince Wilfork goes down with injury. O'Callaghan and Stevenson add more depth to what is already one of the league's deepest offensive lines.

    Overall grade: B-*

    It's hard to say that the team is any weaker than it was last season, when it logged a 10-6 record despite a brutal early schedule and a plethora of crippling injuries to key players. The offense should break into the top-5 in the league, after ranking 7th last season despite the lack of a consistent running game. The defense has a few question marks, but there's reason for optimism after two solid showings in the playoffs least year. The young guys we had at corner really started to step up late in the year, and there's some 'hidden' depth at linebacker with guys like Banta-Cain, Claridge and Beisel behind the known starters. The Pats also have the best 3-4 D-line in the league, which will help any linebacker that plays behind it, but the defense logged considerable time in a 4-3 alignment last season, as well, so they should be ready to make that transition, if the need arises.
    Oh, and let's not forget that this year's schedule is much softer than last year's.

    *If they sign Ty Law, it goes up to a B+
     
  3. AllabouttheVinces

    AllabouttheVinces Practice Squad Player

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    #12, you nailed it with this analysis. Nice job. I'd like to be as optimistic as others on this board, but to be objective, you have to identify the weaknesses as well, and you've done that. A B- grade is fair. We are weaker at LB, have significant questions at safety and WR depth, and have had big turnover at key spots in ST. Look for opponents to try to exploit these potential weaknesses.

    OTOH, look for an offensive powerhouse in '06. Depth on the O-Line is the best in the BB era. The Dillon-Maroney tag team could be the best ever. Look for a similar Faulk-Mills tag team on screens. Jackson looks like a steal in round 2. The only weaknesses on O are backups at QB and WR.

    The Pats won SB36 with a defense-first team. If the defense allowed more than 17 points, odds are the Pats would lose that year. Look for the opposite in '06. This is a team where the offense will carry the defense. Can we win if we don't score 24? I hate to say it, but that sounds like the Colts.
     
  4. Urgent

    Urgent In the Starting Line-Up

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    #24 Jersey

    I've seen this line several times when talking about David Thomas: well, Daniel Graham is going to be a free agent in 2006. Thomas might replace his position in 2007.

    Well, note that Asante Samuel and Dan Koppen are free agents in 2006. There were no corners or centers taken. You could make a case that both are currently more critical to the Patriots than Graham - where the Pats have another first round pick at the position.

    With all their cap space, the Pats could choose to re-sign and extend Graham if that is a concern.

    Further, Willie McGinest and Chad Brown were free agents this year and were actually, not potentially, lost. The Patriots need to replace a linebacker this current season. Poole and Starks were released at corner. The Pats lost actual depth at cornerback.

    David Thomas may be a good player in the Patriots system. However, if you are going to argue that it was really a 'need' pick, you really have to ignore current needs and other potential future needs.
     
  5. AzPatsFan

    AzPatsFan Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    A retrospective...

    Nothing stays the same. Belichick knows this even if fans don't, and is making changes on purpose. The only surprise that I think he saw was that all the great linebacking talent was gone before he could make a pick. And he responded without panicking. Other than that, all the other changes were at least partially instigated by him, or at least not intercepted and prevented by him.

    He could have franchised Adam or paid Givens and Willie.
    He chose not to do so.

    He could have fought for Ashworth or Chatham.
    He chose not to do so.

    He could have chosen to keep Starks and Poole and Brown,
    He chose not to do so.

    From these actions or non-actions, I deduce a few things. He won a SuperBowl with the young DBacks or worse materiel, and feels he can do so again. He believes the secondary is a whole lot better than some He sees the real depth in the LB corps that we don't see not being at practice and was willing to promote them. He did not go off and sign or trade for LB help immediately after the draft. He solved the Offense's needs for a couple or three years. Now all he needs to do is let it mature under his Coaches care.

    His response to the taking of the LBs before he could get one was commendable, in retrospect. He could have gambled on a conversion of Lawson; instead he did the sure and certain thing and solved a future (and maybe current) need for a franchise back after Corey. He hopes he solved the current (and maybe future) need for a highly skilled receiver or two (TE)or three (future Larry Centers).

    I don't know that I would not have gambled on Lawson. But Bill makes solid bets and doesn't gamble with his own #1 picks. He chooses to gamble with other people's money and spends his bonus picks there and packages them to insure his own picks are more worthwhile. He believes incremental investments add up over time, and not missing on a first rounder is very important. And who is to call him wrong ? This Pariots roster is becoming truly intimidating to opponents. Good solid players everywhere and most of them still not yet reaching their prime, unlike what he was forced to win with heretofor.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2006
  6. PatsWickedPissah

    PatsWickedPissah PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Disable Jersey

    Losses:
    DC Eric Mangini [Jets] Unproven, but a net LOSS
    OLB Willie McGinest [Browns] Loss; TBC best candidate
    WR David Givens [Titans] Loss - draft & FA attempts @ replacement
    K Adam Vinatieri [Colts] Loss - draft & FA attempts @ replacement
    OT Tom Ashworth [Seahawks] JAG - younger, cheaper guys available
    TE Christian Fauria [Redskins] JAG & old - replaced via draft
    WR/PR Tim Dwight [Jets] JAG
    LB Matt Chatham [Jets] JAG - BB saw the upside - minimal
    CB Duane Starks [Raiders] Addition by subtraction
    CB Tyrone Poole [Raiders] Addition by subtraction
    LB Chad Brown Addition by subtraction

    The FA DBs and guys coming off IR cover the DBs we lost to FA. Chad Brown was addition by subtraction. BB obviously feels that Claridge, TBC and others signed will back up the LB corps. Remember, he sees the LB position differently than others do. Interesting dynamica at FG kicker. I like his move with the Vinitraitor.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2006
  7. Brady#12

    Brady#12 On the Game Day Roster

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    I think these will be the biggest veteran losses that may have a slight affect on our chances of winning close games IMO.
     
  8. mgteich

    mgteich PatsFans.com Veteran PatsFans.com Supporter

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    I guess if it ended now, I would agree with the B- grade, but there is a long way to go before the start of Game Two when we will know our roster and the off-season changes much better. How can Management get better than B- if they really leave $12M on the table and count on Cladwell and Banta-Cain and Chad Scott or Warfield.

    I do believe that we will have an "A" preseason before it's done. I expect that we will still add 3 or 4 players who will make the roster. Of course, Law and a veteran QB are most likely. In addition, I believe that we will have at least one extension. One of ther centers seems the best bet.
     

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