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August 06, 2005
Where Things Are After A Week
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net

FOXBOROUGH -- So, will Romeo Crennel stop by next week?

Training camp hit the one week mark on Friday, which means seven less days of hard work in stifling heat and humidity to worry about. The position battles are on in full force, and some of the battles are hotly (no pun intended) contested. Brainwork as well as brawnwork abounds out at the Gillette Stadium practice fields; some players are having more problems with the former than they are the latter.

Meanwhile, the adoring fans sit at home, read the papers, and still think that a trip to Detroit in February is a rite of passage.

The fans that go to the practices might think differently. They actually see the dropped passes, the non-defended receivers, the players getting chewed out, and the coaches going off on some technical issue you the fan don’t understand. They see the raw emotion, they see the sweat, they see the teaching and learning. Ask them if they think a trip to Motown is a given, and they may chew you out.

And if you ask Bill Belichick if Super Bowl XL is a cinch, expect a response somewhat akin to someone who just stubbed their big toe on the coffee table.

Here is where things pretty much stand right now, position by position:

Quarterback The scouts who gave Matt Cassel a high vote of confidence seem to be right on. A fierce battle is shaping up in camp over who will be Tom Brady’s backup. Rohan Davey seems to be continuing his pattern of underachievement, while Doug Flutie hasn’t set the world on fire like everyone would like him to. The skinny: Look for Cassel to have the inside track on the number two spot. Brady himself provides inspiration for quarterbacks drafted low to make meteoric rises on the depth chart.

Running back Surprisingly, very little of substance has come out of this area. Absent of any character questions, what is there to pester Corey Dillon about? His new contract keeps that championship smile on his face, but this is a guy who simply became everything the Patriots envisioned that he would. The skinny: At some point, Cedric Cobbs needs to get mentioned by those who are covering camp. This is a case of no news being bad news.

Receivers If Tim Dwight is going to make this team, it looks like he will have to do so as a kick returner. He is dropping passes all over the place, and in a position crowded with talent, that can be lethal. The other focal point of interest is Brady’s former Michigan teammate David Terrell. About the only thing they want him to do better is to run faster. All other reports are positive regarding the mercurial former Bear wideout. The skinny: Terrell and Troy Brown are the top backup wideouts, and Christian Fauria will force Belichick to keep four tight ends because the coach won’t be able to cut either him or Jed Weaver.

Offensive line Logan Mankins is the opposite of Cobbs, that being no news is good news. He is in a battle with Russ Hochstein for left guard. Brandon Gorin and Tom Ashworth are duking it out for right tackle. Even Gene Mruczkowski is getting good reviews. The Skinny: No retirements yet. Look for a grin on Dante Scarnecchia’s face, especially if the Patriots start the year with two Super Bowl XXXVIII starters as backups.

Defensive line Cutting Ethan Kelley (the only other true nose tackle on the team other than Vince Wilfork) was a rather bold move, though he failed the conditioning test. With Richard Seymour back in the fold, the “A” unit will be there for opening day and is as good as it gets in the league. We’re still waiting for the rave reviews to come in regarding Rodney Bailey. The skinny: Jarvis Green was extended for a reason. The timing on that extension was also for a reason. Seymour’s okay now, but he might not ever be seen house-hunting in the Foxborough area.

Linebacker Oh, to have Chad “Zone Blitz” Brown in his 20s. He is complaining that he is having a hard time learning the system. Fine, give him this year’s Donald Hayes Trophy. Of note: Roman Phifer is still out there for the taking…back. What you all should do is to sit back and daydream of what the defense will be like with Rosevelt Colvin at full speed. The skinny: Dan Klecko’s last chance to carve out a niche on this team is at fullback if he can’t find some way to contribute at inside backer. Mike Vrabel needs to stay on the outside, period.

Secondary Interesting comment recently by Tom Curran of the Providence Journal. To paraphrase, he said that Randall Gay played soft in the Super Bowl only after Eugene Wilson went down with his injury, because he did not have the deep buffer to fall back on. Gay has had an excellent camp and is still highly regarded by the coaching staff. The Patriots have suddenly gone from “Omigosh, we need Brown to play both ways!” to plenty deep at the corner position. The skinny: Wilson can stay at free safety for the foreseeable future.

Special teams Not one tidbit to come out of the kicking game other than the kicker is the franchise player. Dwight may still yet be cut, but it’s hard to ignore his past great work in this area. Of course, you can say the same for Chad Morton. The skinny: Adam Vinatieri isn’t going anywhere, right?

Coaching Things are going so well for the two-time champs, Charlie Weis bolts for Notre Dame and still manages to make an appearance at camp. The only complaints from a systematic point of view, if you can call them complaints, are on the offensive side of the ball. While everyone is calling the defensive transition sans Crennel pretty much seamless, many of the offensive comments center around things like “we’ll get it down, don’t worry”. Brady’s timing has been off pretty much all camp long. The skinny: The more Belichick complains about basics, the better.


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