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August 12, 2005
Cassel Impresses, Davey Depresses
BY: Kevin Rousseau

Watching pre-season football is the equivalent of going to one of those really large Chinese all-you-can-eat buffets.

It’s a blast for the first fifteen minutes but then you start to ask yourself “Just what in the world was I thinking when I decided to spend my time on this endeavor?”

With that analogy, welcome to yet another season of Patriots’ pre-season opinions and coverage from this space. Over the next four weeks, we’ll debate who should be the fourth-string safety, offensive coordinator and local dog catcher.

So let’s begin with Friday nights 23-13 convincing win over the Cincinnati Bengals. They’re a few good bits of Patriots chow mein worth chewing on.

First up on the buffet table is one Rohan Davey. Frankly, this dish looks a little stale and will be shortly taken off the menu. After his dismal performance with the first team offense against an average-at-best Bengals defense (along with the impressive quarterbacking of rookie Matt Cassel), it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that Davey wasn’t allowed on the team plane back home to New England.

After three seasons, one would think that he would at least have some sense on the fundamentals of the position. He appeared hurried and off balance most of the time. Whereas Cassel, despite hardly playing during his college career at USC, was poised and in control of the situation much of the time.

Of course, one game does not make a NFL quarterback, yet Cassel showed more potential against the Bengals than Davey did in any setting over the last three seasons. And get this: Cassel doesn’t mind scrambling and is decisive when doing so. Gil and Gino even compared his style to an early Steve Grogan circa 1976.

The other point that this dismal performance clarifies is that the signing of Doug Flutie to back up Tom Brady looks even more appetizing now. Could you image Davey running around against the Jets and Dolphins in December with playoff implications on the line? I certainly can’t and I’m pretty sure that neither can Bill Belichick.

Besides the play of Cassel, the story that will come out of the game is the non-participation of Mr. Brady in the evening’s main course. It isn’t time to sound the alarm bells or call the Board of Health yet; but if he does not play this coming Thursday against the Saints, it may be time to start to worry a little about the Franchise.

A few weeks ago, I wondered when my Patriots flip would get switched. It got turned on a little tonight as I took in the game and started to get my head around this season. The entrée I missed most was not hearing Tedy Bruschi’s name called once during the game. I’ve experienced a lot of favorite Patriot players come and go over the years (Martin, Milloy, even Marion Butts…), but few have evoked the emotion that rose to the surface when I realized that he really isn’t around anymore.

With that, the reality of a new season has finally sunk in. It will be different this year, as it is every year. Yet suddenly, the rose-colored glasses don’t look as cool as they used to. Bruschi wasn’t the best player on a lot of Sundays but he could be counted on to make three or four big plays a game. Given how close most NFL games are these days, those three or four plays are usually the deciding factor in determining just who is victorious.

Rohan Davey is not one of those players and perhaps Matt Cassel is. What Friday night’s trip to the NFL’s version of the super Chinese buffet has made crystal clear is that such players like Bruschi are rare. When glimpses of such greatness are seen in young talent like Cassel, it makes you want to come back next week for another punch on your frequent diner card.


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