It is a crisp, efficient football mailbag this week, with lots of good questions that got right to the point. A good football game can produce plenty of good e-mail. As always, feel free to join in the fun by sending your e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, on with the show …
Nice job picking the Ravens. Before the baseball playoffs start, let me know who you like — I want to make sure to bet the other way.
A: Yep, I went with the Ravens over the Patriots. I got more than a little good-natured grief from several people who gave me a hard time for picking Baltimore. (Including — I kid you not — my mom.) I feel like a sucker. I bought into the hype. I always do with the Ravens. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for all things Baltimore — the food, the Inner Harbor and “The Wire.” Whatever the case may be, I’m not letting that happen to me again. At least, until the next time they meet. Postgame whining aside, I still think they have enough to go deep into January. Ed Reed, I wish I knew how to quit you!
What’s up? Love your work. Want to know who you thought had a worse Sunday — Mark Clayton or Joey Galloway?
A: Thanks for the compliment, Ray. Clayton had that bad drop at the end of the game, but in the end, I’d have to go with Galloway. A healthy scratch, he’s struggled to get the New England offense down since he arrived in the spring, with just seven catches for 67 yards through three games. (Perhaps the low point for him came in the win over Atlanta, when he had a bad red-zone drop. In addition, he got a HUGE sarcastic cheer from the fans when he did make a catch.)
“I think Joey’s worked hard since he’s been here,” director of player personnel Nick Caserio said on a conference call on Tuesday. “He’s getting more and more familiar with the system. Any player that is here on our team, we feel they can help us at any given point in time.”
With rookie Brandon Tate able to come off the reserve/non-football injury list in two weeks and Terrence Nunn on the practice squad, Galloway’s days in New England could be numbered. The Patriots only would be on the hook for $600,000 if they cut him loose, so it wouldn’t be a major financial hit if he was released.
What do make of the Patriots activating Raiders castoff Terdell Sands over second-rounder Ron Brace? Is it a scheme issue or an "out of shape" issue?
A: I’m not sure what to make of Sands getting time in place of Brace, who hasn’t seen the field at all the last two weeks. Because the Patriots have played some teams with different offensive looks the last couple of weeks — and Brace hasn’t seen the field in that time — it leads me to believe that it’s more of an “out of shape” issue.
I know the Patriots really like the progress that Myron Pryor has made over the last month or so, and they think enough of Sands to give him a two-year deal, so that’s not good news for Brace. After such a strong start, it certainly appears Brace has taken a sizable step back in his overall development. His situation bears monitoring going forward.
If Junior Seau does sign in the next week, it raises several questions. 1) What happened to the famous "I only have six games" quote? At this point he'd more than likely see action in over 10 regular-season games, plus (hopefully) three playoff games including the Super Bowl. If he only thinks he can go six games, he's going to be gassed way before the most critical need. 2) Where does he fit into the rotation? 3) Do they play more 3-4 with him in — thereby changing up their defensive scheme more?
A: I’ll take these points one at a time.
1) I think that “I only have six games” quote was made when Seau may not have had much of an idea whether or not he would come back, and if he did, he might not have known how much he would play — he was probably just throwing a ballpark number out there. I think that he could play more than six games, but he would be used sparingly along the way, allowing him to see more games than he originally might have thought possible. The days of Junior Seau playing more than 75 percent of the snaps are over. That being said, if the Patriots pace him properly, I think he could be a contributor deep into January.
2) I think he’s not a starter, but again, would see time at the middle or inside linebacker position. Assuming that Jerod Mayo returns this week, he would spell Gary Guyton at the other inside linebacker spot in the 3-4, probably in much the same way that Tedy Bruschi did last season. (If Mayo is healthy and the Patriots play 4-3, there’s no reason to have Seau in there. You have to have Mayo on the field as often as possible. Look, I really like Junior Seau, but if the Patriots are in a 4-3 and Mayo is healthy but on the sidelines in favor of Seau, something is VERY wrong.)
3) I think they would play some more 3-4 than they are doing now, but not too much more. Again, Seau is nice, but you’re not going to radically alter what you are doing because of his arrival. Assuming Mayo is back this week, keep playing 4-3 with Mayo in the middle. When you switch to 3-4, use Mayo at one linebacker spot at a combination of Seau and Guyton at the other position.
Something I am struggling with when looking at the Pats using my "logical" glasses. Maybe you can help.
It appears that even with a full preseason and practice schedule, it is not easy for a new receiver and quarterback to get on the "same page". This is magnified when you are dealing with a QB of Brady's intelligence and competitive nature and the Pats' complicated offensive scheme.
What then is the value in bringing in receivers midseason? Based on the above, they will either be "a body" or produce at a very unpredictable rate if at all. If they become "part of the solution" then why isn't everyone doing that, especially when given the entire training camp in which to get in sync with Brady? (All this says nothing about learning the playbook!)
My head is starting to hurt. I look forward to your input.
A: Mike — first, lie down and put a cold washcloth on your head. Second, there’s nothing wrong with your “logical” glasses: Bringing in a receiver in the middle of the season in the Patriots offense is a miserable idea. Worse than miserable. Awful. Terrible. I have talked to current and former wide receivers from the New England offense, and they all say this is a very difficult passing offense to learn. If you have to pick it up on the fly — during the season — there’s even less of a chance of you succeeding.
That leads me to a bigger point. Some guys aren’t going to succeed as a wide receiver in New England even if they come to Foxboro and have the benefit of a full spring of OTAs, minicamp, training camp and preseason. Some guys, it just doesn’t take, no matter how much success they’ve had in other places. If I had told you before the 2001 season that David Patten would have more success working with Tom Brady than Joey Galloway, you would have thought I was crazy. But some guys can pick it up, some guys can’t.
Do you think Terdell Sands will contribute this year or simply fill a roster slot? I don't know anything about this guy.
A: The Patriots signed Sands to a two-year deal, and I think that speaks volumes about what they think of him. The mammoth defensive tackle saw a few snaps in his first game with New England on Sunday against the Ravens and did well clogging up the middle. When Sands has gotten a chance, he’s played well. I think he’s going to be around for the foreseeable future — as long as he stays out of scrapes involving punters.
Looking at the replay of Terrell Suggs diving at Brady's legs Sunday, it looked like he was definitely taking a shot at him. What is your take on that play?
A: I watched it over and over and over again, and from what I saw, I don’t think Terrell Suggs was intentionally trying to take a shot at the quarterback. If you watch the replay here it appears (at least from my perspective) that Suggs and Dan Koppen were sort of tangled up, and Suggs appeared to stumble. (Not saying it didn’t look an awful lot like what Bernard Pollard did, but I don’t think they were trying to take a shot at him.)
I don’t think there was an intent to injure on the part of Suggs. But I wouldn’t be surprised if part of Baltimore’s game plan was to try to create havoc at Brady’s feet in an attempt to make him feel as uncomfortable in the pocket as possible. I’m not saying they were going out there to try to intentionally injure Brady. I wouldn't call it dirty and I’m not sure it warranted a flag, but he knew what he was doing.