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Here we go…

…It’s time for the start of the NFL season later today…well, for everyone but the Broncos and Ravens of course.  The Patriots have been shuffling the back end of their roster all week.  Now that it seems to be complete (at least for this week maybe?), I’ll make a few comments on it and the moves that led to it.  I’ll also throw a few thoughts about the actual game…a game that the Pats should really win pretty handily I would say.  Though with a new head coach and a new QB that no one has any history on (at the professional level anyway), as well as a RB tandem that is pretty damn good (with the backup, Fred Jackson, a guy that has consistently gashed the Pats D), I suppose you never really know until you step on the field.  I still feel pretty good about it though.

Roster thoughts:

*I really thought Tebow would make the team.  If they were going to take the plunge with him at all, I figured it would be a long term thing.  Give him a chance to develop, though he may never have.  Build some plays over time specifically for him, which they seemed to do in the preseason.  Maybe that was the plan, then he played like total garbage in the games.  And also supposedly wasn’t great in practice.  So maybe that forced their hand, who knows?  There had to be some weight given to the fact that he was playing with mostly 3rd string type guys around him, or no better than backups anyway.  Maybe around starters he would have been better?  Yeah, doubtful, I know.  Wouldn’t rule out him coming back down the road, if there is ever a need for a 3rd QB.  No one else (in the NFL) will sign him.  And it seems he won’t go to any other leagues.  It also appears he doesn’t want to attempt to change positions.  So he will be out there.

*Some of the guys I felt were locks to make it, did not.  Benard, Francis, Mesko, Ballard specifically.  Not sure what happened with Ballard.  Everyone was talking him up all of the preseason.  He was running with the ones for most of it.  Then he is out there in the last quarter in the last game…never a good sign.  Didn’t look like he was running well, but of the 2 active TEs that we will go with, neither can really block (Sudfeld, Hoo-man).  Maybe they use Develin and/or reserve lineman somehow for that blocking TE role.  Mesko, I get.  Liked the guy, but Allen supposedly has a better leg.  Money probably had something to do with it (also seeing Mesko had one year left on his deal), but if Allen was a stiff, they probably wouldn’t have kept him to save a couple of bucks.  He’s never held for kicks though, so it’ll be interesting to see if that affects the operation and Gostkowski’s accuracy, at least at the beginning of the year.  Benard was getting talked up too, but maybe that was all a mirage.  The biggest surprise of this group to me was Francis.  I guess he was hurt, but he was just waived with an injury settlement.  So he is not on IR anymore and is free for anyone to sign.  I thought he showed some promise last year and the DT depth is scary thin.  Maybe there is more to the story.

*The secondary concerns me most.  I’m still more than fine with the offense.  The defensive front seven, despite lacking some depth, should be pretty stout.  But the secondary…I was surprised they did not give Dowling another year.  But then when no one has picked him up yet, maybe I shouldn’t be all that surprised?  (Side note:  Remember the past few years when they had all these guys that were hyped up at the end of the roster, but they couldn’t keep them all?  Then when they released them, fans went crazy (Oh my GOD, I cannot believe they released WILL YEATMAN!  He was going to be the next great TE!) and a lot of teams actually did make waiver claims on a lot of them (even though most have amounted to nothing)?  What was it, I think one of their cuts got signed this year (Mesko)?  So much for “too much depth”).  Adrian Wilson apparently is finished.  Harmon, Ryan and Tavon Wilson are very unproven.  Cole and Ebner are really just special teamers.  Dennard probably should be in jail…and may end up there at some point this year…if they stop pushing off his hearing.  Arrington is much better when he is the 3rd CB and not 2nd, etc…talk about scary…and we haven’t even mentioned Gregory yet.

*I wish I understood all the moves made this week.  Just all the ins and outs.  I get some of it.  Maybe they really wanted a guy like Kline, but just enough for the practice squad, but don’t think they can put him there initially so they play some games to make sure they keep him.  So he makes the initial 53, then gets cut a few days later, clears waivers because all the other teams have set their rosters, then goes to the practice squad (and of course is back on the 53 this week for whatever reason).  But the Cole, Develin, Washington ins and outs?  More practice squad stuff with Cave and/or the other (from Miami) Francis?  Cole was gone for a day.  Maybe he was in on it.  I don’t know.  Some of the roster shuffling just confuses me.  Tarpinian makes the initial 53 (or 51 actually), then gets released and signed to the practice squad.  Then gets released from there.  All within a week.  Weird.  Also the fact that the Pats claimed 4 dudes on waivers right at the start was a little odd as well.  Bad teams usually make a lot of claims, good ones don’t.  But, in Bill we trust, I suppose.  Just wish I knew why they had to do all of that.  Seems like it would be interesting to hear..,to me anyway.

Game thoughts:

*As I said above, the Pats should win easily, though I am not predicting a score here.  (Nor am I making season predictions like I did for the Sox.  That way, I cannot be wrong).  It’s a little concerning that they will go into the game with only 3 safeties active, and two of them are Gregory and Tavon Wilson.  We also don’t know what Dennard will look like back there, because he hasn’t played (and that’s if he even does play the game, we don’t know yet).  I imagine the Bills will play to their strength of running the football (at the same time taking some pressure off their rookie QB).  Even though Spiller and Jackson can create problems, the Pats D is built to stop the run, so hopefully they can limit the damage there.  I don’t see Manuel coming out firing balls all over the place, despite Stevie Johnson saying no one can cover him, but again, I guess you never know what people tend to do when they are new.  Especially when that is a way to beat the Pats, throwing into their secondary.  So we shall see.  It’ll be great to get this season going, that’s for sure.

Finalizing the 53…

Continuing on from the last post…filling out the defense, special teams and the various “lists”:

DE-(5):

  1. C. Jones–L
  2. Ninkovich–L
  3. Benard–L
  4. Francis–L
  5. Bequette

* No one has seen anything at all from Bequette yet.  But even though Bill has no problem cutting high draft choices, he may get one more year to prove himself.  Feel like he gets a spot because of that.  There’s a depth issue here too, as no one knows what to expect out of Benard or Francis, though the Pats seem to be high on the both.  Hoping that Chandler takes the next step up.

DT-(4):

  1. Wilfork–L
  2. Kelly–L
  3. Fortson
  4. Vellano

*Thin.  That’s an understatement.  Makes you wonder why they let Love and Deaderick go so easily a long time ago.  I know they expected Armstead to make some noise here, but who knows if he would?  Vellano is the 4th DT, but there were really no other choices.  Unless you count Cunningham, who played a little in that spot last year.  But he’s been MIA and I’m guessing he ends up on IR.  Not a big loss anyway.  So Vellano started last night, guess that gives him a leg up.  There will be some action here in the next week or so.

LB-(5):

  1. Mayo–L
  2. Spikes–L
  3. Hightower–L
  4. Collins–L
  5. Fletcher–L

*Another somewhat thin group, but the way I see it, Ninkovich and Benard can play a LB-type role as well, so there is some depth there.  Guys like Koutouvides and Rivera could likely be signed later (especially after Week 1, where some contract guarantees go out the window).  Possibly even Tarpinian, who never went anywhere last year when released and was able to land back on the practice squad.  The same will probably happen this year.  At least the upper end talent seems to be strong here.

CB-(6):

  1. Talib–L
  2. Arrington–L
  3. Dennard–L
  4. Ryan–L
  5. Dowling
  6. Cole

*Not sure how completely healthy Dennard is, or what the status is going forward about his overall availability.  But feel like he will still factor into the mix, even though Arrington apparently will go back to starting in the regular defense…at least for now.  I really wanted to cut Dowling.  But based on the fact that he is still around (though apparently still injured…surprise!), I really feel like they will keep him active and give him one more shot.  Wanted to cut Cole too, but with the uncertainty around Dennard and Dowling, and for his special teams value, felt he will find a way onto the roster…at least until there was a better option available.

S-(5):

  1. McCourty–L
  2. Gregory–L
  3. Harmon–L
  4. A. Wilson
  5. T. Wilson

*People keep trying to get rid of Gregory, but he is clearly the 2nd best option back there now…scary as that sounds.  Harmon is no great shakes it appears, but he is a 3rd rounder this year, so he sticks.  I have some questions about Adrian Wilson however.  I think he makes it, but I think the impact that he will have will be much less than what fans expected…or at least hoped for.  Tavon Wilson seems like a 2nd round bust from a year ago.  It was said at some point last year that he could surprise people.  But I have heard nothing but negative things about him this year.  He should get one more year, simply because again, there are really no options behind him.  But he is far from safe.

Specialists-(3):

  1. Gostkowski (K)–L
  2. Mesko (P)–L
  3. D. Aiken (LS)–L

*Gostkowski has had some trouble it appears this preseason.  But that could be partly due to the whole operation (snapper/holder) and not just him.  Most teams bring in another kicker in camp, to ease the burden at the very least.  But the Pats did not.  He is secure.  Mesko is in the final year of his contract and Ryan Allen is/will be much cheaper.  Plus Allen is an accomplished college punter.  But if there was a true competition in the preseason, Mesko still won.  Plus, Mesko has experience as a holder, Allen does not.  I think they like Allen, but not enough to give him the job…yet.  I think they try and put him on the practice squad.  Yes, a punter on the practice squad.  I believe the Pats have done it before.  They have another LS in camp (Zupancic), not sure why in this case though.

Injured Reserve-(3):

  1. Cunningham
  2. Ebner
  3. Grissom

*Cunningham hasn’t been around and I am not sure if they would just release him instead.  But I suppose if the option is there to put him on IR, they would.  Ebner hasn’t been around either and this could conveniently be a “redshirt” year for him too, since he hasn’t played much football in the past.  He has some ability and would be worth keeping around.  Grissom left the game the other night and went right to the locker room.  Which doesn’t seem good.  Don’t know much about him, but one scribe had him making the 53 before the last game, so it appears he would be worth stashing on IR.

Non-Football Injury-(2):

  1. Armstead
  2. Harrison

*I believe the rules for this list are the same as the PUP, where these guys would be on the shelf for 6 weeks, then be eligible to practice and then a decision would be made on whether to activate them, put them on season-ending IR, or release them.  Armstead signed for decent dough, so putting him here is a no-brainer.  Harrison they say has decent tools, but a checkered past.  No harm in leaving him here as well.

Physically Unable to Perform-(1):

  1. Gronkowski

*Always a chance he makes the 53 and plays in something like Week 4.  I have to believe the Pats proceed cautiously here.  Bill always likes to keep his options open as well, as far as keeping control of as many players as he possibly can for as long as he can.  Gronk may be a different case however, since he is a difference-maker (while in the past, they have used the PUP list for depth-type guys, it has seemed).  But I think they play it safe to start.

Practice Squad-(8):

  1. Buchanan (DE)
  2. Beauharnais (LB)
  3. K. Aiken (WR)
  4. Tarpinian (LB)
  5. R. Allen (P)
  6. Winn (RB)
  7. Reserve OL #1 (Kline, McDonald, Patterson, Schwab, Stankiewitch)
  8. Reserve OL #2 (Kline, McDonald, Patterson, Schwab, Stankiewitch)

*There is always the chance the top 2 make the 53, at the expense of someone like Bequette, T. Wilson, Cole or someone of that nature.  But since they were low picks, maybe they feel they can sneak them through the the practice squad.  They seem to have some affinity for Aiken, and he can play special teams, but there is no room at WR for him now.  He missed the last game, so there is also the possibility he lands on IR.  Tarpinian was here last year, so it is likely they could keep him here if they want.  I think they’d like Allen to be here, but there is always a chance he gets claimed.  The last 3 are total guesses.  The reality is, they will probably have 4 guys from the current camp make it down to the squad and getting the 4 others from the rest of the leagues’ cuts.

Just for fun, here are the 9 guys I don’t think will make it to the next game.  Total crapshoot, we shall see how many I can get right:

  1. Bartholomew (FB)
  2. Davis (S)
  3. Haggerty (WR)
  4. Landi (TE)
  5. Lewis (CB)
  6. White (DT)
  7. Winn (RB)
  8. Zupancic (LS)
  9. Grissom to IR

*I didn’t remember seeing many of these guys even during extreme scrub time the other night, so it seems convenient to pick them.  White was out there, and they may opt to keep a guy like him just so guys like Wilfork and Kelly don’t have to play against the Giants.  That’s why I see all of the 5 reserve offensive lineman sticking through this cut.  And corners like Justin Green and Brandon Jones too.  At this stage of the roster shaping, Grissom may have to pass through waivers to land on IR (like Mattes, Moe & Tyronne Green did, who are already on IR), so the Pats may opt to pick someone else instead in order to not risk losing him.  And if a veteran like Edelman, Blount or Adrian Wilson truly is not going to make the team, they may opt to show them respect and cut them now, to give them a better chance of sticking somewhere else.  But to me that is doubtful and it is probably too late for the “respect” angle anyway.

Pats scare…and some exhibition thoughts…

I know the first Patriots preseason game was 5 days ago.  But I’ve been meaning to throw some opinions out there about it.  And looking forward a bit to the game this Friday night.  Then Brady goes down today.  Seems as if he/the team avoided a major catastrophe, but I guess we will never know until he gets back on the field.  Bill’s not going to tell us.  All I know is that he is the one guy that can’t go down.  That’s really not a newsflash of course.  But during the last decade or so, if the Patriots lose a player…to free agency, trade, injury, release, whatever…they are usually able to replace that player for the most part.  Jeez, even Cassel went 11-5 in 2008.  Though I also think everyone knew there would be no championship that year once Brady got hurt.  I remember thinking, after the disappointment of not being perfect in 2007, that with the schedule in 2008 being pretty easy “on paper”, they had a chance to make another run at perfection if everyone stayed healthy.  Always a big “if” of course.  And that dream was shattered with Brady’s injury right from the get-go.  In no way do I think they will make a run at perfection this year at all.  But a division title should be pretty easy.  Please don’t try and sell me on the Dolphins.  And the J-E-T-S and Bills should be pretty brutal.  So playoffs here we come again.  But with Mallett and/or Tebow?  Hmmmm…not so sure about that.  So hopefully Tom answers the bell Week 1…because I don’t care if I don’t see him again until that game.

Some basic likes and dislikes from the 31-22 win over the Eagles follow.  Keep in mind that I’m not getting the coaches copy of the game and breaking down film like Jaws does impeccably.  I didn’t re-watch the game, as some people do (how many times can you really watch an exhibition game anyway?  Sometimes it is trouble enough getting though it the first time.  Unless you are getting paid for it.  Which I am not.).  I can’t judge the offensive line all that much unless someone repeatedly gets turnstiled…then it’s pretty easy of course.  Some guys you don’t even notice on the field and then the coaches say they had a great game…like a TE that handles all his blocking assignments and never is asked to catch a pass.  I’m not going to make any bold predictions or in depth analysis of things like that.  So take some things with a grain of salt, I guess.  Just one dude’s thoughts from a game in real-time.  And believe it or not, there were way more dislikes than likes.  Maybe it’s just because it was the first game of the year and many people played and everyone, including the coaches, had to work out the kinks.  But hopefully they’ll get better.  Anyway…

Likes:

Brady-2 drives, 2 TD’s.  Yes, one was all runs, but who cares?  I was saying after that let’s sit him down and we’ll see him in the opener.  I am up for that even more after today.

Ridley-for the most part.  Little disappointed in him not being able to finish off that long run though.  I’m ok with putting him away until the opener as well.

Blount-Yeah, the run was nice.  But the guy is a good back.  The trade was a steal.  Jeff Demps?  Have fun running track dude.  I’m surprised that most think he is fighting for a spot.  I would guess he’s a part of the team regardless.

Thompkins-People have been raving about this guy all through camp.  It was only one game, but he looked good to me.  Let’s see what happens when the real competition begins, but looks like he is a keeper.

Ryan Allen-I know, a punter.  But he looks like a legitimate threat to Mesko, and Mesko has been good for the Pats.  Plus he had a tackle.

Collins-Kind of.  Looks like a player, but whiffed on a perfect sack attempt.  Looking forward to seeing more of him.

Dislikes:

General sloppiness-Maybe because it was the first game.  But there were a handful of things I saw that were just sloppy, or someone had their head up their arse.  Mallett overthrew a wide open Boyce; Edelman fumbled twice; Collins and Bequette whiffed on easy sacks; Justin Green didn’t tag a guy who caught a pass near him and fell to the ground…he ran right by him; Gostkowski missed 2 FG’s; Bolden got called for roughing the punter (though it was a great acting job), but why did he not go for the block?  Seemed he just cruised by him and barely touched the punter; Mallett didn’t throw a block on Blount’s run…didn’t even fake an effort…stuff like that.  Hopefully that all gets cleaned up.

1st team defense-Watching Talib get burned, that was fun, eh?  Not sure how many of them were out there that long, but nothing stood out from anyone.

Defensive backs in general-Logan Ryan and Tavon Wilson didn’t excite me…Harmon looked ok, Green wasn’t anything special.  Talib mentioned above.  Arrington was ok though.  No McCourty or Dennard, so maybe there is hope.

Tebow-Pretty awful.  I think he makes the team.  And I am glad to see they put in some plays specifically for him.  That’s how it could possibly work.  But he was pretty brutal in the passing game.

Special teams-Edelman’s fumbles; long punt return; Leon Washington’s very average kick returns; Gostkowski’s misses; Bolden’s roughing.  Hopefully it’s a case of them trying a ton of guys in a ton of different spots and working out the kinks from there.  But not a good start for those guys.

Looking forward to the next game.  Would like to see Mallett give us more confidence.  Is he actually as talented as everyone said he was coming out of college?  Or is he another Brian Hoyer…hyped up as a Brady backup, in the Pats’ system for a few years, but nothing special in the end?  Hopefully we’ll be able to take some positives out of this next game…though…it is only an exhibition game.  Just sit Brady…that’s all I really ask for…

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