Well, this is my first time hosting the round-table. I’m the slacker of the trio. Sort of like Manny. Speaking of which, they’re ruiiiiiiiiining my summaaaaaa…..Oops, sorry, wrong sport. For a moment I thought I was Larry Johnson and my role here was to ask irrelevent questions about off-topic subjects mixed in with inane and pointless commentary.
But I digress. On to the topic at hand, the Patriots. Very impressive performance last week. Lets take a look around the table and see what our esteemed experts (especially that Greg guy) thinks about some of the issues of the week:
ISSUE ONE: There has been a lot of commentary on Junior Seau both before his signing and after. Some of the commentators in this town trashed him as overrated, only to lighten their commentary after he was signed. First, has Seau been overrated in his career and second, how can he help the Patriots this year?
Greg: While Seau may have been slightly overrated, he was most certainly a very good player for his whole career. Idiots like Pete Sheppard ranting as if the guy was a stiff is insulting to anyone’s intelligence. Like Sheppard has broken down game films or something. Alls you need to know is many top coaches and GMs made him a centerpiece of their defense and paid him top dollars. Players who actually stepped on the same field as him and won games with him, like Rodney Harrison, and in the same era, praise him for his play and work ethic. And now Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli have endorsed him as well. I’ll take all these collective opinions over those of a bunch of IQ-challenged clowns screeching on the radio any day.
Bruce: I’m beginning to think that Rodney Harrison and Seau are more alike than we ever imagined. Of course, its probably safe to say that Junior has less left in his tank than Harrison did when he first got here, but both players had reputations around the league, but when Harrison got here, his reputation went out the window once the fans got to see him up close and what he brought to the team. With Seau, Belichick, Pioli and company obviously saw something that they liked, enough so to call the guy the day after he had announced his retirement. Like you Greg, I’ll trust their opinion over a glorified intern like Pete Sheppard any day. I see Seau giving the Patriots another leader on defense, and someone who they won’t rely on too heavily, but will be able to make a play when called on.
Scott: Overrated? Junior Seau? Come on. Who said that? Probably some idiot. Anyway, yeah, I think Junior Seau probably has been overrated over the course of his career. One thing Junior is, is photogenic. And he’s demonstrative. And he’s articulate. And he’s been a good player. You know what TV, radio and the papers do with those guys. They could make you sick of anybody. Besides, my general sense of Seau has always been as a guy who chased the ball all over the field (very well, admittedly) and wasn’t necessarily a guy that played within a team defense, like, say, a Mike Vrabel or Tedy Bruschi might. Seau also struck me as a guy who wanted the camera to be on him, frankly, which always rubs me the wrong way. Look, I don’t know how true any of this is, but what I do know is that it doesn’t matter at the moment. Because Seau can help the Patriots win games this year. I love that they have smart, character role players like Don Davis and Barry Gardner, but I don’t really want either of those guys on my opening day starting defense. Better they should be getting ready to cover a kick. It says here that Seau, even at 38 years old and coming off two injury-riddled seasons, leaves them better off than they were before. And it sure didn’t cost them much (relatively) to get there. Who’s going to take issue with that?
ISSUE TWO: Bam Childress had a nice performance Saturday versus the Cardinals. What do you think of his potential to be a solid NFL player based on what you’ve seen of him?
Greg: Childress just LOOKS small when he plays. But for two camps and one regular season game last year, he has made plays, played tough and smart and improves all the time. He reminds me of an even smaller Troy Brown. I think he can play and I think he makes the team and maybe even plays some.
Bruce: Belichick seems to be high on the kid, praising his competiveness and work ethic. If the Patriots don’t pick up another receiver somewhere, either via trade or the waiver wire, he very well could be on this team come opening day. I believe he did some work at defensive back last year as well, which had to endear him further in the eyes of the coaching staff. I’d like to see him stick around. Great name, too.
Scott: Show me something this guy has done on the field that makes you think he can’t stick in the NFL. How does Childress NOT make this team, given the shotages at wide receiver? Yeah, he’s small, but Childress is obviously a competitive player on this level. He won me over with the two-way performance against Miami last year. Seems to me there’s another little guy who’s still playing 13 years after getting a similar chance. Is Childress going to make THE difference at wide-receiver this year? No, he won’t. Can he make A difference? Maybe. Its not like there’s a long line ahead of him.
ISSUE THREE: With the Patriots final home exhibition game coming up this Saturday, what are your thoughts on whether the Patriots have committed consumer fraud, as some have claimed, by not playing their starters very long in some past home exhibition games (a trend that will likely end this year as its not the final exhibition game with one road game left)?
Greg: This was always a ridiculous notion which will likely not be as big an issue this year with the final game, where the starters sit almost the whole game if not the whole game, is on the road this year. What I want, as a fan, is wins during the regular season. If Bill Belichick can accomplish that better by sitting guys in pre-season, by all means he should do that. I can enjoy any football game no matter who plays and never had any problem looking for a diamond in the rough among lesser known players during exhibition season.
Bruce: Kevin Mannix and Dan Shaughnessy can rest easy this summer. I see some points that the critics make about the preseason games, namely that season ticket holders are forced to purchase the preseason games as part of their package. However, with the popularity of the team, I think it’s not all that difficult to find someone who is only too happy to go to the game, se the stadium and get glimpse of their favorite Patriots. The “consumer fraud” thing was a joke. Some of Shaughnessy’s columns come closer to consumer fraud than do preseason NFL games.
Scott: I’ve been watching pre-season football for almost 40 years. It’s never been any different. Now it’s ‘consumer fraud’? Stay the hell home, cupcake. That’s just another sportswriter bitching about having to work.
ISSUE FOUR: We asked this question early on, but has anything changed in terms of sleepers you see developing among lesser known or unknown players?
Greg: I’d go with Tully Banta-Cain. He isn’t unknown, he’s been on the team for three years and made an impact at times. But he is clearly taking on a bigger role this year and the early returns, in my eyes, is he’ll be an excellent play-maker at the outside linebacker position.
Bruce: James Sanders seems to be a name flying under the radar. He didn’t do too much in filling in when Rodney Harrison went down last season, but looks to be in a better position to compete this season. He’s consistently been working with the first team on the days that Harrison isn’t able to practice, and with he, Artrell Hawkins, Guss Scott and Tebucky Jones on the roster, it seems the team is much deeper at the safety position than they were a season ago. I don’t if all those players will be on the roster when the season begins, but I think it is a safe bet that Sanders is, and he might be called upon to contribute should Harrison be delayed in getting into game action.
Scott: He’s not unknown by any means, but I can’t let this question go without mentioning Asante Samuel. It seems he’s re-asserting himself when both he, and the team, really need it. I wasn’t necessarily expecting Ryan O Callaghan to go from being a fifth round pick to being (potentially) the starting right tackle. I’m sure some people will find a reason why this is bad, but to me, that’s a pretty big story right there.
ISSUE FIVE: In a shocking development, Bruce appears to have accurately predicted Eugene Wilson’s reappearance as a safety. Thoughts on this development?
Greg: Good call Bruce. I really thought Wilson would stay at corner. They still may move him back at some point and he certainly has the skills to play there. But if they keep him at safety, he’s been a borderline Pro Bowler there in the past, I expect him to return to that level this year.
Bruce: Well, I could still be wrong, after spending the first half of the preseason working at corner, now maybe they’re putting him back at safety to get him back up to speed there. I actually think a lot of where Wilson ends up depends on Harrison. When Rodney is on the field, Wilson seems like a different player back there. I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see Wilson playing corner if Harrison isn’t on the field, and seeing a safety combination of Hawkins and Sanders. Who knows what this coaching staff has in mind. It’s all about being flexible and having the ability to change things up, moving players in and out and playing to their individual strengths within the team defense.
Scott: I’m not convinced that Bruce doesn’t have some access that Greg and I don’t have. I’m sure that in exchange for his rosy coverage of the team, he’s getting some sweet insider stuff that Doyle and I can only dream of. He’s probably got Belichick’s home number, both here AND on the Cape, the same ones Alan Greenberg covets. That’s the only plausible explanation for this entire episode. Allen can run, but he can’t hide, though. We’ll be debuting our ‘Picks of the Week’ on Opening Day Weekend, and we’ll see how much his good time buddies will help him then.
ISSUE SIX: It seemed to me new defensive coordinator Dean Pees was a bit more agressive last week in both his attacking play-calling on defense and in mixing things up more often than last year under Eric Mangini. Was this just a one-time thing trying out different stuff or do you expect a different style under Pees this year? :
Bruce: It’s hard to tell if Mangini was limited by his personnel for much of last season or whether he was actually a little tentative in calling the defense. Early returns seem to be that Pees is going to have a more aggressive approach right out of the gate. I’m looking forward to see how he runs this defense and uses the parts he has. Again Belichick has had high praise for Pees, calling him one of the best coaches he’s ever worked with. Think about that statement, and some of the names that the head coach has worked with in his 30 years in the NFL.
Greg: I saw a more aggressive, but also more disciplined and coordinated defense. Mangini seemed to me to always be over his head last year. He did little to adjust. He did later in the season, but only after the players came to him. And you still had occasional uncharacteristic breakdowns even then. Not as many, but some. In his defense, he dealt with a lot of injuries. But his playcalling on defense was a disappointment. Something about Pees strikes me as the type of older, more experienced and innovative coach who can get the defense up to the 2003-2004 form. The early returns are good, he showed more looks and agressive, yet smart, play-calling in an exhibition game last week than we saw in almost any regular season game last year.
Scott: I’m a fan, so don’t expect anything profound. But last year, it was like the Douglas household was left under Robbie’s command for the weekend. Dad Steve was away on business and Uncle Charlie was at some class reunion in Cleveland. Robbie’s a good man, his heart is in the right place, he’s got a bright future, but he’s young, and tentative, and next thing you know, Chip and Ernie and Tramp are giving up 60 yard touchdown passes when they’re not getting trampled for 9 yards a carry. For me with Pees so far, its like Steve Douglas just pulled in the driveway.
ISSUE SEVEN: So, who was the biggest mediot this week?
Bruce: Gotta go with my man Ron Borges, and not really for any controversial statements he made this week about the Patriots. In his Sunday column, he mentioned and quoted extensively from a column last week on this very site by Bill Barnwell on Deion Branch. It was great that Borges used the information and even praised it. The problem was that he said it came from a different source than it actually did. When asked about it, Borges said he doesn’t read the Boston Sports Media website. (Probably with good reason…we’re tough on him.) Ok. If he didn’t read the column here…where did he read it? It didn’t appear anywhere else. Second place…Ed Berliner trying to get attention for himself by telling us the Patriots Dynasty is over and there is blood in the water. Hector Longo had a doozy of a column this week too, his annual “Things are really negative around the Patriots this camp.” column.
Greg: Always a tough call. But I’ll go with all those on The Big Show for trashing Junior Seau, none of whom who had the career he has had, claiming he could never play for Bill Belichick and then seeing him signed by the Patriots only days later.
Scott: This week we learned that old friend Tom E. Curran of the Providence Journal is leaving the daily Pats beat to take a job with the new NBCSports.com.Good for Tom, an occasional visitor to the grim, toxic wasteland known as the BSMW message board (but only to whore his chats; it seems evident now they were the foundation of his burgeoning media empire). Look, I’m biased where Curran is concerned. Sue me for liking a guy whose take on the Pats most closely resembled mine, and a lot of other Patriots fans I know. We just appreciated a guy that seemed to realize they were winning the Super Bowl every year. Your work is done here, TECurran. Bon Voyage.