The final preseason game takes place this evening at PSL Stadium. We visited with blogger Derek Hanson at Foxboro Blog for a little Q&A exchange.
First, a word or two about Derek. Derek wears a few hats at Bloguin. Not only does he run the Patriots blog, but his other big task is leading up the effort to provide all of the technical support for guys like us at UltimateNYG. Whenever the slightest thing goes wrong, it is Derek who finds the answers. For 150+ blogs. Without his efforts, we wouldn't be able to do what we do, namely to run and be part of a Giant online community that never sleeps, 24/7/365.
Derek asked questions of us, which he posted yesterday. Here are his answers to our questions...
1. How does Welker look? I'd imagine there is no way he can be as effective this soon back from injury.
Personally, I'm just shocked that Welker is even on the field. I thought he would probably be out through the majority of October at best. The fact that he was out there during the second preseason game of the year speaks volumes to his work ethic andthe fact that he's a one-of-a-kind talent. For somebody who had his ACL repaired eight months ago, he looks incredible! Sure, he's not quite himself just yet, but he's getting there. By all accounts I've heard, the Patriots staff expects Wes to be back to form pretty early on in the season.
2. And Brady? His accuracy and crispness were missing last season. Is he looking sharper?
Brady looks good as well. There were several times last year where you saw the effects of sitting out for a year. He certainly wasn't the player he was in 2007, but in all fairness, nobody in the history of football was the player he was in 2007. Still, Brady appears to be bouncing back nicely and seems to have his chemistry with Moss restored. It also probably helps that the Patriots have significantly more targets for him to throw at than they did last season.
3. The defense lost a lot of veteran leadership in order to get younger and faster. Is that going to pay dividends this year? Or do they still need to learn how to win?
That's a tough question. I'm not sure that the Patriots would be very effective in 2010 fielding a defense containing Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, and Junior Seau. Experience is invaluable, but at some point it has to give way to talent and physical ability. I'm not confident that this young defense has what it takes yet to win the Super Bowl, but there are certainly a lot of bright spots that make me think the Patriots are going to be very scary in 1-3 years.
4. Ty Warren is out for the season. Will this hurt your defense as much as I think it will?
Losing Ty Warren was a blow for sure. The Patriots fielded one of the best D-lines in the league when they had Seymour and Warren sandwiching Vince Wilfork. Now Wilforkis out there on his own. If there's one thing that has come to define the Patriots this past decade, though, it's that the strength of the team far outweighs the ability of one individual. Gerrard Warren, a free-agent pickup from Oakland, has actually filled in quite nicely. The real key will be avoiding any further injuries to the line as they're very thin at the moment.
5. Our draft analysts are high on some of your later round picks (like Price and Hernandez) more so than some of your earlier picks (like Cunningham). How do your rookies look so far?
I'm really happy with the Patriots' draft this season. Aaron Hernandez has been a bright spot, but so has our 2nd round TE pick, Rob Gronkowski. Those two will be a much-needed boost as the Patriots' tight endplay was pathetic last year. 1st Round pick Devin McCourty will start for us in 2010. I love what I've seen out of ILB Brandon Spikes who is also expected to start. Jermaine Cunningham will need some time to transition from DE in college to OLB in the pros, but I've heard good things about him as well. Even punter Zoltan Mesko looks strong. Belichick didn't nab a big name like DezBryant, but I think this may be the best draft class we've seen from New England in years.
6. Faulk seems to have slowed down a bit. Who is Brady's checkdown guy going to be?
I expect Faulk to still be a big factor on 3rd downs, but he's certainly starting to show his age. I think Wes Welker and Julian Edelman are two guys who we'll see Brady relying on when the team needs to get yards. Like Faulk, they're both quick and versatile.
7. Update us on the Logan Mankins holdout. Is there a light at the end of tunnel or could this thing go all season? Will the Patriots be viable w/o him anchoring the OL?
I don't see this one clearing up any time soon, as it's gotten pretty ugly. Maybe Mankins will sign a contract in Week 10 just to protect himself should the new CBA require more years of service to qualify for free-agency, but, unfortunately, I think irreparable damage has been done. Like Warren, losing Mankinsis a big loss. The injuries are certainly piling up for New England, but I'm not going to lose sleep over linemen when this team lost Tom Brady in Week 1 and still went 11-5 two seasons ago.
8. Pats record this season? Do you feel threatened by either the Dolphins or the Jets?
I'm going to be optimistic and say 12-4, but things could get ugly pretty fast. The Patriots have one of the hardest schedules I can remember and if this young defense's confidence gets shaken, it could lead to a long season. Still, I believe in Brady and Bill Belichick. I also look at how many weak points were improved upon from last season when the team went 10-6 after blowing some winnable games.
I think the Jets are going to implode. Between the loud mouths, the egos, and the expectations, they're the perfect recipe for disaster. The Dolphins have the potential to be sneaky good. If the Patriots aren't clicking and the Jets are self-destructing, Miami definitely could walk away with the AFC East.
On to other miscellaneous items:
a) I almost feel that it is not even necessary to say the obvious, but we'll go on record as saying it is clear that the Giants need another backup at QB. With Sorgi on IR, Rhett Bomar is not ready for the job. We are still high on Bomar's future, but his present is another story altogether. He telegraphs on nearly every pass and is too inconsistent to be in there for a team that has legitimate playoff aspirations (despite whatever the Ravens preseason contest told us). Hey, let's get some perspective- Bomar has not been on the roster for a single regular season NFL game! Forget training wheels, he still hasn't gotten on the bike. He has the physical goods but his development is a work in progress.
b) Trade for Leinart? Not likely, says Garafolo.
c) Bob Papa's Perspective on the Giants is timely, given the solid discussion this blog has been having in the wake of the Ravens game. He points out the silver lining of many players getting looks this summer, implying the Giants will be deeper because of the valuable experience these backups are getting.
d) We need this guy in a big way. He'll cover up teammate weaknesses if he's healthy and on the field.
e) Bulluck: "We do have a bunch of talent here, it is just a matter of gelling, meshing and putting it together." And having good coaches and a lot less injuries.
f) In reaction to reports of NFL attendance going down in 2010, "We know some fans are struggling. We don't need to see the statistics," said Eric Grubman, executive vp of marketing and sponsorships. Want to know where the NFL money goes? This guy is making $4.44M per year. Maybe the reason why this jack-a** doesn't need to see the statistics is because it just might make him think for a split second that his salary and the salary of the players is a little out of whack with the fans that pick up the tab? That maybe if ticket prices went down they'd have more demand? That maybe if teams didn't charge PSLs that they would sell out? RomeThe NFL is burning and Grubman/Goodell think that an 18 game season is the answer. Pete Roselle is rolling in his grave.