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Know Thy Enemy: New England Patriots


The Know Thy Enemy feature runs for the first time during the regular season and I have to tip my hat to MaPatsFan from Pats Pulpit for dropping by and answering our questions. He did a much better job than I did answering his.

Do Pat's fan think Belichick is as big a jerk as everyone else thinks? If so, do you excuse it because he wins? How many losses make it inexcusable?

Belichick is not warm and fuzzy, that is clear. He hates press conferences and answers questions in a way that drives the media nuts. "For a team to win back-to-back conference titles, what would you say are the top three or four things they need to accomplish?" Belichick: "Play better than the other team, whoever that is." Belichick said in 9 words what most coaches take hundreds of words to say. Neither one says anything of value, but Big Bill just cuts to the chase.

No, most of us do not think he's a big jerk. Would the perception be different if he wasn't winning so much? I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't be different. Is it inexcuseable behavior? I don't think so. I think we'd give him the same amount of losses as any other coach gets. I actually LIKE him due to this "all business" attitude. We fans have latched onto the belief that he wins because the only thing he cares about is football and creating a championship team. Period. I think of him like I think of heart surgeons. Many of them are complete dolts beside the bed, but are brilliant mechanics in the surgical suite. It all comes down to whether or not you want the warm and fuzzy guy who's ok or the cantankerous professor that's winning games.

One of your questions, entitled "More Draftnik Stuff", is very good so I'll address it here.

Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli, VP of Player Personnel, told owner Robert Kraft they were getting "Young and fast" on defense and I think they did. With youth comes inexperience in the NFL and Belichick's defensive schemes don't help; it usually takes a few years to get settled in. But, I think Belichick and Pioli have done a good job of creating a careful balance of experienced vets and smart youngsters. That being said, I was glad to see Mayo picked. I think he's really doing well and appears to have the brains to play ILB in the Patriots' 3-4. His mentor is Tedy Bruschi so he's learning from a guy who's played his entire career in a Patriots uniform. Shawn Crable has exceeded my hopes at OLB. He needs to bulk up a little bit, but at 6-5 243 lbs, he's got really long arms to wrap around during tackles and has already batted down a few passes in preseason games. He appears to be a smart guy and can create some havoc on the edges. Once he learns more, I'm confident they'll be fewer mistakes and his mentor is Mike Vrabel. Bo Ruud was on the bubble, in my opinion. He was heading towards special teams, if he gained a spot, before he was injured. I was really rooting for this kid because he's a hard worker.

Now we get to cornerback, my biggest concern. Veteran Ellis Hobbs is our main starter. He's a serviceable corner, but no Asante Samuel. That being said, Terrence Wheatley is our other starting corner. He's done a pretty good job in preseason, but the regular season is a totally different ball game, as we all know. Jonathan Wilhite is doing well also, but these guys are young and will make rookie mistakes. The loss of Asante hurt, but we just didn't have the cap space to keep him on board. I wouldn't be surprised if you see SS Brandon Meriweather jump in at CB every once in a while.

Kevin O'Connell was a surprise pick to many, but I was really up on this kid early on. At San Diego State, his offensive line was so bad, he had the most rushing yards of any player on the team, including the running backs!! In the last preseason game, O'Connell threw a TD pass and ran for a TD. We're used to flat footed QBs (Bledsoe and Brady) so this is a welcomed wrinkle. I'm not ready to say he's the future of the franchise, but I do think it was a shrewd and inspired move.

How worried are Pats fans not only about Brady but who is the lucky player to replace him in the case that he is out for an extended period of time?

Worried, dang worried. Brady's always been an ironman and has started the last 127 games, third most for a QB behind Manning and Favre. I don't think anyone would disagree Brady is a major reason why we've had so much success over the last 8 years. I've seen signs he's "settling" in as a vet, which I suppose you have to after performing at such a high level for so many years. And after the 2007 season, it's hard to fault him. He's no longer competing for some of the internal "prizes" players get for off season work (parking spots) and is choosing to spend time with his son out west in some situations; understandable given the length of last year's season and the fact that Brady and other vets have played more games than any other team over the last 8 years. That said, I still think Brady's at the top of his game, but it's only a matter of time before Brady and the Patriots part ways. I do believe we're in the second half of his career.

Matt Cassel is a concern; it was a surprise to many of us he wasn't cut this past weekend, but I gotta believe Belichick saw something in him us fans just don't have access to. Countless hours of practice and film give the coaching staff a perspective we just don't get, so I'm holding on to the belief Belichick's smarter than me. ;-)

Will Pats fans ever forgive John Tomase?

John Tomase, sports writer for the Boston Herald, wrote a story confirming a credible source that knew the Patriots had taped the LA Rams walkthrough prior to Super Bowl XXXVI. It later turned out to be untrue as confirmed by Matt Walsh, Mr. 15 minutes of fame from the whole Spygate thing. The Boston Herald had to issue a front page apology. Initially, I thought a blanket party was the right approach and would've stood watch in a dark alley. Time heals all wounds, so I've softened my opinion a little bit. I don't use the Boston Herald for much and never have. It's a rag, in my opinion, and I've always found Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe far more credible and on top of things. Plus, how much credibility will Tomase have with the Patriots players and organization at this point? How much access will they give him? That being said, I do think anything Tomase now writes has been gone over with a fine tooth comb by both himself and others; my guess is it's pretty thorough, but again, I've always thought the Herald is a rag and not worthy of my time.

What the hell happened this preseason? Is this just another play by New England to make everyone think they're worse off than they are? (to the author, I've shortened this question up a bit and hope I hit all your points)

To start off, I'll say Belichick has always used the preseason for what I believe is its primary purpose: to evaluate players and the team in a game situation prior to the regular season. That's not to say other coaches DON'T do that, but Belichick could care less about the wins. Now, onto the actual play. You are correct that the defense got run over. If this were the regular season, I'd be worried, very worried. But I believe this year was like no other. There were many rookies on the field at key positions and Belichick had to evaluate their ability to play at an NFL level. It was a science experiement; tweak this, change that. Let's see what happens. In addition, we had a number of FA vets the coaching staff had to evaluate against the rookies. In the end, Belichick and Pioli chose youth over experience in a few key positions, which says to me these young guys are picking things up quickly. For example, rookie Jerod Mayo made the roster over veteran FA Victor Hobson and Terrence Wheatley established himself at corner ahead of the now departed FA Fernando Bryant. I stated in another response they will make rookie mistakes, but I believe they won these positions for 3 reasons: youth, brains and they show promise for the future.

To answer your second question, yes, I do believe this was a ploy to make other teams believe they're in trouble. At least, that's the belief I'm holding on to! ;-) To my eyes, the linebackers and defensive backs were playing incredibly soft in every game. CB Ellis Hobbs was giving tons of room to wide outs, as were the other CBs. My only explanation is that Belichick told them to play that way. In addition, you never saw some of the "nifty" stuff they're known for. Every defense and offense was vanilla. Nothing too fancy and nothing too exotic. One opposing veteran QB commented he'd only seen a very small portion of the Pats' playbook. Again, it's a science experiment to Belichick.

As a final note, I knowingly avoided a question about a certain player. PatsPulpit faithful should be able to find it. ;-)


Many thanks again to MaPatsFan from Pats Pulpit for stopping by. Don't forget about the open thread here for tomorrow's game. The thread will open probably around 11 AM or so.

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