Gearing up for Rams-Pats: Q&A With Pats Chowder


Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady Giselle is freaking hot! Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady 19-0? Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady Tom Brady BILL BELICHICK IS THE SPAWN OF SATAN!

Sorry, when I start thinking about the Patriots my brain snaps into an ugly feedback loop. Instead of writing “Tom Brady” 800 more times while grinding my teeth to dust, I reached out across the Fanball network to Chris Kelley of PatsChowder to talk some actual football. Our full Q&A is after the break.

What kinds of things do you want to see from the Pats in this game, in preparation for the regular season?

Quinn OjiinakaCK: The first thing I want to see tonight is how Quinn Ojinnaka (who was acquired from the Falcons earlier this week) is going to fit on the line. Word out of camp right now is that he is fitting in well, so it will be great to see him in a game situation. I also am interested to see how many snaps Wes Welker is going to take tonight. Pretty encouraged after him getting in there for four last week. On the defensive side of the ball, I want to see Derrick Burgess in a game situation since he finally showed at camp and was declared a OLB starter immediately.

Note: I imagine the whole fantasy world will be tuned in to see whether Welker still “has it” — especially the guys who drafted Julian Edelman over him. Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) recently published a piece on talking about the crop of injury risks at WR, and Welker’s “miraculous” recovery.

Is anyone likely to emerge from the super-committee at RB? Conversely, do you see anyone getting cut from this group?

CK: Haha, it seems like this question is asked on an annual basis. Barring injury, it doesn’t appear there’s a real “break-away” candidate. Fred Taylor has looked solid this preseason, but I don’t see the Pats running him more than half the time. This seems to be Lawrence Maroney’s make or break season. Sammy Morris is valuable in short yardage, and Kevin Faulk is probably one of the best pass-catching 3rd down guys in the league. And the guy I didn’t mention (Benjarvus Green-Ellis) could have the most potential out of any of them. I don’t foresee them cutting any of those guys at this point, but we’ll see how the rest of the preseason shakes out.

Note: I don’t see how it’s possible that the Patriots could keep five running backs on their 53-man roster, but the Belichick world is mysterious that way. I think they might actually have a full collegiate 85-man team, but any time someone from the league starts counting, Belichick peeks out of the hoodie and uses some Jedi mind tricks. Benjarvus Green-Ellis is definitely the droid I’m looking for.

How is the offensive line / protection shaping up in front of Brady?

CK: I think with the addition of Ojinnaka at guard, the Patriots have gotten more depth at a position they are clearly missing a few pieces at this season. The tackles will be excellent (Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer will have great years) and Dan Koppen is a reliable center.

The potential issues are on the interior. With Nick Kaczur out due to back surgery and possibly not returning this season and the Logan Mankins holdout, guard is sort of shallow. Stephen Neal hasn’t really wowed anyone so far, but is serviceable and Dan Connelly has limited starts on the line, which brings me back to #1 – how will Ojiinaka fit in?

Note: It can’t hurt your protection when there is an entry in the NFL rules book named “the Tom Brady rule.” And this year, they’ve moved the umpire in to the offensive backfield — no doubt to chip any oncoming blitzers away from their Golden Child. Wait, did I just go there?

It seems like the Pats defense has had a lot of turnover. Who should we be watching?

Brandon Spikes CK: The Pats defense has had a bit of turnover, but I think it truly could be for the best this season. Unfortunately, we start out down a DE, losing Ty Warren for the season, but there is plenty of upside on the rest of the defensive side of the ball.

At linebacker, keep an eye on former Florida teammates Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham. Spikes has really performed well this preseason, and it appears the starting ILB job beside Jerod Mayo is his for the taking. Cunningham should get some rotation on OLB, but hasn’t quite progressed as quickly as Spikes has.

In the secondary, Pat Chung is really coming into his own. He constantly draws the Rodney Harrison comparison, but I’m not ready to crown him yet. And finally, I’ll be looking for 2010 first-rounder Devin McCourty at CB and special teams. A lot of people chuckled at Belichick when he passed on Kyle Wilson and went with McCourty, but I think he may have been on to something. The kid is going to be something special.

Note: Brandon Spikes was somebody I was really high on a year ago, and thinking he would become a top-15 pick this year. But his measurables at the combine really seemed to drive his stock down, as many doubted whether or not he had the build to play the position in the NFL. Of course, you could have said the same thing about former Ram London Fletcher, who has been a beast his entire pro career.

One of the really interesting notes buried at the bottom of yesterday’s Dave Razzano scouting report was the tendency for GMs who tend to swing and miss on top picks — he mentioned the Raiders and 49ers in particular, but the Zygmunt-era Rams count too — to fall into the trap of looking at measurables above actual playing ability. Clearly, Bill Belichick does not fall into that category. He has shown an phenomenal ability to build a roster out of role players that maximizes their ability while disguising their weaknesses. Am I jealous? Yes, yes I am.