I received an invitation from Bruce Allen of PatriotsDaily.com, an outstanding independent blog covering New England, to exchange a few questions about the respective teams that we cover. I was happy to oblige. Here are Bruce's answers to my queries about the Pats. As soon as I get it I will post a link to my answers to his questions.
Rich Tandler: Does Belichick seem like a lifer as coach of the Pats? Or is there maybe a surprise retirement announcement out there in three or four years?
Bruce Allen: His contract is always a subject of discussion by the media here. The last we had heard was that his current deal took him through 2013. Coaching really seems to be his life, and I'd say the job is his as long as he wants to keep doing it. At this point I can't imagine him coaching anywhere else, nor can I really see him doing what Bill Parcells is going with the Dolphins right now, being strictly a front office type. My guess is that he'll be here at least as long as Tom Brady is.
RT: Some key members of the defense, the guys that won the Super Bowls, are getting up there in age. Give me a couple of players who will be the next generations of anchors on the defense.
BA: Two names come immediately to mind - linebacker Jerod Mayo and safety Brandon Meriweather. Mayo is already a leader on the veteran defense, will be handling the play calling and seems to be the type of student of the game that Belichick loves. One school of thought has the Patriots toying with a 4-3 defensive front this season just to free up Mayo to be able to go out and make plays. He's all over the field.
The 2008 Patriots defense didn't have many big plays in the course of the season. On the rare occasions that they needed a play made and someone actually stepped up and made it, it was Meriweather. A last season 4th down sack of Seattle QB Seneca Wallace which sealed a victory for the Patriots comes to mind. His rookie year he couldn't catch a pass thrown directly at him, last year he lead the team in interceptions. He's not the big, hard hitting type of safety, but he's a playmaker.
RT: What's the concern level about Brady's knee? And, should he have to sit out a game or two, is there another Matt Cassel on the bench?
BA: Brady had a couple of awkward throws off his back leg in the previous preseason game, and the timing on his throws has been a little off at times. Generally though he seems to be ready to start the season, and he has yet to miss a practice session in training camp - including a ridiculous stretch in which the team had double sessions seemingly every day for two weeks. The backups seem a little shaky at the moment. Kevin O'Connell was a third round pick last year, has a good arm and is mobile, he would seem to be the QB to call on, though the team did sign former Raider Andrew Walter in camp and seems high on his potential. I don't know if there is a Cassel there, but then again, Cassel looked absolutely dreadful in the preseason last year. There was a lot of surprise around that he even made the opening day roster.
RT: Give me someone on each side of the ball who will be fun to watch after the starters have departed.
BA: On Offense, seventh round pick Julian Edelman has been the talk of camp. A converted QB from Kent State, Edelman has been in at wide receiver and punt returns, and has been electric, running back a punt 75 yards for a TD in the first preseason game. He seems a lock to make the final roster. A longer shot to make the roster is undrafted WR Terrence Nunn, who has made a big impression in practice, catching everything thrown his way, and should end up on an NFL roster somewhere.
On defense, check out second round pick Pat Chung, who seems to have a little Rodney Harrison in him. He's a hard hitting safety who has also made some plays on special teams, blocking a field goal. Sixth round pick Myron Pryor has also been active on the defensive line, getting into the backfield on a regular basis.