1) Who's winning your QB battle so far, Brady or Tebow?
Tebow has the edge in autographs given and smiles received. As for on the football field, too close to call.
1a) OK, just kidding. How does Aaron Hernandez look so far?
1b) OK, just kidding again. Your receivers are shrimps, or at least my perception of who your projected WR starters will be are shrimps. So are the Eagles' WRs, just FYI. How much does that worry you, if at all?
Actually, the Patriots receivers are likely to have more size than you think this year, and certainly more than they have had the past couple of years. At 5'11", Danny Amendola provides a little more size in the slot than Welker did. And meanwhile, it looks as if the rookies are going to place well on the depth chart. There's the 6'3" 2nd round draft choice, Aaron Dobson as well as the 5'11", 206 lbs 4th round draft choice Josh Boyce. Dobson in particular can go up and get it, and he's currently looking like the top outside receiver on the depth chart. Now I'm not exactly sure if that's a good or a bad thing at this point, but it does mean that the Patriots have more size at the receiver position since the Randy Moss days. So when it comes to this receiving corps, I'm more worried about the Patriots' lack of experience than their lack of size.
2) There was an article published by the Wall Street Journal saying that the referees would not be catering to Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense, which is not yet as fast-paced as the Patriots', at least not so far in training camp. Do you recall any times last season in which the officials could not spot the ball in a timely fashion, thus slowing down Mr. Brady and Co.?
I can't really seem to recall any particular instances. But as you know, the Patriots had the fastest offense in the league a year ago, and are capable of snapping the football within 12-15 seconds on any particular down. And at the end of the day, the refs still hustle to keep up with the offense. No, they're not going to sprint to the line to assist the offense. However, the Patriots have been able to get to the line and snap the football fast enough as to prevent the defense from making substitutions and keeping them off-balance. While everyone wants to make a big deal of this type of thing in August, but by the time September rolls around, these things usually have a way of working themselves out.
3) If you could steal one player off the Eagles' roster, who are you taking?
DeSean Jackson, no question. The New England Patriots are in desperate need of a proven playmaker at receiver, and Jackson is exactly that. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would have a field day with Jackson, lining him up all over the field. Plus, he's got those nasty shuttle and 3-cone times that the Patriots' front office salivates over. If I got to steal two, I'd take Zach Ertz. He looks like he's going to be a steal in the second round.
4) Do you think the Patriots will move away from the 2-TE sets to some degree this season, with the personnel being devastated there by injuries/other?
I think we'll still see a lot of two tight end sets, but Aaron Hernandez was really more of a receiver / h-back than a traditional tight end. Hernandez allowed you to go from a 12 personnel grouping, to an 11 by moving him wide, or a 21 by moving him in the backfield. Hernandez granted a degree of unpredictability to the Patriots offense, and the team is going to have to go somewhere else to sustain that element. That being said, for 2013, I'd expect to see a lot more 3-WR sets in New England. This was a personnel grouping they ran frequently from 2007 - 2009.
5) The Pats are willing to take chances on low-character guys if they have talent, which goes beyond Hernandez (Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, etc). Is this something you would like to see continue, as the Pats have had some success with it, or do you think that approach needs some re-thinking?
It's certainly something that needs a closer look. The Patriots still have a very strong locker room, and their buy-low, sell-high mentality has really worked well in the past whether it's been a player with an injury risk (see: Rob Gronkowski) or character issues. Of course, there have been misses as well. However, I don't think there was anyone that could have foreseen what happened with Hernandez. That being said, it's not as if you can just ignore what happened there. It's too big to not play a part, or at least be in the background, of the decision making process going forward.
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