1. How is Tom Brady's knee? Is he going to be his old self this season?
Jon Scott: Brady has had some issues with the knee. He says its fine. His surgeon says its fine. But it may not be fine. After his rusty performance at points in the preseason, Brady clearly has some work to do to get completely over the injury. He has thrown off his back foot, not setup properly and his throws reflect the poor mechanics. When hes on though, hes been on, as evidenced in the game against the Washington Redskins.
2. The Richard Seymour trade kind of came out of nowhere. Who will take his spot, and was this a good move for New England in your opinion?
Scott: I think Seymours departure created an opportunity for Jarvis Green. When both are healthy, theres not much of a comparison, Seymour is obviously far superior in talent. But Seymour hasnt been himself in recent years, and the value the team has received based upon the hefty cap number they were saddled with keeping Seymour, wasnt paying off for them. Green and Mike Wright filled in for Seymour when he was out. Despite the drop in talent level, the team didnt suffer nearly as much as they could have.
Adding a first round pick for Seymour, even if it is in 2011, was a good move for New England. They get a chance to start over at the position with a player on the rise, rather than a very expensive one on the decline. At only 29, its still far too early to tell if the Patriots gave up on Seymour too soon, but recent history indicates it was a wise move. A league source told us that the Patriots had the offer of a second round pick from the Chiefs for Seymour and were considering the move until the Raiders stepped in.
3. Defensively, it looks like the Patriots are trying to get younger. Is that the case?
Scott: Absolutely. But they tried hard to keep vested veterans on the roster and havent been able to. The players who are no longer around since this past year were the whos who of the league a few years ago; Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison and now Seymour.
I think there will be big growing pains in the secondary, as evidenced by Patrick Chung in the final preseason game when he was beaten repeatedly in coverage. The linebackers are improving and the two starters at inside are both second year players one a first round pick the other went undrafted.
One interesting point is that the Patriots went out and signed a pair of veteran corners to handle the issues at the position, opting not to stay with second year players Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite. Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs are expected to either start or play significant roles at the position. Darius Butler, another one of New Englands second round picks this year, has all the skill necessary to push for playing time. Just dont expect the Patriots to give him a starting role unless someone else gets hurt.
4. We all know how explosive Randy Moss is. But outside of Moss, what other weapons will Brady be dispersing the ball to?
Scott: Ben Watson returns as one of the Patriots two top tight ends. His return is a clear indication the team still values his athleticism. If he can stay healthy and actually make the catches when hes the target, Watson could be an impact player. If not, TE Chris Baker has also shown significant talent. Baker looks like the better blocker, but hes not nearly as fast as Watson.
Rookie Julian Edelman reminds one of Wes Welker with his quickness. Edelman, a former QB from Kent State, has made the transition to receiver and done so admirably. Hes a candidate to run the Wildcat for New England when hes not running patterns.
The Patriots decision to dump WR Greg Lewis came as a bit of a shock. The team doesnt really have a true No. 3, though Joey Galloway has earned (and held) the spot since the start of camp. Lewis was brought in to give the receiving corps more depth. Now the team will need to use more of their tight ends and running backs to carry the load something I think youll see a lot more this year.
5. What are New England's expectations this season? Is it Super Bowl or bust?
Scott: For this team, anything short of the Super Bowl is considered failure, not just this year but also any year. The Patriots hold impossibly high standards because theyve been to the top. They want to get back and missing the playoffs was a big deal for this team. I wouldnt call it arrogance, rather a sense of confidence. The organization believes theyre going to make the playoffs every year, and when they dont thats a huge shock for them. The team has only missed the playoffs twice since Bill Belichick arrived (2002, 2008). Theyve appeared in 5 AFC Championships, winning 4 and theyve made 4 trips to the Super Bowl winning 3. Seems like Super Bowl or Bust bumper stickers were founded in New England.