Patriots Report: The List

In the first of our series of "The List", Patriots Insider Jon Scott shares his thoughts on the team, the players and what to look for as the season progresses. In case you haven't seen the insiders comments, they have been reporting from camp in a regular update series on the PI message boards. We invite you to check out the forums for more thoughts and observations about the team and the players at camp.

PHOTO: Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel, 7th-round draft pick out of USC responds to reporter's questions at training camp in Foxboro August 10th, 2005. (Patriots Insider Photo)

Patriots Report: The List
By Jon Scott, Patriots Insider

I wanted to start this series on the team of as an original perspective that other media outlets haven't already beaten to death. The more I thought about it the more I realized even if it's a good idea to try something new, it's only a matter of time before someone borrows the idea. So why fret over creating an original title? Go ahead and Google the term "Patriots Insider" and you'll see how others, including the self-proclaimed worldwide leader are already "borrowing" our trademark because it was such a good idea.

My wordsmith adventure began with a few terms relating to the title "Top Ten List" which eventually evolved into a number of equally unoriginal titles: Ten Things From a Wasted Mind; Ten Things I Think (I think); The Top Ten List… all have been done. Nothing original there, so to err on the side of brevity, let's use the title "The List."

  1. The Patriots are playing the Cincinnati Bengals tonight in their first exhibition game of the season. Yes, the Cincinnati Bengals; the same team that was synonymous with losing in the NFL. Why should playing one of the least successful franchises in the history of the NFL even be a concern for the world champions?

    Here's a hint.

    These are not the same Bengals. They have a top tier QB, a solid defense and a coach who has instilled a winning tradition. They also have multiple first round talent starting on the offensive line, defensive line QB and receiver. These are not your daddy's Bengals, and the last time the Patriots played them thinking that was the case they received a 31 - 3 whooping.

    For the first 10 minutes of playing time, you're going to see how these Bengals stack up, and don't' be surprised if they're better than advertised.

  2. Who is calling the plays in New England? Sure Charlie Weis has moved on to Notre Dame, but who did he groom as his successor to run the Patriots offense?

    Patriots head coach Bill Belichick would have you believe it's just going to stay a mystery on how the plays get called, but diligent media members have worked to uncover this mystery. One report has backup QB Rohan Davey saying its John McDaniels who will make the calls in to Brady. Other reports indicate it may be Belichick himself.

    Whoever it is, you can bet the head coach will keep close tabs on how it's going. This will be the biggest challenge to the Patriots success in my opinion. I've talked to a number of people familiar with the process and they all agree, the loss of Weis and Crennel is a bit much, even for the Patriots. But the loss of Weis more than anything else will be the biggest hurdle in the path of another Super Bowl run.

  3. Tim Dwight has been portrayed in a negative light by the regular media who have little to judge his performance on other than what Dwight has shown during camp. In effect they're probably not far off when they say it doesn't look promising. But Dwight's potential isn't what he's done in camp, it's what he's been able to do the last couple years in the league.

    Dwight has made a career of being that fearless little guy who can use amazing bursts of speed to break a long return, or kick in the afterburners on an end around to gain big chunks of yards. Until Dwight proves he has lost that speed, I wouldn't be so quick to write him off this team.

  4. Matt Chatham is on a mission to break into the rotation at linebacker. It really bothers him that a torn hamstring injury caused him to miss so much time last season, and he's out to prove he belongs, not only on special teams, but also as a contributor on the defense.

    Chatham has been getting some playing time in camp at the inside linebacker position, and according to him, he feels comfortable there. When Bruschi and Johnson's decisions not to play this season came about, Chatham felt he could be a bigger part of the defense. He's determined to improve his play and force people (the decision makers) to recognize his potential. Just listening to him, you get the feeling this guy is all about football and making the cut.

  5. Football is like an addiction, the more you get the more you want. Nothing can be a better illustration of this than seeing 42-year-old Doug Flutie running around like a kid in a candy store at practice. Flutie's enthusiasm is infectious. He pumps himself up, and in so doing, gets those around him excited.

    Whether or not Flutie eventually makes the final roster will be determined by his play on the field, but if you consider the positive influence he has on his teammates and those close to him, you'd be hard pressed to think he's not going to be Tom Brady's primary backup once preseason ends. Flutie looks more accurate than Davey and more experienced than Cassel. He has that je ne sais quois coaches respect. The key for Flutie is to try not to outplay his physical limitations. Height and arm strength are a concern, but like most little guys in the league, Flutie has it all figured out - get out of the way of the big guys and run like hell when you can't get it downfield.

  6. It's not being said, but Troy Brown is in a fight for a roster spot. With the additions of David Terrell and Tim Dwight to a relatively solid receiving corps, the Patriots continue to look for bigger receivers to augment their lineup.

    Small quick guys are great on a roster, but how many can you actually use? Look for newcomers Eugene Baker (6'-1") and Jason Anderson (6'-3") to get a long look in camp, not only for their receiving skills but their size. With PK Sam (6'-3") missing time and Cedric James (6'-1") also out, the Patriots are in need of big bodies at the WR position, something Anderson who has shown some good hands, can provide.

    If one of these guys can make the grade, or if the small, yet elusive, Bam Childress can continue to impress, Brown may have reason for concern. Do I think Brown will get cut? No. Do I think he's in a fight to prove why he deserves to stay? Yes.

  7. Reports of the Patriots offensive line woes are beginning to take on the air of the ludicrous. Not for any other reason than Dante Scarnecchia the position coach. Watching him whip his new charges into a frenzied all-out commitment to being their best is something much of the media has glossed over, and a topic too grand for this column. Scarnecchia has his veterans and his rookies responding How high when told to jump He is truly one with his linemen and doesn't let a single thing slip.

    Blow an assignment… take a lap… Of course, we can't reprint what the physically fit, intimidating line coach actually says to those who make a mistake, but suffice it to say, the message is presented in no uncertain terms.

    Scarnecchia is probably one of the most important cogs in the Belichick and Pioli success machine. He grinds up linemen and spits out polished blocking machines. It amazes me he doesn't' get anywhere near the same level of credit the line coach of the Denver Broncos gets.

  8. Jarvis Green is underrated, and Ty Warren may also fall into that category. There has been an absurd focus on the status of Patriots pro bowler Richard Seymour, but many overlook the success the Patriots front seven had while Seymour was out with an injury last season. If I were to make a bet, I'd say Green will make the pro bowl in the next couple years himself and talk will focus on the multiple DLs the Patriots have, not just Vince Wilfork or Seymour.

  9. Bam Childress reminds me of Eric Metcalf (Browns) and David Meggett (Giants). He's the underdog who is fighting against all odds to make an NFL roster. Working to overcome the stigma of being a little guy, Childress is making amazing sideline grabs in camp, catching almost everything thrown at him, many times in an impressive fashion. Should the opportunity present itself where the team can sneak Childress onto the roster, even as a practice squad player, they'll do it.

  10. It's probably not something the team wants to hear from the media, but after watching Rohan Davey as a Patriot, both at camp over the years and in his limited action on the field, I'm not convinced he'll manage to overcome the challenge from the other quarterbacks the Patriots brought into camp.

    One minute Davey guns a ball through his receiver's hands, the next he tosses a one-hopper at his feet. Davey's accuracy has been an issue for him during his New England days, and it doesn't appear to be going away. Watching him in end-zone drills, there's no doubt Davey has talent and genetics on his side with a gun for an arm. The issue is he has not yet mastered the ability to gun the ball at the right time as opposed to using more of a touch pass to get the ball out to his receiver.

    Davey can uncork the long ball, and that's something - it's a thing of beauty to observe when it works. Unfortunately, it's just as often he overshoots or underthrows the receiver, and that is probably the biggest obstacle he has to overcome to be successful.

    Odds are Flutie will win the #2 spot before the season opener.

Parting thought: Rookie QB Matt Cassel of USC is one cool kid. The Cali boy has the female media swooning over him, and the rest of the female fan base rooting for him to make the squad. Interviewing Cassel is as simple as having a conversation with an old friend. He's both polite and considerate to reporters in spite of their inane lines of questioning. A guy like Cassel is a breath of fresh air for a league full of blathering self-promoters like TO or FredEx. The Patriots have the formula right, draft kids you wouldn't mind inviting home. Character matters, and the class of 2005 was no different.

[Editors Note: Correction, the Patriots quarterback coach is Josh McDaniels not "John" as reported earlier]

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