Roundtable: Week 15 - Keep Cassel Or...

Has any player seen his stock soar so high in such a short time? Called just a high school quarterback by some jokesters on pregame shows, Cassel has proven he can be THE man. We asked our contributors to weigh in on what the team should do with Cassel next year, the challenges of overcoming injuries and more...

What has been your impression of Matt Cassel over the last four games?

LoVell Parkman: Jets, Dolphins, Steelers, Seahawks. Of those the only team with a good defense that he faced was Pittsburgh. It is known that you can pass on the other three teams. Cassel did what he should have done against them and a little extra (over 400 yards against the Jets and Dolphins). However the measuring stick was what he did against the Steelers defense. They exposed his lack of pocket awareness as well as his need to improve ball security (two fumbles). He had two interceptions against the Steelers. I give Cassel a passing grade. I wanted to see more out of him against Pittsburgh however his wide receivers dropped balls they should have caught (Moss dropped a touchdown and Gaffney dropped more wide open passes). Dont forget Welker was knocked out of the game.

Jim Poore: I think Matt Cassel has been decent and better than expected, but I still don't think he is that great. I'm sorry. Most of his passes are less than five yards, and the receiver does the rest. That isn't his fault certainly, but it just shows his limited ability. I think a lot of it is "the system", but when the Patriots play a good or very good defense, Cassel's numbers drop considerably. He just doesn't really show me anything.

Kevin Saleeba: If Tom Brady was gone for good, I'd be happy with Cassel's progress these last few weeks and hopeful for the future at the quarterback position. With that said, I'm glad Brady will some day be back at the helm, because Cassel is no Tom Brady and he never will.

Shane Leketa: I have not been as impressed with Matt Cassel as I have with Josh McDaniels' offensive playcalling (which I must say I never thought I would say). Last year it was easy to throw down field and put the pedal to the medal on every down. This year, after the loss of Brady, he had to be creative. He had to develop Cassel within the Belichick system and not let him make mistakes. This, along with Cassel being above average in talent, has been a recipe for success even in losing efforts.

Jon Scott: Cassel has had the highs and lows one would expect of a first year quarterback. I was surprised to see that Cassel was able to generate back-to-back 400-yard passing games, then come crashing back down to earth. Some of that is the offense's inability to provide time, some of it game planning, but the rest is on Cassel's inexperience. He's young. I said in the first part of the season, all he needs is time and a chance to see the things teams will throw at him before he can figure out a way thought it. These games will make him a better player if the Pats are somehow able to make it to the postseason.


Do you think the Patriots should try to keep Cassel for next season?

LP: If Bradys rehab is coming along as well as expected the Patriots can then entertain trade offers. They really wont know this until after free agency begins. That being said either they give him a contract they can live with or slap the franchise tag on him. It would be poor management and just plain dumb to let Cassel walk away and get nothing in return.

JP: I think they should try to keep him, but they won't. The NFL is such a quarterback-starved league that some team will offer him lots of money and the Patriots won't match it for a backup quarterback, and I can't blame them. The way the Patriots run their team financially they wouldn't pay him anyway. Congrats to Cassel though.. Even though I was never all that impressed, to some team he played well enough to get a nice contract.

KS: Cassel is gone and the Patriots can't afford to pay two quarterbacks. It's Brady or bust. Let's see what Cassel can do on another team without Wes Welker, Randy Moss, and Kevin Faulk.

SL: No. I don't. I think that if you look at the overall feel for this team, Cassel has been a qualified replacement in a system that is made to bring out the best in it's players. This is Tom Brady's team. If Brady was in his mid thirties then I might feel differently but, he is still in his prime years and will be back. The Patriots should score while they can from Matt Cassel. I can promise you that there will be many suitors for him so, strike the iron while it is hot and get some good picks for him after placing the franchise tag on him.

JS: New England may not be able to afford to keep Cassel on the roster. Considering he's considered one of the top free agents for next year, the Patriots would need to use the franchise tag to keep him. According to some reports Brady's contract is part of the 2009 Franchise Tag cost as his compensation is in the top 5 salaries at the position. The projected tag number for Cassel is $14 million. If they can afford it, they will try to keep Cassel around until they know whether Brady will be back. That's what the prudent thing to do would be, and we already know the Patriots tend to be prudent when it comes to making roster decisions.


What is your impression of whats ailing the Patriots defense?

LP: A lack of defensive pressure on the quarterback and inability to get off the field on third downs (especially third and long, very disturbing) and bad defensive play calling. A mediocre at best defensive backfield. Dan Pees until last week seemed to forget what a blitz is. Im still convinced if Pees has called a blitz in OT during the Jets game with the Jets facing a third and fifteen the Patriots offense would have gotten a chance to win the game. No defensive pressure on the quarterback allows the opposing quarterback to pick apart a weak secondary.

JP: I think this one is pretty simple: the Patriots defense was never that good anyway, even when healthy. Part of that problem is age, as many of the starters have clearly lost a step. Not resigning Asante Samuel ( here we go again with that) made a big difference, and the Patriots had to pluck poor players off waivers to start here. So the starters weren't that great to begin with, because many of the starters were second stringers on other teams.

KS: The injuries to the old timers may be a blessing to give the young guys valuable experience. Let's face it; they're not winning the Super Bowl this year so why not see a changing of the guard on defense. They were getting old and slow as it is.

SL: I have heard so many different opinions here with what is ailing the defense of the New England Patriots. I have heard words thrown around like age, passion and injuries all over the place. With the injuries to players such as Harrison, Bruschi, Wilfork, Warren, Sanders, and the list goes on, it is surprising that this team is even in the hunt at all for the promised land of the playoffs. This defensive unit looks more like an emergency room rather than a solid defensive squad. All of these factors come into play with this defense but the injuries may be just too much to overcome.

JS: I think the injury bug is hampering the Patriots defense. With more bodies out of the lineup every Sunday, it's surprising the defense is able to rise to the occasion. I was one of those who thought the defense needed to be more aggressive with blitz packages to try to protect the ailing secondary. We've seen more of that in recent weeks, and it appears to be working.


How would you rate the teams performance in spite of all the injuries?

LP: This is a testament to Belichick and the team in general. The veteran leadership. has tried to execute the game plans as directed and have played hard, gritty, never give up team football. Most teams that experience these kinds of injuries are under .500 not in the playoff hunt and tied for first place in their division like the New England Patriots. Whether they make the playoffs or not, you have to tip your hat too and admire this team and the outstanding job they have done despite the hand injuries have dealt them.

JP: I think considering all of the injuries and lack of talent on defense, the Patriots should be commended on their season. They won't make the playoffs even though they will likely win at least 10 games, but in the AFC that isn't good enough this year. Even if they did make it, they would have been one and done anyway. I think they have a lot of work to do in the offseason, especially on defense. May be the front office and ownership will spend some more money in the offseason, but I doubt it.

KS: With all these injuries, they've done far better than I've expected. I thought the season was over after game one. Props to Bill Belichick and the coaching staff for preparing this team every week and not quitting after Brady went down; and also for making this tea m interesting this season. Just don't expect any parades this season.

SL: Well, how can I rate the offense anything other than B+ with what they have had at stake in having an emergency room for a backfield with Maroney going down and Morris in and out. Wes Welker has been a solid A+ and the offensive line has held it's own .. nothing amazing but has held it's own. The defensive unit even with the injuries has been about a C- close to a D. I hope they can pull some sort of miracle for this team to have any chance to go deep into the postseason.

JS: The injuries have taken a huge toll on the team's defense. Losing Rodney Harrison was bad after losing Asante Samuel, Eugene Wilson and Randall Gay as free agents. Then the Patriots lost Adalius Thomas, arguably one of the best linebackers on the team. Then they lost his backup, had injuries on the defensive line and at the cornerback position. In years past, it was mostly injuries to one or two areas, not all levels of the defense. It's a surprise the Patriots defense isn't as bad as some of the teams at the bottom of the standings. Credit goes to the team's backups who have played well in a relief effort. That deosnt' even account for how well the offense ahs done without Brady. If you ask for a coaching grade, it has to be a solid A.

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