Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

May, 8, 2011
5/08/11
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Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. From 2007-2011, the Patriots have drafted a cornerback or safety six times in the first or second round, in addition to investing a four-year, $22 million contract with Leigh Bodden. If they aren’t the best secondary in the NFL this year, it isn’t for a lack of devoting top resources.

2. With the Patriots not selecting an outside linebacker early in the draft, the spotlight will shine a bit brighter on second-year man Jermaine Cunningham’s development this season. Cunningham has been in town of late, where linebacker Jerod Mayo continues to show leadership in arranging workouts with teammates.

3. From an Xs and Os standpoint, I’m not sure how much it will help teams like the Jets, Saints and Cowboys that they are holding team-based workouts during the lockout. But from a camaraderie and "we’re-in-this-together" standpoint, it can’t hurt.

4. When reading how Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has learned the importance of scouting from Bill Belichick, one word came to mind – respect.

5. If I’m Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, left tackle Matt Light makes a lot of sense as a top free-agent target on a two- or three-year deal. The Chiefs need to protect Matt Cassel better. While I expect the Patriots to still keep lines of communication open with Light, a team with a greater need like the Chiefs could up the bidding to a level the Patriots don't want to go.

6. Patriots second-round pick Ras-I Dowling has been touted as big and physical, although one scout I spoke with had some questions about his toughness. That’s part of the scouting process – varying opinions on players. I remember in 2002, some teams said they had a fifth-round grade on Deion Branch, who went in the second to the Patriots. The Patriots were right on that one as Branch was a perfect fit for their system.

7. I like how the Steelers, picking at the end of the round, have landed a couple of solid defensive linemen to play end in their 3-4 scheme (Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward). They aren’t the type of picks that create sizzle, but they help create a sturdy foundation.

8. In speaking with college coaches who worked with some of the Patriots’ draft picks this year, I was reminded of how small the football world truly is. Ras-I Dowling’s position coach played with Ben Coates at Livingstone College, and Lee Smith’s position coach was teammates with Troy Brown at Marshall.

9. I don't think there's a more fascinating position switch in the NFL than what is set to take place this year in Houston with Mario Williams moving to rush linebacker. The Texans loaded up on defense with their early picks in the draft, and with Wade Phillips coordinating the defense and the Williams switch, the Texans will be a fun team to watch early in the season.

10. Congratulations to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (Good Guy Award), Jets coach Rex Ryan (Horrigan Award), former Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger (Halas Award), the Ravens’ PR staff (Rozelle Award) and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter Bob McGinn (McCann Award), the winners of this year’s awards from the Pro Football Writers of America.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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