Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

December, 18, 2011
12/18/11
6:00
AM ET
DENVER -- Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. With safety Patrick Chung missing his sixth straight game today with a foot injury, the picture of him testing the foot before the Nov. 13 game at the Jets – cutting hard on it and planting with it – resonates. It makes me wonder if the Patriots rushed him back too soon and are paying the consequences for it now.

2. While things can always change quickly, there has been little progress on a contract extension between the Patriots and receiver Wes Welker. The expectation is that Welker will be assigned the franchise tag unless there is a shift.

3. Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli acknowledged his feeling that he made a mistake in hiring Todd Haley as head coach in 2009, which was one of the first major decisions he had to make as Chiefs' personnel boss. I’m not sure which direction Pioli will go this time around, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes an Atlanta-type approach. In my view, part of what makes it work in Atlanta is that general manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith see things similarly and truly view their roles as a partnership. Pioli figures to be searching for that same dynamic.

4. Did you know the best red-zone offense (TD percentage) in the NFL belongs to the Jets? They have 30 touchdowns in 42 red-zone trips.

5. Always enjoy the opening segment of Patriots All-Access (link here), with the sounds from the pre-game, game and post-game. Usually players whoop it up after a victory, but that didn't happen last week in Washington. Running back Kevin Faulk said simply, "Sooner or later, we're going to start listening to what he has to say." He was referring to coach Bill Belichick and how players need to take his words to heart. Favorite part this week: Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork tossing his touchdown ball to his wife Bianca in the front row (nice grab, Bianca).

6. Readers noticed that Patriots defensive tackle Kyle Love lined up a yard off the ball last week against the Redskins, which was different from the norm. I asked Love why and he explained it was tied to the Redskins’ zone running scheme, and being further off the ball helped him read the play better.

7. Watching Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert struggle badly Thursday night made me wonder the benefits of playing him vs. bringing him along a bit slower until the Jaguars can surround him with some more weapons. If I’m the Jaguars, I’m concerned with what I’ve seen from Gabbert. He doesn't look like a first-round pick right now.

8. Firing a coach is sometimes the easy way out, which is why I like to see owners rewarded when they make what seems like the unpopular call and retain a coach. That’s how I view the Texans’ 10-3 season. Good for owner Bob McNair for sticking with coach Gary Kubiak after the 2010 campaign, even though some could have made the case for a change after last season.

9. Happy to see former Patriots running back Sammy Morris land in Dallas for the final few games of the season, the Cowboys needing some help with DeMarco Murray sidelined. The Patriots have had a lot of good guys pass through the locker room in Bill Belichick’s tenure, and from this view, Morris is high on that list. Morris finished with 53 yards on 12 carries in his Cowboys debut on Saturday night, and surpassed 3,000 career rushing yards.

10. Mike Carey is assigned to referee today’s Patriots-Broncos game. Carey was the referee for the Patriots-Steelers game earlier this year. A few stats on Carey’s crew this year—it has called the most false-start penalties (43) of any crew. His crew also ranks low on roughing-the-passer penalties (3) and personal fouls (1).

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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