Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. It somewhat flew under the radar, but after three months of wondering whether Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty would line up at safety or cornerback, he was exclusively at cornerback in Thursday’s organized team activity. All along, that has made the most sense from this view, as it’s too early in his career to permanently switch his position. We’ll see if it sticks.
2. With 12 offensive linemen dressed for Thursday’s organized team activity, it meant the Patriots had three players taking double reps to fill out three different units -- Dan Koppen at center (2nd and 3rd units), Nick McDonald at left guard (2nd and 3rd units) and Matt Kopa at right tackle (2nd and 3rd units). That probably led to the team agreeing to contract terms with center/guard Jamey Richard on Friday, as depth on the line is a bit more thin than desired at this point. Nothing major, but something for Bill Belichick to manage at this early date.
3. Part of the offensive line shortage was tied to starting right guard Brian Waters not being in attendance. Waters has traditionally skipped voluntary OTAs to be with his family in Texas, although he was part of them in Kansas City in 2010. I'll be interested to see how Bill Belichick handles the right guard spot if Waters, who is under contract for a base salary of $1.4 million and a $2.25 million salary cap charge (he has a chance to earn an additional $750,000 in incentives), is with the team at the start of training camp. Does he insert Waters right back into the starting lineup? Or, to reinforce his message to players on what he feels is most important when building a team, does he stick with those who worked throughout the team's voluntary offseason program?
4. One of the relevant questions leading into the Patriots’ Sept. 9 season opener at Tennessee is which quarterback will start for the Titans – Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker. The Titans are calling it an open competition, and if they believe keeping that information from Bill Belichick would negate a game-planning edge for the Patriots, perhaps they withhold the answer as long as possible. Might be a smart thing for them to do.
5. Safety LaRon Landry hasn’t attended organized team activities with the Jets, which even though they’re voluntary, seems like a storyline worth monitoring. Landry is still rehabbing an Achilles injury, so he couldn’t practice anyway, but he is also learning a new defensive system and simply being around would help that transition. The Patriots also hosted Landry on a free-agent visit this offseason, but didn’t offer him a deal.
6. LSU receiver Rueben Randle slipped all the way to the bottom of the second round in the NFL draft before he was picked by the defending champion Giants 63rd overall. But now, after Giants No. 1 receiver Hakeem Nicks broke a bone in his foot during OTAs and could be out up to 12 weeks, Randle has a first-round type spotlight shining in his direction. The Giants had a Mario Manningham replacement in mind with Randle, but they might need even more than that depending on Nicks’ recovery.
7. Patriots assistant director of college scouting Brian Smith, who has been with the team since 2000, is a candidate to move up the ranks in any type of department reshuffling that takes place this offseason. Smith has had a variety of roles with the club, and with director of pro personnel Jason Licht (Cardinals) and national scout Kyle O’Brien (Chiefs) leaving the Patriots this offseason, he is a name to file away as someone who is primed for bigger things at some point.
8. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said this week that better Wi-Fi in each of the league’s 31 stadiums is a priority, so fans can have the same information/stats/highlights etc. they would have at home. Such a decision caters to the growth of fantasy football, and also acknowledges teams need to do more to make the “stadium experience” special to compete with the "television experience." Goodell thinks the new technology could be implemented in one or two stadiums this year, possibly starting in New Orleans, which is hosting the Super Bowl.
9. Several teams have passed on HBO’s “Hard Knocks”, making whichever team turns out to be this year’s choice seem like the Pro Bowler who gets the call only after a string of injuries opens the opportunity. A team like the Jaguars, with new owner Shad Khan looking to build the brand, could be a fit. But is there enough widespread interest in a team like that to make people watch?
10. Veteran offensive lineman Robert Gallery had fallen out of favor in Seattle and was released just one season into his three-year deal. The release earlier this year was also notable because Seattle's line coach is Tom Cable, who was also Gallery's coach in Oakland and obviously has deep background with him. The Patriots had Gallery lining up in Logan Mankins' left guard spot on Thursday as Mankins recovers from ACL surgery, and in speaking with one NFL scout, there is some doubt as to how much Gallery has left to offer at this point. The Patriots' track record with those type of signings, however, is pretty solid (e.g. Andre Carter).