Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. The Patriots’ re-signing of safety James Ihedigbo appears to be another sign that the coaching staff would prefer to keep Devin McCourty at cornerback. That’s where McCourty was exclusively in offseason practices attended by media members. While McCourty played safety in sub packages late last season and in the playoffs, it looks like that move was more a result of a safety shortage than a real desire to move McCourty.
2. In September 2011, Bill Belichick said, “Sergio Brown has just done nothing but improve in the year and a half that he’s been here.” But now with Steve Gregory signed in free agency, Tavon Wilson drafted in the second round and James Ihedigbo re-signed, Brown is going to be in a fight for a roster spot at safety. This looks like a case where Belichick’s projected development of Brown as a defender took an unexpected U-turn.
3. With just six teams holding mandatory minicamps this past week, attention was focused on some teams that don’t always receive a big share of the media spotlight -- the Titans, Bills, Dolphins, Vikings, Chargers and Falcons. Here’s something I didn’t know about the Titans: They received notable contributions from four 2011 defensive draft picks last season -- linebacker Akeem Ayers (2nd round), defensive lineman Jurrell Casey (3rd round), linebacker Colin McCarthy (4th round) and defensive lineman Karl Klug (5th round). Klug, who played at Iowa, led the team with seven sacks.
4. One more Titans nugget, as they are a team that will be studied closely this offseason because the Patriots open the regular season against them: Part of the reason they felt comfortable with cornerback Cortland Finnegan departing in free agency is the belief that Jason McCourty -- twin brother of Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty -- is on the cusp of greater things. Jason McCourty entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick out of Rutgers in 2009 and enters the final year of his contract.
5. Barring an injury situation, I’d be surprised if the Patriots make a move to sign veteran running back Sammy Morris.
6. Not sure how much interest there is in the ongoing dispute between officials and the league at this time. I think the big issue for officials is the league's scaling back on its pension plan for them. After further review, while Ed Hochuli might disagree, I don’t see the officials getting what they ultimately want out of this one.
7. While on the subject of officiating and rules, here’s something I think Bill Belichick will like for 2012: Every change of possession will be reviewed on instant replay, so coaches won’t need to challenge. There are a lot of rules for coaches like Belichick to digest on an annual basis, and anything that makes things easier is probably welcome.
8. Given all the coaching Patriots rookies receive, both on and off the field, I’m surprised that some of them tweet their whereabouts as much as they do. Seems like that’s just asking for trouble.
9. Former Patriots linebacker Gary Guyton lined up at both strongside and weakside linebacker in his first minicamp with the Dolphins. Nine-year veteran Kevin Burnett, who started all 16 games last season for Miami, is one player that Guyton -- who is donning his familiar No. 59 -- hopes to leap on the depth chart.
10. Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins had ACL surgery after the 2011 season, but I think it’s way too early to rule him out for the season opener at Tennessee on Sept. 9. I wouldn’t bet against Mankins.