Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

July, 8, 2012
7/08/12
5:00
AM ET
Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa talked about how spending time around Bill Belichick is like “graduate school times 100.” Professor Belichick has had some good students considering that six former assistants on his staffs are head coaches in the NFL or college in 2012 (Crennel, Ferentz, O'Brien, Saban, Schwartz, Weis), and four former assistants are NFL general managers in 2012 (Dimitroff, Newsome, Pioli, Tannenbaum).

2. The NFL’s supplemental draft, which is for players whose situation has changed since April’s regular NFL draft, is scheduled for this Thursday. Former Baylor receiver Josh Gordon is viewed as the top prospect. A team that selects a player in the supplemental draft loses that corresponding selection in the 2013 NFL draft, and here’s something to keep in mind from a Patriots perspective: The team is already without fifth- and sixth-round picks from the Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco trades -- which, from this view, makes it even less likely that the Patriots would participate.

3. Talk about the Texans, and it’s players such as Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Duane Brown, Brooks Reed, Brian Cushing and Connor Barwin who will often headline the discussion. But two under-the-radar players to watch are Rashad Butler (3rd round, 2006) and Antoine Caldwell (3rd round, 2009), who are projected new starters at right tackle and right guard. That’s significant turnover up front for a team many view as a top AFC contender, but then again, look at all the top clubs and it seems like questions on the O-line are the norm.

4. Wes Welker needs four catches in the season opener to become the Patriots’ all-time leader in receptions. Troy Brown’s 557 catches is currently the top mark, a total that took 15 seasons to accumulate (1993-2007). Welker enters his sixth season with the Patriots in 2012, making the imminent accomplishment that much more impressive.

5. Drew Brees was franchise-tagged by the Saints and negotiations haven't produced an extension, Matt Schaub enters the final year of his contract with the Texans and there have reportedly been no talks on an extension, Peyton Manning is now in Denver ... looking back to 2010, it sort of makes all the concern in these parts about Tom Brady and the Patriots striking a deal seem a bit silly. The sides got that one done a year early (link here).

6. The Patriots have Danny Woodhead, the Steelers have Isaac Redman. Both undrafted running backs played at the Division II level – Woodhead at Chadron State, Redman at Bowie State – and both project to have key roles within their NFL teams’ attacks in 2012. When I think of that, it also crosses the mind that Patriots 2006 first-round draft choice Laurence Maroney has been out of the league since last season.

7. The Patriots visit the Titans in the season-opener on Sept. 9, and one natural storyline will be cornerbacks/identical twins Devin McCourty (Patriots) and Jason McCourty (Titans) on opposite sidelines. From the “Did You Know?” Department: The McCourtys are the 11th set of twins to play in the NFL. The Patriots had one previous twin play for them, reserve cornerback Kato Serwanga from 1998 to 2000.

8. Curious to see how first-year Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, who has talked about finding "Buccaneer Men" with high character, handles cornerback Eric Wright. The Buccaneers signed Wright to a five-year contract potentially worth as much as $37 million this offseason, and he was arrested on a felony DUI charge in Los Angeles this past week (link here). Schiano has come across as an impressive leader and communicator since taking over the Buccaneers' job, and this looks like one of his first big tests.

9. Total pages devoted to quarterback Tom Brady in the Patriots’ 2012 media guide: 15. Yes, the guy is good.

10. With news that Matt Light is on the cusp of joining ESPN, it adds another former Patriot from the past decade-plus to the media corps, a group including Tedy Bruschi (ESPN), Rodney Harrison (NBC), Willie McGinest (NFL Network), Heath Evans (NFL Network), Ty Law (Comcast SportsNet), Troy Brown (Comcast SportsNet), Christian Fauria (ESPN) and Scott Zolak (98.5 The Sports Hub). Some Twitter friends noted Damien Woody (ESPN) and Eric Mangini (ESPN) could also be included, as could Matt Chatham (NESN). Wonder if there is another team in the NFL that has placed so many players/ex-coaches in those types of jobs. While all have earned the roles, it doesn’t hurt to play/work for such a high-profile team.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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