Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

July, 29, 2012
7/29/12
5:00
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Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. Taking a temperature on the Patriots' defense three days into training camp, there looks like legitimate hope and promise for a stronger front seven with multiple encouraging pass-rushing options. But the lingering question of whether enough reinforcements were added in the secondary remains.

2. I think defensive lineman Ron Brace quietly has put together his best start to training camp with the Patriots. The 2009 second-round draft choice forced a fumble on Friday, and I watched him give Dan Connolly, arguably the Patriots' best lineman to date, fits in a one-on-one drill Saturday. It hasn't all been perfect (Brace jumped offsides at one point), but he's caught the eye.

3. We remember the bizarre news conferences that Randy Moss had in 2010, first before he was traded by the Patriots, then when he returned to town as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. This is the opposite end of the spectrum. Moss comes across as believable and humbled. He might not put up big numbers with the 49ers, but to this point, he's saying and doing all the right things.

4. With the two-pronged goal of preparing for the 16-game regular season along with the Sept. 9 season-opener at Tennessee, the Patriots will surely be keeping one eye on the status of unsigned Titans first-round draft choice Kendall Wright. The Titans opened training camp Saturday and Wright, an explosive playmaking receiver, was officially a holdout. The issue appears to be how much of the final year of his contract is guaranteed. Naturally, the longer he's out, the better for the Patriots.

5. For those who think the Patriots are the only team that plays contract hardball: The Steelers sent a strong message to restricted free agent receiver Mike Wallace, who has not signed his tender and has remained out of training camp, when they reached a six-year, $42.5 million contract with receiver Antonio Brown on Friday. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert also dropped another hammer on Wallace, saying the team wouldn't discuss a long-term contract until he reported to camp.

6. For more than a year, I wondered why teams were shying away from signing linebacker Lofa Tatupu, as he had been a productive player for the Seahawks but couldn't land a job in 2011. Reading the tea leaves, injury concerns might have been the main reason, and that's what came back to bite the Falcons after they took the plunge and signed Tatupu this offseason. Tatupu tore his pectoral muscle in a workout and is out for the year. Makes one wonder if that's a career-ender for him.

7. Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, the 2010 second-round draft choice who dipped in 2011 after a promising rookie season, looks more explosive than he did last season (on Saturday, I saw him get the edge on Marcus Cannon and bend to the cone that would have been the quarterback). He's not going down without a fight, working at left end in the team's four-man line. It seems like a good fit for him in the defense the Patriots have been running.

8. Veteran defensive end Chris Clemons has been a find for the Seahawks, who acquired him from the Eagles two years ago in a change-of-scenery-might-do-each-player-good type of swap. Clemons has totaled 11 sacks in each of the last two seasons, and the club rewarded him with an extension within the last week. The extension was also a big score for veteran agent Donal Henderson, whose offices are located in Marshfield, Mass.

9. Remember all the questions about whether Julian Edelman's Patriots future might be on defense instead of offense? Those seem a bit foolish now, as he's working solely as a receiver in training camp. On Saturday, Edelman did go through a tackling drill on both sides of the line – offense and defense – because he plays on the kickoff coverage unit. Edelman has had a strong first three days of camp.

10. Who was that writer who said Joseph Addai could wind up being the Patriots' best free-agent signing (link here)? Come on, man. I thought we had all the answers.

Time to run a penalty lap.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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