Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Eagles coach Andy Reid told reporters that his starters will play into the third quarter in Monday night’s preseason game against the Patriots. Just a guess, but that’s probably a lot longer than we’ll see many of the Patriots’ key players, if we see them at all. With three preseason games in a span of 10 days, including joint practices in Tampa with the Buccaneers on Wednesday and Thursday, Bill Belichick has to manage his roster carefully.
2. As for the three games in 10 days, doesn’t it seem contradictory to the league’s "emphasis" on player safety?
3. Here is what I believe is the story behind the story on why Jeff Demps ultimately decided to sign with the Patriots instead of a handful of other interested clubs: When it initially appeared Demps wouldn’t be going to the Olympics, the Patriots had arranged a trip for him to come to New England for a workout. They were the most aggressive of any team in the NFL at the time. But on the day Demps was supposed to travel to New England, he learned that an injury to Mike Rodgers opened a spot for him on the U.S. Olympic team. The Patriots had to eat the plane ticket, but Demps essentially showed the team loyalty by giving it the first opportunity to sign him upon his return from London.
4. This comes with the disclaimer of being careful about reading too much into preseason results, but the Ravens’ defense hasn’t looked sharp in its first two games (versus the Falcons and Lions). One concern throughout training camp has been second-year cornerback Jimmy Smith and a back injury that has kept him out of several practices. The Ravens also haven’t generated much pressure without the injured Terrell Suggs. Ultimately, I think their defense will be fine. Otherwise, the pressure will be turned up on first-year coordinator Dean Pees, who was no stranger to feeling the heat here in New England.
5. Random thought from a pure speculation standpoint: The Giants have had a run of injuries along the defensive line and I had the thought that perhaps they might be a trade partner for the Patriots if they were seeking help. Maybe Tom Coughlin dipping into his old BC background and seeing if a change of scenery might bring out the best in Ron Brace? At times in training camp, Brace has looked very good, but there simply might not be room for him on the Patriots' roster.
6. Monitoring big storylines with the first two teams on the Patriots’ regular-season schedule: (1) Second-year Titans quarterback Jake Locker struggled on Friday, with some poor decision-making that could ultimately sway coach Mike Munchak to stick with veteran Matt Hasselbeck for the Sept. 9 season opener against New England. The Titans eventually want to turn things over to Locker, their 2011 first-round pick. The question remains when. (2) Cardinals starting left tackle Levi Brown tore his triceps, which could threaten his season. This could be a mismatch on Sept. 16 when impressive Patriots rookie Chandler Jones lines up across from either 2011 rookie free agent D.J. Young (0 career games) or Jeremy Bridges (10th year) in New England's home opener.
7. When the Texans selected offensive tackle Duane Brown in the first round of the 2008 draft, some said it was a reach. Brown was the 26th overall selection and there were seven other offensive tackles taken before him, which led to some easy second-guessing. But Brown has proved to be among the best of the group and was rewarded last week with a big-time contract extension. Miami’s Jake Long (1) and Denver’s Ryan Clady (12) are top offensive linemen from that ’08 draft, but Brown has decisively outperformed the other blockers selected before him -- Chicago’s Chris Williams (14), Kansas City’s Branden Albert (15, guard), Detroit’s Gosder Cherilus (17), Carolina’s Jeff Otah (19) and Atlanta’s Sam Baker (21). Good work by the Texans there.
8. When the Patriots devise their game plan for an opponent, one of the things players say Bill Belichick does is clearly identify their priorities. It doesn’t take a longtime pro scout to figure out what No. 1 will be for the defense in the Sept. 9 season opener at Tennessee: Limit running back Chris Johnson and don’t give up the big play. Johnson, who had a down year in 2011, looked explosive Friday night (two touchdown rushes of 14 yards apiece). The Patriots surrendered 41 rushes of 10 yards or more last season (as a point of comparison, they had 29 rushes of 10 yards or more themselves on the season), and also gave up 70 pass plays of 20 yards or more (compared to 65 of their own).
9. For all the chatter about the Patriots’ offensive line and some of its early struggles in training camp, the point has consistently been made that some of the other top AFC teams have similar questions. The Jets are one of them. Right tackle looked like a revolving door Saturday night against the Giants, with Wayne Hunter having a tough time with the Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul. A lot of tackles will struggle with Pierre-Paul, but the reason the Jets initially traded for Jeff Otah (the deal was ultimately nixed) was because of concern at the position. That concern remains.
10. The Patriots currently have five players on either the physically unable to perform list or non-football list -- offensive tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Markus Zusevics, tight ends Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard, and defensive lineman Myron Pryor -- which is the highest total of any team in the league. This is standard operating procedure under Bill Belichick, who has annually been more willing to pay salaries for some players who might not factor into the mix until after Week 6. It’s one way to build depth. Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet reported Saturday that Vollmer and Fells are expected to come off the PUP list in the very near future.
11. For those interested in the ongoing dispute between the NFL and its primary officials, replacement referee Jerry Frump has been assigned Monday’s Patriots-Eagles game. Frump worked NFL games in 2001 as a replacement ref. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Frump has 14 years of officiating experience in Division I and III as well as other pro leagues.