Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1.The biggest takeaway from the last two days of roster movement for the Patriots: We can make as many 53-man projections as we like, but chances are Bill Belichick sees things a lot differently than we do. As usual, some surprising moves from Belichick.
2. Totaling up the signing bonus money agreed upon this offseason to players no longer on the Patriots: Jonathan Fanene ($3.85 million), Robert Gallery ($400,000), Dan Koppen ($350,000), Deion Branch ($250,000), Jabar Gaffney ($250,000), Joseph Addai ($75,000), Tony Fiammetta ($60,000), linebacker Bobby Carpenter ($50,000) and James Ihedigbo ($25,000). The bill comes to $5.76 million. One figures the Patriots will put up a fight on Fanene’s bonus, and it’s possible a behind-the-scenes agreement to recoup money from Gallery was struck after he retired, but on the surface it seems safe to say that's too high of a figure for management's liking.
3. Do the Patriots make Saturday’s trade for Greg Salas, or sign free-agent receiver Brandon Lloyd, if Josh McDaniels isn’t back as offensive coordinator? I think the answer is no to both questions, which speaks to how much trust Belichick has in McDaniels.
4. The Cardinals named John Skelton their starting quarterback, meaning the Patriots will open the 2012 season against teams led by Jake Locker (making 1st career start) and Skelton (11 career starts in first 2 NFL seasons). If you're a Patriots fan, can you really ask for much more? If you were to rank the starting quarterbacks in the NFL 1-32, these two would be much closer to the “32” than the “1.” Almost puts some of the backup quarterback buzz here in New England -- Ryan Mallett over Brian Hoyer -- in greater perspective.
5. In retrospect, there was a wide gap between perception and reality when it came to how Hoyer was viewed around the NFL. The most impressive backup quarterback I saw this preseason was the Eagles’ Nick Foles, who looks like a nice third-round pick for the Eagles.
6. The Ravens figure to be one of the Patriots’ top competitors in the AFC, and they have made a notable change with rookie Justin Tucker earning the placekicking job over Billy Cundiff. Whenever there is a change like that, you always wonder how a first-year will respond to his first pressure game-winning kick, which will be something to potentially keep in mind Week 3 when the Patriots visit the Ravens in a highly anticipated game. Then again, after Cundiff’s miss in the AFC title game last year, it was hard to see him back in Baltimore in 2012.
7. Things we expect to hear from Belichick about the Titans in advance of the Sept. 9 season-opener: “They intercepted eight passes this preseason. Had 13 sacks. Recovered five fumbles. Were plus-6 in turnover differential. We have a big challenge ahead.” Belichick can talk up an opponent with the best of them, and his first news conference of the week is today at 1:15. We're ready for some Titans talk.
8. The Dolphins are in for a tough year, but I like the moves they’re making with the big picture in mind, most recently trading cornerback Vontae Davis to the Colts for a second-round pick. The Dolphins are cleaning out players who don’t fit the new program (Davis, Brandon Marshall et al) and giving themselves some solid draft chips to aid the rebuilding effort in the next few years. A new coach like Joe Philbin usually gets a honeymoon period for a year before results are expected, and the Dolphins seem to be operating with that in mind by focusing on establishing the right culture with the right type of players. If they hit on quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the franchise could finally be poised to turn a corner with the current approach.
9. Unlike last year, when the Patriots had multiple players claimed on waivers by other teams, only safety Sergio Brown was claimed; the Colts and Giants put in claims, with the Colts having the priority. Brown fell off the map defensively midway through last season after committing two costly penalties in losses (vs. Buffalo, N.Y. Giants), and while he still flashed as a solid special-teamer, the emergence of rookies Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner squeezed him off this year's roster. Still, it’s interesting that two other teams saw something there to put in claims.
10. Not sure there is much widespread interest in this type of stuff, but was impressed that Patriots rookies were previously briefed on each media member covering the team, the media member’s affiliation, and what the media member’s responsibilities entail. I learned this after introducing myself to one lesser-known rookie, only to be given a scouting report of sorts on ESPNBoston. The Patriots are one of the most well-covered teams in the NFL, and prepping players on those who visit the locker room each day is smart. No truth to the rumor that the ESPNBoston scouting report read: "Undersized scrapper. Good change of direction when forced to adjust to new interview target in locker room. Doesn't have ideal recorder reach when matched up against bigger tackles."
11. Speaking of ESPNBoston coverage, I've heard from some of you on Twitter, asking about podcasts and other content with Tedy Bruschi. Tedy is back with us again this year, and the first podcast is scheduled to be recorded this week. Thanks for the interest. We're looking forward to another great year of Tedy's insight.