Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

August, 28, 2011
8/28/11
6:00
AM ET
Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. Third-year Patriots receiver Brandon Tate appears to be heading backward. It now looks to me like he'll be the odd man out in the Patriots' receiving corps.

2. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers comes across as a regular guy. He might be at the top of the NFL’s mountaintop after leading the Packers to the Super Bowl, but after watching him during an interview Saturday night on CBS, he still seems humble and an ideal leader that other players will follow.

3. See a potentially troubling combination in Indianapolis -- a growing-on-the-job offensive line, a star quarterback who is coming back from neck surgery, and a top veteran backup quarterback who isn’t mobile. Put it all together and the Colts are going to be one of the fascinating teams to watch early in the regular season. Their first four games -- at Texans, vs. Browns, vs. Steelers, at Buccaneers.

4. Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo decided to live five minutes away from Gillette Stadium so he could be close to work. Time is of the essence when you are leaving the facility at 10 p.m. each day, and arriving early the next morning. Wouldn’t be surprised if talks on a contract extension between the Patriots and Mayo heat up, as Mayo has two years remaining on his deal and is in the Logan Mankins category -- the type of player Bill Belichick wants in his locker room.

5. It’s always dangerous to read too much into preseason action, but if you’re a Chiefs follower, it would be understandable to be a bit concerned with what’s unfolded the last three weeks. The question: How confident are you that Matt Cassel can take us where we want to go?

6. Former Patriots offensive tackle Mark LeVoir started at right guard in his first week with the Ravens. While LeVoir had proven to be a solid emergency fill-in with the Patriots, such a quick ascension tells me the Ravens have some significant offensive line concerns. It looks like the Eagles do too.

7. First impressions of what receiver Lee Evans might mean to the Ravens: A lot. That looks like a gift from the Bills. On the flip side, one has to like the Bills’ proactive thinking in locking up underrated defensive lineman Kyle Williams with a contract extension this week.

8. One of the big predraft questions with Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan was if he was a pure 4-3 end or a possible 3-4 outside linebacker. The Redskins are utilizing him as a 3-4 'backer and there have been some early promising signs. Kerrigan has notched a sack in each of the last two preseason games, although he did get penalized for being offside twice Thursday night vs. the Ravens.

9. Bill Belichick has been willing to open doors for young coaches and scouts, especially those who have a connection to people he’s worked with in the past. One of the latest examples is the hiring of Matt Groh as a scouting assistant. Groh is the son of former Patriots and Jets coach Al Groh.

10. With such a quick turnaround to the Patriots’ final preseason game -- Thursday at home against the Giants -- I’m not expecting to see too many of the team’s top players in action, even after Saturday night's disappointing result. It’s time to shift focus to the regular-season opener, Sept. 12 against Miami. The first roster cutdown, from 90 to 80, is Tuesday. Meanwhile, consider that the Giants had their third preseason game against the Jets rescheduled to Monday night, so they'll be playing the Patriots just three days later, almost ensuring none of their top players will suit up.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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