Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New England Patriots [Print without images]

Sunday, July 17, 2011
Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

By Mike Reiss

Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. Patriots first-round draft choice Nate Solder, the left tackle from Colorado, has hooked up with a bunch of his new teammates who have been working out in Massachusetts this offseason. Solder has joined those workouts.

2. Help me out. Randy Moss’ agent says this week that Moss is in “freakish shape” and this is a big story … why? Seems to me it would be a bigger story if the agent, whose job is to generate buzz for his client, said Moss wasn’t in good shape.

3. Of all the players on the Patriots’ roster who will benefit from the structure and discipline of football season, I put safety Brandon Meriweather atop the list. If I’m the Patriots and considering a long-term arrangement with Meriweather at some point over the next year (Meriweather enters the last year of his contract in 2011), I’m concerned about his decision-making outside of Gillette Stadium.

4. One reason I think cornerback Ras-I Dowling (2nd round, 33rd overall) is in position to make the most immediate impact among Patriots rookies is that he should project to a core role on special teams right from the get-go. His size (6-1, 198) should show up on fourth down, which projects him to the 45-man game-day roster, and thus in position to possibly make a mark on early downs as well.

5. Enjoyed this piece on the NFL lockout from Don Banks of SI.com, particularly when he plays the role of ombudsman in sharing his thoughts on some one-sided media coverage of the lockout.

6. Listening to Patriots receiver Wes Welker talk about the importance of tight end Rob Gronkowski being more consistent in knowing his assignments, and receiver Brandon Tate being more consistent on a down-to-down basis, I thought he was refreshingly honest. Another year in the team’s system should help Gronkowski and Tate.

7. I think one of the main questions the Patriots will have in free agency is if another team steps up and offers left tackle Matt Light to a too-good-to-be-true deal. I’d imagine the Patriots would like Light to return – especially with Nate Solder needing more time to develop without an offseason in the team's program – but I don’t see them getting into any type of bidding war.

8. What next for Eric Mangini? After offseason reports that he had been a defensive-coordinator candidate in Tennessee, it looks like this will be a season spent away from the sidelines, his first after 15 straight years as an NFL coach.

9. Defensive lineman Mike Wright, who led the Patriots with 5.5 sacks last season despite missing the last six games, has been one of the regulars at workouts with Patriots players in Massachusetts this offseason.

10. Patriots season ticket holders received a lanyard and pin when their tickets arrived over the last week. There was no mention of the lockout in the letter accompanying the tickets.