Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

June, 13, 2010
6/13/10
6:00
AM ET
Quick-hit thoughts from around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. This is a big week for the Patriots as they finish an important phase of their offseason with their mandatory minicamp (June 15-17). While the offseason program will continue into July, this is the final phase of full-team work until training camp starts in late July (official date yet to be announced).

2. The Baltimore Ravens and Oakland Raiders both lost organized team activities because they were weren’t following the guidelines of what can take place at those OTAs. That’s a significant penalty, but one that didn’t seem to garner much league-wide media attention. Something tells me it would be different if the Patriots had been the team penalized.

3. The Oakland Raiders’ one-year agreement with free-agent defensive lineman John Henderson on Friday looks like one of the more underrated personnel moves in the NFL this offseason.

4. Longtime Rams receiver Isaac Bruce retired last week and his Hall of Fame candidacy was an immediate topic of discussion. But Bruce’s retirement didn’t seem to resonate around these parts, and one reason might be that Patriots fans seldom saw him over his 16-year career. Bruce played just four games against New England. His stats: 19 receptions for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns.

5. Whether offensive lineman Logan Mankins shows up to the Patriots’ mandatory minicamp Tuesday figures to be a big storyline. The Patriots have offered him a long-term contract extension, which would provide more security than playing on a one-year $3.16 million deal, but there has been little movement in negotiations.

6. San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith is as fiery as ever. With receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill threatening to hold out and not sign their restricted free agent tenders, Smith counter-punched by telling the San Diego Union-Tribune that the team was prepared to move on. He then signed free agents Josh Reed (receiver) and Tra Thomas (left tackle).

7. One area that I think the Patriots will be better this season is their interior pass rush in sub packages. Between Mike Wright, Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren and Damione Lewis, the team has more options when it comes to penetrating-type tackles.

8. If the St. Louis Rams are going to turn things around, they need their top draft choices of the last two years – offensive tackle Jason Smith and quarterback Sam Bradford – to become what former first-round picks Sam Baker (left tackle) and Matt Ryan (quarterback) have been for the Atlanta Falcons. When trying to resurrect a downtrodden team, those are the two spots to start, and there has to be some concern that Smith – who is moving from right tackle to left tackle – will be sidelined until training camp with a stress fracture in his toe.

9. This year’s early sleeper choice to make the Patriots roster: Second-year inside linebacker Thomas Williams.

10. It’s risky to make a definitive judgment based on May and June practices, but the more you watch cornerback Devin McCourty, it’s easier to see why he was the team’s first-round choice. He’s a big, physical player who looks like a natural at an outside position. He now looks like a top backup, and his presence should have a positive trickle-down effect on Jonathan Wilhite, who can now focus solely on slot duties.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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