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Krug -- Pressed into emergency action, rookie defenseman Torey Krug was one of the big stories of the Bruins' series victory over the Rangers. What a shot. He falls right into the Faulk/Welker/Woodhead category of players who might not have the desired physical makeup but who play the game with an infectious style that is easy to root for.
|Like Bill Belichick, Bruins coach Claude Julien is unflappable and known for making some unpopular (but often correct) decisions.|
60 minutes plus -- That comeback in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs? The true definition of a 60-minute effort, and then some, and we've seen a few of those over the years in Foxborough.
Rask -- A hot goalie can carry a team, as we saw with Tim Thomas when the Bruins last won the Cup. Just as there might be a greater level of comfort entering a playoff game with Tom Brady at quarterback, Rask has proven to be up to the task.
Chara -- A towering presence on the blue line, he's the steadying presence on defense who logs the most ice time. Wilfork-eque. An underrated superstar in the city.
Julien -- An unflappable head coach who sticks to his often-unpopular beliefs with success, much to the chagrin of some know-it-all talk-radio hosts. Sound familiar?
OK, OK, I know what you're thinking. Stick to the football, pal. We'll do just that, while hoping for the best for the underdog Bruins in the next series against the Penguins.
Here we go...Q. As we all know, defense wins championships. Do you think the Patriots will have enough pressure coming from the d-line and off the edges? We simply cannot let the QB sit back in the pocket, especially Peyton Manning. -- Eric (Richmond, Va.) A. Eric, naturally this is a tough one to answer right now, but I think they should be better than they were in 2012 if everyone is healthy. It makes sense to think that the continuity of returning essentially the same group of starters leads to better results, which assumes there are no unexpected dropoffs in performance and players such as Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower develop as hoped. As we know, pressure is a big part of playing good defense, but we also can't overlook coverage because no team is going to be able to pressure on every snap. So sometimes you have to rely on your coverage to disrupt the opponents' passing game. Along those lines, the Patriots' entire secondary returns intact, with some notable additions like veteran safety Adrian Wilson and draft picks Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon. I think the foundation for success is in place. Q. Mike, over and over I hear that Wes Welker is durable and Danny Amendola is not, based on games missed, yet they each had a season-ending injury. Welker's came in the last game of the season and Amendola's early on, but does timing of an injury affect how injury-prone a player is? If Welker blew out his ACL in week 1 and missed a season, would we still say he is durable? If Amendola broke his clavicle in week 17 and missed no games, would we then say that Amendola IS durable because the injury didn't result in missed games? This stance isn't logical yet I haven't heard any analyst address this. -- Tom (Portstmough, N.H.) A. Tom, the timing of the injuries certainly factors in to the perception of both players -- Welker as durable, Amendola as injury prone. I think what Amendola has working against him is that he hasn't played in the full 16 games in each of the last two years (1 game in 2011, 11 in 2012), so you now have two consecutive seasons where the injury questions linger, sort of like Patriots cornerback Ras-I Dowling. If Amendola had played the full 16 last year, I don't think the injury-prone label (which we can argue isn't very fair) would be as big a part of the discussion as it is now.
|Wide receiver Danny Amendola runs a drill past coach Chad O'Shea at Patriots OTAs in Foxborough.|
A. Craig, we'll see if the end result is different from what we saw with Price or Jackson, but I think the one area I'd highlight that might make him different at this point is football acumen. Seems like a pretty sharp guy who will ultimately be able to grasp the complex concepts of an NFL passing game. When I think back to Price and Jackson, they both had all the physical tools. That wasn't the question. But there is a lot more to it than that.Q. Hey Mike, I liked the breakdown on the blog of how many coaches each team has. Definitely interesting that the Patriots are at the bottom of the list with 17. Still, 17 seems like a lot of coaches. Can we get a breakdown of what responsibilities each coach has and how long he has been with the team? -- Dave B. (San Francisco) A. Dave, I think part of the reason Bill Belichick prefers a smaller staff is clarity of message. The more coaches a team has, sometimes it can lead to the message from the top being distorted. Also, as Field Yates pointed out, if we go back to when Bill Belichick first began coaching in the NFL, staffs were much smaller at that time. So part of it is a product of where Belichick has come from as a coach. Here is this year's staff (17 plus the hire of Jerry Schuplinski): Bill Belichick -- head coach (39th NFL season, 14th season as head coach; 15th with Patriots)
Q. Hi Mike, do you or any reporters ever get the chance to ask a player why he chooses to miss OTAs? My question is geared to Brandon Spikes and I am disappointed at his absence. I believe he brings attitude and value to the defense and Pats and is a player that "makes plays" and seems to have a nose for the football. -- Ken (Long Island)A. Ken, this is sure to come up with Spikes when/if he reports to mandatory minicamp June 11-13. These organized team activities are voluntary, so Spikes is within his rights, although his absence stands out a bit from this perspective when considering that he is the only player not in attendance. Q. Hey Mike, I know you are probably over the John Abraham talk, but the teams are starting to finish out their rosters and there is a lot less money on the table for these vets. Is there a figure you think we could get Abraham at that's cheap enough for the Pats to take? Do we have enough cap to get him at $2.5 million? Or do you think that he will find a more lucrative deal elsewhere? -- Alex W. (Des Moine, Iowa) A. Alex, the Patriots have the cap room to make that type of signing, if that's what it would take. At this time, Abraham obviously doesn't have a comfort level with signing anywhere, so this looks like a situation that would carry into training camp and perhaps beyond. As we saw with Dwight Freeney signing with the Chargers after Melvin Ingram was injured, sometimes all it takes is an unexpected health issue for a team to up its offer. That's probably what Abraham is hoping for, whether it's in New England or elsewhere. Q. Hey Mike, I was looking over the roster and was wondering what might be the possibility of bringing in another OT like Eric Winston to create some depth on our OL? -- Brad (Louisville, Kent.)
A. Brad, Winston is probably in that same category as Abraham, waiting on an injury-type situation to spark an offer that is worth signing for an opportunity to start. With Sebastian Vollmer entrenched here, I'm not sure this is the best destination from Winston's perspective.Q. Hey Mike, I can't help but notice how much BIGGER the Patriots' offense has become this offseason. Assuming LeGarrette Blount (6 foot, 247 pounds) sticks and the combo of Aaron Dobson (6-foot-3), Josh Boyce (6 foot), and Jake Ballard (6-foot-6) can contribute, this offense seems much more difficult to "push around" from a size perspective than they have in recent years. Combine those guys with Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Stevan Ridley, and Danny Amendola (a bigger version of Welker) and you have one intimidating-looking offense led by one of the game's most lethal quarterbacks. Hopefully this translates to bringing the fight to some of the better defenses in the playoffs. Thoughts? -- Jonathan (Quincy, Mass.)
A. Makes sense to me, Jonathan. Let's see how it all plays out, but certainly a little more power at running back with the Blount addition, a little more length at receiver with Dobson if he develops, and more of that traditional in-line tight end with Ballard, who at 275 pounds is about as big as they come at that position.
|From left, defensive lineman Tommy Kelly runs a drill with teammates Josh Kline, Chandler Jones and Joe Vellano in front of defensive line coach Patrick Graham.|
A. That would be fun, Justin. But I think the big issue would be money, because we know how much NFL owners in all cities value the "gate" at home games.Q. Mike, there's been some talk on this blog about Armond Armstead, but I haven't seen much about Jason Vega. Did you see him during the OTAs? Anything to share, first impressions? -- Mark W. (Chicago)
A. Mark, there was nothing in particular of note with Vega, who faces longer odds to earn a roster spot in a crowded group of edge players. Because there is no contact, and players aren't wearing full pads, it's difficult to make some decisive judgments about how players look. I think the biggest thing for Vega is staying on top of the schemes mentally and taking advantage of any repetitions he might get behind the top players. More to come on him in training camp, for sure.