Sunday, August 30, 2009

Disaster (apparently) averted

It appears we won't have a 2008 redux.

The latest Tom Brady news to shock the Patriots fanbase is reportedly not severe. He has a sore shoulder, but according to an unnamed source with the team, there is no damage to it beyond that.

Brady was hurt in the midst of a 27-24 victory over Washington on Friday, when he was hit and driven to the ground by mammoth Redskin tackle Albert Haynesworth after releasing a third-down throw to Greg Lewis.

Three-hundred and fifty pounds brought Brady down with his arm still extended, causing an awkward landing more on his underarm than on his forearm. Brady got up, went to the sideline, stretched his arm, and went to the locker room for halftime. When the second half started, Brady came back, threw a few passes, and left with a team doctor.

The injury overshadowed what was a truly impressive showing for Brady, who was in command and dominant, shredding the Redskins defense for two touchdown passes to Randy Moss. He was poised, composed, accurate and even looked willing to move in the pocket again, and for the first time since last September, minds were finally eased about his knee.

But then the Haynewsworth hit happened, and any concerns turned into panic when Belichick refused to give any information on how severe the injury was, or if Brady had received X-rays. All Bill said was that it was "bumps and bruises just like everybody else has," and left it at that. He said removing Tom was due to a desire to see backups Kevin O'Connell and Andrew Walter, not due to injury concerns, but many fans weren't buying it.

Brady will be held out of the final preseason game against the Giants, but it looks like he'll be ready for the season. After the news from last year, that should be music to any New England fan's ears.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Selflessness embodied

You want another reason to like Tom Brady?

After Eli Manning received a lucrative extension (six years, $97 million, $37 million guaranteed), and Philip Rivers (six years, $93 million, $38 million guaranteed) got one too, Tom Brady's relatively modest six-year, $60 million deal (of which two years remain) is starting to appear cheap.

But here's the thing: Tom's not complaining.

Brady recently said he's focused on winning, not money, and that contracts work out in the end. He obviously feels comfortable in negotiating with the Krafts, and doesn't feel a need to resort to complaining to ESPN reporters about how he feels disrespected.

True, it can be argued that Brady shouldn't have much to complain about when he's throwing to the league's best receiving corps, while under the supervision of the league's best coach, but this is still a stand-up move on his part.

There isn't much difference between the comfort of a life on $50 million and a life on $100 million, but athletes don't know that. They view money has an evaluation of talent, and less money than an inferior player is regarded as a slap in the face.

It's nice to know that someone can take the high road - even if he can expect to cash in again in an offseason or two.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The return

Tom Brady is back. And everything is just the way it was before.

Well, not everything. There was one difference.

The difference wasn't in Brady. Tom looked every bit the quarterback Patriots fans remembered, going 10-for-15 for 100 yards and two touchdowns. With the exception of one floated pass to Randy Moss that was picked off, Tom was Terrific. He stepped up to pressure, looked poised, and looked confident. And the stat sheet showed it.

The difference was in where most of those 15 passes were going. With Randy Moss catching only three passes (albeit for 54 yards) and Wes Welker sidelined, Brady found undrafted receiver and former Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman five times for 37 yards, and new tight end Chris Baker for two touchdowns.

It appears Brady's confidence is not an issue, whether it be with himself or his new targets. Even considering the small sample size, that means good things for the Patriots' offense in 2009.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pass rush gets a boost

Earlier in the offseason, the Patriots' pass rush weaknesses were brought to the national stage with their pursuit of Panthers star Julius Peppers.

On Thursday, the Pats plugged some of those holes. And they didn't need to spend $16.7 million to do it.

New England made a trade with the Oakland Raiders for defensive end Derrick Burgess, adding a player who, as evidenced by his 16 sacks in 2005 and 11 sacks in 2006, provides an instant improvement to a beleaguered pass rush that saw its leader (Mike Vrabel, four sacks) leave for Kansas City.

Here's a breakdown of the acquisition:

Burgess is a legitimate player, and at 30, he should have stuff left in the tank. The defensive line, with Richard Seymour, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork, was already stout, but Burgess provides it with an extra dimension. It also allows the linebackers to help more in pass coverage, an area where the Patriots were burned last year, because they won't have to contribute a man to the rush as often. If Burgess is helping to disrupt the passer, the linebackers' pass coverage won't be compromised.


This could be Deltha O'Neal all over again. Burgess is a two-time Pro Bowler, one who also had eight sacks in a season in which he didn't make the Pro Bowl, but he missed games last year, and saw his numbers decline sharply. Also, the fact that he was essentially given away by the Raiders raises questions. O'Neal was the same way last year; a former Pro Bowl cornerback who was picked up off the Bengals' scrapheap to rediscover his form and shore up the secondary. It never worked, and O'Neal turned in one of the more miserable seasons by a Patriot defensive back in the Belichick era. Will Burgess have similar problems?

This appears to be a good move for the Patriots. While the O'Neal signing was a desperation move to fix an urgent need, Burgess appears to be a player that the Patriots like. They didn't sign him, but traded for him, meaning they were willing to make an effort to get him, and therefore must see something in him that was worth the cost. The Patriots have earned praise for consistently getting players that fit Belichick's scheme, and this appears to be another instance.