Yes, the warbling shouts of Young Bocephus, Hank Williams Jr., and all his rowdy friends signals the arrival of the Patriots on Monday night against their division rival, the Buffalo T.O.'s. (please, someone tell me how to end this travesty of Faith Hill butchering Joan Jett on NBC Sunday nights!) Just knowing fat John Madden and his Madden Cruiser won't be parked outside the stadium gates warms the cockles of my heart. Of course, the way Cris Collinsworth was gushing all over Troy Polamalu after he had three huge penalties (one off-set by a ticky-tacky call) and gave up a few big gains in coverage and one pick, I guess there is a Madden Jr. pushing to win ass-kiss of the year. Heaven help us when Collinsworth calls a Vikings game this year Madden-Approved Minor Deity Brett Favre at the helm.
However, I come not bash announcers and lame-o country singers, but rather to celebrate. To celebrate the arrival of yet another NFL season: another year of mad dashes out of church to get home in time for kickoff; another year of thinking of ways to blow off birthday parties on Sundays (schedule them for Saturday already!); and camping down in front of the telly and trying to convince myself that any of my fantasy football teams have a chance in hell of competing (oh look, Trent Edwards at QB! Willie Parker stinking it up on two different teams!). Specifically, I celebrate the return of Tom Brady: The linchpin of the Patriots success since 2001; The reason the Patriots are serious Super Bowl contenders again; The best QB on the planet throwing to Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and some other shlubs.
Lately, my drive time to and from work (which includes the eminately more listenable 98.5 the Sports Zone instead of those prattling WEEIdiots now that I have an alternate sports talk station that comes in on the radio) has been filled listening to a parade of hosts and callers discuss two related subjects: The Patriots defense and Richard Seymour. Let me address both of these here:
1. Richard Seymour
First off, let me just say that any trade of a player that has missed 12 games in the past two seasons, is 30 years old, and whose role is changed in the shift from 3-4 to 4-3 and is able to bring back a potential top 5 draft pick in 2011 is one that only an idiot would pass up. Oakland is terrible. They're going to be terrible in 2009, and they're going to be terrible in 2010. Conceivably, the Patriots could be holding a #1 overall pick in 2011, which is downright scary! Seymour was a great Patriots player, a stalwart of the defense that carried the team to three Super Bowls and will always command respect from Patriot nation. That said, other than teams desperate for 350 lbs nose tackles, how many over-30 defensive linemen populate teams these days? The position requires an influx of younger, stronger, faster linemen continuously because of the immense physical demands of the job (wrestling multiple 300lb offensive linemen while tight ends and backs go after your knees).
Will he be missed? Of course.
Was he worth a first round pick? Of course not!
There was no way the Patriots could turn down that offer other than simply feeling pity for continuing to take advantage of Al Davis. I say: Thanks for your service, Richard. Good luck dealing with the Raiders. See you back here for Richard Seymour day in 2014.
2. The Patriots Defense
Wow. This unit has been RIPPED this summer. I mean, ripped. Criticism from both the local and national media on a non-spot basis. Wow.
Me, I like what the Patriots have done with their defense. A lot. A real lot.
Last year the Patriots defense was old, slow, and had a couple of jokers at corner back. So this off-season, Bill Belichick and company threw sentimentality to the wind and began the process of remaking the defense.
D-Line: One huge complaint about the defensive line in 2008: NO PASS RUSH!
Richard Seymour OUT. Tully Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess IN. Increased role for Jarvis Green, arguably their best pass-rushing defensive end. Yes, Seymour would have been nice to keep, but see above as to why he's gone. Depth at the defensive line includes two impressive looking rookies, Ron Brace at defensive tackle and Myron Pryor at defensive end. With the switch to the 4-3, Belichick seems to be acknowledging the need for the front seven (and specifically the front four) to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Linebackers: Old and slow. Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Junior Seau, Rosie Colvin. Old and slow. Out with the old, in with the speed. Imagine, a Patriots linebacker able to make a play in space, to get to the outside, to cover a tight end, or to get to the quarterback. It boggles the mind!!! In a 4-3 base defense, Jerod Mayo plays to his strengths by being able to run sideline to sideline and attack opposing running backs. With Gary Guyton (strength and speed--how did no one draft this guy?) and Adalius "the real freak" Thomas on the outside, the Patriots suddenly have the makings of an impressive line backing core. The back-ups are a bit iffy, but if these three stay healthy, things are incredibly improved over last year.
Defensive backs: Would you take Ellis Hobbs and (hold on, I've been trying to block this out all off-season) Deltha O'Neal as your top two corners or former All-Pro Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden? Yeah, no brainer for sure! Hobbs thought he was Ty Law for some reason, but in my head he'll always be the corner beat miserably by Plexiglas Burress in Super Bowl 42. Add in youngsters Jonathan Wilhite (he's locked up the #3 slot corner spot), rookie Darrius Butler, and Tyrone Wheatley (2nd round pick? Time to show it!), and suddenly there is a balance of veterans who have done the job and youth and speed. Add in the blossoming Brandon Merriweather (he really is a play maker!) and steady James Sanders with young hitter Patrick "Don't call me Eugene" Chung pushing for playing time, and the safety position is solid.
The season will show, and certainly with no games played and Bill Belichick historically playing it close to the vest in pre-season, it is hard to gauge the team based on pre-season play (where are all those bozos who trashed Randy Moss after he didn't play the 2007 pre-season? yeah, hiding under rocks, that's where.), but I like the speed and youth on defense and think it will pay immediate benefits in 2009.
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