Most improved: Running game or defense?

878805.jpg

Most improved: Running game or defense?

The Patriots did two things really well on Sunday that they didn't do in more than spurts last season: run the ball and defend well.

Mike Felger likes the way the Pats ran the ball, saying that it not only helps the offensive line who is still working on protecting Brady, but it also takes pressure off of Brady.

Andy Gresh notes that it makes the Pats much more complimentary in terms of the pass and the run together.

But is a run game the missing ingredient to a Super Bowl win? Or is it defense? Most likely, it's both.

Quick Slants The Column: On booing Goodell and overvaluing Jimmy G

Quick Slants The Column: On booing Goodell and overvaluing Jimmy G

Big night, Philadelphia. How you gonna treat the man NFL owners pay $35 million to be their meat shield? The first round of the draft is one of the few Roger Goodell appearances the league can’t manage. Released from the protection of John Mara’s coat pocket, Goodell has to hear a voice vote from fans every time he approaches the mic. He can grin, bang nipples and backslap all he wants with the first-rounders and sling that “Welcome to the family!” line of BS. He can hit the stage with the ghosts of Reggie White, Buddy Ryan and Chuck Bednarik. Philly’s too smart to get caught watching the paint dry. 

 

Got into a brief and spirited debate on the topic of Jimmy Garoppolo this morning on our “Boston Sports Tonight” email chain. I opined that perhaps Garoppolo is a bit overrated. Overvalued may have been a better adjective. Here’s why. With a fleet of teams dying for a quarterback they can build around, the Patriots squelched all Jimmy G suitors by declaring him untouchable. We may ultimately find out it was all a ruse and the team winds up getting a boatload of picks in exchange for him but from everything I’ve been told since September that’s not happening. Garoppolo will stay a Patriot and the team will figure out later how to proceed with him once his contract is up in March. If Garoppolo isn’t franchised and doesn’t sign an extension to back up Tom Brady until Brady either retires (not on the horizon) or is traded (gasp), then why did the team pass on the haul it could have had? The theory most often posited is that Garoppolo is Brady insurance. If Brady gets hurt in 2017 and Jacoby Brissett is the next-man-up, the team is cooked. But that reality has existed throughout Brady’s tenure whether he had Rohan Davey, Matt Gutierrez, Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett behind him. It didn’t faze them then. Garoppolo is better than all of them. Potentially. And that’s probably why the Patriots don’t want to make a decision on him before they have to. They look at all these forever .500 teams trying to find a quarterback answer and think, “There, but for the grace of God and the presence of Brady, go I.” Garoppolo isn’t going to be better than Brady. But he fits the suit better than anyone they’ve ever had and they like the fact they found him, developed him and were right about him. Clearly they believe he is a greater asset as a backup with a soon-to-expire contract and a complicated future than the collection of young players they’d be able to draft with whatever picks they got back in a deal. This, of course, runs counter to the way the team has traditionally done business. Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio have found innovative ways to acquire, stockpile and flip picks. The fact the team’s already got its 2017 draft haul of Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy, Dwayne Allen and Mike Gillislee thanks to pick-flipping. Garoppolo could yield the next batch of picks the Patriots could use in the “rent-to-own” model they’ve shrewdly adopted. But Garoppolo is the extreme outlier. And the Brady-Garoppolo-what’ll-they-do dance is fascinating because it highlights the confluence of everything – draft, free agency, cap management, trades, potential vs. proven, old vs. young, icon vs. phenom – at the most important position in sports on the greatest franchise of this era. 

 

Which brings me to this: we’ll have former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis in studio tonight on BST helping us through the first round of the draft. Looking forward to his insight on why Garoppolo is persona-non-tradeable. Put the over-under on “Tommys” at about 47.


 

Patriots seven-round mock draft: Shakeup in the secondary

belichick.jpg

Patriots seven-round mock draft: Shakeup in the secondary

Click here for the gallery.