Last week, Ricky Keeler asked if I would like to answer some questions about the Jaguars for Foxboro Blog. I was more than happy, and he was kind enough to return the favor. Here's our end of the Q&A:
1) Ryan Mallett was a guy that many think has all the talent in the world, but he has some big character issues. Is he the heir apparent to Tom Brady or will he likely be a backup until the Patriots do have to find a replacement for Brady?
When Mallett was working out with the Patriots before the draft, I didn't think they would make the move at least in this draft for Brady's heir apparent. If Mallett can control his character off the field, he does have the skill set to be a good NFL quarterback. The one thing that concerned me in college about Mallett was when he did not play well in the big games against Alabama and then the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State. He gets a chance like Aaron Rodgers did to learn behind a future Hall of Famer for the next 4-5 years and mature into a pro. Even if Mallett is not used, the Patriots have an excellent trade piece and we saw what Philly got for an unproven commodity in Kevin Kolb. I like the 3rd round pick and I think he is the future quarterback in New England, but luckily we have a while before we have to decide on that.
2) The Patriots made a big splash by picking up Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth. What kind of impact do you expect from them?
I expect both guys to make a huge impact on this team. Albert Haynesworth finally gets to play in a system that he wants to play in and with the Titans he was a destructive force on the field rather than off the field. The Patriots were a top ten team in run defense last season and with Haynesworth and Wilfork, they got a whole lot better. Plus, if they do not get a pass rusher this week in Matt Roth, they can still use Haynesworth as a pass rusher lining him up against the guard in their hybrid 4-3 schemes. A low risk, high reward move by Bill Belichick that will turn this guy around.
As for Chad, I absolutely loved this move. When the Patriots lost to the Jets back in January, I thought Ochocinco would be the perfect fit for the Pats at wide receiver. When he was not distracted by Terrell Owens, he was a 1,000 yard receiver in 2009. Plus, Chad has a lot to prove with his critics, especially his old coach Marvin Lewis. He respects Belichick and now goes into an organized environment where he can succeed. I expect Brady and Chad to have a good connection this season and make this offense a little more dynamic in the vertical game, which is scary for NFL defenses.
3) The Patriots and the Jets have developed one of the most interesting rivalries in sports. How important are the games against the Jets from a fans perspective? Is there an emphasis on beating Rex Ryan and the Jets?
You asked the right Patriot fan this question. I am a New York City native and I have to listen to Rex Ryan every day, so these Jets game are always first on the teams I want to beat and beat in blowout style more than the Indianapolis Colts. The Jets always guarantee a Super Bowl, but they still have not won the division and have had any home games in January. The 45-3 blowout put more emphasis on the playoff games and the Jets treat those games like its the Super Bowl. This year, with all the acquisitions both teams have made, the rivalry the Patriots and the Jets have could become the best rivalry in the NFL just because of all the gamesmanship and trash talk.
4) The Patriots are an early favorite to make a Super Bowl run. What teams from the AFC present the biggest challenge to the Patriots once they get into the playoffs?
I think they should be the Super Bowl favorites, but there are a couple teams I think that they can give them a challenge in the AFC. The Colts are always tough with Peyton Manning, but I think they are in for a little bit of a down year in 2011 with the rise of the Houston Texans and the moves they made. Even though Baltimore got rid of everybody on their team, I think they are a threat as well along with the Steelers. The Jets though would be the team that I think gives the Patriots the biggest challenge. They are a multi-dimensional offense, especially with the dynamic running ability of Shonn Greene. Their receiving core with Holmes, Mason, and Plax is good but not great without Braylon. However, Rex seems to know how to beat Tom Brady just because of the zone defense he can play with the luxury of having good cornerbacks like Revis and Cromartie.
5) Is the "Super Bowl window" beginning to close on the Patriots?
I don't think it is closing anytime within the next five years. We saw how Tom Brady played last year, being the only unanimous MVP in the history of the NFL and he shows no signs of slowing down. This defense will be the reason why it won't close. They are so young and it can only get better as the seasons progress. They have two quality leaders on defense in Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork with a rising star in Devin McCourty. The offense has some young playmakers in Gronkowski and Hernandez as well. Don't look for Brady and Belichick to disappear from the NFL landscape anytime soon.
6) How many more seasons do you think Tom Brady will play?
Tom Brady recently said that he could play another ten years after the Patriots drafted Ryan Mallett. If he can avoid another devastating injury like he had in 2008, I think he can realistically play another 5-10 years at a premium level.