Aug 312012
 

The NFL is a pass happy league, and there are fewer teams more pass happy than the New England Patriots. Yet the Patriots will enter the 2012 season with only four wide receivers on the active roster. Of course, this is deceptive because the Patriots will also carry four tight ends into the new season, two of whom (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) caught a combined 169 passes in the 2011 season. Additionally, Hernandez lined up as a wide receiver in 71.6% of his offensive plays last season. So while the Patriots are not spending many roster spots on wide receivers, their passing attack will be just as potent in 2012, if not more so with the addition of Brandon Lloyd.

In a somewhat stunning move, the Patriots released backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. This is considered a major surprise because Hoyer was tendered at the second round this off-season, and Hoyer seems to be a better fit to backup Brady in a short to medium range offense, where Mallett is considered more of a downfield attacker. It was also surprising that Hoyer was released instead of traded, since most Patriots experts concur that Hoyer had some trade value. This is a major endorsement of Mallett, and saves $1.9 milion in salary for the Patriots this season.

Center Dan Koppen is also a mildly surprising cut, mostly due to the lateness of the release. It is generally considered better bsuiness to cut established veterans earlier in order to allow them to sign on with another team, so this move may signal a late change in thinking by the coaching staff. Koppen struggled throughout the pre-season and is not versatile enough to play guard, but was thought to be a lock for a roster spot.

Deion Branch was also released by the Patriots. Branch was expected to make the roster after Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth were cut, but the Patriots seemingly saw no reason to spend money on Branch when the passing game centers around Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Wes Welker. However, Branch’s release leaves no true third wide receiver on the Patriots’ roster.

In total, the Patriots released 22 players, including Hoyer, Koppen, Branch, safety James Ihedigbo, defensive back Derrick Martin, defensive end Aaron Lavarias, defensive lineman Marcus Harrison, wide receiver Jesse Holley, safety Sergio Brown, tight end Tyler Urban, tackle Darrion Weems, fullback Eric Kettani, tackle Derek Dennis, offensive lineman Matt Kopa, linebacker Niko Koutouvides, linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, safety Malcolm Williams, tight end Alex Silvestro, wide receiver Kerry Taylor, wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, offensive lineman Dustin Waldron and offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren. Both Branch and previously released wide receiver Jabar Gaffney are candidates to return in the event of injuries.

In a disappointing move, running back Jeff Demps was placed in Injured Reserve (IR) for the 2012 season. Demps might still be activated later in the season under the new rule allowing one player from IR to be reactivated. Demps has world class speed and had shown some good flashes in his two pre-season appearances. (UPDATE: Demps is not eligible to be reactivated this season.)

We can never really call this a final roster because it will change, likely multiple times, before we get to opening day. But the Patriots have made their “final” roster moves to meet the 53 man deadline established for today, and now sit at 52 players, holding one spot open for what appears to be the inevitable return of right guard Brian Waters. The Patriots will now wait to see which of their released players are grabbed by other teams before establishing the supplemental practice roster.

As of tonight, the 53 (52) man roster includes:

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks (2)
Tom Brady
Ryan Mallett

Running Backs (4)
Stevan Ridley
Shane Vereen
Danny Woodhead
Brandon Bolden

Fullbacks (0)

Wide Receivers (4)
Brandon Lloyd
Wes Welker
Julian Edelman
Matthew Slater

Tight Ends (4)
Rob Gronkowski
Aaron Hernandez
Daniel Fells
Visanthe Shiancoe

Left Tackle (1)
Nate Solder

Left Guard (2)
Logan Mankins
Donald Thomas

Center (1)
Ryan Wendell

Right Guard (2)
Dan Connolly
Nick McDonald

Right Tackle (2)
Sebastian Vollmer
Marcus Cannon

DEFENSE

Left End (2)
Rob Ninkovich
Jermaine Cunningham

Nose Tackle (2)
Vince Wilfork
Ron Brace

Defensive Tackle (3)
Kyle Love
Brandon Deaderick
Marcus Forston

Right End (4)
Chandler Jones
Trevor Scott
Jake Bequette
Justin Francis

Strongside Linebacker (2)
Dont’a Hightower
Bobby Carpenter

Middle Linebacker (3)
Brandon Spikes
Tracy White
Mike Rivera

Weakside Linebacker (1)
Jerod Mayo

Left Cornerback (2)
Devin McCourty
Sterling Moore

Right Cornerback (4)
Kyle Arrrington
Maurice Cole
Ras-I Dowling
Alfonzo Dennard

Free Safety (2)
Steve Gregory
Tavon Wilson

Strong safety (2)
Patrick Chung
Nate Ebner

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker (1)
Stephen Gostkowski

Punter (1)
Zoltan Mesko

Long Snapper (1)
Danny Aiken

INJURED RESERVE (IR)
RB Jeff Demps
LB Dane Fletcher
CB Will Allen
S Josh Barrett
TE Brad Herman
FB Spencer Larsen
OL Jamey Richard

PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM (PUP)
DT Myron Pryor
TE Jake Ballard

RESERVE/NON FOOTBALL INJURY
T Marcus Zusevics

DID NOT REPORT
G Brian Waters

 

UPDATE: For those interested, Mike Reiss of ESPN has provided a look at the current Patriots’ roster by contract length. I have placed the starters names in bold. Good stuff.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS ROSTER BY CONTRACT LENGTH (AS OF 9/1/2012)

2012
S/CB Will Allen CB Kyle Arrington TE Jake Ballard
S Josh Barrett DL Ron Brace LB Bobby Carpenter
S Patrick Chung CB Marquice Cole WR Julian Edelman
FB Tony Fiammetta LB Dane Fletcher CB Sterling Moore
DL Myron Pryor OL Jamey Richard LB Mike Rivera
DE Trevor Scott TE Visanthe Shiancoe OL Donald Thomas
S Ross Ventrone OT Sebastian Vollmer G Brian Waters
WR Wes Welker LB Tracy White RB Danny Woodhead

2013
LS Danny Aiken DE Jermaine Cunningham DL Brandon Deaderick
OT Kyle Hix FB Spencer Larsen DL Kyle Love
OL Nick McDonald P Zoltan Mesko LB Rob Ninkovich
LB Brandon Spikes OL Ryan Wendell

2014
RB Brandon Bolden QB Tom Brady OL Marcus Cannon
OL Dan Connolly RB Jeff Demps CB Ras-I Dowling
TE Daniel Fells DL Marcus Forston DL Justin Francis
K Stephen Gostkowski S Steve Gregory TE Brad Herman
WR Brandon Lloyd QB Ryan Mallett CB Devin McCourty
RB Stevan Ridley WR Matthew Slater OT Nate Solder
RB Shane Vereen DL Vince Wilfork OL Markus Zusevics

2015
DE Jake Bequette CB Alfonzo Dennard S Nate Ebner
LB Dont’a Hightower DE Chandler Jones S Tavon Wilson

2016
G Logan Mankins

2017
LB Jerod Mayo

2018
TE Aaron Hernandez

2019
TE Rob Gronkowski

 

Aug 312012
 

Editor’s Note: This letter was just released by the NFL. It deals exclusively with the “bounty” issue though it does not directly name the New Orleans Saints.  Also not mentioned is the current NFL Officials lockout, though there are rumors of a negotiating session taking place today.

Here is the full text of the Commissioner’s letter:

To NFL Fans:

The 2012 NFL regular season is about to begin, and it promises to be another exciting, competitive, and unpredictable year of football which NFL fans have come to expect every season.

Part of our responsibility in helping teams and players prepare for each NFL season is to make sure they understand and respect league policies and rules. As always, we hold everyone, including ourselves, strictly accountable for protecting the integrity of the game, starting with the health and safety of our players. This year is no exception – bringing with it a clear, consistent, and renewed emphasis on enforcing our longstanding “bounty” prohibition.

Let me be clear: there is no place for bounties in football. No exceptions. No excuses. Bounties are an affront to everything that competitive sports should represent. Everyone in the NFL is responsible for adhering to these rules and we are all accountable for protecting the safety of our players – present and future.

The bounty prohibition forbids offering or accepting any reward – cash or otherwise – for on-field misconduct, plays that incentivize or result in injury to opposing players, or for performance against an opposing player, group of players, or team. The bounty prohibition not only preserves the competitive integrity of our game, but also protects player safety by removing incentives that could lead to dangerous play or unnecessary and/or intentional injury. As a league, we will ensure that the prohibition against bounties is clearly understood and consistently enforced. Period.

We will aggressively protect the health, safety and long-term livelihood of our players, both on the field and off. We can preserve the fierce competition that makes football great, while simultaneously committing to the relentless pursuit of safer play. Our players do not make excuses on the field; we will not make them off the field.

It is our job to protect, preserve, and promote the game of football that we all love. We want an exciting game featuring the world’s most talented football players enjoying long and successful careers. The bounty prohibition plays an instrumental role in achieving that. And we are committed to holding every team, player and owner accountable.

We appreciate your interest and hope you enjoy the 2012 NFL season.

Roger Goodell

Aug 312012
 

Pre-Season Game #4: Giants 6, Patriots 3

One could look at the Patriots’ pre-season and see causes for concern. The Patriots were a meager 1-3 this pre-season and their offense often looked like it was bogged down in a swamp. But the final pre-season game against the Giants, just like the rest of the pre-season, also served to help create high expectations for the 2012 season.

Summary

The Giants beat the Patriots 6-3 on a late field goal by Lawrence Tynes. The game featured 18 punts, so neither offense was exactly on fire. Eli Manning and the Giants starters made a brief appearance in the game, while most of the Patriots’ starters had the night off. Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick seems to have harder roster decisions to make this year than in recent years, as the depth of the roster has bred tough competition this year. Ryan Mallett started the game and had an up and down night, finishing 8 of 15 for 40 yards. Running back Brandon Bolden led the Patriots with 15 carries for 59 yards while rookie running back Jeff Demps had six carries for 15 yards and three catches for 31 yards.The Patriots only earned 12 first downs. On defense, Mike Rivera had a strong night with 12 tackles. Linebacker Jermaine Cunningham accounted for two of the Patriots’ four sacks on the night. Rookie free agent Justin Francis had one and Trevor Scott had the other.

The Good

Mike Rivera looked solid in his bid to earn a roster spot. Jermaine Cunningham is finally starting to look like the player that the Patriots thought they drafted. Punter Zoltan Mesko was the best Patriot on the field, punting nine times and pinning the Giants inside their own 20 yard line on six occasions. Sebastian Vollmer was back and looked good in limited snaps.

The Bad

Nothing horrible really stood out. Mallett was inconsistent, but that’s about it.

Next Up

The Patriots will be back in action for the first game of the season on September 9 when they travel to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans.

Aug 312012
 

The fourth pre-season game is generally pretty meaningless, as most starters are held out or only make brief appearances. It certainly helps coaches solidify their roster decisions, but as we saw this week also brings the hazard of season-ending injuries. I am not an advocate of an expanded season, but also not a fan of four pre-season games, but we all know the NFL will never shrink the pool of money they can bring in from ticket sales.

Anyway, here’s our recap for the final week of the pre-season; now on to the games that count!

Aug 292012
 

Here is the design for the first batch of Gridiron Rats bumper stickers. They will be arriving in early to mid September and we will be looking for opportunities to give them away to our wonderful readers (Hint: we will likely find a way to attach it to voting in the weekly polls!).  So stay tuned and we’ll give you more information once they arrive.

 

Aug 272012
 

So last week I grumbled that our initial poll only collected 15 votes, and asked our readers to make sure that they weighed in on our new poll. The response? We once again had 15 people cast votes in the poll (OK, 14 after me). So now I’m thinking you’re all just toying with me. :-)  OK, be that way… our traffic is consistently climbing and we are beginning to think that this little project of ours is going to work. So we’ll just keep posting polls until we find one that strikes a nerve with our readers.

Our previous poll was: Which rookie quarterback will finish with the highest quarterback ranking this season?

You responded with:

Andrew Luck, Colts (10 votes, 67%)

Robert Griffin III, Redskins (3 votes, 20%)

Brandon Wheeden, Browns (2 votes, 13%)

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (0 votes, 0%)

This week’s poll:

The AFC North looks like a competitive division this season, as the division claimed both wildcard spots last season. The Ravens are potentially the class of the division but are showing signs of weakness on defense. The Steelers overhauled their defense and look like they might have a hard time keeping Big Ben healthy. The Bengals are on the rise, but many expect them to take a step back this season. And the Browns are… well… the Browns. So we ask you our readers for your prediction on this year’s AFC North champion.

Who will win the AFC North?

Baltimore

Cincinnati

Cleveland

Pittsburgh

Aug 262012
 

Author’s Note: When dealing with the NFL, it is a given that some of our writing is going to focus on some of the stupid deeds and words that come from the players, coaches, and owners of the NFL. When one considers the massive egos of the individuals involved, the amount of money that people are being paid, and the incredible spotlight that most of us will never experience, it is understandable that not all of the things said and done will be the best things to say and do. And in part that is our bread and butter; picking up on such words and actions and having reactions as only fans can. Then there is the part of the NFL that we are all aware of… the hours of community service done by players and coaches, and the donations of money and supplies that are generously given out each year. Sure, these are not entirely selfless acts (is there really any such thing?), but often used to promote the image of the player, teams, or league as being invested in the community and spinning good PR while also impacting people’s lives. Perhaps the most touching of these are the numerous stories that I read, seemingly every week, about NFL players who take the time to offer a disadvantaged child, often one with a grave medical condition, a unique opportunity to spend time with his or her favorite players and favorite team. These are stories that warm the heart, even if only for a few minutes before the next player is arrested for DUI and Mike Florio’s arrest meter is set back to zero.

Today’s article is the first of a recurring series where we will take a brief look at some of the men and women who have gone well above and beyond the expected team contributions to the community and have truly invested themselves in utilizing their own success to make the world a better place. These role models are not put forth to challenge other NFL players and personnel to do the same, but to encourage each of us to think about the impact that we have on the world via our own means and contributions. As fans with day (or night) jobs, we may not have the same resources that these people have to share, but we can certainly replicate their spirit.

An Eventful Flight

While I do not spend my professional life on the road, both my day job and my consulting practice give me the opportunity to travel on a somewhat regular basis. For those of you who spend all of your time on the road, you will laugh when I say that “regular” for me generally means I can expect to make three or four business trips a year. That won’t seem like much to regular travelers, but I also know way too many people who have never left their home state. Some years I have made as many as ten trips, and as the consulting work picks up I expect I will be spending more time on the road.

When on the road, the greatest accomplishment in traveling is the uneventful trip; that is, the trip with no flight delays, no unscheduled nights in hotels, and no phone calls to roadside assistance. I love flying and don’t even mind airports. I also find driving to be very relaxing, but like most travelers I can’t stand the inconveniences that can quickly turn a trip into a massive headache. Thus, a successful trip for me is one that I can describe as uneventful; the process of getting there was convenient, and no major troubles happened along the way.

Thus it was that I boarded a flight from Tampa to Atlanta in early 2009 with the hope of two uneventful flights on my way home from a conference. I took the opportunity to upgrade myself to First Class despite the ribbing of a colleague who was also on the trip. I was flying Air Tran, and for $25 a leg it was a pretty economical decision to acquire extra leg room, complementary refreshments, and the opportunity to take a deep breath after five very busy days. As I sat down there was even the possibility that I would have a row to myself, as the seat next to me was unoccupied. But right before the cabin doors closed a young African American gentleman boarded the plane  and took the seat. His face was one that I immediately knew to be familiar, although I am horrible at placing names and faces and could not identify the young man. However, others in the First Class cabin had clearly made the connection and within three minutes one of the flight attendants approached our row and leaning across me asked if Mr. Dunn would be so kind as to offer an autograph.

I must admit to having two very different reactions at that moment. My first was to think, “Wow… it’s pretty cool to be sitting down next to one of the real good guys of the NFL.” I knew of Warrick Dunn’s reputation as a tireless contributor to his communities in both Tampa and Atlanta, and always admired his attitude. My other reaction wasn’t as generous. I immediately wondered if this guy next to me was just another pompous athlete who just did a better job of hiding it that T.O., Chad, or a host of other players. But as the air of reverence in the cabin was becoming palpable, I also began to wonder if this poor guy even wanted to be bothered by anyone or just wanted to be left alone. Not sure what to do, and being a fairly strong introvert myself who appreciates a little quiet on the plane, I just glanced at Mr. Dunn and pulled out a book I was reading at the time.

Sensing my discomfort, Dunn looked at me and smiled. I looked up to see his hand extended my way, with him saying “Hi… I’m obviously Warrick.” I laughed, shook his hand, and offered my name in exchange. For the next few minutes, he politely inquired as to where I was from and what I was doing in Tampa. I did the same, and realized he was making what seemed to be a fairly routine trip to Atlanta for work with his foundation. I was wearing a New England Patriots coat, and he inquired as to how someone living in the Midwest came to be a Pats fan, so I shared my story. He indicated a respect for the organization, and for Bill Belichick in particular. As we spoke for a couple of minutes, I found him to be very willing to talk about football, which honestly surprised me a little, so I began to ask about his career. He was far more forthcoming than I expected, but also incredibly modest. He spoke of the wonderful opportunities that he had to showcase his gifts, yet also was very willing to share his opinions about one particular former head coach that he played for. The balance between humility and candor appealed to me, and the conversation got on a roll. It was when I asked about his charitable work that he seemed to shut down a bit, and he simply indicated that he didn’t talk about that. I respected his space and didn’t pursue it further, though it was clear that I was interested in hearing what it was that really motivated him to give back as he does. He pulled out an electronic device (I believe it was an iPad), I did the same, and we both settled in for a somewhat quiet portion of the flight.

It was a flight attendant who broke the silence, coming over to thank Mr. Dunn for all of his work, and telling him how much the entire flight crew respected him. He clearly wasn’t comfortable with the praise and did his best to smile through it and thank her for her comments. He turned to me and explained that it was hard for him to talk about his community work, then asked me if I would do him a favor. I was taken aback to say the least. What favor could Warrick Dunn possibly want from me? I can only imagine the look on my face as I looked over at him and said, “Sure. What can I do?” His response surprised me. “I wrote a book called Running For My Life. Promise me that you’ll read it, since you really seem interested in knowing about this.” I smiled and promised him I would do just that. Surprisingly, he then began talking about the homes that he builds, how moving it was to him to see the expressions of people not just as they received a home that they never thought they would have, but also as they walked in and saw that every amenity had been provided, and that every detail had been attended to. I sat awestruck to hear his passion; it was genuine and it was clear to me that this man had been not only been raised with the right values, but he had been able to maintain those values through a successful NFL career that might have taken them from a lesser man. After a while we moved away from his work, and he began inquiring about mine. The rest of the flight focused on my professional life, with him seemingly genuinely interested in what I was doing, as he offered commentary about the importance of motivating young people. I even made a comment to him that we should bring him in as a guest speaker, which led to the most awkward moment of the flight as he said, “You know I can’t do that for free…” I laughed and told him I knew, and that we were used to dealing with talent and fees. I told him that I thought he could be especially impactful with student athletes, who often struggle with being both a student and an athlete. When the flight landed in Tampa, I must admit to being disappointed that the conversation was coming to a close, and he was kind enough to linger for a moment to offer a kind goodbye before heading down the concourse to exit the airport.

The very next day I was standing in line at Barnes and Noble, purchasing Dunn’s book. It was a quick but emotional read. I was only vaguely aware of Dunn’s story prior to reading the book, and probably had heard and forgotten the story of how hard his (single) mother worked as a police officer in Baton Rouge to insure that her children had opportunities to succeed in life, how she was gunned down in cold blood by three armed robbers, and how Warrick had to assume the role of family leader to raise his siblings. I read about his difficult decision to attend Florida State over LSU, about some of the painful family dynamics that he encountered, how he traveled to the Louisiana State Penitentiary to confront one of his mother’s killers, and how he has battled depression throughout his adult life. For all of the privileges that Dunn has experienced as a result of his physical skills, it is clear that he has been though an arduous journey but come out intact and level-headed. Dunn was drafted with the 12th pick in the first round of the 1997 NFL draft by the Buccaneers, and he immediately became a Pro Bowl player on his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He played five season for the Buccanners before moving to the Atlanta Falcons for six seasons before returning to Tampa for his final season in 2008. Dunn’s career was a model of consistency, and he finished with over 10,000 rushing yards (10,967), 510 receptions for another 4,339 yards, and a total of 135 touchdowns. He ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns in a playoff win over the Rams in the 2004 season and appeared in ten playoff games in his career.

As a member of his community, Dunn’s contributions are well documented.  Dunn established the Homes for the Holidays (HFTH) program in 1997, and started Warrick Dunn Charities (WDC) in 2002 as a way to grow programs and services. The HFTH program rewards single-parent families for reaching first-time homeownership. HFTH recipient families are chosen through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity affiliates and WDC with complete home furnishings and down-payment assistance. To date, HFTH has assisted over 115 single parents and over 300 dependents in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Tampa and Tallahassee.

Dunn received a Giant Steps Award in civic leadership from former President Bill Clinton for his program. In 2005, Dunn was presented with the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award; the award is the only NFL award that recognizes a player for his community service as well as for his excellence on the field. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Dunn challenged all NFL players, except for those who play for the New Orleans Saints, to donate at least $5,000 to the effort. The effort received over $5 million in contributions. In 2007, along with other athletes, Dunn founded Athletes for Hope, a charitable organization that helps professional athletes, sports industry professionals and fans get involved in charitable causes. For his exceptional involvement on and off the field, Dunn was awarded with the 2009 Bart Starr Award. He also received a Jefferson Award for Outstanding Athlete in Service and Philanthropy in 2011. In July 2012, WDC launched Betty’s Hope, named after Dunn’s mother, Betty Smothers, as a children’s bereavement program to empower youth as they manage their grief in a responsive environment to heal and enhance their quality of life. Based in Baton Rouge, Betty’s Hope creates safe environments for support that are relevant, responsive and fun, through a mobile programming module that offers peer-group based grief support, community advocacy and awareness, parent/caregiver support, education and resources, and community support and training.

Dunn’s list of accomplishments as a human being are impressive, but not nearly as impressive as his story. Now retired from football, Dunn is a minority owner of the Atlanta Falcons, and is committed to continuing to improve the lives of others. I challenge anyone to read Running For My Life and to remain unmoved. Dunn’s contributions are not only a shining example of what good can be accomplished by a successful athlete, but also a reminder that we all have obstacles to overcome in life, and how we navigate those obstacles, and the product we become as a result, is the true character of who we are.

While I still enjoy having my uneventful trips, I consider myself quite lucky to have had one very eventful trip with a pretty special human being, and for that I owe Warrick Dunn my thanks.

Aug 252012
 

I missed writing up the Monday game against the Eagles, and with three games in ten days I was tempted to collapse all of the games into one article, but needing a break from doing real work at home,I will pause to look at the games against both the Eagles and Buccaneers. Just one more game until the regular season!

Pre-Season Game #2: Eagles 27, Patriots 17

Summary

The Patriots chose to rest many starters tonight, knowing that the team would be playing three games in the span of just ten games. And while the Patriots lost the game, the nigh has to be considered a victory of the Patriots because the Patriots second team looked solid in hanging with the Eagles throughout the first half. Nick Foles was able to come in after Michael Vick was injured to engineer a comeback win for the Eagles, aided by Patriots’ blunders on special teams.

The Good

Ryan Mallett (10/25, 105, 1/0) wasn’t fantastic, but we was good, and certainly outplayed Brian Hoyer (5/17, 55, 0/0). The front seven was active on defense, and the secondary, while giving up one 40 yard pass to DeSean Jackson, is showing clear improvement over last season.

The Bad

As noted, Brian Hoyer did not look as good as Ryan Mallet, raising the possibility that Mallett could beat Hoyer for the backup position to Brady. If this happens, Hoyer may find himself traded or released given that his contract was tendered at the second round in the off-season. The offensive line looked improved from the first game, but Marcus Cannon is clearly a better guard than tackle. The Patriots can’t get Sebastian Vollmer quickly enough. Special teams were miserable against the Eagles, muffing two punts during the evening.

The Ugly

The ugly actually came from Michael Vick, who once again found a way to get taken out of the game early. Vick got hammered on the sixth offensive play by Jermaine Cunningham, hurting Vick’s ribs. While Nick Foles looks like a great backup for Vick, the Eagles will go as far as their starting quarterback will take them, and Vick has a history of getting pounded.

The Pleasant Surprise

Reserve tight end Alex Silvestro caught two passes tonight, including an 11 yard touchdown from Mallett.

Pre-Season Game #3: Buccaneers 30, Patriots 28

Summary

Don’t let the score fool you; the Patriots didn’t look nearly this good last night. The Patriots fell behind early and needed a late surge to make the final score respectable in their match-up against the Bucs.  Brady was sacked twice and threw a pick six to spot the Bucs early. The Patriots finally got rolling at the end of the first half, with a scoring drive aided by a defensive pass interference call and a 29 yard run by Stevan Ridley, who eventually scored on a one yard run. Brady engineered another touchdown drive in the third quarter, connecting on a touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski before giving way to Ryan Mallet, who led two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter and appears to have supplanted Brian Hoyer as the primary backup to Brady.

The Good

Stevan Ridley appears to have claimed the primary running back spot, netting 87 yards on 16 carries. Shane Vereen only carried twice before needing to leave due to injury. Aaron Hernandez caught five passes, and Marquice Cole had a great night on special teams and appears primed to claim a roster spot.

The Bad

The offensive line was awful tonight, leading to solid hits on Brady and a strip sack. While Logan Mankins returned to the line, the entire line struggled, with the right side getting beat like a drum throughout the evening. This team is ready for Sebastian Vollmer to return, as Marcus Cannon continues to struggle at right tackle.

The Ugly

Bucs guard Davin Joseph was injured and is lost (likely) for the season with a broken kneecap.

The Pleasant Surprise

Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps saw his first action tonight and was impressive. He returned one kickoff for 23 yards and rushed the ball three times for 41 yards, including a long run of 29 yards. Nate Ebner joined Marquice Cole as a force on special teams.

Next Up

The Patriots will be back in action on Wednesday, August 29th when they travel to New Jersey to face the Giants.

Aug 242012
 

Can you feel it? It’s getting closer. The start of the 2012 NFL season is a mere twelve days away (as of 8/24) and the pre-season results keep rolling in. Some teams are looking a little more ready for the regular season than others, but it’s all speculation until the Cowboys kick off against the Giants on September 5th.

Here is a re-cap of the games this week:

Aug 222012
 

On Monday of this week, my husband, the Ghost Rat, was faced with a dilemma. He writes about it in his installment of Rat’s Lair regarding fantasy football. His beloved Patriots were on television playing one of their “non-practice” pre-season games at the same time of the Gridiron Rats Fantasy Football Draft! Although our home is filled with fabulous technology, there wasn’t enough of it in the same room to allow him to be in both places at once. So, of course, the draft prevailed, made easier by the fact that most of the good guys weren’t going to play in the game that evening.

In honor of the fantasy draft, I am adding some additional terms to our ever expanding Football Widow Glossary.

Fantasy Football: An activity invented to allow football fans to exercise the opportunity to do what they have always longed to do…to fill a team with their very most favorite players. Since most of our husbands and significant football fan others will never be afforded the opportunity to do this in real life, they create their own gridiron “dream team” in the virtual world. Our imaginary team managers have the opportunity to trade players, sit them out for games, decide who to start, etc. Oh, the power!!

This begs the question: What if my husband is a football team managing genius and his team takes it all? What does he win? That brings us to our next terms:

Free versus Pay League: As the term would imply, a free league is just that. However, what he stands to win for putting all of the time and work into managing his team is a big ‘ol goose egg. Nothing. Notta. Zip. Conversely, in a pay league, the participant actually pays MONEY for the privilege of participation and will actually potentially win money in the end. There are web services that manage the funds on behalf of the league (investing the funds and keeping the interest. Why didn’t I think of that?) So, yes, gals, some of our men actually pay money for this! Ask him if one of his leagues is a pay league. His eyes will positively light up!

Commissioner: The title bestowed upon the person in charge of organizing the league, handling difficult issues that arise, enforcing the rules of the league, and apparently using profanity to describe those who don’t comply. It is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

Between the pre-season and fantasy drafts (The Ghost Rat is ONLY participating in 4 this year), I strongly suspect that most of our fanatics will survive the final few days until the regular season begins. Oh how I’ll miss him when it does…