Patriots

Welker says he's hands-off on negotiations

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Welker says he's hands-off on negotiations

FOXBORO -- Before the 2010 season, Tom Brady's contract was a huge issue. The best quarterback in football was entering the final year of his deal. Having blown out his knee in the 2008 opener, everybody was aware that Brady's football mortality was just a play away. If he got seriously hurt in 2010 without a new deal, he'd be damaged goods on the open market. The negotiations were a mudwrestle, though, and there was bitterness that it had to be that hard.

Ultimately, the Patriots got Brady signed just days before the opener. Coincidentally - and ironically - the quarterback was involved in a car accident on the morning of the day the agreement was finallyreached. Patriots owner Robert Kraft did allude to the accident as a catalyst for doing the right thing by Brady. "We have a saying that out of bad things good things can happen if managed properly. It put in perspective everything we're doing," RobertKraft said. "We're very, very lucky. Patriot Nation is lucky he had his seat belt on."Wes Welker is in a situation similar to Brady's. He blew out a knee in the final game of 2009 and he's very good. Welker's on a five-season statistical run that is as impressive at the wideout position as anything any player has ever done. But there are key differences with Welker. He's already in the final season of his deal and playing without a financial net if he gets twisted around. He's made a fraction of what Brady's made in this league. And if he gets blown up, the market for a twice-damaged receiver on the wrong side of 30 will be a lot drier than it would have been for Brady had he gotten hurt without a deal. Despite the apparent risk Welker's playing under, he told me on Tuesday he's keeping the issue out of his mind. "I mean, I've been doing this for a long time," he said. "I'm just trying to do the best I can to help the team."I have agents that take care of that part of things for me and to tell you the truth I take no part in any of it," Welker also said. "I don't want to talk about it, I don't really want to be involved with it I just want them to do their job and I'll do mine and at the end of the day, I'm not worried about it at all."OnMonday, Welker joked on the Dan Patrick Show that he's "about the 40th highest paid receiver in the league." He was quick to transition away from contract talk when Patrick asked a follow-up. Welker's agent is David Dunn, the man who once wrung a 103 million deal for Drew Bledsoe from the Patriots (New England played it smart with options in the Bledsoe deal that kept it from getting fleeced completely by Dwoo). Unlike the rancorous negotiations with Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins, and the impatience that was just below the surface with Brady, Welker hasn't slipped once in toeing the company line. Neither has Dunn. As a result, we know nothing of where things stand in negotiations other than some seemingly knowing proclamations by both Rodney Harrison and Michael Irvin that Welker's "not going anywhere."SoWelker chugs along with 41 more receptions than Chad Ochocinco (who will pull down 2 million more than Welker this year) and leaves the indignation to anyone who wants to pay attention to what's going on.

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.

Have the offseason changes negatively affected the Patriots locker room?

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Have the offseason changes negatively affected the Patriots locker room?

The Patriots improve their record to 4-2 with a win over the Jets, but there are still a lot of concerning factors for New England. Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen talk about something the team isn't used to - close games.

Giardi also dives into whether there is a major problem with the locker room dynamic, and whether all the moves they made in the offseason were blown way out of proportion by the media and fans of the talent added, but didn't factor in the personalities they lost.

Koppen and Giardi also look at how the offensive line play has fallen off, despite the same personnel as last year. Finally, discussing the late scratch of Stephon Gilmore due to a concussion. Anything to read into the timing?