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Ten Final Thoughts on Patriots-Bills

09.26.10 at 8:55 am ET
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As kickoff looms, here are 10 final thoughts on Patriots-Bills:

•The promotion of outside linebacker Shawn Crable to the 53-man roster is intriguing. There’s no telling what sort of impact Crable is going to have on the field — he could come out of the gate on Sunday and finish with three sacks, he could go down after one play from scrimmage. There’s just no telling with Crable. Whatever happens, his fortunes may be tied to those of Jermaine Cunningham. If Cunningham can go, Crable won’t play a whole lot. If Cunningham can’t go, Crable will likely see some playing time.

•In that same vein, the inclusion of Brandon Spikes on the injury report (he’s probable with a calf injury) could signal some personnel changes at both inside and outside linebacker on Sunday. Inside linebacker Dane Fletcher could be active for the first time as a professional.

•The closer we get to kickoff, I’m starting to believe that Sammy Morris is going to have more on his plate when it comes to the passing game. I was struck by the numbers that were provided to us by Pro Football Focus: Kevin Faulk caught 77.1 percent of the passes thrown his way in ‘09 and gained 8.1 yards per catch. Morris caught 71.4 percent, but gained 9.7 yards per reception. “In terms of replacing him, their best bet is probably plugging Morris in as a 3rd down back and relying on Fred Taylor and BenJarvus Green-Ellis to split the carries in the run game,” wrote Sam Monson in an e-mail to WEEI.com.

•Not sure that 5-foot-9 Danny Woodhead will be ready to go on Sunday, but as his nascent Patriots’ career continues, it’s clear that he’s not just a signing meant to stick it to the Jets in the days before last week’s game. The undersized Woodhead — who was working out with running backs this week — brings some depth to the running game, and could serve as an option in the (no pun intended) short passing game.

•There is more and more talk around the team that Kyle Arrington will replace Darius Butler at right cornerback against the Bills. Butler appears to be at the crossroads of his career — in the wake of a miserable performance against the Jets, these next few games are critical to his overall professional development.

•While the Patriots have been unable to get much of a rush from the outside, they’ve been successful at creating havoc up front. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork has overmatched his two opponents at center and done a nice job caving in the pocket, while Gerard Warren had the best defensive game of maybe anyone on the roster last week, coming away with a pair of sacks in the loss to the Jets. Buffalo is tied for third-most in the league with seven sacks allowed through three games.

•Speaking of things up front, it’s clear the Patriots have a renewed confidence in second-year defensive lineman Ron Brace. The Boston College product, who was inactive for seven games and a healthy scratch for an eighth, has started both games for the Patriots this season, and has five tackles in two games. Facing a talented group of running backs, the New England coaching staff will expect a lot of its defensive front on Sunday, a group that will include Brace.

•In much the same way the Patriots used to be bedeviled by their annual trip to South Beach, the 11-game win streak New England has on the Bills has to have some sort of psychological impact on the Bills and their fans. Last season, we saw these two teams play two of the closer games in recent memory — the two were decided by a total of eight points, with one game turning on a last-second comeback guided by Brady. If Buffalo does get down early, there could be at least one or two of the Bills’ veterans who look at each other and think, “Here we go again.”

•Strange to see Stephen Gostkowski struggle — he’s 1-for-4 on field goal attempts through the first two games, and while one miss was from 56 yards, he did miss on 47- and 37-yarders.

•Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick got a perfect score on the Wonderlic. Check out WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford try and replicate that performance here.

Read More: Bills, Patriots,

Pats make an addition to injury report

09.25.10 at 8:24 pm ET
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The Patriots announced late Saturday night that they have have added linebacker Brandon Spikes to the injury report with a calf injury. His official status for the game is probable. The rookie linebacker, who has started the first two games of the 2010 season, has 12 tackles and one pass defensed.

Read More: Brandon Spikes,

Patriots promote Crable to 53-man roster

09.25.10 at 5:19 pm ET
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The Patriots announced Saturday they have promoted outside linebacker Shawn Crable to the 53-man roster. The 6-foot-5, 243-pound Crable, who was taken with the 78th overall pick in the 2008 draft, has spent his entire career with the Patriots, but has yet to play in a single regular-season game. Crable was sidelined by a shin injury in 2008 that landed him on injured reserve, and last season, a groin injury left him on the IR for the entire year. Crable will fill the roster spot that opened when running back Kevin Faulk was placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL earlier this week. The news of Crable’s move was first reported Friday by Boston.com.

Read More: Kevin Faulk, Shawn Crable,

Sources: Pats’ DB Lockett arrested in Providence

09.25.10 at 4:35 pm ET
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Bret Lockett. (AP)

According to multiple sources within the Providence Police Department, Patriots defensive back Bret Lockett was arrested early Saturday morning and charged with disorderly and failure to move. Lockett was released a few hours later, and a source indicated he has a court date set for next month.

Lockett, a 23-year-old defensive back out of UCLA, was claimed off waivers by the Patriots on Sept. 7, 2009 and finished last season with seven tackles in 10 games before being placed on injured reserve on Dec. 9. He returned to the Patriots this year, but has been on injured reserve since Aug. 31 with a chest injury.

Read More: Bret Lockett,

Nuggetpalooza’s “Around the NFL” – Week 3

09.25.10 at 9:38 am ET
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nuggetpalooza-small4Man! It’s Week 3 already? Boy, the NFL season just flies by, doesn’t it? Well, enjoy a bunch of statistical observations from “Around the NFL”:

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colts* – Gaining 4 or more yards on first down is considered a “successful” play. The Indianapolis Colts defense allowed 4+ yards on first down 48% of the time last season (which ranked just 22nd) but have been over 60% in both of their 2010 contests and are dead last.

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eagles* – In all the praise for the performance of Philadelphia‘s Michael Vick last week, did you realize that the Eagles lost 36 yards last week on quarterback sacks, the 2nd highest tally in the league last week? Eagles’ quarterbacks were sacked an NFL-high 6 times last week, tying their most given up in a single game in their last 45 games. It was the most sacks in a game by the Lions defense in 45 games as well. Yes, both streaks started during week 7 of 2007, and no, they weren’t playing each other.

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ravens* – So what was Ray Lewis complaining about? Baltimore Ravens opponents have had 27 penalties called on them so far, the most in the NFL:

27 – Baltimore Ravens opponents
25 – St. Louis Rams opponents
20 – Detroit Lions opponents

New England opponents have had 8 flags on them, tied with San Diego for the fewest in the league. Last year, Patriots opponents got flagged 7 times on average. This year: 4.

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packers* – The Green Bay Packers have allowed 18 total yards passing in their two first halfs of 2010. It’s the fewest allowed by any NFL team over consecutive first halfs since the Chargers allowed 10 total over weeks 1-2 of the 2006 season.

Note that San Diego allowed just 32 first half pass yards over the first THREE weeks that year.

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jaguars* – Jacksonville Jaguars opponents have converted 2nd and 6 yards or more into a first down (on the 2nd down play) 15 times this year already, easily the most in the league. Contrast that to the Jets defense, which has allowed opponents to convert a 2nd and 6+ into a first down just 1 time in 31 tries (0-19 vs. Baltimore and 1-12 vs. New England).

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cowboys* – The Dallas Cowboys have now had 5 drives that have lasted 10 or more plays and they scored points on just 1 of them (20%). They ranked last in 2009 as well, scoring on just 42% of their 10+ play drives.

The Cowboys are not alone, though. The Carolina Panthers have had 2 such drives in each of their first 2 games and have yet to score on any of them. They were 29th last season (58%).

It’s early, but cashing in on 10+ play drives is down in 2010, as teams are scoring points just 62% of the time versus 71% for the full 2009 year.

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texans* – When Texans’ opponents have blitzed this year, Matt Schaub has completed 58% of his passes (15th) and averaged 5.7 yards per pass play (21st). When they haven’t blitzed, he’s connected on 81% (1st) for a 9.7 yard average (2nd). Perhaps that’s why Texans’ opponents have blitzed on 57% of their pass plays, the highest percentage in the NFL.

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packers* – The Packers scored 141 points last season following opponent turnovers and they’re at it again in 2010, turning 3 turnovers into 21 points…a touchdown every time.

Note that this stat only includes offensive possessions following turnovers so it doesn’t count touchdowns on returns.

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ravens* – The Baltimore Ravens threw 4 interceptions last week for the first time since week 10 of the 2001 season, snapping a streak of 135 straight games with fewer than 4 picks.

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jaguars* – Jacksonville was the only team in week one that did not have a three and out series (turnovers will “help” that stat). In week two, they did it again, joining Arizona, Atlanta, Dallas, and Minnesota. Note that 4 of the 5 teams that didn’t have a three and out in week two lost their game.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has gone three and out on 40% of their possessions so far, the highest in the league, but they’re 2-0. Opponents may be wishing they had hung some losses on them during these first four games.

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bears_45* – The Jets and Bears are the only two teams that have not allowed a running play of 10+ yards yet in 2010. The Colts have already allowed a whopping 12 such runs (6 per game), about twice their rate of 2009.

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saints* – Through 2 weeks, 79.5% of the Colts’ Peyton Manning’s passes have been considered “catchable”, the highest percentage in the NFL, followed by last year’s other Super Bowl quarterback, Drew Brees of the Saints, at 77.0%.

Last season, Minnesota’s quarterbacks (mostly Favre) ranked first (75.6%). But they’re 20th so far this season (63.1%).

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panthers* – Carolina (0-2) is a surprising 9 for 19 (47%) on 3rd and 6 or more yards to go, the highest percentage in the NFL. However, the Panthers are just 4 for 14 on 3rd and SHORTER THAN 6 yards to go (29%), the lowest percentage in the league.

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rams* – St. Louis Rams‘ opponents have fumbled 10 times already, the most in the NFL. Tennessee’s offense has put the ball on the ground 9 times (the most) and their opponents have coughed it up 8 times (2nd most).

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oldpatriotslogo* – The New England Patriots have now thrown at least one interception in their last 7 road games, tied with the Rams for the longest current streak in the NFL.

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chiefs* – Dallas‘ defense is the only one in the league that has not allowed a broken tackle yet this year. Contrast that to the Chiefs, who have 11, the most in the NFL.

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raiders* – The Oakland Raiders have 21 rushes of 7+ yards through the first 2 weeks this season, the most in the league. In addition, they have 160 rushing yards AFTER CONTACT, also the most in the league:

160 – Oakland Raiders
154 – New York Jets
140 – Minnesota Vikings
140 – Miami Dolphins

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packers* – The Green Bay Packers are the only NFL team that has forced a turnover on both of their opponents’ opening drives of the second half this season. They are also one of just two teams that has scored a touchdown on each of THEIR opening second half drives.

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texans* – The Houston Texans are the only NFL team that has yet to fumble the football in 2010.

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nfl* – There were 42 interceptions thrown in week two, the most in one week in the NFL since 44 picks in week 13 of 2007.

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rams* – St. Louis picked off two Oakland passes last Sunday, snapping a streak of 8 straight games without intercepting a pass.

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ravens* – Baltimore is the only team that has yet to allow an offensive touchdown this season, although the 8 FG that they’ve allowed is the most in the league. They allowed the 2nd fewest touchdowns (25) last season (Jets, 19).

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jets* – The New York Jets have at least 2 rushing plays of 10+ yards in each of their last 19 games, the longest current streak in the NFL:

19 – New York Jets
14 – Arizona Cardinals
11 – Kansas City Chiefs

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steelers* – Last weekend against the Titans, the Steelers total passing yards AT the point of the catch was -1 (minus 1), just the 8th time that a team has had a negative game total since they began tracking that stat in 1992. The last time was was last October, when Tennessee ended up with -11 when they got shellacked by New England.

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seahawks* – After scoring only 10 points on 16 opening game possessions last season, the Seattle Seahawks are the only NFL team with turnovers on each of their opening possessions so far in 2010 (both interceptions).

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panthers* – The Carolina defense has stuffed 14 rushes for negative yardage already, the most in the NFL so far. The Panthers have never led the NFL in stuffs or stuff percentage in a season since their 1995 inception.

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cowboys* – Here’s one more thing that didn’t help the Cowboys last week: Their receivers went down. Dallas receivers averaged an NFL-low 0.76 yards after contact last week on 34 receptions against the Bears. They averaged 1.61 such yards in their week one loss to Washington. Chicago leads the NFL in average receiving yards after contact at 3.20.

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browns* – The Cleveland Browns have 9 kickoff returns so far this season and exactly NONE have gone for 20 or more yards. Last year, a league high 62% of Oakland’s kickoff returns went for less than 20 yards. The Browns appear to have the inside track in 2010.

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cardinals_45* – Through two weeks, there have been 93 first downs awarded via penalty in the NFL and 20 of them have come at the expense of the Jets (10) and Cardinals (10). Only 5 other teams have allowed 10+ first downs via penalty flag over a two game span since 2005.

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jets* – Last season, the Jets defense fell on 64% of opponent fumbles, the 2nd highest percentage in the league (New Orleans, 72%). Well, they’re off to a good start in 2010 as well, having recovered all 3 of their opponents’ fumbles.

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lions* – The Detroit Lions scored 2 touchdowns in the 4th quarter last Sunday for the first time since week 2 of 2008, snapping a streak of 31 straight games with fewer than 2 such scores, leaving the Giants alone with the 2nd longest current streak in the NFL behind the Rams:

53 – St. Louis Rams
32 – New York Giants
17 – New England Patriots

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Enjoy your football weekend!!

Peter King on D&H: Bill Belichick will ‘absolutely love’ Danny Woodhead

09.24.10 at 9:08 pm ET
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king2

Peter King

Sports Illustrated’s Peter King joined the Dale & Holley show Friday morning, and despite the Patriots’ frustrating loss to the Jets last weekend, especially their poor second-half performance, King advises New England fans to remain calm. When asked if he believes late-game struggles will become a disturbing trend for the Pats, King replied, “No, I don’t think so. I think that you always have to be careful about a small sample size when you look at a season.”

Rather, just as he had predicted the week prior, King chalked up the decision to the Jets’ desperation. “If you’re the Jets, that had to be, plus all the crap coming down on them last week, that was a desperate, desperate New York Jets team,” King said. “I’m sure Bill Belichick has heard Bill Parcells say this a lot over the years, that in football, the desperate team very often has a big advantage, and last week the Jets were a more desperate team. Mark Sanchez was a desperate player last week to regain not only his team, but his credibility in the way he had been playing so poorly in Week 1 and the preseason.”

Following are the highlights from the interview, including King’s take on Braylon Edwards, Rex Ryan‘s role as a coach in this situation, and the length of Eric Mangini‘s leash in Cleveland. To hear the full interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

On why he didn’t include Mark Sanchez in his list of quarterbacks who stole the Week 2 spotlight:

A lot of times when I write Monday Morning Quarterback, especially at the top of the column, I try to take a lot of the things less focused on. Because you’ve probably got a huge portion of the media at that Jets-Patriots game, it’s probably going to be written about in a lot of different places. I don’t always write about necessarily the biggest games on Sunday. I write about the things that I think people aren’t going to be reading a lot about necessarily, expect if something really hits you over the head, like the [Michael] Vick thing, that really hit me last week.

I didn’t ignore Sanchez because I was dissing him or anything like that, I just felt like I wanted to write about other things that I thought might have fell below the radar a little bit.

On the Braylon Edwards situation:

The bigger issue right here is the Jets’ handling of the situation, and I think it’s twofold. When the Jets, before this season, chose to trade for Santonio Holmes, chose to, a year ago, trade for Braylon Edwards, these are two top marked guys, these are two guys who over time have had trouble. You bring them onto a team with also a bunch of veteran guys, who are either on their last NFL legs like Jason Taylor or LaDainian Tomlinson, and with a bunch of other guys, [Antonio] Cromartie‘s obviously had his share of problems.

They were basically saying that Rex Ryan will be the principal, and everybody on the team is going to obey Rex Ryan, that he’ll handle it. It reminds me of Mike Brown saying Marvin Lewis will handle it in Cincinnati, and that’s what they did. The surprising thing to me is that people are shocked that things like this happen. They put a combustible group of players together, and when you do that, combustible things happen.

Number two, let’s talk about Rex Ryan’s decision this week. I’m sure you have Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, if the Jets don’t do enough, if they don’t sit him for long enough, will be up in arms, and might even protest the Jets facility or picket their facility. The bottom line in this thing is, Rex Ryan is a football coach. He’s got a team that isn’t playing great, played pretty well last weekend, but has not played that great this summer, didn’t play that well in the first game, and he’s without his best receiver in Santonio Holmes for another two games.

Rex Ryan’s job, at the end of the day, is not to be a preacher. Rex Ryan’s job at the end of the day will be judged on winning games. I think he’ll happily, if you told him to sit Braylon Edwards for two series, put him in and win the game, he’ll take the slings and arrows. He’ll take people saying, “Ryan ought to be fired, he sets a terrible example.” He’ll take that. I would be surprised if they sat him for very long. They are in a desperate situation, trying to win enough games to make the playoffs, with an offense that I believe is going to struggle a lot this year.

On Eagles coach Andy Reid’s decision to start Michael Vick:

Anybody who tells you they aren’t surprised by this is sort of reinventing history. This was a shock to everybody. It was a shock to Michael Vick. I can tell you, it was a shock to the upper management of the Philadelphia Eagles, a drop-dead shock when Reid told them on Tuesday. No one expected this.

I believe that, after talking to Reid for 20 minutes or so Tuesday night very late, the reason he did this, there are a number of reasons. One, anybody who watched the first two games of the season, would say, if you asked them, what quarterback gives you the best chance to win against Jacksonville with a lousy offensive line, and now you’ve lost your center for the year, the quarterback’s going to get chased all over the place, what quarterback gives you the best chance to win? Any logical person would say Michael Vick.

Having said that, I think he realizes that for the last five months, Kevin Kolb has been his guy, and that it’s not fair at all. He said to me, “I know that I’m going to get a lot of stuff for this, and it’s justified.” But, I think that at the end of the day, the one thing that worried him about the situation, especially with Donovan McNabb coming to town a couple of weeks away, I think it really concerned him that if Kolb went in and played a B or a C-plus game and the Eagles won, that the fans would just light him up. And the expectation level because Vick is behind him, he would be in a no-win situation. So, I think he just felt like for the kid’s good, and for the good of the team — but mostly for the good of the team, I think he has to be concerned about winning — that’s why he made the decision.

Now, I’ll just give you my view of this, that is if you give Kevin Kolb 15 snaps before he gets the concussion, and you’re going to pull him based on 15 snaps, you might say that you loved him, and you might say that you were totally behind him, and he’s my quarterback of the future, but did you really believe it? I think the answer is no.

On Eric Mangini’s coaching leash, given the tough schedule in the coming weeks:

Especially with Seneca Wallace playing quarterback the next few weeks, as it appears, not that Jake Delhomme gives you restful nights either if you’re a Browns fan. I entered this season convinced, after conversations with [Mike] Holmgren, that he will give Eric Mangini the season to prove himself. And then after that, he’ll make a judgment and we’ll see what happens. I can’t, at this point, be convinced that he wouldn’t make a change if it was a disaster. Because, whereas most teams have a problem on the coaching staff, who would you give the job to, I don’t think Holmgren would hesitate that much in giving the job to Rob Ryan. Because I think he believes he could take over for a while, and who knows. Again, I think that things would have to dip to such a horrendous level — which they might.

Why did the Chiefs deny your request to speak with Charlie Weis? Why isn’t he in New England?

A) I think that Scott Pioli and Todd Haley want to keep Weis concentrated on coaching and nothing else. As well as the fact that I think Charlie Weis has no interest right now, nor can it help him, to be going out after one week of the season, or so early, and tooting his own horn about doing anything.

As to why he didn’t go to New England, I believe that even though there would be a familiarity to New England, I would be surprised if your Charlie Weis, and the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs has said to you, “You can call the offense, we’ll go over the game plan, but it’ll be your game plan, we just need to make we are on the same page.” … He was comfortable knowing that, in my opinion, he’d have more freedom in Kansas City.

Not only would he have more freedom in Kansas City than New England, but he would also have the ability to, if he gets that offense turned around, all of the sudden Charlie Weis looks a lot better than if he scores 30 points a game with Tom Brady working under Bill Belichick. To be honest, Michael, wouldn’t that be expected?

On the situation of trades in the NFL, and why a deal didn’t get done with Vincent Jackson:

A.J. Smith was stuck on the fact that Brandon Marshall, who was troubled in his own right in Denver, fetched two second-round draft choices for the Denver Broncos in a trade with Miami. The only way he [Smith] was going to do this was if he could get a 2 plus something else he valued, whether that be a third- or fourth-round pick, or a conditional pick where the conditions were favorable for him to have a chance to get back a No. 2.

The problem if you’re the Minnesota Vikings, first of all, he wouldn’t be eligible to play for you for three more weeks. And, by that time who knows. Who knows where your team is. Maybe even Sidney Rice is back playing then, maybe you don’t really need him at that point. They needed somebody now.

They were willing to get rid of next year’s 2. But they weren’t willing to do very much beyond that, unless it could be a conditional pick based on performance, and staying out of NFL suspensions since he’s had two DWI arrests and a third one could net him a year suspension. It just wasn’t a great fit.

That, plus the fact that A.J. was basically going to say to the agents around the league, and the agents of Vincent Jackson, “I’m running this team, you’re not.” People talk about his ego getting in the way, I’m not sure that it’s his ego, I think that’s the wrong word. I think it is his stance, that, “I realize we’re not going to get everything we want if we hang on to him, but I’m willing to take that risk. That either by the trading deadline, or next year if we franchise him again, we’re going to get better than the trade offers we’re getting right here.”

The only thing I am concerned with, if I’m the Chargers, or I’m looking from this trade from the Chargers’ point of view, I believe that they had a chance to get a significantly better offer now, than they will at the trading deadline in three weeks from now, or that they would get next year if they franchise him and somebody went to try and get him. I think they were shortsighted in not taking a deal that would probably be the best one they’re going to get for Jackson.

On Danny Woodhead, newly acquired by the Patriots:

Everybody always used to look at Danny Woodhead, he looks like an altar boy in eighth grade. And people will say the Patriots and the Jets they are so different. Deep down, Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick are not all that different. Rex Ryan loved this kid. Bill Belichick will love this kid. … Danny Woodhead is one of these guys, same as Dan Klecko was, he vastly overachieved for his perceived level of ability, I think he’s going to be one of these guys Bill Belichick falls in love with. That’s my opinion, I have no inside information whatsoever. He’s just the kind of guy Bill Belichick, a lover of football, teacher of football, will absolutely love, because this kid is a lover of football who you cannot get enough of.

Read More: Mark Sanchez, Michael Vick, Peter King, Rex Ryan

Report: Pats will promote Crable to fill Faulk spot

09.24.10 at 8:58 pm ET
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Outside linebacker Shawn Crable will be promoted from the practice squad and join the 53-man roster in time for this Sunday’s game, according to a Boston.com report. The 6-foot-5, 243-pound Crable, who was taken with the 78th overall pick in the 2008 draft, has spent his entire career with the Patriots, but has yet to play in a single regular-season game. Crable was sidelined by a shin injury in 2008 that landed him on injured reserve, and last season, a groin injury left him on the IR for the entire year. Crable would fill the roster spot that opened when running back Kevin Faulk was placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL earlier this week.

Read More: Kevin Faulk, Shawn Crable,
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