<
>

Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. After the way the 2009 season ended, with the Baltimore Ravens running over the Patriots in the playoffs, I think the Patriots’ physical dominance along the lines of scrimmage has been their biggest bright spot in two preseason games.

2. Welcome back to town this week, St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo. If there is a lesson for aspiring young coaches to learn from Spagnuolo, who grew up in Whitinsville, it’s the importance of relationships and networking. Spagnuolo and Rams general manager Billy Devaney first met in 1983 when Spagnuolo was a personnel intern for the Redskins, working under Devaney.

3. When the Patriots set their final 53-man roster, I expect at least one player to come from another team. I would guess that Bill Belichick has his scouts looking closely at interior offensive linemen across the NFL.

4. The San Diego Chargers have big concerns at left tackle, where starter Marcus McNeill has stayed away in a Logan Mankins-type situation and veteran Tra’ Thomas retired. The team had second-year player Brandyn Dombrowski starting there Saturday night and rookie free agent Nick Richmond as the top backup. Not ideal.

5. If I’m Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, and I’m preparing for a season-opener against the traditionally physical Pittsburgh Steelers on the road, my biggest concern is how the run defense was pushed around by the Patriots.

6. The roughing-the-kicker penalty that extended the Patriots’ second touchdown drive against the Falcons on Thursday night was rare. In 2009, there was just one such roughing-the-kicker penalty all season. The NFL’s most frequent penalties in 2009 were false start (651) and offensive holding (646).

7. Similar to the Patriots, the Dolphins are counting on rookies in key roles this year. First-round pick Jared Odrick started at right defensive end Saturday night, while second-rounder Koa Misi started at outside linebacker. Those positions were two big need areas for the Patriots.

8. The Week 2 preseason result that surprised me most was Oakland’s 32-17 win over Chicago. The Raiders’ first-unit offense opened with an 81-yard touchdown drive, featuring some no-huddle, and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley finished with four sacks. Could the Raiders be better than I thought?

9. The Vikings play the 49ers in Sunday’s lone preseason game (NBC, 8 p.m.). As predictable as the Brett Favre storyline has become, it’s hard to argue the fact that Favre isn’t good for the NFL.

10. Maybe the Patriots are on to something the way they are rotating their running backs in the preseason. Instead of going by series by series during the regular season, as they often do with their backs, perhaps they should stick with one back for a more extended period of time so they can develop a better rhythm. I wonder if Bill Belichick has considered that possibility.