One of my "must-reads" each week is Dan Pompei's "Sunday Blitz" on the National Football Post Web site. Pompei is a veteran NFL reporter who has great contacts around the league.
My first year covering the Patriots in 1997, then-Vice President of Player Personnel Bobby Grier once photocopied one of Pompei's articles and handed it to me because he thought it was good material for a young reporter to digest. The piece was on drafting and developing players, and I thought that was the ultimate compliment to Pompei, who now works at the Chicago Tribune.
I've been following Pompei ever since.
This week Pompei sheds a little light on how Bill Belichick is spending some of the extra time he has during the lockout. When Belichick is not out in the community doing a good deed, he's been studying the team's 2011 opponents.
Writes Pompei, "Some people around the league are anticipating some interesting game planning and scheming early in the season, more so than normally is the case. Why? Coaches have more time on their hands this offseason than usual without players to coach. Bill Belichick, for instance, tells me he has been spending some of his extra time studying opponents."
This is something Belichick and his staff would probably be doing anyway, focusing primarily on personnel, but there is even more time to do so this offseason. The idea is to lock in on the first four or so opponents in the offseason, because part of training camp planning involves tailoring things to those early games.
Belichick has previously made the point that it doesn't make much sense to heavily study an opponent that you're facing in Week 12 or Week 16 at this point, because so much changes on a week to week basis in the NFL.
So with the Patriots having a Week 7 bye, it makes sense to think that Belichick is locking in on the first six opponents, especially those in which there isn't as much familiarity (Raiders on Oct. 2 and Cowboys on Oct. 16).
Surely, the Dolphins (Sept. 12), Chargers (Sept. 18), Bills (Sept. 25), and Jets (Oct. 9) are also drawing his attention.