Clint's Corner Archive

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The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.

For 7/30/98

Gone Camping...

The duo went down to Bryant College last Friday the 24th to check out the troops first hand. Thanks to John Macchi, I was able to get a pass and roam the sidelines as the players went through their morning practice with their pads on. To be that close to the players was quite a thrill. It’s one thing to be behind the ropes and watch what happens, it’s quite another to be on the sidelines listening to the talk amongst the players and coaches, and hearing the popping and hitting taking place just an arm’s length away. It’s an experience that I will never forget, and surely appreciated. Mike Maddaloni was a good sport not to complain too much that he was on the outside looking in. Mike, I owe you one too!

Even though we were so close, it’s very hard to see who’s doing well and who’s just fighting to make the first cut. I was talking with one of the Pats’ coaches who said even they can’t really tell who’s doing well until they break down the film and watch it for hours between practice sessions and after the final afternoon practice.

With the Pats coming off their first repeat divisional title in franchise history, there are plenty of talented players who are sure to make the final 53-man roster. But to see guys like Ted Johnson and Chris Slade hustling and hitting, you’d think they were rookies out there trying to catch the coaches eyes.

For what it’s worth...

The debate will forever linger in Patriot Nation as to whether Bobby Grier or Bill Parcells was the talent guru responsible for the Pats team we see today; but for sure you will never see my name thrown into the mix. Nonetheless, I can’t exactly write a training camp column without putting in my two cents as to what I saw with my own eyes. A few players really did stand out in my mind.

I watched rookie TE Rod Rutledge closely for a while. First of all, he’s huge. He really is noticeably bigger than Ben Coates, and none of it is fat. During the blocking drills against the defensive linemen, Rutledge more than held his own. He was going up against the same guys that the offensive linemen were up against, and sans the #47 on his back, you would not fare too well in a friendly game of "Pick out the Tight End." Pete Carroll was also watching Rutledge like a hawk, and was all over him at one point for tripping the Defensive man down at one point. Carroll got right in his face, and Rutledge was listening. He knows he was brought in here to block, and block well.

On the receiving end, he caught the one pass I saw thrown to him during the passing drills against coverage. He ran a post right down the middle and Drew hit him in stride for the TD. Maybe this guy’s not the next Ben Coates, but I saw enough to ease my concerns after reading that some teams had him off of their draft board due to past injury concerns. Many criticized the Pats for taking at best a 4th round talent in the 2nd round. If this guy’s playing hurt, I’m a Jets fan.

I was also watching the passing drills hoping to get a glimpse of a healthy Terry Glenn, a reborn Vincent Brisby, or a speedy Tony Simmons or Troy Brown. What I kept seeing instead was #18 flying all over the field catching everything in sight. A quick glance at the roster sheet showed that Anthony Ladd, a 6’1" 195 undrafted WR from the World League, was the guy making the big impression. He had one diving catch that drew oohs and aahs from the crowd, and later caught a TD bomb against tight coverage down the left sideline. If Ladd had mistakenly thrown on a #88 practice jersey that morning, the crowd of 1,000+ plus fans would probably not have suspected a thing was wrong. In a position already loaded with talent, Ladd will need to keep up the good work to make the final cut.

Of course I was also watching for Robert Edwards. No Pats fan in his right mind could spend more than 5 minutes at practice before scanning the field to pick out #47 and take a peek at his performance. During the running drills, however, Edwards did very little to distinguish himself. He didn’t get many carries, and he didn’t exactly wow the crowd with his limited opportunities. Ditto for Sedrick Shaw. Not one of the running plays looked like anything special. Then again, maybe that’s the way it goes at camp under those circumstances. On this day, #47 was not showcased as one would expect the #18 overall pick in the draft to be. I have read in the local papers that he has impressed the coaches, so either Edwards had an off day, or the coaches are getting something the average fan cannot out of those drills. The only RB to draw a reaction from the crowd was undrafted rookie free agent Mike Geter. The 5’10" 215 rookie was the only one to score against the D in the goal line drills, and he did it twice, once walking in through a huge hole.

Harold Shaw was the only back that I would say made a lasting impression on me. Although he didn’t break any runs, you could see plenty of evidence that this guy is a true power back. At 6’ 228lbs, Shaw always moved the pile forward. On the goal line drills, there would often be no hole to run to, but Shaw would put his head down and move the pile 1 or 2 yards. It seemed that only a coach’s whistle would stop the action as Shaw’s massive legs continued to churn out a few more inches. He may never have a 100-yard game in his career, but the Pats could sure have used a guy like Harold Shaw on countless occasions last year. Does 1st and goal against Green Bay ring a bell? How about trying to run out the clock with the lead against the Steelers? Harold Shaw may be a cult hero (ala Mosi Tatupu) in Patriot Nation before 1998 is all said and done.

Other players worth mentioning were Greg Spires, Ted Johnson, Chris Slade, Vernon Crawford, Willie Clay, and Drew Bledsoe. All of those guys either had a play or two that stood out in my mind, or in the case of Bledsoe, simply had an outstanding all around practice. Missing from practice were Willie McGinest and Lawyer Milloy. Steve Israel, Ron Merkerson, and Tebucky Jones were present but on the sidelines. I also do not recall seeing Zefross Moss at all. Either he was wearing a different number, or Moss was a no show for some reason. New camp addition Robert Green did not join the Pats until after our visit, so we missed him as well.

Out on a limb...

The toughest jobs all coaches will face in the coming weeks is paring down the roster from over 80 players in camp to round out the final 53. Who for the Pats will make the flight to Denver in just over 4 weeks? Here’s my best guess. I sure would not want to be in Carroll’s shoes, as it’s obvious already that many very talented players will not make the final cut.

QB (2): Drew Bledsoe, Scott Zolak

FB (3): Tony Carter, Chris Floyd, and Mario Grier. Grier gets the nod due to his leadership and past performance on special teams.

RB (4): Sedrick Shaw, Derek Cullors, Robert Edwards, and Harold Shaw. Green has been impressive thus far in camp, but I can’t see him taking spot away from any of the above four. Cullors has the edge due to his contributions in the return game.

WR (6): Terry Glenn, Vincent Brisby, Tony Simmons, Anthony Ladd, Shawn Jefferson, Brian Stablein. Tony Gaiter and Deitrich Jells just are not dependable receivers, and I feel Ladd will unseat the popular and dependable Troy Brown due to his size, which Zampese favors. Brown has been a very good player in a limited role, but was invisible as a starter last season when Terry Glenn was not in the game. This position is the hardest to figure, and I would not rule out a trade of Brisby if his stock goes up in the preseason.

TE (3): Ben Coates, Rod Rutledge, Lovett Purnell. Gone is Mike Bartrum and his dependable long snapping. You can’t keep 4 TE’s with all the talent at the WR spot, and Bartrum will not cost Purnell his job. Dante Scarnecchia has four weeks to find a new long snapper.

OL (8): Bruce Armstrong, Damon Denson, Ed Ellis, Heath Irwin, Max Lane, Zefross Moss, Todd Rucci, Dave Wohlabaugh. Notably absent from this list are Scott Rehberg and rookie 7th round center Jason Anderson. If one of those guys makes it, who goes? Are you going to keep 9 offensive lineman? Heath Irwin can play guard or center, so he is more valuable than Anderson. Cutting Rehberg leaves Ellis as the lone backup tackle, but an injury to Moss would certainly mean Lane moving back outside with either Irwin or Denson taking over at guard. Ellis will only back up Armstrong, who has been very durable over his long career with the Pats.

DL (8): Ferric Collons, Devin Wyman, Mike Jones, Willie McGinest, Brandon Mitchell, Greg Spires, Henry Thomas, and Mark Wheeler. Gone are 5th round pick Leonta Rheams, local boy Chris Sullivan, and Chad Eaton. This is another tough group to call, with few guys able to breathe easy going into the preseason. In the above group, I would say that only McGinest is a sure bet to make the team. It’s wide open. Even Hank Thomas, with just one year left on his contract and 33 years of age, could be unseated by a young guy.

S (4): Lawyer Milloy, Larry Whigham, Willie Clay, Chris Carter. No surprise here. Jeff Compas of Harvard may end up on the practice squad.

CB (5): Steve Israel, Tebucky Jones, Mark Tate, Ty Law, Chris Canty. This is a tough call as the only dependable veteran in the group is Ty Law. Steve Israel has been nothing but a bike rider since joining the Pats, but with veterans at this position scarce, Carroll cannot risk cutting Israel, who can play effectively when he’s healthy. Veteran Steve Lofton has the experience, but the young guys are just plain better. Terry Billups may be another candidate for the practice squad.

LB (8): Tedy Bruschi, Todd Collins, Vernon Crawford, Ted Johnson, Ron Merkerson, Marty Moore, Bernard Russ, and Chris Slade. Like the safety spot, no surprises. Look for Bruschi to get a long look at Collins starting spot in the preseason with Todd entering the final year of his contract.

P/K (2): Adam Vinatieri, Tom Tupa. Not only is Tupa also a QB, but he’s outpunting his challenger Mark Gagliano. Gagliano could make the team if he shows the coaches he can consistently kick the ball off into the endzone, something Vinatieri has a hard time doing. If Gagliano does make the team, it will not be at the expense of either Tupa or Vinatieri, both of whom are a virtual lock to make the team.

Getting close...

With the first preseason game upon us, it won’t be long now until the Pats kick things off in Denver on Monday Night Football. I’ve been looking forward to the start of the season since the moment I left Three Rivers Stadium with my head hanging last January. After visiting camp, my anxiety is even more heightened. I don’t put much stock into the won/loss record in the preseason. But I am really looking forward to watching the games to see the rookies go to work, look for a new right corner, and watch the wide receivers and defensive linemen battle it out in two positions which will undoubtedly have the positional coaches working OT in the film room.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see ya again in a couple of weeks. Please join me in keeping my fingers crossed that my wife will deliver our 1st baby close to her due date of September 3rd. The drop-dead date for my attendance at the home opener is the 8. Yikes!