Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Oct 2005

Patriots Could Face Atlanta Without Seymour

Since I'm not the coach of the Patriots, I'm not allowed to talk about their team. So I'll just link to this news that New England's defense could be lighter by yet another starter on Sunday without further comment.

Posted by: Al Bogdan on 07 Oct 2005

22 comments, Last at 09 Oct 2005, 11:51am by RCH


by Independent George (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 2:37pm

They're doomed. How are they going to run the ball without Seymour at fullback?

by Balaji (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 2:39pm

This is ridiculous. Clearly Seymour is disrespecting the Patriots by refusing to play.

And on another note, how close are we to seeing a real-life test of Stephen Smith's theory that "quite frankly, [Tom Brady is] all you need"? I'm curious to see how well that would work.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 3:12pm

I'm pretty sure you need 45 players to field an NFL team.

by ABW (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 3:26pm

Players on the Pats injury report:

Kevin Faulk RB
Matt Light T
Tully Banta-Cain LB
Matt Chatham
Randall Gay CB
Brandon Gorin T
Marquise Hill DE
Richard Seymour DE
Bethel Johnson WR
James Sanders S
Duane Starks CB
Tyrone Poole CB
Chad Scott CB
Tom Brady QB

Yes, that's 4 of the Patriots 6 CB on the roster. So much for secondary depth this season. And 2 of their 3 DEs(well, 4 if you include Mike Wright, a rookie who also plays inside). Harrison isn't on here because he's on IR already.

Faulk and Light are out, Brady is probable, and everyone else is questionable. If 5 of the 11 guys who are questioable are held out, they will have 46 players dressed for the game.

They're going to be pulling guys off the street by the bye at this rate, and honestly that doesn't bother me too much. Hank Poteat can't be much worse than Duane Starks has been.

by David (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 3:30pm

Brady is listed as "probable" for every game the Patriots play. God knows why, it's not like it's fooling anybody anymore.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 3:40pm

"Hank Poteat can’t be much worse than Duane Starks has been."

Several years ago, I can imagine that same line being uttered by every sports columnist in Pittsburgh.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 3:44pm

Actually, if I'm a statistician armed with linear regression, and I see that list, I might be persuaded to suggest that the CB injuries don't mean all that much. It's a fairly fungible position, especially when you're left to debate the relative merits of Hank Poteat vs. Duane Starks.

If one counts Faulk as a wideout rather than a RB (which is kind of how he operates in a lot of the Pats' 3rd down schemes anyway), then his potential loss means more than, say, James Sanders' missed game.

Losing tackles is never good, despite the ok play by the subs. And having a DE out isn't good, but not nearly so bad as losing your QB or starting WRs or OLs.

You kind of have to count Tedy as a weekly "IR," so mark him as a count against the LB ranks, which is somewhat significant.

Could be worse.

by rk (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 4:04pm

#4. NFL teams only dress 45 players out of the 53 on the roster. So even if they only have 46 healthy players, they have to deactivate one of them anyway.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 4:45pm


How much data do you have on multiple CBs lost, though? The fungibility of a position is going to depend on the amount of depth available in the general talent pool. There's probably a fair number of cases of 2 corners lost, but 4? When your starting corners are coming off of the waiver wire, there's got to be a dropoff there. Especially considering you typically need more than 2 corners for certain situations.

I would imagine, for instance, that I would suck as a starting corner for the Patriots.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 4:59pm

Pat, the benchmarket injury rate for CBs over a four year period is about 75 percent. So the question of multiple "Outs" at this position are pretty common.

I could give you a figure of the franchises' success rate with, say, six or seven out at once, but there would only really be one team that carried that many during a given span: The 2004-05 New England Patriots.

I seem to recall they got by, with a little help from their wideout friend.

So, it's quite common for a team to have multiple CBs out at various times of the year, and for nearly all of them to be slowed by injuries when they do play.

But because this is a nearly universal problem, and the position is pretty fungible, AND the rules don't really favor CBs over, say, WRs anyway, I tend to say that NE will win or lose the game for many different reasons, but having Hank Poteat replace Duane Starks won't be one of them.

A different question, of course, is whether having a lot of rookie or relatively inexperienced corners in your backfield hurts you. I have NOT done that research (Aaron?). This perhaps, might be what gets the Pats this weekend (although if there is ANY team in the NFL that one could rely on inexperienced or, even, crippled CBs to cover, it would be Atlanta).

Of greater concern to me would be the frailty of the line, especially with the fill-ins, the lack of depth there.

Losing an outstanding DE or LB isn't good either, but it's hard to know now if that really means anything if Vick is somewhat hobbled.

In a nutshell, it's hard to assess this game. I guess I would go with the slight advantage to the Falcons (by 1 or 2) because they have such a great D-line and it will be really testing the Pats' O-line.

If I were ol' Bill, I would use Pace as a receiver out of the backfield instead of Faulk (Pace has good hands). Pace also will be asked to do a lot of blocking against DTs and LBs to protect Brady.

If NE wins, I would suggest that Pace might be the hidden MVP.

Bill isn't asking me for advice, but that's what I say!

by ABW (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 5:09pm

Carl, the problem isn't that the CB injuries are really hurting the Pats because now they have to send out some guy who's worse than the starter, it's that at this point if they want to use a nickel d they are trotting out guys who are gimping. It's gone beyond playing replacement level guys, to where they're playing replacement level guys who are hurt. I do understand the regression analysis though, and I do think that the losses in the LB corps(Bruschi, Johnson's retirement) and the surprising ineffectiveness of the defensive line hurt us more than the hurt CBs did in the SD game(although if Duane Starks could stop getting burned, it certainly would help).

You are right about how it could be worse though - we could be the Jets.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 5:10pm

A different question, of course, is whether having a lot of rookie or relatively inexperienced corners in your backfield hurts you.

Yah, that's my basic argument - it's tough to say how the Patriots are going to manage because there can't be that many teams who had to completely restock their CBs. Mistakes by corners - see also the Rams last week - are seriously painful.

I can understand that the relative depth on each team at CB is high, especially considering you play your 3rd & 4th CB fairly often anyway. But those guys have been on the team, they know the scheme, they know the defensive calls. When you start putting people who are new to the team in, that's gotta hurt.

(although if there is ANY team in the NFL that one could rely on inexperienced or, even, crippled CBs to cover, it would be Atlanta).

You might even be able to beat Atlanta without CBs at all. Hey, that'd be a new formation! Just let the wide receivers run straight on by. I mean, c'mon, how many times is Vick actually going to a) see them and b) actually hit them?

by ABW (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 5:18pm

As usual, someone beat me to my point. I need to either write faster or revise less.

Anyhow, it's Patrick Pass that you're thinking of, Carl, not Pace. But that's a very good point - he's been a guy who's been on the team for a few years now, doing mostly special teams work, but the last year and now this one he's really carved a niche out for himself as a guy who does lots of little things like blocking and special teams and catching passes out of the backfield well, and also just not screwing up when he does get his touches. A surprsingly valuable player.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 5:32pm

What he said about Pass pace Pace.

I'm channeling the Pats' need for a dominant o-line player. Pace.

I don't have the research on what happens when a team starts digging so deep into their CB ranks that they have to trot out the walking wounded to play nickel or dime packages. Like I said, my numbers would really only dig up one likely team, and that would be NE of 2004-05, when they got by with a WR at CB in some of those instances.

He's still available!

One of the little-mentioned problems with injuries to some positions is the relative decline in the quality of the special teams. Special teams are largely composed of those same third, fourth of fifth CBs or LBs mentioned by Pat.

If you think you're dragging on the short out to the third-down back on the far sideline, imagine how you feel being asked to bust up the wedge on a bad ankle and a throbbing knee!

This has been researched by contractors for the NFL teams, but not by me. But that's certainly something to watch in this game.

It's also a cycle that feeds itself. Special teams play is more dangerous than routine pass coverage, to some extent, so if you're now doing both, and you're a marginal fifth or sixth CB to begin with, your coach is really playing with fire.

The nice thing is that there are so many good CFL players available around the middle of the NFL season!

That's some thing people often forget. It depends on the year, but of the 1,700 or so players who start the season, teams will add about another 400 to their rosters to fill IR casualties, practice squads, PUP afterthoughts, etc.

They might only play a game or two, but they're there.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 5:41pm

Has Brown played at DB at all this year? I didn't think so, and that kinda surprised me. I thought he did pretty well last year.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 6:14pm

It's time for Carl's quirky Friday facts about football.

Since I mentioned the CFL above, here are some kooky things to consider about the game up north:

1. Marv Levy coached the Montreal Alouettes for five seasons, winning two Grey Cup championships. Because NAFTA had not been moved through Congress in time, however, he never was able to win the Super Bowl.

During his Canton induction speech, Levy graciously thanked Sam Berger, the owner of the Alouettes, for helping turn him into the outstanding coach and gentleman we know and love by saying, "Merci, mon ami."

2. But Levy is NOT the most successful CFL coach to make it big in the NFL. In honor of Will Allen, I give you, ladies and gentlemen, Bud Grant.

Grant spent a decade coaching the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before joining the Vikes in 1967. The lack of NAFTA also kept him from winning a Super Bowl.

3. Don Maynard was drafted by the N.Y. Giants in 1957, but he only stayed a year in the NFL before bolting to join Hamilton in 1959. This was a fairly common movement as promising American players were either wooed by the CFL draft (and more money), or were picked up by Canadian clubs while still young.

Maynard deserted the CFL for more moolah the next year, becoming the first player to enlist with the American Football League's New York Titans. The Tennessee Titans are the SECOND AFL/NFL team to play with that name. The other team now relies on Vinny Testaverde, who is old enough to have played for the first Titans, too.

4. Maynard wasn't alone in this sort of northward immigration. John Henry Johnson, one of the greatest fullbacks to ever play the game of American professional football, got his start playing professional football in Canada, too, despite being drafted by the Steelers as the second pick in the draft!

He joined the "Million Dollar Backfield" of the 49ers in 1954, and finally made it to Pittsburgh six years later.

5. The guy a lot of sportswriters unwittingly consider the most American of American football players, Bronko Nagurski, was actually born in Rainy River, Ontario.

Another man who would fit in perfectly as a DT on the Atlanta Falcons, Arnie Weinmeister, was born in Rhein, Saskatchewan. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 6:25pm

Brown hasn't played DB yet, or even taken reps at DB in practice, to my knowledge. The whole point of carrying six CB's on the roster this year (last year they started with 4 on the roster) was to obviate that need.

A more interesting question that no one's discussed is WHY the Patriots have so many injuries. They seem to list a lot more players each week than a lot of other teams. I suspect it's a combination of (a) playing on nasty fields (two at Gillette plus one at Heinz in the first four), (b) relying on a physical more than speed-and-finesse style of play, and (c) playing their starters on special teams. I've heard the announcers comment (although I don't know how true it is, given how idiotic football announcers often are) that the Pats play more of their starters on S.T. than almost any other team. I suspect that, if true, this is one of the factor that allows them to have such great depth across the board. On the other hand, like Carl said, special teams is more hazardous than normal play, so it also makes injury and a need to utilize that depth more likely. Thoughts?

by Goldbach (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 6:25pm

[i]You kind of have to count Tedy as a weekly “IR,� so mark him as a count against the LB ranks, which is somewhat significant.[/i]

I thought Bruschi was a PUP, and therefore didn't count against the roster until week 6 or 7?

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 6:42pm

As I understand it it, Gold, you are right! But do you want me to get into the intricacies of the PUP and whether he really will play (no) later in the season?

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 8:08pm

Re: #17

Well, the injuries to Harrison and Light had nothing to do with the field. Gay was injured in Carolina when he tripped over a receiver's legs in coverage and rolled his ankle. Seymour was injured as a blocking back when someone fell on him. Sanders, Banta-Cain, Johnson, and I believe Gorin were injured in preseason practices. Starks and Chad Scott injuries also weren't do to the field. I'm still trying to figure out how Faulk broke his foot receiving a flare and running out of bounds untouched.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 1:49am

It's official -- Seymour is out (as is Chad Scott):


by RCH (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 11:51am

Sounds like Vick is very questionable also. Seymour, Poole, Gay and Chatham among the inactive. If Vick is out they can play 8 up and not worry about the spy and hope for the best.