PatsLife Exclusive: Troy Brown, Scott Zolak talk roster moves, the reworked defense and the AFC East
I met up with former Patriots wide receiver/punt returner/cornerback/overall boss Troy Brown and former Pats quarterback and current radio color guy Scott Zolak on Wednesday to pick their brain about a host of topics surrounding the Patriots heading into the 2015 season.
But before we get there, I have to bring you a quick word about the new Comcast Infinity X1 Sports App that's set to revolutionize how fans watch sports. You'll be hearing plenty about it in the coming days and weeks, and you'll certainly want to give it a look now that DEFLATEGATE IS FINALLY OVER and REAL FOOTBALL is just a week away.
The X1 Sports App will bring an extraordinary level of coverage to sports, giving viewers real-time updates covering stats, fantasy numbers, positional matchups, win probability and a host of other in-depth details, and just in time for Opening Night against the Steelers.
To give you a quick example of just how detailed this new service is, the Patriots - with 10 minutes to go in Super Bowl 49, down by 14 and facing third-14 from their own 28 yard line - had a 15% win probability. We of course know how that all worked out in the end.
And the setup is as streamlined and modern as you'd like. You can catch all of the stats in real-time on the side of your screen without disrupting the broadcast as you watch.
You can catch Brown and Zolak talking about the exciting new service below:
Now getting to the meat of the story here, I asked Brown and Zo a couple of questions covering some of the bigger talking points heading into the new season, and to my credit, I steered away from Deflategate as much as I possibly could and asked them questions about ACTUAL FOOTBALL.
On whether Tom Brady will come out on top in his case against the NFL (timely, right?)
Scott Zolak: The way this thing has gone, I’m pretty much talked out on it. Whatever side you really were on, if you swayed anyway this last month, if anything, people swayed towards Tom’s side. You hear the stuff about [NFL General Counsel] Jeff Pash not being able to testify, [Executive VP of Football Operations] Troy Vincent not fully reading the Wells Report and putting in the time. There’s a lot of problems with the league and Judge Berman exposed that and exposed a lot of problems in the Wells Report.
On how Jimmy Garoppolo has looked this preseason
SZ: I think this year compared to last year Jimmy’s in much more command, in the huddle, the whole progression of getting the ball out, just the whole operation of the game he seems in much more control this year unlike his rookie year. Which is good, and they’re going to put good people around him if he plays [Weeks 1-4].
Troy Brown: I think it’s been a work in progress for him this offseason. The games he’s played in, there’s been some spots, and you take it for what it is. You’re playing behind an offensive line that’s not gelled together. You need those guys playing together for a while before you can make a judgment on these guys in the preseason, there just isn’t enough preparation time for all of them, and especially for the quarterback.
Expectations for the newly-signed Reggie Wayne
SZ: Just be a good 3rd or 4th guy. He’s not coming here to be a #1, he won't be asked to do that. You have to realize he’s in his 16th year. Just be savvy veteran, make plays when needed. He can be a big third-and-six, third-and-seven guy on the inside, in the slot, coming over the middle. He should be able to pluck the football pretty well in those situations.
TB: He’ll bring a veteran presence to the locker room. He’s another guy that’s been around the block a few times, he’s been a Super Bowl champion, and for a guy that’s been as successful as Reggie has been in this league, it’ll be good for those guys to tap into his knowledge of the game. Hopefully he can get in there and bring a few catches here and make some big plays when they need him.
On Josh Boyce's release and Aaron Dobson’s chances of making the roster
SZ: A little bit of everything. Injuries, confidence, when you’re not there they can’t get reps, and if you don’t play you’re not going to get better. For Dobson, there’s upside; he’s got size, he’s got speed, he can separate a little bit and he can go up for the football. He’s got height, something you can’t teach or coach. With Boyce, it was just never going to happen. Just didn’t seem like there was any consistency there. You’ll see a play from Dobson, but not much from Boyce. I can understand why they’d keep Dobson over Boyce.
TB: I think that Josh was having a good camp and was showing some signs of being able to make some plays, but it’s a game of numbers during this time of year. You talk about the cap, roster spots, and it comes down to making hard decisions. And also, for guys that aren’t going to be starters, can they fill a role on special teams? That’s an area where Boyce may have fallen short in not being able to offer a different role on the roster.
On the reworked secondary and the improved front-seven
SZ: If you’re going to apply pressure with your front seven, you want to play man. You want to be able to jam guys and disrupt them and get them off their route. They’re going to keep six safeties, which is a lot, but now you can understand why they’re working Devin McCourty down because under some sets, you bring Devin down into the box and keep guys like Duron Harmon and Pat Chung back and that why you get an extra cover guy up front. But I don’t want Devin inside covering the slot, I’d keep him outside playing down the sideline.
TB: You lost your top three corners and you’re going to have a hard time replacing those players. It’s one of those things were you don’t have enough time to give these guys enough work and evaluate them, but I do think that they’ll probably play a bit different on defense and win some games with the guys they have up front. Hopefully with a guy like Malcolm Butler, he can carry over that confidence from the last play in the Super Bowl into this year, build from that and go out and play smart and aggressive football.
On if the Bills, Jets or Dolphins can challenge the Pats in the AFC East
SZ: Everyone has challenged them. The Jets have beaten them, they’ve lost games in Miami against Ryan Tannehill, they lost to Buffalo last year. The division knows you better than anybody. You have Rex Ryan in Buffalo, they’re tough defensively, their fans will be into it, and with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, they have a kid that can make some plays. I think they’re going to be dangerous.
TB: Everybody’s been raving about the Dolphins, but I think right now, looking at the Buffalo Bills adding Rex Ryan as head coach and adding some of the weapons they’ve added on offense, I think they have a good chance of challenging the Patriots. They’re already stacked on defense, and now with Ryan’s mind and aggressive nature, it can cause the Patriots a little bit of trouble.
SZ: Hard to do that right now. I think 12, 13 wins should be good, then it’s about matchups in the playoffs, who do you play and where do you play them. The objective is to get past the Wild Card round, you want the bye, whether it’s the 1 seed or the 2 seed, but you saw the difference from two years ago with the Championship Game being in Denver as opposed to hosting it [against Indianapolis]. You want to be hosting the Championship Game.
TB: Last year we kind of dogged them out a bit because of how they started the season, it just takes a while with this team, especially with the way they like to play offensively. For these guys to play at a high level early in the season, they have to get rolling, and we’ll see who’s playing the best when we get towards the end of the season. By then we can get a better judgment of how they’re going to be, but I think they have a very good chance of being back in the Super Bowl.
So there you have it, Brown has the Pats penciled in for Super Bowl 50, Zo believes head coach Bill Belichick will continue to play man-to-man on defense, and both have the Bills as New England's biggest competitor in the East this season.
Keep it tuned to PatriotsLife as we bring you more exclusive interviews throughout the season.