By Jason Cole, Yahoo Sports
August 13, 2006
Stuck behind Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC, Cassel has learned many of the subtle nuances that helped starter Tom Brady become one of the NFL's top quarterbacks. Cassel is decisive and gets rid of the ball quickly, and, like Brady, his greatest attribute is his ability to hit receivers in stride and in easy places to catch the ball.
On throw after throw during two practices last Wednesday, Cassel put the ball in very tight spots for his receivers. Cassel was intercepted once, but that was when a defensive back correctly anticipated a quick hitch pass that the Patriots use as a bread-and-butter play.
"He has all the talent," New England coach Bill Belichick said of Cassel. "What he lacks is experience and that's what we're trying to get him whenever we can."
Perhaps the best part for the Patriots is that they can play Cassel in enough exhibition games to show off his talent to future bidders in the trade market, much like what the Falcons have done with backup quarterback Matt Schaub. At this rate of development, the Patriots should be able to get at least a first-day draft pick for Cassel in a year or two when they decide to trade him.
Many years ago, Belichick bought into the theory that players don't need to hit very much in training camp and that the best way to avoid injuries is to keep players from diving or hitting the ground very much. Belichick isn't the first coach to try this method. Coaches such as Bill Walsh and Marv Levy did the same thing in San Francisco and Buffalo, respectively, as their teams got older.
However, Belichick has done it almost to an extreme. For rookies such as running back Laurence Maroney, New England's first-round pick, it will be interesting to see how he reacts when he gets hit in exhibition games and the regular season.
The team lists Maroney at 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, but he is an unusually high-cut running back for that size. He has very broad shoulders and sometimes players with his type of build have a hard time running low to avoid the hard hits from linebackers.
Maroney did have an impressive run during his days with the University of Minnesota in the Big Ten. He gained more than 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons there, becoming only the third back in conference history to do so (the others being Ron Dayne of Wisconsin and Sedrick Irvin of Michigan State).
Jackson was hurt in June when the Patriots did a surprise 40-yard dash test where all the players were timed. Jackson told friends that he wasn't training for the 40 and didn't warm up properly before running and getting hurt. Jackson re-injured the hamstring during the first two days of training camp.
Updated on Sunday, Aug 13, 2006 2:57 am, EDT