FOXBORO — With all the hysteria surrounding Matt Cassel's emergence, you hardly noticed the construction work being done at Gillette Stadium.
That foundation, or at least the cornerstone of it, earned some well-deserved recognition as linebacker Jerod Mayo accepted the Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.
"My main goal was to make it to the playoffs and win the Super Bowl, but it's definitely an honor to get this award," said the 6-foot-1, 242-pounder out of Tennessee, who had a team-high 93 solo tackles (139 overall). "Hopefully, I can build off this and have a successful campaign next year.
"For the most part I will be here in Foxboro (in the offseason) trying to get better. It is a nonstop thing for me. Football is my life. I love football. I am going to study this past season, the things I did well and the things I did poorly and try to improve on those things. I feel like there is still a lot of room for me to improve my game."
Mayo's performance, from Day 1 of training camp, rarely wavered. He struggled at times in pass coverage but chewed up ballcarriers. One interesting note is that defensive coordinator Dean Pees didn't hesitate to turn him loose on the inside blitz late in the season. Mayo excelled in that role, which is something to look forward to next fall.
Golden opportunity to rebuild
With Cassel's value soaring and at least a dozen teams in need of a quarterback, the offseason offers unique opportunities to re-tool for the long haul, not just apply Band-Aids.
Assuming they think Brady will be ready to go in 2009 — which obviously is the question of the offseason — the Pats can franchise Cassel and trade him for a first-round pick. It remains to be seen, but I think he's worth the No. 1 overall pick.