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Ask PFW: Life without Gronk, again
No disrespect intended here – which probably means I’m going to say something disrespectful! – but what the hell are you talking about? The Patriots have been in dogfight games for each of the last three weeks. Gronkowski is the guy that makes the biggest difference on this offense. When he got hurt the Patriots were trailing 12-0 and trying to avoid an embarrassing home loss in the final month of the season. You can’t just keep a guy on the sideline because he has an injury history. If he’s healthy, he has to play. That’s the way it works. If you want to put him in bubble-wrap to protect him, then maybe he shouldn’t be on your team. I just don’t get this logic. Sure there are times when an injured guy gets rested or managed, but Gronkowski wasn’t dealing with any real injury at this point and the Patriots weren’t in position to rest anyone as they tried to win a football game. This team is still battling for playoff positioning and to figure out what it can be this season. If the team had the type of “roster management” you are talking about I think they would definitely hit January with better health – so they’d be fine to go golfing and start their offseason vacations rather than having to worry about playoff action. Unfortunately injuries are a big part of the game, and sometimes hit certain players more than others. It’s a part of the business. But football players have to play football. That’s all there is to it.
There is going to come a time when Gronkowski’s injury issues and his contract are going to require a close examination. But we’re not at that point. That will come when a $10 million option bonus comes due after 2015 to exercise the final four years of the contract extension he signed prior to last season. He’s already been paid out a reported $8 million signing bonus on the deal and his salary for next season is already guaranteed. So there is no reason to release him now or after the year. He’s the best tight end in the game when healthy. The hope is that he can return to that next season and stay on the field. But any financial calls don’t have to be made essentially until after 2015.
It’s been a rollercoaster for a season but I have faith in the resiliency of this team, given the circumstances can they make a legit run in the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl?
There is no doubt that injuries have made the Patriots postseason task much tougher and more formidable. But given the unsettled and imperfect nature of all the other teams in the postseason New England still has a legitimate shot at a January run. It won’t be easy. As Tom Brady has said so many times, the margin for error is small with this team. It got smaller with the loss of Gronkowski. Still, I give the Patriots a shot to beat any of the teams in the AFC postseason. A two- or three-game run to the Super Bowl will be tough, but it’s supposed to be that way. That’s why they give out a big, fancy trophy at the end!
How big of an effect on next season do you think Gronk's injury will have?
Next season is a long ways away, but clearly Gronkowski’s injury will be a factor heading into training camp and the early season. People still feel that it takes at least a year to get back to normal after an ACL, even after what we saw Adrian Peterson do. Remember when Wes Welker was back to start 2010, he was on the field but not the same guy he was pre-injury or that he has since returned to being. Hopefully Gronkowski will be back on the field next September, but it certainly may take longer than that for the productive beast that is Gronk to return to making plays.
Losing Gronk for the rest of the season is tough but the games must go on. My question is do you think there is a chance they might sign someone like David Thomas? He has some experience in the system and is a relatively good catching TE. There aren’t that
I wish Gronk a fast recovery, first of all. Is there a good blocking/catching TE out there to help the Patriots for the next few games and into the playoffs?
When the Patriots put Gronkowski on injured reserve on Monday, the team also re-signed D.J. Williams. The veteran had been with the team a week earlier, playing reserve action in Houston. He’s now added to a depth chart that includes Matthew Mulligan, Michael Hoomanawanui and, at times, James Develin. For now, and at this late point in the process, that would seem to be what New England is going to go to battle with at the tight end position. Hoomanawanui has missed three games with a knee injury, but he was back on the practice field last week. So he might move to the top of the depth chart when he’s back playing. Williams is more a theoretical pass-catching option, even though he’s done little of that in the NFL. Mulligan is a blocker who showed some athletic ability last Sunday. Clearly the tight end spot is going to take on a less significant role in the passing game with Gronkowski gone, as was the case earlier in the season when he was sidelined to open the year.
During the last 2 minutes of the Patriots verses the Browns, I watched the CBS crew recap the day and flirt with our game. They refused to show it, I believe so it wouldn't interfere with the evening broadcasts in case of OT. As the game unfolded, all of the crew became excited about the developments in Foxboro except Shannon Sharpe, who was visibly disturbed. The disdain for the Patriots increased as we drew closer to victory, with the first words out of his mouth being "That wasn't pass interference". He repeated that sentence while he steamed and looked very angry. Where do you rank Sharpe among Patriot haters in the media? Don't forget Phil Simms.
As Bill Belichick might say, “I don’t really rank ‘em.” Sharpe may have his biases against the Patriots. So does a guy like Marshall Faulk. Maybe a few guys on the ESPN crew. I wouldn’t, though, put Phil Simms anywhere near that list of haters. I think he has a very high opinion of the Patriots organization and his former coach, Belichick. I would be Simms on the list of the friends of the New England organization, not among the collection of its media foes. And I really hate to disappoint you and maybe the rest of Patriots Nation, but I didn’t agree with the pass interference call at the end of the game, either. I just consider it a makeup for the blown PI call that cost the Patriots a game in Carolina a few weeks earlier.
With this week’s game against the Browns no different, is it time for Belichick to eat crow and give Richard Seymour a call? This defense needs some nastiness and leadership.
While I agree that the Patriots defense could use some depth, playmaking and leadership on the defensive line, I don’t think Seymour is going to be the answer. He’s said he’s not looking to return to New England. It’s also been pretty clear that he’s only looking to play again for big money. It’s just not gonna happen.
Is it just me but does Josh Boyce have superstar written all over him? He is very fast and his lateral quickness and ability to make people miss might be underrated. He reminds me of a mix between Deion Branch and Brandon Tate. What are your thoughts on the young WR?
So when will Boyce get a legitimate chance to contribute? He has hardly been thrown to at all; the low completion percentage on passes to him hasn't been a problem of drops, but of badly thrown balls. One of his two catches was a really good one, when he was able to catch a ball thrown low and behind him with hardly a break in stride, and turned it into a 24-yard gain. The guy is the kind of receiver that has done very well in Boston -- small, sneaky-fast, good after the catch. He could be the next Troy Brown or Deion Branch.
I am very much intrigued by Boyce and his elite speed. I enjoy the fact that we’re seeing more of him of late. That said, I’m not willing to stamp him a future star just yet. Dating back to training camp I think he’s shown somewhat inconsistent hands. Of course you could say the same thing about all three rookie receivers. I also think he’s going to have to become a more polished, consistent route runner. He may get to do some of that down the stretch here as the Patriots look for what Brady called a different formula for success on offense, especially with both Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins still dealing with injuries. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Boyce enough to want to keep seeing more, both as a returner and a receiver.
Wes Welker and Troy Brown are tied for the Patriots single-game receptions record with 16. Welker also holds the single-game receiving yardage mark with 217 in his 16-catch game that came against the Bills in Buffalo in 2011.
Season’s greetings from Bergen, Norway. I want to know how much power Josh McDaniels has when it comes to personnel decisions? I feel I notice a trend as I think of players like Tebow, Salas, Lloyd and Amendola. Also what do you think of the idea and chances of having both the McCourty twins in Patriots uniform?
I think McDaniels has the ability to make recommendations to Belichick in personnel matters on the offense. I’d guess that would be the case in regards to just about any offensive coordinator/play caller. McDaniels may have a little more weight in those recommendations given his time working as a head coach in Denver, and personal experiences working with some of the players you mentioned while with other teams. In the end, though, Belichick still makes all the final calls. As for the McCourty question, right now it’s no certainty that either twin will be in Foxborough moving forward. Devin’s rookie contract runs out after next season, although I won’t be surprised if he signs an extension before then. But his brother, Jason, is in just the second year of a very lucrative deal with the Titans that runs through 2017. He’s probably not leaving the Titans any time soon.
When Duron Harmon's name was called at pick 93, I thought it was an afterthought. Bill doesn't see someone he likes so, "Go Rutgers". I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised by his performance. It’s not perfect, but I see the potential for a physical presence in the backfield. What do you think?
I think Harmon has been competitive at times when he’s had the chance to play and hasn’t fallen on his face when thrust into action. I’m not ready to commit to him being a future starter at the safety spot at this point, but he’s been a serviceable backup as a rookie. He should only improve with time and experience. So I’m intrigued to see where his progression goes heading down the stretch and into next fall.
Hey guys, Pats fan from St Lucia. Because of the top end speed (or lack thereof) and size of Dont'a Hightower, do you guys see him projecting well as a 4-3 DE for the patriots. Does he have the strength and initial burst to play that position? Also, what's up with Jamie Collins? Really hoped to see a high draft pick like that making more of a contribution. Thanks!
Daryl St. Clair
St. Clair from St. Lucia? I’m surprised you don’t root for the Saints! Interesting that I think the two guys you mentioned had their best games on Sunday in the win over the Browns. Collins had significant playing time, mostly in coverage, and was a factor. He knocked down one pass and continues to show the athleticism and length to get into passing lanes and make quarterbacks work. I thought we might see more from him as a potential sub pass rusher, but he is certainly showing potential as the raw draft pick that he was in the second round. Hightower was the team’s leading tackler against Cleveland and I thought he made more impressive tackles than we’ve seen in other high-tackle games this season. I’m still disappointed in his lack of impact plays – although one of those was stolen from him by a quick whistle against Cleveland – and pass rushing. I don’t see him ever converting to end. I think he’s more likely to possibly move inside to middle linebacker, if Brandon Spikes were to move on in free agency next spring. Hightower may not have lived up to his draft pick or expectations over the last year-plus, but Belichick has praised him and he still has time to develop into a very key part of the Patriots injury-plagued defense.
Now this is a great email! Although I’m not sure that Arrington would agree. I can understand fans’ frustrations with Arrington, especially after the contract he signed last offseason. He’s competitive at times and clearly better in the slot than on the outside. But he still seems to give up too many plays. He likes to be physical at the line, and sometimes has trouble with quicker, shifty guys who zip by him. That said, he’s been one of the most durable, consistent cornerbacks the Patriots have had in recent years. The Patriots liked him enough to give him decent money last spring and I don’t see him going anywhere any time soon.
I have not been able to watch the Patriots games lately. Can you evaluate or at least comment on how Sopoaga has been fitting in to the team? In his press conference, he appeared delighted to join the Patriots.
Sopoaga clearly was happy to join the Patriots from the Eagles via trade. Unfortunately he’s had a limited impact on the defense and hasn’t done as well against the run as I thought he might. He’s seen his reps more limited of late, and appears to have been passed up in the rotation by Sealver Siliga, who made his first NFL start against the Browns. Sopoaga just hasn’t been the stout, veteran presence on the defensive line that I expected him to be. And aside from a decent day against the lackluster Browns ground game on Sunday, the overall New England run defense hasn’t really shown signs of improvement with Sopoaga’s arrival/playing time.