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Ask PFW: Fine tuning ahead

Posted May 21, 2013

As the Patriots begin their first on-field workouts as a team, fans are still holding out hope for some additional moves on the roster. We break some of the suggestions down on this edition of "Ask PFW."

I saw Israel Idonije is still available, so do you think: 1) that at this point we could get him cheap, and 2) could we use him as a tackle on the D-line on passing downs, or is he more of a DE?
Philip Blomsterberg

I think Idonije would be an interesting option for the Patriots but not as an interior player. I feel he’s more suited to the outside at 6-7, 290, and his production has been pretty solid as a pass rusher. As a full-time starter the last three years for the Bears Idonije recorded a total of 20.5 sacks. He’ll be 33 in November so his cost shouldn’t be too high – although Dwight Freeney got a surprisingly lucrative deal from San Diego last week. I believe Idonije could be a nice fallback for the Patriots front if they are not able to land John Abraham as a veteran outside pass rusher.
Paul Perillo

What do guys think about Kenbrell Thompkins? He can be an outstanding outside receiver. How much value does Bill Belichick see on him? I see him as a starter for the 2014 season? The WR depth chart for the 2013 season looks like this: Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones, Thompkins and T.J. Moe. Don’t be surprised if Jenkins or Jones will not be around for the 2014 season. Dobson, Boyce, Thompkins and Moe are the future for the Patriots. Do guys agree? I want to hear from the experts.
Miguel Pizano

Well, I like to agree but I honestly have no idea how four rookies – two of which were undrafted – are going to fit into the Patriots plans going forward. Once we start getting a chance to watch some practices maybe we can get a better understanding of what these players have to offer. Based on college I am lukewarm on Dobson and didn’t really like Moe all that much. Boyce is intriguing with his speed and I’m still trying to learn more about Thompkins. At this point it’s extremely premature to pencil in anyone for starting roles. Obviously as second- and fourth-round picks I believe Dobson and Boyce will earn roster spots but beyond that it’s tough to say. I’ll be watching all of these receivers, as well as Jones and Jenkins, once we’re allowed to start attending practices regularly. At that point, it will be a little easier to gauge where they all stand.
Paul Perillo

I like to see the Patriots front seven going faster and more athletic. They need to be, especially against explosive RBs, highly mobile QBs and TEs. The concern is that our LBs are still not fast enough to keep up with elite RBs and TEs. So that job has to fall in part on guys like Adrian Wilson and Tavon Wilson. And I am not sure they can keep up with guys like C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and TEs who give the Pats lots of problems. If Devin McCourty keeps coming in to help tackling big guys, he will get hurt. Bottom line, only T. Wilson has the size and speed for the job, but he showed mediocre decision making skills so far, and if he doesn’t make the Year 2 jump, the defense will continue to be vulnerable. What are your thoughts on this?
Ted K.

Well, overall I tend to agree with you Ted. In order for the defense to make much significant improvement it will need to have the young guys making progress. Tavon Wilson is one, but more important in my eyes are Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Alfonzo Dennard. All will be looking to make the so-called Year 2 jump, and if they’re able to then perhaps the Patriots defense can make the jump right along with them. The unit needs to be better in pass defense and on the pass rush. Those two factors go hand-in-hand, obviously, so it will be imperative for the young guys I mentioned to show that improvement if Belichick’s defense is going to achieve a higher level than it has in recent seasons.
Paul Perillo

Is it fair to say at this point that Rob Gronkowski can be classified as an injury prone player?
Torlac O’Reilly

OK, time for everyone to rip me for being an apologist for the team. I don’t believe Gronkowski is injury prone at this point. He’s basically dealing with one injury and it’s been a huge problem – his broken left arm. The resulting infection and surgeries has kept him on the shelf for the entire offseason, and therefore I have some concerns about his strength for the start of the 2013 season. I believe he will be ready to go in time for the season but I do wonder if he’ll be ready to dominate as he has in the past. Only time will tell. But in terms of his injury history, he was extremely durable during his first two seasons playing in every game. He suffered an ankle injury in the 2012 AFC title game that would have kept most players off the field two weeks later for the Super Bowl, and even though he wasn’t himself he was still on the field gutting it out. Then he broke his arm last November and that caused him to miss five games before he re-injured the arm in the playoffs. Now there is news that he may also need back surgery, and those reports indicate that it would not cause him to miss time. It’s certainly a concern given his history coming out of college with back problems, but so far he hasn’t missed any time due to his back. So, in three years he’s missed six games because of a broken arm. And that makes him injury prone? Sorry, I’m not buying it.
Paul Perillo

Could Tom Brady’s contract extension be a precursor to a trade? If not this season or next season, but any time after that? He would be a lot more attractive to other teams at his current price tag rather than the $15-16 million he was worth previously.
Jesus

I learned a long time ago to never say never when it comes to Bill Belichick. If he thinks trading Tom Brady at some point makes sense, he’ll do it regardless of any potential fallout that may result. But I don’t think Brady will get traded and this contract extension is one reason for that. He is simply too affordable at this point to deal. As long as he’s playing somewhere close to his current level, I see no reason for the Patriots to trade away a player who is quite affordable on the cap. Now, there’s always the possibility that Brady ends up re-doing that deal at some point, but that’s a question for another day. Right now, from where I see it, I don’t picture Brady getting traded.
Paul Perillo

Could dumping Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick (at least in part) have something to do with removing an obstacle for a John Abraham deal? If signed, he would get more playing time now, wouldn’t he? I think the emphasis for next season must be on collapsing the pocket and pass rush, while being able to stop things like the 49ers read option.
Larry

I don’t see any correlation between the moves releasing Love and Deaderick and the potential of adding Abraham. First, they don’t play the same position. Love is definitely an inside player – whether it be a nose tackle or a defensive tackle in a 4-3 – while Deaderick has the ability to play inside and out but is more suited as a tackle. Neither player has any pass rushing ability. Abraham is an outside edge rusher who has even played some outside linebacker during his long career. If the Patriots want to add him, and it certainly appears as if they do, his playing time would not be at all impacted by the departures of Love and Deaderick. As for the inside collapsing of the pocket, I’d look more at players like Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and perhaps Armond Armstead for that. Belichick also could move an outside guy inside in sub packages like he did at times last year with Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis. But in terms of any correlations, I don’t see one between Abraham and Love or Deaderick.
Paul Perillo

I think this should be Rob Gronkowski's last chance. When he comes back he should stay healthy throughout the playoffs. If he doesn't trade him.
Pablo Gonzalez

Last chance for what? The guy is the best tight end in football and you want to get rid of him because he broke his arm last November? If he goes out and catches another 15 or so touchdowns but winds up getting hurt late in the season again, you want to trade him? I just don’t understand this line of thinking. Gronkowski is a special talent and to this point in his career he’s missed six out of 34 career games including the playoffs. Injuries certainly can be a concern and his off-field “exploits” are also something to worry about, but no way am I looking to trade a guy as talented as Gronkowski because of an injury. If at some point he can no longer play due to a medical issue, then the story will change. But I’ll hold onto the best player in the game at his position for as long as I can.
Paul Perillo

Do you think that not having a real veteran presence at wide receiver, besides two special team guys, will hurt the rookie receivers in their process of learning the offense?
Zach Ross

No, and in fact I actually think it may help them. The reason I believe this is it will force Tom Brady to work more directly with the young receivers rather than falling back on the chemistry he already had with veterans like Wes Welker. Now Brady will have to throw the ball to at least one or two guys he’s not familiar with, and in order for that to work he’ll need to establish some timing and consistency with them. Therefore, I feel Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce will get more chances to succeed this summer than they would have if Welker and Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch and others were around. Perhaps a bit of a positive outlook to be sure but I honestly believe the lack of veterans could do more help than harm.
Paul Perillo

With the drafting of linebackers like Jamie Collins and Steve Beauharnais, and the return of Dane Fletcher, along with the releases of Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick, is it possible that the defense switches back to primarily running out of a 3-4? Or are Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead shaping well? Is there a possibility they go for more veteran DTs like Sione Pouha?
Zach Lax

I know a lot of folks believe letting Love and Deaderick go means a change in defensive philosophy but I just don’t see it. In fact, I think the reasoning is quite flawed. In order to run a 4-3 front, the Patriots need two big, 300-plus pounders to man the tackle spots while the ends are much smaller, quicker players n the 260-pound range like Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. When the Patriots run the 3-4, they need three of the big bodies up front instead of two. Playing the end in a 3-4, or the five-technique, requires a different type of player than the ends in the 4-3. Richard Seymour and Ty Warren played outside of Vince Wilfork in the days of the 3-4 and all three tipped the scales at more than 300 pounds. Now, with a four-man front, only two such players are generally on the field at the same time in base defense. So letting go of two 300-pounders in Love and Deaderick doesn’t tell me the Patriots are planning anything too dramatic in terms of scheme changes. It would seem counterproductive. I do believe Belichick is trying to get more athletic on that side of the ball and players like Collins should help in that regard. I just don’t see how losing big guys would lead to a switch to a scheme that would require more big guys.
Paul Perillo

When will we stop referring to Aaron Hernandez as a TE? He’s only 6-1. Aaron Dobson is bigger. He needs to be on the outside or in the slot and we should never see him blocking LBs on a toss again. They do put him out there in the red zone at times but he needs the ball more often. When everyone’s healthy: Hernandez, Dobson, Amendola, Jones, Boyce and Julian Edelman/Moe should be the top receiver choices, with Gronkowski and Jake Ballard at TE and whoever behind them. Doesn’t this seem like the logical thing to do?
Eric Johnson

I know a lot of people believe Hernandez is already a wide receiver playing tight end and I don’t really think it matters how we refer to him. Whether he’s playing tight end or wide receiver he’s going to be asked to block from time to time and he’s going to be catching passes. Clearly for Hernandez he’s more effective doing the latter. But I’d also caution against just lining him up outside all the time to take on cornerbacks regularly. While he has a strength advantage over some of them, he would not be as quick and fast against them as he is against safeties, linebackers and lesser slot corners that he sees for the most part now. In other words, I like Hernandez as a receiving tight end more than I would as a true wideout. But like I said, call him whatever you want because I’m not sure it really matters much.
Paul Perillo

I don’t understand why there isn’t more talk about Michael Buchanan. He has almost the same size as Chandler Jones, performed better at the Combine (4.71 40 at 6-5 1/2, his movement skills looked a lot better), his junior season game tape is often outstanding, his weight loss isn’t as bad as a knee injury (Jones) and he should be able to add another 15 pounds so he can play at around 270. I think he has brilliant value, not only for a seventh-rounder but eventually as a starter opposite Jones. What do you think about Buchanan?
Luis Kroupa

I think I can’t believe he was available in the seventh round based on your assessment. One reason he was is that junior season game tape you described. That came with Whitney Mercilus, the Texans 2012 first-round pick, on the other side garnering most of the attention from opposing offenses. Even Buchanan’s defensive line coach, Keith Gilmore, admitted that. Buchanan didn’t have an especially strong senior season when opponents were focusing on him, and I’m also not as sure that he can add the 15 pounds you say he could easily put on based on his body type. Maybe he can, and I’m sure he will get bigger as a pro with NFL training and nutrition available. But 15 pounds of muscle is a lot to add for a pretty lean guy. Overall I believe Buchanan was a solid late-round pick who could provide some help if he gets a chance. But I’d pump the brakes on a starting job at this point. Let’s see if he can make the team and develop into a role first.
Paul Perillo

Andy, don’t you believe that Shane Vereen is going to have a breakout season (if healthy)? Maybe he can bring what the great Kevin Faulk brought to the Pats?
Chris Silva

I don’t care what Andy thinks but I do believe the potential is there for Vereen. Ever since I watched his college tape at Cal I’ve been quite high on Vereen and I believe he is much more dynamic than Danny Woodhead, the player he’s ostensibly replacing. Vereen has more speed, better hands and more potential as a between-the-tackles ball carrier than Vereen. The only thing we don’t know is if he can be consistent and durable. We knew Woodhead was both of those things and that’s why letting him go was a bit of a risk. But it was also one I was more than willing to take and I can’t wait to see the kind of impact Vereen can have playing with an increased role in the Patriots offense.
Paul Perillo

I have been reading PFW for years. Thank you for your work. I am wondering how exactly players get paid. Do they get a weekly pay check? If they get a roster bonus, workout bonus or performance bonus do they get it lump sum? Due to the large sums involved does the Patriots organization take out taxes?
Torsten Colt

Taxes are something we all have to pay regardless of the size of the sum so of course taxes are taken out on both the federal and state (in Massachusetts) levels. As for the schedule for payment, players receive their checks in weekly installments during the regular season – 17 game checks for each week including the bye. They also receive smaller weekly payments during training camp and the preseason, Bonuses are paid in lump sum payments unless they are split up contractually. Most signing bonuses come all at once but occasionally teams will have them split. As an example, a player might receive a $15 million signing bonus that is split with $5 million coming at the time of signing and the other $10 million perhaps due on a specific date in the future. This is the same for all bonuses.
Paul Perillo

There has been a lot of talk about Gabe Carimi getting cut by the Bears. Is the Bears blocking scheme enough different that the Pats should attempt to take a flier on him? Is there enough talent there for Scar to work his magic with him? Assuming you think so and the Bears forecast he will end up being cut, what sort of draft pick would it take to pry him away from them early in camp?
Michael S.

I’m not overly familiar with Carimi’s play as a Bear but I do know the team hasn’t been happy with him thus far. He was drafted as a tackle and was moved to guard last season, which is not a good sign. He also has drawn the ire of the organization by skipping voluntary OTAs, and the team drafted another tackle in the first round this spring, a guard in the fifth round and signed a free agent tackle. Clearly, the Bears are prepared to move on without him. That said, why should the Patriots sign him? Based on those reports, it would be difficult to imagine him unseating any of the Patriots top seven or eight offensive linemen, and he’d have no shot at tackle with Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer entrenched as the starters. I understand Carimi had some level of talent that allowed him to be chosen in the first round, but he has all the earmarks of a bust and I’d pass at this point.
Paul Perillo

Very simple question. Why did they pick Jamie Collins at 52 and not 29?
Harry Mann Jr.

Very simple answer: Why would you take a player at 29 instead of adding three additional draft picks and getting that same player at 52? Obviously there was no guarantee that Collins would still be available at 52, but clearly they were correct in their thinking and got the player plus additional picks. Not sure how anyone could be upset about that.
Paul Perillo

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