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Ask PFW: Personnel-ly speaking

Posted May 22, 2012

The Patriots are in the midst of their first full-squad OTAs of the spring and therefore we get our first opportunity to gauge what the team will look like on the field. Lots of personnel-related questions no doubt will follow.

Wes Welker has now signed his franchise tender but I can’t help think about Richard Seymour being traded. Seymour was nearing the end of his contract but still had value on the trading block. I love Wes and don’t want to see him play for another team BUT if we got a first-round pick especially from a lousy team I would make the deal. For a second-round pick or later I would keep Wes. His production is too valuable to the offense. If he were to be traded what could the Pats reasonably expect in return and who would be interested?
Dave DeLuca

Trying to establish what a player may be worth in a trade is becoming increasingly difficult in today’s NFL. Many solid starting players have been dealt for late-round picks recently, including Kellen Winslow and DeMeco Ryans just to name a couple. It seems teams are becoming less willing to surrender high draft picks for players, especially ones who either already have large contracts in place or are looking for one. The latter would be true for Welker, and his pending contract status would no doubt lessen his trade value since a team would have to give up resources in terms of compensation to the Patriots as well as Welker in a new deal. There’s no doubt that Welker is a valuable player who would attract attention on the open market. But I’m not sure he’d get a first-round pick at this point considering his age and contract situation. I’d guess a second or maybe even a third would be right. I also don’t see the Patriots trading him before the start of the season, but to be fair I didn’t see the Seymour trade coming in 2009 either. The Patriots have shown time and again they are not afraid of making bold moves.
Paul Perillo

What is the average time of possession for the Patriots?
Bob Morden

The Patriots average time of possession during the 2011 regular season was 28:47 while their opponents held the ball for 31:13. In the playoffs things actually got worse: the Patriots possessed the ball for just 26:32 while their opponents had it for 33:28. I’m not sure your reasoning for asking this but those are the raw numbers from last year.
Paul Perillo

The Patriots did a great job of addressing the defense in the offseason. I have worries about the offense. Quarterback, wide receiver and running back positions are in great shape, but very few people are talking about the lack of depth with the offensive line. Losing Matt Light, although expected, was a huge loss. Now there are rumors of Brian Waters retiring. Do you think they will add any new guards or tackles in free agency?
Matthew Cole

To the contrary I believe many people are talking and worrying about the state of the offensive line, I’m just not one of them. I believe the Patriots have plenty of depth up front with or without Brian Waters. Obviously it would be great to have him back at right guard. That would leave a starting group something along these lines from left to right tackle – Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen/Dan Connolly, Waters and Sebastian Vollmer. In terms of backups, the Patriots would have Robert Gallery to play either guard or tackle. Marcus Cannon could also play both, although thus far he’s been exclusively a tackle. Connolly could move to any of the three interior spots with Koppen at center should an injury occur. Ryan Wendell, Donald Thomas and Nick McDonald also have experience playing inside. Matt Kopa is a guy who showed promise on the practice squad last season and could be a candidate for a backup tackle job. There won’t be room for all of these guys to even make the team, but this group should represent more than enough depth to comprise a formidable offensive line. And none of this even takes into consideration the group’s strongest asset – coach Dante Scarnecchia. He does a wonderful job molding and managing this bunch each and every year. There’s more than enough talent to get by.
Paul Perillo

From reading your blog posts as well as the analysis of other journalists/bloggers it seems that the type of back Shane Vereen is up to debate. Some writers and scouts say his skills are those of only a third-down back (see Perillo’s analysis of the RB position), but I would imagine Belichick was thinking more than just this considering he drafted him in the second round. Is Vereen's situation somewhat similar to that of Tavon Wilson's in that Belichick's perception is different from the media/opposing scouts or can Vereen be a lead back? What are the arguments for each side?
Tron H.

Actually, I wrote that I thought Vereen could be more than just a third-down back in my analysis because I believe he has the ability to carry it between the tackles on occasion. I don’t believe he is an every-down back who could carry the load exclusively because he’s a bit small for that at 5-9, 205 pounds. There are plenty of second-round backs who fit that type of description. Kevin Faulk was a second-round pick. LaMichael James was San Francisco’s second-round pick as well. Those guys are smaller, quicker types who can get out of the backfield and press defenses on the edges. I think Vereen could be that type of player if he can stay healthy and gets the opportunities. I also think if he succeeds in that type of role he could develop into something more than that. I just don’t think he would be a 250-plus carry guy because I don’t think he could handle that workload.
Paul Perillo

I listened to the Robert Gallery interview and I actually think he will start at guard, in place of Brian Waters. I also think he is a significant upgrade, and could be key in the run game. When you watch him play, he was with some pretty poor units, but his play, opening holes for Darren McFadden, was pretty good, far better than you see from Logan Mankins.
Simon Jeffery

I think the Gallery addition has the potential to be quite helpful. As I already alluded earlier, he should provide some insurance at both guard and tackle and has the experience to contribute at either spot. I’m not sure he’s a better alternative than Waters or Mankins, but I’m also not the foremost authority on offensive line play – particularly interior offensive line play. I do know Scarnecchia has thrived with far fewer options than he currently has, and Gallery will be a candidate to fill in at a number of spots.
Paul Perillo

Hey PFW, I see that a lot of questions seem to be about our receivers, o-line and our secondary but I would like to know how you feel about the defensive line (especially in the 3-4 line up)? We all know that Vince Wilfork is the starter but who do you think makes it after that? I understand that quite of few linemen are under pressure (especially Ron Brace).
Chris Morton

The defensive line is tough to gauge because it’s tough to figure out exactly how Bill Belichick will line up. In the past he’s used bigger defensive linemen for the 3-4 front but last year he started to shift away from that a bit by using some smaller, more athletic guys on the outside like Andre Carter and Mark Anderson. Whether it’s a 4-3 or 3-4 front is irrelevant but how Belichick chooses to play will make it easier to determine which guys stick around. I think it’s safe to assume Wilfork and Kyle Love will play in some capacity inside. Brandon Deaderick can play inside or out depending on the look. Myron Pryor is an interesting guy looking to stay healthy and be productive. He’s shown flashes as a sub rusher in the past. Jonathan Fanene certainly will be a key member of the front in some capacity. Gerard Warren and Brace also will be in the mix. Carter could return at some point in the season if he’s healthy enough as well. Then you have some young guys like Chandler Jones and Jake Bequette. Trevor Scott, Jermaine Cunningham and Markell Carter could factor into this mix too, or they could be seen strictly as linebackers. That’s what makes these evaluations tough until we see how the personnel is employed on the field. I’ll give my best guess without any knowledge of how Belichick will choose to play it – Wilfork, Fanene, Love, Deaderick, Pryor, Jones, Bequette and Scott. How’s that?? Probably not even close.
Paul Perillo

One thing that has bothered me more than losing Tom Brady in the future is losing Bill Belichick. I’ve always worried/wondered who would be able to do as good of a job as BB does. I used to hope Brady but now that there’s no chance of that can you see Steve Belichick being the future head coach.
Jacob Mattson

I have absolutely no idea what kind of football coach Steve Belichick will be. Obviously he’s had the ability to learn from the best his entire life, but how that translates down the road is anyone’s guess. I would very highly doubt Steve Belichick will be anywhere near ready to be a head coach when his father decides to step away from the game, however. And could you imagine the kind of pressure Belichick’s son would face trying to replace his father? No thanks. Also, I’m curious why you once thought Brady could replace Belichick but now you don’t. I could never see Brady coaching in the NFL but I was wondering where your thought process came from.
Paul Perillo

Who should we worry about in the AFC East? The Jets have been a thorn in our side lately, but what about the Bills? They are a young uprising team that could be somewhat of a threat to us. With Mario Williams and former Patriot Mark Anderson, could the Bills be the team we should worry about?
Kyle Rodgers

The Bills seem to be everyone’s flavor of the month to best challenge the Patriots in the AFC East. They got off to a great start last year and even beat the Patriots in Week 3 in Buffalo. But I don’t see them as being the chief competition. I still think the Jets hold that distinction, although they certainly have the potential to blow up given the quarterback situation. I just think New York has more talent top to bottom than Buffalo and the Jets also have the better coach in Rex Ryan. The Jets are not afraid to compete with anyone. They might not be as good as they think they are, but there’s something to be said of the confidence they possess. Honestly, at this point I don’t see either team posing much of a serious threat to the Patriots division chances, but if I have to pick one or the other I’ll stick with the Jets until proven otherwise.
Paul Perillo

There is always a number crunch with the 53-man roster and the Patriots seem to end up with more or less the same mix. Assume the Pats keep a fullback, where do you see the slot coming from? And presuming that it is from the tight end slots, which of the FB are the best tight end location blocker?
Michael Stevens

I’m not sure I understand the question. If the Patriots keep a true fullback, and I’m not convinced that will be the case, that doesn’t necessarily add a player from last year’s mix. The Patriots generally keep five running backs. I expect that to be the case once again – or perhaps just four this year. If Belichick keeps a fullback, then that still leaves five backs total. For the purposes of this exercise – Stevan Ridley, Joseph Addai, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and Spencer Larsen. So it was five all together last year without a fullback, this year it could be five including a fullback. If I have to pick a fullback, I’d go with Larsen based on his versatility to play special teams and even defense.
Paul Perillo

With all the additions on the offense this offseason as well as defense through FA and via the draft, do you see any weaknesses on the squad, and if so where and could this weakness hurt another Super Bowl appearance this season?
Justin Smith

I still think the Patriots defense is a work in progress. I love what Belichick did in the draft by adding some potential playmakers to the mix but we’ve yet to see how any of these players will impact the team in 2012. It will take time for the new players to learn the system and come together. I do like the potential for an improved pass rush with the likes of Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Jake Bequette and Trevor Scott, but it may take some time for these guys to get their feet wet. Overall I feel the defense has the potential to improve but right now it’s too early to say that with any degree of certainty. For example, last year Andre Carter and Mark Anderson played significant roles. It’s easy to say the newcomers will represent improvement, but in reality they likely won’t meet or exceed the play of their predecessors. But there is a lot to be enthused about moving forward.
Paul Perillo

Since the Patriots released Mike Hartline, will they sign another quarterback?
Jeremy Martin

I doubt the Patriots will sign another quarterback unless one of the current crop is injured. Hartline was likely signed to help out during the spring through rookie mini-camp. If he showed enough promise to stick around and battle either Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett, then Belichick would have kept him around. But with three quarterbacks now here to lead the remainder of OTAs, mini-camp and into training camp, there’s no real need for a fourth quarterback. I’d be surprised if we saw another added between now and the summer unless an injury necessitated the move.
Paul Perillo

With the changing of the offensive coordinator back to Josh McDaniels and his talk of focusing on the deep threat wide receiver and the screen pass, do you think the tight ends will be affected? They were a huge part of our offense last year, to say the least, and I'm curious if you see that changing at all.
Abbey Salvas

I don’t really see that changing much at all. The tight ends are the most talented receivers on the roster and to get away from using them would be unwise. McDaniels does a great job of finding ways to utilize his personnel and I expect him to find ways to keep focusing on Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. To get away from them and not take advantage of the mismatches they provide doesn’t make sense. McDaniels is too smart for that.
Paul Perillo

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