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Ask PFW: Positions of need

Posted Jun 10, 2014

With mini-camp around the corner, fans are still wondering about tight end and other areas of need.

I expect he would get more playing time on many other teams, but I would very much like to see Jonathan Vilma join the Patriots and help secure additional Patriot NFL championships. It would also be rather fitting after adding Darrelle Revis, to add Dustin Keller and Jonathan Vilma don't you think?
Brad Thomas

Vilma has been a terrific player for both the Jets and Saints but I'm not sure the Patriots have much of a need for him at this stage of his career. Vilma is 32 and knee problems have rendered him ineffective in recent seasons. In addition, the Patriots recently signed a linebacker of similar size in former Bear James Anderson. Anderson is 6-2, 235 pounds and is 30 years old while Vilma is 6-1, 230 with more wear and tear. New England is set at linebacker in terms of starters with Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, and with Anderson in the fold he would project as the top reserve and also a candidate for sub packages. At this point I don't see much of a need for Vilma.
Paul Perillo

Last year I predicted the Patriots would play AFC title game in Denver and lose, and this year I am making the same prediction, although the score would be very close. And I'm baffled as to why Pats did not bring just one pass rushing playmaker to upgrade Rob Ninkovich, who is solid but not great. In fact, Ninkovich would be an ideal sub guy giving a breather to Chandler Jones and his counterpart, the other pass rusher we are missing to be the team who wins the Super Bowl. My question is, was there a pass rusher the Patriots could get this season after the Broncos snatched DeMarcus Ware?
Jason B.

I guess we can skip the season then since the Patriots are destined to lose a close game in the AFC championship. Well, just in case anyone is interested on playing the season out anyway, I feel the Patriots improved their defense on paper by adding Darrelle Revis, and his presence alone should improve the pass rush. His coverage ability should allow the front seven to be more aggressive in getting after the quarterback, and perhaps help the likes of Jones and Ninkovich in terms of generating pressure. I also feel Will Smith, Dominique Easley and hopefully Armond Armstead can be productive additions to the rush. As for other available aside from Ware, Jared Allen was a free agent for quite some time before finally signing in Chicago. Julius Peppers was also out there but he signed in Green Bay. Those are two veterans I would have been interested in but obviously the Patriots felt differently. But as I said, if the coverage improves then it might not be a huge issue.
Paul Perillo

Why haven't the Patriots signed Jermichael Finley or Dustin Keller? Do you think they didn't clear medically or do you think they might be asking more than the Pats are willing to pay? It makes sense to sign them ASAP so they can get into the playbook and catch up with the other players. Does this mean it is unlikely either get signed?
Jake Smith

I'll admit I'm a bit surprised the team hasn't signed Keller at this point. I'm not sure Finley will be up to par physically with his neck/spinal cord problems so Keller makes more sense to me. The team had him in a couple months ago but has yet to make a move. I thought New England might wait until after June 1 so it wouldn't have to surrender a compensatory pick for him, but almost halfway through the month we're still waiting, and I agree it would be beneficial to get something done sooner rather than later. I'm not sure what to think at this point but I agree the team could use a veteran at the position.
Paul Perillo

How much do you think losing Dante Scarnecchia to retirement will affect the offensive line? Usually I wouldn't be worried about a lack of depth or experience because Scar always had a knack for getting the best out of the offensive line, no matter who was on it. Without him, do you expect the line to be as solid has it has been? Or do you think the unit will take a huge step back?
Matt Bovarnick

I agree this is a concern heading into training camp. But I was greatly encouraged listening to his replacement, Dave DeGuglielmo, talk about his task on a recent edition of Patriots Today with our own Jackie Brittain here on Patriots.com recently. DeGuglielmo talked about continuing Scar's routines and even said he's spoken with him on several occasions this offseason in an effort to pick his brain and learn the personnel. It would appear he intends to keep things as similar as possible along the offensive line and hopefully the drop-off won't be too significant. But anytime you lose a coach of Scar's stature with his three decades worth of experience there's going to be an adjustment.
Paul Perillo

Do you think the Patriots will trade out a few RBs and WRs? They seem pretty stacked now with Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, Roy Finch and James White and Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce and Matthew Slater.
Joshua Breen

I don't really see much trade value in any of the above players – at least not among the guys the team would be willing to part with. The lone possible exception would be Ridley, but I don't think the Patriots would want to let him go without a proven alternative to carry the load. Ridley is entering the final year of his contract so that's why I say he might be a candidate depending on what the team could get in return, but doubtful. I also don't think the Patriots are stacked at either of these positions. I think most of the above guys are safe bets to stick around but that doesn't mean I feel the talent level at these spots is where I would want it. Edelman is really the only proven commodity at receiver and he's done it one year. The rest have question marks, whether it be in terms of ability, health or experience. The same could be said of the running backs. I'd expect all of these players to compete for roles and roster spots during training camp.
Paul Perillo

How does the practice squad work? What requirements are there? Can anyone be on the practice squad?
Kyle Lewis

I figured it would be easiest to just cut and paste the practice squad parameters right out of the collective bargaining agreement: Each NFL team can have up to eight players on their practice squad. Practice squad players ... practice with the team. They do not play in games. Practice squad players are paid per week and can be released at any point during the season. Practice squad players are free to sign with other NFL teams, assuming they are signed to the 53-man active roster. A practice squad player cannot be signed to another practice squad unless he is first released. A practice squad player cannot sign with their team's upcoming opponent, unless they do so six days before the upcoming game or 10 days if their team is currently on a bye week. If a practice squad player is signed to the active roster, they will receive a minimum of three paychecks, even if they are released before spending three weeks with the team. In order to be signed to a practice squad after being released, a player must first clear through waivers. Players with more than one year of accrued NFL service are not eligible. A player is eligible if he does not have an accrued season of NFL experience. Players gain an accrued season by being on the active roster for at least six games. If a player has one accrued season, they can still be practice squad eligible if they were on the 45-man active game day roster for less than nine regular-season games. A player is deemed to have served a season on the practice squad if he remains on the practice squad for at least three weeks. Players are eligible to be on the practice squad for two seasons. Players can be eligible for a third practice squad season if their team maintains no less than 53 players on the active/inactive list at all times. Practice squad players make a minimum of $6,000 per week they are on the practice squad. There is no limit to how much a team can pay a player on the practice squad. Some will offer a higher weekly salary in order to entice better players to sign, although the practice squad contracts do count against the salary cap.
Paul Perillo

Final WR Boyce or Thompkins?
Justin Sane

Pretty straightforward question so I thought I'd go with a straightforward answer: Boyce. Obviously way too early to make that call, and I'm not saying that both won't make it – or get cut – but I think Boyce is the more talented of the two.
Paul Perillo

I was just looking at our roster and I had a couple questions at both the WR and RB positions. We already know five WRs are locks to make this roster (LaFell, Dobson, Edelman, Slater and Amendola) how many WRs do you see the Pats keeping this season? If it's six, who do you think is the odd man out (Boyce, Tompkins or Jeremy Gallon)? Same question for the RBs (locks are Vereen, Ridley, Bolden, White) and odd men out being Finch and Stephen Houston) or do you see Bolden on the way out?
Clarence Jarbath

I do believe they'll keep six receivers and as I mentioned above I'd go with Boyce, but there's just so much football to be played between now and when cuts will be made in early September. Lots of things can happen between now and then. I like Boyce because of his speed and explosive ability. If he proves he can stay healthy and catch the ball I'd expect him to stay. At running back I don't believe Bolden is a lock to stay. He's been inconsistent and is entering the last year of his contract. He has plenty left to prove. I'd also add James Develin to this mix, and the undrafted guys have a real shot to unseat Bolden. Too early to say which one but I'd lean toward Houston simply based on his size (6-0, 230).
Paul Perillo

After drafting Dominique Easley in the first round, how do you think Bill Belichick and Co. will use him? Do you see him as an every down player? Or will he just come in for certain packages? And a second related question: do you think Sealver Siliga and Easley are the DTs of the future for the Pats?
Zak Salant

I think the question for Easley is health. I'd expect him to serve as a reserve in sub packages during his rookie year at least until he is 100 percent recovered from his torn ACL. If he's physically ready, then I'd expect him to eventually become an every down player. That won't likely happen until next season though with Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly ahead of him. As for Siliga, I look at him more as insurance in case Wilfork can't return to form following his Achilles injury. Siliga showed he could serve as a run stuffer last year and that will be his role if needed this year. I don't necessarily view him as a long-term answer however.
Paul Perillo

I am having trouble understanding the situation at wide receiver this offseason. It is clear that Edelman and Amendola are 1 and 2 unless tragedy strikes, but despite bringing in LaFell from Carolina- a great move and solid competition for the third spot at WR- I have to wonder how Kenbrell Thompkins is getting so little love. His numbers mirror Aaron Dobson's with actually a slight edge in YPC and (IMO) fewer dropped balls. Meanwhile, Boyce is being praised as the better option despite only catching nine balls from Tom. What am I missing? If Dobson is a lock, why not Thompkins?
Doug Tozier

Dobson is a lock because he's a second-round pick and the team has invested in him more than Thompkins, who was undrafted. I thought Dobson looked better when healthy but the problem was neither player – and throw Boyce in there as well – was healthy nearly often enough. Thompkins to me always looked uncomfortable. He made some plays last year, most notably his game-winner against New Orleans, but I often felt the plays in his direction never looked quite right. And he completely disappeared in the second half of the season. Boyce basically was a red-shirt season as he was never fully healthy and in the mix. I could easily see Thompkins beating him out, although as I said earlier I think Boyce is the more talented player.
Paul Perillo  

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