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Ask PFW: Roster and player projections

Posted Aug 16, 2011

With training camp winding down, fans in this week's mailbag are getting more specific with their questions about how the roster will shake out.

I am from Canton, [Ohio] and I get very little inside info outside of PFW and Patriots.com. I just would like to know if you have any idea as to when we will see the likes of Ras-I [Dowling] and [Shane] Vereen. With running back looking pretty deep and corner looking paper thin both these players seem to have an interest in getting some looks as soon as possible! Thanks, Mike, from the HOF city!!
Michael Poorman

Well, as a fan of our little media empire, you probably know that injury info isn't a publicly traded commodity around here. We normally have to guess on a player's status based on our own observations and reading between the lines of what coaches and other players say about them.

Having said that, we've seen both rookies you mentioned at nearly every camp practice, dressed in the rehab outfit of shorts and t-shirts. That in itself could be a promising sign that they're not far from returning to action, although another rookie, o-lineman Kyle Hix, was in a similar situation before being placed on season-ending IR.

However, when asked about the crop of injured players last week, Bill Belichick had this to say: "I don't think that we have a lot of guys that we won't see until October, November or that kind of thing." So, maybe that's encouraging for the prospects of Dowling and Vereen getting back out there sooner rather than later.  
Erik Scalavino


Hey guys, just curious about your opinion, as you get to see every practice: how many receivers do you think the team might end up keeping? Obviously, the answer lies in how many players from other positions Bill feels like we need, so, do you think that any of the guys like [Julian] Edelman, [Brandon] Tate, and [Taylor] Price, all still works in progress, might end up falling victim to the numbers game? Thanks.

Gabriel Cruz

Good question. It's a more competitive position than you might expect, particularly at the lower end of the roster. I can't see the Patriots keeping fewer than six wide receivers, and I'm not even including Matthew Slater, who may or may not make it as a pure special teamer. I think Wes Welker, Deion Branch, and Chad Ochocinco are locks. Edelman, once he's back to full health, is your primary punt returner and a virtual lock as well. Tate, when healthy, showed flashes as a very good kickoff returner, but not much as a pure receiver. Price made some great catches against the Jaguars, but is now nursing some sort of injury.

Then you have the rookies and first-year players who could surprise, like Jeremy Ross, who has been getting opportunities as a kick returner to this point in camp. Reports this week also indicate the Patriots might be interested in veteran T.J. Houshmandzadeh, adding further intrigue to the position. All things being equal, I say the team carries six receivers, with a legitimate battle for the bottom two or three spots.   
Erik Scalavino


With Alge Crumpler's departure from Foxboro, who do you see taking his captain's position? If Kevin Faulk makes it to the final roster, he could regain his position as a captain or, if he doesn't, how about Logan Mankins?

David Beckett

Faulk is a possibility if (big if) he's healthy and makes the final cut. Mankins is a more interesting candidate, especially now that he's one of the highest-paid established players on the team. He even discussed the idea of an increased leadership role the other day when we talked to him and was open to being a more vocal presence.

Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, and Jerod Mayo are probably guarantees to keep their captainships. I could also see a guy like Patrick Chung or Deion Branch being elected by his teammates. Maybe – and this is a bit of a stretch, but not unprecedented – Devin McCourty. He's only in his second season, but Mayo was, too, when he first became a captain.
Erik Scalavino


During the preseason game against the Jags, the Patriots were using a 4-3. Although Andre Carter is expected to perform better as a 4-3 defensive end, can he be used as the elephant linebacker effectively?

Phil Drach

Not likely. He said as much, as did Belichick, when both were asked to assess Carter's skill set. He's clearly more comfortable as a hand-on-the-ground type of player, rather than a stand-up outside linebacker, which the elephant role essentially is. We saw Carter line up as a standing-up OLB in the 3-4 the other day in camp for a few snaps, but right now, it looks like he'll be more of a 4-3 end, shooting out of a three-point stance.
Erik Scalavino


In the Sat. [Aug. 13] camp notes, it was mentioned that [punter/holder Zoltan] Mesko kicked the failed PAT out of bounds to "avoid the Jaguars from recovering and returning it." Isn't a failed PAT or 2-point conversion dead once the defense gains possession of the ball? I could be wrong, but I thought only college rules allow defenses to return those plays for points. Wouldn't it make more sense for Mesko to stop chasing the ball after it was obvious the play had no chance succeeding, rather than risk injury by chasing and kicking a loose ball?

Kacper Kosinski

You are correct about the rules, Kacper. The NFL rulebook states, "The defensive team never can score on a [point after touchdown] try. As soon as defense gets possession or the kick is blocked or a touchdown is not scored, the try is over."

However, a player's instinct never is to watch a loose ball roll around on the field. Even though he may know the rules regarding failed PAT attempts, Mesko was simply reacting, in all likelihood, the way he was instructed to by his coaches. Just like defensive players are taught to pick up any loose ball and run with it on the off chance that the refs allow the play to stand, Mesko was probably erring on the side of caution. It was a preseason game, after all, and sometimes the officiating crews make mistakes.

That's the language of our note was trying to reflect.
Erik Scalavino


Can someone tell the Patriots players to secure their gloves and not leave the Velcro undone. This has bothered me for years. Patrick Chung dropped an interception [against the Jaguars] and his gloves were not secured. I have seen it many times when player leave the Velcro undone and miss handle the ball or miss a tackle. I am surprised that Belichick allows this. Those gloves should be worn like they are designed to be worn. Loose gloves can sink seasons. Thanks.

Jeff Ratigan

While I agree that the look is ridiculous, not fastening your gloves has nothing to do with catching a football. The Velcro tabs are around a player's wrist, and last I checked, you catch with your hands, not your wrists. Chung's inability to hold onto the INT in question had absolutely nothing to do with his gloves. If it were such a problem, guys like Deion Sanders, who just earned induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, wouldn't have spent their entire careers leaving their gloves undone. Again, it looks silly – like players who don't fasten all the buckles of their chinstrap – but it's an aesthetic choice that has no impact on a player's performance.
Erik Scalavino


Several months I remember reading news reports that Chad Ochocinco would be changing his name back to Chad Johnson, citing a growth in maturity (most likely a stunt to become more appealing to other teams). And I recall when he first changed his name he wanted a space between Ocho and Cinco on his jersey, but the NFL policy is that the uniforms have to display the legal surname as shown. My question is, since he changed his name back to Johnson, and the rules say your jersey HAS to have your real last name, why is he still Ochocinco?

Tyler Spence

Because he didn't change his name back to Johnson. His surname is still legally Ochocinco.
Erik Scalavino


Am I the only one who noticed that Wes Welker's headshot was used for Jason Hill when they introduced the Jaguars wide receivers during last Thursday's game.

"Texas" Al Keane

Probably, Tex. I don't know too many people who pay strict attention to starting lineup introductions in meaningless preseason games. But if I were Jason Hill, I wouldn't be too upset. There are worse things as a receiver in this league than to be mistaken for a Pro Bowler like Welker.
Erik Scalavino

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