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Ask PFW: Roster spotlight

Posted Aug 13, 2013

With just a couple of weeks left before cuts, fans are starting to weigh in with some thoughts regarding the Patriots roster. We offer our thoughts in this week's mailbag.

I was curious about Jamie Collins. So far all I’ve heard and seen from him in preseason is him lining up at linebacker. Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower’s job as starters are safe. Why did we draft him so high to be a backup linebacker? I think he would be more effective as a DE. He would be great as Chandler Jones’ other bookend. With Jones, Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Collins, Mayo, Spikes and Hightower as the front seven it could be scary for opposing o-lines.
Paul Dumont

Collins has been involved in a lot of sub packages so far for the Patriots defense. He’s been active in pass coverage during practices and against the Eagles we saw him rushing the passer as well. He’s quick and athletic, and covers a lot of ground. Obviously he’s still learning, though, and that will take some time. I don’t agree with your suggestion of moving him full-time to defensive end, however. He’s just 250 pounds and I believe he’d be a target for opposing offenses in the running game. Rob Ninkovich is about 10 pounds heavier and is considered a bit undersized for that role himself. But overall I like Collins’ intriguing package of skills and I agree with what Matt Chatham said on the broadcast of the Eagles game about the comparison between Collins and Roman Phifer, who was similarly versatile and effective in coverage.
Paul Perillo

After watching the first preseason game, which player, who hasn’t attracted that much attention (Zach Sudfeld, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson), are you most impressed with?
Michael LoRocco

Well if you’re asking me to pick among those three I’d say Thompkins impressed me most. I thought he did a nice job of getting open, particularly on third down, and showed he could run different routes other than deep patterns we’ve seen often in camp. He also was working with Tom Brady, which in and of itself is important. Sudfeld made some nice blocks and showed good hustle on LeGarrette Blount’s long touchdown run. He also made a nice move after catching a short pass from Ryan Mallett and turned it into a big play. Dobson I was actually slightly disappointed in. He’s been terrific thus far in camp but I didn’t think he did much against Philadelphia despite having several chances. He was blanketed on a deep ball and dropped an easy short pass in the second half. But I’m not too concerned based on what I’ve seen thus far this summer. Dobson and Thompkins should be part of the offense as core wideouts.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, love what you guys do. I was wondering if or when we would get to see Laurent Robinson or if he had been cut. Thanks!
Connor Furu

Connor I think you’re confused about some reports dealing with Robinson recently. He is currently a free agent and hasn’t signed with anyone this offseason. Two weeks ago there were reports indicating he worked out for the Patriots but he never signed with the team. He also has worked out with about a half dozen other teams and none has signed him thus far. At this point, Robinson is still looking for work.
Paul Perillo

It would be a shame to release guys like Jake Ballard and Brandon Bolden, who would be picked up right away. Can the Patriots trade these guys for comparable players at other positions where we are a bit thin?
Ben J.

Well first I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that either of these players is going to be cut. Second, if they were to be released, I’m not sure they’d garner much on the trade market. Teams understand when a player is set to be let go and sometimes are reluctant to give too much away in order to get them. Maybe a late-round draft pick or something of that nature. Ballard is working his way back from a very serious knee injury and is looking to build on his return to game action. Bolden is still very much a part of the backfield, and having five running backs would not be out of the question. Still too early to be cutting ties with these players, although I understand where you are coming from. If Bill Belichick has decided he doesn’t plan to keep them, it’s very much possible a trade could be in the works. Belichick often does some wheeling and dealing on the day of final cuts.
Paul Perillo

One last Tim Tebow question to end it all. He can’t play consistently in a NFL style offense, even in an option style offense. How the heck did Josh McDaniels convince the great Bill Belichick to take this kid in? All he does is win? Maybe if everything, and I mean everything else is going right. Can we just please cut this guy and let him be a broadcaster for the NCAA? He will never, ever be an NFL quarterback, period. Do you agree or disagree? Please PFW put this to a rest once and for all.
Dolph Ziggler

I’ll start by saying you are terribly naïve to suggest this will put the Tebow nonsense to rest. What I think, or anyone else other than Belichick for that matter, is completely irrelevant. Those who believe in Tebow will always think he’s capable of doing all of the things you don’t believe he can do. For the record, I am with you, Dirk (I’m calling you Dirk by the way – Dirk Ziggler). I don’t feel Tebow has the throwing ability to be a successful quarterback and I don’t feel he’s dynamic enough as a runner to succeed long-term as a read-option quarterback either. He can be a power runner and obviously has tremendous intangibles to succeed. But all he does is win? He’s 9-7 as a starting quarterback. He lost four of his last five starts, which tells me as teams learned better how to defend him he had no answers. At some point you need to throw conventional NFL passes and he doesn’t do that accurately enough often enough to succeed. But like I said … my opinion will do nothing to sway those who believe I am wrong. The Tebow Circus is in full flight here in New England. The questions will continue. The media will continue talking and writing about him. The fact that Tom Brady is the starter prevents Tebow-ites from suggesting he should play, but otherwise this is what Tebow brings – polarizing discussion regarding his ability. And it won’t stop unless Belichick agrees with you and cuts him, something I do not expect to happen.
Paul Perillo

The Pats now have Aaron Dobson as a possession receiver, Josh Boyce as a speedy receiver and Danny Amendola as a good route-runner. So, if they were all at the same stage of their career, which of them would upgrade faster than the other. I was wondering because watching the Eagles game, Dobson has elite hands but needs better routes and Boyce better hands. What is easier to improve: routes, hands or speed?
Ben Sylvestre

It’s an interesting question and I’d have to say route-running would be the easiest to improve. Al three certainly can be worked on but a player’s speed is somewhat established once he gets to the NFL. Better nutrition and training could add slightly to a player’s 40 time, but generally as players start their careers and take the pounding that comes with the NFL that tends to trend in the other direction. Certainly a player can work on catching the ball constantly and improve his hands. Receivers are constantly working on that aspect of their game. But route-running seems like something to me that if addressed should improve. Sometimes players come from college offenses that aren’t as precise as pro systems and they get away with rounding off breaks and exact footwork. But in the NFL when the smallest details are magnified, anyone should be able to improve in that department with hard work. It’s not a physical skill like catching and running. It’s more mental and should come with a strong work ethic. But I’ve certainly never been in that situation so who am I to say which skill is easier.
Paul Perillo

Based on the first preseason game do you think if Ryan Allen can’t quite beat out Zoltan Mesko he lands on the IR with an unexplainable injury?
Zach Strong

Based on Allen’s college career I felt there would be a legitimate competition for the punting job this summer, but I also felt Mesko would almost certainly win it. I still feel that way, although Allen has been impressive at times and has a huge leg. He was the punter when the Patriots allowed a huge return against Philadelphia, so that wasn’t good even if it was not his fault. If I had to guess I would say Allen has a legitimate shot to land on the practice squad, but I would doubt he’d be on injured reserve unless something significant happened to him over the rest of the summer.
Paul Perillo

First, could you see Logan Ryan stepping up and starting on the outside if Alfonzo Dennard and Ras-I Dowling are unable to play? I really hope we don’t have to subject ourselves to watch Arrington on the outside. Also, my bold roster prediction: both Blount AND Bolden get cut for the FB James Develin. Then after a few weeks when the passing game is clicking, we drop him and pick one of them back up.
Mike Poland

Ryan has been a typical rookie cornerback this summer. Some good moments and some not-so-good ones. He’s going to need some time to develop and I don’t believe he’s an option to start on the outside at this point. If anything he might be able to fill in at slot corner if these guys remain unavailable due to injury. Ryan played a ton against the Eagles out of necessity and like practice, he did some good things and then missed some plays. Arrington is the starter outside if Dennard and Dowling can’t go. I actually think he’s start over Dowling too, but in that case he’d move inside in the nickel if Dowling came in. Arrington is having a strong camp and is somewhat underrated in my opinion. As for your roster prediction … I’d be stunned if both Blount and Bolden were cut, but Develin sticking is not outrageous. Unfortunately he missed the Eagles game but was having a solid camp until then. And I’m not sure I get your reasoning for having less runners until the passing game gets going. Wouldn’t you want more running options if you were unsure about the passing game? Anyway, I don’t expect Brady to have any troubles so it’s probably a moot point.
Paul Perillo

I saw Kenbrell Thompkins is 25 years old and since he is a rookie, what path did he take to the NFL.
Nader Behbehani

Thompkins is an interesting guy. He grew up in Miami and encountered trouble several often while being kicked out of high school three times. He originally attended El Camino (Calif.) Community College because few college coaches were willing to take a chance on such a troubled youth. He then signed with Tennessee but changed his mind when Lane Kiffin left the Vols for USC. That led him to Cincinnati, where coach Butch Jones took him based on a recommendation from one of his former players while at Central Michigan – Steelers wideout and Thompkins’ cousin, Antonio Brown. Tennessee forced him to sit out another year when he backed out of his letter of intent, though, so by the time he finished his two seasons with the Bearcats and training camp opened in New England, Thompkins was already 25. He’s already had quite a path but there’s no doubt there is some talent there worth tracking.
Paul Perillo

Loving the offseason coverage! Can you see the team putting Jake Ballard on PUP or in the IR-designated for return spot instead of releasing him? Also I find our lack of DT depth disturbing! Who can we bring in? Is Gerard Warren still available? (kidding, maybe.)
Mike Baker

Ballard cannot be placed on PUP because he’s already practicing. He would have to be on PUP throughout camp and the preseason – like Rob Gronkowski currently – in order to be eligible for PUP once the regular season starts. If there was an injury preventing him from playing perhaps he’d be a candidate for IR-DFR. I’m pretty sure that would work given his status. But Ballard could still be in the mix to contribute. The Eagles game was his first game back from more than a year of inactivity and he came out feeling pretty good. Let’s not write him off just yet. As for defensive tackle, Marcus Forston is really the only player with any experience behind the starters. Armond Armstead was supposed to provide another alternative but he’s dealing with an infection that has kept him off the field. It is a thin position at this point and something to keep an eye on.
Paul Perillo

I have two things: Nickname for Zach Sudfeld: how about Studfeld? Question: Studfeld has been working with the first team and getting some hype on his performance, what do you think his potential is? Do you think him and Gronkowski could be a deadly duo?
Joseph Kellar

I’m sure Andy loves your nickname suggestion … anything a third-grader could come up with is right up his alley. As for Sudfeld’s potential, why not wait to see if he makes the team first? Honestly, we’re putting an awful lot of pressure on this kid and we have no idea how he’ll hold up. He’s going to need some work as a blocker, both in the running game and in pass protection. He’s going to have to prove he can stay healthy and take the pounding at the tight end spot. He’s going to need to be consistent over the long haul. In short, I believe Sudfeld and move around and catch the ball a little but he doesn’t seem overly athletic and I don’t envision him teaming with Gronkowski to form any sort of deadly duo. I like Sudfeld’s promise and I believe he has a chance to stick. If he does, let’s see if he can then find a way to contribute.
Paul Perillo

It seems to me that those running quarterbacks, after they get hit a couple of times during the series become ineffective at throwing and running. Maybe they are only good for one or two snaps at most. What’s your thought?
Chong Her

I do believe the flaw in the read-option approach is it subjects your quarterback to a lot of hits. I don’t care how tough the quarterback is, if he’s hit often enough it’s going to affect his performance. However, guys like Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick were able to take hits and kept throwing effectively last year. Both got to the playoffs and Kaepernick came within a few yards of winning it. So, if the quarterback is gifted enough to run and throw well, then it’s hard to defend no matter what. But I don’t think the running quarterbacks are affected any more or less than the pocket passers are once they are hit. Knock the quarterback around enough and the performance will drop.
Paul Perillo

Both Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman are capable but fragile slot receivers, and Josh Boyce didn’t show a lot on the outside yet. Why not try him at the slot?
Ed K.

Boyce actually is a slot receiver and that’s where most of his work has come thus far. In college he played some on the outside out of necessity but his coaches explained that he would be a better fit for the slot. Belichick certainly agrees with that because for the most part Boyce is lining up inside. His speed is eye-popping and he’s been progressing well in camp. Now he needs to put it together consistently and then he will become a regular contributor. But the skills are there.
Paul Perillo

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