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Ask PFW: Anticipating regular season

Fans' questions answered in our weekly PFW mailbag.

Do you think this new linebacker they acquired [Barkevious Mingo] will start and do you think he was picked up to replace [Jamie] Collins or [Dont'a] Hightower in a planned trade? I would hate to lose either one, but especially Jamie Collins! 

Bill Crocker*

Mingo's acquisition, it would seem, has more to do with the recent rash of injuries to defensive end/outside linebackers (Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Shea McClellin) than with the Collins and Hightower situations. The latter duo are more inside-type 'backers, for one thing. What's more, it wouldn't behoove the Patriots to part with either Collins or Hightower, two of the most talented players in the NFL at linebacker (Collins a Pro Bowler and Hightower a potential all-star) with a player whose lofty draft status (sixth overall pick in 2013) has yet to translate into on-field success at the elite level. It's also unreasonable and unfair to Mingo to expect him to come in, learn the playbook immediately, and be able to start right away. Suffice to say, Mingo is here to provide depth on the outside, and if he flourishes into something more, all the better. 

Erik Scalavino*

With Tom suspended for four games, and not allowed to participate in any team activities, in theory he could buy a ticket and go to the game, however could he be invited by the owner to sit in the owner's box for those four games as a show of unity for Tom? Read you guys every week. Keep it up.

James Marshall*

Sorry, James. As we've stated numerous times here in the Ask PFW column, Brady's league suspension means he is barred from being on the premises at all during his month-long, forced hiatus. He's not allowed to buy a ticket and watch the game in the stands or sit up in the owner's box with the Kraft family. Once the regular season begins, he can't be here under any circumstances until Week 5. 

Erik Scalavino*

Looking ahead a bit to Week 1, and assuming everyone in the secondary remains healthy, do you see Malcolm Butler being placed on Arizona's John Brown? Or might they place Butler on Michael Floyd, [Logan] Ryan on Brown with help (similar to the regular season game in Denver last year), and Cyrus Jones on Larry Fitzgerald with intermittent help? Do you think Justin Coleman could find himself in there in someone's stead?

Dante Swinton*

Guessing how the Patriots are going to game-plan an opponent is about as easy as getting tickets to "Hamilton." All I can tell you is how I would approach such a matchup. I would want my best cornerback – in this case, Butler – on the other team's best receiver. We can argue who that might be (I still think it's Fitzgerald), but that would be my choice.

New England isn't always so predictable, though. Often, they vary the matchups week-to-week, and sometimes series-to-series in-game. It's best to assume that each corner will match up with all the opposing receivers at least one during the game. Who sees who more often is anyone's guess. 

Erik Scalavino*

Hi! Do you think that Collins, Hightower, Butler, and Sheard all get re-signed? If so when and how much will they make per year? Thanks. Greg P.

If the Patriots truly want all four players back, they can make the financials work, I'm sure. As we've stated plenty of times before, Sheard doesn't belong in the same category as the first three. Those men are the priority. If you can lock them up first, it doesn't really matter to me who which other expected free agents hit the market next offseason. 

Erik Scalavino*

I try not to be negative, but let's say Jimmy comes out and falls flat on his face while Brady is suspended. Do you think that creates a need for the Patriots or do you think that makes them focus on making Brissett the next QB? 

Michael Rochman*

You might not be trying to be negative, but you sure have succeeded! I don't foresee such a dismal scenario for either Garoppolo or the team, but if it were to happen, I've yet to see anything from Brissett that leads me to believe he'd be any better. Let's just cross that bridge when and if we come to it… and I don't think we'll ever get to such a dire point. 

Erik Scalavino*

I live in Dallas but am a huge Patriots fan.  In all of the pictures I see online of TB12, he looks a bit gaunt.  Has he lost weight and/or do you think he could be dealing with any health issues?

Jeff Boland*

I haven't noticed any significant difference in Brady's overall appearance. His play on the field during training camp hasn't betrayed any internal maladies, either. He looks perfectly fine to me, the recent scissor incident (minor as it was) notwithstanding. I think you're looking for something that just isn't there, Jeff. 

Erik Scalavino*

Hey guys, great coverage as always. My question about the running back situation: In light of the Dion Lewis injury, do you see the Patriots going after a running back that gets cut in camp, swinging a trade with a RB heavy team (Baltimore, Kansas City), or sticking with what we have in Blount-White-Bolden-Gaffney for the time being? Thanks guys.

William McDonald*

We've tackled this topic frequently in recent Ask PFW columns, and the answer remains the same. Yes, it's possible that another ball carrier could be added, via the waiver wire or in a trade. At the same time, I could easily see them sticking with the current crop of backs. My instincts tell me an addition is more likely, but I wouldn't be willing to bet on it. 

Erik Scalavino*

Hi Guys, I love the Patriots and PFW.  You provide great coverage and insights.  Question:  Any chance the Patriots take a chance on the Karlos Williams as he is now a free agent?  He would look awesome in a Pats uniform playing against Rex Ryan and his Bills!! 

John Borello*

In keeping with the theme of the previous question, I don't think a reportedly out-of-shape substance abuser (Williams must serve a four-game suspension this season for the latter transgression) is the answer for New England. He certainly wouldn't be available to help provide a balanced running game for Garoppolo in the first four games, if that's what you had in mind, because he would be serving that suspension. If he were to get himself back in the right playing condition and cleaned up his personal issues, maybe he could be a consideration down the road, if need be. But for now, I'd say no, thanks. 

Erik Scalavino*

Who is your surprise pick to make the 53 man roster for the Patriots?  Thanks!

Dave Sarro*

My surprise pick to make the Patriots 53 at the start of camp was Tyler Gaffney, but given the running back situation, he looks more assured of a spot than he did just two months ago. So, maybe he's not such a surprise anymore. Perhaps second-year tight end AJ Derby is the pick, then. He's looked consistently good as a pass catcher throughout the summer after a rookie season spent on IR. 

Erik Scalavino*

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