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Ask PFW: Anxious for 2017

Fans' questions answered in our weekly PFW mailbag.

It's nice to see the "old-timers" – [QB Tom] Brady, [WRs Danny] Amendola and [Julian] Edelman – putting in practice time to stay in shape, and [WR Brandin] Cooks is reported to be putting time in it, but what about the rookies and the newcomers like Davis, who should be doing even more time or be on a chopping block based on his OTAs?Jim Richards

Well, since there's no one on the Patriots roster with either the first or last name of Davis, I can only surmise that you might be referring to veteran tight end Dwayne Allen, who had a few noticeable drops during spring practices. But perhaps you're thinking of someone else.

In any event, it's rather commonplace to hear about Brady and his favorite targets getting together and staying in on-field shape during the offseason. Generally speaking, rookies don't normally participate in those sessions because they haven't attained that level of job security or familiarity with the offense (or their teammates, for that matter).

For established veteran newcomers, like the aforementioned Cooks and Allen, it's not unusual to hear that they've linked up with Brady et al to get a head-start on training camp and the upcoming season. Nevertheless, it's less important that they work together during the offseason and more important that they click once camp opens in late July. That's when the true evaluation and competition begins in earnest. Spring practices are for learning, so, you shouldn't put too much stock in what you see or hear about people's performances in May and June. Erik Scalavino


Got a few questions. 1) Who do you think the starting four WRs will be Week 1? 2) If Gronk has another season like last year, ending up out for the year, what do you think the Patriots will do? 3) Is it an injustice to see that Matt Ryan being elected MVP when Brady missed 4 games, 28-2 TD-INT ratio, and making the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, all the while at age 40 years old and named the #1 player of 2016 by his peers and Matt Ryan named #10? 4) If the Patriots win another Super Bowl before 2020, will they become the dynasty team of 2010-2020? Also if they do, will they be the best franchise in NFL history?Dylan Damewood

Got a few answers. 1) There won't be four starting wide receivers, at least not on a regular basis. At least one tight end (Gronk) and one running back will be on the field at the same time, leaving just three spots maximum for wide receivers. Operating under that assumption, I'd say your receivers would be Edelman, Cooks, and Chris Hogan, with Malcolm Mitchell potentially vying for Hogan's spot.

2) Win the Super Bowl. Of course, losing the best tight end in football for a second straight season would deal a significant blow to the offense, but New England's arsenal is so stocked it wouldn't be a fatal wound. They would still be the best team in the game and the clear favorite to keep the Lombardi Trophy in Foxborough.

3) No. Ryan had a deserving 2016 regular season, upon which the MVP and all other post-season awards are based. Playoff heroics have absolutely no bearing on the voting for those honors, as they are cast well before the Super Bowl. Furthermore, to be clear, Brady is not yet 40 years old. He'll reach that milestone on Aug. 3.

Finally, 4) The Patriots are already the dynasty of this decade, as they are clearly the NFL's lone super power at the moment. But adding a third title in four years sure wouldn't hurt their cause and would surely make them unique among the other clubs in their prolonged success over such a long period of time. Erik Scalavino

Why not trade [RB Dion] Lewis for another young body at tight end? We have four pass-catching backs and I don't want to see D.J. Foster cut. I see a bright future for him. Thanks for your input.Fred Hudson

Fred, New England already has six tight ends, four of whom would be considered "young bodies" (three seasons of NFL experience or less). There's enough depth there.

However, if Lewis or any other player were to be traded – not an altogether unreasonable consideration – I'd prefer to see the incoming player be a viable pass-rush option, which the Patriots could use more of at the moment.

To your point, though, I agree that Foster is a nice, young talent and believe he will have a role with the 2017 Patriots. Perhaps he finds a job as a kick/punt returner, if not in the backfield. His ability to win a job will not necessarily be dependent on the presence or absence of Lewis. I can easily conceive of a scenario in which both players are regular contributors to this team this year. Erik Scalavino

Any early guesses/ideas about how the Patriots will manage the running back stable? I expected [Rex] Burkhead and Lewis to play major roles, but with [Mike] Gillislee now in the picture, are they relegated mostly to special teams?Kurt Chamberlin

Just like they have for most of the past decade-and-a-half: by committee, and it will be on a game-plan, week-to-week basis. Sometimes, you'll see Super Bowl star James White take on the bulk of the load. Other weeks, it'll be Gillislee or Burkhead. Then again, there could be weeks when none of them is much of a factor. Of course, health will factor into this equation as well, but assuming all are available to play, the biggest determiner will be the opponent and how Bill Belichick and O.C. Josh McDaniels feel they're most vulnerable to New England's potent attack options.

Suffice to say, I doubt you'll see one ball carrier assume the traditional "lead back" role. It should be fun to see how this all unfolds in the coming months. Erik Scalavino

Dorial Green-Beckham has to pique the Patriots interest right? If they were to take a flyer on him, who would he beat out for a spot? Would they be able to stash him on the practice squad to allow him to learn the system? Could he possibly work as a move TE (ala Aaron Hernandez)? Could his acquisition also result in a compensatory draft pick in the event he makes the team then leaves in the off-season? Eric Davis

Not necessarily. There's hardly any room for any wide receiver additions at this point. But, okay, let's say the Patriots did want to bring Green-Beckham into the fold. There's no guarantee he'd be a good fit in this system. Plenty of more talented wide receivers have come to Foxborough and failed. A guy who's been with two teams in as many seasons in the NFL isn't someone I'd predict could come to the Super Bowl champions and "beat out" anyone else right off the bat, either.

You're also thinking way too far ahead with your compensatory pick question (it still astonished me that so many fans are preoccupied with these low-value choices), but because he was released by his former club, and wasn't a true free agent when the league year started, I don't believe he would factor into the compensatory pick formula.

I would suggest, Eric, that you focus your attention on the receivers who actually are here, not on the ones who aren't. There's plenty of talent and intrigue at that position to keep you occupied all the rest of this summer, believe me. Erik Scalavino

It' summer fun, so I have possibly the most naïve question ever asked on this forum. Is it possible for Patriots to trade both [backup QB Jimmy] Garoppolo this year and then Brady next year, and with three first-round picks, get Andrew Luck from the Colts?Stan Cohan

Naïve isn't the adjective I'd employ to describe your question, Stan. Far-fetched, to say the least, would be more apt. But you're right, it's summertime and why not dream up something like this to generate some discussion on, say, PFW in Progress, where we often have ridiculous, far-fetched debates about such things. We've certainly discussed far more inane topics before! Erik Scalavino

How do I get a copy of the PFW covering the Super Bowl LI winning game? Thanks.Jeff Harris

Start by ordering a 2017 subscription (1-800-494-PATS or Then, contact our circulation manager, Carrol Hardy, to see if any of those particular back issues are available for purchase. Erik Scalavino

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