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Ask PFW: Assessing Jimmy G, working out of the bye and more

Lots of Jimmy Garoppolo questions and others dealing with the roster moving forward as the Patriots come out of their bye in this week's Ask PFW mailbag.

What's up with Phillip Dorsett? The Patriots have seemed to modify their offense when Julian Edelman went down, and I do not see a lot of offense from the slot receiver position. Would have thought that Dorsett could have helped there. Has he not learned the plays or does he suffer from drop-itis?
Seth Nelson

While the offense has clearly missed Edelman, I think you're underselling the contributions of Danny Amendola. He's been very productive in the slot on the shorter routes that Edelman provided. He caught 31 passes for 338 yards and a touchdown in the first half of the season, and that was while missing some time due to injury. I'm not sure that Dorsett possesses the type of skills that would allow him to thrive in a slot role. Dorsett has tremendous speed but I'm not sure he has the ability to operate as well on the inside. It's possible he does given his terrific athleticism but I haven't seen him show those kinds of abilities at this point. Also, Tom Brady relies on a lot of quick adjustments from his slot receivers and it's impossible for Dorsett to have that kind of relationship with his quarterback this quickly. As a result it would be tough to imagine Dorsett earning Brady's trust in such a vital role in the offense.
Paul Perillo

Bill Belichick was candid about the Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo situation describing it as unsustainable. Obviously BB has known this for quite some time. So why would BB trade Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for a receiver? Everyone knows the Pats offense is complicated never mind trying to earn Brady's trust. Jacoby B showed his upside starting here last year and has looked pretty good for the Colts. Why make these moves? It seems so un-BB-like?
Brett Larson

In my view this one is simple: the Patriots didn't believe Brissett was worth keeping. It appears pretty clear that had the patriots not traded Brissett he was going to get released in final cuts. I'd also disagree that Brissett has played all that well. It's certainly not his fault in that he arrived late to quarterback a terrible football team, but he hasn't really done anything with the Colts to prove that opinion false. He's won a couple of games against other really bad teams but hasn't really played all that well, throwing seven touchdowns and four picks in nine games. Dorsett was a worthwhile target who might prove to be valuable down the road. If not, Brissett wasn't going to be here anyway.
Paul Perillo

Over the years I have questioned several of BB's trades at different times throughout the season. I would have kept LeGarrette Blount and Martellus Bennett this season, the Jamie Collins trade probably cost us a Super Bowl and there were others that hurt our chances. Jimmy knew our offense inside and out. He studied behind THE BEST of the best this league has ever seen. To only get a second-rounder for him is a slap in the face. Probably not this year, but when Jimmy knows San Fran's offense, he will become an elite QB for them, mark my words. If you have watched him closely in the games he played in, he looks like Brady, his throwing motion is just like Brady's, he is a pocket passer who will excel in this league. I'm not saying we could have afforded to keep him but getting ONLY a second for him is just plain crazy.
Paul Shelton


First, I think you wildly overstate some things. Blount and Bennett have been average at best since leaving, and in Blount's case the Patriots backfield hasn't missed his presence at all. He's been a backup in Philly while the Patriots are using Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee to pick up the slack in Blount's absence. As for Collins, not sure how to break this to you but the Patriots won the Super Bowl without him last year so not sure which title his trade cost the team. I'd certainly like to have Collins as part of this defense but you can't argue that the team didn't overcome his loss because there's a sharp looking Super Bowl banner hanging inside Gillette Stadium that says otherwise. Now, I actually agree with your point about Garoppolo, if not necessarily with your assessment of him. There's no question in my mind that the Patriots could have gotten more than a second-round pick for him, and that was definitely true in the spring before the draft when they opted to keep him. I don't really know how good Garoppolo will be as a quarterback because I've never really gotten to see him play for any extended period of time. I feel he'll be a solid starter but I don't think he'll be a star, but he'll get the opportunity to play soon in San Francisco and we shall see.
Paul Perillo

The next two road games the Patriots may be shorthanded on offense with Chris Hogan out, leaving fragile Danny Amendola and not so durable Rob Gronkowski to be Brady's escape valves - not ideal. I want to wonder why Malcolm Mitchell was not brought along, but it is what it is. So can they use Rex Burkhead in a slot role more?
Jeremy Buffet

Mitchell is on injured reserve and hasn't begun practicing yet and is not ready to do so physically so that's the main reason why he won't be active in Denver. As for Burkhead, I'd expect to see him continue to catch some passes out of the backfield but I don't see him as a slot receiver. He doesn't strike me as quick enough to beat corners out of the slot on a regular basis. But out of the backfield against linebackers he represents a nice matchup advantage and it's one the Patriots have used effectively.
Paul Perillo


We're not going to the Super Bowl without Tom Brady so what's the big deal? Jimmy Garoppolo was going to be too expensive to keep and not a total proven quantity yet. Brian Hoyer had good seasons with two losing teams the last two years and knows the system and I would take experience over promise in this trade. He did just fine filling in for Brady (Can you say Matt Cassel?), and will do OK if Brady is out.

Can we now talk about the real needs and how to use the massive money we save on Hoyer vs. Jimmy G? Looks like we're stuck with Stephon Gilmore as a good backup and spot player, so let's find out how we get (or develop) and edge rusher. BTW is it so far out to think about bringing back Rob Ninkovich or Vince Wilfork for a half season? They're fresh and ready to plug and play and both could help fill real needs.
Thomas Walkden

Before I get to your real question, when exactly did Hoyer do fine filling in for Brady? That has never happened and let's all hope it doesn't this season either. The trade deadline has past so there really isn't a way to obtain an edge rusher at this point. Someone would have to be released and quality players don't find themselves on the street at this stage of the NFL season. Ninkovich could probably help but he's not really making the kind of impact you're looking for after sitting out this long. It would be hard to imagine him being in condition to make much of a difference. Wilfork isn't really needed at this point either. Basically, it's what you see is what you get once you get past the trade deadline, and that's where we are. Fortunately, that's a much better spot than most other teams in the league.
Paul Perillo

With so many quarterback injuries it seems like the Patriots snatched a good value with Hoyer, but I question the value they got for Jimmy G and the timing of it. Did BB really "ride it as long as he could?" What about doing it at the end of the year as they did with Cassel and still got a similar pick? Or a reportedly "bold move" was more of a risk aversion trade to get this pick and not less for a franchised player?
Evan Collins

I'm pretty much with you on this one. I thought the time to trade Garoppolo was before the draft when they could have gotten multiple picks with one of them likely a first-rounder. Otherwise, I would have actually ridden it out as long as possible, which is to the end of the season. If Garoppolo really is viewed as being too valuable to trade in the spring, then I certainly wouldn't have accepted a second-round pick to trade him now. I would have waited till the end and been content to lose him for nothing if it came to that. I would have tried to franchise him to trade him, and if that was not an option I would have let him walk and accepted a compensatory pick for him. I just don't feel like the Patriots got any real value for him and now they've lost the insurance he provided.
Paul Perillo


Is Trey Flowers being slowed down by some type of injury or are they asking him to do different things? He doesn't seem to be able to get after the passer like he did last year. Deatrich Wise also looked like he was a 10-12 sack a year player earlier in the year. Now the opposing QB can stand and pat the ball until getting to his third or fourth read. Is this scheme or is the pass rush really this bad? I really hope they don't give Pittsburgh and possibly KC's QBs this much time in the future or it will be a long day.
Brent R.

The pass rush has been an issue all season, not just recently. Flowers has been one of the defense's most consistent players but he's not going to rack up huge sacks totals. He led the team with 3.5 sacks during the first half of the season and I could see him finishing with somewhere around 10 for the season. Wise isn't necessarily in that camp, however. I don't view him as a 10-sack guy and haven't really seen that type of potential so far in his rookie season. Obviously he has plenty of time to develop but based on what I've seen at this point he looks like a guy who tries really hard and has some ability to rush the passer, but not necessarily a guy who puts constant pressure on the quarterback. The lack of pass rush is definitely a concern, and the Patriots don't really have the horses to get there consistently.
Paul Perillo

I am part of the "In BB we trust" club. As secretary, I noticed you have not paid your annual dues for a while. Anyhow three Super Bowls, an undefeated regular season and repeat appearances in the AFC Championship Game, plus a couple of more Super Bowls tends to wash away a lot of sins. Not only that, but they got a second-rounder and a relatively inexpensive seasoned backup. Yes Hoyer has not lit it up anywhere else, but if the defense can remain buckled down, I think he could have Matt Cassel-like success if pressed into duty. All told it was not as bad a trade as people may think. Do you not think Hoyer is enough of a value to offset a first-rounder to a second-rounder?
Andrew Spence

As club secretary it's hard to believe you don't realize Belichick has actually won five Super Bowls with the Patriots but then again when you win as much as the Patriots do it's hard to keep track. Anyway, no I don't believe Hoyer is enough value to offset the loss of a round in the draft. Garoppolo was worth more than a second-rounder regardless. Believing that Hoyer can have Matt Cassel-like success isn't very comforting since Cassel has never had any consistent success in the league. He took over a great team in 2008 and although he played reasonably well they failed to make the playoffs. I don't think many people believe it was a tremendously bad trade; it's just that many feel (myself included) that Garoppolo was worth more. It's not a huge deal in terms of the 2017 team, but if Brady is gone in a couple of years and Garoppolo is lighting it up you might think differently.
Paul Perillo


With their QBs set for 2-3 years, do the Patriots draft a development prospect in 2018, as many speculate? And if they do, how do they deal with the fact that the QB class, after the top 1-2 players who will be gone well before the Pats pick, is unimpressive, and that a player would be a third QB on the team taking a useful spot from somewhere? As a reference, the Patriots could have had Garoppolo as a starter and Brissett as a backup, while Brady could have been either retired in 2019, or if he did not want to - be traded for at least the second-rounder the Pats got for Garoppolo. Bottom line, do you think that Patriots handled their QB situation for the "best of the franchise" long-term?
Stan C.

I do believe the Patriots will select a quarterback in next year's draft, and depending on who it is that could impact the roster spots. Hoyer is by no means a lock to remain with the team beyond this season. If Belichick finds one he likes in the draft, he would likely keep three on the roster but that's no sure thing. Under your scenario he would have had Brady, Garoppolo and Brissett on the roster together in 2016, 2017 and 2018. That doesn't make a lot of sense. While I understand the argument for Garoppolo for the long term given the ages of all involved, I also don't want any part of pulling the plug on Brady's career before it's time. As long as he remains at or near the top of the league, then he stays as the starter and that meant getting rid of Garoppolo. As I said earlier, I would have kept Garoppolo till the end of the season as insurance, but as long as Brady is still playing at a high level there was no decision to be made in my mind.
Paul Perillo

I just have a few questions to ask about the whole trade and quarterback situation. So with the Garoppolo trade being finalized, what do you personally think the best strategy is moving forward? Do you think the Patriots will keep Hoyer for the full three years until they find a suitable talent for Brady to rub off on? If not, do you think the Patriots should look at young QBs in the NFL right now, or possibly focus on scouting college prospects as Brady's heir apparent. You guys do a great job as always and I love reading Ask PFW.
Justin Phillips
Clintwood, Va.

The short answer is likely all of the above. In other words, Belichick will probably explore all of his options before deciding how to move forward. My guess is the draft will be the top priority, and if the Patriots can find a quarterback they feel good about he will be groomed to replace Brady at some point. Hoyer will probably stay only as long as Belichick feels necessary, but I would highly doubt he'd be here for three years. I also don't dismiss the possibility of Belichick looking at a quarterback currently in the league depending on what kind of situation develops. But the draft would remain the top option in my opinion.
Paul Perillo


In my opinion, the Pats coach has been granted far too much latitude with respect to his personnel decisions. His draft picks, free agent signings and trades have, for the most part, been less than stellar. With egos involved, it would be impossible to bring in someone who has authority to make these decisions over Bill, but something has got to be done. Brady is in the twilight of his career and will not be around to keep this ship afloat much longer.
Mark Penning

In terms of this past offseason I have a hard time arguing with you. Most of the moves the Patriots made haven't worked out, but to suggest he's not been effective as a GM through the course of his career is a bit short-sighted. Belichick has put together plenty of championship-caliber teams and five of them were able to actually win the title. I don't believe someone who is ineffective at their job can have that much success, although I would agree that Belichick the coach is better than Belichick the GM. But both are pretty good at what they do.
Paul Perillo

I can't understand why the defensive player who tackled Chris Hogan by hitting him with the crown of his helmet directly on his arm/shoulder area was not penalized. Was it because he also was injured temporarily, and had to leave the game? I was asking my television this question as they took Hogan to the sideline, but it didn't have anything to say.
Steve Gold

I can't recall a single time when a player was flagged for such a hit in all my years watching the NFL. The hit was to Hogan's arm, not his head or neck area, so a penalty would have been quite surprising. It had nothing to do with the injuries suffered by both players either. Had the tackle been made higher then it's likely that a 15-yard penalty would have resulted. I guess a case could be made for spearing since the contact was made with the crown of the helmet, but again, unless it's a late hit or an example of unnecessary roughness I don't think the officials will be calling a tackle such as this a penalty.
Paul Perillo

If the Patriots were going to pick up Brian Hoyer anyway, why not just include him in the trade? Why risk the chance that another team might claim him off waivers? Is this done for cap reasons?
Hermey the Great

My guess is you have it exactly right. Hoyer was scheduled to make $6 million for the Niners next season and the Patriots certainly wouldn't be interested in paying him that much. So they waited for him to be released and then signed him. The risk was minimal as it was unlikely that any team would be interested in signing him as their starter at this stage of the season. So, it Hoyer was going to be a backup regardless it made the most sense for him to return to New England and that's what happened. The Patriots spent much less money and still got their backup.
Paul Perillo

Maybe, just maybe Dont'a Hightower's injury isn't as bad as the media has reported? I know I can't be the only one thinking this since they haven't officially placed him on IR. The team didn't need the roster spot for the Chargers game and now it's the bye week so no rush I suppose. Is it possible he can be ready for the postseason?
Gary Abrams

There's two parts to this equation. First, the injury from what I've been told is exactly what has been reported. Hightower tore his pectoral muscle and underwent surgery. So, the injury is as bad as has been reported. The second part though is interesting. Adam Schefter of ESPN wrote the Patriots are holding out hope for a long-shot return. My guess is as long as the Patriots don't need a roster spot they'll ride it out. At some point one would think injuries elsewhere would necessitate a move, though, and Hightower will likely land on IR. It's a longshot but I guess there's a chance that Hightower could return in January. EDIT: Snce this was posted the Patriots reportedly placed Hightower on IR, meaning he will be lost for a minimum of eight weeks.
Paul Perillo


Why didn't the Patriots go after a wide receiver or a slot guy or another tight end before the trade deadline?
A.J. Pellerin

How do you know they didn't? Belichick isn't going to share that type of information with us, and certainly if a deal wasn't made it makes no sense for him to do that. I agree that tight end was a spot the Patriots should have been interested in improving. I'm not as concerned about wide receiver but with just Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister (plus Will Tye on the practice squad) behind Rob Gronkowski I thought a move would make sense. Obviously that didn't happen but like I said, I agree with your concern.
Paul Perillo

With the Pats on a bye this week, and then playing two straight road games at high elevations, do they have any unorthodox plans for practicing over that time span?
Benjamin Mathew
Harrisburg, Pa.

The Patriots indeed will travel to Denver and then remain in Colorado and practice there all week before travelling to Mexico City to take on the Raiders. It's a fairly common course of action the Patriots have used in recent years when playing back-to-back road games across the country. In 2014 the team went from Green Bay to San Diego and practiced in California all week before beating the Chargers. They've done it on a few other occasions as well.
Paul Perillo

What's the deal with Geneo Grissom? He seems to be a solid special teamer, so why not give more opportunity on the defensive line? Cassius Marsh has proven clearly that as an OLB/DE he makes a solid special teamer (and nothing more). Marsh is very poor at setting the edge against the run, and his pass rush depths are odd beyond belief.
Rob Biller

Grissom got a lot of chances to prove himself during training camp and didn't seem to do much with them. He also missed some time to injury during the summer, which certainly didn't help his cause. I haven't really seen Grissom succeed as a defensive player in the limited chances he's received, and he was actually released by the team in September in each of the last two seasons before returning first to the practice squad and then the active roster. Obviously the coaches haven't been overly impressed with his work and they feel Marsh is the better option, although I agree with your assessment of Marsh.
Paul Perillo

What most about Hightower will the Patriots miss regarding his ability to make plays defensively, run stopping or pass rushing? And what combination of players will be looked upon to step up their game in regards to Hightower's absence? (Also, will Harvey Langi contribute on Defense this year?)
Bob Dillion

In terms of those two options I'll say they'll miss his pass rushing the most. I think he's a terrific blitzer and his timing on such plays is impeccable. He's made several big plays getting after the quarterback over the years, and even this season when he got Cam Newton to force a huge third-down stop late against the Panthers. But as good as Hightower is, I believe the Patriots will miss his leadership the most. Hightower is one of those respected veterans who is responsible for a lot in the locker room and his presence will be missed.
Paul Perillo

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