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Ask PFW: Camp edition

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Is it feasible for the Patriots to trade one of their receivers, perhaps Deion Branch, or another position player where the team has abundance for an offensive line body?
Alex Conev

The offensive line continues to be the area that seems to be generating the most concern. I can see why, to an extent, but I'm not sure it should be the case. The Patriots have lost some depth so far in camp, no doubt. With three starters yet to practice in Logan Mankins, Sebastian Vollmer and Brian Waters, things haven't been running as smooth as anyone would like. Now Robert Gallery has retired and some of the lesser-known backups have missed some practice time. But before we go making any deals for offensive linemen I want to be sure that one or more of the projected starters won't be around for the balance of the season. In others words, I have no problem with a line consisting of Nate Solder, Mankins, Dan Connolly or Dan Koppen, Waters and Vollmer. That's six quality offensive linemen who have proven they can be part of a winning team. From there you add Marcus Cannon, Ryan Wendell and perhaps Donald Thomas, who is enjoying a solid camp. That's nine linemen with experience. Now, if the injuries are going to be long-term problems then perhaps that outlook will change. But at this point I have no reason to believe the above group will not be physically capable of comprising the line for the better part of the season.
Paul Perillo

For weeks leading to the camp, the local media was saying that O-line is fine, while I had my doubts. Now everywhere I read, they are saying the line is thin. Sure the presence of a healthy Mankins, Vollmer and Waters should help big time. But is the line still thin in terms of quality backups?
Stan Cohan

Once again, I do not believe that to be the case. Right now the Patriots are dealing with injuries to their fourth and fifth tackles, not players anyone would expect to see playing regularly. The lack of depth is well down on the list of players. At tackle there is Solder and Vollmer, plus Cannon before you get to the point where there are concerns (assuming Vollmer will be ready for the season). Matt Kopa missed time in camp and that's unfortunate because he's a player I was anxious to watch this preseason. Kyle Hix also was injured while fill-in Darrion Weems went down as well. That's why Dante Scarnecchia was scrambling a bit at times. But in terms of overall depth, I believe the Patriots could run nine or 10 offensive linemen on the field in any combination and field a serviceable group. I remain largely unconcerned as long as Mankins, Vollmer and Waters are in the fold for the majority of the regular season.
Paul Perillo

I haven't heard much about Trevor Scott so far, how's he looking in camp?
Michael Taylor

There's a good reason you haven't heard much about Scott – he hasn't really been involved very much. At the start of camp he was getting some reps at defensive end but for the past several practices he hasn't been in the mix much. The good news is he's healthy and on the field every day, but obviously he's working behind the likes of Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette and perhaps even undrafted rookie Justin Francis, who has been getting more action during practice in recent days. Scott appears to be a battle just to earn a roster spot at this point.
Paul Perillo

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I was wondering if the team still has Jesse Holley and/or Britt Davis? And if they do, do either of them have even the slimmest shot at making the team?
William Towle

I think both are real long shots at this point. Both have been able to suit up and take part in every practice, which is important for young players looking to establish themselves. But the competition at the position is just too strong for me to envision either cracking the roster. They have size that is somewhat intriguing but neither has caught the ball consistently during camp and when you're already behind several veterans, you need to be almost perfect. Unfortunately for these guys they've been far from it.
Paul Perillo

Considering the impact that training camp injuries have on the makeup of the opening game-day roster, what veteran player is most susceptible to being an unexpected cut? I think many would have answered Ron Brace or Jermaine Cunningham, but they both have looked pretty good early in camp. What shocker might we not see coming?
Franklin Wallace

First, I don't necessarily agree with the assessment that Cunningham and Brace have looked pretty good in camp. Neither has done much to distinguish himself. Cunningham in particular has had many opportunities in one-on-one battles and aside from one or two reps here and there hasn't been great. Brace is pretty much in the same category, and now he's missed the last few practices with an injury. I think Cunningham will make the team because I don't see much depth at defensive end and cutting a young athlete at this stage without many alternatives doesn't seem like a Bill Belichick move to me. Brace is still a candidate to be let go, however. I also think Dan Koppen could be in trouble, although Robert Gallery's retirement may have strengthened his position.
Paul Perillo

What do you think of the chances Justin Francis has of making the 53-man roster? I am proud to say I am a Rutgers fan, and I was wondering if you thought he had a good shot at making the team. Thanks for your response!
Rory Harwood

I think he does. Francis has been quite active throughout camp and has shown a high motor and great speed in getting to the quarterback. He's a physical player and has some versatility based on his college days when he played inside and out on the defensive line. Francis is by no means a lock for a roster spot, but it he can show a level of consistency by continuing to string strong practices together, and take those strong performances with him to the preseason game field, I think he's got a shot. As our buddy Greg Bedard (a Rutgers grad) would say, "RURahRah!"
Paul Perillo

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I try to keep up with all the transactions, and I have a question regarding the addition of several tight ends. As a WVU fan, I was thrilled to see the signing of Tyler Urban, who is a versatile tight end. Then I see the Pats signed Visanthe Shiancoe. I have two questions ... with a Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who do you see as the third tight end? Do you see BB keeping four on the roster?
Greg White

First, I think Urban has been a nice surprise. He's done well catching the ball on his few opportunities and has been part of the team's three-tight ends package. Shiancoe was out of the lineup for a while and that gave Urban more chances, and he took advantage. The question here is Daniel Fells. He's been on PUP since camp began and I don't know what his situation is physically. If he's ready to go at the start of the season I'd expect him to be the third tight end. If not, I could see Urban sticking around for a while, or perhaps landing on the practice squad. I don't see Belichick keeping four tight ends unless injuries prevent one of them from being active.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, how has Will Allen looked so far in camp? Will be he a reliable guy off the bench? Thanks.
Mike Anderson

Allen has been pretty active, showing good speed and some range as a safety. He seems to be picking up the system pretty well, but also has been working behind rookie Tavon Wilson and hasn't received a tremendous amount of reps with the front-line players. Right now I'd say he's squarely on the roster bubble, and depending on the health of some others he could be expendable.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, love the work you do, avid reader every week. Thanks a bunch. It feels like the injury list is growing and we haven't even hit the first game of preseason yet. For instance, Brandon Lloyd not fully practicing along with Jonathan Fanene and many others is troubling. Is this something we should be worried about? Is this normal? What are the chances the injuries are serious?
Steve S.

Not to give you a Belichickian answer, but each player is treated on a case-by-case basis. Overall, all teams are missing lots of players in camp. That's because even the most minor problems are treated with caution at this stage of the season. Lloyd is an example of that. He missed some time with what was reported as a minor leg injury. During the season he likely would have dealt with it and played, but because of the time of year the team wanted to be more cautious. He's been back out there recently and looks none the worse for wear. But other players are dealing with ailments that might be more serious. Fanene has been out for the past several practices so perhaps he's dealing with something that could potentially cause him to miss time during the season. At this point, we just don't know. But for the most part, I wouldn't be alarmed by the health of the team at this point.
Paul Perillo

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