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Ask PFW: Camp fever!

The waiting is finally over…it's football season. Training camp kicks off Thursday afternoon in Foxborough as we can start thinking about what the regular season roster is going to look like, although there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered this summer. That's what Ask PFW is here for!


OK, so you pick up Brandon Bolden. Make him run extra sprints and toughen him up. Make him hit people. If he doesn't hit people, then hit him harder. (He better not fumble the football). I'd try to strip the football from him every time he carries it. He better not be one of those RBs that falls down the moment that you touch him.
Jack Endblocks

Mr. Endblocks is one of my favorite all-time emailers. He seems to only write in during the summer and brings an old-school high school coach style to his opinions. Today, he has Bolden in his war path. Bolden was productive at times at Ole Miss but also battled injuries. He doesn't have elite speed (4.66 40) but does have good size at 5-11, 215. He entered his senior year with some hype as an all-purpose back but a hairline fracture in his ankle limited him all season. After scoring 17 touchdowns as a junior he had just five last fall. His scouting report on calls him a "determined interior runner and occasional receiver out of the backfield." He's probably a committee or complementary talent, but that seems to be exactly what the Patriots like in the backfield. Time and practice reps will tell.
Andy Hart

I recently heard Luis Castillo from the Chargers got cut. Will the Patriots try to offer him something again?
Viraj Patel

The Patriots hosted Castillo on a visit earlier this offseason but he obviously left town without a contract. He then re-signed with San Diego but has since been cut. Not sure what to make of that. He had a broken leg last season. He's still on the open market. If he's healthy and looking for a prove-it, low money deal I think he'd be an impressive addition to the depth on the defensive line given his size and some position flexibility. I wouldn't rule it out at this point, especially given New England's two open roster spots.
Andy Hart

Greetings from Fort Hood! A few last minute personnel thoughts as we go into training camp. A: 3rd string tight end... I think we all saw what Shiancoe did in '09 with an elite signal caller. And B: Jim Leonard... yes, he's coming back from injury, but was still a key guy on that Rex Ryan defense. I think it would be good for us to get a strong starter aside Chung, and if there is any hurt feelings from the Jets, good opportunity for him to make them regret letting him go. Just wondering what you guys think about the 2?
SPC Eric Kneut

I think Shiancoe would be a good third tight end as a pass catcher, although I'm not sure how much he'd offer in terms of blocking. But he left New England without a deal and is on the radar for the Eagles, who are also reportedly interested in Jeremy Shockey. Shiancoe reportedly turned down $1.2 million from the Seahawks. I wouldn't pay him even that much to be a third tight end on an offense that's already elite. As for Leonard, I don't think he's a starting player at this point. And New England already signed Steve Gregory to start opposite Chung. I was never a huge Leonard fan. Even if he's healthy, which is a question, I'd pass on the former Jet.
Andy Hart

I read the report about the five rookies who failed their physicals. I realize injuries can contribute to failing a physical and Roark has already been released but can you put this in perspective? Is it unusual for that many rookies to fail? Should this be a concern to Patriot Nation? Thanks for all you guys do.
Dave DeLuca

It should not be a concern. A handful of rookies and veterans fail physicals each year. Some due to injuries, others due to failing the team's conditioning run that is part of the physical. So guys like Mark Zusevics (pectoral) and Jeremey Ebert (leg) had known injuries. Others, like Roark, did not and may have failed the conditioning run. That seems to be the case with undrafted rookie Justin Francis, who failed his physical, was placed on NFI and then reportedly passed his physical a couple days later. That would seem, circumstantially as the classic example of a guy failing the conditioning run. But since the team doesn't tell us this information, we never know for sure. Regardless, in a few days when we're into practice at camp, this will be a non-story.
Andy Hart

Laugh at me if you please but I think Nate Ebner actually can be an NFL superstar one day. I saw his rugby highlights and man that guy is fast, He also delivers hits and is very, very aggressive. I mean look at the guy he is an animal! Those tackles, those dives! No pads! This guy is one of the toughest people I've ever seen! This guy can be a superstar! I don't think it matters how he doesn't have impressive college football stats- but what do you expect? He converted from rugby to football, he didn't play high school football, just rugby. I think we should keep Nate on our team for at least 2 seasons. If he doesn't show any signs of being successful on defense or even on special teams we can cut his chain and release him from our roster. I think he can be a big threat to have in our secondary and if that doesn't pan out we can welcome him as our new kick and punt returner.
Kyle Rodgers

As a person who has a lot of cockamamie ideas and theories, I try not to laugh at the ridiculous things brought up by others. That said, I don't think there is a chance in a frozen over Hades that Ebner will ever be a superstar. He may be a competitive special teamer. He may even evolve into a core special teamer and maybe a backup defender. But superstar? That's the longest of long shots. I have a better chance of winning the lottery. Or getting eaten by a shark. Or being hit by lightning. Ebner has some intriguing physical skills the mentality it takes for the kicking game. I am intrigued to see what he does in preseason special teams action. Aside from that, let's lower the expectations and let his career play out as it will.
Andy Hart

My question is why didn't the Pats sign Mark Anderson? I know they added Jones and Hightower. Anderson would've added another pass rusher. Great job. Big fan.
Joshua Estes

Anderson got a reported $28 million from the Bills, including $8 million guaranteed. In my opinion, that's way too much. Anderson's career was on life support when he signed with the Patriots last summer after the lockout. He was a solid contributor with 10 sacks. But he wasn't even as good as Andre Carter. He was worth the $1.4 million he made last year. But $8 million? No way. Even if the Bills cut him after this year, that's way too much money. New England made the mistake of overpaying Tully Banta-Cain after his 10-sack season. I give the organization credit for not making the same mistake again with Anderson. As I like to say, there are players who get 10 sacks and 10-sack players. Anderson and Banta-Cain are the former, while the latter deserve the big money. Knowing the difference between the two is very important.
Andy Hart

Can you see the Pats signing Jim Leonhard since the Jets won't take him and I don't see Phillip Adams with the Seahawks, Jarrad Page with the Vikes and Antwaun Molden with the Giants and with Brandon McGowan and Leigh Bodden free agents could they come back to reinforce this crippled secondary? And I want the Pats to re-sign Nate Jones, Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter. And then Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite to come back so bad.
Tristan Galm

I'm pretty sure this is sarcasm. At least I hope it is.
Andy Hart

After all Wes Welker has done for the team, and as hard a worker he is, You can't pay him what he is worth? Cheap. Immoral.
John O'Connor

I'm pretty sure this isn't sarcasm. Just a reactionary and ill-informed email. But we take all kinds here at Ask PFW!
Andy Hart


Flashing back to the recently lost Super Bowl. The entire game, I was trying to figure the logic of having an injured Gronk playing. He was worthless, and everybody knew it. So we had 10 on 11 all game. What was Bill thinking? Did he really think anybody was dumb enough to think Gronk was a threat? Putting in a healthy player, ANY healthy player, and we win that game easily. I sure hope Bill learned that lesson. It cost us a championship.
Bill Denison

To steal a phrase that I heard Commissioner Roger Goodell say a number of times at his own Super Bowl press conference, "I don't agree with your premise." I don't think Gronk was totally useless or could have been replaced with just "ANY" old player. He was indeed a shell of himself and it hurt the offense. It hurt the team. I wouldn't say it cost the team the championship, but did have an impact on the loss. What was Bill thinking? My guess is that thought that Gronk was really important to the team and healthy enough to give it a go. I expect that he made the decision that he felt was in the best interest of the team. That's what he always does.
Andy Hart

Out of this year's draft, which rookie will be this year's breakout player for the Pats? Also out of the veterans who will have a big year?
Mike Madds

I think that both first-round picks will be expected to contribute quite a bit. Of the two, I think there is a chance that thanks in part of his versatility that Dont'a Hightower will be on the field a lot in 2012. That means he'll have a lot of opportunities to make plays and help the defense improve from a dismal 2011 resume. For your second question, I assume you are asking for a veteran who will have a breakout year. I'll go with Brandon Spikes. I think the third-year player is going to get healthy, stay healthy and finally stay on the field this fall. If he does that I think he'll have 100-plus tackles as well as sacks, fumbles (forced and recovered) and at least one interception. That type of production would certainly stand out in the middle of the defense.
Andy Hart

How much play time do you think Jake Bequette will see during his rookie season? Thanks!
Sam Siegel

As a proven pass rusher out of the SEC, I think Bequette could earn a complementary role as a sub rusher as a rookie. That would probably only give him something like 20-percent playing time, with a little bump from there if he ends up playing more due to injury. Though it's always dangerous to pencil in any specific role for a rookie, certainly a third-round pick, I think Bequette will have a role right away.
Andy Hart

With the strong possibility that Wes will not have as much success as he did here... will he leave if he is shown more money elsewhere after this season if the Pats don't franchise him again???
Mario Pires

I can't pretend to speak for Welker, but in the scenario you paint I think he'd have to consider leaving as it would probably be in the best interests, long term, for he and his family. I hope it doesn't come to that and still hold out hope that the sides will come together next offseason to keep No. 83 right where he is.
Andy Hart

Hey guys! I know there has been A LOT of questions and frustrations about the Welker contract situation. There's still one option that I don't understand why neither party has seemed to look into...why not give Welker a 2-3 (however many) year contract, but make the following year an incentive. If Welker hits certain numbers and doesn't get injured, then the next year of his contract kicks in, if not then he becomes a free agent again. This way he can earn his contract and still prove to the organization that he is worth keeping. Thoughts?
Kip Canyon

The sides worked on a possible extension right up till the July 16 deadline. In that process proposals went back and forth between the two sides. I'm sure those included different proposals for length, total value, bonus money, escalators and incentives. They just couldn't come to a deal that worked for both sides. My guess would be that the Patriots would want to err on the side of a more production-based contract, while Welker's camp wanted more guaranteed type money. Therefore, no deal.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, I believe that Donte Stallworth is going to be a great addition to our WR group, but am taking a lot of flak on this thought from my fellow Pats fans. What are your thoughts on him making the final roster and the impact he will make this year?
Mike Anderson

I think Donte Stallworth has a good to very good chance to make the team and be a complementary part of the offense. He's struggled to do much since he left New England the first time, but being reunited with Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels may be the best thing to happen to him in years. We'll see how the competition at receiver shakes out, but Stallworth has a good chance to win a role with an offense that should be among the best in football.
Andy Hart


I Believe With That Addition Of OC Josh McDaniels, and All Of Our Weapons (Gronk, Hernandez, Wes, Brandon) The Running Game Will Be WIDE OPEN. I See Vereen And Ridley Having Breakout Seasons, Thus Extending Brady's Career? What Are Your Thoughts? Also Why Does Everyone Thrust Ras-I At The Other Corner Position When Arrington Has More Experience Than Both McCourty And Him? I Believe Ras-I Only Played 7 Games Last Season With Limited Playing Time So He Still Has A lot To Learn. Thoughts?
Otevia Williams

I think that both Ridley and Vereen will have productive seasons. But in the end this will still be a pass-first team with a complementary, committee-based rushing attack. That probably means in a perfect world Ridley gets around 800 yards, Vereen gets 600 and Woodhead 300 or so. It's not just about the numbers for the ball carriers, it's about simply taking advantage of the opportunities they get and simply making defenses at least consider that the running game could be a threat. As for Arrington, I think he's a solid player who's gotten the most out of his abilities. I think him tying for the NFL lead in interceptions was a bit of a circumstantial thing. I think he's ideally a third corner on a decent defense. That role, in the slot, is where he projects for the Patriots this fall. Dowling, on the other hand, has more physical tools and was selected in the second round to be a starting corner. He was the starter to open the year last year and then got hurt. He'll be penciled in on the outside yet again. He has the size to match up with big receivers. Big corners are always a hot commodity. The Patriots hope they have one in Dowling. But you are right, he certainly has a lot to prove both in terms of staying healthy and that he can compete at an NFL level.
Andy Hart

Do you think Ras-I Dowling will break out if so what are your stat projections for him?
Marcellous Harrell

For good reason, Dowling is one of the projected starters with the most questions to answer. Projecting his health is the most important thing, and no one can really do that. Even if he stays healthy, I still have doubts about his quickness and ability to stick with receivers. But if you want a pure statistical projection, I'll say that Dowling is going to have two interceptions, eight passes defensed and one fumble recovery in 2012. But don't hold me it.
*Andy Hart

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