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Ask PFW: Camp questions abound

With Training Camp right around the corner, fans have plenty on their minds in terms of the secondary and receiving corps.

You guys have to be tired of questions about cornerbacks, sorry, but I have 2: 1) Which position is Logan Ryan best suited, outside or slot? 2) Do you see the Pats trading for a top 10 CB? Personally I like Sean Smith, but we need a No. 1 corner, anyone?
Gregorio Pampaloni

Honestly I haven't seen enough from Ryan at either spot to make a determination as to which spot I like him best at. I'd lean toward the outside but like I said, I haven't really seen him work consistently at either spot. Usually when he plays it's in short spurts rather than over the span of a full game or games. He will likely get the chance to play over an extended period of time this season and we'll get a better read of his ability. As for trading for a top-10 corner, the chances of that are highly unlikely. That caliber of player is not generally available for trade – despite the fact that the Patriots acquired Aqib Talib at the deadline a couple of years ago. So I wouldn't be waiting for the savior to come in to fix everything. At this point it's more than likely what you see is what you get in terms of the personnel in the secondary.
Paul Perillo


Thanks guys, I look forward to reading PFW every week! I know this is a big stretch and shelling out big money for a player is usually not the Patriot way, but what do you think about trying to lure Von Miller when he is a free agent next year?
Jason Touchette

I would be highly surprised if Miller becomes a free agent next year. My guess is the Broncos will re-sign him before he reaches the open market. If he does become available, then I would be 100 percent in favor of the Patriots making a run at him. I think he is one of the rare difference-making defensive players in the league, and Denver's defense has certainly been much different when he's out of the lineup. Of course that's why I believe the Broncos will re-sign him before it gets to that point in the first place.
Paul Perillo

When will Patriots play in London again?

The NFL has been adding more London games to the schedule every year and certainly the Patriots have been an attractive draw when playing overseas. I do not have a definite answer to your question but I'd be surprised if New England wasn't scheduled to play in London once again in the near future.
Paul Perillo

Why did we stop playing the Colts?
Tee Jay

I'm not sure I even understand this question. The Patriots play the Colts almost every season and have done so every year since Andrew Luck has been in the league. They also played a second time last season in the AFC Championship Game. You may recall something about the footballs becoming a "minor story" in the aftermath of the Patriots blowout win that night. Overall the teams have played 15 times including the playoffs since 2003.
Paul Perillo

I've been hearing a lot about Darryl Roberts' work in mini-camp and OTAs. I think he's got a strong chance to make the roster, but I was wondering what you think his odds are of making the roster? Also how much he may contribute in Year 1 given his lack of polish?
Noah Aumann

So far I've seen next to nothing from any of the new players because the team has yet to don pads and do any hitting. The entire spring consists of little more than conditioning and instruction, so trying to evaluate the personnel is almost impossible. I like Roberts' athleticism that he displayed at the Combine and given the lack of talent in the secondary I could see him earning a roster spot if he can translate that speed and agility to the practice field. He's a player I'll be watching closely this summer, but at this point it's way too early to tell.
Paul Perillo


Hey I was wondering if you think that Brandon Gibson was brought in to make an impact as far as the passing game. Do you see him getting lots of starts?
Nathan Perkins

Well, he wasn't brought in to help the running game!! Sorry, couldn't help it. Gibson is a slot receiver who has had some productive years but has been beset with injuries in recent seasons. He was brought in to provide some depth behind Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, two players who have dealt with their share of injuries themselves, and if Gibson is healthy he could stick around. Having three quality slot receivers may represent some replication in the offense but my feeling is I'd rather have the best receivers regardless of position. In other words, I'd rather have Gibson as an extra slot receiver if he's better than Aaron Dobson and/or Brian Tyms, who are better suited to play outside. It will be an interesting competition given the different skill sets they all possess.
Paul Perillo

I think it's great that many of our defensive players will be working out with Darrelle Revis during the offseason. I'm wondering if you can assess which of the young players evidenced the greatest leap in technique, attitude, maybe professionalism while playing behind Revis and Brandon Browner last year. Who's most likely to fill those voids as a result? Last thought, I don't think the Pats coaching staff got enough kudos for having Malcolm Butler, an undrafted rookie free agent, on the field for what ultimately became one of the most crucial plays in the history of football. Talk about an egalitarian system!
David Simpson

Personally I think the Patriots coaching staff rightly received more than its share of credit for what Bill Belichick has been able to put together over the past 16 years, including his decision to have Butler on the field. Basically, he had almost no choice considering the struggles of Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan earlier in the game. Butler was the third option and he by far performed the best. As to how the others developed around Revis, that's really something that's difficult to assess. In my opinion his impact on Devin McCourty was most noticeable. I thought McCourty seemed much more confident last season and I know the two spoke often during the year and respected each other very much. Like I said, tough to say how the younger players improved based on the presence of someone like Revis but McCourty was one player I thought benefitted from his presence.
Paul Perillo


So with our two star corners leaving for other teams, which cornerback do you expect to lead this secondary?
Ethan Charles

At this point it looks like Malcolm Butler is being tabbed as the left corner – or No. 1 corner – in the Patriots secondary. We'll learn more when camp starts but I don't see any other options at this point. Bradley Fletcher has some experience but is coming off a down year in Philly and Logan Ryan has been far too inconsistent. Robert McClain is more of a slot corner who should be in line to replace Kyle Arrington. Not sure who's left.
Paul Perillo

Can you tell us why Shane Vereen was released?  I thought he did a great job replacing Kevin Faulk. You could always count on these two for a first down. I don't see anyone on the team that can replace Vereen.
Kathy Kozlowski

First, Vereen wasn't released. He signed with the Giants as a free agent for more than $4 million a year, which is more than I would have wanted to pay to keep him. I agree with you that he performed well in his role. And I also agree that there isn't an obvious replacement on the current roster. But I feel either James White or Travaris Cadet will handle those duties reasonably well – perhaps both. Tom Brady likes to use a back as a receiver and someone will emerge as an option for him on those underneath routes. Both White and Cadet can catch the ball and if they develop as pass blockers then either or both can contribute in that manner.
Paul Perillo

Following the departures of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, the Patriots made quite a few moves. Unfortunately, it appears that finding a replacement for either one of these players in the free agent market was not a priority. I can understand why the Patriots had to let go of Revis given the circumstances. However, why was Brandon Browner released? After all, I think that him, Revis and McCourty were the three key assets in the success of the Patriots secondary. I am also disappointed about Akeem Ayers' departure. At this point, who do you expect will take over both for Revis and Browner's crucial roles? Can we even hope that our secondary will be nearly as strong as it was last season?
Alex Blunden

I don't have the definitive answers any more than you do when it comes to why Browner was released. My guess is that losing Revis made him expendable considering the way their styles complemented each other. Browner is a big, physical corner who plays bump-and-run man coverage. With Revis on the other side it was very easy for both to play lots of man. Browner is not as comfortable in zone coverage and with Revis gone my guess is the Patriots are going to have to use more of those looks this season. It's tough to have one corner playing man while the other is in zone, etc. Therefore if Browner isn't going to be able to play predominantly man, then he would have been a rather expensive (cap hit in excess of $5 million) role player. Again, I'm not sure this is why the Patriots let him go but instead just my guess.
Paul Perillo


What are your thoughts on the Patriots bringing in a veteran receiver like Reggie Wayne or Wes Welker to add some depth to the receiving corps?
Michael Earls

I know there has been some buzz connecting the Patriots and Wayne recently but that's not something I would be in favor of. The last I saw Wayne he looked like he was more than done and I'm not sure how much he'd provide at this stage of his career. There's no question he's enjoyed a solid career but the end comes for everyone and I believe it's awfully close for Wayne at this point. Same with Welker, who'd also represent yet another slot receiver to go with Edelman, Amendola and Gibson. Wayne could add some depth on the outside behind Brandon LaFell but I'm not sure he'd be much more than a fourth or fifth receiver and I see no need to make such a move.
Paul Perillo

I have noticed last year, that whenever Logan Ryan was covering somebody, he was always looking at the receiver. Even when the receiver turned his head to locate the incoming ball. To me, if the cornerback is looking at the receiver all the time, how can he have a chance to intercept the ball? The receiver would mostly catch the ball, and sometimes scored, but Ryan still kept his vision on the receiver. Why?
Ron Dionne

The short answer to this question is because that's what defenders are taught to do – watch the receiver not the ball. When a corner gets caught watching the quarterback too often that's when blown coverages occur. Ryan's problem isn't where his head is located but rather his coverage hasn't been anywhere near tight enough. Obviously the best corners have a feel of when to turn and make a play on the ball but that's not nearly as easy as it sounds. But I've spoken with many Patriots defensive backs about these techniques over the years and they all agree than losing track of the receiver is the worst sin a defensive back can commit. So while sometimes a big play can be made when the corner looks back, more often than not he's going to allow a big play by consistently doing that.
Paul Perillo

Based on what you know so far, can you grade the Pats new defense on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being the best)? Also can you share the why you decided to give them that grade.
Jeremey Thomas

It's way too early to make any sort of accurate assessment but I'll give the group a 5 without seeing them play. I base that on what I feel will be a strong group of linebackers, particularly Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, but a weak secondary. If Butler emerges as a true No. 1 corner then that grade can improve but until I see it I can't assume it will happen. I need to see some progress out of the young corners before I move the grade any higher.
Paul Perillo


I find it really strange that TE Tim Wright was let go so early this year; several other teams agree, since they put in waiver claims. While he is undersized for the position, and didn't show blocking ability, he sure appeared to have good hands in the red area last season, and that's the kind of skill you want in the end zone when Gronk is soaking up the double teams. Wright seemed (from afar) to have enough ability and familiarity to stick around late into camp and likely to make the roster, and with the 2 TE option back on the menu, why get rid of him? The point is further exacerbated when Scott Chandler got pulled from practice from injury. Is there something behind the scenes to explain this confusing move?
Earl M.

I, too, found this move to be quite curious. I wouldn't be surprised if there is something more to it behind the scenes but given the Patriots past we'll probably never know. Chandler should be able to give the offense some help in the red zone with Gronk in those two-tight-end sets but to let go of Wright before camp made little sense to me. Perhaps we'll learn more but at this point I'm more than comfortable with the tandem as it is, and Chandler's injury was nothing to be concerned about. He sat out strictly as a precaution.
Paul Perillo

I'm a Pats fan from Italy following all your news on this website and of course all Patriots game when shown in Italian TV. My question is what real chances do we have this year to reach at least the semifinal? From my point of last year we won because we entered really in shape at the right moment of the year and not because we had Revis, so the loss of Revis from my point of view is not that important.
Adalberto Lupica

I agree that the team was in great shape heading into the playoffs last year and that was a big reason for its success but I disagree that Revis' loss is not that important. Revis is a huge loss because he made the entire defense better and losing him in turn weakens the entire secondary. Revis wasn't perfect but his steady play allowed the coaches to scheme things in a manner in which they didn't have to worry about one side of the field, and often the opponents' top option. But with Brady, Gronk and Belichick in the fold the Patriots still have more than enough to compete for a spot in the conference championship, a place they've been in each of the last four seasons.
Paul Perillo

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