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Patriots Replay Fri Nov 16 | 12:00 AM - 11:59 PM

Ask PFW: Concerning depth at WR, OL, CB

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Pleased with the preseason so far, particularly the noticeable improvement on the D-line with Clayborn bringing pressure often. My question is regarding the offense, considering Edelman’s suspension I was surprised to see him rolling with the 1s while Brady was in. Brady-Edelman has been one of the most consistent connections in the NFL over the past 5 seasons and is a known quantity at this point, wouldn’t it be more beneficial for say Philip Dorsett to be on the field to get some live game reps with Tom Brady so that their connection is better for the first 4 games of the season? Do you see this changing for the most season-realistic preseason week 3?

Alex Marr

Certainly it was interesting to see New England open the Eagles game with an offensive personnel group that included mostly guys Brady is comfortable with in Edelman, James White, Chris Hogan, Jacob Hollister and, yes, Dorsett. The group stayed on the field for the entirety of the opening scoring drive. Dorsett actually caught a pass on the drive, though White did most of the work. So, he’s getting reps with Brady as he has all summer on the practice field. But I do also think it’s important for Edelman to be on the field as well. He missed all of last season and didn’t get the chance to work with Brady this spring. He’s going to miss a month, but he also needs to be as ready as possible in Week 5. It’s similar to Brady’s own August preparations a couple years ago when he was preparing for his own month-long suspension. Does Brady need time with newer guys like Eric Decker or Cordarrelle Patterson? Sure. But he also wants to be ready to rock with his guy Edelman in Week 5. Brady is working with Dorsett, too. Hopefully that effort pays off, but at this point the results have been mixed.

Andy Hart

With Isaiah Wynn's season up in smoke, is the OL still a strength of the team? Seems like Waddle has become more consistent but also still have hope for Cannon to contribute at least 10-12 games. An extension of this question is: Is the OL a top 3 position group? What are our top 3 and bottom 3 position groups in terms of being strengths of the team? Thanks!

Ivan Lingvay

Losing your top pick to injury this early is never a good thing. While it didn’t appear that Wynn was necessarily in line for a starting job, it’s a blow to the talented depth on the line. With or without Wynn, I don’t think I’d include the line in the Patriots top position groups. There is probably more proven depth, when healthy, at spots like running back, safety and defensive line. Even cornerback has a chance to be in the positive mix. As for the bottom three position groups I would probably go with receiver and linebacker. A lot of the positions, though, are dependent on the top end talent. Tight end is Rob Gronkowski and then question marks. Quarterback is Brady and then not much else. It could even be argued safety is a concern if the aging veterans Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung begin to slow or get dinged up. Depth is an interesting thing. It can change in a single snap.

Andy Hart

It looks like a competitive situation with the Patriots corners and I wonder if they may want to keep Jason McCourty over some young corner who will likely be snatched if Patriots wave him? P.S. It is looking as yet another early disappointment with a 2d round CB pick Dawson (after Cyrus Jones) who is not showing much to brag about. Any comment on that?

Stan C.

McCourty’s status is one of the more interesting personnel questions of the summer. He basically didn’t practice in OTAs or mini-camp and then sat out the preseason opener. He said he’s not dealt with an injury since he’s been here. He was competitive in the second preseason game, but did give up a too-easy touchdown. The situation has been made even murkier with young players dealing with injuries or failing to take advantage of opportunities. Jonathan and Cyrus Jones both opened camp on PUP, slowing their summer and opportunity to compete for roles and roster spots. Youngsters J.C. Jackson, Ryan Lewis and Keion Crossen have had their ups and downs. The same can be said for Duke Dawson, though I’m not anywhere near labeling him a disappointment at this point. Way too premature for that. As of now, though, I would say that Jason McCourty will make the team and have a regular role on defense early in the season. And as you noted, it will be interesting to see if any of the younger cornerbacks who get cut make it through to the practice squad.

Andy Hart

Hi guys. Before I join the “Bentley Bandwagon” I would like to know how fast Ja’Whaun Bentley and Christian Sam look like and how good they are in coverage?

Gregorio Ladeira

Don’t wait too long to join the “Bentley Bandwagon,” it’s getting pretty full! I already hear people comparing him to former first-round pick, captain and All-Pro Jerod Mayo. He has looked impressive through two weeks of preseason action, though. He’s more athletic than I thought based on his college scouting reports. According to our friends at NFLDraftScout.com Bentley ran a 4.75 40 at his Purdue Pro Day. He’s done a nice job in coverage, but I don’t think that will be his forte. He’s a big, physical guy who seems to like moving forward and hitting anything that moves. I love that about him. As for Sam, he probably has more athleticism but like most linebackers has had his issues in coverage. If he makes the team, it will likely be as a core special teamer with a possible developmental role on defense. Right now it appears Bentley will earn chances to play on defense early in his career.

Andy Hart

This is off the subject but I have one of those crazy trade scenarios people always ask you about. What I wondered is if you think we could pull off a trade to get Nate Sudfeld? I know it wouldn't happen right away, because Philly has injury issues, but later in the season. I liked him in college and thought he looked good in DC. I was surprised they released him. Right now he looks better than either of our backups and might even be the guy we need in the future.

Pat Mackey

Sudfeld certainly has opened some eyes of late in Philly. And he very well could be better than both the Patriots backups, who’ve not done much to impress this summer. But given the value of quarterbacks across the league I don’t see why the Eagles would unload him or why they would likely send him to the Patriots. If his skills warrant a deal you’d think a team looking for a possible starter might have more interest. Likely, though, Philly may see Sudfeld as the long-term, cost-effective backup to Carson Wentz. If he continues to improve he might be a trade option down the road. I don’t think they’d be looking to deal him early, though.

Andy Hart

If you could go back and undo the Jacoby Brissett....would you? My opinion is Brissett is better QB than Hoyer and Dorsett stinks.

Ron Freeman

I probably would not. I think Belichick and the Patriots took a shot that Dorsett could reach his potential. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. But, I’m also not a big Brissett fan. I think he has all the intangibles and arm to be a quarterback, but I don’t love his accuracy or consistency. I know Colts coach Frank Reich is saying Brissett is a top-20 quarterback in the league but I don’t buy it. I don’t think Belichick and Josh McDaniels did, either. I don’t think he had a future in New England whether he got traded or not. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s a future starter and the Colts are correct to supposedly turn down offers of a second-round pick for Dorsett. No, I would not undo the trade. It didn't work out as well as maybe it could have, but sometimes when you swing for the fences you pop up to shallow center.

Andy Hart

Last year I was getting ulcers every time Patricia did his dreaded 3-Man Rush and so did my buddies, so we were happy to see him go (you may not agree). However my question is the pressure seen in the first two pre-season games, better because of different talent (and seemingly faster) front 7, or due to a different coaching philosophy? Or is it simply that the defenses gel more quickly than the offense during pre-season.

Thomas Walkden

I do not agree. I have seen the Patriots bend-but-don’t-break and get-the-f@$%-back defense played for years under different defensive coordinators. I believe it’s Belichick’s general philosophy. And we’ve seen aggressive preseason pass rushes in the preseason before. A trip to Tampa Bay back in 2011 was the best example. Brian Flores is a different playcaller and brings a different voice to the room, but Belichick will always be the top voice on all schemes and approaches in New England. For better and worse he’s the boss, man! There is clearly more talent on the defensive front this year and that should help the pass rush. Adrian Clayborn is better than anything the team had opposite Trey Flowers a year ago. Deatrich Wise is showing a nice jump in his second season. Last year’s top pick, Derek Rivers, looks like he’s going to add to the mix after missing his rookie year to a torn ACL. Patricia did his best to make chicken salad last year, but just didn’t have much in terms of ingredients to work with up front. I don’t think it’s fair to blame him for the conservative rushes or performances. That said, I am intrigued to see what Flores can do in his new role and with the increased talent he has to work with up front. Sometimes a different voice can add a jolt to a team or unit.

Andy Hart

After the Eagles game it`s obvious we need HELP at WR, please sign Dez Bryant! He can still bring it, he would open up the field more and keep the heat off Gronk. Please make a trade (picks) with the Rams for Aaron Donald, we`re short up front on the D and need HELP! He`s a game changer and would make everybody around him better. Lastly go for Earl Thomas, we need big time HELP in the secondary and Thomas would make this D one of the best in the NFL. Three game changers that could give us Super Bowl Championship # 6 under our belts. HELP!

Robert Popick

That’s a lot of HELP! Like so many, I would love to see both Donald and Thomas in a Patriots uniform. Adding a Defensive Player of the Year to the front would be a no-brainer, except for the fact that I’m not sure the Rams would trade him, don’t believe the Patriots would part with the multiple first-round picks it would take and can’t see New England giving him the $100-plus million he would probably require in a new contract. Other than that, go for it! The one guy I’m not really interested in, even with the lack of bodies and potential at receiver, is Bryant. I don’t know how much he has left in the tank and don’t really want to find out if he would fit in Foxborough.

Andy Hart

Been reading your notes about the new martial arts coaching for the linemen and now we are seeing in 2 ‘meaningless’ games (I mean preseason) two consecutive weeks of strip sacks with scoop-and-score TDs (kinda) Let’s give credit where credit is due. Belichick is a ‘Friggin Genius.’

Matt Esecson

No doubt, Belichick is a “Friggin’ Genius.” Not sure the addition of Joe Kim to the staff, a guy Belichick originally hired in Cleveland in the early 90s, really proves that, though. Kim brings a unique background and approach to the pass rushers, especially the young guys. But I’m going to wait a few more than two weeks into August to deem Kim the difference maker in the pass rush. Let’s watch it play out and also give credit where credit is due to the talented players making the plays. Kim is part of the puzzle, but at this point I’d say he’s a small piece.

Andy Hart

I'm pretty much done with Phillip Dorsett and Mike Gillislee at this point. As for Dorsett, I know he came in at the start of the regular season last year and missed the 2017 training camp and the preseason, but with 16 games and the postseason and now with the 2018 training camp, he should know his way around the offense by this point. Thursday against Philadelphia was more of the same. TB just doesn't trust him, he can't get separation, and just doesn't look good. Let's hope Kenny Britt can add something to a very mediocre receiving corps. As for Gillislee, I can't stomach watching him run straight ahead, no wiggle or twist, just up the middle and get a yard or 2. I thought it was telling in the Philly game that Brandon Bolden was ripping off runs of 9-10 yards and then they put Gillislee in and it was the same old run up the middle for 2 yards. Cutting Gillislee will give Webb some additional opportunities. Cutting Dorsett will maybe open up room for the Patriots to bring in someone else, or give Devin Lucien a longer look. What do you think?

Alan Bernstein

I don’t necessarily see Gillislee and Dorsett in the same light. Given his inability to produce and relative depth at the running back position, I do think Gillislee’s short time in Foxborough is probably coming to an end. Whether it’s via trade or release, I find it hard to envision him being on the roster this fall. Dorsett, though, probably has a bit longer to prove his worth. There aren’t a lot of great options at receiver right now and he hasn’t had a ton of time to prove himself to Brady over the last year. Remember, Brady didn’t take part in OTAs this spring. I have been disappointed with Dorsett’s ability to take advantage of his opportunities this summer. He has been too inconsistent catching the ball and doesn’t seem to be a great deep threat despite his speed. Still, I think he has done enough to stick around, at least early in the season. As for the two young guys you mentioned, I would like to see Webb land on the practice squad (at least) to see if he can develop, while I’ve never been a huge fan of Lucien and don’t believe he has a long-term NFL future. But that’s just one man’s opinion.

Andy Hart

It's a shame Derek Rivers was injured last year given the Patriots were so desperate at the edge position by the end of the season. He seems to be a real x-factor heading into 2018. He tested extremely well at the Combine in 2017 and has good length. How has he looked throughout camp and do you think Rivers can reach double-digit sacks this year?

Rick Orleans

Call him the x-factor, wild card or any other creative term, I do think Rivers is a really intriguing part of the Patriots front seven this fall. While the addition of Adrian Clayborn and development of Deatrich Wise will be big on the edge, adding Rivers to the mix would be a boon for Brian Flores’ unit. He’s been very impressive this summer, especially considering he’s coming off a torn ACL. I think he has more strength and power than I expected, meaning he could be an option on early downs as well as in passing situations. All that said, I don’t foresee him as a double-digit sack guy this year. That’s a relatively big number that’s pretty hard to reach, especially in New England. But if he, Flowers, Clayborn and Wise are all in the 6-8 sack range, I think it might make for the foundation for an improved overall pass defense. At least that’s the hope, and really hope is all you have this time of year.

Andy Hart

With the cornerbacks not looking as good in games as they have on the practice field do you think the Pats could sign a veteran free agent such as Breeland or Breaux? Have they ever brought in a corner this late in the preseason?

Tyler Flanagan

Bashaud Breeland is very interesting option and story. His big-money contract with Carolina was voided after a foot injury/infection suffered in the Dominican Republic, an issue that apparently dates back to a previous injury. Breeland has been making free agent visits, including reportedly to New England, but reports out of a recent trip to Miami indicated he’s still not physically ready to go. If/when he is, he could be a starting-caliber option for most teams, including the Patriots. He would be a late addition to the mix with the potential to have massive upside. When that could happen and whether the Patriots are in the mix is unknown right now. Over the years, though, the Patriots have brought in guys late in the preseason or even during the year at pretty much every position. If a guy is an upgrade, they take him. If healthy, Breeland would be an upgrade, either as a top-three corner or a depth piece.

Andy Hart

Hi team. With the new season rapidly approaching...(thank the stars) Do you see or hope for a late trade or free agent signing? If so what or who are you hoping for?

Gary Waldron

I do hope for some talent to be added at this late point in the process. Not only do I see the need for it at a variety of positions, but selfishly it makes for interesting stories and radio/TV discussions for those of us in the media. As I said in the previous answer, Breeland would be an interesting signing and possible upgrade at cornerback. I’d also love to see a trade for a wide receiver with impact potential. (No, I don’t want Dez. Stop asking!) I wouldn’t hate the addition of a linebacker or even a veteran safety to add depth, either. And stay tuned in the coming weeks because Belichick said just yesterday that one of the many things going on this time of year are conversations with other teams. That could always lead to a potential trade as teams head toward final rosters. The Patriots have often been active with deals this time of year with mixed results. I wouldn’t rule out a few last-minute roster changes down the stretch this August. Fingers crossed!

Andy Hart

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