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Ask PFW: Edelman’s pending suspension

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Two questions, with Edelman's looming suspension, does that change the way people in the organization will view him going forward? I wouldn't expect anything drastic but this has been a limited to no-nonsense organization. Second, is Riley McCarron viewed as someone that could contribute as a receiver and a returner? Since he plays the slot, even with a logjam in front of him, I'd like to see what he could do with Brady as an Edelman/Welker type.

Jason Bickel

While I don’t pretend to speak for other people, especially those in the Patriots organization, I don’t believe Edelman’s potential suspension will really change the way he is seen. He’s neither the first nor the last player who’ll be suspended. Well-respected men in all organizations are suspended for various reasons. Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis will sit out the first month and is a former NFL Man of the Year. Edelman remains the underdog-turned-star that he’s always been. He’s a respected worker and leader. He’ll get past this just like so many others have before him. As for McCarron, I’ve never been as high on him as some others seem to be. He may get extra reps in the slot, but I have yet to see reason to think he’s a legit regular season option. Though he’s a different kind of player, I think Jordan Matthews will be given every chance to contribute and Edelman’s absence will only increase his chances. I’d also keep an eye on Braxton Berrios. Though the late-round rookie missed time in OTAs and mini-camp, I think his production at Miami and the few skills I’ve seen from him make him a developmental option in the slot. This fall may be too soon, but Berrios is a guy to follow up on if he can stay on the practice field.

Andy Hart

We are going into the 8th year of enduring SS play from Wilson and then Sanders and still no strong competition at this important position. Why?! When is BB finally going to bring a player worthy to back up Chung and who may possibly someday take over the starting job at SS?

Pat Lucas

I have voiced my concerns this offseason about the aging veterans at the safety position. I think Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty are clearly closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. If they begin to slow or wear down this season, there aren’t a lot of options to turn to. A big part of that is the failure of former second-round pick Jordan Richards to develop into a reliable contributor on defense. As for recent history at the safety position, Eugene Wilson was more of a free safety type as a converted cornerback. And I think James Sanders was a serviceable veteran who I probably liked a lot more than most. That said, Duron Harmon is hitting the prime of his career and should be a solid free safety type at the position for years to come. And the fact that veteran Kenny Vaccaro remains unsigned on the free agent market leaves an option for any team that may need a late boost of depth at the position.

Andy Hart

Greetings from Norway! This offseason I have discovered 'Ask PFW', and I have enjoyed reading it to keep up to date on the Patriots. Yesterday, we learned Julian Edelman might be suspended 4 games at the start of the season due to PED-use. Of course, we don't have a conclusion to that case, so my enquiry here is more general. First, a little bit of background. In cycling and other sports doping has been, and to some extent still is, a big problem. For several years now WADA and others have worked hard to minimize doping and one way to achieve this is by sanctioning those who dope quite hard. However, each case is evaluated individually and sanctions may differ from case to case. For instance, blood-doping may very well be sanctioned with a 2-year suspension from the sport, but a Norwegian cross-country skier got a 2-3 month suspension for not using his asthma medication in a proper way. The NFL also has a doping problem. Every season there are several players suspended for PED-use. My impression though is that the NFL doesn't treat this as a major problem. It seems to me that a player will be suspended 4 games for a first time offense and 10 games for a second - i.e. light punishment. There is no individual approach to level of sanctions (again, my impression), depending on severity (kind of doping) of the offense. Here are my questions: How serious do you find the NFL in fighting the problem? How beneficial do you think it would be for the NFL to increase sanctions for PED-use, and to sanction players individually? Thanks.

Trygve Johannes Lereim Sævareid

Thanks for the newfound following and question from across the pond! As you point out, performance enhancing drugs are an issue in all sports worldwide. I think the NFL has tried to put in a testing system and punishment structure, collectively bargained with its players, to try to fight against the issue. No league or sport is ever going to outright win the war on PEDs. That’s just the reality. Could the NFL be harsher? Sure. But missing a quarter of a season for a first offense is not just a slap on the wrist and I do emphasize that changes to the system, including the addition a few years ago of blood testing for HGH, is an issue that must be collectively bargained.

Andy Hart

I think that it's obvious that having Edelman on the field is a better situation that not having him, but with that said I've realized my concern factor for a four-game suspension at the beginning of the season is low. As the beginning of the season is seen sometimes as an extension of the pre-season, if Edelman is out this may give the Patriots an extended look at one of the receivers that may not have made the opening 53-man roster. Also this may lead to better connection between Brady and the new receivers (10+ targets have to go somewhere). This of course is only possible if a suspension results in an open roster slot. Is that true? If so, who benefits the most or do you think the Patriots look to free agents? Thanks!

Nate Ellsworth

Yes, the Patriots will be able to keep an extra man on the 53-man roster to open the year if Edelman is serving his suspension. Beyond that, I sort of agree with your feeling. Having your best players is always better than not having them. But if the team can get through a suspension to Tom Brady, it can get by without Edelman for a month. Maybe Jordan Matthews or Braxton Berrios or Kenny Britt will get more looks. Or, it could result on another roster bubble guy getting a month to show his stuff at another position to jumpstart his career. It’s also another month that an aging slot receiver won’t get beat up or get injured. As we look for a silver lining, I think we’ve done a good job, Nate.

Andy Hart

Regardless of whether we have a defensive coordinator for the season, do we know who will assume defensive play calling duties? Will it be B.B or Brian Flores, or someone else even? Do we have any idea what sort of play caller they’ll be, either from experience or from interviews etc - will the Patriots tend along the bend-but-don’t-break mantra or become more blitz happy or turnover orientated etc?

Alex Marr

Based on previous reports, history of promotions and the fact that he’s been wearing the defensive playcalling headset in mini-camp, linebackers coach Brian Flores is expected to call the defenses for the Patriots in 2018. He’s worked his way up the ranks from scout all the way to his current spot. He was a linebacker at Boston College. He seems to have a lot of respect in the organization, both from players and other members of the football staff. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower also thinks that the New England defense could be more aggressive under Flores’ direction. We’ll have to wait and see, though, as clearly Belichick remains the top decision maker on the defense and the team as a whole. He’s almost always erred on the side of caution and avoiding big plays in the past. My guess is that will continue more often than not this fall. But Flores has earned this chance to put his own spin in the unit. Time will tell exactly what that means and how it plays out.

Andy Hart

I am amazed as to how many misfires BB has had not only drafting players but signing those with a known track record. Case point Cassius Marsh. He has never shown any ability to set the edge, and yet they trade two draft picks for him which could have been used on two young players. And frankly, he did not appear the Patriots type player even from personality point of view. So desperate for a pass rusher, BB trades for him? There were many other trades when there was no track record of a player performing well, and yet they were acquired for picks. And majority did not pan out. I am all for trades, but why don' they get better evaluation on known players? If draft is called a "crapshoot", (and I disagree with such low-odds assessment), I don't get so many busted or poor value trades for experienced players?

Pat Lucas

It's a Twofer Tuesday for Pat! Belichick, like all talent evaluators and decisions makers has had plenty of “misfires” on trades and draft picks. He’s also had a ton of hits in both areas to help build the Patriots dynasty over the last two decades. Marsh clearly would fall in the negative category as he never fit in or produced on any level in his short stint in Foxborough. On the whole, last year was really not a great one for trades in Foxborough. We’ll see if 2018 is a little better with guys like Danny Shelton and Jason McCourty leading the way. Still, I’d give Belichick the benefit of the doubt on his talent acquisition over the years. 

Andy Hart

JC Jackson height discrepancy? How tall is he? He's listed at 6-1 on Patriots.com and ESPN.com, but his NFL combine page says 5-10. You guys have seen him, what do you think?

James in the Cube

This one comes from a regular PFW in Progress online radio listener who has his own pretty unique nickname. First, as James writes, it’s important to note that JC Jackson prefers his name to be written without periods for the first two initials. I double checked with the Patriots PR department last week. Second, according to our friends at NFLDraftScout.com, Jackson measured 5096 at both the Combine and his pro day. That means he was just under 5-10. Maryland, though, listed Jackson on its roster at 6-1 last season. I would go by the Combine number, that is generally far more accurate than college listings. 

Andy Hart

Hello again from an obsessive Patriots fan in PA, (was born in Rhode Island though).Thank you as always for all the work that you do year round keeping us fanatics informed. I was so discouraged to hear about the JE11 suspension for PEDs and I hope he can win his appeal. If he does not, I am hoping Riley McCarron can impress in training camp and run with the opportunity. I am also a big Phillip Dorsett fan as you might remember from past letters. My question is how do those two look so far? I know they don't have pads on or anything but the WR competition is soo compelling I am hoping they are so good that Bill has no choice but to keep them, I am also interested in Jordan Matthews, how is he doing and in a way too early prediction how many WRs does New England keep and who are they?

Michael Pizzoli

The receiver position was already an interesting competition before word of the potential Edelman suspension broke. I will say, reports that he was suspended for an unknown substance has me thinking there is at least a small chance that he could win his appeal. That would be the best case. If he doesn’t, I think that Matthews might be the biggest beneficiary of the extra reps and opportunity. I’m not as high on McCarron as I don’t really see anything that indicates to me that he has NFL-caliber abilities. I’m actually more intrigued, based on an admittedly tiny sampling, by Braxton Berrios. Dorsett, in my opinion, just hasn’t run with the chances he’s had now in nearly a year in New England. I just don’t know where he fits in. So if I had to project the receiver position right now – and assuming that Edelman does have to serve a four-game suspension – I’d go with Chris Hogan, Jordan Matthews, Matthew Slater (really a special teamer), Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt and Braxton Berrios. Health is a huge issue, though, for Mitchell, and to some degree Britt and Berrios. Mitchell still can’t stay on the field, as was shown during OTAs and mini-camp. That may cut his time short in New England at some point despite his impressive play as a rookie. I also think that Cordarrelle Patterson might be the one to steal the extra roster spot created by Edelman’s suspension for the first month. The returner could prove himself in that time both in the kicking game (returns and coverage) as well as at least an option as an athlete on offense. Still, I really don’t see him as a legitimate option as a regular receiver in the Patriots precise passing game. All that being said, receiver will be one of the most interesting positions to watch throughout the training camp and preseason process. 

Andy Hart

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