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Ask PFW: Finding a pass rush

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With Julian Edelman in an appeal hearing, I was naively waiting for the results all day. Early reports stated it lasted all day. Any other info you can share at this point? Any guesses as to how it will play out? If the substance cannot be identified how can they know for sure he was committing a violation? Mike Quinn

There is no timetable for appeal hearings and in fact we normally do not find out about appeals because the NFL doesn't make suspensions public normally until after any appeal is heard. It's unclear why this became public when it did but for whatever reason we learned of the suspension and Edelman himself told us he was appealing. Back in 2012 when Richard Sherman appealed his PED suspension questioning the chain of command in handling his test, he had his hearing on a Friday and the ruling came down in his favor the following Thursday. Reports indicated that Edelman planned a similar defense - that there were issues with the handling of his sample, therefore negating the positive test result. We shall see how the league rules but it probably won't last more than a week based on an admittedly limited past history.

Paul Perillo

I applaud Tom Brady working with his long-time receiver and pal Julian Edelman in the offseasons to be in shape and but why only him? The QB needs to be in sync with others receivers, most of whom are new to the roster. And then we read the reports of promising receivers who never had a chance to sync up with Brady because of limited reps, and during the season he is often forcing the ball to Rob Gronkowski and Edelman while the other receivers are running uncovered. Wouldn't it be best for him and best for the team to invite the other guys to his little practice camp?  Lenny Dryer​

You make some good points and really this is the basis for anyone who has some concerns about Brady's lack of involvement this spring. Normally, Brady works tirelessly during these OTAs and mini-camp, throwing countless passes to many receivers - new and old. This year he spent some extra time throwing to Jordan Matthews after one session of mini-camp but nowhere near the amount of reps he normally gets when he's here all spring. As for his "private" camp, I'm not sure which guys will be on hand. I'd assume Edelman and Gronk would be there but it's unclear if others will be getting invites. It's hard to make an argument against your assertion that the team would be best served with Brady inviting a lot of receivers to his practices. The best case obviously would have been Brady himself being at the facility during the offseason getting to know Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson, Sony Michel, Troy Niklas and other new receivers he hasn't worked with yet. But that's over now and we'll just have to wait to see if there are any hiccups in the passing game this season. Paul Perillo

Since the Pats are on vacation, I'll ask some not so relevant questions. 1) Will Ask PFW still be working? 2) What positions have the Pats generally kept undrafted players? 3) Will players stick around NE and work out? 4) What about injured players? Are they still rehabbing and do they have to check in? 5) Why does it take so long to sign the first-round draft picks? Have a good summer can't wait until the season.

Mark Wright

Team PFW never goes on vacation … well, almost never. We do miss an occasional week here or there but not many. So, yes, we'll still be working. Undrafted players have come in all shapes and sizes for the Patriots - offensive and defensive linemen (David Andrews, Cole Croston, Adam Butler), linebackers/special teamers (Harvey Langi, Brandon King), defensive backs (Malcolm Butler, Randall Gay), running backs (BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brandon Bolden), wide receivers (Kenbrell Thompkins) and on and on it goes. Even Matt Gutierrez made the team in 2008 as an undrafted quarterback. I'd say both sides of the line have the heaviest concentration with the secondary right there as well. Some players will stick around the area between now and training camp, especially the rookies. Injured players who are still rehabbing might be here as well depending on their individual situation. As a rule, though, the parking lot is pretty empty this time of year. Even the coaches are on vacation in late June/early July. I wasn't aware it took very long to sign any draft picks since the new CBA went into effect. I think one report indicated that just 17 picks in the entire draft remained unsigned. I'm aware that one is Sony Michel, but I don't view this as a problem at this point. The spots are generally slotted making it easy but sometimes there are specifics details some players are looking for and they can impact those drafted around the same spot. If Michel remains unsigned as camp opens, then I'd be concerned. But until then I assume he'll be on board by then and ready to go. Paul Perillo

Do not expect Vince Wilfork performance immediately. However, Danny Shelton has the ability to do it. Maybe Bill Belichick will have to show him proper hand placement. Will the Pats have the patience to wait for it? Michael Hughes

I have mixed feelings about your post, Michael. First, I definitely see a lot of similarities between Shelton's skillset and Wilfork's. Both have great size and uncommon mobility for that size. Shelton looked like a carbon copy of Wilfork coming out of Washington. But the second part I'm not sure of. Shelton is entering his fourth season so it's not like he's an inexperienced player at this point. I do expect Belichick to get more out of him than Cleveland did for the simple fact that Belichick is a much better coach. But that doesn't mean the Patriots need to show patience with Shelton. In general terms, what a guy is by Year 4 is probably a good indication of what he is. I think the Patriots offered a glimpse of what they thought about Shelton by opting not to pick up his fifth-year option. That means they don't think he's worth the money … and if he was truly a potential Wilfork-type player then he'd be more than worth that at this stage. We'll have to wait and see how it works out for Shelton but I was impressed with his size and mobility during the spring. Paul Perillo

Do you see our line/linebacker rotation actually providing a decent pass rush this year? Last year and thus far this year seems to be the weakest front-seven rotation we have ever had under Belichick. I do have hopes for the likes of Derek Rivers and maybe a surprise star coming in their zone this year but realistically how do you see our pass rush this year?  Leif Divoll

It's way too early to make any sweeping generalizations about any aspect of the team at this point. I share your concerns about the pass rush but in reality the players have yet to even put pads on so it's impossible to say that for certain. I share your optimism about Rivers as his athleticism seems apparent watching him in drills. But again, I haven't watched him play a single meaningful snap so we'll have to wait to determine where he fits. At the very least Adrian Clayborn with Trey Flowers should give at least some pressure off the edge, and edge types like Rivers and perhaps an under-the-radar type Keionta Davis might surprise. It's definitely a troublesome area and one we'll have an eye on once camp opens next month.  Paul Perillo

With Tom Brady saying retirement coming sooner than later, I can see the rift in NE, my opinion Bill wanted to go 49ers/Packers route replace Joe Montana with Steve Young, Brett Favre with Aaron Rodgers and yes Brady with Jimmy Garoppolo but what's done is done. Do you see Patriots picking up one of NY's young QBs like Teddy Bridgewater or Davis Webb since both teams drafted rookies or even A.J. McCarron if Bills decide to go with Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman? Also what if Brady walks after this season could Joe Flacco be in play? Mark Silveira

Hi Paul! A year ago, Tom Brady was talking about playing till 45, and lately retiring "sooner than later." Did BB know this when he traded Jimmy G? According to Bill, he was talking to Brady daily. If TB12 changed his plans recently, I find it unbelievable that he did after Patriots traded his potential replacement Jimmy G., the QB who was showing promise in games and who was "shredding the Patriots D" in practice. Now Patriots have nobody worthy to take over the starter role or get trained under Brady if he retires in 1-2 years. And the next year's QB draft class is reportedly even weaker than the last. So this may not end badly for Brady, but can it end badly for Patriots? Stan Cohen

This is the lingering question and until we know where Brady stands it's tough to answer. If he plays at least two more seasons, as he has said, then I'm not sure there's a need to pick up a veteran quarterback now. If Brady retires after this season, that could change things. Obviously there isn't a young player on the roster who projects to replace Brady so quickly. Even if Danny Etling develops into something much more than a seventh-round pick, he likely wouldn't be ready to do so in 2019. In that regard I like your line of thinking in terms of veterans. I feel quarterbacks change teams now more than ever - Drew Brees, Alex Smith (twice), Tyrod Taylor, Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, Carson Palmer, Jay Cutler etc - and a veteran (like Flacco as you suggest) could serve as a stopgap until a true replacement is found/ready. I'm not sure Flacco specifically would make sense (I don't feel he's quick enough with his reads to operate in the Patriots system) but the point is a starting caliber QB will likely be available of Brady calls it quits sooner rather than later. And for the record, I would not have pushed Brady out in favor of Garoppolo. Brady has earned the right to decide when he's done and I'm perfectly OK if that means sacrificing a little on the back end for more success now. I wish Garoppolo success in San Francisco but I can't see him even approaching what Brady has done, and Brady doesn't seem to be anywhere near finished at this point. Paul Perillo

When will the all decade teams be announced and what are the chances we see both Tom and Gronk on the first team? Also, has the NFL released any info on a 100th anniversary team and what are Bradys chances of making it onto that highly prestigious team? Ashton Stelljes

I would expect Brady and Gronk both to be locks for the all-decade team, which will come out at the end of the decade (after 2019 season I'd assume). As for 100th anniversary team, Brady would be a lock there as well considering he's widely acclaimed as the greatest quarterback of all time. Gronk should be there as well but his case might be tougher to make if he isn't able to continue playing at a high level the next two years. But that team wouldn't come until 2019 as well, so there's still time assuming the league will continue compiling those lists. Paul Perillo

Media loves to speculate what Patriots might do including trading Trey Flowers or Shaq Mason because they are in the final years of their contracts. I don't like their ideas. Firstly, I dislike the idea of trading these key players for some receiver or linebacker who is not better than what Patriots have on a roster. Secondly, Patriots would likely get third- or fourth-round comp picks if these players walk in a year. Also, Brady may be playing only 1 or 2 years and it makes sense to give him top level running game and also keep Flowers the most valuable pass rusher last year. Would you trade any of these players and if so, for whom? I would contemplate a trade only for a top flight SS as Chung is aging. Chris Dickson

Not to sound like a cliché-ridden coach but I'm open to anything I feel might improve the roster. In your scenario you somehow assume that anyone they get in exchange for Flowers or Mason would a "receiver or linebacker who is not better than what the Patriots have on the roster." If that's the case, then I don't want to make that trade either. But what if Mason could be dealt for Earl Thomas from Seattle? A Pro Bowl-caliber safety looking for more money for a guard on the final year of his deal? I'd take that in a blink. Both would be expensive to re-sign but I think Thomas is a much more valuable player. I don't want to trade anyone just for the sake of trading them, but if the deal makes sense I'd welcome it - certainly much more so than waiting a compensatory pick two years later. Paul Perillo

A lot of anti-Pats fans think once the two legends go away, so will the overall success of the franchise. Radical thinkers liken it to the Bills struggles to reaching playoffs, but even with Brady and Belichick gone, I don't feel there will be a significant drop off other than consistently going for Lombardi trophies every year. I don't think it's too far-fetched, even with all the drama reported, to believe Belichick won't leave them high and dry for years to come. Thoughts? Jason Bickel

I'm not sure I understand the question. Originally I thought you were suggesting the Patriots will continue to have success after Brady and Belichick are gone. Then at the end you suggest Belichick won't leave then high and dry. So is the coach staying or going? If he stays then I agree without Brady the team can continue to make the playoffs regularly. Belichick is the best coach in the business and I feel the Patriots would remain relevant as long as the replacement quarterback is reasonably competent. But without Brady I don't feel they would remain a perennial Super Bowl contender. But if both coach and quarterback are gone, then I envision a total rebuild. You can't just replace the two best at what they do and expect to keep on the same track. There will likely be a huge drop off because the chances of comparable replacements coming in is so small. But there's been enough talk about the future this offseason; time to get ready for 2018. Paul Perillo

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