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Ask PFW: Futures of Lewis, Bennett

Fans' questions answered in our weekly PFW mailbag.

Hey guys, huge Pats fan all the way from Hawaii. Just wondering when Dion Lewis will be back and how that will affect the RB lineup? Kamaka Cardines

How far away from returning to first team duties is Lewis? Will he go straight in to action or will he be eased back in? Bill Sparkes

How is Dion Lewis doing in his recovery and when can we reasonably expect him back in the lineup? Jim Rolo

Because Lewis is on the reserve/PUP list (physically unable to perform) with his left knee injury, the earliest he can return to on-field action is Week 7, leading up to the Pittsburgh game. PUP rules dictate that teams have several weeks thereafter to decide whether or not the player is ready to begin practicing. Once the player starts practicing, there is another window (three weeks maximum) for the team to decide whether or not to activate the player to the 53-man roster.

As a result, it could be as early as the Pittsburgh game or as late as December before Lewis is activated. In a worst-case scenario, he would be deemed unfit to play this year and would either be released (highly unlikely) or placed on injured reserve. The same rules apply for right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who's also on PUP.

All we can say with certainty at this stage is that we saw Lewis make a cameo in the locker room recently, and he appeared to be walking normally after a second procedure on his left knee. Erik Scalavino

You mentioned earlier that you believe Martellus Bennett will not be re-signed for next year. I was just wondering why you think that is, other than the obvious TE1 spot being filled by Rob Gronkowski? The Patriots have been known to use some 2 TE sets on offense in the past and, especially with Brady's return, Bennett could see an increase in production with an improved passing game. I am sure there are plenty of other factors involved and I hoped you could elaborate on what some of those might be. Mike McNally

Is Martellus Bennett only a one year gig? I mean he said himself that he can't remember the last time he had this much fun and the Patriots found a great place for him. Could you see both parties working something out? Robert Miles

With regard to Mike's question specifically, I don't know who the "you" is to whom he referred, but it's definitely not me. I've never declared that Bennett is only here for this season. In fact, the way he's performed on the field  and seemingly endeared himself to his teammates and coaches thus far leads me to believe that it would behoove both Bennett and the Patriots to try to work out a longer-term arrangement (he's currently under contract only through the end of this season).

Whether that comes in the form of an extension before season's end, a franchise tag designation, or letting him hit free agency and competing with the rest of the league for his services remains to be seen. For the time being, it's best not to dwell on such things and simply appreciate the fact that Bennett is living up to the potential so many of us thought he would in the two-tight end system alongside Rob Gronkowski. Now that the latter is getting healthier and contributing more (and with Tom Brady at the helm, of course), this Patriots offense is poised to be one of the most dynamic in the NFL. Erik Scalavino

Is there any possibility that Josh McDaniels stays as offensive coordinator as long as Bill Belichick is the head coach and then becomes the new HC? Greetings from Vienna, Austria. Erich Brinskelle

Guten tag! Your scenario would be an ideal one for the Patriots. I'm not confident that it is a likely one, however. Unless Belichick decides to retire after this season, thus opening up the opportunity for McDaniels, it would appear that McDaniels will receive significant interest from other teams this coming offseason. His recent lengthy interview with Bleacher Report indicates that he is letting the football world know of his intention to be a head coach again somewhere.

He also came right out and said as much at the start of training camp this year when he and other Patriots assistants addressed the media. What's more, McDaniels stressed that he loves working in New England, and the feeling would seem to be mutual. Again, the fit would be perfect here in Foxborough; it all likely depends on how much longer Belichick intends on coaching. Erik Scalavino

Patriots fan all the way from The Bahamas. Watching [Jimmy] Garoppolo over the first two games, he shows a lot of potential. Do you see Patriots retaining him and grooming him to fill Brady's shoes or do you foresee a possible trade? Personally, I'd love to see what he can become in a year or two under Belichick's leadership.Jewels Jean

Like with McDaniels and Belichick, the answer to this question hinges largely on what Tom Brady intends to do. Brady continues to play at an extraordinarily high level, even at age 39. So, he could conceivably continue playing for longer than anyone could ever have expected, and for longer than Garoppolo will likely be willing to sit around and wait.

I'm sure the Patriots would love to replace Brady (eventually) with a QB as effective as Garoppolo was in his brief relief appearances in September, but with quarterback talent so dilute across the league, teams desperate for a quality starter will probably make Garoppolo offers that will be too temptig to pass up.

For now, I don't foresee a trade scenario in 2016, given that Garoppolo is Brady's only backup (rookie Jacoby Brissett is on IR and wouldn't be eligible to return until after this year's NFL trade deadline). Perhaps something will take place in the offseason, but Garoppolo is under contract through 2017. If I were the Patriots, I'd be patient and wait things out until then. Erik Scalavino

It seems like [kicker Stephen] Gostkowski is missing more kicks than in the past? Do you think it's time to start looking for a replacement? Karen Drake

Gostkowski is, by his elite standards, in the midst of a mini-slump, having missed three kicks (from 39, 48, and 50 yards) in a four-game stretch. But that is absolutely no reason to consider giving up on him. Players are human beings, and as such, they will have periods of misfortune from time to time. For all we know, he's dealing with something off the field that is causing him distraction during games, but he's too much of a professional to discuss such things in public.

Furthermore, his rare misses have not been wildly off-target. I have confidence that a guy who's made nearly nine out of every 10 kicks in his pro career will fix whatever's causing him problems. Gostkowski deserves better than to have critics (and there have been many in addition to Karen) react in a knee-jerk fashion to his current struggles. Erik Scalavino

I am a diehard fan from Mexico. Never miss a game on TV. Do you notice some struggle in Devin McCourty since last year? I mean, now I see him with late tackles and sometimes chasing the rival. And what about Jordan Richards? He was a second-round pick and I don't notice his presence on field. Thanks for your time, God bless you all and the entire Patriots nation too.Carlos Corona

Nope, I don't notice anything different about McCourty this season compared to the last one, or any other one, really. Other than the fact that he's more experienced and more in control of the secondary than ever before. No, he doesn't make every single play that comes his way, but neither does any other player on the field.

Richards, meanwhile, is not in a position yet to contribute regularly on defense, but has been getting a good amount of time on special teams. Erik Scalavino

Hey PFW, I am from Australia. Love the Patriots and the work the PFW guys do every week. I would like to see the Patriots make a move to get a better right tackle. [Sebastian] Vollmer is getting old (33), with [Marcus] Cannon and [Cameron] Fleming filling in for him. Who do you think is the best player they could trade for, and how much do we have to give up to get him? Also, I haven't heard much about D.J. Foster and Elandon Roberts. They are on the roster, but have been inactive every week and are not on the injury report. Do you know what's going on? Will A.

Vollmer, as noted earlier, is on PUP and despite his relatively advanced age and injury is still probably one of the best o-linemen on the team. If he's able to come back healthy this season, he should be inserted back in his customary right tackle spot. I see no need to go desperately searching for a right tackle from somewhere else right now.

As for those two rookies, they haven't been inactive all season. Both made their regular season debuts in Week 2 against Miami and saw considerable action against Cleveland. Roberts, in fact, led the Patriots in tackles that afternoon against the Browns. The fact that they've been given few opportunities is more a product of veterans being ahead of them on the depth chart than an indictment on their abilities as players. Again, the need for patience is important with young players like these. They'll continue to get chances gradually and, if their performance warrants, will see their workloads increase as a result. Erik Scalavino

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