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Ask PFW: Gambling on Gordon

Fans' questions answered in our weekly mailbag.


I support the Patriots getting WR Josh Gordon simply because they are not winning the Super Bowl this year with this current crop of WRs. Chris Hogan is not playing even like a No. 3 receiver. Phillip Dorsett maybe, at times. A 32-year-old Julian Edelman may come back and be a quality slot option.

That means the Patriots need at least one or two quality receivers, preferably on a much younger side of 30, and that's why they are giving guys like Corey Coleman and Gordon a shot, hoping that at least one of them comes through for them. The question is, which one, if any of them, may?Boris Lugarski

Even though New England is in dire need of wide receiver help, I'll admit I'm surprised the Patriots went after Gordon, given his off-field issues, which have the potential to carry over onto the field, or, at times, prevent him from taking the field at all. Of course, this isn't the first time the club has taken a chance on a troubled player, but I can't think of any other cases in which they've brought in a player who's been banished from the league for entire seasons, as Gordon has. This is quite the reclamation project the Patriots have inherited.

If the risk pays off, however, New England could have a talented player in the prime of his playing career at a position that desperately needs it.

I disagree, though, that the Patriots couldn't win the Super Bowl with the receivers they had before Gordon's arrival yesterday. There are still enough weapons on this offense to be competitive with anyone, including superior defenses like Jacksonville's. So, even if the Gordon experiment doesn't ultimately work out, New England can still be a viable contender in the postseason. Erik Scalavino

With Josh Gordon's [arrival via trade], what's your view of how steep the learning curve is to be a Patriots wide out, and should that temper our expectations of Josh even with good behavior, given his late start with the system, playbook, and QB?

Also, in light of concern about many areas of the team (WR, RB, defense), I wanted to point out how impressive our offensive line has been through the first two games. They've started the year facing two of the league's most talented and intimidating front sevens in back-to-back weeks and have held their own, and [QB Tom] Brady's mostly been upright. Good job to Bill [Belichick], the coaches, and players.

Austin Evans

This offense is difficult even for the most intelligent, experienced players to grasp when they are fully focused – so much so that many of them have come here and failed mightily in their attempts, as we've seen over the years.

So, Gordon faces an extremely challenging situation as it is. The Patriots can only hope that Gordon's well-documented personal struggles don't exacerbate the already enormous task ahead for him.

Certainly, there have been sublime talents who've come to Foxborough and grasped the concepts of this playbook immediately, with record-setting results (I'm thinking specifically of Randy Moss and Wes Welker, off the top of my head). Gordon no doubt has rare talent. It remains to be seen if he can seize the opportunity given him now here in New England.

Meantime, I agree, the O-line has done an overall decent job in these first two weeks of the regular season. It's unfortunate that one untimely mistake in the Jags' game (the strip-sack of Brady) caused a momentum swing, but otherwise, I've been reasonably satisfied with that group's play thus far. O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia has his five guys, or perhaps we should call it six, with backup right tackle LaAdrian Waddle having to play so much while starter Marcus Cannon continues to nurse an injured left calf. Erik Scalavino

What are you thoughts on trading for Larry Fitzgerald? I know he is at the end of his career, but would playing with Brady and the Patriots entice him to play another couple years. He was one of the leading WRs in football last year. The Cards are bad this year. They could get a draft pick and let Larry have a chance at a Super Bowl. Jesse Hurkes

I've always been a fan of Fitzgerald, the person and the player, and have often lobbied on the air and in print for the Patriots to pursue him. The realistic chance to bring him here, however, seems to have long since passed.

He has made it clear that he's happy playing for Arizona, the only team he's ever known in the NFL. I expect he'll finish his career out there in the desert, not up here in the Northeast or anywhere else… even if that means he never wins a Super Bowl. Erik Scalavino

Brady talked in the post-game press conference about a lack of urgency in the loss against the Jags. Do you think this is just a general point about working out the usual early season kinks, or are you aware of any issues more specific to this year's team? Thanks, love your work. David Harvey, UK

I'd say more the former, David. I know of no endemic problems in the locker room at the moment. It's not as if the Patriots, like other teams, haven't had stumbles in September before. Against Jacksonville, they were facing a motivated foe that was playing with a sizeable home-field advantage, and yet, in spite of those forces, the Patriots – who certainly didn't play their best football that day – had a solid chance of rallying from a 21-point, second-half deficit.

Yes, this team has some issues to iron out, but we've seen them do it many times before. Let's give them some more time to try to do that again this season. Erik Scalavino

Huge fan from Italy – I always read Ask PFW. I have a simple question: When will BB address the pass rush issue on defense?Ale Ramaioli

Grazie, Ale! The Patriots are doing what they can to address their pass rush with the caliber of players on the roster right now.

Through two games, I saw a four-man pass rush that put a considerable amount of pressure on Deshaun Watson. No blitzing at all in that first game. Versus the Jags, the Patriots blitzed more frequently, but the results just weren't coming for them.

New England doesn't have someone as dynamic as Khalil Mack or Von Miller, which would help tremendously, but most teams don't have players of that caliber, either. Yet, so far, I'm seeing more Patriots defenders getting in the opposing backfield than I did most of the time last year, so, that's a sign of some progress. Again, it's only September. There's time to make adjustments and improve. What's required of you and other fans right now is patience. Erik Scalavino

Hey guys, big fan from Croatia. Why hasn't Derek Rivers played yet in the regular season, after being healthy all through camp? Mario Delac

Good question, Mario! We've been asking ourselves the same thing lately. Rivers is now a full year-plus removed from his season-ending knee injury and has been practicing fully. I can only surmise that he's not reached the level of on-field performance necessary to crack the 46-man game-day roster.

I hope it happens soon, though, because the Patriots could use another body in that pass-rush rotation, and Rivers seems like a nice young man who deserves a chance to prove what he can do. Erik Scalavino

I understand it's still early, however, I am excited about what I have seen from the Patriots D. The unit seems more aggressive and has a better pass rush than in previous years. How much do you feel Brain Flores' play-calling contributed to this and do you think he will get the official DC title this year ? _Michael Sansone _

As I mentioned previously, I agree that the defensive front is being more aggressive, but it's far too soon to know if this is going to remain the case throughout the season. And to be clear, by "aggressive," I don't necessarily mean in terms of blitzing. New England isn't a team that blitzes much, and they haven't done a ton so far this season.

It's too soon to know exactly how much Flores has impacted this defense, but I'm fairly confident in saying that he won't see a title change during the season. That's not how it works under Belichick.

Standard operating procedure is, assistant coaches get a title in the spring and that's that for the season. If Flores receives a promotion from linebacker coach to defensive coordinator (something he's already doing in earnest without the official designation), it won't happen until this coming 2019 offseason, at the earliest. Erik Scalavino

I have to say that RB Rex Burkhead's head-down, not-looking-ahead running style makes me worry every carry that he's going to be injured or fumble, both of which happen too often. Do you agree? Griff Thomas

I can't say I've ever really noticed this before – Burkhead's rushing style, that is – but now that you've pointed it out, I'll try to take a closer look whenever he has the ball. You might be on to something, but I'll have to give it more careful consideration before I'm ready to form an opinion. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, though, Griff. Erik Scalavino

Hey everyone, I am a huge fan and would like to ask a few questions. First, what are your expectations for Sony Michel in year one and year two? Second, what teams other than the Rams, Vikings, and Jaguars do you believe match up in all levels the best with the Patriots and could give them fits in the postseason or Super Bowl? Kolton Benish

When Michel was drafted in April, my early impressions of him were that he could be a candidate for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. There's still plenty of football left for him to make that case for himself, but he also has an injury history that cannot be ignored.

I'm not even thinking about Year 2 for him right now. Michel had a decent debut against the Jaguars, and if he can continue to stay healthy and be a regular contributor for this offense, that'll be more than enough for my satisfaction.

As for other playoff contenders, it's very early, but the Chiefs are looking like a potential one, and I still am not ready to rule out the Steelers, who've not had a strong start to this season. In the NFC, Green Bay can't be overlooked, nor the defending champion Eagles, particularly now that they'll get their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, under center again.

We're a long way from thinking about the postseason yet, though. Erik Scalavino

Can you give a rough estimate as to how we will do with compensatory picks for the draft next year? I think we lost a lot more players and impact players to free agency than we picked up, and that should give us some good draft capital. Steven Mckeigan, AKA Patsfancanada, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

I cannot, Steven. There is a convoluted formula that the NFL uses to determine the number of picks each team receives, if any, and at least one NFL media member I know of seems to have cracked it. He usually reveals his projections at some point closer to the draft, and they're generally fairly accurate.

However, since compensatory picks don't even begin until the end of Round 3, I place very little value on them. If they were awarded in the first two rounds, then I'd be more interested. Besides, at this point, the April 2019 NFL Draft is a long way off and the furthest thing from our collective minds. Once this season ends, the topic will be more relevant and we can revisit it then. Erik Scalavino

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