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Ask PFW: Garoppolo, Brady and more

Jimmy Garoppolo's first days as the team's starting quarterback are in focus during this week's mailbag.

I haven't seen much analysis of how Jimmy Garoppolo has looked against live defensive pass rush with pads on the last few days, how has he looked in training camp? Has the offensive line as a whole been doing well?

David Sarro*

The pass rush isn't generally an element of training camp that is a problem for quarterbacks. While the linemen on both sides of the ball are usually going at it with plenty of intensity, the rush is not permitted to hit the quarterback and in fact usually allow them to throw the football even on the occasions when they would have been able to record sacks under game conditions. In general, the offensive line has held the edge over the defensive front during the days when the team has been in pads. Garoppolo hasn't really had to deal with much traffic in his face, although there have been some plays where a rusher has broken through and disrupted things. We really won't know how Garoppolo will deal with a live pass rush until the regular season because even during the exhibition games the tempo and intensity are not the same as the real thing. But I would say the early signs have been positive for the offensive line – particularly for rookies Joe Thuney and Ted Karras.
Paul Perillo

Joint practice reps are supposed to be more worthwhile because coaches get together and script what they're doing as opposed to preseason (vanilla). So why wouldn't Bill Belichick tell the Saints and Bears to bring the heat on Jimmy? Vary it. Come from different angles. Come on different down and distances? That way Jimmy can practice the real world use of the Patriots blitz beaters' inherent in their system. (It might also be good reps for the O line). We know Jimmy can run (decently), and he has a quick release, but if he can learn to adequately beat the blitz, it'll go a long way – both for him and for the team.

John K.*

Scituate, Mass.*

My guess is the coaches have conversations very similar to this when they're planning these joint practices. Coaches want to create all types of scenarios in practice because there are no guarantees that they will materialize once the games begin. While it may not be as blatant as you're describing, I'm sure Belichick will talk to Sean Payton and John Fox prior to the practices and they'll agree on various parameters and set up their practices accordingly. There's no doubt Garoppolo will need to be able to handle the blitz because he'll definitely be tested, especially on opening against a Cardinals team that does it more than anyone.
Paul Perillo

Does Brady have to serve all four games in a row at the beginning of the season? Why don't they stagger them on non-divisional games?


Unfortunately the Patriots are not allow to choose which games Brady sits out and instead he has no choice but to serve his suspension during the first four games of the season. As it turns out that's a pretty good stretch of games to miss since three of those games will be at home. It's certainly not ideal but it's not the worst timing either.
Paul Perillo

Chris Harper was the darling of last summer, how has he looked so far this summer? I've read about him making some nice plays but nothing substantial.

Sean Harper*

Sean, your brother Chris has played well thus far in camp – very similar to last year actually. He's done a nice job of getting open and catching the ball during both 7-on-7s and full 11-on-11 work. He's also gotten a lot of work on punt returns and handled those effectively as well. Harper is facing a tall order trying to fight his way onto the roster in a crowded wide receiver position but so far he's doing his best to make himself a solid candidate.
Paul Perillo

Chandler Jones was traded so the Patriots could have more money to sign the big three of Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower and Malcolm Butler. Yet I have heard nothing about any signings of these key players. Is there any progress being made on any front with these three?

Lynn Farnham*

There has been very little if any information regarding new contracts for any of these three players. That's been a minor surprise to this point, although there's still plenty of time to get something done. The reason I'm surprised is the Patriots have often been able to get a player signed at or around training camp in the past and so far we really haven't heard news on this front. Collins is the one out of the group that I worry about most because he will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and will be coming off a modest rookie deal as a former second-round pick. That means he could be looking for a substantial contract and could be the most difficult to re-sign. The only minor news we've seen that is contract-related dealt with Rob Gronkowski, whose agent Drew Rosenhaus was in Foxborough early in camp and reports indicated the sides were discussing an extension. But there's no sense worrying about any of that at this point and if there's any news to offer regarding new contracts for anyone we'll do our best to stay updated.
Paul Perillo

Trey Flowers was my pick for defensive rookie surprise last year. Unfortunately, we know injuries curtailed my prediction. Just wondering what the coaches think about the prospect in his second year. Any chance he could help picking up the slack from the Chandler Jones trade?

Eric Sivertsen*

Flowers absolutely flashed during camp and in the first preseason game last year before getting injured. He looked to have some ability to create pressure on the passer and I share some of your enthusiasm that he might be able to carve out a role for himself in that department this year. While I wouldn't expect him to replace Jones by himself, based on our limited viewing so far he looks like a player who should be able to contribute.
Paul Perillo

Hi, Sam from Scotland, wondering with the recent NFL moves toward getting rid of kick returns, could we see less importance in guys like Matthew Slater who has been a special teams stud, even to an extent where these guys who have a roster spot due to their presence on special teams are being cut? Love the PFW crew and all the great work you do!

Sam Smith*

There have been many stories written about the change to the touchback rule and its potential impact on kickoffs in the future. Slater has even talked about it and expressed some fear that what you're describing could actually come to fruition. I don't think the kickoff is going to be completely eliminated from the game, and I don't think valuable special teams players like Slater will be phased out either. Even if kickoffs go there will still be a need for guys to cover and return punts so there will be a place in the game for veterans who excel in those roles. Time will tell if the alterations will ultimately lead to the elimination of a big part of the game, which I feel would be a mistake.
Paul Perillo

Dear Paul I wrote last year this error. When watching "Patriots All Access" on the lower screen pops up a Patriots Football Weeekly logo. Whomever designed this added another E. Please as my husband and I are Pats fans it is making it look like someone or all at the New England Patriots are not very educated/smart. This does reflect on the team and people that work there. Please have someone fix this.

Rich and Lori Gaudette*

Thanks for the heads up guys … I mentioned this to the production crew and hopefully it will be fixed before next month's show!!!
Paul Perillo

Everyone is always talking about bringing in veteran running backs but what about young guys who don't make the roster cut being brought in? Guys I think deserve a chance in the system (if cut) are Knile Davis, Bishop Sankey, Javorius Allen?

Michael Rochman*

I think we're all talking about pretty much the same thing here. When I mention that a veteran running back will be cut, it's guys like Davis and Sankey that I'm talking about. Davis is entering his fourth year while Sankey is going into their third. I don't see Buck Allen becoming available but the other three would certainly be possibilities, and they would all qualify as veterans who would make some sense for the Patriots. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Patriots make a move in this department at some point, but as of now they seem content with LeGarrette Blount and the rest of the crew. Things could change if/when guys start going down with injuries, which seems to happen every year during camp.
Paul Perillo

I'm unwavering in my belief that barring major injuries, the Patriots will win their fifth Super Bowl based solely on how the DBs perform – specifically the CBs. With the exception of (the minor subtraction of) Chandler Jones, the team has improved in every area. If this team can discover its second Malcolm Butler among the rookie CBs already on their team - i.e. Darryl Roberts, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones, Justin Coleman, it'll be the 2014 team all over again. Can someone please convince me otherwise?  I'm really struggling with this.

J. Bains*

I'm not sure what you're struggling with. You feel the Patriots are in position to win another title and you want to be talked out of it? The Patriots have definitely improved offensively with the addition of Martellus Bennett and it's possible that Chris Hogan could be an upgrade over Brandon LaFell. The offensive line also figures to improve both through a couple of draft picks Joe Thuney and Ted Karras and the return of Dante Scarnecchia. Defensively I don't share your enthusiasm on the young corners, although Justin Coleman has been pretty impressive thus far in camp. So the cornerback depth is a concern but otherwise the defense should be solid with some of the team's most talented young players on that side of the ball. And the rest of the AFC has huge question marks, which should all add up to the Patriots once again being a Super Bowl favorite.
Paul Perillo

Is it common for a suspended player to be denied all access to team members and staff, even in his own home? I understand the happened to Tom Brady and cannot remember ever hearing of such drastic actions bring taken. Am I wrong? Please explain

Roger Giroux*

The NFL has some different distinctions when it comes to suspended players. Those nabbed for PEDs and other "integrity of the game" violations, which Roger Goodell terms Brady's, are indeed prevented from being at the team's facility and interacting with his coaches and teammates for the duration of the suspension. Those with violations for substance abuse aren't under the same restrictions, which is the reason Josh Gordon will be able to be at the facility in Cleveland while he continues to close out his suspension. As an example, two years ago the Patriots opened the season with both Brian Tyms and Brandon Browner under suspension. Tyms was banned from the facility and from interacting with the team because his suspension was for PEDs (reportedly Adderal) while Browner was not banned because he was suspended for marijuana.
Paul Perillo

We hear all this talk about trading Jimmy Garoppolo if he does well during the four-game stint coming up this year. What about holding on to him as the heir apparent to Tom Brady in two years? He won't be too old, and have more time under his belt with the system. Who wouldn't want to play with this club? So what if the Browns or other offer the going rate contract and you never win? I'd stick around for the chance to win Super Bowls.

Lee Legnon*

First, Brady is under contract through 2019 so if Garoppolo wanted to stay and wait he'd need to do so for four years, not two. Second, even if Brady was done in two years why would Garoppolo want to wait around to become a start any longer? Garoppolo may indeed love it in New England but he wants to play. You make it sound like a quarterback would rather be a backup in New England than a starter in Cleveland. Anyone who is any sort of competitor would not be happy with that. I would totally understand if Garoppolo wants to leave to become a starter elsewhere as long as Brady remains the starter here with the Patriots. Now, if you think Brady is going to be done after the 2017 season when Garoppolo's rookie contract is set to expire, then re-sign Garoppolo as the starter and make him the heir apparent. I just don't think Brady is going to be done at that point, which would make Garoppolo tough to retain beyond 2017.
Paul Perillo

Would you rather see Jonathan Freeny or Shea McClellin lining up with Hightower or Collins if one of those two greats go down?

Ivan Lingvay*

I honestly have no idea what McClellin offers since we've yet to see him play in the Patriots system. So far he's been a defensive end exclusively. He has played linebacker in the past but who seem to be more of an edge player than someone I'd like to see next to Hightower or Collins on a consistent basis. He looks to be athletic enough to handle that kind of role, though, and he's the same size as Collins so in theory he should be able to hold up. To answer your specific question, yes I'd rather see McClellin next Hightower or Collins than Freeny in the event of an injury.
Paul Perillo

Did we see Troy Brown coaching on footage from training camp on the news last night!?

Khurston Ellia-Epple*

I have not seen Troy Brown helping out the coaches since the spring camps so I'm not sure if what you saw for footage was recent or from a few weeks ago. So far Sammy Morris has been involved with the coaches but we haven't seen Troy Brown doing the same.
Paul Perillo

I just started reading your column, and I love it! It is awesome and now I think I will make it part of my routine to read, anyway I'm from Seattle and I am a diehard Patriots fan, and yes I was almost run out of the state of Washington during Super Bowl 49. Anyway my question is do you think the Patriots have a good chance at the Super Bowl this year? And if so who are they going to bea- I mean play? I think they have a good chance if nothing happens to their offensive weapons, and if Brady can play as good as he did last year. What are your thoughts on this?

Krista Gustafson*

The Patriots will certainly be one of the favorites to get to and win the Super Bowl once again this year. The team has made improvements on offense with the additions of Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan plus the return of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. They also added to the offensive line through the draft, which should add some depth to an area that struggled last year. On defense there's a solid young core of talent with Malcom Brown, Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower and Malcolm Butler, which should give the team some balance. Injuries obviously are an X-factor for any NFL team, but at this point I believe the team has added to what was already a very talented roster and should be in the thick of the race once again.
Paul Perillo

Obviously Brady's suspension can never be seen as a good thing, but that doesn't mean the Patriots can't make the most of a bad situation. Brady has to have his throwing practice, I know he can't have contact with anyone at the Patriots, does that include the practice squad? If not he could see if there's another Chris Harper in there. Even if so, could Josh McDaniels use it as an opportunity to run the rule over a few of the free agent wide receivers on the market? Give Brady a list of guys, invite them to practice with him and see if any of them have any chemistry. The Patriots get some extra tryouts, Brady gets his practice (and potentially finds a receiver he likes), and I'm sure any receiver that's a free agent in August/September would kill for the chance to get an endorsement from the GOAT. What do you think?

Alex Marr*

Brady cannot have any interaction with the practice squad either, since they are technically part of the team and under contract. The only loophole for him would be to find some former players, as Kevin Faulk recently suggested, and work out with them. Faulk said maybe Wes Welker and Randy Moss would join Brady to get some throwing in. Otherwise Brady will have to be careful to stay out of trouble during the suspension given the league's infatuation with keeping him off the field.
Paul Perillo

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