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Patriots Replay Thu May 28 | 02:00 PM - 11:59 PM

Ask PFW: Growing Gronk concerns

This is probably heresy, but with Gronkowski's lack of durability is it time to trade him while he still has value?

Richard Lew

This is worse than heresy. But I won't remain employed if I describe it in a way that I really want to! I will say, though, that the criticisms and questions surrounding Gronkowski are growing by the week. People are far more focused on his on-going injuries (hamstring, chest/lung, back) this season than the fact that the All-Pro leads the NFL with a 21.6-yard averaging on his 25 catches. He remains as dominant as ever when he's on the field and continues to prove how valuable a piece he is to a Patriots passing attack that's entered the fourth quarter of the last two games without him with a mere 13 points against two of the worst teams in football. People also seem to forget that Gronkowski played in 15 games in each of the last two seasons, consecutive years with 1,100-plus yards and double-digit touchdowns. I would not trade Gronkowski. He's too good and too important. He's a playmaker on the field. He's a captain and a leader. He's one of the hardest workers. And he's as community-conscious as any New England athlete. My guess is that the Patriots were overly cautious on Sunday in New York with a guy who has a history of back injuries. Hopefully the reports of it being a minor issue and not expecting to cost him more time are true.

Andy Hart

Hi Guys,

The flame throwers on Boston sports radio are at it again. Their latest theory is that Gronk is unhappy with the Patriots failure to renegotiate his contract and therefore he takes himself out of games at the first hint of injury. I was at the Jets game. I saw Gronk lay out for an overthrown ball and violently crash to the turf. He was slow to get up and I don't doubt he tweaked something. Two weeks ago, I saw him take a shot from Earl Thomas and come back to make huge plays. Admittedly, I am disappointed that he is often injured but I don't doubt his toughness or his desire to compete. Your thoughts? Thank you.

Gary Madera

East Hanover, NJ

You are preaching to the choir, as they say. I understand the "flame throwers" on sports radio have a job to do and do it quite well by firing up storylines and callers. I just don't buy it. Gronkowski's toughness is unquestioned in my mind. It was on full display against Seattle. It was on full display when he came back from a broken arm a few years back. It was on full display when he limped around the field in the Super Bowl. I feel pretty safe saying this has nothing to do with his contract. Again, I think the Patriots were probably overly conservative with a guy who's had multiple back surgeries. I also think people need to realize that big, physical tight ends tend to get hurt. Gronkowski, Tyler Eifert, Jordan Reed and others have proven that over the years. It's a tough job.

Andy Hart

With his great play at the end of the game and Jabaal Sheard being left behind for the San Francisco game, do you think Chris Long might move up in the depth chart? Also can you update us on whether Gostkowski will improve or will the Pats need to bring in a new kicker. Thanks!

Srikanth Ganesh

Long has started seven of 11 games and played a ton of snaps this fall, his first season in New England. I don't see that load increasing for the veteran, even though he says he feels really good at this point in the year. I actually think it would be good to rotate him and play him less to keep him fresh down the stretch and into what will be his first NFL postseason at the age of 31. As for Gostkowski, there is no question his ongoing struggles – his 39-yard field goal miss on Sunday in New York was his fourth missed field goal and seventh kick overall this fall – are a major concern. Postseason games are often decided by three points and come down to key kicks. He simply isn't a guy who brings forth confidence right now. I'm still holding out hope that he can turn it around and return to his spot as the best kicker in the game, which he was as recently as last season. He's still great on kickoffs, but he must do a better job on his placekicks. His situation certainly is one to watch, potentially coming to a head down the stretch. Gostkowski needs to get it fixed, because I don't really see any options on the free agent market that are all that desirable.

Andy Hart

Hello again, as always I love your work and look forward to reading it. I know Cyrus Jones was inactive with an illness yesterday but is he ever going to get a chance on defense? Also what are your thoughts on Marcus Cannon's play this year, I have always been critical of him in the past but it seems to me he benefited from the return of Coach Scarnecchia. Does New England ever employ cover 3 similar to what Seattle frequently does. Or is New England not built to be a zone coverage team because it seems when they do play zone to opposing QB usually finds big holes. Last question and I am sure everyone will be asking it but I cannot help myself, any word on Gronk's injury? Hopefully nothing serious, very gutsy, gritty win yesterday!!!

Michael Pizzoli

Jones got his chances on defense this summer and early in the season and it didn't work out very well. Mostly playing in the slot, he let too many opponents run right by him. Andrew Hawkins beat him for an easy touchdown in Cleveland. I also have to assume, given the open competition at cornerback that Bill Belichick as openly talked about, that the rookie hasn't done enough on the practice field to warrant increased reps on defense. Cannon has rebounded with a really nice season at right tackle, seemingly returning to his comfort coaching from Scarnecchia, who has gotten the best out of him in the past. Cannon has probably been the Patriots most consistent lineman this fall. New England plays a variety of coverages, depending on opponent and game plan, in the back end. I do agree, though, that they seem to struggle more in zone coverage, although that's certainly an observational view from afar. They haven't covered well enough in man or zone in my opinion. And initial reports regarding Gronkowski are that it's not a serious back injury and he's not expected to miss more time after sitting out the final three-plus quarters on Sunday in New York.

Andy Hart

And this piece of glass named Gronk wanted even more money?! Is there any part of him which isn't broke yet?

Jim L.

Yeah, his elite hands are in perfect shape. And his legs, which have allowed him to lead the league with a 21.6-yard average, have looked good since he returned from his hamstring injury. I know fans are emotional and reactionary in their criticisms of Gronkowski right now, so I'm going to be emotional and reactionary in my defense of him. Hopefully that will balance things out and allow us to come together in a rational middle ground! And I will never question a player for trying to get more money or use whatever leverage they have as NFL careers are fleeting.

Andy Hart

Hey guys, what are the Patriots doing to address their time management issues at the end of the half? At the end of the half against the Jets, we had the ball and just finished running a play with about 35 seconds left which was a completed pass. We also had one timeout left. Instead of running up and spiking the ball or utilizing the timeout, the Patriots let the clock run down, only got one more play off (an incomplete pass to Mitchell in the end zone) and had 6 seconds left. Then Gostkowski came on and missed the long field goal, and the Patriots never used that timeout. At the very least they could've gotten closer to make the field goal a shorter attempt and easier. This is not the first time the Patriots have left points on the field due to poor clock management at the end of the half. It seems very un-Patriot-like for them to know there is an issue and not to address it. What are your thoughts on this?

John Beston

Hi Guys,

I attended Sunday's game against the Jets. I was very disappointed in the clock management at the end of the first half. After completing a pass for a first down to the Jets 21 yard line with 28 seconds left, the Patriots opted not to stop the clock. I thought they should have clocked it and retained their one remaining time out. This would allow them to attack the entire field and still be able to stop the clock for a field goal attempt. Instead, they ended up with 1 shot into the end zone and the clock at 6 seconds. Knowing the Jets were receiving the second half kickoff, a score there would have been huge. It seemed very un-patriot like. Your thoughts? Thank you.

Gary Madera

East Hanover, NJ

The Patriots will certainly look to improve on what was clearly poor time management on Sunday at the end of the first half. Belichick said after the game he wanted to save the timeout for the field goal. As it played out, he never needed it or used it. Brady has voiced his displeasure with the way he and the team handled the situation. New England usually does a very good job in situational football and clock management. That was not the case in a few instances on Sunday. You can be sure those will be broken down and addressed to ensure they don't come up again in the future. That said, Gostkowski still needs to hit the 39-yard field goal. Missing that is simply unacceptable.

Andy Hart

Is it just me or are there more players this season that Belichick cut/traded that are flourishing with their new teams? It wasn't too long ago that you expected a surprise Belichick cut to fail the following season leading all the "In Bill We Trust" Kool-Aid drinkers to acknowledge his greatness in personnel moves. But this season, it seems more of these players are enjoying success in their new homes. It's already been discussed that Jones, Collins, Hicks and even Easley are having good years and are much better than their cheaper Patriots replacements. But now, you see Daryl Roberts and AJ Derby making plays. Both could have helped us this season, both would be cheap for a couple more years, and both ended up helping our rivals. I don't understand why he has been gutting the roster since last offseason.

Chris C.

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You are right in that Belichick has generally done a very good job over the years knowing when to let go of talent and not seeing too many guys have a ton of success in other places. But many of the past guys he let go were those on second contracts, older players who were probably on the back side of their careers. This current group includes former high draft picks early in their career looking to cash in on their youthful potential. Certainly Jones is a good player having a good year in a new home. But I think most of us expected that to happen. The question for him wasn't about his talent but more his value and the type of contract he was going to get. And when you include the specific situations at cornerback and tight end in regards to the low-level guys the Patriots have let go at those positions certainly a case can be made that Belichick's roster moves over the last year have been somewhat questionable when taken as a whole. Of course there have been some nice, productive additions such as rookie draft picks Joe Thuney and Malcolm Mitchell. Martellus Bennett has been a productive trade addition. And the evaluations are still out on the likes of Eric Rowe and Kyle Van Noy. We probably have to let this and maybe a couple future seasons play out before we can fairly and accurately assess the way Belichick has handled the roster over the last year or so.

Andy Hart

With Brady, Gronk and Bennett not at 100% healthy and the playoff race so close. First of all, how serious are their injuries? And even if they can play like Gronk did last weekend will it be worth to rush 'em to return next week risk 'em to get a major injury? How do you think the team will manage those injuries? Will they bring another TE or will rely only Develin as backup TE?. And I don't want to get to pessimist but, in the case Brady has to take some time out because of injuries are Garoppolo and Brissett healthy and ready enough to do what they did at the beginning of the season? We all well remember last season's attrition, so I hope the team manage to find a way to reach January at full strength and health.

Victor Galicia

I don't think any of the three players you mention are dealing with what I would consider major injuries. Brady (knee) seemed hopeful that he's improving and will be healthier on Sunday than he was against the Jets. Bennett continues to battle through his ankle issue that's an on-going problem, which may need to be managed at some point if it can't turn a corner for the positive. One thing we know, though, is that based on history Brady is not going to miss time or sit out games. He said on Sunday it was not a consideration in New York and other than missing 2008 to a torn ACL he's always battled through a variety of injuries to play each week. I expect he'll do that again. Garoppolo is fully healthy and has not been listed on the injury report in many weeks. Brissett (thumb) is currently on IR but Belichick has certainly inferred that the rookie quarterback could return to the roster, which he is now eligible to do. The backup situation is strong, although barring a major issue I don't see it being relevant. There is a better chance that Gronkowski and Bennett have their injuries managed, but in reality when guys are cleared to play by the medical staff they usually play. As I think they should.

Andy Hart

Hi Guys. Obviously like every other team come draft day we are looking to get the next batch of talent in. Is a true pass rusher becoming a necessity now before anything else? With the trade of Jones, the aging and positional move of Ninkovich and the disappearance of a soon-to-be-free-agent Sheard, will we grab someone early to pair with a promising Trey Flowers that can pressure the QB and give our secondary a break? If so... any early realistic targets that could be around at our pick spot? Thanks

Sean Harper

There is no question that the defensive end spot or a pass rusher could be a top priority in next spring's draft. Cornerback, running back, linebacker and tackle could also be areas to target. Obviously a lot of this hinges on how the Patriots handle their own free agents and what talent they bring in from the open market in March and early April. I'm a long way away from draft preparation, but a quick look at some online mock drafts found Kansas State's Jordan Willis as a possibility on the edge for New England via Pro Football Focus. Looking at a few other mock drafts, though, doesn't seem to show a lot of defensive end prospects in the area around the end of the first round. But a lot will change between now and April.

Andy Hart

Congrats TB12 on win 200. GOAT. Interesting the question today on Pats website is should the defense be more aggressive? YES but can they after Belichick (GOAT coach) traded away 2 of our best defensive players in Collins and Jones for almost nothing? I suspect they crossed him and also that Bill is a vindictive type and there is evidence of that. I wish he would lighten up a little (also with the press). Most times he is right but he has also cost us games and maybe another chance at SB last year by going on 4th downs and not kicking field goals. Please understand I admire him a lot but with all the credit he gets it must also be pointed out that he is not perfect and nor are any of us. Would I trade Belichick for another coach? Never, but I would not have traded Collins or Jones based on their performance. Would you please comment?

Rob Weldon

Port Elgin, Ontario

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I think we can all agree that not only is Belichick by far the best coach in the NFL today, but also one of the handful of best of all time. But that doesn't make him perfect, beyond criticism or free from questioning. The defense has, more often than not over the years, always been pretty conservative. It has been bend but don't break. It has come up with key plays and allowed plenty of plays. But in the end, it's generally good enough to win in conjunction with an elite Brady-led offense. Is that true this year? There is certainly reason to question that, even while the unit ranks No. 3 in the league in points allowed. The performance against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks – and the way Belichick and handled that game in regards to his defense – breeds concern. Removing top-end talent from the mix is a curious coaching/GM decision in the best interests of the football team. Either trade on its own would be one thing. But in combination it is curious, especially when you add in guys like Jabaal Sheard and Logan Ryan losing their starting jobs. Belichick will be judged much the same way his players are – on the field. He made decisions last fall that may have hurt the team's chances to win a Super Bowl. Time will tell if that's true again this fall, but the possibility exists.

Andy Hart

When the Seahawks beat the Patriots on their home turf, they also beat them up. Brady, Gronk are amongst the key playmakers who got physically beat up by Seattle. Meanwhile, Patriots D hardly have a player who can hit as hard as anyone on the entire Seattle roster. Year after year, BB drafts nice guys over bullies, and while they may be easier to coach, don't you think that this team can use a couple of enforcers like they had in the glory days when then had a bunch of hard hitters?

Stan C.

I have said all along that I think the defense, especially in the back end, could use a little more physicality. Neither Devin McCourty nor Duron Harmon are overly physical. Patrick Chung is, but most of his work comes in the box. Malcolm Butler is a pretty physical, but only when compared to other corners. No one in the mix would be mistaken for the likes of Lawyer Milloy, Rodney Harrison or even Eugene Wilson. Sometimes I think the changes in the game have eliminated the physicality in the back end of the defense, but watching Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor reminded me that it can still exist in the NFL under the modern rules.

Andy Hart

Never seen this topic discussed. Has there ever been any talk of turning James White into a slot receiver?

Billy Allen

I don't think that has been discussed much and I'm not sure it is a very good idea. I don't think White has the pure quickness and speed needed for a high-level slot receiver. He's at his best making linebackers and safeties miss. He would lose that advantage in the slot where he'd often be covered by cornerbacks. I like White a lot as a pass catching running back, but I don't really think his skills would convert to the slot.

Andy Hart

I know the NFL is looking into remodeling the playoffs but I think they are fine with the exception of one major problem that I can see: seeding should be done based on conference position. Same setup, 4 division winners, 2 wild cards and top 2 get a bye, however the seeds are decided by regular season record. I think this would be far better and fairer to have (for example) two of the AFC West teams host a playoff game rather than one of the terrible AFC South teams, barring a significant turnaround in fortunes. Having debated this with friends the biggest argument against it seems to be that teams with a soft division could get a cakewalk to a better seed but realistically I think that happens a lot anyway with the bye as teams in worse divisions win the division and qualify as winners, whereas this change would benefit teams like the currently 8-3 Giants who right now would have to visit the 6-5 Lions in the playoffs. What do you think of my proposition and is it too common sense/doesn't maximize profit enough for the NFL to consider it?

Alex Marr

The NFL has traditionally tried to maintain the value of the divisions. In some ways, I like it. But the reality is that it probably isn't the right system. Your proposal of seeding based on overall records is probably the right way to do it more often than not. Either system can have its outlier seasons, but the more games you win the more you should be rewarded for it. And it's hard to see a team running away with a high seed simply based on its six division games. Even though I'm generally against change in any form, I would probably be behind your idea, one that has been widely talked about in recent years.

Andy Hart

Looking to the future, if Butler isn't signed to a long term deal prior to 2017 I believe as an RFA he'll get circa $4m next year (I assume Patriots take the option) other than that the pickings at CB are very slim. Given that quoting Andy and Erik that CB (bar QB) is the hardest position in football how do you see us getting better at this position? My hope would be that Revis is cut by the Jets and we get a hungry pro who fits the scheme well wanting to come back and get another ring against a team he'll play twice. Do you think this is possible and/or likely? Do you think Revis is too far gone to offer the Pats any upside? Are there any hidden gems on the roster who could have a Butler-esque rise? Or do you see more draft busts (Cyrus Jones) coming?

Jason Rollinson

There is no question there are a lot of questions at cornerback moving forward. Butler will certainly be in the mix next year and likely beyond hopefully thanks to a long-term contract. But until that comes to fruition we can't assume it will work out. I have always thought that Logan Ryan is going to get some decent money in free agency and don't expect he'll be back. I've seen nothing to assume that any guy in the group of Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Justin Coleman or Cyrus Jones is a starting-caliber, full-time cornerback. Those of us who have been critical of Ryan in recent years may rethink our stances if that group is expected to fill the void. Likely, there will be at least one relatively high draft pick next year and free agent depth. I don't see Revis being part of that free agent plan. He looked really bad on Sunday. I don't envision him ever playing for short money. Cornerback has long been a year-to-year concern in New England and 2017 looks to be shaping up in that way.

Andy Hart

So, the Pats are 9-2. 3-1 in the division and 7-1 in the conference. Seems at worst they make the AFC championship game, at best, win it all. So why do I feel so frustrated???

Hermey The Great

This might be my favorite email of the week. It's so dead on. I agree with the entirety of it. But the reality is the Patriots are a flawed football team dealing with some injuries and slumping production in some areas. Of course most teams in the league are pretty flawed. I will be stunned if the Patriots fail to reach the AFC Championship for a record sixth straight January assuming there are no derailing injuries. Earlier in the year I had the team penciled into the Super Bowl. I don't feel quite as confident in that now. We watch the team closely. We see its flaws on a weekly basis. But the same can be said about all the rest of the teams in the NFL well, most on a much larger level than New England.

Andy Hart

It is too painful, as a Patriots fan, to watch week after week as they get zero pressure on the QB. If they lose in the postseason, do you think this will be a significant factor? It's just too conservative and really boring.

Jim Castellone

The three most likely factors in a potential season-ending loss are the offensive line, the pass rush and the coverage in the back end. It's the same issues and questions we had entering the season. Pass rush may be the area fans most target and area most want to see a change in scheme/style. Many have asked for more aggressive play and blitzing. But that could lead to far more big plays allowed and a new set of issues. All three areas need to improve. All three can be overcome but certainly should not be overlooked as potential stumbling blocks at this point.

Andy Hart

No huddle? Why are the Pats using this anymore, it worked great for them in the past? At the rate they are playing now (I am in the second qtr of the Jets game) they will be lucky to even make the Super Bowl. I have never seen them play this bad on defense.

Cindy Quinn

I think there are two key factors that have cut down on the Patriots no-huddle up-tempo attack. The first is the team's defense. I think there is a hesitancy to go too quickly on offense, a style that might put the defense on the field quicker, more often and for longer periods of game action. Second is the fact that New England is doing as much substituting and mixing of personnel as maybe they ever have. You can't do that if you want to go no-huddle or up tempo. I would actually like to see less personnel changing. When healthy I'm OK with guys like Gronkowski, Bennett, Edelman, Hogan and one of the backs staying on the field together for extended action. I think those guys create matchup issues without having to sub out every snap. But right now Josh McDaniels and the rest of the offensive coaches don't seem to think that more consistent personnel is the right plan of attack.

Andy Hart

I use to want to play the Cowboys in the Super Bowl but now I'm not so sure. Do you think we could beat them? They have the better line and the better wideouts while we have the better QB (although theirs is faster). We have the better tight end (Although theirs is good). Our slot receivers are very comparable between Beasley and Edelman. They also have the better running back while we have the better coach. How would you predict this game would end? Be honest.

Robert Miles

I'm always honest. Honest. I would very much welcome a matchup between the Patriots and the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. It would be a huge, fun game. Both teams have a lot of elite talent on offense. I also think the defenses would find it hard to stop the other team in both cases. New England would have a huge advantage in experience at quarterback and head coach. Huge. Right now the Cowboys are playing really well. The Patriots are not playing their best football. If they both were playing at a high level on the first Sunday in February I think it would be a competitive, exciting battle. I would pick the Patriots to win a close, relatively high scoring game. It's fun to think about, but it's also still a long way away for both historic franchises.

Andy Hart

Am I alone in thinking Danny Amendola and his production could be replaced with better value? Perhaps use some of his money on Martellus for a couple years? With Malcolm Mitchell's progress and Hogan's success, plus the running backs, in my opinion Bennett would be far more valuable than Amendola over the next couple seasons. With Gronk's seemingly endless injuries it just seems to make sense to try to keep Bennett. Am I delusional?

Scott Knox

Most people assume that after a couple years in a row cutting his contract that Amendola may be playing out his final season in Foxborough with a cap number for next year set to more than double to almost $8 million. He definitely won't be around at that money, if at all. Clearly Mitchell is playing his way into a growing role down the stretch this year and certainly into his second season. Hogan has been solid and is very much a part of the future. I'm not as sold on Bennett as most people seem to be. He's had up and down production at times while battling an ankle injury. I'll also admit his history of falling out of favor in past career stops stills scares me. I'd be careful investing too much money and too much faith in him. But reports have already indicated that the Patriots will make him a priority to re-sign this offseason.

Andy Hart

Hey guys, big Pats fan from Ireland. When I saw the comments from Belichick the other day about Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia being candidates from head coaching jobs, it got me thinking who would be the candidates for the Pats job if Belichick retired at the end of this season. I know there's probably 1% chance of him retiring at the end of the year but it got me curious. McDaniels would be an obvious option but who else do you think? Would any college coaches be looked at? Saban or Urban Meyer perhaps?

Thanks fellas!

Adam Connor

McDaniels is a clear option. If you made me pick a college coach, I would think that Meyer might be in the mix. Robert Kraft has been on the sideline for his team's games at times in the past and I wonder if he might give Meyer a chance to jump to the pros. Beyond those to, it's hard to really imagine anyone trying to replace Belichick. Fortunately for New England, I don't think it's an issue anyone has to worry about at this point. But you never know for sure when the end will come.

Andy Hart

Hello!  As good and dependable as James White has been, there's no doubt about it that Dion Lewis is faster and shiftier than him. As a Pats fan, I want Lewis on the field as much as possible. What are the least and most scenarios for how much Dion Lewis will get on the field for the remainder of the season?

Thanks!

Roland Deschain

I think you will see Lewis' role continue to grow as the season wears on and as he works back to full form after missing a year to a torn ACL. That said, I don't want to see White totally removed from the mix. I think he has proven himself a capable, reliable option as a pass catcher. He's made a ton of plays for this offense in the last year-plus and I'd like to see that continue. Lewis, though, is better as a rushing threat out of the backfield and that's what makes him a more dangerous, unpredictable option in one-back sets for the Patriots. When he's at his best and the offense is at full health, I think he's a part of spread, one-back sets that put a ton of stress on a defense.

Andy Hart

I just had a quick question. Do you guys think we will get to see Cyrus Jones get some more action at the corner position? Seeing the back of Logan Ryan's jersey and getting torched 90% of the game is frustrating and makes me wonder why the team doesn't give Cyrus a chance to show what he's worth. He's shown his athleticism and makes me scratch my head as to why Logan Ryan is still on the field getting burned.

Ryan Smith

Hello from Canada, I got a question about our secondary. It seems that we have our No. 1 in Butler and our No. 2 Logan Ryan looked a lot more like himself. However our nickel corner has always been lacking since the departure of Kyle Arrington. Honestly Eric Rowe seems like a walking pass interference in the slot, and Justin Coleman has to take his talents back to Tennessee to be a proper corner. Why isn't Cyrus Jones given another shot due to the inefficiency of Eric and Justin?

Ahmed Saeed

I have to be honest, I've not seen much from Jones dating all the way to summer action leading me to believe he's ready to play at a high level on defense, especially in the slot. As I said earlier he got beat easily by Hawkins in Cleveland, maybe his most significant playing time before being ejected for throwing a punch. He struggled mightily in the slot in joint practice and preseason game action. He may still have a bright future and potential, but given all the movement at cornerback in recent weeks that hasn't really included him I have to assume Belichick just doesn't think he's ready right now. Maybe that can change in the coming weeks and months. I have my doubts. He's had a tough rookie year and I don't have much confidence that he's ready to boost the back end. That said, I understand the question given the inconsistent and poor play in that area. Rowe does seem like he's on the verge of a flag on every snap and to me still looks like a safety trying to play cornerback. The rest have been less than stellar. It's a work in progress to say the least, which Belichick has admitted, with few great options to turn to.

Andy Hart

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