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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu May 16 - 02:00 PM | Tue May 21 - 11:55 AM

Ask PFW: Injury concerns, looking for depth

Injuries have fans worried and we try to alleviate some of those in this week's Ask PFW mailbag.

Why does Paul go on and on about the need to bring in a "lead" back? LeGarrette Blount is my favorite player in the entire league who will give us 12 carries for 72 yards every game behind Dante's offensive line.

Ralph Colucci*

My feelings about Blount are pretty simple: he's not capable to being the only option between the tackles. His numbers will always look better than his actual performance because he will stick in a solid game here and there against a poor defense that will inflate the overall production. He'll turn in a few games where he'll average 4.5 or 5 yards per carry with a long run or two, but on a weekly basis he will be average at best. He's not a particularly good short-yardage runner and he often hesitates in the backfield. Blount is fine as long as there's another option to operate between the tackles with him. I don't like the idea of relying on him and I believe there will be some decent options available toward the end of the preseason. I've talked a lot about teams with a glut of running backs like Kansas City, Tennessee and Dallas. Someone will be available and I hope the Patriots take advantage.
Paul Perillo

I know this might sound premature but I like what I'm seeing from the cornerback play so far. Who do you think makes the team from what you've seen so far? Do you think Bill Belichick will opt to keep more of the new guys seeing as how Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan are potential free agents? I know Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins are priorities and that might not leave enough money to resign one or both CBs for that point.

Clarens Jarbath*

I think the young corners on the roster have been competitive during camp and at times in the preseason games. I'm still not convinced the top-end talent is where it needs to be, however. Butler is solid as the No. 1 guy but Ryan hasn't been very good in practice and until recently was still wearing a red, non-contact jersey. I don't know if the injury was part of it but he's been beaten many times during camp. Justin Coleman was having a strong camp until he ran into some trouble in the games, especially against Chicago's Alshon Jeffery. It should be noted that Coleman was playing outside against Jeffery and not the slot where he normally lines up. That created a matchup he's not had much experience with and he didn't handle it well. Cyrus Jones has been up and down in terms of coverage but he's obviously a lock to make the roster. Assuming Coleman sticks that makes four, which could leave room for one more. The group of Cre'von LeBlanc, Jonathan Jones and Darryl Roberts has been competitive and all have had their moments. I'd take LeBlanc but certainly could be talked into either of the other two.
Paul Perillo

I have to say this - Patriots offensive line is a mess injury-wise. Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason are hurt, Jonathan Cooper is coming off major leg injuries, Sebastian Vollmer could be headed for IR, back-up Josh Kline is hurt and Marcus Cannon has been hurt every season, and Bryan Stork has concussion history. So basically, the Patriots have only three starting linemen Joe Thuney, David Andrews and Nate Solder they can count on at this moment. And without a top-rated RB, the running game is not looking great. So why not let Vollmer go and bring in a top-notch RB who can move chains even with a mediocre offensive line?


You certainly detailed the health situation along the offensive line quite extensively and I share your overall concern about this group. The line has been spotty at best in recent years and the injuries won't do much to keep everything operating smoothly. I'm not sure about the correlation between letting go of Vollmer and adding a running back though. The team could certainly sign or trade for a running back regardless of Vollmer's status. It doesn't look like Vollmer is going to be able to play this season and it's possible the team could let him go and save some money, but not a ton (somewhere around $1 million). The money wouldn't enable the Patriots to acquire anyone that they couldn't otherwise so there's no real connection between Vollmer and any additional personnel. Your overall concern about the line is valid, however.
Paul Perillo

Should the Patriots look at running back Karlos Williams or trade for one with Dion Lewis out 2 months? Also with Vollmer going on IR I don't trust Cannon, but could they look into Jake Long or see Eugene Monroe will come out of retirement?

Marco Silveira*

With Karlos Williams being released, is that someone the Patriots could pick up? Seems like a very god fit aside from the off-field issues.

Michael Velasquez*

I would be quite surprised if the Patriots went after Williams. This is a guy who had some domestic abuse accusations against him in college (even if they were eventually dropped), is currently suspended for four games and has dealt with some weight issues this offseason. There seems to be a lot of baggage around a second-year player who Buffalo cut ties with despite a fairly successful rookie season that saw him notch nine touchdowns. I wouldn't say never but I'd be surprised. As for the tackles, Long looks like he's shot physically but both he and Monroe would be interesting options. Monroe appears more interested in getting marijuana legalized in the NFL than actually playing, but given the Patriots situation at tackle it might be worth looking into.
Paul Perillo

Hi guys, about our RT situation with Vollmer headed to IR, are we likely sticking with Cannon at RT? Having watched snaps between the pair I'd feel far more confident flipping LaAdrian Waddle over from backup LT to start at RT in place of Cannon? Is this worth doing or thinking about?

Sean Harper*

This is clearly one of the biggest concerns facing Patriots fans this week. Cannon at right tackle has many people searching for options but I'm not sure there's a better one that currently exists. Waddle has been average during camp and the preseason thus far. Moving him to the right side would by no means fix the problem. Cannon's best stretch of play as a Patriot has come at right tackle, and he performed reasonably well there against Chicago in the second preseason game. He's not perfect and the line remains a major concern but unless someone becomes available – or if a veteran like Long or Monroe is seen as a realistic option – Cannon appears to be the best option.
Paul Perillo

I have a confession ... I like preseason games, a lot!  I have for decades. I also like the fact that we get to see the local flavor of the game on TV. I like Christian Fauria doing the play by play. Paul and Andy, great seeing and hearing you on TV.  I read your comments, and I see Paul on "All Access" with Mike (who I think is great, despite having to work for ESPN) and it's that extra local commentary and replays that I miss once the regular season gets going. Paul said the lead back maybe isn't on the team yet. Interesting, I fear Lewis starts on PUP, I think Tyler Gaffney looks good so far, but not sure how long he will hold up, and other than that I think we know what we have with 29- three long runs in a year, dangerous for a big man once he gets going, but 1 yard when he has to move in the backfield.  Cold weather bruising runner I am hoping for ala Dillon, remember?

Michael Monk*

Thanks for all the kind words. It's funny that ever since I made the comment about the running back not being on the roster people have brought it up constantly. I may have said that a bit more strongly than I intended but it doesn't change my opinion that the Patriots need another option when it comes to running the football. I agree totally with your assessment of Blount. He'll dazzle at times but lacks consistency. I'm intrigued by Gaffney but not totally sold, and his injury history is a concern. I believe Belichick needs to find one, and he spoke recently about the large number of players that will soon be available across the league. I'd be stunned if the team doesn't add a running back to the mix at some point before the start of the season.
Paul Perillo

With AJ Derby seeming to outplay Clay Harbor as a pass catching tight end and securing the spot on the depth chart, will Harbor be cut or will his ability to block and play FB earn him a spot regardless?

Caleb Kittell*

Great question and it will be interesting to see how Belichick plays this one. I feel both Derby and Harbor are more athletic, pass catchers than blockers and I feel Derby, as you said, has outplayed the veteran in that role. I believe Derby should stick and if that's the case I don't see Harbor staying since he's not really known as a blocker and doesn't offer much in that regard. It's possible that Belichick opts for the experience and tries to get Derby on the practice squad – or decided to keep both – but that would be unlikely. I'd go with Derby and let Harbor go.
Paul Perillo

I am a huge James Develin fan and after last year's early trip to IR I can't wait to see him play. It seems like he has not been featured much this preseason. Is that because Belichick knows what he has and wants to see other players or is he hiding a multi-faceted offensive player from the rest of the league?

Pat Keogh*

Fairfax, Vt.*

Wow, I don't even think our resident Develin fanatic Andy Hart would describe his game as multi-faceted. Develin is a solid fullback who is respected in the locker room and when healthy can provide blocking and pass catching at times. He's not the kind of player who would ever be "featured" in the offense but rather serves as a piece to the puzzle. He's been pretty active throughout training camp and could factor into the mix at tight end as well, but I don't think Belichick is holding him back at all.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, life-long fan from the West Coast. I would love to know what you think concerning Blount. The way I see it, Blount is not consistent and at times looks completely unmotivated when he gets the rock. I would love to see him cut and replaced with someone with a similar skill set to run between the tackles who will give us more consistency. My potential idea for a trade target would be Alfred Morris. With the Cowboys drafting Zeke at No. 4 overall and with a loaded backfield I feel like we could grab him cheap in terms of pick value and his current contract is team friendly too. Not to mention, he definitely looks like he would fit the Patriot way as well.

Blake Wright*

My views on Blount have ben well-established already so I won't repeat them other than to say I agree with your assessment other than his lack of motivation. I don't view that as his problem. With regard to Morris I don't see the Cowboys trading him away after signing him as a free agent considering, as you said, his contract is nothing too extreme to handle. He would provide some insurance for Elliott, who has already dealt with injuries. Darren McFadden, who is also on the Cowboys depth chart at running back, might be a different story. As I've said, Belichick will be adding a running back from somewhere before the start of the season.
Paul Perillo

I've heard a lot from you guys about how good Joe Thuney looks. Do you see him starting this upcoming season? Also, how does Jonathan Cooper look? I haven't heard much about how he has been in practice.

Rusty Shackleford*

Belichick wouldn't quite say Thuney has locked down the starting job at left guard recently, but he did say the rookie was pretty close to doing so. That's pretty impressive for a rookie to earn that kind of trust from Belichick so quickly. He's been steady every day since the spring manning the left guard position. As for Cooper, the reason uou haven't heard much about him is he hasn't practiced since early on in training camp. He suffered a foot injury (reportedly dealing with plantar fasciitis) and hasn't been seen on the field since.
Paul Perillo

What are the chances that Aaron Dobson sticks at wide receiver?

Franklin Wallace*

This one is almost entirely dependent on the health of those around him. At this point Danny Amendola remains on PUP, Keshawn Martin is just getting back to practice after missing a couple of weeks and Malcolm Mitchell is recovering from a dislocated elbow. If all of those guys are ready to go at the start of the season, then Dobson's chances are slim. Adding Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan in addition to the aforementioned trio, that makes five receivers. Nate Washington hasn't been especially impressive and Dobson has been more consistent this summer than he's been in the past so he could squeak out a spot. My gut feeling is Dobson will stick around initially as others return to full health but he won't finish the season with the Patriots.
Paul Perillo

What is the latest on signing key defensive players? I am really concerned as nothing seems to be happening. Thanks, you do a great job!

Don Cormier*

In this case no news is bad news because I haven't read a thing about any potential contract extensions for any of the pending free agents. It's certainly possible that negotiations are going on behind the scenes but at this point I don't think any of the high-profile free agents like Hightower, Collins or Butler are close to re-signing.
Paul Perillo

As for possible Running Back alternatives what do you guys think about possibly giving up a late-round pick for Benny Cunningham of the Rams? I thought he looked explosive in their game against the Cowboys and with Todd Gurley being the workhorse for that team Les Snead and Jeff Fisher might be open to fielding offers for him. Love the show and keep up the good work guys.

Matt Dow*

The Patriots actually met with Cunningham back in March when he was a restricted free agent before he wound up sticking with the Rams. He has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield but hasn't been an overly productive runner in his career (career average of 4.3 yards per carry despite limited attempts often in passing situations). He would be an option considering the team once had interest but he'd be an underwhelming addition to the current corps.
Paul Perillo

I'm looking forward to the season being only a few weeks away over here in England. What has happened to Vincent Valentine? He is rarely mentioned in the camp notes or blogservations but was a relatively high draft pick in the third round.

Mark Bennett*

Valentine has been pretty quiet this summer. He hasn't received many reps with front-line players and when he has gotten them he doesn't seem to do much with them. He's been pushed around at times and doesn't provide much of a pass rush when working in 1-on-1 drills. He's just a rookie and likely will be sticking around but thus far I haven't seen much from him.
Paul Perillo

Any sense that Julian Edelman is being prepped as an emergency QB for the first four games?

Joe Peretti*

None at all. He hasn't consistently been on the practice field and when he has it's always been strictly as a wide receiver. As an aside I'm not sure why people are so fixated on an emergency quarterback this season when the Patriots have typically kept just two quarterbacks in recent years. As an example, Jimmy Garoppolo served as the lone backup as a rookie in 2014 and no one wondered if Edelman was being prepped as an emergency quarterback then. Jacoby Brissett was selected one round later this year and people seem concerned that someone needs to be ready just in case Garoppolo gets injured. Not sure why that's the case.
Paul Perillo

What have been the biggest surprises both positive and negative so far this camp?

Dave DeLuca*

Always a tough question to answer but I'll give a couple on each side. Positive surprises for me would be the play of AJ Derby and Tyler Gaffney. Both have been consistent and productive on the field every day. I'd also throw Kamu Grugier-Hill into that mix. He's been very active on defense and shown the ability to get his hands on a lot of passes. I don't chart meaningless practice statistics but I'd bet that Grugier-Hill leads the team in training camp interceptions. On the flip side, I've been less-than-impressed by Terrance Knighton and Clay Harbor. I thought those two veterans would add depth to the roster but at this point I'm not sure either one will even make it.
Paul Perillo

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