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Ask PFW: Jimmy Garoppolo's time to shine

Hey guys, Patriots fan up here in Calgary. If Tom Brady's suspension is upheld and Jimmy Garoppolo gets the first four starts, if the run game isn't particularly effective for whatever reason, do we have a good chance to still end up at 3-1 or do you see a 2-2 more likely?

Shaun Rempel*

I feel the schedule during the first month of the season is perfect for the Patriots should they be forced to go without Tom Brady in September. With three home games among the first four, including three straight with one on a Thursday night, I see no reason why the team wouldn't be able to finish that stretch at 3-1. Road teams have a tough time in those Thursday night affairs, and the other two at Gillette are against division opponents who haven't had much success in Foxborough in recent years. I also believe there will be some added pressure on the Dolphins and Bills playing against the Patriots without Brady, and that could help New England's case as well. If Miami and Buffalo can't be the Patriots without their quarterback, then when will they be able to do so? Garoppolo will have Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett to throw to and basically the entire defense ready to go. He should have more than enough around him to make sure the Patriots don't fall into an early hole, even if the league gets its way and forces Brady to sit.
Paul Perillo

With Michael Williams gone don't you think the Patriots have to make a move for the third TE spot? They always value a blocking TE for the third spot. Is anyone on the roster a better blocker than I'm aware? I was a bit surprised by the signings at the position, because all of them are sort of OK receivers, OK blocker types.

David Pineo*

The Patriots do seem to prefer having a blocker serve as the third tight end and Clay Harbor and the rest of the tight end depth chart doesn't fit that description. But there are some options available that could serve in such a role including fullback James Develin, who spent the entire spring working with the tight ends. He can certainly fill a blocking role as a reserve if Bill Belichick wants to go in that direction. He can also use his backup tackles – LaAdrian Waddle perhaps? – in such a role. Clay Harbor, AJ Derby, Steven Scheu and Bryce Williams are all smaller, "move" tight ends who look like they can catch the ball a bit but aren't considered physical players. So it's possible that Belichick will have to get creative if he feels the role is important enough to address.
Paul Perillo

Are we looking at any significant turnover, losses or gains for special teams this year? Have we seen any new speedy bodys that look like real kick return threats with Julian Edelman being removed from this area?

Mike Fisichella*

I don't know anything about Edelman being officially removed as the punt returner this year but it certainly would make sense if Belichick wanted to decrease the wear and tear on both he and Danny Amendola in that department this year. During camp Rookies Cyrus Jones and Malcolm Mitchell both saw plenty of reps as returners and it's possible they could be groomed for roles this year. Training camp and preseason will likely tell us more, although it's possible Edelman and Amendola could be limited during the summer as they recover from injuries. I'd expect to see Jones at least get a chance to return some punts since he was dynamic in that regard in college.
Paul Perillo

Read an article on how different OL coaching techniques can affect the players' performance and that coach Dave DeGuglielmo taught different techniques from coach Dante Scarnecchia, which is one of the reasons the OL play last season was abyssal, and I am baffled - why would coach BB allow coach "G" to teach new techniques especially considering that there is a coaching change and continuity is even more important in transition? Besides, coach "G" was not a newcomer, so why would he teach new things at least for a first year till the line full of newcomers proves itself. Makes no sense.

Jerry Y.*

I'm not sure what you read and I'm not familiar with an article that specifically said the techniques were all different under Guge but it would certainly make sense for any coach to want to implement his own style and manner of doing things. In 2014 when the offensive line greatly cut back on the number of sacks it allowed from 2013 (Brady was sacked 40 times in 2013 under Scarnecchia while he was dropped just 21 times in 2014 under DeGuglielmo), I don't remember many people complaining about any new techniques or philosophies. Last year, with a number of rookies in the starting lineup and several injuries to deal with, things didn't go well. It seems to me the easy thing to blame, especially after DeGuglielmo was let go, is the coach. I'm not sure how much better things would have been had Scarnecchia been in charge given the circumstances. What I do believe is Scarnecchia is an excellent coach and has lots more experience than Guge so I feel things will improve this season. But I also feel with a year of experience plus some additions made that the line in better situated for success this season regardless.
Paul Perillo

There are rumblings that either Edelman and/or Amendola may start the season on the PUP list. What are the requirements/rules for this list and how many players can be on it?

Erik L.*

First, I wouldn't assume that either player will open on PUP. There's still plenty of time left before those decisions need to be made. As for the rules, in order for any player to start the regular season on PUP he must open training camp on the list as well. The league has two distinctions in this regard: active/PUP and reserve/PUP. Active means he remains on the 90-man roster as he continues to rehab from an injury. Once he returns to practice during camp, he no longer is eligible to open the season on PUP. If the player remains on active/PUP throughout camp and preseason, he is then eligible to open the regular season on reserve/PUP. In that case he is removed from the 53-man roster and must sit out at least the first six weeks of the season. At that point he may start to practice for as long as three weeks while the team decides whether or not to activate him. Teams also have three weeks beginning after Week 6 to decide if the player can begin practicing. So it would be possible for a player to sit the first nine weeks, then practice for three weeks and be activated after Week 12. If the player is still not able to be activated, he would revert to injured reserve and would have to sit out the entire season. Also, there is no limit to the amount of players a team can place on both active/ and reserve/PUP.
Paul Perillo

Why don't we trade for Alshon Jeffery, give up a third-round pick? All of our draft pick WRs have not been stellar so let's give up a pick and bring in one that is at least competent. Then we pick up Roddy White and Andre Johnson at least for training camp? Jeffery should make the team unless he's a Chad Johnson, and we kick the tires on the other two. If we get three quarters of Randy Moss out of any of them then it's a win. We only have three, maybe four years of Brady left and need to go ALL IN!!!!

Mike Anders*

Nothing like coming back from vacation and finding a solid trade proposal to snap me back to reality. So Chicago used its franchise tag on Alshon Jeffery, who has two 80-plus-catch, 1,000-plus-yard seasons in his four years under his belt, and now they're going to trade him for a third-round pick? I understand that veterans sometimes get less than you think on the trade market but it wouldn't make any sense for Chicago to be willing to pay him the franchise tag only to trade him for such a low price. Not likely. I also don't have much need for Andre Johnson or Roddy White, both of whom seem well past their prime. I actually liked what I saw from Malcolm Mitchell during the spring so I'm not sure why you are underwhelmed by the rookies. I think with Edelman, Amendola, Gronkowski Bennett, Chris Hogan, Keshawn Martin and Mitchell there is a really solid group of pass catchers for Brady to work with. If the Bears wanted to give me Jeffery for a third … sure I'd take it but that's not going to happen.
Paul Perillo

Is football evolving to a disappearance of the 3-technique defensive tackle position or is it only with Patriots? I mean with disappearance, defensive ends being used as inside rushers but without specialized players for this position. Why is this happening? How many DT do Pats need to carry on the roster?

George Ladeira*

I'm not sure there's been any disappearance in the 3-technique in New England or anywhere else. The Patriots have often had their defensive lineman employ a two-gap approach, which places them head up on the offensive lineman they oppose. The Patriots have used four-man fronts in recent seasons with two defensive tackles – Malcom Brown and Alan Branch last year – working out of the 3-technique depending on their exact positioning. Many teams, the Patriots included, are using additional pass rushers to work from the inside (think Jabaal Sheard and Chandler Jones at times last season) to replace those bigger defensive tackles. Not every team has players like Geno Atkins and Aaron Donald who can play the run and get pressure on the passer consistently so often times teams like to mix and match personnel. So while players like the Giants Justin Tuck back in the day wouldn't be considered defensive tackles, they played the spot effectively in sub situations. I don't believe this is in an effort to phase out the run-stuffing defensive tackles but rather it's a way to be more specialized depending on the situation. Currently the Patriots have Brown, Branch and Terrance Knighton plus Markus Kuhn and Vincent Valentine as potential 3-technique types. In addition, it wouldn't be surprising to see someone like Chris Long line up inside in passing situations. Just a different variation for teams to consider.
Paul Perillo

If memory serves me correct, Tom was not "officially" the second QB on the depth chart in 2001 when he took over for Drew Bledsoe. My question is do you see any possibility that Jacoby Brissett outshines Jimmy Garoppolo during camp/preseason and ends up starting the first four games this September?

Jason C.*

First, your memory has failed you because Brady was indeed "officially" Bledsoe's backup at the start of the 2001 season while Damon Huard served as No. 3. It's OK, it happens to all of us at some point. Second, I really can't see the scenario you're describing unfolding this summer. Brady was entering his second season with New England while Huard was just coming in and learning the offense. Not to mention that Brady wound up being arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play. Brissett is just a rookie and he looked very much like a raw prospect while throwing the ball during the spring. Garoppolo is entering his third training camp and has much more experience and comfort in the system. Expecting Brissett to out-perform Garoppolo would be borderline stunning. While I would never dismiss the possibility, I wouldn't expect it to happen.
Paul Perillo

Seeing that Tom Brady is in his last few years, wouldn't it be fun to watch the Patriots do something crazy to help him out? Maybe like trade Logan Ryan and a second-round draft pick for Jimmy Graham or maybe try to talk Percy Harvin or Calvin Johnson out of retirement (I know he would belong to the Lions). Just something to give him a great shot?

Robert Miles*

Honestly I have no idea how these things get mentioned so often. Jimmy Graham? Why because the Patriots don't already have to the best tight end combination in the league with Gronk and Bennett? Not to mention that Graham has been injured and ineffective in recent years. Harvin is also damaged goods … if the Patriots wanted to take a flyer on him I wouldn't be opposed but he wouldn't be someone I would rely on given his health. Johnson would be awesome but you already answered your own question – he belongs to the Lions if he rethinks his decision to retire. Just to be clear, I feel the Patriots offense has more than enough weapons as constituted and I don't see the need to make any earth-shattering moves. Brady has plenty to work with.
Paul Perillo

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