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Replay: Best of Radio Thu Apr 18 - 02:00 PM | Tue Apr 23 - 11:55 AM

Ask PFW: Let the (preseason) games begin!

Two weeks into training camp action, fans have plenty of Ask PFW questions about the Patriots as the team prepares for Thursday night’s preseason opener at Gillette Stadium.

Does it seem as if there has been an unusually low amount of back-end roster transactions through the start of camp? Seems as if in the past Bill cycled the bottom five roster spots. Secondly, we've seen a couple contract extensions around the league (Brandon Linder and Lindval Joseph). Are there any Patriots you could see getting extended at this point of the year?
Scott Macone

The roster has been pretty quiet over the first week or so of camp, although the Patriots did add a couple receivers and a defensive end right at the beginning of the summer fun. Part of that could be the fact that New England has been relatively healthy at the start of camp, other than some minor issues at the wide receiver position. Things were actually similar last year. New England made a handful of roster moves leading into camp, but then didn't make a transaction between July 27 and Aug. 14. We are in that window right now. As for possible contract extensions, I would never rule it out with either higher-end players – left Nate Solder would seem to be the most likely candidate – or more complementary guys such as special teamer Brandon King. Clearly the dream signing for Patriots fans – and the player himself – would be a big-money extension for Malcolm Butler. But at this point I wouldn't think that is all that likely.
Andy Hart

No in-camp competition for Gostkowski? The misses are getting to be more than incidental.
Pete Clark

I'm a faithful PFW listener and reader, and I have a very important question that hasn't been brought up yet, and I think Paul would appreciate it. How has Steven Gostkowski looking at his advanced age? I wrote him off along the way last season and he managed to get back on track; also, is he the Patriots only place kicker left in camp? Cheers.
Checkle Grimes

As noted, Gostkowski is the only kicker in camp this summer for the Patriots. The team worked out trick shot, social media sensation Josh Gable in the offseason but nothing came of it. Gostkowski has indeed missed a few kicks early in camp, including two from 50-plus in joint work with the Jaguars on Monday. I've been labeled as Gostkowski apologist over the last year or so. Still, I'm not willing to say he's an issue at this point. It doesn't seem Bill Belichick feels that way either. Gostkowski mentioned this offseason that 2016 was a tough year for him both mentally and physically. So it's possible he dealt with an ailment of some sort last year. If so, that could be a reason to have much hope for a bounce back year. I also think the new playing surface at Gillette Stadium this fall will be more to his liking. Certainly Gostkowski's work is worth watching this preseason and into the regular campaign. But anything beyond that at this point would be foolhardy. 
Andy Hart

Are we going to see Big Vince sign a 1-day contract, to retire as a Patriot??????? No one is more deserving ! ! !
Christine Brown

The Patriots have called a press conference for Wednesday afternoon at Gillette Stadium for Vince Wilfork to announce his retirement. My guess is that the move will include a 1-day deal to allow him to retire as a Patriot – something that legendary long snapper Lonie Paxton did last week -- which would certainly be appropriate. Wilfork has always been a cherished member of the New England organization and even his departure for a couple seasons in Houston was done with professionalism and respect flowing between he and the organization. Wilfork's contributions on and off the field in Foxborough can't be overstated.
Andy Hart


Outside of defensive end and interior offensive line, this appears to be the deepest roster that Bill Belichick has ever had. Is there a 'Jenga' player, without whom the chances of a successful season, let alone winning Super Bowl LII, come tumbling down? I used to think the two most likely candidates were Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, but we went 3-1 without Brady and 5-0 – including Super Bowl LI – without Gronk. I believe Belichick could go at least .500 with 53 players from the CFL, but are Brady and Gronk still the team's MVPs, or are Dont'a Hightower, Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Alan Branch, David Andrews, Julian Edelman, Devin McCourty and either Malcom Butler or Stephon Gilmore as crucial to team success?
David Beckett

Love the term "Jenga player." Not sure if that's your terminology or not, but I may steal it. There is no question that Brady very much remains the top and maybe only "Jenga player" in New England. As much as the hype hit all-time highs for Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason, anyone who has watched training camp sees the huge drop off from No. 12 to the rest of the quarterbacks on the field, including Jacksonville's visiting passers. Brady remains the best and the straw that stirs the entirety of the New England drink. Could they win the Super Bowl without him? Maybe. Is it likely? No. I would still put Gronkowksi next on the list, but he's a distant second. Beyond those two, the team is so deep in so many areas it is well set up to overcome personnel losses that will almost inevitably come at some point.
Andy Hart

Hi guys just a quick question. Do you think Belichick will continue to take the safe way with Gronk meaning he won't play at all during preseason, or we have a chance to see him back (it didn't protect really him last year finally to bench) during preseason?
Versailles, France

My guess is that Gronkowski will see very limited preseason action if he plays at all. He was hurt in joint practices with the Bears last year and has a history of limited summer game time. I would keep it that way. He's looked very good in his practice action this summer, looking very much like the force he was prior to his third-career back surgery last December. I don't think Gronkowski needs to be on the preseason game field to get ready for the Sept. 7 opener. Belichick has been very cautious with certain pass catchers like Gronkowski, Deion Branch and Wes Welker over the years. I hope and expect for that to continue. Keeping Gronkowski out of preseason action certainly doesn't guarantee a healthier regular season, but it can't hurt. (See what I did there?)
Andy Hart

I know last year when they drafted Brissett, there was a need, at least for the first four games, to have a 3rd QB. This year it seems he's taking up a valuable roster spot if he stays on the 53-man roster beyond training camp. Think about it, if TB12 stays after this year and Jimmy G goes, then the Patriots should use the draft capital from the trade to go after Tom's replacement in the first round. They would then buy up to 4 years to develop this player behind Brady. In 2018, if Jimmy G stays and Brady goes, then the Patriots will probably opt for a veteran back up to Jimmy G, which makes more sense than keeping Jimmy G and Brissett as the QB tandem. In either case, I don't see the need to hang on to Brissett. If he was really pushing either Brady or Jimmy G for snaps, then maybe you could make a case to see if he's the successor to Brady. I think there's been enough of a sample size to realize that while he might be a serviceable backup on some other team, he's not in any way the long term answer for the Patriots, at least not enough to take up a spot on the 53-man roster. I would rather see the Patriots keep a Lucien or a Carr or a DJ Foster with the 53rd roster spot vacated by Brissett. What do you think?
Alan Bernstein

I think there is certainly some reason to question Brissett's future in New England. I have been disappointed with the growth or lack of growth I've seen from him this summer in terms of decision making and accuracy. Belichick was also less than praiseworthy when asked about his second-year passer. But it still is all based more on what the team thinks of Brissett's potential than anything else. Clearly they liked him enough to use a third-round pick. If they think he still has NFL potential – as a starter or even a very good backup – I think you hold onto him. The position is just too valuable to walk away too early. But if you decide he just doesn't have it, a decision that was correctly made in the past in the second summer the team worked with former third-round pick Kevin O'Connell, then moving on is the right call. To me it's totally a decision based on Brissett and his upside not about trying to save roster spots or sneak an extra receiver into the mix.
Andy Hart

Two questions for you guys:1) Do you think it's too early to cut bait with Cyrus Jones? I loved the pick at the time, but for whatever reason it just doesn't seem to be working out. From what I've read about his performance in training camp, it doesn't sound like he has been showing a whole lot of improvement over his ugly first year. I know he has a high draft pedigree, but the NFL is ultimately a results-oriented business. I'm not saying we should release him right away, but if he hasn't shown substantial improvement by the end of camp I think that might be the best option.2) How has Derek Rivers looked in camp? I recall some pundits projecting him as going as high as the late first round in the weeks leading up to the draft and I'm curious to hear how he's doing. I haven't heard anything, positive or negative, about his performance in camp thus far.
Ben Offen


Jones has been far more secure with the football on both punts and kickoffs this summer than he was a year ago in his rookie training camp. But he'll have to continue to prove that in preseason action. He hasn't, however, shown seemingly any improvement in coverage to make him a realistic option at cornerback. It's hard to envision him as a top four cornerback at this point. So while it still feels very early to be talking about cutting him, it can't be completely ruled out. Maybe call it a potential surprise cut that really wouldn't be all that surprising. As for Rivers, he's had a pretty quiet first couple weeks of training camp practice. The rookie got his most significant reps on defense in the second day of joint work with the Jags with Shea McClellin missing from practice. Rivers has been used much more playing on two feet, off the ball and in coverage than as a true defensive end at this very early point. It also looks like his athleticism will be called upon in the kicking game. At this point, though, he doesn't seem to be in the mix to fill Rob Ninkovich's spot or even get regular reps at defensive end. But, it's still very much early in the process.
Andy Hart

First time sending an email but I've been a longtime listening. However I'm just wondering your thoughts on DJ Foster and what his chances are in stealing a roster spot? People keep saying New England won't roll with 5 running backs this season but quickly forget they held onto 5 last season (Blount, Lewis, White, Bolden, Foster) is it farfetched to say Belichick is impressed with DJ Foster enough to stash him for another season seeing as how Dion Lewis will be a free agent in 2018?
Alec Helling

I don't think it's farfetched by any means to think the Patriots could keep five running backs or to think that Foster could be one of those players. He did spend all of last season on the active roster, which shows some level of interest from the team. He's also had a solid start to his second training camp. He's caught the ball well, run some and shown versatility on special teams. It's by no means difficult to envision final cuts rounding out and seeing Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis and Foster make the roster. Those final spots always come down to decisions between other positions and in regards to special teams roster makeup. Foster's versatility puts him very much in the mix for a roster spot, but he'll continue to have to fight through August to get to that point.
Andy Hart

Thanks for all your content--really appreciate the objectivity you bring, relative to other team sites. My question: there seem to be two ways that teams try to defend against Brady and the Pats. The first is to play a lot of man-to-man; as SB51 showed, that can be effective but is hard to maintain for an entire game. The Pats also have perfect counters to man-to-man, in the addition of Cooks and the return of Gronk. This leaves what has historically been the only real defense against Brady (and any other QB): pressure up the middle. In the past, the OL has been shaky to pressure. How do you think the coaches will prepare for that? Will they add extra men to the OL? More play action? Rely on White and others in the quick passing game?
Rich Lowenthal

I think there is a lot of validity to your email. It certainly looks like the Patriots are better suited to beat man coverage, if healthy, in 2017. And the interior offensive line remains a question that the group of young players at that spot need to answer. I don't see many veteran options or likely lineup changes. Therefor improvement will be needed from within based on experience. I think there is a very good chance that Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney will be better in 2017. That will help. If they are not, though, Brady certainly has the weapons at slot receiver and running back to utilize a quick passing game to try and beat aggressive rush schemes. The Patriots very much have the talent and versatility to succeed in a variety of ways on offense. It's why they will be so darn difficult to defend with either coverage- or rush-based schemes this fall.
Andy Hart

Hey guys long time listener [to PFW in Progress on radio] first time emailing. Me and my friend are going to the Patriots vs Chiefs game September 7th coming from Niagara Falls, Ontario. This will be our first time at Gillette and am wondering if you have any recommendations for good lunch spots and post-game bars. Also wondering if there will be any type of stadium tour we could do. Love the show keep up the good work!
Sam Gazzola

One of the great things about Gillette Stadium is that right next door is Patriot Place which offers all you could want in terms of food and entertainment. There are enough bars and restaurants to keep you hydrated and full for days on end. Unfortunately, there are no public tours of Gillette. But you can get a pretty cool view of the field and the inside of the stadium from the plaza just outside the north end zone near the Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon. Enjoy the trip and the game, which I think is going to be an exciting, impressive Patriots win. Book it!
Andy Hart


If given the chance, would you rather sign Stafford as a free agent, or trade for Luck next year? This is assuming Brady retires or is gone in one way or another. Would you rather lock into Jimmy instead?
Benjamin Main

At this point I think I would go for the trade for Andrew Luck. He's still relatively young and I think has the talent to be a star in the NFL for a long time. I've never been a huge Stafford fan, although he still is very much in the prime of his career. I think both guys have huge upside but have failed to prove themselves truly elite. As for Garoppolo, I still have some doubts that he's a true franchise quarterback or even better than the likes of Luck and Stafford. Give me Luck and Bill Belichick and I think you have a chance to continue to dynasty. Of course, there is no chance of Stafford or Luck landing in New England.
Andy Hart

The Pats were incredibly fast last year. Do you think this year's team has the potential to be faster than last year's (in terms of talent)? I assume Brandin Cooks is the speediest guy on the field right now, but who else rounds out the top three? And (most importantly), who would win a 100-yard dash between Andy, Paul, and Fred?
Michael Clear

I don't think the Patriots were overly fast last year and therefore I think the 2017 team has a chance to be much faster overall. Gillislee, Stephon Gilmore, Rivers and certainly Cooks are speed upgrades over the guys in their positions a year ago. As for the fastest Patriots player, based on what I've heard, Cooks, Jonathan Jones, Matthew Slater and others would be in the running. Fastest PFW guy? Is that a joke? The answer is pretty obvious, as the other two would probably have a heart attack before even reaching the finish line. It is what it is.
Andy Hart

Excited for the new season to get rolling along but am looking forward to seeing the two backup QBs in preseason action. What percentage of time would you say each will play? 50-50?
Troy Olsen

On Tuesday Belichick said that reps for Thursday night's preseason opener had not yet been defined for the quarterback position. My guess is that Brady will make a short cameo of a series or so. He will likely give way to Garoppolo who could get multiple quarters of action, based on the way reps have been divvied up in practice. Finally would come Brissett, who hasn't gotten a ton of reps in recent days other than late practice "opportunity" work with less experienced players. So maybe 10-percent of snaps for Brady, 60-percent for Garoppolo and 30-percent for Brissett? But that's just a mildly-educated guess. Don't hold me to it.
Andy Hart

Hey how you doing? Couple of questions: 1. If we decide to play 3-4 base defense do you see Chung as a hybrid LB and Harmon moving to starting safety? 2. I know it's early but do you see us making a mid-season trade? 3. Do you see us using more two tight end sets because of Dwayne Allen or more three receiver sets? 4. Do you believe this is Butler last year with us?
Akim Gibson

Great, thanks for asking. Few answers for ya! 1. No, I don't see Chung as a linebacker in any real 3-4 type defenses. He's too small for a regular role inside or even really outside in that type of scheme. He's a good in-the-box safety in the Patriots varied fronts, but not in a more defined 3-4 job. If anything he could be on the field in more 3-3-5 or 3-2-6 alignments. 2. Based on recent years, there is a very good chance New England makes a mid-season deal. Belichick is never done tinkering with his roster or trying to improve his team and seemingly finds value on the trade market during the year. 3. If I had to guess, the Patriots will have a larger percentage of three-receiver sets in 2017 given the impressive depth of the receiver position. But there will certainly be times when Allen and Gronkowski are on the field together. 4. I do believe this could be the last year for Butler in New England. He wants to get paid and visited the Saints as a restricted free agent with that goal this offseason. Unless he's playing under the franchise tag next year, I think he'll be playing elsewhere.
Andy Hart

Like many, I'm very intrigued by Austin Carr. He's a solid talent with a great head on his shoulders. He seems like a born-and-bred Patriot. I know we traditionally carry 5-6 WRs and he's likely to be a practice squad body. I figure that he'll be one of the last guys that doesn't make the 53-man roster, but will be called up if someone gets injured, which is seemingly a near guarantee given the injury history of our receiver group (specifically Amendola and Mitchell). I expect him to play well in the preseason as he has in camp. I know that you guys don't like to make assumptions or bold predictions and play it safe, but what do you see his role being this season and in years to come? Do you think he'll stay a Patriot and/or become a quality target in the NFL? What's your early gut feeling? Also, do you have any player comparisons for him? Thanks!
Brian Thone

My gut feeling is that Carr is a little overrated with an almost cult following at this point. He's been solid but unspectacular in camp. He's a different type of slot receiver in that he's a little bigger and a little slower than we usually think of in that spot in New England. But he's not big enough to be a "possession" slot guy. He has gotten some high-end reps in recent practices. We'll see where his performance and growth goes in the preseason. Right now I think he's a good candidate for the practice squad. Maybe that leads to some active-roster time in case of injury. But I still think he has a long ways to go before he proves he can get open regularly against NFL-caliber defenders.
Andy Hart

Hi Gents. How do (external) teams scout the practice squad members if they want to pick them up with waivers? Are they permitted to sit in on a team's training to see if they are worth picking up or do they just have to rely on independent reports or historical footage/data/reports? Otherwise would it not be beneficial to have scouts at all other 31 teams and scout their formations/training/injuries etc every week as prep for upcoming games under the premise that you are 'just scouting a practice squad member'? Thanks for keeping us informed, giving us insight and making us laugh every week. Cheers!

Teams are not supposed to attend training camp practices unless the teams charge admission for those workouts. Really, decisions on players are based on previous scouting reports (college or past NFL seasons) and preseason action. Teams scout all the other preseason games to get files on all players for cutdowns and potential waiver claims/signings/trades. That's a big part of what the pro scouts do not only in the summer but all season long. Teams also get a pretty good look at opponents during joint practice work, which can lead to personnel acquisitions down the road at some point.
Andy Hart

Hey guys. A few years ago you were asked what coach you would like to have coaching the team if BB retired. You responded with Jeff Fisher. When challenged about your answer, you doubled down that he was a perfect fit here. Do you still fell that way, and if you don't, who would be your guy?
Jesse M.

I think you must be talking about Paul Perillo or Erik Scalavino, my PFW coworkers. I can't ever remember wanting Fischer in Foxborough. But I could be wrong. I tend to forget a lot of things. I want no part of Fischer. I don't have one specific guy I'd like to see now. The list of candidates I'd consider would certainly include Josh McDaniels and Urban Meyer. But this is a tough question to answer. The guy who follows Belichick is destined to fail to measure up.
Andy Hart

The quarterback position is overloaded with talent for the Patriots, and Jimmy is going to be starting somewhere next season. Obviously he'll be playing a lot of preseason but do you think that Bill may play Jimmy for an odd regular season game (say Jets in wk6) to keep Brady fresh for the postseason/increase the trade value of Jimmy? Or else do you think there is any chance that Bill/Kraft will do the economically rationale thing after winning the Super Bowl again this year and trade Brady to San Francisco for a couple of 1st round picks or decent D-linemen? I know it would hurt to lose him but to get that level of return for him and moving him back to California to play his twilight in Montana's stomping ground and prove that he can win without Bill could be a possible win-win?
Andrew Hawkins

First of all, congrats on your recent retirement and degree. Good luck in your post-football tenure. Glad you are still invested in your now-former team…wait, you're probably not THE Andrew Hawkins, are you? Anyway, I have no idea how the situation is going to play out with Brady and Garoppolo. I don't think anyone really does. But I do feel pretty confident that Belichick will not be resting a healthy Brady for a full regular season game this season. If he's not hurt, Brady plays. I don't think resting him really would do much for the postseason and could create more distraction and controversy than it's worth. I also can't see Brady being traded by the Patriots. It's just too hard for me to fathom. Unless he decides to retire out of the blue I think he's going to be in New England for a few more years.
Andy Hart

I was wondering if there are any referee officials during training camp so that players and coaches are up to date with new rules for the upcoming season? Thanks.
Fuad Nehemen

Indeed there are. In fact, the officials that will be working the Patriots preseason opener on Thursday night have been in Foxborough all week working the practice sessions between New England and Jacksonville. The crew also met with the teams, showed a video regarding rule changes this fall and tried to answer any questions the players/coaches might have in regards to officiating. The crew also met with the media on Tuesday to do the same sort of thing.
Andy Hart

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