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Ask PFW: Pondering the preseason

The focus of this week's PFW mailbag is on the latest developments as training camp and the preseason begin to wind down.


Maybe it's a bit too premature, but I am extremely excited about the signing of Jeff Demps. To what extent do you think he will be used this year? Will he be just a special teamer, or will he be a factor at half back?
Jack Donaldson

Could you see the Pats putting Demps in a five-wide set as the deep threat? With true world class speed, wouldn't he have to be covered by a CB, and a safety rolling over to his side? This would mean single coverage on at least one of [Brandon] Lloyd, [Wes] Welker, [Aaron] Hernandez, [Rob] Gronkowski, etc. Or would a defense take the chance that Demps, because of his size, would be bumped off his route and just single cover him? From a layman's perspective, it just seems like a chance for a mismatch if not with him with someone else – if he can catch.
Tony D.

What are your thoughts on Jeff Demps? I know the patriots have 4 young backs with [Danny] Woodhead being the oldest but he seems like a very intriguing option because of his versatility to have a special teams impact as a kick or punt returner and the slight possibility of being a receiver, which is unlikely as the Patriots have a crowded receiver core. Do you think the Patriots should take a look at him and could he have a role?
Branton M.

We got our first glimpse of Demps, the much ballyhooed Olympic sprinter, in a Patriots uniform Monday night against Philadelphia – albeit on the sidelines. He did not play, but his addition is as intriguing a story line as the Patriots have at the moment. At the moment, I'm looking less for him to contribute right away in the running game and more as a kick returner. That's the area on special teams that's most in need of an upgrade over last year.

How Bill Belichick uses Demps will be interesting. I'll be watching closely this week when the Patriots practice with the Buccaneers in Tampa, but since we're back on a regular-season-like access schedule (meaning limited practice viewing time), we won't have the luxury of watching him for an entire session, like we have with the rest of the team the past three weeks in training camp.

But make no mistake, the addition of Demps adds an element of excitement to the offense, both in the running and passing games, and the hope of improvement on special teams.
Erik Scalavino

Has Brian Waters made any news on his intentions whether t play or not? Will Jake Ballard play at all this year? He is not listed on the PUP or IR. Thanks for the great work!
Ian B.

When do you expect that we will either see Brian Waters show up for the camp (or season), or get the final word that there will be no Brian Waters? I still think sending a fruit basket would help.
Mike Baker

There's been no indication that Waters, last year's Pro Bowl right guard, is any closer to returning to New England. He is still under contract, however, and my instincts tell me he'll be here in time for the season opener – which means he'll have to get here very soon. No one, to my knowledge, has asked if a fruit basket has been offered to entice Waters, but what the heck, it couldn't hurt, right?
Erik Scalavino

I know it is a little premature to think this, but with how good [Chandler] Jones has been looking, is it possible the Patriots could sign Andre Carter and have their own version of [Dwight] Freeney and [Robert] Mathis? With the LB's the Pats have every QB we face would be scared to death. Do you think this is possible?
Monty Borrowman


What is up with Andre Carter?  I know he is rehabbing from an injury, but isn't he also looking for a new contract?  Has the performance of the current group of rookies on the defensive side of the ball weakened his position?
Pat in Vermont

We have only slightly more information about Carter than we do Waters, and only because Carter has commented publicly on his situation this summer, while Waters has not. Still, that's not saying much, because Carter himself hasn't said much.

Pat is right: Carter is rehabbing his torn quad injury and reportedly is seeking a heftier deal than the Patriots probably want to give him. That doesn't mean the door has been slammed shut on a Carter reunion in Foxborough, but it's only slightly ajar at the moment.

To Monty's question, even if Carter is fully recovered and healthy, it would be unreasonable to expect a player of his age to replicate the outstanding production he turned out last season. It's also far too soon to anoint Jones a future All-Pro. So, while I would like to see a Carter-Jones tandem at defensive end, let's pump the brakes on the Freeney-Mathis comparisons and keep our expectations a little more realistic.  
Erik Scalavino

Hello there! Thanks for accepting our questions. If the offensive line remains in a state of flux, could you imagine a trade for the tackle position with some of our 3-4-5 receivers and possible draft picks? The free agent acquisitions seem too shallow for what this team needs to succeed; and roster-shavings from the 90-75-53 man rosters from other teams don't seem viable.
Connor Hughes

I never rule anything out when it comes to this team and its head coach. However, I believe it's highly unlikely you'll see New England trade for a proven left tackle. Nate Solder is still learning and growing. I'm not prepared to abandon hopes for him. He and Marcus Cannon didn't have their best effort Monday against the Eagles, but there's hope. Logan Mankins didn't play, and when he does, his presence at left guard should help Solder. I'm also encouraged by the expected promotion of Sebastian Vollmer off PUP. And if Waters does return, even better. Suddenly, you have a fairly solid o-line. Just give it time. It'll work itself out.  
Erik Scalavino

Has Josh Barrett shown anything in camp? Have not heard a word about him. Is he in the mix at safety at all? Thanks.
John Swift

What have you guys seen from Josh Barrett so far? I originally liked the guy and thought he had a lot of potential, but he seems to be more of a bust than anything. I know he's been injured a lot, but still…
Erik L.

Unfortunately for him, Barrett has been a non-factor in this preseason. His stock has dropped precipitously since last year at this time, when he was on his way to earning a starting job. Like both of you, I had high hopes, given his size, but Barrett just hasn't been the kind of playmaker any of us had wished he could be. He's living precariously on the roster bubble right now.
Erik Scalavino

I am wondering how Dan Koppen has been recovering from his gruesome injury and if you think he will be as great as he always was.
Dave Baker

By his own admission earlier this month, Koppen still isn't quite back to his old self. The anecdotal evidence would suggest he's right, too. The veteran center has been yielding first-team reps in practice to Ryan Wendell more and more, and when he has had opportunities to play, either in practice or games, he's not looked all that sharp. Like the aforementioned Barrett, I think Koppen is fighting for his spot on the roster.
Erik Scalavino

I haven't heard a lot about Jake Bequette lately, and I have to wait for preseason replays (I live in VA). How is he progressing and do you see him as a playmaker like he was in college?
Daniel Watts

Bequette's been relatively quiet, sad to say. When he's given chances, though, I like what I see from him. Problem is, he's doing this against lesser competition. I'd like to see him get some action against starters. Maybe he'll get that opportunity soon. I expect him to make the 53-man roster and hopefully get some reps in that defensive end rotation.
Erik Scalavino


I was curious to know why you guys think Julian Edelman has not yet been involved on some offensive throwing situations since he was a quarterback in college? Maybe we have a nice surprise offensive weapon there for a couple of important plays in the year??
Jack Gordon

Well, first of all, Edelman was more of a running quarterback at Kent State, not a pocket passer. That's not to say he can't complete a pass, but it's not like he was RGIII either. Having said that, you should know that we in the media are under certain reporting restrictions when it comes to so-called trick plays that we observe in training camp. Obviously, I can't go into too much detail, but suffice to say, I certainly wouldn't be surprised if I ever saw something like you described unfold in a game. Catch my drift, Jack?
Erik Scalavino

Hey guys, I remember reading one of your articles a while back about who you thought was going to make the 53 man roster. Who on the the current roster do you think will start the year on the practice squad?
Mike McGlaughlin

Funny you should ask, Mike! I just wrote my latest commentary on that very subject. It's in this week's edition of PFW (1-800-494-PATS to subscribe).
Erik Scalavino

What do you think of bringing in Plaxico Burress and converting him into a tight end?
Chad Overbeek

I don't.
*Erik Scalavino

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