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

Ask PFW: Ray Rice, QB reps and more!

With summer practice ramping up in New England, Patriots fans fill out another Ask PFW with a variety of questions heading into training camp.

Is Aaron Dobson old news? It's unfortunate he never caught on after 2013. I'd love to see him make it and excel this year. What would you say his chances are?

Robert Miles*

Heading into spring practice and media availability I had little hope that the former second-round pick Dobson would be a part of the Patriots picture for 2016. Two injury-plagued seasons had me writing off the receiver. But, Dobson had a solid spring and I now have to rethink my analysis. I still believe he's fighting for his roster life in New England this summer at a pretty interesting and competitive wide receiver position. The addition of Chris Hogan (a roster lock) and proven vet Nate Washington as well as rookie fourth-rounder Malcolm Mitchell makes the battle for the outside receiver slot a pretty competitive one. But Dobson is healthy and looked good in June. If he can continue both trends in July and August maybe he has a shot to stick around, depending on the health and performance of the guys around him. I wouldn't bet on it, but it's more a possibility today than I would have said a couple months ago.
Andy Hart

Gronk is widely regarded as THE matchup nightmare. But it seems to me if any player could consistently hold his own 1-on-1 against Gronk it would be Collins. Do these two ever match up 1-on-1 in practice, and if do, who gets the upper hand?

Kenneth Bosman*

I honestly can't specifically remember Jamie Collins and Rob Gronkowski going head-to-head in practice. Nothing stands out in my memory, but it will be something I will certainly keep an eye out for as training camp gets going later this week. That said, I don't really think Collins is suited to cover Gronkowski with any regularity. It's just too tough a matchup, even for an athlete with the linebacker's skills. Remember, Collins struggled with Owen Daniels in the AFC title game. I have always been of the belief that the "coverage" linebacker is essentially a mythical creature. I generally give the edge in battles between running backs/tight ends and linebackers to the offensive player. And it usually plays out that way. It's just the way it is. Most importantly, Gronkowski is indeed the biggest matchup nightmare and toughest cover in the NFL today. So there is no shame in Collins failing to measure up. No one else – including safeties and some cornerbacks -- does either.
Andy Hart

What do you think of the idea of signing Ray Rice? He's still out there. People make mistakes and the Patriots are a willing and understandable organization. He would be a great fit and he isn't in it for they money but to finish off his short career.

John Ball*

Hey guys, I am just wondering, what do the Pats have to lose by giving Ray Rice a shot? He can't be worse than the backs we have and if he is then we let him go. Rice has something he wants to prove. Let the Pats be the ones to who he does it for. We would get him at a great value which is the embodiment of the Patriot Way. Thanks!

Drew Lew*

Do you think there's any chance the Patriots bring in controversial running back Ray Rice? I know what he did was horrible, but I believe everybody deserves a second chance, and after all Rice has done since the incident, including now saying he would donate his entire salary to charity, I think Kraft and BB should give him a chance. He is still south of 30 (albeit barely) and has proven in the past he can be an elite back in this league. Even if he can't be the player he was in his Pro Bowl seasons with the Ravens, I believe he can still really help this team on offense.

Admittedly, I am also a huge Rutgers football fan so this may play a role in my opinion but I still do believe he could help this team, or at least hope somebody in the league will give him a second chance (especially considering Greg Hardy was given one).

Rory Harwood*

There is little question that many people believe that Rice deserves a second chance. That's especially true, as pointed out, given that a far less apologetic or respectable character like Hardy got one. It's also accurate that the Patriots would seem to have an opening for a veteran back on the depth chart, at least one who could compete for a role. All that being said, Rice is unlikely to get a second chance in New England Robert Kraft stated at the time that Rice's domestic violence video came out that the running back would not be welcome with the Patriots in the future. Certainly things, opinions and stances can change. So I will never rule anything out. Any team that signs Rice would take on a media circus and likely deal with protestors. New England has shown an ability to work with such potential distractions in the past. I'll be honest, I'm a little surprised that Rice has not found a home for a second chance in the NFL. He probably deserves one. It just don't feel like it will be in New England.
Andy Hart

LOVE your column! With Brady sitting out the first four games, how do you think the snaps will be divided up during the preseason games? Do you think the Patriots will sign a veteran backup and who are the candidates?

Joe Gora*

A week late on the Garoppolo-Brady roller coaster but I am wondering about who starts the preseason games? Garoppolo is the starter but not really the starter, Brady we obviously don't want injured so as far as I can figure Brady might start game 1, Garoppolo games 2 & 3 and Brissett game 4? How many snaps do you see each QB getting across all 4 games?

Alex Marr*

This is one of the great questions of the summer and a major storyline that everyone will be watching from the day training camp opens right on through the final preseason game. I am of the belief that Garoppolo is the starter to open the season – for a full month or a quarter of the schedule – so in some way needs to be treated as such this summer. I think he probably needs to pretty much split the "first-team reps" with Brady in practice and probably take a majority of the same reps in games. Brady is going to 39 years old and has pretty much seen it all in the Patriots offense. Sure, he needs to work with newcomers like Hogan and Bennett, but I think it's Garoppolo and, to a lesser degree, Brissett who need the work. I certainly don't want to see Brady with backups or risking injury in preseason action that really won't help him Oct. 9 in Cleveland. I also would be supportive of the team bringing in a veteran backup. From what I saw in the spring, it's a bit of a scary thought to say that Brissett would be "one play away" from being the starter in September. Certainly anybody who is available now isn't going to light the world afire. Street guys like Matt Flynn, Ryan Lindley and T.J. Yates are what they are, which is to say not very good. Nick Foles could be cut or traded by the Rams. He would probably be my choice. But, really, the most important guy at the quarterback position this summer in New England is Garoppolo. And that, in and of itself, is a major story we all need to get used to for a couple months.
Andy Hart

With the recent news of TB12 not playing during the Pats first 4 games I am surprised to not hear anything about Jacoby Brissett's development. Let's face it, during the first full month of the regular season he will be one play away from being forced into action. How is Jacoby progressing? Is he ready for prime time? Is it possible that he can beat out Jimmy for the starting gig?

Alex Eigenmann*

What are your thoughts on Jacoby Brissett? We all assume Jimmy Garoppolo is going to take the reins in Tom Brady's absence, (which is the most logical option) but is there any chance Jacoby steps in and gives Jimmy a battle for the starting job? From what I have seen, Jacoby has a lot of great skills that could see him excel in this type of system. Also, if Jimmy Garoppolo begins to struggle, do the Patriots leave him in to gain more experience, or do we go out and sign another veteran to support the younger Garoppolo and Brissett?

Corey Harrigan*

As I said in the previous answer, Brissett did nothing to wow me spring practices. He certainly has a strong arm and throws a nice ball, but beyond that looked like a young quarterback taking his first reps on an NFL practice field. His accuracy wasn't good enough. He held onto the ball too long. He didn't look confidence and comfortable running the offense. That's not a shot at him or really any surprise. He was seen as a raw, developmental player before he was drafted. So, I don't see any way he will improve enough this summer to take the "starting" job from Garoppolo, who's in his third year in the Patriots system. Even though he hasn't played much in regular season games, Garoppolo has far more "experience" than Brissett. That gives him a major edge up. Unless something crazy happens, now is Garoppolo's time to show his stuff. How exactly that plays out is going to be interesting to observe.
Andy Hart

I understand Brady cannot practice with the team or attend activities at Gillette, but could he practice with the team at another location other than Gillette...attend meetings outside of Gillette?

Ian Perry*

No. During Brady's four-game suspension he cannot have contact with anyone from the Patriots regarding anything to do with football. He's out of sight and out of mind for the month.
Andy Hart


I think that with Brian Hartline yet on the market as a free agent, he would be worth bringing in (assuming they get him at a low-cost contract). At 6-2, he would give us a receiver with size to play on the outside, possibly fill LaFell's shoes, but with a set of more reliable hands. I like the idea of a group of receivers like Hartline, Edelman, Amendola and Hogan paired with the dynamic tight end duo of Gronk and Bennett. Thoughts?

Luke Nyboer*

Hartline certainly has proven experience and production on his resume, having caught at least 31 passes in each of his seven NFL seasons. It's pretty surprising that he's still available right now, a time when teams have 90 players and a dozen or so receivers on their rosters. That said, I don't see a huge need for him in New England. Hogan, Dobson, Washington and Mitchell are all in line to battle for reps on the outside. Had Hogan, Washington and Mitchell not been brought aboard this offseason, I would have considered Hartline an option. But not now. I will admit, though, that I'm surprised the veteran is still out there. I feel like there must be something about him/his situation that I'm not aware of that's keeping him on the street at this late point in the process. Or, maybe he just doesn't want to go to training camp and is planning on catching on somewhere later.
Andy Hart

In the latest episode of Ask PFW, I read that Tom Brady's suspension means that he cannot participate in any of the team's activities for four weeks. I also read a month ago that the Baltimore Ravens were punished for using shoulder pads before training camp. As a result, their number of training activities was reduced. (I do not remember what kind of activities.) I live in Germany, so I am not familiar with all these rules. Why is Brady not allowed to participate? It does not make sense for me, it would be enough to miss the games? Same for the Ravens. Why are there rules about the number of training activities? Why do those rules forbid the use of pads? And why can the number of activities be reduced by the NFL?

Hendrik Hehmsoth*

Brady cannot be with the team because those are the rules in place for most suspensions, certainly those for PED use, off-field issues or so-called integrity of the game violations. The guys that are allowed to be around the team while suspended are those for drug issues not relating to PEDs. It was the dynamic the Patriots dealt with a couple years ago when Brian Tyms and Brandon Browner were both suspended at the same time, but only one was allowed to be around the team. Plus, the idea of the suspension is to be a punishment. It's a greater punishment – to both the player and the team – if he cannot stay in football shape mentally and physically during the time in question. I would liken it to sending a child to his room as punishment and at the same time removing all electronics from his room. If you send the kid to a room with a TV, cell phone, video games, etc. then what kind of punishment is it? (I'm not sure if that really makes any sense in terms of a comparison or not.) As for the practice rules, they are all negotiated as part of the collective bargaining agreement between the players and the NFL. A big part of the latest CBA was a greater limitation on the time players are on the field in the offseason and what exactly can take place in those sessions. When teams violate those rules – including use of pads or too much contact – they are punished. Taking away more of the limited offseason workouts – which coaches think are a key part of the team development process – is a traditional punishment, as was the case with the Ravens this year.
Andy Hart

Hello from Tennessee ! Love the column, read it weekly to keep up with the Patriots! My Question....If Jimmy G. comes in and plays lights out, puts up league-leading numbers....does Jimmy keep the job, could he take the starting job from Brady?? Making Brady expendable??? I know back in the day nobody thought that Brady would take the job.

Thanks, Dave Phillips*

Chattanooga, TN*

I can't see any way that Garoppolo keeps the starting job in New England after Brady's four-game suspension ends. Now, if the story got crazier with the young passer playing more due to injury later in the year it might make for an interesting offseason topic of discussion. But, barring a meteor, I think it's a 100-percent lock that TB12 will be under center on Oct. 9 in Cleveland against the Browns. Brady was arguably the best quarterback in football last year. He's expected to play at a high level this fall. He's signed at reasonable money through 2019. Oh, and his relationship with Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft is well documented. A lot of that couldn't be said of the guy Brady took over for.
Andy Hart

Dear PFW, thank you for the amazing work you guys do. Is it possible we can get Andre Johnson. He still wants to continue his career. Also, if Jimmy G shines during the first four games, how will this affect Tom Brady, Patriots and Jimmy Garoppolo in general? Thanks!

Vagmi Bhagavathula*

I am so glad this is a written response, because there is no way I'd do anything but butcher your name, Vagmi, if I had to try to pronounce it! Please call into our PFW in Progress radio show sometime on and tell me how to say it! Anyway, Johnson is a free agent so it's technically possible he could join New England. But, I don't see that happening. He looked like he was out of gas last year. And, as I said earlier, I don't see the need for more bodies in the outside receiver competition right now. As for the QB situation, I can't imagine anything that happens in the first month will alter the spot in New England in the short term other than to potentially increase Garoppolo's potential trade value next offseason, which would be a boon for Belichick and company.
Andy Hart

Hello guys big fan and not gonna bother with all the Tom Brady BS as we all are hurt and disappointed by the outcome and like Brady we just need to move on. What I would like to know is do you guys think that as a whole the defense could be one of the more dominant ones in the NFL this coming up season, like top 5 even? Keep up the great work much love. Go Pats.

Anthony Twiss*

Just for background, the Patriots finished ninth in the NFL in terms of yards allowed and 10th in points allowed. I do think the unit can be better this season, especially considering the core of young players who might show continued growth and improvement. If Collins, Dont'a Hightower and Malcolm Butler continue to evolve as Pro Bowl-caliber playmakers it will make the unit even better, especially if the two linebackers can stay healthy. Malcom Brown's development could be huge. If Chris Long can turn back the clock a couple years it could be a huge coup for the unit. The biggest question will be if the team can replace Chandler Jones, but some combination of Jabaal Sheard, Long, Trey Flowers and others might just do that and then some. Terrance Knighton and Shea McClellin add intriguing depth. There are some pretty challenging offenses on the schedule, and I still have questions about the No. 2 and No. 3 cornerback positions, but I do think there is a chance the New England defense is even batter in 2016. If that comes to fruition, the unit will be knocking on the door of being a top-5 defense.
Andy Hart

Writers, I have a GREAT idea and I would like your opinion. So Goodell and the NFL have created incredibly strict rules on Brady saying such things like "he cannot play catch in the backyard with his teammates." Obviously Brady will not risk hurting his team by inviting Edelman and Gronk over for an afternoon catch, but the rule says nothing about FORMER teammates. What do you think about Brady inviting Welker, Deion Branch, and any other former, unsigned teammates over to run some plays and give Brady some practice. These players know McDaniels playbook, and Brady playing catch with them would be COMPLETELY legal under the rules Goodell has issued. What do you think?

Rory Harwood*

First, the rules were not issued or created for Brady's suspension. They have been in place and enforced for past suspensions for all teams. But, I wouldn't rule out something like you have proposed. Brady will need to stay in shape and get football work in somehow. That could include former teammates, throwing coach Tom House, maybe college players or any variety of ideas. It sure would make for a good story if Brady got some of his former boys together to help him get through the month away from the Patriots and his current teammates. We'll all have to stay tuned to see how it all plays out come September.
Andy Hart

Just got the news that the Falcons released Devin Hester not long ago. Is there any way that we take a chance on him? We haven't had the best luck in the return game and it would certainly take the load off Julian Edelman. Are you sure we can't get him on a reasonable deal and bring him in just to return punts and kicks? I know he's 33 (I Think?) but still, him at 33 has got to be better than what we've trotted out at this point, south of Jules. Thanks for all you do!

Charles Adams*

Hester was indeed released. I'm sure New England will consider him, as it would with any player especially given that the team has an open roster spot. Hester is 33 and played in just five games last year, when he was limited in his production. The Patriots also have more depth at the return spot than you mention with Amendola, Keshawn Martin and top pick Cyrus Jones in the mix. Hester won't cost much at this point, and most teams would probably consider his value given his crazy career production, but I don't see it as a big need/fit. But who knows?
Andy Hart

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