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Ask PFW: Roster roulette

Questions about the newly-formed Patriots 53-man roster dominate this week's mailbag.

With the acquisition of former Pro Bowl linemanBrian Waters, what does this mean forDan Connolly? He has played decently, but he is no Pro Bowler and has looked very weak in the past, especially in games we lose. Assuming Connolly is perfectly healthy, does he ride the bench with Waters taking over as the starting right guard?
Kyle Volo

My sense is this is not good for Connolly, in the short term, at least. His injury – looked like a foot/ankle – which he suffered in the Lions preseason game might be serious enough to keep him out for a while. Obviously not the year, or else he'd have ended up on IR when final cuts were made. And considering the money the Patriots reportedly gave Waters (two years, upwards of $5.5 million), it looks like he'll be lining up between Dan Koppen and Sebastian Vollmer come Monday night in Miami. And probably for the foreseeable future. The way Waters was talking in the locker room Monday, it seems like a foregone conclusion.
Erik Scalavino

Hi guys, I like reading Ask PFW over here in England. Can you tell me what on earth is going on at safety with the Patriots? I was disappointed when Jarrad Page left, let alone James Sanders, Brandon Meriweather and even Brandon McGowan! Have we got some awesome hidden safety on the roster that I don't know about who will partner with Patrick Chung?
Mark Bennett

Are you concerned with the Pats depth at safety, or is this position going the way of the fullback? With all the three-, four-, and five-receiver sets teams run, would you rather have two good safeties and two good corners, or one good safety and three good corners?
Hermey the Great

First, the collective opinion at PFW was that Page was destined to return to New England this season. My guess, though, is that he priced himself out of a job here – probably asked for more than the Patriots were willing to dish out. The Sanders move is still a bit surprising to me, although for the money he was going to make, most likely as a role player and not a full-time starter, I can understand why they chose to release him. Don't necessarily agree with it, but I understand.

Next, don't cry yourself to sleep over either of the Brandons. McGowan was an oft-injured, inconsistent player who never quite fit in with the Patriots locker room ethos. And Meriweather … well, we've criticized him enough over the years, so, I don't want to retread old ground.

From what I've seen, it seems the coaching staff is high on Sergio Brown and Josh Barrett. Brown made immediate contributions as an undrafted rookie last season. Not sure yet what they see in Barrett, other than his size, because he hasn't been on the field long enough (due to injuries) to get a fair assessment of his skills.

So, in conclusion, yes, I enter this season with some trepidation where the safety position is concerned. To answer Hermey the Average's question, I'd rather have three good corners because that job is perhaps the most difficult to play in this league, from a purely athletic standpoint, and because so many teams use multiple receiver sets now. But, no, the safety is not in jeopardy of becoming extinct, like traditional fullbacks.
Erik Scalavino

Great jobs, guys! We (the Pats fan club out here in Colorado) have been talking all summer about trading Meriweather before the season began. Is there a strategic reason for a club to just drop a player rather than trade him? Or was there no market whatsoever for Meriweather? It seems like someone would have offered up a sixth/seventh-rounder for him.
Tim C.

Can't see any benefit for cutting a player rather than trading him, Tim. I think it was the right move for the Patriots to part with Meriweather, I just wish they could have gotten something – anything – for him in return. I'm surprised, given how many lower-round draft choices Belichick gave up this summer for the likes of Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco, that he didn't even get what you suggested, a sixth- or seventh-round choice. Clearly, there was interest in Meriweather (not surprisingly, from the Bears) and Chicago is a team with whom Belichick has traded numerous times. So, I don't get why a trade wasn't consummated.
Erik Scalavino

WithMarcus Cannonbeing placed on the PUP list for seven weeks, does this mean that after the seven weeks he will be able to play on Sunday?
Phil Drach

To be clear, the rookie Cannon, an offensive lineman drafted in the fifth round, was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list (NFI), not the reserve/physically unable to perform list (PUP). However, the two have nearly identical definitions.

Cannon will now miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season. Beginning in Week 7, the Patriots will have a three-week window in which to clear Cannon to begin practicing. Once he returns to practice, the clock begins ticking again, as the club gets three more weeks to decide whether to add Cannon to their 53-man active roster, place him on injured reserve, or cut him.
Erik Scalavino

Do you thinkBenJarvus Green-Elliscan repeat his 1,000-yard season with double-digit touchdowns?
John Kardian

Point of fact #1: Green-Ellis posted 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010. Point of fact #2: As we reported in a recent edition of Patriots Football Weekly, Green-Ellis became the 11th player in team history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in a season. Point of fact #3: In that same PFW, we noted that none of the previous 10 rushers gained more yards on the ground the season immediately following his first 1,000-yard season with the team, and only two (Jim Nance and Curtis Martin) ever surpassed 1,000 in their encore performance.

Seems to me, working with that statistical probability, Green-Ellis stands just slightly better than a 0-percent chance (hey, anything's possible, right?) of duplicating or besting his rushing stats from last season. Particularly when you consider that the team upgraded the position with some younger talent, which could reduce Green-Ellis' total carries, and consequently, his chances of eclipsing the one-grand mark.

He may stand a better chance of repeating his double-digit touchdown achievement, though only marginally better, if Patriots history is our guide. Went back and checked the team record books, and it's not promising for Benny. Of the eight Patriots who have ever done so, only two backs – Martin and Corey Dillon – managed to score double-digit touchdowns on the ground in back-to-back seasons (Dillon actually did it three years running).

There's some hope for Green-Ellis, though. If the Patriots offense finds itself in many goal-to-to situations, the sure-handed Green-Ellis will likely get the nod when a running play is called.
Erik Scalavino

Your thoughts on rookie tight end Will Yeatman being cut, and veteran Alge Crumpler coming back?
B. Larson

I thought Yeatman had won a job on the 53-man roster, based on his preseason performance. His release didn't totally surprise me, though, because I assumed he'd clear waivers and wind up on the practice squad. His being picked up by Miami, along with Lee Smith getting scooped by Buffalo, is a disappointment to the Patriots. Adding them to the Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez tandem would have made for the most dynamic tight end roster in the league.

I never say never where Belichick is concerned, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Cap'n Crump to be re-signed. Ready or not, Gronk and Hernandez are the new leaders at that spot.
Erik Scalavino

Due to the rule change that the kickoff will be at the 35-yard line instead of the 30, do you foresee some teams trying to kick the ball extremely high to try to recover the football? If that is the case, I don't really see how this will help lowering injuries, as that was the initial purpose. Thanks.
David Kwong

I do expect some teams to kick the ball high and a little short of the end zone, but not to recover the football, at least not on a regular basis. Teams with capable coverage units would do so to try to pin their opponents behind the 20-yard line, where they'd get the ball following a touchback if the kickoff was simply boomed out of the end zone. I'm skeptical as well that this new rule will significantly reduce injuries, but I'm willing to take a wait-and-see approach as the season unfolds.
Erik Scalavino


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