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Ask PFW: Rowe to safety, Garcia's loss and more

This week's Ask PFW mailbag wonders why the Patriots gave up on Tony Garcia so quickly.

What do you think about Eric Rowe becoming a safety?
Gregorio Ladeira

Rowe definitely has the ability to play safety and has done so both in college and during his time with the Eagles after he was drafted. He also has shown the ability to play on the outside as a corner, particularly against bigger, more physical receivers. Rowe will be in the mix with Jason McCourty for playing time on the outside opposite Stephon Gilmore, and also could get reps with both as the top three corners depending on how Bill Belichick wants to play it. Rowe has battled injuries during his time with the Patriots as well, so relying on him might be risky at this point. But he has the size and ability to play safety and could be an option back there if needed even though I feel his greater value would be at corner given the strong three-man rotation the Patriots have on the back end.
Paul Perillo

As always I want to tell you what a great job you do covering our favorite team. I really hope there is some legitimate reason for releasing Antonio Garcia. I am so confused and a somewhat disheartened by this transaction. I find it incredibly hard to believe that he was not worthy of one of the 90 spots on the roster going into organized team activities. The Patriots traded up in the third round to acquire him so they must have liked him a little bit. Why not allow him to get back into football shape over the summer and maybe see what he can do instead of just quitting on him in May? I was really looking forward to the battle for the left tackle spot and I really thought he would be in the mix or at least be swing tackle. Am I overreacting or do you also not see the point in this move at this time?
Michael Pizzoli

I'm confused by the decision to release Antonio Garcia. The Patriots were impressed enough with his ability to move up in the draft to pick him. He plays a position of need that could use as much competition as possible. He has been medically cleared to resume his football career. There hasn't been an opportunity to evaluate him on the field. The Jets have claimed him on waivers and will give him the chance to compete. Why the rush to release him? Do you have any additional information that lead to this decision?
Gary Madera
East Hanover, N.J.

Garcia missed his entire rookie season due to an issue with blood clots and we never got a chance to see him perform as a third-round pick last summer. The Patriots waived him with a non-football injury designation, so it would certainly appear that the problem has not been completely rectified at this point. Garcia was recently claimed by the Jets, who probably want to see if the problem is something they're willing to give more time to or if it's something that will prevent him from playing for good. My guess is it will wind up being the latter because as both of you said it made no sense to release him now before seeing if he could play. Either way it's an unfortunate end to Garcia's Patriots career.
Paul Perillo

After Patriots released Garcia, considering that Patriots were burned with several other players who bad knees or other health issues coming from college, is it fair to wonder if Patriots being "comfortable" say with Sony Michel's knees is really all that meaningful, and if Patriots will continue drafting players especially in early rounds with questionable medical history?
Stan C.

These two examples are not related in any way. Garcia had no such health concerns coming out of college. He participated fully throughout the spring and was present for the start of training camp every day. At some point he stopped practicing and I can only assume it was then that his issue with blood clots was learned. So, it's not like Garcia dealt with the problem in college and the Patriots knew this was a potential issue. In the case of Michel, it would be a legitimate second guess if the running back is unable to play due to problems with his knee. The injury was well-known before he was drafted so if the medical update labeled it as not a concern and it winds up being one, then definitely it would be a bad pick rather than bad luck. I can only go by what the team has said, however, and assume the Michel's knee checked out and he will be ready to go. There have been plenty of examples of the Patriots rolling the dice on injured players when things have worked out – the most obvious being Rob Gronkowski. But I can understand the concern based on players like Dominique Easley, who did not.
Paul Perillo

When is the "open to public" training camp at Gillette held this summer?
Mike Matthews

The Patriots have yet to release the official dates for the start of training camp but it's usually a good rule of thumb to look at the last Thursday in July as a potential starting date.
Paul Perillo

Do you think the Patriots are still thinking of adding another safety to the roster? There are quite a few out there as FAs still. The two that come to mind who are young and considered solid players are Kenny Vaccaro and Eric Reid. I think both offer some coverage skills that would have helped in the last Super Bowl.
Gil T.

I actually think the Patriots depth at safety is pretty solid with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon all in the fold and all making starter-caliber money. They could probably use a viable fourth safety but I can't see Vaccaro or Reid coming in at money commensurate with that kind of job description. Both view themselves as starters and will be looking to be paid as such. I know Reid in particular has been a polarizing player this offseason due to his on-going free agency, which many believe is due to his part in the kneeling protests with Colin Kaepernick. There's probably some truth to that, but I also believe he's been offered contracts that he's turned down. Vaccaro was tied to the Patriots a bit at the Combine but I haven't heard anything about him since. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots show interest, because as you said, you can always use more cover guys.
Paul Perillo

Do you think anyone in the AFC East can give the Patriots any trouble this year? Or is this still the Patriots division? Love your show , you guys put a lot of work in.
Colin Giovanniello

The easy answer is this is still the Patriots division. And just because it's the easy answer doesn't mean it's not true. The Bills and Jets both drafted rookie quarterbacks, and if those teams wind up playing Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, respectively, things could get ugly for both in 2018. Miami will get Ryan Tannehill back but is by no means stocked with talent. I saw a prediction earlier this week that suggested all three team would be selecting in the top five of the 2019 draft. I think Miami will be a little better than that, and truth be told I think the Bills and Jets won't be terrible either. But I don't see any of the three giving the Patriots any trouble at all.
Paul Perillo

How likely do you think it is that Dwayne Allen will be on the roster when the regular season starts? We all know how much Bill Belichick assesses each player on their value and we know Allen is a solid blocking TE but his pass catching chemistry with TB12 last year just never seemed to click (unlike Marty Bennett) which to me makes him something of a one-dimensional liability? Since I am asking about the TE position I also wonder when the Pats will purposely target another "H" type TE along the lines of the tragic Aaron Hernandez, who, when paired with a healthy Gronk made the Pats offense virtually unstoppable?
Chip Huckins

I think there's a chance Allen could be gone, especially if he doesn't agree to take some sort of pay cut. He's set to earn $5 million in 2018, and as you said he was a one-dimensional player last year and that seems a bit steep for such a tight end. I don't think he's ever been a great receiver but I also think he's more gifted in that regard than he showed a year ago. If he is back I'd expect him to contribute a bit more in the passing game. The Patriots did sign Troy Niklas and drafted Ryan Izzo to add to the depth at the position, and Will Tye spent the end of the season on the practice squad and he'll be in the mix with Jacob Hollister. So, Allen is by no means a roster lock. Incidentally, Tye is in the mold of the "move tight end" that you're referring to, although I feel the Patriots offense has been pretty much unstoppable with and without Hernandez. I don't see that type of player as being a necessity in order for the Patriots to dominate on that side of the ball.
Paul Perillo

I have read several comments about Danny Etling from LSU picked in the seventh round. Several say he will wind up on the practice squad. Another said he was drafted for a later pick in 2019. I have seen a lengthy film of Etling's talents and I am impressed. From what I have seen, he is accurate, can throw deep, runs well and shifty/mobile in and out of the pocket. I am not concerned about the round in which he was picked. After all, look who the Patriots picked one round earlier that has helped win 5 Super Bowls. I don't see BB having talent hang around for a year to get a better QB in the next draft. I think Etling could have a great future, learning from Brady and Brian Hoyer and perhaps moving up to No. 2 in the depth chart before 2018 is over with his youth, maturity and skill set. Am I the only one that is seeing Etling's pick as potentially a very bright future for the Patriots? Could he not make up for the tragic loss of Jimmy Garoppolo?
Mark Washburn

Etling is an interesting player based on some of the reports that have come out during the pre-draft process. First, I would say by his own admission Etling didn't have the strongest arm in college. He struggled with his accuracy on intermediate and deep passes and failed to complete 60 percent of his throws overall in his career. But he's worked hard with Tom House (Brady's throwing coach) and his staff to improve his mechanics and has found the work to be quite beneficial. Etling said he feels his arm is more powerful and the Patriots were impressed with his excessive throwing at his Pro Day and that was one thing that attracted the team in the first place. I feel he will have a chance to stick around this season to see if there's anything worth developing. But to suggest because Brady was a sixth-round pick means it's likely that another late-round pick will have tremendous success is wishful thinking. There's a reason most of the really successful quarterbacks in the league are taken early – they have the talent to thrive. Brady is a rare exception to that rule but you'd be hard-pressed to come up with another great one who was taken after the third round in recent history.
Paul Perillo

Since the dust has finally settled on the draft, I wanted to ask a speculative question (because who doesn't like predicting things way too far in advance?). Who do you believe will be the most valuable offensive and defensive players for the Pats this year? Who do you think will have the most impact as a new addition to the team (rookie, FA or 1st/2nd-year player to the team)? Lastly, who will be the Pats rookie of the year?
Robert Hays

I love to throw these kinds of things out there because usually our readers and fans never let us know when we miss the mark by a wide margin (sarcasm intended). I'll play along knowing that I'll get destroyed later but here goes: Offensive POY: Hard to not pick Brady. The guy is coming off an MVP season and he seems to have some motivation to prove the team made the right choice in holding onto him and letting Garoppolo go. Defensive POY: Stephon Gilmore. He looked much more comfortable over the second half of the season and I feel he will be much more consistent in Year 2. Best addition: Rookie: Sony Michel. I'm thinking Dion Lewis. FA: Adrian Clayborn. Plug him into starting DE spot opposite Trey Flowers. 1st/2nd year: Keionta Davis. I'm intrigued by his athleticism and skill set to get after the passer. Maybe a diamond in the rough?
Paul Perillo

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