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Patriots Replay Thu May 28 | 02:00 PM - 11:59 PM

Ask PFW: Who's next?

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With [Stevan] Ridley now out for the year, BB will need to make some changes at running back. [Shane] Vereen could fill that role, but he's too valuable as a pass catcher to get the bulk of the carries. As for [Brandon] Bolden, I honestly can't see him having much success as the primary back with what we've seen in the last few years. Meanwhile, [James] White is still fairly inexperienced and has been a healthy scratch all year. My question is, would it be more likely for BB to go with a committee of the three, or would he maybe look to bring in someone like [BenJarvus] Green-Ellis back into the mix?*
*Simon Adams

The popular answer to replacing Ridley may be "by committee", but I don't see it. Bolden is not good enough and White is a less effective version of Vereen who may get more snaps but not to replace Ridley per se. That brings me to a question, could [James] Develin fill Ridley's shoes? He is not nearly as elusive or slashing as Ridley but could he play the [LeGarrette] Blount role?
B. Jasiman

Like this sampling of our many emailers wondering about how the Patriots will deal with the loss of Ridley, I have my doubts about the current cast of backups being able to fill the void. I think Ridley was the only true lead back type on the roster. He had the experience of carrying the load for a 1,200-yard season. He was capable of running between the tackles with regularity and was a proven force on the goal line. I don't see those characteristics in any of the backups. Bolden is the same size as Ridley but doesn't run with the same power or violence. Vereen and White are more passing backs than regular, early-down options. And as much as I love what Develin brings to the field, he's not a guy I think can get more than a couple carries a game. So that would certainly seem to open the door for adding a running back. The veteran Green-Ellis is the most notable, obvious option. But he's been out of football to open the season and who knows what he has left. He was never all that quick or fast as a plodding, barely-4-yards type. If he's even less than that now, he might not be the answer either. I'm guessing the Patriots will stick with what they have for the short week leading up to the battle with the Jets, but then the long week to prepare for the Bears could offer the chance to bring a veteran option on board to add to the depth of the backfield.
Andy Hart

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Hey, love the work you guys do. Thought I'd give you a quick game of true or false. Ridley is more likely to return because of the injury? Shane Vereen will return to the Pats next year? Browner will be active Thursday? The Patriots will win a playoff game this year? The Patriots will be the only team with at least 9 wins in the division? Thank you for taking my question. Keep up the awesome work.*
*Kurt Osborne

Love quick games. True. False. True. True. True.
Andy Hart

Hey Guys, I noticed that Amendola didn't have a catch, again. Can you tell me his contract situation after this season. Will it cost too much to just outright cut him after the year? I guess he is getting my ire because of his contract.
Monty Borrowman

I believe that cutting Amendola after this season would save just under $2 million on next year's cap. While there would be an acceleration of his remaining $3.6 million bonus proration, his $4 million salary would be taken off the books. Given the way his season has begun, I think there are very high odds that Amendola will be cut, or at least have his contract restructured, after this season. For whatever the reason, he's just not a productive factor in the offense. You are fair in your assessment that we expect more of him because of the contract he was given. That's just the way the world works. And he's certainly not coming anywhere near living up to his paycheck.
Andy Hart

Do you think Jonas Gray may get to take Ridley's snaps, and can Hightower take Mayo's snaps he healthy?
Seth G.

I am not of the belief that the practice squader Gray is ready to replicate any of Ridley's snaps. He had a couple nice runs during the preseason and certainly has the frame to be a bigger, lead back. But he's very much unproven and I wasn't necessarily wowed with what I saw in summer practice and preseason action. (Although, as I always like to point out, the dude does have pretty massive arms. For whatever that's worth!) He may very well get a chance, but I wouldn't say I'm holding my breath for a breakout in production. Hightower could certainly take over Mayo's play calling duties and may move back inside to middle linebacker, as he did last season. But that still leaves a bit of hole in the corps itself, because when healthy Hightower is already a counted-on starter. So he'll be asked to fill some of the void left by the Mayo injury, but others will have to step up as well. That includes greater, more consistent contributions from Jamie Collins as well as more chances for undrafted rookie Deontae Skinner to prove what he can do.
Andy Hart

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What do you think are the chances of Stevan Ridley staying with Patriots beyond this season after his injury against the Bills?*
*Sean Jessiman

I actually think Ridley's chances of remaining in New England may have actually increased due to his reported ACL and MCL injuries. He's set to be a free agent this spring. But the market for veteran running backs has been terrible in recent years. A guy coming off a torn ACL/MCL with a history of fumbling won't be a very attractive prospect. That might make Ridley a candidate to return to his current home in New England on a low-money, one-year deal, sort of like Julian Edelman did a couple years ago when he hit free agency with a broken foot and got almost not attention on the open market. Entering the year I thought there was no chance that Ridley would be a Patriot in 2015, but his injury may have actually made that a more likely possibility.
Andy Hart

Seeing how Pats could not handle Bills TE Chandler, I wonder if [Brandon] Browner would have done a good job with that? Putting a CB on TE is nothing new to Pats, and Browner has the size to match with TEs, and speed-wise Browner is a better match for slower TE's than most receivers. So Browner would not be officially playing safety, but why not put him on TEs since Pats have no answers for them anyway?
S. Cohan

Certainly the Patriots ability to cover tight ends is a major concern on this defense. It's been an issue in previous years. It looked like it would be an issue based on what we saw in the preseason. And it was obviously a problem on Sunday in Buffalo. Browner is an intriguing guy to potentially use on tight ends down the road, especially in sub packages. I don't know how much of that he did with the Seahawks, but as you said, he has the size and physicality to match up with many of those types of players. But the first thing Browner needs to do is get on the field and prove he's a capable defender for this defense. Then it might be worth considering what options he offers in various weekly matchups. At this point I'm sort of sick of talking about the ideas of how Browner might be used – feels like we've been doing that like eight months now – and I'd like to see him actually get on the field and do something, anything.
Andy Hart

Late in the first half against Buffalo, [Marcus] Cannon was forced to draw a holding penalty because Jerry Hughes initially went offside. Since both penalties were offsetting, the play didn't count. I may be biased, but I think the Pats got short changed on the call. Cannon was almost forced to commit the holding penalty on Hughes, since Hughes had a head start because he was offsides. In your estimation, was the play called correctly or should it have been called differently?
Zach Strong

I pretty much agree with your assessment of the penalty on Cannon. But I also think the play was probably called properly. It's one of those seemingly unfair, unfortunate calls that come up in a game. Cannon probably did what he thought he had to do. And I'll always err on the side of protecting Tom Brady. It doesn't seem fair. But I don't know what else could have been done. I think it is what it is.
Andy Hart

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Hi guys! Love what you do here! The Larry Fitzgerald trade rumors have begun to arise again (If I had a nickel, right?). But if the Pats, hypothetically, were to trade for a WR this season, who would be a realistic option? I have a hard time believing it would be Fitzgerald seeing that he's the face of the Cardinals franchise.*
*Zak Salant

Thank you for both mocking the Fitzgerald trade rumors and pointing out how crazy it would be for the Cards to deal their franchise leader. I don't see a lot of obvious, impact options out there that might make sense for the Patriots, especially since the team has a history of struggling to get new receivers acclimated to the system. I'm also not sure that receiver would even be among the team's top needs if it is targeting a trade this fall. I would put offensive line, running back, defensive line, linebacker and safety as greater needs. New England's receiver corps may even be coming into its own given the recent growth of Brandon LaFell and minor contributions of Aaron Dobson and Brian Tyms.
Andy Hart

Why did Pepper Johnson leave the Patriots to be the defensive line coach of the Bills? Did he have unfulfilled aspirations as a defensive coordinator in New England?
Pat Keogh

There was never a specific reason given why Johnson did not return to the Patriots coaching staff after having spent decades working under Bill Belichick as both a player and through the entirety of is coaching career. Johnson did tell a Buffalo radio station shorting after joining the Bills staff that it was an, "opportunity to spread my wings, and to get up from under the shadow of Coach Belichick." Johnson had been passed over for New England defensive coordinator position many times over the years, most recently when Matt Patricia was promoted to that job. Johnson has openly talked about his desire to move up the coaching ranks and become a coordinator and that just wasn't happening in New England.
Andy Hart

Do think the NFL should adopt the five games at 1:00pm, four games at 4:00pm and four games at 8:30pm? We would have more choices. They would make more money because more viewers. Who watches a blowout on Sunday or Monday night? And not 3/4 of the games would take place at 1:00pm when I am usually watching the Patriots. Have a game on Saturday night.
Dave M.

No, I don't think the NFL should or will go to multiple, competing night games. Ratings for primetime action, including the uncompetitive Thursday night games, have been very high. The idea of adding another game, like a Saturday, isn't out of the question. The format of stand-alone primetime games is a successful one and it's not going to change.
Andy Hart

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Hey there. I have heard rumors lately that Ndamukong Suh may not be signing with the Lions this offseason, and if that happens to play out that way, what are the odds of the Patriots giving him a call? It's still a position of need, and a great opportunity to pick up a player of that caliber. And could the Patriots even afford him in free agency? Thanks.*
*Dave Steen

I don't think there is a great chance that New England would be in the market for Suh. I agree the team could use additional talent along the defensive line. But I'm not the biggest Suh fan. He's a borderline dirty player who costs his team with playing at his best. He's seemingly tried to rein that in recently, and his play may be adversely affected by a cleaner style, although he did have a pair of sacks last week. Still, numbers-wise, Suh's best season was his rookie year in 2010. Most importantly, he's also probably going to command a massive contract on the open market. I can't see the Patriots putting $50 million into Suh. I wouldn't do it, either.
Andy Hart

Hey guys! Is there any chance we'll ever see Ridley or Mayo in a Pats uniform again? Guess Mayo will be too expensive next year with his injury. My second question: based on what Tyms brought to the field in his first game as a Patriot, how much upside does he have? Would your start Tyms over Dobson? Thanks.
Mike Koehl

Mayo is set to have his cap number increase to more than $10 million next season. That would certainly indicate that something needs to be done to that deal for a guy who's missed the final 10 games of the last two seasons due to major injuries. Given Belichick's love for Mayo and the player's seeming comfort in New England, his return on a reworked deal (coming down from his reported $6-plus million salary) might make sense. But if he's not open to a major restructure he might be moving on. As I said earlier, I think Ridley's injury may actually make him more likely to return on a short-money, prove-it contract. But, we'll see. I am growing more intrigued by Tyms each week. We saw him show a knack for the deep ball working with Jimmy Garoppolo in the preseason. Now we've seen him show that knack in a real game working with Brady. At the very least the Patriots now have a better option to send down the field on shot plays than they've had in recent years when that role fell to the likes of Matthew Slater, Julian Edelman and even Rob Gronkowski. I don't think that Tyms is ready to be a starter by any means, but he's growing on me and I'm pulling for him because he's a great story. And for the record, Dobson isn't a starter these days either. He's a bit player in the offense right now. LaFell is the guy whose stock is rising most.
Andy Hart

Regarding the Mankins trade. If Wright was going to be released anyway by his former team, and the Patriots needed an extra tight end, why did they have to use Mankins of all people?? They could have picked up Wright "for free". Now they are paying the price of that very ridiculous move, by having to "juggle" linemen in and out every game.
Ron D.

First, they didn't "have to use" Mankins. Clearly that deal was about money and the team's belief that player was no longer worth his projected cap hit. As for the assumption that Wright was going to be released, we don't know that for sure. And even if he was, he would have had to go through waivers and the Patriots were near the bottom of the waiver-wire process. So there is a good chance another team would have snatched up a young tight end coming off a 50-catch rookie season. The Patriots clearly wanted to reduce Mankins' cap hit. When they couldn't work a deal with him to do that, they decided to move on from him. In doing so they added a productive, young player at a major position of need. The deal may still leave a bad taste in your mouth, but at least the reasoning behind it can be understood on some level.
Andy Hart

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