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Ask PFW: Wondering about WRs

Fans' questions answered in this week's PFW mailbag..

Thanks for all the info guys. Do you think Reggie Wayne is a long term need/want or short term one due to injuries? Does he have anything left in the tank?James Siegel

I'll start with your second question, James. As we saw last season when he was still with Indianapolis, Wayne isn't the same dominant receiver he once was, but he might have just enough "left in the tank" to help out a team that is desperate for wide receiver help. The Patriots fall in that category at the moment, given all the injuries to various players. The Patriots therefore did their due diligence on him to see if he could be a short-term fix, at the least. He came away with a one-year deal, according to ESPN, on Monday.

I wouldn't expect him to come in and give you a 1,000-yard season, or even to start, but he might be good enough to fill out the bottom of the roster if the club feels it isn't confident in what's already here, or if there won't be enough bodies to fill out the roster come opening night. Erik Scalavino

Since the Pats are giving Reggie Wayne a look-see, any chance they would bring back Randy Moss?  I think he still has gas in tank and could be the deep threat that's respected and they need.  Maybe he's not as fast as some of the young guys, but at least he can catch the ball.

Tom Reniewicz*

Stranger things have happened. I wouldn't rule it out entirely, given how chummy Moss appeared with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady at last week's joint practices with the Saints in Moss' home state of West Virginia. Still, it would surprise me if Moss wound up back in the NFL at all, let alone here in New England. He's been gone for a couple of years now, and though he recently said he's been keeping himself in shape, I'm not sure how much of a factor he could be at this point. And with Wayne now apparently on board, that makes a Moss return to Foxborough that much less likely. Erik Scalavino

Hi guys, from France, where few NFL fans follow you closely every week. Great job you do! I have been impressed by Chris Harper's production through the two first preseason games. Even if often used against second or third opponents' defenses , he looks very good and catches all that is thrown his way, and could contribute on special teams (BB could like it). What is your opinion about his chances to make the roster?

Ludovic Boisseau*

Harper, an undrafted rookie, is making it extremely difficult for the Patriots coaching staff to cut him, that's for sure. He's been a pleasant surprise this summer, both on offense and special teams, as you indicated. I think he's played well enough that he has a better-than-average chance of making either the 53-man roster or the practice squad (more likely), especially given all the injuries at his position. Erik Scalavino

We all know Bill Belichick has no problem trading away key players if he thinks it will help the team (see Logan Mankins trade).  Having said that, and knowing how desperate the Panthers are for WR help, do you think the Pats would consider trading Brandon LaFell to Carolina?  Have the other WRs stepped up enough to fill the void losing LaFell would create?  If the Pats could get a 2nd round pick (3rd is more likely), it could be worth it, especially considering the fact that the Pats don't have a 1st rounder next year.

Eric Theall*

Apparently you haven't noticed, but the Patriots are also desperate for wide receiver help at the moment. Given that, plus the fact that LaFell emerged last year as one of Tom Brady's favorite targets, I would put the chances of his being traded back to his original team, which allowed him to come here via free agency, as close to zero. Erik Scalavino

How is Jack Bequette doing at tight end?

David Kaye, St. Paul,Minnesota

He had been doing ok after switching from defensive end, until he suffered some sort of injury on August 10. He hasn't been on the field, or even seen, since, which doesn't bode well for his chances of ultimately keeping his job on this team. He was already on the bubble to begin with, and the fact that he's missed so many practices puts him further behind. It's too bad, because he's a good young man and the coaches clearly liked him enough to do whatever they could to keep him around. Erik Scalavino

I haven't heard much from Scott Chandler, or much else from any of the TEs so far this preseason. How's that group shaping up?

Shaun Burke*

I know TE Scott Chandler is hurt. What is his status? Is he going to be out long term?Roger Swanson

Like Bequette, Chandler has also been nursing an injury for quite some time. He at least has been able to put on a uniform and get out to the practice field to rehab and do conditioning work during practice, which leads me to believe he'll be fine sooner or later. Rob Gronkowski has been dominant in practice, as you might expect, but the other tight ends have been relatively quiet. Rookie Jimmay Mundine has made a few nice plays here and there, but aside from that, there hasn't been much to talk about at that position. Erik Scalavino

Do you think Asante Cleveland would have been traded for if the team didn't have plans for him? Possible Tim Wright situation seeing the TE position is kind of banged up?

Jeremy Byrd*

If the Patriots didn't have so many injuries and a lack of productivity from tight ends other than Gronkowski, I don't think they would have made the move for Cleveland. As for your comparison to Wright, New England obviously didn't have long-term plans for him when they traded for him, and I don't think expectations are extremely high for Cleveland, either. Maybe he'll surprise us, but I wouldn't bet on it. Erik Scalavino

I am hesitant to write early again, as my last email came before the preseason bout against the Packers. I had asked about Josh Boyce and he promptly flopped completely against Green Bay. Oh well, it made the answer easier at least... Speaking of the Packers game, I wanted to ask if you guys saw the same thing I did in the play of DL/LB Rufus Johnson. I came away from the game thinking, "Wow, that looks like a guy who will make this team." I thought he had a lot of energy and was getting to the ball and/or quarterback well on a lot of different plays.

Jon Parisi, Athens, Georgia*

I wasn't as blown away by Johnson's performance as you were, Jon. He had a solid night, by and large, but was also injured near the end of the game and hasn't practiced since. That's going to make it more difficult for him to cling to a roster spot. Unless he comes back this week and really puts on a show, he's going to remain a long-shot to stick around. Erik Scalavino

Hey guys, thanks for taking my questions. First thing I want to know is if the injuries to Trey Flowers and Daryl Roberts are serious? Do we have any insight? They looked really good in the preseason game I would hate to see them miss a lot of time. Secondly, do you think all of the Patriots that are "injured" really are? Or is this some Belichick smoke screen? I mean we had a longer season than almost everyone, and we start early. I wouldn't be shocked. Thanks for taking the questions!

Shane Michaud*

Both rookies, Flowers and Roberts, suffered what looked like serious injuries in the preseason opener against Green Bay. Neither has been seen since then, which leads me to believe they were in fact serious. Injury details are almost impossible to come by around here – the team certainly isn't forthcoming about them – but when there's no sign of a player at practice or in the locker room, that's generally not a good sign of things to come.

Your second question… Yes, every player who's injured really is dealing with a medical issue. There's no funny business going on there. The stars who need protection, which is what I think your question implies, are being treated with kid gloves when it comes to preseason game reps, as we've seen with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, et al. If Belichick were trying to protect a player, he wouldn't pretend the guy was injured. He'd just limit his reps in the games. It's never a good thing to keep a player out of practice, especially now, under the current CBA, when practice times are so curtailed as it is. Players need to be on the field as much as possible. Anyone who truly can't practice, doesn't. The minute a guy can suit up and take part, he does. So, if a player is reported as being injured, you can count on it.  Erik Scalavino

My number 1 concern for this team is neither secondary nor banged-up receiving corps, although the number of receivers who are injured is unbelievable. My biggest concern is our run offense and run defense. Our division will be one brute-force type of group relying on running the ball, staffing the run and blitzing the passers. I am not sure that the [Tre'] Jackson, [Ryan] Wendell, and [Shaq] Mason group of guards is good enough for run support and on the defensive side, we don't flash too much run-staffing talent either. Our LBs are the strength of this D, but by the time they get to the ball, opposing RBs already gained a few yards. Are you concerned about our trenches in this regard?

Ben Loritz*

I'm mildly troubled by the lack of production on the ground offensively, but I expected that going into training camp given the relative inexperience of the backfield.  It hasn't helped that the o-line has suffered a rash of injuries, either, but it's too early to be overly concerned about that aspect of the offense. If this trend continues during the regular season, however, then I'll revisit your question.

On defense, the first game against Green Bay the d-line looked rather porous, but they tightened against the Saints in Week 2. That's a trend in the right direction, but again, at this point, anything more than mild concern is an overreaction. Remember, offenses and defenses are very vanilla during the preseason. We're not seeing exactly how the personnel groupings or game plans will look once the games begin to count in the standings. NFL history is littered with teams who looked great during the preseason, only to fall flat in the regular season, and vice versa.

That's not to say there aren't still questions that need answering on both sides of the line, but I'm not prepared to panic about either yet. Erik Scalavino


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