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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: Coming closer to camp

Fans' questions answered in our weekly mailbag 


When does training camp start? Christine Fiore

Exactly one month from today, actually. Thursday, July 25 will be the first day of practice, open to the general public free of charge here in Foxborough. As always, daily schedules of practice times are subject to change, so, it's best to check this website every day to see exactly when the team will be on the field. However, it's a safe bet that the first four, maybe five days of camp will feature some sort of practice session. By collective bargaining agreement rule, the first two days must take place without full pads, so, bear that in mind if you decide you want to come for a visit. Erik Scalavino

DE Chase Winovich looks intriguing, but I cannot help wondering at what position he will play? He seems to have played mostly as a 4-3 DE in college. How much do the Patriots play 4-3 in relation to 3-4? He also seems a bit on the small side (if you can say that 6-3 255 is small, but I guess it is all relative) to be a 3-4 DE and he has played LB so I wonder if he might revert to playing OLB in the NFL? You might also argue that the distinction between 3-4 and 4-3 is becoming increasingly moot as teams tend to mix it up quite a lot. It might be that the nickel defense is now to be considered as the base for the Patriots defense. Still, I'd like your thoughts on this. Niclas Enberg

You've done a fairly decent job of answering your own questions already, Niclas. Nowadays, the Patriots, like most other teams, spend the majority of their game time in non-traditional front seven formations. Specifically, as you mentioned, nickel has become the de facto base defense for many clubs. New England is no exception.

That said, the rookie draft choice Winovich is most likely going to be playing somewhere on the outside of that front seven, if you will. He's listed as a defensive end on the roster, but my guess is he'll be deployed as a stand-up edge rusher, whether that's as an OLB or a DE is semantics. The bigger questions he must answer this summer, in my estimation, are: Can he rush the passer, set the edge, and be effective versus the run? Because that's what he and every other edge player is asked to do in this defense. If he can do any of those effectively, he'll have a chance to contribute. Erik Scalavino

Hiya, guys. Greetings from the sunny south of Spain. Now that (almost) everyone is on holiday until training camp starts, we still seem to be quite thin in the coaching department. This maybe a farfetched thought, but I can definitely see former players like Kevin Faulk, Vince Wilfork and/or Ty Law in the near future being added to the coaching staff. They have been seen helping out in spring practices and are all taking part in the trip to Israel. Jerod Mayo joined that same trip as well. It's no secret, either, that Mayo and Wilfork are very close friends. Could there be any talks going on between Mr. Kraft and Wilfork, Faulk and/or Law to become part of what right now appears to be, a very thin coaching staff? Lars de Munck

It's true that this has been an unusual offseason in terms of coaching staff turnover. Unprecedented, actually, in the Bill Belichick era here in Foxborough. It's also true that some of the players you mentioned were seen on the field this spring in what looked like coaching capacities. None of those men, however, appears to be listed as official coaching assistants with the team right now – which isn't to say that they couldn't or wouldn't be brought on board at some point, but it would be pointless to speculate on any private conversations taking place between ownership and former players.

All we can say for certain is that, as of today, only Mayo is officially part of the coaching staff for 2019. He looked quite comfortable in that role during spring practices, in fact. The other new position assistant coaches on the staff are men who've been promoted from within after several years of service to the organization. So, it's not as if they're entirely unfamiliar with what goes on here. Only two men – coaching assistants Carmen Bricillo and Bob Fraser – have never worked for Belichick before.

However, just like any new player on the roster, all these new and newly promoted assistant coaches deserve a chance to perform before we pass judgment on their fitness for their respective roles. Erik Scalavino

Hey, everyone, thanks for all the hard work this offseason. My first question is, who are a few players on your mind that could be seen as a possible dark horse-type player this offseason? Someone who has a chance this season to make the roster and contribute more than most people would expect. Secondly, what do you see as the floor and ceiling for Winovich in the upcoming years and who could you see as a possible player comparison for him. Thanks for everything you all do keeping plus entertained all year. Kolton Benish

Your first question has a number of possible answers. For instance, any of the 2018 rookies who spent most or all of last season in injured lists is a candidate to be a surprise contributor this year. From a veteran perspective, someone like safety Obi Melifonwu is an intriguing talent – tall and athletic for the safety position – and with a full offseason now under his belt, he's someone to watch this summer in what could be a very competitive secondary. Wide receiver Maurice Harris also impressed some observers with his performance this spring.

As for Winovich, on whom we've already spent some time in this week's column, I prefer to see him in full pads for at least a few weeks and a couple of preseason games before I'm comfortable drawing any comparisons to other players. Erik Scalavino

Among the current receivers on the roster, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, N'Keal Harry, Maurice Harris, Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, Demaryius Thomas, Josh Gordon and Gunner Olszewski, who are you projecting to be on the opening roster? It's a given that Edelman and Harry will be there, but assuming Thomas begins the year on [PUP or IR] and Gordon gets 2-8 games suspension, who else starts the season? Berrios and Harris reportedly flashed during the mandatory minicamp, so they seem to be the front-runners. What do you think of Inman's and Dorsett's chances? Thanks and I look forward to your response! Mel Buford

This would be an opportune time for me to plug my upcoming series of annual posts here on that I call "Position Snapshots." These are going to start appearing in July, leading up to the start of training camp, and giving you my impressions of which players are Locks, on the Bubble, and Long Shots to make the 53-man roster at every position. I give a few paragraphs of overall rationale, so, you'll be able to discern who I'm expecting to survive the competition.

But it's a premature assessment, and that's the fun part about watching camp unfold. Every summer, there are players we don't expect to emerge that do, and often, those we expect to that don't. Erik Scalavino

Hi, guys! Thank you for picking my question. It's about Josh Gordon. Glad to see that he got some "play catches" with TB12. But is he even permitted to make contact with his teammates? TB12 and Julian Edelman both served suspension in the past, and they were not permitted to make any kind of contacts with the team, coaches, nor his teammates. Is there any differences between the suspensions they served? Thank you! John Lee

Yes, there are some slight differences regarding suspensions due to conduct, violation of substance abuse policy, and violation of performance enhancing drug policy. The overarching similarity, though, is that suspended players are typically not allowed to have contact with teammates or coaches or other team personnel during their suspension (particularly at sanctioned team events) and they're usually (though not always) not allowed to visit the facility. What Gordon and Brady did together recently appears to fall under the list of permissible activities in Gordon's case. Erik Scalavino

The Patriots may have a championship-caliber defense this year, but not an offense. While I have hopes for some WRs to emerge, I just can't hope for any TE on the roster being a sufficient contributor, and then there are injured/aging/unproven bodies at OT. Why not try to make a couple trades and even throw in low picks to get a TE and OT? Stan Cohen

Has it ever occurred to you – and I mean the general "you," because we get questions like this often – that the players New England has right now might be capable of doing their jobs effectively? Just because there are perceived question marks at a position doesn't mean the men who occupy those roles can't or won't step up to the challenge. I'm not declaring that the Patriots won't make any trades at either or both of those positions before the regular season kicks off, but the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Let's allow the training camp and preseason competitions to get underway before we start abandoning hope on any individuals or groups of players. Erik Scalavino

Would you say that Sony Michel is closer in style to Curtis Martin as a runner than most other NE backs since [Robert] Edwards? And what do you think the best corner back placements would be for JeJuan Williams and Duke Dawson? Could either ever be a starter? Ron Miller

Curtis Martin is a Pro Football Hall of Famer. He was big, ran hard between the tackles, had explosive bursts in the open field, and could catch the ball. Fantastic player overall and a good guy to deal with as a reporter. It's unfortunate that his Patriots career was so short, but he's still the best back this team has ever had. Michel needs to have an enormous Year-2 jump to warrant comparisons to Martin. At this point, Michel and Edwards are more equivalent based on their rookie season productivity and styles of play. There was a time early on when I thought Laurence Maroney had a chance to be a complete back like Martin. He showed flashes, but it never fully materialized. Erik Scalavino

Hi, I'm super excited that the Patriots are really in Israel. Is there a schedule of any of the ceremonies and other stuff? Daniel Ben-Bassat

The contingent that went on "Touchdown in Irael III" is actually back in the States now. Those I've spoken with who were part of it say it was yet another fantastic trip to the Holy Land. We have some photo galleries and a story or two available here on if you'd like to take a look, and there'll most likely be some video production of the event coming soon. Erik Scalavino

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