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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: Impact of Collins' return

The impact of Collins' return, who's calling the plays and the corner competition are just a few of the fan questions answered in our weekly mailbag.


How do you feel about the Patriots re-signing Jamie Collins and what role do you see him playing in 2019 if he makes the team? Has Bill Belichick built a championship defense with this addition or do you think the team still has a hole or two along the defensive line that could be filled like a run stuffing DT? Daniel Hill

I know we haven't even hit training camp yet, but with Jamie Collins back in Foxborough, do you think Bill could be thinking about playing more of a 3-4 type defense? Collins and [Dont'a] Hightower on the outside with [Ja'Whaun] Bentley and [Elandon] Roberts in the middle seems like a solid linebacker corps for certain situations. Jacob Gordon

Collins has always been a talented athlete, which is why I contend that New England probably would not have parted ways with him a few years back had his contract not been an issue at the time. Now that he's back in Foxborough, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he finds himself in the starting lineup come Week 1. However, the Patriots appear to be hedging their bets with him, as evidenced by his multilayered, one-year pact that can be anywhere from around $1 million to $5 million in value, depending on how he performs on the field.

My assumption at this premature stage is that he'll be utilized similar to how he was in his first go-round, as a mostly outside rusher who can drop and cover skill position players if needed. Jacob's scenario fails to account for the one player who I believe was the Patriots' playoff MVP last season, Kyle Van Noy. If Collins and Van Noy can handle the outsides, Hightower can be deployed either inside or out as needed.

Regardless of how it unfolds, Collins' return strengthens the team's depth at linebacker and gives new position coaches Jerod Mayo and DeMarcus Covington more options with which to work. His presence alone doesn't necessarily elevate this defense to "championship-caliber," but coupled with a burgeoning secondary and the addition of Michael Bennett on the d-line, I'm going into 2019 expected that side of the ball to be better than its 2018 counterparts that actually did win a title. Erik Scalavino

Do you think we brought back Collins to possibly trade Hightower (and picks) for an elite wideout? Nick Pecora

I try not to rule most things out with this club, so, I won't shoot down your idea. However, for reasons already stated, I believe Collins is here to complement, not crowd out someone like Hightower. A trade for a known-commodity receiver might still be possible, though. Erik Scalavino

My question is regarding the potential Defensive Coordinator position. If Belichick doesn't call plays, most people are thinking either Mayo (my choice) or [Bret] Bielema calls them. In BB's tenure with the Patriots, has he ever had such a lack of experience on the defensive coaching side of the ball and has he ever had a coordinator with zero coaching experience? Keep up the good work guys! Charlie Taylor

This is an unprecedented offseason of coaching turnover for Belichick's staff, particularly on defense. My recollection is that Belichick has only called defensive signals once during his tenure with this team, and that was in 2000, during his first season as head coach. He's had someone else – a coordinator or position coach – serve as play-caller every year since.

I'm anxious, therefore, to see who, if anyone, on the defensive side of the ball is given a headset this summer during training camp and preseason, now that Greg Schiano is no longer here. Schiano, you may recall, was believed to have been hired as the DC before he abruptly stepped down earlier this offseason. Given that Schiano was the original choice, my feeling is, if it's not Belichick, Bielema is the clear choice. He has experience both in this system now for the past year and as a head coach in college. He'd be the best-equipped assistant on this staff to handle those duties. Erik Scalavino

With the hope that we make a move for [Vikings tight end Kyle] Rudolph (I would give a third-round, maybe even a second), it got me thinking about the past TEs the Patriots have had (pre-2000). Which one (if you magically could) would you like to be able to sign right now (in their prime)? I'm torn between Russ Francis and Ben Coates. But since I saw more of him maybe, I'd say Coates (though I don't know much about how these guys were as run blockers). What say you, Patriots Unfiltered? Is Marv Cook out of the conversation? Irma J. Cooley from Ridgewood NJ

Cook was a very good player on not very good Patriots teams, and Francis was one of the best tight ends in the league during his day, but for my money, the closest thing this franchise ever had to a Rob Gronkowski before Gronkowski got here was Coates. I'm with you on this one, Irma. Coates in his prime on this offense would be a godsend for Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels. Erik Scalavino

Do you think Josh Gordon will return to help the team? N'Keal Harry, Julian Edelman, and Gordon would be a deadly starting trio. Also, do you see Sony Michel rushing for over 1000 yards this season? Desmond Sharp

Gordon's status for 2019 and beyond remains unclear at this point. All we know is that this is around the time that he and the NFL Players Association union reps can begin the process of petitioning the league for reinstatement from his indefinite suspension. Until such time as he is allowed back on the football field, I wouldn't factor Gordon into your equation. However, if and when he rejoins the Patriots, yes, I agree, he would add another talented target for this offense.

With respect to Michel, I'm hoping for a considerable Year-Two jump, as we like to call a player's sophomore season around here. There were times I thought he was a shoestring tackle away from breaking a long run last season, but just didn't have enough burst to beat the defender. I'm hoping any lingering injuries have healed and that we'll see a more explosive Michel in 2019. Whether that equates to a 1,000-yard season, which he came so close to achieving in just 13 regular season games as a rookie, remains to be seen and will be determined in part by how well his o-line and other blockers perform this season. Erik Scalavino

Is there any chance that Ben Watson, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski all "unretired" and take the field after the Bye Week so they have enough time to rev up for a playoff run? Ralph Collucci

Well, Watson has already done so and re-signed with New England earlier this month. As for the other two… Again, I'm usually not one for discounting potential (plausible) personnel moves involving the Patriots, but this one seems like too long of a shot to contemplate. Gronk was in the stadium last week to record some material for NFL Films and looked quite happy with his retirement decision. And I would be mildly stunned if the Patriots revisited the Martellus idea for a third time. Erik Scalavino

Where do you see [cornerback J.C.] Jackson fitting in this season, if at all? Joseph Gerber

If at all? The guy started five of 13 regular season games and one of three playoff contests as an undrafted rookie last season. He was easily the most notable defensive rookie on the team and is likely the incumbent starting corner opposite Stephon Gilmore entering this season. If he stays healthy, my expectation is that he'll be in the starting lineup alongside Gilmore again in Week 1 and thereafter. Erik Scalavino

I wish Andy Hart had addressed my main point [in last week's P.U. Q&A column] instead of the tangent he offered in trashing Ryan Allen. Allen was spot on when it mattered most. Not consistent throughout the year, but that was not my point. He is a seasoned NFL punter. I wanted insight into why the Patriots felt a need to "trade up" for Bailey at 163? I know Bailey is good, very good. Yet, they could have taken a lot of really good role players at that point. Not only did they draft him, but they obviously really wanted him. Please tell me there is more to the story than they wanted competition. And please have someone other than Andy respond. He does not seem to get my point. Rick Malec

I do feel there's more to the selection of Bailey than just serious competition for Allen. At Stanford, Bailey doubled as a kickoff specialist, where he sent 60 of 72 such kicks for touchbacks a year ago and 58 of 83 the season prior to that. With Stephen Gostkowski getting older but still valuable as a field goal kicker, perhaps there's a thought to giving his leg a rest when it comes to kicking off. That's where Bailey, if he beats out Allen as the punter, might be able to assist.

That's as good a reason as any that I can offer for why New England chose to trade up for him. Hope that suffices, Rick. Erik Scalavino

Obi Melifonwu was a second-round pick and tremendous athlete, yet there's no real news about him. Is he at all in the Patriots' plans moving forward? Especially with [rookie Joejuan] Williams being the same height and size as him, is Obi even necessary? I always envision him taking over for [Devin] McCourty possibly at the Free safety spot in a season or two. Brian Edmond

To be clear, Brian, Melifonwu was a second-round pick of the Raiders, not New England, and didn't join the Patriots until November of last year. It's usually difficult for any player to arrive so late in a season and contribute significantly and instantaneously, although Melifonwu did appear in a handful of games down the stretch.

I expect he'll be given every opportunity this spring and summer, now that he's had a full offseason in the program, to compete and show what he's capable of doing in this defense. Erik Scalavino

I'll be traveling to Foxborough and staying at Patriot Place at the end of the month! I see there are offseason workouts scheduled when I will be there. Are those open to the public to watch? Would love a chance to observe and see the stadium. Shannon Rice, Woodland, WA

Sounds like a nice trip, Shannon. Unfortunately for you, though, only training camp practices in late July and early-to-mid-August are open to the public. However, media does have access to five of those upcoming spring practice sessions. Check back here on for all the news you'll need about what took place. Erik Scalavino

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