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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: OL retirements, camp battles and more

Offensive line retirements and camp competition highlight this week's mailbag.


What's with all the offensive linemen retiring this season, a couple after only just signing? Does three in quick succession suggest something worrying?

Mark FB

In terms of the overall state of the Patriots I don't think the retirements suggest anything worrying in any way. But in terms of depth up front, I think Bill Belichick would probably like to see some more bodies available to add to the competition for some backup roles. Jared Veldheer was probably the leading candidate to serve as the swing tackle who could step in and start if Isaiah Wynn wasn't ready. Now Joe Thuney seems to be serving in that capacity, and having your starting left guard in that role doesn't seem ideal. Brian Schwenke and J.J. Dielman figured to be fighting for jobs as backups on the interior, so it wouldn't surprise me to see Belichick add someone soon. But I wouldn't worry about the rash of retirements being a sign of something wrong within the structure of the team. The Patriots have had many players do similar things over the years. The only difference this year is there have been three at the same position.

Paul Perillo

How is Derek Rivers looking this year? You guys think he will be a significant part of the defense this year? Alwen Biesum

Pats Nation Aruba

Rivers has been getting some reps on the outside as a defensive end/linebacker with the second group thus far in camp. He seems to be more involved in personnel groups that include more of the front line players than he has in past camps. This is an important summer for Rivers as he tries to establish a role for himself in his third year with the team. He has flashed some ability at times and has some intriguing athletic skills, but thus far hasn't been able to crack into the regular rotation. Belichick has offered some praise of Rivers in the past, saying that he believes Rivers has a bright future. If that is to happen in New England the time is now. I view him as being firmly on the bubble and needing a strong camp/preseason to maintain his roster spot.

Paul Perillo

How has Duke Dawson looked so far in camp? Do you think there is any chance he will get cut? Also I remember at Florida he played some safety.

Daren Kostecki

Dawson has been involved with the second group in the secondary and he does have some versatility to play in the slot as well as at safety. Mostly he's seen time in the slot this summer and he's made a couple of nice plays during the early camp practices. The problem is the secondary – and corner in particular – is very deep. There will be at least one talented player released out of this group and Dawson could wind up being the guy. Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Keion Crossen and Dawson all have talent and the competition will be among the best at any position on the roster. I haven't seen enough of Ken Webster (he's on PUP and hasn't practiced) and the other rookie DBs to know if there's a budding Malcolm Butler or Jackson in the group. Like Rivers, Dawson will need to step it up to keep his spot.

Paul Perillo

Wondering what happened/where is Chris Hogan this year? And Danny Amendola rumored to come back and that didn't happen?

Peter Brown

Hogan signed as a free agent with Carolina and Amendola went from Miami to Detroit as a free agent. Both guys were available but the Patriots didn't seem to have much interest, particularly with Hogan, who signed about a month into free agency for short money. I think the Patriots wanted to move on and look for some younger options at the receiver spot, and although the depth chart doesn't have many answers at this point I don't think I'd feel much better with Hogan as part of the group. Amendola certainly would help, but he also could earn more than $5 million this year, which is probably more than the team wanted to spend. Either way, Hogan and Amendola are gone.

Paul Perillo

I heard the Patriots come to North Carolina every eight years to play the Panthers. What's the next year they come?

Michelle Martin

The Patriots will head to Charlotte to play the Panthers in 2021, when they are next scheduled to play the teams from the NFC South division. The teams are also frequent partners in the preseason so it's possible they could meet in Charlotte next year after doing so in 2018 and playing in Foxborough this summer.

Paul Perillo

Do you think it's in Belichick's DNA to sacrifice a substantial amount of draft capital for the heir to the throne? For example, if it becomes clear that Trevor Lawrence (or someone else) is the second coming of Peyton Manning, would Belichick be willing to put together a package to get that #No. 1 pick? If so, what price would be too rich for him? Philip Trunk

I don't necessarily think it's a case of whether or not Belichick would make such a move because few GMs have been more willing to make bold moves than Belichick has over the years. So if Lawrence or someone else was thought of that highly in Belichick's eyes, I definitely could see him making a dramatic move. The question is, how would he be able to pull something like that off? If the No. 1 pick is considered to be a Peyton Manning type, my guess is the team likely wouldn't be willing to part with the pick under pretty much any circumstance. So while I feel Belichick would send, say, a couple of 1s and 2s to move up, I'm not sure that would get it done. It's hard to predict something like that without knowing the specific circumstances. As an example, there are people who believe he was willing to deal Rob Gronkowski prior to the 2018 draft in order to add a No. 1 so he could in turn add that to additional picks to try to move into the top 3 for Baker Mayfield. Gronk has confirmed that a trade was a possibility, but whether the rest of that scenario is true is unknown. But it does offer a glimpse into Belichick's mentality when it comes to his willingness to make bold moves.

Paul Perillo

I had a question regarding the cap and a few trades. The Trent Williams situation in Washington is music to my ears. I'm sure you have read on the situation, so my question is do you think we should make a move for him? I think that would be huge for our offensive line depth and I believe he would restructure his contract to get away from Washington to play for us under Dante. With a Brady restructure and cap space always movable I think it's possible.

Kolton Benish

The Trent Williams situation is fairly complicated. Despite the reports about the mistrust among the tackle and the Redskins medical staff, some believe the root of the tackle's holdout is money. He's scheduled to earn a lot of it over the last two years but not much of that is guaranteed. Williams wants Washington to provide more, and if that's really the problem then the Patriots wouldn't likely be the best solution. Williams is an excellent tackle – one of the best – but he's also 31 and hasn't been all that durable, missing games in each of the last five years. I'd love to add Williams to the mix and solve the problems at left tackle, and the Patriots have plenty of draft capital to make the move. It would be a lot of money but for a talented player the Patriots might be willing to make the move.

Paul Perillo

What might the QB depth chart look like this year? Do you think that they will go with Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer with Danny Etling as a WR but they have him just in case? What will it look like?

Aidan Sukduang

I think Brady, Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham will represent the quarterback depth chart this season. Etling is trying to make the transition to wide receiver and based on training camp is no longer a quarterback. He spends a lot of time after practice throwing the ball, but hasn't taken any reps at the position at all. My guess is the team would like to have him fill a spot on the practice squad once again, where he could provide some value as a player who can do a variety of things. There's a long way to go before those decisions are made but that's how I see it playing out at this point.

Paul Perillo

Do you see the running plays changing this season with the departure of Rob Gronkowski? He was so valuable with inside blocking. Who is the lead blocking candidate … tight end or sixth lineman? I'm sure they'll still run out of I-formation but could it not be as effective with losing Gronk and Trent Brown? Will we see more stretch plays with some bigger WRs? Could the running game be less effective trickling down to less effective play action and decreased time of possession?

Jim Laliberte

Obviously losing a player of Gronk's caliber is going to have an impact on the offense. I'm not sure that means they will have to change the manner in which they try to run the ball, however. In addition to being a threat in the passing game, Gronk was also a punishing blocker and definitely impacted the running game. Where I feel his absence will be felt most, though, is his sheer presence. The offense might be able to find a blocker who can replicate his skills in that department, but it's doubtful they'll find one who commands the attention of the defense and potential big play ability that he did. Even last year when his numbers were down, defenses still needed to account for his ability to get deep down the seam, like he did on the Super Bowl's biggest offensive play that set up the game's only touchdown. Ryan Izzo is probably the tight end with the best reputation as a blocker on the roster but he by no means is a lock to make the team. Ben Watson will likely be the guy when he returns from suspension but it's definitely an area of concern.

Paul Perillo

It is interesting how each year there is a surprise UDFA making the team, but I think as interesting are the veterans who come in with some expectation but don't make the 53-man roster. Who do you have as the most likely candidate this year? My vote for veteran not making the team is Dontrelle Inman, He did come here from Indy with some promise but it seems as though he is making zero impact and other WRs are getting more one-on-one time with Brady, which is never a good sign.

Alan Bernstein

Inman signed very late in the offseason (mid-May) so it certainly will be no surprise to see him go. He was likely signed to add some depth to the group during the summer and provide an experienced option. But if the team felt strongly about him he wouldn't have still been on the market that late. Through the early stages of camp he seemed to struggle with his route-running and wasn't involved in many reps. Then he missed practice on July 28 and 29 and already seemed to be well behind. I think you made a good pick.

Paul Perillo

Denmark is dying to know how Hjalte Froholdt is doing. Is he making the team? Does he have any chance of being the "main backup guy" instead of Ted Karras, maybe even starting if Wynn does not heal well? Christian Resenbro

Froholdt has been getting some regular work as a backup interior lineman, usually at guard but also spends some time at center as well. I think he has a really good chance of making the roster but I don't think he has much of a chance to start. Even if Wynn doesn't pan out and Joe Thuney has to play tackle, I feel James Ferentz or Karras would be ahead of Froholdt on the depth chart and he would remain a backup. But it looks like he's off to a good start in camp and obviously the Patriots thought enough of him to draft him so we'll see what his future looks like.

Paul Perillo

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