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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: Time for Mac, Replacing Gilmore and more 

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With Stephon Gilmore on PUP, is it worth considering Devin McCourty switching to cornerback where he played on his rookie season? - David Boddy

McCourty did have a solid rookie season at cornerback when he picked off seven passes and went to the Pro Bowl. But things didn't go so well for him at corner in the ensuing seasons. He remained at corner in 2011 and 2012 and struggled badly, which to Bill Belichick's decision to move McCourty to safety, where he's been ever since. The move was a wise one as McCourty has thrived on the back end of the secondary for the past decade and been one of the Patriots most consistent players during that time. I don't see McCourty as a viable option at corner at this advanced stage of his career at age 34. He would be best served continuing at free safety, where he has ably set the secondary for the past several years. - Paul Perillo

With the practice squad rules allowing two game day call-ups, one of which will be Brian Hoyer, can the Patriots call Hoyer up and down untold amount of times? While also claiming him as one of their priority practice squad players protecting him as their backup QB throughout the entire season? And with the two PS call-ups 90 minutes before game time allowing teams to carry 55 players on roster for the game, does that also increase game day actives to 49? And please refresh my memory why only 47 of 53 players on roster can play? Every other sport allows for every player on the roster to play. Why not decrease the NFL roster to 47 then? I do not agree with this, as injuries play such a significant role in the NFL. I think the new IR and PS rules are way overdue. - Brett Larson

You have a lot of information in this post, and some of it is correct but much of it is not. First, the normal game day roster limit is 46 so the additional two players allowed to be elevated from the practice squad each week makes it 48. Hoyer would indeed be eligible for promotion and then returned to the practice squad after the game, but only twice during the season. If the Patriots wanted to elevate him a third time he would need to be signed to the active roster. Teams still need to declare seven players as inactive each week. The reason for this is injuries. If teams could activate all players, teams could be at a disadvantage if they had injuries. As an example, if the Patriots and Dolphins were able to dress 55 players each on Sunday, it's possible one team wouldn't have enough healthy bodies while the other might be at full strength. Therefore, there could be a situation where one team could have more players available. The inactives allow teams to enter each game on a level playing field with the same amount of healthy players to chose from. And each of the other sports also have roster limits for each game and some healthy players are inactive in baseball, hockey and basketball.

- Paul Perillo

After months of speculation Mac Jones has done a fantastic job in securing the starting quarterback position and should be highly commended for doing that, from what we have all witnessed in the three preseason games and reports from training camp it was won by his very good and encouraging body of work and not just given to him by a massively underperforming Cam Newton. Cam Newton should also be commended for his contribution and efforts to the team and the organization but just like in the Brady-Bledsoe drama from years gone by you feel for the losing man as he and Bledsoe are both model teammates but they both had to give way for the young man who wanted it more. I would like to hear your take and opinion on how the whole situation panned out and how you feel about the future now for New England behind center? - Marc Saez

Mac Jones outplayed Cam Newton throughout the summer; I don't think many people would disagree with that. It wasn't a huge edge, but he played better than Newton during practice and in the games. Therefore he won the job. I also don't think Newton was very good in practice or in the games (other than in Philadelphia), and that made Belichick's decision much easier. I don't really see much similarities between this situation and Brady-Bledsoe back in 2001. Bledsoe was the starter and got injured, and from that point on Brady played extremely well. In this case, Newton was not very good in 2020 and showed very little improvement in 2021, leading Jones to the starting job. I feel Jones is well-positioned to have some success as a rookie with a solid running game and defense. We will watch him develop this season and see how he improves as the year progresses. - Paul Perillo

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I understand that the four players on the PUP list are not available for six weeks. What about the two rookies on NFI, any restrictions on them? What is the status of the five players on IR? They were put on the list at different times, Dalton Keene and Raekwon McMillan were placed there Aug 7, Anfernee Jennings on Aug 31. Are all five available in three weeks, or are some of them done for the season? Nick Thurman was listed as cut on Aug 31, but is on the IR list now. What's the details on that? What became of Marcus Martin, placed on the IR 8/24? - Andy Alexander

Players on NFI are subject to the same rules as those on PUP, therefore Cameron McGrone and Joshuah Bledsoe would have to sit out the first six weeks at minimum before being eligible to return. The differences between the lists is NFI indicates an injury that took place either before the player became a member of the team or while doing an activity that didn't involve the team. Both McGrone (torn ACL) and Bledsoe (injured wrist/hand) were injured in college. Also, those on NFI aren't necessarily entitled to their full salaries and teams have the ability to determine how they will be paid. As for those on IR, anyone not on the active 53-man roster on the final cutdown date is ineligible to return. That was the case for all of the players you mentioned, so all of them won't be eligible to play for the Patriots in 2021. - Paul Perillo

Excited for the Patriots to start a new streak of dominating the AFC. Wondering with all the personnel changes how this season's starting lineup and roster compares to last season's crew. Is half the starting lineup new? - Matt Esecson

There will be a lot of turnover for the Patriots from 2020 to 2021. On offense, Trent Brown, Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne are all newcomers and will be part of the attack. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson also should get some time in the backfield. On defense, among those who weren't there last year include Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Matt Judon, Davin Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Jalen Mills and rookie Christian Barmore. All will either be starters or receive significant playing time. That's 13 players who weren't part of the equation last year that figure to be part of the lineup going forward, and there will be more for sure. - Paul Perillo

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What are the rules concerning bringing players off of IR and the PUP list during the season? Belichick has some talent stashed away on these two lists. - Gordon Rowlinson

Players who were on the roster after the final cutdown and then later placed on IR (like N'Keal Harry) are eligible to return after three weeks. Players on PUP (like Stephon Gilmore) are forced to wait at least six weeks before they are eligible to return. At that point Gilmore could begin practicing and then the Patriots would have a three-week window in which to activate him. They also could wait an additional three weeks before having him begin practicing. I'd expect Gilmore to hit the practice field after that six-week period and to be activated soon thereafter. - Paul Perillo

With the increasing prevalence and valuing of good QBs with special mobility I wonder where some QBs from the past would be drafted today and how they'd be valued in the draft such as Peyton Manning, an all-time great and former No. 1 overall pick. Where do you think a guy like him would be drafted in a class like the most recent one? Would he still be seen as No. 1 or top 5? What about Mac Jones if he played 25 years ago? - Austin Evans

Peyton Manning was considered a generational talent when he was coming out of Tennessee and I have no doubt that he would still go No. 1 overall if he was coming out in the most recent draft. There's no doubt that mobile quarterbacks are becoming more and more prevalent in the league but there will always be a place for truly exceptional talents like Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, who all made their living operating largely from the pocket. I don't think Mac Jones' draft status would have changed much. It's possible he would have gone a little later based on his lack of experience at Alabama, where he started just one full year. That may have scared some teams off 25 years ago, as was he case with Brady. Today, most of the quarterbacks have limited starting experience in college and therefore their draft status isn't affected as much. - Paul Perillo

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How close do you think Steve Belichick is to becoming a head coach, and do you think there is any chance he takes over when Bill calls it quits? How awesome would that be to pass down the coaching title from father to son? - Joel Lindgren

I haven't really heard much buzz for Steve Belichick being in the running for head coaching openings over the past few offseasons. Jerod Mayo, who works closely with Belichick on defense, interviewed for the Eagles job vacancy last winter but I haven't heard Belichick's name thrown into that mix. I don't see Belichick as a viable option to replace his father at some point, but that's a decision the Krafts will need to make when the time comes. At this point I don't really see it as an option. - Paul Perillo

Without Randy Moss over Tom Brady's 20 years with the Patriots we didn't have a deep threat. We have had a lot of successful receivers and tight ends that were excellent at short yardage passes. That's what Tom relied on and so did Peyton and Brees, looking at that I'm not concerned about the depth of our receivers and tight ends for Mac to throw to as long as they can separate horizontally we will ground and pound with rotating backs and rely on our front 7. -Jon Regalado

If Mac Jones proves to be as effective as Brady, Brees and Manning then I don't have any worries about the receiving corps either. But since that's highly unlikely I am concerned about this group's ability to create separation on a consistent basis. It's not about deep threats or not (although players like David Patten, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks and others stretched the field effectively at times for Brady). It's more about finding receivers who can get open and make plays. Right now the group looks a little limited in that department with Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne lacking consistency. The tight ends should help but I'd love to see another outside receiver added to the mix. - Paul Perillo

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Which is more likely to happen: A. Mac is the QB and leads the team to the Super Bowl in the next five years. B. Mac is traded or released within the next five years and the Pats look for someone else. C. Brady plays for the next five years, making the coaches/owners look like fools for letting him walk. - Dave Bowers

The truth for me is probably a variation of A – minus the Super Bowl title. I don't really think any of the three options will ultimately be accurate. But since you phrased it the way you did I'd have to say my answer is C. As unlikely as it seems, Brady could play another five years and I think that's more likely than the Patriots winning a title during that time. But obviously this is strictly a guess. - Paul Perillo

Just curious - it occurs to me that given how highly and broadly Matthew Slater is respected for his character and leadership, I think he has potential as a future coach in the league. Thoughts? - Ted Babcock

I have no idea if coaching is something in Slater's future but he spends a lot of time on the practice field working with young players on special teams techniques. This is something he seems to enjoy and has done for the past several years. Coaching is a difficult transition due to the extreme amount of time it takes and many players aren't willing to commit to such a change. But Slater does embrace the teaching element during practice and it would not stun me if he opted to get into that line of work. - Paul Perillo

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Now that the roster cuts have been made, who is the best wide receiver out there to get as the fourth receiver on the depth chart. - Grant Tedro

I thought there were a couple of options that might have made sense like Bashaud Perriman available right after cuts but the Patriots didn't show any interest. Perhaps a veteran slot receiver like Golden Tate could generate interest, but honestly there aren't any receivers available that would be overly attractive. Trades are always possibilities but in terms of available free agents, there isn't much to choose from. - Paul Perillo

Just so awesome, what BB did. I do not want to hear any of you say u saw it coming. BS if you do. Nobody saw it and I think it is fantastic. While many of us wanted Mac to take the starter role, we just never saw Cam getting released. Great move though. Why give Mac the threat of an All-Pro sitting in the wings? BB is rolling the dice but I am all with him. - Rick Malec

Erik Scalavino has been saying for weeks that he thought Jones would win the starting job and if he did then Cam Newton would be released. He was right. I didn't see it coming but I also don't think it's a roll of the dice. Belichick did what he generally does: he went with the better player. He cut a player who played poorly in 2020 and showed no signs of improvement this summer. Therefore he let him go. What was surprising was how many first-team reps Belichick gave Newton, and that's why we were all surprised. But make no mistake: Jones played well all summer and Newton did not. - Paul Perillo

We're five days from opening day and the Pats have one QB on the roster. Jarrett Stidham is not part of the solution at this time. So that means Hoyer (I remember Kansas City!) has to be elevated? - Tom DiGangi

No one needs to be cut to make room for Hoyer because the rules allow teams to elevate two players from the practice squad each week. So, I'd expect Hoyer to serve as the backup against the Dolphins and then we'll see how Belichick chooses to work things from there. Hoyer could be elevated and returned to the practice squad twice, and after that he'd need to be elevated to the active roster. Hoyer should be the main backup at least until Stidham is healthy enough to return. At that point Belichick would have a decision to make. - Paul Perillo

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