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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: Tight ends, Stidham's ceiling and prematurely nicknaming the defense

In this week’s Unfiltered Q&A, answering Pats fans questions about Jarrett Stidham’s ceiling, the changing tight end position, roster dynamics and trade possibilities as the roster cutdown looms.


Here is hoping that Brady plays at a current level for 2 more years and the Pats draft his replacement in the 1st round next year, while Stidham becomes a replacement to Hoyer. I don't see Stidham becoming elite QB to keep the dynasty going. Do you? Seth Goldin

Stidham's numbers probably look a little better than he's actually played but he's shown continued improvement since the start of camp. That's a must for a rookie trying to grab a roster spot and why people are now debating if the team should still keep Hoyer. As far as what Stidham's ceiling is, I'm not ready to anoint him the heir apparent to Brady just yet. He has good pocket presence, delivers the ball with rushers in his face and has enough athleticism to make plays with his feet. He doesn't have the superlative release of Jimmy Garoppolo and that's why my expectations aren't quite as high. Stidham will have to continue to quicken his processing speed but he has all the other tools. Of course, working under Tom Brady should be a big benefit for him this season. Hopefully we'll see a big jump from him next summer and then we'll have a better sense of how good Stidham can be. Mike Dussault

Gronk retires, then we pull Benjamin Watson out of retirement, sign Lance Kendricks. Watson is suspended for 4 games, we trade for Eric Saubert, Lance Kendricks is suspended for a game, and Matt LaCosse then next man up is injured. What gives?!?!? Should we be concerned about the tight end position this year, or am I overreacting?! Dylan Damewood

I don't think you're overreacting, at least about September. If they can get to October they'll be okay with Watson as the top tight end. The bigger question is Lacosse, who was hurt against the Lions and hasn't played in the last two games. I think they planned on him being the guy for September and then being a complimentary second tight end the rest of the way. But so far that has yet to materialize. It's bizarre to have this much uncertainty at what was long a vital position for Bill Belichick. But that said, I don't think an elite tight end is a must-have, there's only a few of those guys in the league, while the rest of the NFL gets by with a rotation. The Pats can do that this year as well, but the dropoff in red zone production and blocking in the run game could be an issue. Mike Dussault

Would you trade an important defensive player, like Van Noy plus picks, for a top 5 tight end plus picks? Gregorio Ladeira

It's tempting to think about flipping one of the defenders in the front seven for a tight end because it's trading someone from your deepest position to get fill one of your thinnest positions. I'm not sure I would flip Van Noy specifically though. Elandon Roberts would seem to be slightly more tradable since Ja'Whaun Bentley has a similar skillset and doesn't necessarily need to be a three-down player. At this point I think everything is on the table, but ideally I think they'll fill out the tight end position and perhaps a third tackle spot during cutdowns this weekend. Mike Dussault

Preseason may not mean much as everyone starts the season at zero games, it appears to me a ground game is possibly a preference in offense. TB can throw no question, but do you think BB is just testing the run game side or is the playbook still in balance? Joel Cunningham

Great question as I had the same thought. Let's face it, in crunch time this is still going to be Tom Brady's passing team, but the running game looks like it could be even more lethal than it was down the stretch last year. I still have questions about how much push they can get off the edges and how Isaiah Wynn's game will transform the offense from 2018's. But based on how explosive Michel looks and how deep the offensive backfield is, it would be extremely helpful to be able to lean on them, especially in the early part of the season. The goal would be to get back to the balance they had last year during the playoff run. I don't think the overall philosophy is changing, but the more they can force teams to adjust to their ground game the easier things get for Tom Brady. Mike Dussault

Glad to see a strong rookie draft class both this year and last. However, the biggest question mark for me was BB not drafting a TE and drafting Jake Bailey in the 5th. That spot should have landed us a tight end instead of a punter. While Jake Bailey has a booming leg and lots of hang time on the punts, I'm not convinced we couldn't have gotten him as an UDFA or perhaps in round 7. The worst that could have happened is that we wouldn't have gotten him at all and kept a very good Ryan Allen on the team instead. With Ryan Allen, we get punts with slightly less hang time, but probably better directional angles and certainly better place kick holding for Gostkowski. Drafting a TE was an absolute need. Drafting a punter in the 5th was a reach and a luxury we couldn't afford given the dire situation at TE. Alan Bernstein

This embodies what can be so frustrating about the Patriots because they truly don't draft for need, they take players at the spots where they value them. Ultimately the value boils down to the fact that finding your punter for the next four-plus years is a better outcome than taking a tight end who might fizzle out immediately. In the fifth round it's already a huge crapshoot anyway and it looks like they found a punter who can will be not only flipping field position but is also able to contribute via kickoffs as well. Mike Dussault

Do you think the offense will use the TE considerably less this year as in the past? Especially since the WR group is starting to look so much stronger now with the return of Gordon, and how well some of the other WR's have looked in pre-season. I am also taking into account Ben Watson being suspended the first 4 games, will the Pats offense morph into a little to no TE offense and rely more on their Wide Outs? Dominick Violante

In 2018 the Patriots used a zero tight end package on just 2 percent of the snaps. Conversely they used 2 tight ends on just 9 percent of the snaps. That leaves close to 90 percent of the snaps with one tight end on the field, so while I don't think we can expect Ben Watson or Matt Lacosse or whomever else to be as involved in the offense as Gronk, it's not a position they will completely disregard from the offense. That said, are their five best receivers and running backs far better than their best tight end? Yes, it appears so.

Thanks for the continued insight from your team coverage. Now that roster cutdowns are near, I always wonder why the league might not expand the 53 man roster to something like 55. The reason would be that the violence of the game today results in many injuries, especially with the cautious nature of things like concussion protocol. A slightly larger roster to compensate just seems to make sense. I would assume that the game day active roster would also increase accordingly. Any real objections outside of a small financial impact for two extra players? Thanks. Ian Hayes

It's a good bet that if we go to 18 games, the roster will expand again. Like anything, it would have to be negotiated and the owners would have to commit to paying two more salaries along with expanding the cap to accommodate them. But there are plenty of reasons why it would make a lot of sense to add spots, including on what is now the 45-man gameday roster. Mike Dussault

Not a question, but a comment. Every great defense needs a nickname. I suggest The Swarm for this year's edition. It is how they often line up, how they play and even how they're coached.

The Swarm. Go with it. Gary Roberts

I usually reserve nicknames until we actually see a team do something impressive in the regular season but this is a pretty good placeholder. The defense sure does look like it's ready to swarm opposing offenses, but let's see them come out of the gate playing out of their minds before we dub them anything. Mike Dussault

With Trent Williams telling everyone that he will not play for Washington and their team really nowhere near a contender, they should be considering trading him, rhetoric aside. At 31 he has several good years ahead of him. Would the Pats be interested in trading Marcus Cannon (Washington will need a replacement), who is signed for at least 2 more years at a below average market value. plus a 3rd round draft pick in 2020 to secure Brady's blindside with an experienced LT and let Wynn get his feet wet at RT? The loss of Cannons contract would also allow them to give Williams a pay raise and keep him until he is 35. Perhaps Wynn can handle LT, but rookies do tend to make rookie mistakes. Dave Brown

Marcus Cannon has had a great training camp and is the one sure thing at tackle right now, so flipping him for Williams scares me a bit. I think the bigger deterrent from trading for Williams is that he's going to want a big new deal and that's not really what the Pats do. If they can get four more seasons out of Wynn at rookie pay level it's a big advantage at a position you typically have to spend a lot on. Wynn will have some growing pains but based on what we've seen over the last couple weeks it looks like he'll be ready to step in and give them solid overall play. Mike Dussault

I wonder what you might think about trading with the Colts? I say we should Trade Hoyer to Colts who now needs a QB for Jack Doyle or Ebron. I know it's wishful thinking. But either would help. I know Hoyer is a great backup but if we lose Brady we are probably done anyway. Stidham looks like he could handle backup job. I know it's only preseason and he has a lot to learn but he looks great. Kevin Mulholland

I'm on board with just riding it out with Stidham if Brady went down for the rest of the year, but what if we only need someone to hold the fort for a couple weeks? In that case I'd prefer Hoyer and feel like he should be expected to maintain a .500 record in temporary relief. I'm not as confident Stidham could come in and keep the Pats from slipping down the playoff seeds. Plus, does Hoyer really have any trade market anymore? I doubt it.

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