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Ask PFW: Catching up with camp questions

Posted Aug 6, 2013

Two weeks into training camp most of the questions surrounding the Patriots continue to be about the team's new-look passing attack. We catch up on all the passing chatter in the latest edition of Ask PFW.

Hey guys, love all the coverage so far this preseason. Good to hear the rookie WRs are doing well so far. I was just curious, what about the first guy we took in this year's draft? I haven't seen a mention of Jamie Collins at all. How is he doing? Hope all the non coverage on him means he's going to be another Jermaine Cunningham... Thanks in advance!
Mike Duran

Collins has been healthy and on the field throughout training camp. So that’s huge for his development and acclimation into the defense. He’s gotten a lot of rotational and backup reps at outside linebacker, which is another positive for him at this very early point. He’s an impressive athlete with long arms and the ability to move around in coverage. You’re correct in that he hasn’t seemed to make a ton of plays or do a lot to stand out in practice action, but that doesn’t mean he’s been performing poorly, either. I’m very much intrigued to see what Collins does when he gets a chance at game reps in the preseason. I still believe he’s a raw, developmental talent but also think he’ll have a sub role with this team from very early in his career.
Andy Hart

Last year neither TE Daniel Fells nor Hooman (Michael Hoomanawanui) did much with the play time they had. If Jake Ballard and Zach Sudfeld both emerge as legit starters, can they push Fells and Hooman out of lineup, or their roles are too different?
Stan C.

First you have to understand that Fells and Hoomanawanui had limited production last year in an offense that was still built around and working with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and other proven weapons. That’s not the case right now. Second, I’d argue that the two veterans have actually been the two most consistent and productive tight ends in training camp, led by Fells. Ballard has missed time, dropped passes and continues to run with a limp. I’m not sure he’ll even make the team, never mind have a big role. Sudfeld has looked much better of late, but was pretty quiet to start camp. He’s a guy who dealt with a ton of injuries (shoulders, leg, knee and wrist issues, totaling six surgeries) at Nevada and really had only one healthy, productive season. He has a lot to prove, even though he has displayed smooth route running and impressive hands. I still think that Fells and Hoomanawanui open the season as the two top guys on the depth chart (obviously assuming Gronkowski isn’t ready) and offer the most versatility to the position. Sudfeld could make the roster as a nice pass-catching option and red zone target, but I don’t see him as a guy ready to be a starting NFL tight end, even if he can stay healthy.
Andy Hart

Can you please rank the top 6 receivers (in order)... Most think Kenbrell Thompkins is better than Dobson, I completely disagree, what about you? Cheers from Argentina! great work!
Genaro Abdala

How would the Patriots receiver depth chart go if today was game day?
Akshith Mogulla

First, I haven’t heard anyone say that Thompkins is better than Dobson. Dobson has been one of the most impressive, consistent players through the first two weeks of training camp. He’s clearly laying a practice foundation to be a major part of the passing attack in his rookie season. As for listing the Patriots depth chart at wide receiver right now I’d go with Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce and Matthew Slater.
Andy Hart

What do you predict Zach Sudfeld's production will be like this year? He is a big target, and it seems as though he's getting plenty of work in with Tom Brady and the first unit lately. Daniel Fells better not look back as Sudfeld climbs the depth chart.
Jeff Dayger

I hate to be the personal defender of Daniel Fells – actually I don’t, I like him and don’t believe he gets the respect he deserves around here -- but the veteran has been the most impressive tight end in training camp for the Patriots. He’s made sure-handed catches every day and has had a few big plays. That said, Sudfeld has been impressive as well. The rookie free agent clearly has soft hands and could be an option in the passing game and red zone. But I’m not exactly expecting huge numbers from a guy who was injured for the bulk of his college career and had just one productive season. I’ll say he catches 17 balls for 200-plus yards and two touchdowns this fall. But that’s a shot-in-the-dark estimate having never seen him play a single game snap. I reserve the right to alter that projection at the end of training camp.
Andy Hart

With the crop of young, talented receivers the Patriots have, do you see Matt Slater keeping his roster spot? I can't see more than seven receivers making the final 53, and pure special teamers - which Slater is - have been cut before (Sam Aiken). Thanks guys.
Jackson Perry

I don’t think that Slater will be cut. I think he’s a virtual lock to make the roster, in fact. He’s a Pro Bowl special teamer, team captain and one of the most respected leaders in the locker room. He fills a variety of roles on special teams and even has been used on occasion as a deep receiver or a blocker. Sam Aiken was here for a couple years, but Slater is a lifetime Patriots draft pick and respected member of the team. I don’t think he’s going anywhere.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, I'm a big fan of your in-depth training camp reports. Keep up the great work! I was hoping you could shed some light on a couple of players I haven't seen or heard much about during camp: Dane Fletcher and Jamie Collins. I was hoping for a big season out of Fletcher last year before his ACL injury. How has he looked this offseason? And Collins' athleticism intrigues me, but I have yet to read/hear anything specific about how and where he's performing. Everyone seems to be talking about how athletic he is, but that's about it. Thanks guys! Happy preseason!
Andrew Wells

Did I mention that Collins is athletic and intriguing? Oh, you knew that? Then there hasn’t been a ton to offer on him at this point. He’s getting regular reps at outside linebacker. He’s healthy. He’ll certainly be a guy to keep an eye on in the preseason action that begins this Friday night in Philly. As for Fletcher, he’s been getting his usual backup reps at middle linebacker and some sub action as well. He’s a good depth guy to have at that spot, because there aren’t a lot of options behind Brandon Spikes. But I have been interested to see the reps that Steve Beauharnais has gotten. He’s a little more athletic and lean than I expected. Mix in some special teams work and he might have a shot to add depth at the linebacker spot.
Andy Hart

Greetings from Delray Beach, Fla., I was wondering if there are any updates on Armond Armstead’s mysterious surgery and recovery time? I was really looking forward to seeing what he can do for us this season. Also, do you see anyone taking #81 now that it's available or is that going to be a taboo # for the time being? Thanks guys, Go Pats!!!
Mike Montrond

There has been nothing on Armstead since the team’s release that clearly stated that no timetable had been set for his return to football. I am very disappointed in the situation as I also had high hopes/expectations for the former USC talent. I thought he might be able to carve out a pretty key role for himself in the middle of the Patriots defense in his first season. The more time he misses the less and less likely that is to happen. As for No. 81, I think that will be kept out of circulation for a while. It’s not the number’s fault, but the pressure, side story and circumstances that come with it now are more than any player should have lumped upon him.
Andy Hart

Hey guys, I was wondering about what you think of Michael Jenkins' (molasses Mike) chance of making the 53-man roster. I personally think his chances are not all that great because of how much the young guys (Dobson, Boyce, Thompkins) have been more productive than him during training camp. And I think that will carry over into the preseason games where the cuts are made. I think the 3 young WRs will likely make the cut. Belichick has cut veteran WRs before (Branch, Stallworth, Galloway, to name a few). I wouldn't be surprised if Jenkins got cut.
Nore Vong

I haven’t been too high on Jenkins since the spring. While some in the media were talking about his sure-handed work in OTAs and mini-camp, I never saw it. He dropped way too many passes for a guy who’s supposed to be a reliable possession type. He’s never going to wow anyone with his speed or playmaking. Those drops continued early in training camp. Now, he’s missing time with a leg injury. Add it all up and I think Jenkins faces an uphill battle to make the roster, even given the lack of proven, veteran talent in the mix.
Andy Hart

I know, I know, a Tebow question. I hate them as much as the next guy. However, am I the only one who sees a distinct possibility that Tebow wins the backup QB role, allowing Mallett to be dropped/traded to make room for depth at another position (CB/WR?). It may be a little early, but it sounds like Tebow's passing, while still shaky is seeing some improvement, and his versatility is certainly enticing, especially in the red zone and short yardage. Is it also fair to say that Mallett hasn't shown himself to be a great deal better than Tebow as a passer?
Mike Aboud

Everybody hates the Tebow questions, yet everybody seems to ask them. Crazy. I have not been overly high on Mallett’s improvement this last year, but he’s still light years ahead of Tebow as an NFL passer. The only passes I’ve seen Tebow throw with any consistency or success are deep fades. Beyond that he can’t read plays, takes too long to make a decision and has horrific accuracy. He’s even been getting more option and Pistol reps of late, seemingly an admission that he can’t run the Patriots passing attack. I don’t feel great about Mallett if he has to play, but Tebow hasn’t come close to passing him up in any way other than running the option.
Andy Hart

Hey Guys, I noticed that the Patriots signed a guy and cut him the next day. Why is this? Do they have to sign him so he can tryout?
Monty B.

I think you’re referring to Lavasier Tuinei. He was signed by the Patriots and then apparently suffered an injury, as he was waived/injured. After clearing waivers he reverts to injured reserve. If he wasn’t going to be able to practice and help the team, the team had to move on to another body. Players do not have to be signed in order to tryout, as we saw earlier this year in mini-camp practices.
Andy Hart

The Patriots are trying out a lot of rookie free agent wide receivers, and with some of the current roster supposedly not performing to the required standard yet (looking at the contributions of Boyce, Jenkins, Jones who was released) do you see a trade for a wide receiver becoming likely any time soon? Maybe not Larry Fitzgerald, but another teams No.2 guy who could be a reliable contributor when teamed up with Brady.
Alex Marr

Maybe not Fitzgerald? Maybe not? Can we remove the Larry Fitzgerald idea from all further trade discussion? Thanks. Now, I do think there is a chance that a trade or signing could come at receiver down the line. As many have said, this feels a little like the 2006 season. That year Doug Gabriel was acquired via a trade on Sept. 2 that year. And Jabar Gaffney was signed in early October. Similar chances could be taken on veterans this time around, especially if guys like Dobson, Thompkins or Boyce can’t live up to their expectations.
Andy Hart

How do you think is the best team in the NFL besides the Patriots?
E.J. Justo

I have been pretty high on the Broncos all offseason, but that’s being cut into by recent injuries/suspensions. I still think Denver has the makings of a truly elite offense and competitive defense. So I’ll stick with them at this point.
Andy Hart

Hi Guys, Don't you think that the Pats will (or should) use a fullback in the offense plays more frequently for 2013? In connection with this, don't you think that James Develin or another FB can win a roster spot as a 4th or 5th back? And last but not least, don't you think that RBs will be used more frequently even in passing plays, after losing a proven slot receiver and a tight end? Thanks in advance.
Jozsef Bakk

I’ve always liked fullbacks and the role they play in an offense. (Maybe that’s because I was a fullback early in my high school career…Glory Days!) But it’s also a dying position. I’m not sure there is a role/room for a true fullback on the Patriots roster, as that position can be filled on the limited times it is called for by a versatile option like Michael Hoomanawanui. The tight end, running back and receiver spots always kind of overlap with each other as skill players. If I had to say right now, I’d say it’s doubtful that Develin or any other fullback is going to make the roster. I think the running backs could be a bigger part of the offense in 2013, especially Shane Vereen. The third-year back was a second-round pick for a reason and showed some of his skills late last year. I think he can create mismatches at times and make plays in the air. He needs to prove he can stay healthy, but Vereen has a chance to be a star in the Brady-led attack.
Andy Hart

I really don't care if Tebow makes the team unless there is a real roll for him But, if ,and I do mean "if", Tebow makes the team, don't you think he would be cut from the original roster and then re-signed later? I mean no other team is going to pick him up.
Bruce Timbie

While I doubt that any other team would sign or claim Tebow given the little interest he received this offseason, I don’t understand why the team would let a player go that it wants on the team. If the Patriots decide Tebow is worthy of making the team, I think he’ll be on the team. Since he’s not yet a vested veteran given he’s played just three seasons, his contract would not be guaranteed if he makes the roster for the opening game. So what’s to gain by releasing him? Nothing in my opinion.
Andy Hart

Which one of the rookies has impressed you the most so far and which 2nd year player do you expect to make the biggest jump this year in terms of their production on the field?
Ricky Grant

Aaron Dobson has easily been the most impressive rookie in camp. He’s very much fit in and looked comfortable taking reps with the top offense. He’s shown impressive hands and solid route running. And he’s competed well against the top DBs, including outfighting them for contested passes, including top corner Aqib Talib. I expect that Chandler Jones will be the biggest factor player among second-year players. I think that Jones becomes a consistent pass rush force and playmaker off the edge. He certainly has that potential.
Andy Hart

Who will have a better season josh Boyce or Aaron Dobson?
Jason Lu

What are your projections for Aaron Dobson? I have drafted him on my fantasy football team, and have seen projections all over the map.
Noah Deaville

Assuming health isn’t a factor for either guy, I think Dobson will put up the much bigger numbers. He’s looked right at home working with Brady and the top offense. Most importantly he’s shown elite hands. He’s already earning Brady’s trust in terms of playmaking and fighting for the ball. Boyce by comparison hasn’t shown the same consistency with his hands and hasn’t looked as comfortable in the offense. As for numbers for Dobson? That’s a major projection at this point. But I’ll go with something in the range of 55 catches for 900 yards and five touchdowns. I reserve the right to alter this projection after training camp and preseason action.
Andy Hart

Is the defense going to be mostly 3-4 this year? Mayo and Spikes in the Middle; Hightower and Collins on the edge; Jones, Wilfork, and Kelly inside?
Troy Matthews

I think the defense will be primarily a 4-3, and have seen nothing in the summer to suggest that the 3-4 is making a comeback. The personnel isn’t really suited for the 3-4, especially Chandler Jones. He’s not big enough to play defensive end in a 5 technique in the 3-4. He’d get killed in that spot and worn down in my opinion. There aren’t enough of the big bodies needed to play the nose tackle and end spots in the 3-4. Even if they did go to your 3-4 lineup, I can’t imagine a look that doesn’t include Rob Ninkovich in a major role. He’s one of the team’s most consistent playmakers and reliable veterans over the last couple seasons. I expect the 4-3 to remain as New England’s base in 2013.
Andy Hart

Do you see the Pats reconstructing Mankins, Wilfork, Mayo contracts reducing their cap number giving them more guaranteed money. Since former#81 A.H left us with dead cap space money so we can also try to re-sign guys like Talib, Niko & McCourty.
Marshall Elim

Almost every year a veteran player restructures to give the team space to do other deals. It’s certainly possible that could happen this fall, and I’d say that Mayo might be the most likely candidate. Now, the Patriots have a reported $10 million in cap space at his point, so it’s also very possible to do a deal with somebody without a restructure elsewhere. I also don’t think any of the three players you mentioned is going to get a big-money, cap-breaking deal even if they do sign an extension.
Andy Hart

Has any team ever kept more TEs than WRs on the final roster and with the depth we are seeing now at TE here in NE, is that a possibility? Or even say an even 5 and 5 with another 5 RBs?
Donald Blakeborough

I won’t pretend that I know every roster in the history of football. I can tell you that Bill Belichick has never kept more than four tight ends on his opening day roster, which he only did once. He’s never had fewer than five receivers, either. So I don’t see any way the Patriots keep more tight ends than receivers in 2013. They only thing that even closely makes that a possibility is if Rob Gronkowski makes the roster but is not an option for the first couple weeks. I guess then you might say the team could keep four other tight ends. But I think that is extremely unlikely. Generally, though, the total number of running backs, tight ends and wide receivers adds up to a total of 12-14 players. Figuring out how exactly that breaks down is the challenge.
Andy Hart

Hi guys, first of all thank you; you do an excellent job for keeping us informed. Now, in some of the latest videos I saw a No. 84 jersey, and If I am OK, he is T.J. Moe right? In college he was a good player; solid slot receiver. Is he being productive in the passing game? And do you see T.J. making the 53 man roster?
Alfonso Urdapilleta

Moe was released after getting injured this spring and then reverted to the Patriots injured reserve list. No. 84 in training camp actually now belongs to Quentin Sims, an undrafted rookie out of Tennessee-Martin.
Andy Hart

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