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Ask PFW: Stepping up

Posted Dec 11, 2012

With injuries taking hold on offense the Patriots are getting contributions from newcomers and emerging as frontrunners in the AFC.

With Julian Edelman out and Donte’ Stallworth in, how do you see this offense changing? If Edelman and his slip screens are on IR for the year, what can we expect to see with the addition of Stallworth to the mix? Can we expect to see Jeremy Ebert come up and play some slot? Will Danny Woodhead move out in spread formations? Or does this just mean more Wes Welker?
Ryan Collins

Well, first, I’m not sure there’s any way a scenario could involve more Welker. The guy is the focal point of everything the Patriots do on offense and he’s obviously Tom Brady’s top target. So, no, I don’t see his role getting any bigger. As for the rest, that’s more of a crapshoot. Stallworth may be able to provide a deep threat on occasion, although he did not appear to be separating much on his deep attempts during training camp. When he’s at his best, he could provide a big play for this offense every once in a while, and the offense hasn’t really had many of those “easy” touchdowns this season. Ebert will likely finish the season on the practice squad as I don’t believe he has the ability yet to contribute to this offense. Woodhead has been an effective receiver for Brady on screens and other safety valves underneath but hasn’t had many chances to split out wide and make plays. Brandon Lloyd is the guy I feel needs to contribute more, at least until Rob Gronkowski gets back. They’ve gotten very little from Lloyd in terms of big plays. He needs to establish himself as a bigger part of the offense to take some pressure off Welker and Aaron Hernandez.
Paul Perillo

Vince Wilfork in his ninth season is deserving of NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Isn't he?
Ron Curtin

Short answer – no. Wilfork has been his typically solid self, and he may be even more valuable off the field in terms of leading the young defense. But Defensive Player of the Year? I’m not willing to go that far. There are so many productive pass rushers who disrupt games in way Wilfork isn’t capable off, not the least of which is Houston’s J.J. Watt. San Francisco’s Aldon Smith has been dominant. Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins, like Wilfork a defensive tackle, has double digit sacks as well. Wilfork will have to settle for another Pro Bowl trip and possibly even an All-Pro selection, but it’s a bit far-fetched to envision him as Defensive Player of the Year.
Paul Perillo

Is Julian Edelman on the injured reserve that you can come back from after a certain amount of time or is he truly out for the year?
James G.

Edelman is on season-ending injured reserve so he can’t come back. The Patriots used their “designated for return” IR spot earlier in the season on Visanthe Shiancoe, and he’s back with the team.
Paul Perillo

I was just wondering about Jeff Demps and his future with the Patriots. Do you think he will help us next year? I know he is short (5-7) and played RB for Florida but has a ton of speed. Where do you see him fitting in the grand scheme of things?
Scott Rodriguez

I think Demps will have the opportunity to come to training camp with the Patriots next summer and earn a roster spot. He’s obviously lightning fast and would seem to be a perfect candidate as a third-down back with the ability to catch the ball and run out of spread formations. He’s also a dangerous return option in the kicking game. I don’t think Demps is a lock to stick around, but his ability and athleticism are obvious and he’ll get every opportunity to do so.
Paul Perillo

Hello from a deployed location, Qatar! Long time Patriots fan, first time writer ... my question is about defensive end Jason Babin. When I heard the news that Babin would be released from Philly I prayed to the football gods that the Patriots would pick him up off of waivers to play opposite Chandler Jones as a pass rusher. The sports news even alluded to the fact that the Pats were high on the list to go after him. Why then, did he become a Jaguar, and not a Patriot? Did the organization make a play for him? I think you would agree this would have been a major steal with his talent.
Jason Lauterbach

I do agree Babin would have been a nice addition but the Patriots never had a chance to get him. The Jaguars have one of the worst records in football and therefore were well ahead of the Patriots in the waiver wire and got the chance to claim him first. As it turned out, the Patriots never put in a claim for Babin anyway (according to reports) and if they wanted him they would have had to sign him if he cleared waivers. Obviously he never did, and now he’s coming up with strip sacks as a Jaguar.
Paul Perillo

With injuries at WR why don’t we move Shane Vereen to receiver? He has the hands and is fast.
Nader Behbehani

The Patriots depth at receiver has taken a bit of a hit with the loss of Edelman but the two starters – Welker and Lloyd – are both healthy. Hernandez is also healthy at the moment, so even without Gronkowski the Patriots still have three of their top four targets available. Vereen has been contributing in spot duty at running back. He does possess soft hands and is pretty fast, but I’m not sure he has the ability to be a receiver full time. He may, but there are a lot of intricacies to route-running and reading defenses that receivers must learn. It’s not just about running fast and catching the ball. That said, I do believe Vereen is a gifted receiver and could help out in that regard in an emergency.
Paul Perillo


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