FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s amazing how things can change during the course of an NFL season.
Of the 53 players on the New England Patriots’ active roster, eight didn’t even spend training camp with the team. Tight ends Matthew Mulligan and D.J. Williams, guard Chris Barker, defensive linemen Andre Carter, Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga and Isaac Sopoaga and linebacker Chris White were all in-season additions.
That tells you how much time we waste during those summer months.
Players who shined in training camp didn’t exactly work out when the regular season started (like tight end Zach Sudfeld), while other players emerged during the season after getting a late start in camp (we’re looking at you, Julian Edelman). With all the injuries they faced this season, the Patriots had to build on the fly. It’s a testament to this team’s coaching that the Patriots were able to emerge through it all and find some stud players, like Siliga.
Let’s take a look back at the regular season and on to the postseason in this week’s mailbag.
Do you think the Patriots made a mistake passing on Cordarrelle Patterson? Aaron Dobson was a complete failure this season.
First of all, Aaron Dobson has not been a failure at all this season — far from it, actually. The Patriots rookie wide receiver struggled early in the season but really came on before injuring his foot, even passing fellow rookie wideout Kenbrell Thompkins on the depth chart. Dobson wound up with 37 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns. Patterson finished with 45 catches for 469 yards and four touchdowns with 12 rushing attempts for 158 yards and three touchdowns. The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver also had 43 kick returns for 1,393 yards and two touchdowns.
Obviously Patterson has the advantage when rushing attempts and returns are taken into consideration. But New England needed a wide receiver who could contribute right away. Though it wasn’t pretty at first, Dobson was able to do that, and Patterson might not have been.
Now, let’s look at what the Patriots got for trading out of the first round. They selected linebacker Jamie Collins No. 52 overall, cornerback Logan Ryan No. 83 overall and wide receiver Josh Boyce No. 102 overall, and they traded the No. 229 pick, plus running back Jeff Demps, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for LeGarrette Blount. So, do the Patriots even get into the playoffs without making that trade? Possibly not. Patterson does not equal Collins, Ryan, Boyce and Blount.
In fact, that trade built a lot of the depth New England needed to get through the season. The Patriots dealt with numerous injuries at linebacker, cornerback and wide receiver. And Blount carried the team to victory in Week 17 against the Buffalo Bills.
In all, the Patriots got 153 carries for 772 yards, 11 catches for 159 yards, eight touchdowns, 26 kick returns, 708 return yards, 78 tackles, five interceptions, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble out of the trade — plus Dobson’s numbers. We’ll see how this trade looks a few years down the road, but for now, it looks like the Patriots came out like bandits.
Getting ahead of myself, but Andre Johnson for a second- or third-round pick? Bill O’Brien connection … AJ probably wants out …
I think you are getting ahead of yourself. The Houston Texans have a talented roster that could make a Kansas City Chiefs-type jump with the right quarterback and coach. I also don’t think new Texans head coach Bill O’Brien will be the same type of pushover that Greg Schiano was with the Buccaneers.
Will the Patriots give Edelman a nice contract?
Any chance Amendola gets the ax over the offseason so they can allocate money to Edelman?
I’ll take these at the same time. Wide receiver Danny Amendola essentially signed a two-year, $10 million deal over the offseason. His contract is only guaranteed through next season. So, he won’t get the ax this offseason, but he could after 2014.
I think wide receiver Julian Edelman deserves an Amendola or Wes Welker-type deal. Unfortunately for him, slot receivers typically don’t make much more than those types of deals. I think with the out in Amendola’s contract, it makes sense to re-sign Edelman.
There are other players who could redo their contracts or get cut to free up some cap room for Edelman.
How much healthier could the Patriots be by the time they take the field next week?
Cornerback Aqib Talib will have two weeks to keep recovering from his hip injury, guard Logan Mankins should be back on the field (he missed practice Wednesday with a bum ankle), cornerback Alfonzo Dennard should be ready to play with his knee and shoulder injuries, Thompkins should be moving around better on his hip and safety Devin McCourty will be back from his concussion. The layoff also will give cornerback Kyle Arrington (groin), linebacker Dane Fletcher (groin), safety Steve Gregory (knee), defensive end Rob Ninkovich (ankle), linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee) and running back Shane Vereen (groin) some time to get recharged.
Dobons’s foot injury is a little scarier. He was back for a week and a half before aggravating the ailment. It was not a good sign that he was out of practice on Sunday. Boyce’s ankle injury depends on the severity. If it’s a high-ankle sprain, he could be back for the postseason but possibly not Round 2.
The bye week is valuable, but no player will be at 100 percent going into the playoffs. The players to watch most closely are the ones who missed practice on Wednesday: Dobson, Mankins, Dennard and Boyce.
With Blount’s emergence, has the 2014 running back scene changed at all?
It has, but I’m still not sure Blount comes back next year. I think head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots really like him, but it depends on how much money he wants next year. If he’s expecting a big contract, I doubt New England delivers. The Patriots have not been willing to spend big on the running back position in recent memory.
The Patriots will still have running backs Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden under contract. It’s easy to get a cheap running back in the draft, as well.
September: “What is Blount doing on kickoffs?” December: “Wow.” Did you see anything early on to think Blount on kickoffs made any sense?
I always thought the concept made sense, but the execution wasn’t there early on. Blount has always been a big-play running back. So, in theory, it made sense that he could be a big-play kick returner, as well. It just took 17 weeks for that to finally materialize.
Who will help the Patriots in the playoffs more, Thompkins or Dobson?
I think that all depends on health. Right now, Thompkins is the healthier player, so I would say him. If Dobson can get his foot right, however, I think it will be him. Quarterback Tom Brady needs to get one of them involved in the postseason. He’s keyed in on Edelman too much lately.
How do the Patriots game-plan early on before knowing who their opponent will be going into the divisional round?
They do a lot of self-scouting during this time period. They look back to see what they’re doing correctly and what still needs improvement. The coaches will likely take a look at the three possible teams they could play (Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Chiefs), but that study will likely be saved for the players until next week.
Belichick said the team didn’t have much time to go over the Week 16 Baltimore Ravens game. So, they’ll likely look at that tape and the Week 17 tape against the Bills.