Remember when the New England Patriots were considered shallow at running back and linebacker? It’s amazing how a team’s depth can shift five weeks into the season.
The Patriots suddenly will have too many running backs on their roster when Dion Lewis returns off PUP from a knee injury. They have LeGarrette Blount, James White, Brandon Bolden and D.J. Foster on their active roster and Bishop Sankey on their practice squad.
They’re also so stacked at linebacker that Barkevious Mingo can’t find defensive reps behind Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Rob Ninkovich, Elandon Roberts and Jonathan Freeny.
We’d say this is a lesson not to panic after free agency, the draft or training camp, but the Patriots always generate that kind of passion in their fanbase.
Read below and watch above for this week’s mailbag.
@DougKyed do you think this is the best Brady has had?
I will assume you meant to ask if this is the best set of weapons Brady has had in his career. If not, I apologize, but that’s the question I want to answer.
It might be. The other options would be 2007 and 2011.
Here are the Patriots’ 2007 offensive weapons, listed by yards from scrimmage that season: Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Laurence Maroney, Donte Stallworth, Kevin Faulk, Jabar Gaffney, Sammy Morris, Ben Watson.
And here are New England’s 2011 offensive weapons: Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Deion Branch, Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Chad Johnson.
Right now, I would say his current weapons are better than his weapons in 2011.
Gronkowski in 2016 is better than he was in 2011, Welker is better than Julian Edelman, Hernandez and Martellus Bennett probably are a wash, Blount is better than Green-Ellis, Chris Hogan is better than a 32-year-old Branch, Danny Amendola is worlds better than Johnson, Woodhead is better than White, and Ridley is better than Bolden.
Add Lewis into the mix, and the 2016 weapons probably are even better than 2007.
Moss and Gronkowski cancel each other out, Welker is better than Edelman, Blount is better than Maroney, Hogan is better than Stallworth, Lewis and Faulk are a wash, Amendola is better than Gaffney, Morris is better than White and Bennett is better than Watson.
Everyone has to stay healthy before Lewis comes back, however, and they have to stay healthy for all or most of the season.
Let’s revisit this in February.
@DougKyed if you had to rank right now with Bennett’s emergence, who should be the Patriots’ top priorities in Free Agency?
I’d still put it in this order:
3. Malcolm Butler
4. Jabaal Sheard
5 (tie). Martellus Bennett
5 (tie). Logan Ryan
7. Chris Long
8. Duron Harmon
I believe Hightower is better than Collins, but Collins is more durable and has higher upside.
Butler might not even belong on this list because he’s a restricted free agent, but he’s a No. 1 cornerback and should be easy enough to lock up.
Sheard could command a big salary as a productive starting pass rusher, but having that dependable edge rusher is important.
Having Ryan tied with Bennett might cause some head-scratching, but a second tight end is a luxury, not a necessity. No other Patriots cornerback, to this point, has shown the consistency to start opposite Butler like Ryan has.
Long finally is healthy and playing extremely well on the edge.
Having a second safety to trust in the deep half of the field in Harmon has allowed the Patriots to be versatile on defense. He could and should command a big contract as an unrestricted free agent, since he has starting skills.
I don’t think locking up Bennett should be a priority during the season. He’s fitting in well so far, but that hasn’t been the case with other teams. It’s probably worth finding out if Bennett still is content and happy in March. Bennett seems like an ideal player to have for one season. Beyond that, and things potentially could turn sour, as they have with other teams.
@DougKyed Was Bill Belichick sending the message “you’re not so hot” to Tom Brady by pulling him in the Browns games? #maildoug
Ha, I know this is a joke, but I almost took it the opposite way Sunday. I thought having Jimmy Garoppolo go in for mop-up duty put him back in his place as the backup a little bit.
@DougKyed Despite being gameplan specific, at what point is D.J Foster a regular part of the passing rotation at RB?
I’m not sure if he ever gets to that point. When Lewis returns, Foster could be headed to the practice squad.
Let’s go rapid fire:
Watching Thursday Night Football and digging the San Diego Chargers’ color rush jerseys; that’s about it. How much would the Chargers get fined if they eschewed the NFL’s rules and wore their color rush jerseys for every home game? I’d respect that move.
@DougKyed for real, were we saving Gronk until Brady got back to get him involved in the passing game?
It certainly looked that way, and I wouldn’t put anything past Belichick.
@DougKyed excitement level for Lesnar vs Goldberg on a scale of 1-10?
A two, maybe? I can’t say I care too much about Goldberg in 2016. I’d be more interested in seeing goalie from the Mighty Ducks go against Brock Lesnar.
@DougKyed through being cool or stay what you are?
Through Being Cool.
@DougKyed do you know? the Brazil is the 3rd in fans of NFL and the Pats have the most fans forward of the packers?
I did not know that!
@DougKyed #maildoug Do you think that there is any chance that Bishop Sankey gets promoted this year?
There’s a chance, but with Lewis potentially returning soon, it could take a couple of injuries.
@DougKyed if you’re in a spaceship and traveling at the speed of light, and turn on the headlights, does anything happen?
@DougKyed do you think Dion Lewis will play next week? if he does, how close to his old self will he be?
I don’t really know, to be completely honest. We’ll know a lot better when we see if he takes the practice field next week.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported Lewis only had a clean-up procedure and the running back expects to be back on the field soon. How soon is soon? Not sure.
It’s still Brady and Gronk at Nos. 1 and 2, regardless of what happened the first four weeks of the season. No. 3 would either be Collins, Hightower or Devin McCourty. Those are the Patriots’ best three defensive players.
@DougKyed Roberts/Hamilton played great against CLE. What should we expect from them going forward after Valentine/Freeny return? #maildoug
Roberts definitely earned a roster spot for the rest of the season, and Hamilton certainly earned at least a few more weeks on the roster.
Hamilton could continue to rotate for reps when Valentine returns. The Patriots previously have used a four-man rotation at defensive tackle.
Linebacker is pretty crowded with Collins, Hightower, Ninkovich, Freeny and McClellin. I can’t see Roberts getting a ton of playing time, but he could see some reps on early downs or rotating with Hightower and Collins when games get out of hand. It seems the Patriots like what they see in Roberts.
@DougKyed won’t tweet u 4 the rest of the day lol. Not #MailDoug,1st time going to Mass 4 game.Places you recommend to eat?Staying in Sharon
For lunch: The Good Food Store in Walpole. Great deli.
I’d also try to hit up Town Spa Pizza in Stoughton. It’s about 15 minutes away. Get the thick crust.
@DougKyed I feel like James White isn’t being used enough, what’s your opinion on how he’s being used?
I think he’s being used the right amount. He averaged just under seven touches a game, which seems about fair for the No. 6 weapon on the team behind Gronkowski, Edelman, Bennett, Blount and Hogan.
His touches will drop when Lewis returns.
@DougKyed what are your thoughts on Sasha vs Charlotte inside Hell in a Cell? #maildoug
It should be a great match. Hopefully my hotel in Buffalo has good enough WiFi to be able to watch it.
They have WiFi in Buffalo, right?
Thumbnail photo via William Hauser/USA TODAY Sports Images