Patriots Mailbag: Rookies Could Be Used Creatively To Boost Pass Rush

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What a long, strange offseason for the New England Patriots.

The NFL has done such a tremendous job of keeping Deflategate in the headlines, there’s been little time to talk about the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory, free-agent acquisitions or the 2015 NFL Draft class. Patriots owner Robert Kraft said his intention in accepting the NFL’s punishment was to end “the rhetoric.” That might have worked for a couple of hours, but as long as Tom Brady’s suspension appeal looms, so will Deflategate.

Let’s take a quick break from the scandal to talk about some actual football in this week’s mailbag.

@DougKyedNESN Why did the patriots cut Arrington with their huge deficiency at CB?

–@RealBobManning

I’ll let Julian Edelman explain it.

“If there’s someone out there who’s better or cheaper or something like that, I’ll lose my job,” the wide receiver told Maxim early this offseason.

That’s the way Bill Belichick handles business with the Patriots, and he must have felt he could get similar value out of a player like Robert McClain or Logan Ryan for a fraction of the cost.

The Patriots definitely lack depth at cornerback, though, and Kyle Arrington was extremely dependable in the slot. If the Patriots can’t rediscover that dependability in 2015, they could live to regret cutting Arrington.

@DougKyedNESN What is the optimal inflation pressure for a football?
–@MrQuindazzi

Maybe the NFL was upset fans and media didn’t know the answer to this question before January, and that’s why the league made such an absurdly huge deal out of Deflategate. Now EVERYONE knows it’s 12.5 to 13.5, and that will be engraved in our brains until the end of time.

@DougKyedNESN how are our rookies doing? Any feedback from rookie camp?
–@mercedes_l94

Unfortunately, because of Deflategate, we haven’t even been able to meet the rookies. The Patriots canceled media availability with the rookies because of the Deflategate scandal, so the first time we see them might be May 29 during organized team activities.

@DougKyedNESN do you think the extra additions to the Patriots pass rush will help hide the potential holes in the secondary?
–@t00bahhero

I think that’s the plan. I expect Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich to remain as the starting edge rushers, but Jabaal Sheard figures to be a solid third option, and either Geneo Grissom or Trey Flowers could make an impact as rookies. The Patriots could even run a “NASCAR” front four this season on third down with four defensive ends. Belichick specifically mentioned after the draft that Grissom and Flowers have experience as interior pass rushers.

Defensive tackle Dominique Easley also could be disruptive on third down against the pass, as long as he stays healthy. His rookie season was a bit of a disappointment, but hopes should remain high for the Florida product. First-round draft pick Malcom Brown showed disruption during his college career, as well, and could help boost the pass rush.

The addition of Brandon Spikes to the linebacker corps also could allow the Patriots to get creative with Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins.

@DougKyedNESN who has a better chance at making an impact this year James White or Gaffney?
–@coach_jmcgovern

I think James White has a more direct path for a defined role. Shane Vereen’s departure leaves the third-down role wide open, and White is the favorite to win that job.

Gaffney is more of an early-down back, so he would have to beat out LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray to win the starting job. The Patriots could use a running back-by-committee approach, however, and Gaffney could make in impact alongside the other Patriots’ backs.

The Patriots’ running back competition will be fascinating to watch in training camp. Travaris Cadet will be another player to watch in the third-down mix.

@DougKyedNESN on a scale of 9-10, how great do you think Bryan Stork’s Hall of Fame induction speech will be??
–@michaelFhurley

I believe 9 1/2 is a solid over/under for total words spoken by Stork in said hypothetical Hall of Fame induction speech.

@DougKyedNESN Is it time to bring back brock lesnar?
–@Patriotsjw2

To the NFL or WWE? I’ll say yes to both, though WWE is in pretty good shape right now. I would assume Lesnar will be back by SummerSlam, so we could see him return at or after Money In The Bank.

Lesnar never received his rematch from WrestleMania, so I would assume the SummerSlam main event will be Lesnar-Seth Rollins.

@DougKyedNESN football question: When will Robert Kraft step aside for Jonathan to run the football team? #NoBradyNoBanner
–@Blackglass3

I’ve been surprised at the anger Patriots fans have for Kraft since the NFL Spring Meeting. I understand being upset Kraft backed off and accepted the Deflategate punishment, but I’ve seen Twitter followers saying they would boo the Patriots owner at a game, which seems incredibly over-reactionary given everything he has done for the team since buying it in 1994, preventing a move to St. Louis.

Obviously, the loss of a first-round pick in 2016 and a fourth-rounder in 2017 hurts, but if that’s the worst thing Kraft has ever done for Patriots fans, they’re pretty lucky.

Disappointment is fine, but hoping Kraft steps down as owner is extreme.

Thumbnail photos via Matthew Emmons, Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY Sports Images

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