Bill Belichick might not be happy until he can field an entire defense with safeties. He’s close.
The Patriots added three safeties Wednesday, when they claimed Dewey McDonald off waivers from the Indianapolis Colts and signed Ross Ventrone and Floyd Raven to the practice squad. Those three join Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner and Brandon King, all of whom already were on the 53-man roster, and safeties account for 15.9 percent of the Patriots’ roster. It’s also worth noting linebacker Jamie Collins played safety in college and wide receiver Matthew Slater lined up at safety in 2011 for the Patriots.
McDonald, Ventrone and Raven likely were added for special teams purposes with running back Brandon Bolden nursing a hamstring injury, but the question still remains: How many primary special teamers and safeties does Belichick need?
Let’s get into this week’s mailbag:
@DougKyed who on the #Patriots injury report does the team need back the most? Sheard, Shaq, Dion?
That’s a really difficult question, but I’d say Dion Lewis. There a big gap in productivity between Lewis and backup pass-catching back James White, which we saw Sunday against the New York Jets. White had just two carries for 4 yards with three catches for 26 yards.
Jabaal Sheard is a fantastic run-stuffer and pass-rusher, but the Patriots can just elect to keep fellow defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich on the field for most snaps and give linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins more pass-rushing opportunities in his stead. The Patriots also have plenty of pass rushers on their 53-man roster.
I believe Mason is a step ahead of fellow rookie guard Tre’ Jackson, but the Patriots were rotating players at the position to begin the season anyway, and Ryan Wendell could fill in if Mason can’t play and the Patriots wanted to keep the rotation going Thursday night. Veteran Josh Kline has been the Patriots’ best guard this season, and he can play either left or right guard. The Patriots are shallow along their offensive line, but they’re equally shallow at running back with Brandon Bolden also nursing a hamstring injury.
@DougKyed Which practice squadder has the best chance of making a mark in New England, either later this year or next?
The Patriots don’t currently have a fullback on their roster and have used Mason and Wendell in that role near the goal line. Joey Iosefa could get the call-up if the Patriots determine they need a fullback for non-red-zone plays.
For the future, I think wide receivers Chris Harper and Austin Hill have the most upside.
@DougKyed you can add a current WWE wrestler to the Patriots offense and defense. Who are you getting and what positions are they playing?
I’ll take Cesaro as my No. 1 overall pick and put him at either linebacker or tight end. He’s 6-foot-5, 232 pounds and possibly the strongest pound-for-pound wrestler I’ve ever seen. He’s 34 years old, so he might only have a couple years in him, but he could make an instant impact.
I’ll take Kalisto as a third-down back/slot receiver too. He’d be impossible to see over the line of scrimmage and could probably just flip over defenders.
@DougKyed How long will the Gronkowski Ice Statue be up for?
I don’t know for a fact, but I would guess it will not be permanent and will be gone by Friday morning. I base this assumption on the idea that ice melts.
@DougKyed Are you excited (once again) about the prospect of keeping track of Ross Ventrone’s practice squad/roster status each week?
A better question would be: Is there anything you’re more excited to track than Ventrone’s practice squad/roster status each week?
Ventrone is a great guy and a tremendous story, and everyone should be excited he’s back on the Patriots with his brother, assistant special teams coach Ray Ventrone.
@DougKyed what kind of candy does Bill Belichick give out on Halloween?
@DougKyed With the trade deadline approaching, do the patriots trade for a cornerback (not for verner please) ?
If someone is available for the right price, then yes, I think the Patriots will make a move before the Nov. 3 trade deadline, but I’m still not sure it’s entirely necessary.
Malcolm Butler has been serviceable at left cornerback, though he does continue to give up big plays.
Logan Ryan has outperformed fans’ expectations at right cornerback, and I think he’ll only get better with most consistent snaps. He was nicknamed “Instant Offense” for a reason as a rookie.
And the Patriots have shown a lot of confidence in Justin Coleman, sticking him on T.Y. Hilton against the Colts, and trusting him against Jeremy Kerley, Devin Smith and Chris Owusu last week against the Jets.
The Patriots also have been playing Chung and McCourty in cornerback-esque roles with Harmon back deep at free safety. Harmon’s been very dependable in the role, and Chung has been an unsung hero in coverage. I could see the Patriots acquiring a player if they think he would serve as better depth than Rashaan Melvin. The Patriots currently don’t have a cornerback on their practice squad.
I could also see them pulling the trigger if Sean Smith is available from the Kansas City Chiefs. Bill Belichick and Chiefs head coach Andy Reid have a trading history, and NFL Media’s Gil Brandt believes Smith could be had for a sixth-round draft pick. One would think the Patriots would do that in a heartbeat.
Acquiring Smith would shake up the secondary. Butler, Ryan and Smith would be the top three cornerbacks, which would mean Chung, Harmon and Richards would be sharing snaps at safety next to McCourty.
@DougKyed Do you envision a possibility where the team can afford to resign Jones and Hightower given the way they are both performing atm?
I think it would be difficult to keep Hightower, Collins and Jones. All of their contracts are up after the 2016 season, and linebackers are cheaper to sign than premier pass rushers, which Jones likely will be regarded as since he already has 6 1/2 sacks on the season.
The Patriots drafted Trey Flowers and Geneo Grissom this season, so that could be a sign they’re looking to move on from Jones, Ninkovich or Sheard. Ninkovich and Sheard also will be free agents after 2016.
I predict Hightower and Collins will be back and Jones won’t because of cost, but a lot can happen by March 2017.
@DougKyed Assuming we get a traditional 4v4 Survivor Series match, who would you choose to team with Taker & Kane against the Wyatts Family?
The bigger and better question is why The Undertaker is still wrestling after his match in Hell In A Cell with Brock Lesnar. I don’t want to see The Undertaker wrestle anymore. And if I have to see him wrestle, I want it to be in his last match, and I want it to be scheduled that way. I don’t want to see him forced out of wrestling due to a serious injury, and right now it’s looking like that could be the case with any bump he takes in the ring.
That being said, one more run with The Undertaker and Kane being partners will be kind of cool, and it gives the Wyatt Family something to do for Survivor Series.
This is a pipe dream, but it would be really cool if their partners were Finn Balor and Samoa Joe. The more likely choice is some combination of Mark Henry, Randy Orton and Chris Jericho.
The funny choice: Mideon and Gangrel.
Yeah, let’s go with Mideon and Gangrel.
Thumbnail photo via Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports images
Thumbnail photo via Oct 18, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith (21) against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Chiefs 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports