Patriots Mailbag: Offense, Defense Equally Talented Heading Into 2016

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Based on Thursday’s organized team activities session open to the media, any speculation that Jacoby Brissett could pass Jimmy Garoppolo on the New England Patriots’ quarterback depth chart in 2016 should be abandoned.

Garoppolo flashed NFL starting-caliber accuracy and poise — albeit in an unpadded and non-contact setting — while Brissett, with no offense intended, looked like a rookie, which he is. Garoppolo will be in the crosshairs all spring and summer, but he certainly had a solid first showing in front of reporters. Let’s see if he can keep it up.

Let’s get into this week’s mailbag.

@DougKyed question that popped up the other day: which unit finishes ranked higher, Patriots’ offense or defense?
— @KirkNFL
That’s a good question. I’ll still probably say the Patriots’ offense will rank higher than the defense, even if Tom Brady serves his four-game Deflategate suspension, but it could be close.

The Patriots’ offense ranked sixth in yards per game last season, while the defense ranked ninth. The offense should be better in 2016 (when Brady is on the field), while I expect the defense to play at a similar level to 2015.

The offense should see an improved running game and offensive line, while the defense is returning 10 of 11 starters.

Defenders such as Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Malcom Brown are young and still improving. The loss of Chandler Jones should be made up for with improvements from young defenders, plus the additions of Terrance Knighton, Chris Long and Shea McClellin (the Patriots’ third linebacker play wasn’t great last season).

@DougKyed Is it too late to be too early for Marty Bennett excitement? Or is there still time to be too excited too early?
— @bwompbwomp
Ah, the age-old question.

I don’t think it’s too late to be too early for Martellus Bennett excitement. Thursday marked the first time we’ve actually seen Bennett on the field in a Patriots uniform. If you start getting excited about Bennett in two weeks, then it might be too late to be too early for Bennett excitement.

The new tight end looked very solid Thursday during OTAs. He’s on the last year of his contract, so motivation shouldn’t be an issue, and opposing defenses could have a harder time covering both Bennett and Rob Gronkowski than the Baltimore Ravens did at figuring out Bill Belichick’s four-offensive line formation in the playoffs two years ago. Hopefully there are no playing rule proposals next season about banning two Pro Bowl-caliber tight ends from being on the same roster.

@DougKyed What do you think of DJ Foster, and our RB corps in general? Could he maybe leap White on the depth chart?
— @drajkj

@DougKyed the running back group, any breakouts you predicting? Lewis going to be as good?
— @DnioyoTwit

@DougKyed DJ Foster looked really fast in the brief videos online. Legit shot at contributing this season?
— @JP_Shanahan

@DougKyed do you think Dj foster makes the 53 man roster and is there anything to the unexpected absences from the OTAs today ?
— @rickythegreat8

@DougKyed Is there a dark horse on the team right now that you can see making the 53-man roster?
— @Kwadare

@DougKyed Which free agent do you think has the best chance to make the team?
— @JimGilhooly1957
Listen, I feel like everyone either wants to hear about D.J. Foster, or they’re dancing around the topic but still want to hear about D.J. Foster.

Based on what we saw in OTAs Thursday, he’s the most explosive running back on the Patriots’ roster.

Of course, he’s also probably the smallest, so take that as you will.

It’s not surprising that Foster is the quickest and fastest of the Patriots’ running backs, however. He ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash with a 1.50-second 10-yard split at his pro day, and he showed off his quickness with a 6.75-second three-cone drill and 4.07-second short shuttle at the NFL Scouting Combine at 5-foot-10, 193 pounds.

I think Foster has a legit shot of making the Patriots’ 53-man roster. Is it better than 50 percent? Probably not, but it’s not as if James White, Donald Brown, Tyler Gaffney or Joey Iosefa are so good that they should be considered Shane Vereen- or Kevin Faulk-esque locks.

And keep in mind the hype surrounding Foster is when the Patriots are running around without pads in non-contact practices. We’ll see how fast he still looks when hitting is allowed.

Also, I still haven’t given up on Gaffney (feel free to laugh). I think he still could make some noise if he stays healthy.

@DougKyed Sup?
— @June__NYC
Watching the Red Sox, packing boxes because I’m moving tomorrow, stressing about moving tomorrow.

@DougKyed Does me asking “sup?” make you feel happy that someone cares?
— @June__NYC
Definitely. I appreciate you, June_NYC.

@DougKyed (1)What’s with all the talk about Thuney’s arms being too short for LT? Joe Thomas (9X Pro Bowler) has 32 1/2″ arms.
— @HoughtonJustin
@DougKyed (2)1/4″ longer then Thuney’s, Does it really make that much of a difference?
— @HoughtonJustin
I think it takes a very talented offensive tackle, like Joe Thomas or Matt Light, to excel despite not having great length. It’s putting a lot of pressure on Joe Thuney to start comparing him to either, and he still has shorter arms than both players.

I think Thuney can play tackle in a pinch, but he would have to play at a very high level to stay there.

@DougKyed If a professional wrestler, would you go with a mask or without?
— @rankjas
Without.

@DougKyed seeing as you got hibernian correct last week in the Scottish cup. Athletico Madrid or Real Madrid to win Champions League final?
— @DannyGodfrey23
I’ll go with Atletico Madrid. They have most of the word “athletic” in their name, so that’s definitely a good sign.

@DougKyed How likely would the Patriot’s move Devin McCourty back to Corner Back or Maybe sign a CB free agent like Chris Culliver?
— @Moody916

@DougKyed Would the Patriot’s be willing to sign wide receiver Anquan Boldin? #ReleaseAaronDobson
— @Moody916
I don’t think the Patriots need additional help at either cornerback or wide receiver. They drafted cornerback Cyrus Jones in the second round, signed E.J. Biggers and added three undrafted cornerbacks. That’s plenty of depth and competition for the position, which already had Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts.

I think the need for a wideout like Boldin went out the window when they signed Nate Washington and Chris Hogan and drafted Malcolm Mitchell and Devin Lucien. There’s already a ton of competition at both positions, and bringing in players such as Culliver or Boldin only would further crowd it.

@DougKyed how do you feel about the Brand Split??
— @FromDa401
I’m torn on it. I’m not exactly thrilled that it means I would be watching five hours of wrestling on Monday and Tuesday. Add in Sunday pay-per-views and NXT on Wednesday, and that is WAY too much wrestling.

Ideally, “Smackdown” becomes an extension of NXT, and it’s where some of the “indie” guys like Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, A.J. Styles and eventually Samoa Joe and Finn Balor are drafted. Then “Raw” becomes less of a must-watch, though it would be strange to forego watching “Raw” for “Smackdown.”

I’m excited for the draft, and I’m excited for maybe the first week of a live “Smackdown” and brand split, but I think it ultimately alienates casual fans, and it will be absolutely impossible for me to keep track during the Patriots’ season.

@DougKyed you think wwe gonna use Rollins to put over Reigns as well…. Just seems like something they’d do 🤔😒
— @MrBigShot01
WWE is dumb if they have Roman Reigns beat Seth Rollins. Rollins is the champion we need. Rollins is the champion we deserve.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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