The number of fully healthy New England Patriots wide receivers quadrupled Thursday.
The Patriots’ injury report brought positive news as quarterback Tom Brady and wide receivers Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan were removed. The Patriots also signed receiver Griff Whalen. Rookie Malcolm Mitchell previously was the only fully healthy receiver.
Obviously all NFL players are banged up to some degree in December, but it’s a good sign the Patriots felt comfortable deeming Edelman and Hogan completely healthy from their respective foot and back injuries as New England heads into Week 14. They’ll be needed with Danny Amendola out with a high ankle sprain and tight end Martellus Bennett nursing shoulder and ankle injuries.
Watch above and read below for this week’s mailbag.
@DougKyed @DougKyed With the patriots signing Whalen, what does this say about DeAndrew White and Lucien?
That’s a really good question. It tells me the Patriots like DeAndrew White and Devin Lucien’s potential but don’t believe the practice squad wide receivers are ready to contribute on offense.
New England thought highly enough of Lucien to spend a seventh-round pick on him in April, but it became obvious during the preseason he wasn’t ready for regular season action. So, I understand keeping Lucien on the practice squad rather than elevating him.
I don’t completely understand having White on the practice squad if he’s not ready for the active roster. He’s a second-year player who spent time on an active roster in 2015.
Whalen no is longer practice squad eligible, however, and he has a ton of experience as a punt returner. With Amendola hurt, Cyrus Jones struggling with ball security and the Patriots being hesitant to risk Edelman on special teams, it seems finding someone to field punts was of utmost importance to the Patriots.
It will be interesting to see how Whalen fits into the offense. He’s a slot receiver with the typical agility and quickness needed for the position. He hasn’t been overly productive in the NFL, however.
It would be ill-advised to use Whalen on fake punts.
@DougKyed with all the different packages and players that are playing snaps now, who do you see as the Pats best front 7 for pass rush?
In the base defense, it would be Vincent Valentine and Malcom Brown at defensive tackle, Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard at defensive end and Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin at linebacker.
In sub packages, it wouldn’t really be a front seven, because there would be five or six defensive backs on the field. It would be some combination of Hightower, Van Noy, Long, Sheard, Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich.
@DougKyed Bennett is admitting he is hurt and injury impacting his play. What sense in world does it make to keep sending him out there ???
Because a wise man, I think it was Confucius, once said “football players play football.” No, wait, that was Bill Belichick.
Bennett is the Patriots’ best option at tight end, and they’d rather stick him out there at a fraction of himself than rely on guys like Matt Lengel, James Develin and Glenn Gronkowski or sign a player like Garrett Graham.
@DougKyed Why do Pats pressure rookie QBs but only rush 2 or 3 for veteran QBs giving them 7 seconds to find a receiver? #MailDoug
Because it works. New England is 10-2 using that method.
I know Patriots fans want four or five sacks and two or three turnovers per game, but sometimes being conservative, especially with an elite offense, is the safer way to generate wins.
Obviously it didn’t work against the Seattle Seahawks, but it’s especially dangerous to blitz an athletic quarterback like Russell Wilson. The Patriots rather would give up a 6-yard catch than a 20-yard scramble.
@DougKyed just curious for your evaluation of Eric Rowe’s play to this point.
He’s a work in progress who was playing really well before his hamstring injury.
The best thing New England ever did with Rowe was simplify his role by moving him to the right side. Rowe is relatively new to cornerback, but he has huge upside given his size and athleticism.
The Patriots’ cornerback situation could get shaky again if Rowe is out for a while with the injury.
@DougKyed Do you think we’ll start seeing some more 2-RB formations (White/Lewis), with Lewis getting back to full speed? #MailDoug
I think we’ll start seeing more because Bennett is so banged up, and New England will want to switch up its formations.
I’m interested to see how effective it is. I know Patriots fans love it because they’ve never seen it before and they think it’s innovative, but it seems easy to cover on the surface. If the Patriots come out with the two running backs and three wide receivers, defenses should match it with a dime package. If they come out with two running backs, two wide receivers and a tight end, defenses should match it with nickel.
It’s not quite as unpredictable as a two-tight end offense, but defenses might be confused by it initially because you have to cover two players out of the backfield.
@DougKyed #MailDoug Do the Patriots have the greatest defense in the history of the league?
Mr. Q always makes me laugh.
@DougKyed #MailDoug Who was your favorite football player growing up, and why?
I was a sports fan from a very, very early age, so my first favorite player was Steve Largent, but he retired when I was 3 years old. Pacific Trading Cards released a full set of Largent cards in 1989, and I collected those and had his posters on my walls.
My next favorite football player actually was Washington Huskies wide receiver Mario Bailey, who was drafted by the Houston Oilers but never made it in the NFL. I loved the 1991 national champion Huskies, and Bailey by far was my favorite player on that team.
After Bailey, Lawyer Milloy was my favorite. I grew up in Seattle until 1997, when I moved south of Boston, so it was really cool to follow Milloy’s career from the Huskies to the Patriots.
Dave Krieg, Barry Sanders, Corey Dillon, Ty Law, Derrick Thomas, Ricky Watters, Curis Martin, Merton Hanks, Mike Alstott and Joey Galloway were favorites of mine too, as well as many other Huskies like Napoleon Kaufman, Damon Huard, Mark Brunell and Eric Bjornson.
@DougKyed do you think the split between White and Lewis continues or will Dion take over as he rounds back into form? #MailDoug
I believe they’ll continue to split carries to keep both players fresh. White has been really dependable.
@DougKyed is early but , the biggest needs in the next draft?
It depends on which players the Patriots extend, but running back, tight end, defensive end and cornerback are up there.
@DougKyed sup? #MailDoug
Watching “Thursday Night Football” and having a hard time resolving my feelings on Tyreek Hill, as I’m sure the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL are, as well. I believe Hill has a right to play in the NFL, but excessively celebrating a player who plead guilty to strangling his pregnant girlfriend in college feels wrong.
Based on how well he’s played this season, he’ll likely be a dynamic player in the NFL for a long time. It will be interesting to see how the league handles his rise. It was a bad look to make Hill’s image the header for the NFL’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
@DougKyed @jeffphowe Whats up with the ‘Patriots Staff Magician’ John Duke Logan? Thank you.
He releases weekly videos performing magic with Patriots players, and he collects sound in the locker room.
It is admittedly very funny that New England of all teams, has a staff magician.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images