With the New England Patriots returning to the practice field Thursday, the Patriots mailbag also makes a comeback this week.
Let’s get right into the questions.
#maildoug Given the crazy depth on offense, will we see more conscious managing of snaps for TE/WR/RB?
The Patriots already were more conscious about managing their skill position player snaps last season. I think they’ll be even more so this year.
I believe I’ve said this before, but I’ll write it again: I think acquiring a second tight end to replace Martellus Bennett was more about resting Rob Gronkowski than it was about running a two-tight end offense. Personally, I’d rather have one of the Patriots’ receivers on the field than Dwayne Allen. But I think it’s smart to give Gronkowski time off to manage his health, and it shouldn’t cut into his contract incentives either.
Sure, Gronkowski would receive $5.5 million if he’s on the field for 90 percent of snaps, but he also receives $5.5 million if he catches 80 passes with 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns OR earns an All-Pro selection. Gronkowski’s so good, he can earn an All-Pro selection while playing, say, 75 percent of snaps. He’ll almost certainly get that All-Pro honor if he’s on the field for 16 games. He has a better chance of being on the field for all 16 games if he’s not playing 90 percent of snaps per game.
(While on the topic of Gronkowski, I don’t think it’s mentioned enough that he beat up the current WWE Champion at WrestleMania 33. Could we see Gronkowski win the WWE title from Jinder Mahal at WrestleMania 34? Hmm. That’s might be the greater incentive for him to stay healthy.)
I think it also would be smart to limit Julian Edelman’s snaps. That would give Chris Hogan more reps in two-wide receiver sets and Malcolm Mitchell more play in the three-wideout offense.
#MailDoug Is Hightower’s health the most important thing for the Patriots monitor in the early going once they activate him off PUP?
Dont’a Hightower’s health is one of the most important things to monitor overall for the Patriots this season. There’s arguably a bigger drop-off from Hightower to his backup than Brady to Garoppolo.
If there’s a bigger drop-off on the roster, it would be pretty much anywhere on the offensive line or at strong safety. But if strong safety Patrick Chung went down, then Duron Harmon would become a starter, Devin McCourty likely would move down to strong safety, and the Patriots would just rely on a third cornerback more. So it really comes down to Hightower or the offensive line. And the offensive line is more about the unit than it is its individual pieces.
The Patriots have great depth at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, defensive tackle and cornerback. They have decent depth at linebacker, but Hightower is significantly better than anyone else on the roster at the position.
Predictions for Malcolm Mitchell’s sophomore season? #MailDoug
I think he’ll improve, but it might not be reflected in his stat line. Mitchell is pretty buried beneath Edelman, Cooks and Hogan. And that’s not even including other skill-position players like Gronkowski, Allen, James White, Dion Lewis, Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead. Every skill position player’s numbers might be down this year.
It will actually be interesting to see how Cooks responds to being in such a loaded offense since there were reports of him being unhappy with his usage last season on the New Orleans Saints. Of course, he could just be so good he forces the issue and doesn’t see his stat line worsen in his new setting. And perhaps the reports were untrue, and Cooks will be happy with any role he’s given.
Is Foster just a workout warrior or is he legit? If he were to make roster, which RB doesn’t? Bolden?
That’s what we’ll find out this summer. Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears essentially said that if D.J. Foster starts making plays, then he’ll be tough to keep off the roster. And that’s true. He’s fast, quick and versatile. Now he needs to show it by staying healthy and having a solid preseason.
I think he could just be kept as an additional running back, meaning the Patriots would keep one less player at another position. I don’t believe Brandon Bolden is a lock to make the roster because Burkhead can serve a similar role.
Let’s go rapid fire.
Hey @DougKyed “Long time no read”!! Glad the offseason is ending!! Are you coming to Mexico for the Rdrs vs Pats??
I am, and I’m very excited. I’ve never been to Mexico, and I really enjoy tacos.
Who do u think will be a surprise that will make the 53 man roster this year? #MailDoug
I predicted Brandon King back in 2015. I’ll say cornerback Kenny Moore, who has made plays left and right in OTAs, minicamp and in the first day of training camp.
Who’s the most underrated returning player?
Probably either Nate Solder or Malcom Brown. Both players were overshadowed by their tackle counterparts last season in Marcus Cannon and Alan Branch, respectively, but I thought Solder and Brown were solid.
Who will be #2 in receptions for the Pats? Assuming JE is #1
If Gillette puts you in that Freeze costume and has you race a random fan, how big of a lead would YOU need?
I would need 90 yards to ensure victory.
Will we see JimmyG on the field at all this season? #MailDoug
Yes, for kneel downs.
Been saying for 4+ months now: I need more Doug Kyed in my TL. Welcome back to work, Doug!
Thanks, Philostopher! That’s not a question, but I appreciate it.
sup, doug? Did you miss me? #MailDoug
I’m writing the mailbag at 9 p.m., which means I’ll probably finish it at a record early time. While on vacation, I was staying up really late every night, so Thursday’s 8:45 a.m. Belichick news conference has made me sleepy.
And yes, I did.
Hey Doug do the patriots have a chance to be a good American football team this year? #MailDoug
It’s more probable than not, as they say in the NFL league office.
@DougKyed #MailDoug Is this the year you become the greatest beat writer of all time?
I’m not already?
have you been to Canada ( Pats Nation North)? If so favourite place or spot you enjoyed? #maildoug
I used to go to Vancouver when I was a small child living in Seattle. I once bought a plastic dinosaur wearing a Mario Lemieux jersey. So, wherever I bought that.
I also went to Montreal on a class trip in eighth grade, and boy was that a terrible time.
Replying to @DougKyed
What’s your favorite way to eat a potato?
1. Curly fries
2. Potato salad
4. Waffle fries
6. A ruffled chip
8. Home fries
9. Just a normal french fry
Know what’s the most overrated potato variety? Wedges. They’re way to potato-y and the inside is always like, 450 degrees and burns my mouth.
Replying to @DougKyed
The Shield vs Balor Club in a 3-on-3 Survivor Series elimination match… who says no? ##MailDoug
I’m all-in for a Shield reunion and for the Balor Club to finally form. I like it, Jeff.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images