The NFL’s annual five-week vacation and one day of New England Patriots training camp are in the rearview mirror.
That means a mailbag is overdue. Let’s get right into it.
Are you ready for some football ? #maildoug
Yes. It was fun to (kind of) watch football again Thursday morning. I’m looking forward to this weekend, when the pads come back on, but more non-contact sessions will have to do for now.
What is your very early prediction for what receivers you think make the 53 man roster? #MailDoug
That’s really difficult. I’m going to throw seven names out there, assuming one of them gets injured (or stays injured in the case of Kenny Britt) before Week 1.
I would have left off Dorsett before Thursday morning, but the fact he was taking reps as an inside receiver tells me the Patriots are willing to experiment to try to keep him on the roster. If they view him as a potential slot receiver, then perhaps he could fill in while Julian Edelman serves his four-game suspension. Edelman plays outside in two-receiver sets and inside in 11 personnel. Perhaps Dorsett could do the same? He’s undersized with impressive speed and agility. He’ll compete with Matthews, Berrios and Riley McCarron for inside reps. He certainly has more experience in the Patriots’ offense than those three players after being on the roster all of last season.
Need advice on How you can take comments praising a new coach as a veiled shot at an old one? I’ll hang up and listen
I don’t think I did that, like at all, did I?
I did find Dont’a Hightower’s comments, heaping effusive praise on Brian Flores, interesting if only because Patriots players usually don’t make comparisons at all. Hightower said, “I think guys are learning a lot better, a lot easier” under Flores.
I don’t think that’s a veiled shot at Matt Patricia, the Patriots former defensive coordinator-turned-Detroit Lions head coach. But I do think the switch to Flores is a good thing for New England’s defense, if Hightower’s comments ring true.
There were times when it seemed like the Patriots’ defense was overly complicated under Patricia. If Flores is simplifying things a little, then it could help.
Hey Doug, hope you enjoyed your vacation, it’s nice to have you back on twitter! With Brian Flores seemingly taking over the DC role without the title, how do you think the defensive play calling will change if at all, especially with Bielema being the new consultant?
Based on what we’ve seen in early practices, we could see a more typical defensive alignment with four down linemen. Or maybe the Patriots are just starting simple and plan to expand the looks later. Patricia liked to mix three- and four-man fronts with one of his edge defenders capable of dropping back into coverage. That sometimes hindered the Patriots’ ability to rush the passer.
How was Danny Etling’s first day of Training Camp? #MailDoug
Solid. I’ve been impressed with everything I’ve seen from Etling dating back to organized team activities. He’s certainly better than other quarterbacks the Patriots have rostered since I started covering the team in 2013 like players whose names rhyme with Kim Kebow, Mayan Ballot and Lion Findlay.
When will we know the rookies numbers?
I thought we’d know Thursday.
I’m actually interested to see if the Patriots are allowed to keep the rookie numbers as is for the preseason. Number restrictions are lessened during the preseason, which is why wide receivers are allowed to wear single digits. But can a running back like Sony Michel wear No. 51? Can a quarterback wear No. 58? It would be a little weird, and it might require declaring players eligible, which would be a pain in the butt. I suspect we see real numbers on rookies by the preseason. What are they waiting for, though?
Which player(s) from past training camps you covered looked amazing in shorts and shells, giving you the idea they might be in for a huge season, but then never looked as good again when the pads came on?
The first players who come to mind are guys like Zach Sudfeld, Kenbrell Thompkins and Adam Butler, who actually all wound up making the roster based on their training camp performances.
A cornerback from a few years back, Daxton Swanson, also sticks out in my mind. He looked better than Malcolm Butler during the spring of 2014 but wasn’t as impressive when the competition ramped up.
But it’s usually pretty easy to highlight certain under-the-radar players who have a chance to crack the initial 53-man roster.
Let’s go rapid fire.
Why is the sky blue?
Because it would look pretty weird if the sky was green.
How long of a field goal could you make?
I could probably make an extra point. It might take a few tries.
Do you think Mitchell will be on the team week 1?
No, I do not.
Bill recently made reference to certain players making big jumps since last year. Any idea who he was talking about?
I noticed the biggest jump out of tight end Jacob Hollister.
Where do babies come from?
#maildoug Do we see Danny Shelton dropping 15 yards into coverage this year?
No, Patricia isn’t defensive coordinator anymore.
Who do you see as the starting LT? Sony gonna get 10-15 touches early on? #maildoug
Trent Brown was the starting left tackle in the first training camp practice, but I’d probably rather play Isaiah Wynn there, if he’s ready. Brown might be the Week 1 starter, though.
And maybe if he Sony Michel can prove to hold onto the ball.
What is more likely, that the Patriots could get anything of value in a trade for Malcolm Mitchell, or that he converted back to CB? Seems about even to me.
The former, but I can’t see much trade value in Mitchell.
Do you see Patterson as a roster lock or could someone like Berrios showing return potential suddenly put him on the bubble?
I think “lock” is a strong word for Patterson. I think he makes the team, but I don’t see him as being a major offensive weapon. He hasn’t looked great as a wide receiver through early practices.
On a scale of 1 to 10 how good do you feel about the o line as a whole?
Maybe a 7.3?
Is Brandon King actually a LB though
It’s website official now.
But actually? Not really. He’s a special teams player who needs to be listed at a defensive position.
How long have you been a beat reporter and how did you become one?
This is my sixth season on the beat. I studied journalism at Emerson College and wrote for small newspapers, blogs and websites, while working other jobs, before taking a full-time desk job at NESN. I took over the Patriots beat after a year with the company.
How fun is Courtney Cox to work with?
Definitely one of the of the top three funnest digital video reporters to work with at NESN.com.
Thumbnail photo via Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports Images