It’s always fun when the NFL officials come to Foxboro to discuss rule changes.

NFL referee Brad Allen flew to New England early prior to Thursday night’s preseason game between the Patriots and Washington Redskins to go over the league’s new catch and helmet rules. There were lengthy ratatats.

Basically, Allen did a very good job of not acknowledging the new regulations will be difficult to judge and enforce. At one point, a reporter essentially tried to get Allen to admit they’d be hard to govern, and the ref kept pointing out the reporter was making statements, not asking questions.

Overall, we came out of the session with many questions and answers. It will be interesting to see how the helmet rule is enforced this season.

On a side note, how strange is the verbiage here?

Ejection standards:

1. Player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating and making contact with the helmet

2. Unobstructed path to his opponent

3. Contact clearly avoidable and player delivering the blow had other options”

What’s with the random sentence fragment at No. 2? What does an unobstructed path have to do with anything? If a player runs around another player and then drive his helmet into an opponent, then it’s not a penalty?

Now, let’s get into your questions. Watch above and read below for this week’s mailbag.

@DougKyed hey Doug, do you have any idea/guesses as to what the plan is for Thursday night? Will Etling play 3+ quarters? Also, which wrs do you expect to get the bulk of the work? Have their been any skill position players that have seemed to have a connection going with Etling?
— @joshcrypto123
This sounds like you’re trying to get some intel for a daily fantasy preseason lineup. Are you trying to get some intel for a daily fantasy preseason lineup, Josh?

I don’t expect the starters to play much, if at all. I anticipate at least two quarters of play out of rookie Danny Etling at quarterback.

Running back Ralph Webb gets a lot of work with the rookie/third team in practice. I’d expect a ton of carries out of him Thursday night. I think wide receivers Devin Lucien and Braxton Berrios could see a fair share of targets.

I kind of like Webb as a daily fantasy play. I also think Jeremy Hill could get some extensive work.

Doug is is a long shot for Cyrus Jones to make team?
— @skhentigan
Long shot might be too strong, but I don’t currently see a clear path for him to make the roster. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones would likely be above him on the depth chart.

I also think undrafted rookie cornerback JC Jackson might have more upside at cornerback at this point, too.

Cyrus Jones’ best path to making the roster would be as a punt returner/backup cornerback. He’ll have to prove this preseason that he’s trustworthy enough in a return role, though. That could be difficult since he’s still been limited in practice after coming off the PUP list. It’s unlikely he plays Thursday night.

Do you think they’re counting too much on Derek Rivers? He was last year’s top pick but it was 3rd round from a (very good) D1-AA program. Seems like a stretch to count on his being in the rotation with Flowers, Clayborn, & Wise out of the gate – or even by year-end.
— @Wiquist
I’m not sure why that would be a stretch. He had a year to get the mental aspect down, and now it’s about translating that onto the field after missing 2017 with a torn ACL.

Rivers will likely start the season as the No. 4 defensive end option. That player by seasons end last year was Eric Lee. Lee joined the team midway through the year off the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad. One would hope Rivers is, at this point, ahead of where Lee was last year.

Hey Doug. Do you find this “25 and under” ranking that’s being talked about a bit flawed? To my knowledge if you remove Brady from the equation the Pats are a relatively young team. Besides any good team needs veterans infused into the roster.
— @jspinato8
ESPN ranked the Patriots 32nd in the NFL in under-25 talent, for those who don’t know what J is talking about.

I just think 24 years old is an arbitrary number. Defensive end Trey Flowers and guard Shaq Mason, two of the better young players at their positions in the NFL, will be 25 in August, so they were disqualified from the list. That’s a little silly. Does a player who turns 25 in September have more upside than a player who turns 25 in August?

I think there are positions on the Patriots’ roster that could use an influx of youth, but it hasn’t been for a lack of effort. Having a first-round pick taken away in the Deflategate punishment didn’t help. It’s also worth noting the Patriots traded a first-round pick for wide receiver Brandin Cooks then flipped him for the pick used to take Isaiah Wynn, who adds youth on the offensive line.

#MailDoug it seems to me the safety position could be vastly improved. Eric Reid unemploymed, Earl Thomas asking to be traded. Do you see anything happening?
— @VicMartin_86
I disagree. The Patriots have perhaps the best three-safety unit in the NFL. Who’s a better No. 3 safety than Duron Harmon?

They also have Nate Ebner as a special teams/depth option. So, you’re really talking about a fifth safety. That’s a luxury position usually saved for another special teamer. If that player is Eddie Pleasant, then you’re doing fine. If it’s Jordan Richards? OK, I guess you can complain.

#maildoug Can you go through the way Malcolm Mitchell could end up back on the team later this year or next? What are thee odds?
— @MrQuindazzi
I’m not sure if I see one. It seems the Patriots simply were tired of waiting for Mitchell to stay or get healthy and become dependable. I’m not sure if he ever reaches that point in his NFL career.

Even if Mitchell has a solid season on a one-year contract with a team this year, what’s to say he can stay healthy beyond that?

Who do you believe has the highest ceiling of Dawson, Jackson or Lewis
— @DomGonzo12
It should be Duke Dawson, because he was a second-round pick, whereas JC Jackson and Ryan Lewis both were undrafted free agents.

But is it crazy if I think Jackson is the answer? He went undrafted because of off-field issues, not on-field play. Plus, he plays boundary cornerback, which is a position of higher potential. Dawson, thus far in his Patriots career, has been a slot corner.

Let’s go rapid fire.

#MailDoug do Pats trade for or sign a cut qb prior to week 1? Or does Ettling appear a potential starter?
— @rlbyrne29

I can’t see them signing or trading for a quarterback before Week 1, and I think Etling is a developmental prospect best suited for a year on the practice squad.

Who do you think will be our primary punt returner this season? #MailDoug
— @BradyToDorsett
Julian Edelman.

While Edelman is suspended? Your guess is as good as mine. I might lean towards Rex Burkhead, even though he just started practicing in the role. Other options are Cyrus Jones, safety Patrick Chung and wide receivers Chris Hogan, Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron.

What is your opinion on Breeland and if he were signed, how would he fit in with the patriots?
— @ryan_mcfly
I think he’d be a favorite to earn a roster spot, but I don’t think he’d be guaranteed a starting role. There’s a reason he’s still a free agent on Aug. 9.

you think eric decker sticks on the roster
— @michaelis4real
I don’t think he’s a lock, but he’ll certainly get a shot. Right now, if the Patriots keep a sixth wide receiver on their 53-man roster, I think he’d be the favorite over Berrios, McCarron, Lucien and Paul Turner.

When will rookies get their jersey numbers?
— @creddy4410
I figured they would two weeks ago. I think they’ll have to before Thursday night’s preseason game. Webb, who wears No. 68, would have to declare eligible every time he comes on the field.

Assuming rookies do get new numbers before tomorrow night, expect some confusion from the press box. There’s going to be a lot of roster glancing.

Is Brian Hoyer doing as good as the practice stats look?
— @Jannik96
No. There’s a lot of short passes.

What is your prediction for Offensive MVP and Defensive MVP tomorrow night?
— @sanzevino
Offensive MVP: RB Ralph Webb, based on prospective opportunities.

Defensive MVP: CB JC Jackson

Who produces more 2018, Dorsett, Britt or Patterson? #MailDoug
— @ItzPros
Kenny Britt.

What’s the deal with Eric Lee. He was pretty good last year and all of a sudden no one’s projecting him the make the roster?
— @jordanallen40
It’s a numbers issue. The Patriots likely would have to keep five defensive ends for Lee to stick around because I can’t see him beating out Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Derek Rivers or Adrian Clayborn. It’s possible he could beat out Rivers or Clayborn, I guess, but definitely not likely.

Lee will have to really stand out this summer in preseason to crack the roster.

Understanding the #Patriots lack of depth at the TE position, should they really be paying Dwayne Allen a $5mil salary to essentially be an extra blocker? Seems a little hefty for a 3rd TE that brings no value to the offense, outside of his blocking ability. #MailDoug
— @pats_chatter247
They might have to because they need insurance in case Rob Gronkowski gets injured again. Players like Jacob Hollister and Will Tye could take on the receiving element of Gronkowski’s game, but a Patriots tight end needs to block.

If you had to guess which RB gets the most touches this year?
— @Jremmes333
I would have said (and possibly did say) Sony Michel before the rookie running back’s injury. Now I’ll go with Burkhead. It probably just comes down to which player has better health this season.

What’s my age again, what’s my age again? #MailDoug
— @gcabreu87
Nobody likes you when you’re 23.

Fun fact: I spent my 23rd birthday on tour with my band at the time in Lincoln, Neb. We played a basement show and of course covered “What’s My Age Again?”