The New England Patriots are three days away from the official start of training camp when pads are allowed, and they have four open spots on their 80-man roster.
Here’s how I’d assess their top current needs:
1. Offensive tackle
2. Tight end
4. Kicker competition or safety
We’ll see how they fill those spots in the upcoming days.
Let’s get into this week’s mailbag by watching above and reading below.
With the addition of Lamar Miller, are Sony Michel days in New England over? Do you think OL depth would be a problem this year? #MailDoug
Are Sony Michel’s days in New England over? Definitely not. But I could certainly envision him receiving fewer carries once he’s back from his injury.
If Michel starts the season on the physically unable to perform list, as ex-Patriots executive Michael Lombardi proposed Wednesday, then that would mean more opportunities for Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead, and, possibly, Lamar Miller to start the season. If Harris or Miller pops off early in the year and looks better than Michel did last season, then what happens when the 2018 first-round pick returns from his foot injury?
I think running back is an upgradeable position from 2018 and 2019 based on Michel’s performance. We’ll see if Harris or Miller can provide that upgrade.
I continue to see Burkhead as a change-of-pace back on early downs and as a pass-catcher on third down rather than a starter.
If the Patriots have Cam at QB and build Read Option and RPOs into their offense, which RBs should be used and why? #MailDoug
I’m actually not sure how well Michel would fit into an offense predicated on RPOs and read options. He’s more of a between the tackles runner, and he’s never proven himself as a pass-catcher. So, maybe not great.
Miller, on the other hand, is more of a proven pass-catcher and, at least in 2018, was more successful as an outside runner than Michel was in 2019.
Michel wide in 2019: 3.5 yards per carry
Miller wide in 2018: 4 yards per carry
Now, they’re both coming off of injuries.
I think Burkhead would be a good fit in read-option and RPO packages. White is the Patriots’ best pass-catcher. Harris is an almost complete unknown since he has four career touches in the NFL.
#Maildoug Put a % on each of the Pats QBs for who starts game 1.
In Week 1?
I think there’s a fairly significant difference between asking which quarterback starts Week 1 and which quarterback has the most starts this season.
If you were asking the latter, I’d say:
Which Auburn Tiger do you envision being the QB in 2021? #MailDoug
I think there’s a higher probability that Stidham will be the Patriots’ starter in 2021 over Newton. And it comes down to cost. Newton isn’t going to cost the Patriots $1.75 million next season. They’ll probably have to franchise him or sign him to a competitive, long-term contract. So, would you want Stidham at just over $1 million, or Newton at a competitive QB salary?
What do you think the ceiling is for the following players this season:
N’Keal Harry: 900 yards
Devin Asiasi: 540 yards
Josh Uche: six sacks
Ja’Whaun Bentley: 100 tackles
Who’s a guy that would help the team the most by playing to his ceiling this year (non-QB)?
The first name that comes to mind is Harry.
My buddy Danny Heifetz of The Ringer ranked the Patriots’ pass-catching group 29th in the NFL, and it’s tough to disagree with him. Harry’s emergence would be an easy fix to a receiving group filled with uncertainty.
Harry was a first-round pick a year ago, but then he missed half of the season with an injury and caught just 12 passes for 105 yards. He’s now playing with a new quarterback, which should do more good than harm given Tom Brady’s history of impatience with young receivers. If Harry can stay healthy, he should be able to make a sizable second-year leap.
At what point do you believe the Patriots will approach JC Jackson (if they haven’t already) about an extension?
Personally, I’d wait. Jackson will be a restricted free agent next season. I’d slap a first-round tender on him. That essentially leaves three options:
- The Patriots would pay Jackson around $5 million next season, which would be a massive bargain.
- Another team signs Jackson to an offer sheet, and the Patriots match it.
- Another team signs Jackson to an offer sheet, the Patriots decline to match it, and they come away with a first-round pick. That would be an incredible return on investment for an undrafted free agent.
That situation, to me, looks like a win-win-win.
With Michel Out who do you have staring for the Pats at Running Back? #MailDoug
It’s not definite that Michel is out, but if he does miss the first half of the season, then that’s tough to say. I could see it being a fairly even split between Burkhead, Miller and Harris. I don’t know if they’d commit to one running back right away.
If I’m forced to pick, then I would say Harris will have the most carries through the first half of the season since Miller also is starting camp on the PUP list.
Let’s go rapid fire.
Why is it contending teams are signing very good FA, Everson Griffin, with the Cowboys, and so on, and the Patriots are signing guys like Leggett and Kilgo? And they do have close to $34M in cap space
Because they’d prefer to carry that money over and spend it on free agents next offseason, which is the smart thing to do.
Do you think Damien Harris gets some touches this year?
Do you think it will be much easier to sneak undrafted or late round Pats picks (6th-7th rounders) on the practice squad this season with 0 preseason games for other teams to study? #MailDoug
Short answer: yes.
What if my son become a priest… Do i have to call him “father”?
Sorry, pal. You would.
How much will no preseason games effect the first few weeks of the season
I think they’ll be pretty sloppy, and you’ll see a lot of substituting of players.
In the first couple of days, has there been much sense of Cam running away with the job? Or still to early to tell? #MailDoug
Way too early to tell.
Favorite sports and teams besides the Pats? #maildoug
My favorite sport is football, and my favorite team is the University of Washington football team. I didn’t go there, but I did live in the Seattle area for the first 11 years of my life when the Huskies were really good.
Otherwise, I like the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, Boston Bruins and Seattle Mariners. I’d like the Seattle Supersonics if they still existed, but they don’t.
Who is your favourite Patriots player?
Hi Doug, how do you stay so fly?
Staring at Twitter all day keeps me young.
Do you see the Bruins maintaining momentum after game 1?
I hope so.
How old are u Doug?
On Monday, Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston was asking Julian Edelman a question about being 34 like it was old and decrepit. I was sitting there waiting to ask the next question like, “what the heck, man?!”
The fact that the Patriots aren’t filling needs with available free agents seems idiotic to me. Delanie Walker and Snacks Harrison/Marcel Dareus would be great additions.
“Idiotic” seems harsh.
Where do babies come from?
They used to come from Babies R Us. I don’t know anymore, though. Probably Amazon.
Why are Pats fans constantly hating Cam?
Hmm, must be the wild hats that Newton wears.
This is Tom Brady wearing a hat. Cam is already such an upgrade pic.twitter.com/KzMi2LRhS9
— Jessica Smetana (@jessica_smetana) June 29, 2020
Nah, that can’t be it.
Maybe it’s his hair?
Don't think we forgot about "The Bieber" pic.twitter.com/Xo149AKOAp
— JSolo🖍️ (@JS0l09) August 4, 2020
Huh, can’t be that either.
OK, it must be his clothes.
— SB Nation (@SBNation) May 8, 2018
Hmm, that’s not it either. Jeez. I don’t know then.
Who is going to be chosen to lead the defense with Hightower and Van Noy not there?
Do you mean who’s going to be wearing the green dot communication helmet? I would guess Bentley. Devin McCourty will be the top defensive leader this season.
Just thinking about how we’d be breaking down a preseason game in a normal year.
What has lots of eyes, but can’t see?
Is it the state of Mississippi?
With no preseason matches, how might the Patriots be able to simulate a game environment with so many restrictions due to COVID? #MailDoug
They’ll definitely be having more intrasquad scrimmages than usual. Those are always fun to watch in camp, so hopefully, there will be more than one or two of them.