Patriots Mailbag: Does New England Have Internal Fixes To Biggest Needs?

Could Gunner Olszewski help fix the Patriots' wide receiver woes?

by Doug Kyed

October 2, 2020

Keep your phones close on Saturday. There could be a flurry of New England Patriots roster moves.

If the Patriots plan to activate wide receiver Gunner Olszewski and running back Damien Harris from injured reserve, then those moves likely will be made Saturday around 5 p.m. The Patriots will give the Kansas City Chiefs as little time as possible to plan for Harris and Olszewski’s season debuts, which is why it’s unlikely those transactions would be made any earlier.

The Patriots also would need to release a player from their 53-man roster if they activate Olszewski and Harris. The top candidate would probably be cornerback Myles Bryant.

Watch the video above and read below for this week’s mailbag.

@KenMcCartney
#maildoug is it crazy to think the Patriots have a bigger immediate need in the front seven on defense than at WR?

That’s not crazy at all, Ken. I will say that the Patriots should have internal help coming at linebacker (Josh Uche), defensive tackle (Beau Allen) and wide receiver (Olszewski). Allen has yet to be designated for return, and Uche isn’t eligible yet.

But the Patriots need a space-eater up front, and that’s Allen. And they need an athletic sideline-to-sideline linebacker, and that should be Uche.

We’ll see what Olszewski can provide. He looked much improved in training camp. I’m not sure if he can immediately jump into a starting role over Damiere Byrd, but I think the Patriots can get creative using him similar to the way Isaiah Zuber was deployed last week on jet sweeps and backfield formations.

@B0stonS22
1.) Are either of the two rookie tight ends going to make an impact this season?
2.) I know Uche is on IR, but is he going to be on the field? I heard lots of noise he would compete for defensive ROY

Thanks. You are the best Pats beat guy in Boston.
Appreciate the kind words.

I’m still confident that Devin Asiasi and/or Dalton Keene will make an impact at some point this year. Asiasi has been quiet in three games, and Keene has yet to make the gameday roster. But the Patriots need to see what they have in those rookies some point soon.

And like I mentioned above, Uche offers the defense something that guys like Ja’Whaun Bentley and Brandon Copeland don’t. So, once he’s healthy, the Patriots should see if he can make an impact similar to how Kyle Dugger has sparked early in his Patriots career. It would be fun to watch Uche and Dugger share the box given their combination of size and speed.

@Pats62
-Who are you most high on?
-Wilkerson,Ross,Kinsley or Zuber?
-Who ever you choose , what skillset most stands out to you?

I know you asked this before practice, but Mason Kinsey was released off of the practice squad Thursday.

But among wide receivers on the Patriots’ practice squad, Devin Ross had the strongest training camp, Isaiah Zuber was temporarily elevated to the active roster Sunday, and Kristian Wilkerson spent the summer with the Tennessee Titans but was signed by New England in early September.

I’m still the highest on Wilkerson. I like his combination of size (6-foot-1, 214 pounds), speed (4.46-second 40-yard dash), quicks (6.68-second three-cone drill, 4.09-second short shuttle), explosion (39.5-inch vertical leap and 10-feet, 8-inch broad jump) and production (71 catches, 1,350 yards, 10 touchdowns as a senior at FCS Southeast Missouri State).

The size and quickness are what stand out most from watching him. Receivers over 6-feet rarely move as suddenly as Wilkerson.

It’s also cool that he wears No. 88.

@MarkJohnBennett
There was some talk about if Thuney could play center so well, why didn’t they move him last year? Is it because of Onwenu being better at guard than who they could have moved there last year?

I’m just not sure how much of a difference it would have made. If Joe Thuney had played center, then Ted Karras probably would have played left guard. I trust Dante Scarnecchia’s decision that Karras at center and Thuney at left guard was the best combination.

I think it’s worth wondering if the Patriots should have played Jermaine Eluemunor over Marshall Newhouse. The Patriots could have put Thuney or Eluemunor at offensive tackle over Newhouse.

@Deeep_Blue
Any RB a candidate to get traded or do they wait to see how injuries play out. Pats seem a little ‘rich’ in that area.

No, Bill Belichick knows how injury-prone the running back position can be. I asked Belichick about the Patriots’ running backs this week. Here’s what he had to say:

“Yeah, you just never know how that?s going to work out. A couple years ago, we had good depth at running back and then we ended up playing a receiver, running back and everything else, and so it just all diminished in a hurry. That might not be the case here going forward, we might have good depth there, and we?ll just try to do the best that we can in terms of game planning and creating opportunities and personnel groups and plays or whatever it is to try to attack our opponents. But, I think you?ve got to be careful about changing your whole offense just to work a couple guys into the lineup if that?s going to detract from something else. So, there?s a balance there, but it?s good to have depth. As I said, we certainly had times when we haven?t had it, so it?s a good thing when we have it and we?ll have to figure that out. That?s a good problem to have, though, is having a lot of good football players.”

The Patriots can afford to roster five running backs even if all of them might not dress.

He referenced the 2018 season when Cordarrelle Patterson wound up playing running back despite Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, James White and Jeremy Hill being on the Week 1 roster.

It got even worse in 2015 when Steven Jackson, Brandon Bolden and James White were the only running backs left on the Patriots’ final roster after LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney and Dion Lewis were placed on injured reserve.

Let’s go rapid fire.

@JulienDoucet1
would you rather swim in a pool with a great white shark for an hour or spend the night in a room with one thousand spiders?

Spend the night in a room with a thousand spiders. I don’t really mind spiders. I do mind getting eaten by sharks.

@tayfieux
Why is candy corn the worst candy in the world.

See, I don’t think this. I don’t particularly like candy corn, but it’s not the worst. Black licorice is the worst.

@BPhillips_SB
How many Dougs would it take to physically move Michael Onwen against his will?

I want to say two, though maybe I’m giving myself too much credit. Two Dougs currently outweigh one Michel Onwenu thanks to the pandemic and lack of exercise. Maybe I’ll say three just to be safe.

I’ll go with four.

@TheOrigCatfood
Peanut butter and jelly or Fluffinutter?

Peanut butter and jelly.

@mailliam18
The obvious trade targets are Allen Robinson and OBJ. But how about Michael Gallup? He seems to be the WR3 as Lamb comes into his own. He?s also the closest to the end of his contract. Not to mention the would loosen up some cap space to extend other people (or Dak).

The Cowboys are 1-2, but they’re still competitive in the NFC East. So, I doubt they’d be willing to give up a useful player like Michael Gallup. I know Cedrick Wilson went off in Week 3, but Dallas needs those offensive weapons.

@victor_mq
Win/lost projection

11-5.

@mailliam18
What is one new rule this year that you hope sticks around for the future? #MailDoug

I like all of the new rules other than protecting practice squad players from signing to other teams’ 53-man rosters. That one is lame and unfair to practice squad players.

I like the expanded practice squads, three-week injured reserve and temporary elevations. Keep them all.

Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots
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