Patriots Mailbag: Which Eagles Players Could Wind Up In New England?

Plus: Handicapping the Patriots' roster battle at running back


It’s time for another New England Patriots mailbag.

This week, we dive into the Patriots’ ongoing roster battles at running back and kicker, projections for two front-seven defenders, the latest on New England’s injured star tight ends and fallout from this week’s joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles ahead of Thursday night’s preseason matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.

Let’s get to it:

Is the gap between Meyers and the rest of the receivers as wide as it seems? Haven’t heard anything about Kendrick Bourne either.

Bourne has actually had a solid camp thus far. He hasn’t been on the receiving end of many highlight-reel receptions, but he’s been consistently productive. His 10 catches (on 11 targets) in competitive team drills this week were the most of any Patriots receiver in Philly, and I had him going 6-2 in 1-on-1s with multiple wins over projected Eagles starter Steven Nelson.

The one issue with Bourne is that he’s still learning the nuances of this complex Patriots offense. His lone incompletion in joint practices came after he appeared to run the wrong route or make the incorrect read, resulting in a miscommunication with quarterback Mac Jones. Early in Tuesday’s practice, receivers coach Mick Lombardi had to correct his alignment during an unopposed 7-on-7 period. Bourne also was disappointed with his performance in last week’s preseason opener, saying he was rushing his routes.

But, again, the ex-49er has looked good overall this summer. He’s been the Patriots’ second-most consistent wideout behind Jakobi Meyers, who raved about Bourne on Tuesday.

“Don’t sleep on KB,” Meyers said. “… The room loves him. The team loves him. He’s a great guy to have on the team.”

Which RB?s don’t make team?

I’ve done three 53-man roster projections so far this summer, and I’ve changed my mind at running back each time. I think all six are deserving of roster spots, but the Patriots are unlikely to keep more than five.

The way I view it, they have three options:

1. Cut J.J. Taylor
2. Cut Brandon Bolden
3. Trade Sony Michel

A James White trade also is theoretically possible, but that would be a major surprise.

I had the Patriots cutting Bolden in roster projection 2.0 and trading Michel in 3.0. Now, I’m beginning to lean more toward cutting Taylor and hoping to sneak him onto the practice squad. I expect this opinion to change at least two or three more times before cutdown day.

Who are the Eagles that would not surprise you if the Patriots traded for them?
These would be more waiver claims than trade candidates, but I have my eye on young wideouts J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and John Hightower, both of whom are on the Eagles’ roster bubble.

To be clear, Arcega-Whiteside has not been good in his two NFL seasons (14 catches, 254 yards, one touchdown in 24 games), and I’m sure I’ll get roasted on Twitter for even mentioning him here. In fact, he’s probably the second-most disappointing receiver from the 2019 draft class behind N’Keal Harry, who, like Arcega-Whiteside, thrived in contested-catch situations in college but hadn’t seen that translate in the pros.

But Arcega-Whiteside also is a 24-year-old second-round draft pick who could benefit from a change of scenery. And he turned in a couple of positive days against the Patriots’ defense.

If Bill Belichick and his staff liked what they saw from the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder in person, perhaps they’d take a flier on him if Philadelphia cuts him loose.

Hightower had a quiet rookie season (10-137-0 with a miserable 34.5 percent catch rate) but was mentioned as a potential 2020 draft target for the Patriots before Philadelphia grabbed him in the fifth round. The Boise State product is a former track star who tested in the 77th percentile in the 40-yard dash and the 84th percentile in the vertical jump and ran a short shuttle that was fourth-fastest among wideouts at last year’s NFL Scouting Combine.

Those are just two names that come to mind. Members of the Patriots’ scouting department surely had their eyes open over these last few days. New England went on to sign at least one player from each of their last 13 joint practice partners, so odds are high that a current Eagle one day will end up in Foxboro.

How’s Jonnu’s recovery process? Same question for Henry.

According to reports, neither injury is considered serious. Jonnu Smith’s reportedly is a low ankle sprain, which typically carries a much shorter recovery time than one of the high ankle variety. Hunter Henry has worn pads to each of the last three practices before splitting off to rehab with strength coach Moses Cabrera, which suggests he isn’t too far from returning. Perhaps he’ll be healthy enough to play a few snaps in next week’s preseason finale against the New York Giants.

At the very least, there seems to be a good chance both are back by the start of the regular season. We’ll have to wait and see how their missed reps ultimately impact the effectiveness of the Patriots’ passing game.

In the meantime, expect to see a ton of Devin Asiasi on Thursday night. With Matt LaCosse also on the mend after getting blown up during Monday’s practice, Asiasi currently is the Patriots’ only healthy tight end.

Has Barmore done enough to carve out a legit role for himself ?

If Christian Barmore can stay healthy, I think he’ll definitely have a role this season. He’s bullied people in O-line/D-line 1-on-1s and has see time with the ones in team drills, especially this week with starter Lawrence Guy sidelined. I’m excited to see how the second-round draft pick looks Thursday night, assuming he plays. (He dressed against Washington but didn’t see game action.) Barmore probably will be a rotational piece to start, but he’s shown major potential this summer.

How was Wino looked in his return to practice so far? Is he playing in space at all or only on the edge?

I’ve mostly seen Chase Winovich working on the edge with the second-team defense since he came off the physically unable to perform list on Sunday. He has a lot of ground to make up and a bunch of talented edge rushers above him (Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Josh Uche, etc.). These final two preseason games will be important auditions for him as he looks to prove he deserves defensive playing time.

Who will win the kicker job Nordin or Folk?
My pick would by Quinn Nordin. Nick Folk was great last season, but he’s now missed two full weeks of practice with a mysterious injury. Nordin has an undeniable edge in distance and has made 21 of 23 kicks across all full-team scenarios (practice and game) in Folk’s absence. As long he doesn’t implode over these final two preseason games, he has a strong chance of winning the job.

New England Patriots receiver Nelson Agholor
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