NEPD Mailbag: Too Long For Twitter

Devin McCourty Interception

Could Devin McCourty handle kickoff return duties for the Patriots next season?

NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed

Who will handle kickoff returns for the Patriots? What will the Patriots do with all their WRs? Will the Patriots bring in a veteran RB?

Those are some of the questions I’ll be answering in my weekly “Too Long For Twitter” Friday mailbag where I take questions from Twitter that warrant, deserve or need answers longer than 140 characters

If you have a question about anything, tweet it to me @DougKyedNEPD, and I’ll try to include it in the column on Friday. If you aren’t on Twitter, feel free to throw in a question in the comments section.

@DougKyedNEPD How do you see KR being addressed in ’12. #NEPDMailbag

I think the kick return problem will be solved in house. The Patriots were 19th in KR yards, 29th in yards/kick return and were one of 23 teams last year without a KR TD. Because of those less than spectacular stats, I think a lot of Pats fans were expecting to see a kick return prospect drafted or signed as a free agent. The problem is, with the new kick return rules, having a stud kick returner is simply less valuable. My colleague Mike Loyko said it best on Wednesday, “NFLDraftXpert: @DougKyedNEPD @Rich__Hill @PatsPropaganda fact of the matter is the KR has been devalued alot.. BB has talked bout it..doubt they bring 1 in“

The Patriots also have quite a few players on their roster at this point who do have Kick Return history. Lets go through them:

Danny Woodhead – Woodhead was the team leader last season with 20 returns for 437 yards. He was also the team leader in running directly into tackles and not letting his blockers do anything for him. Needless to say, Woodhead was not good in this role.

Julian Edelman – Edelman lead the team in yards per return with a whopping 23.7. Which isn’t really a feat at all,  comparable to leading the New York Jets in completion % in 2012. Edelman has proved to be a solid punt returner, but he’s also proved to be a poor decision maker when it comes to “touchback or no touchback.” I wouldn’t mind seeing Edelman returning kicks, he has to take on many roles to make this team.

Stevan Ridley – Ridley returned the ball seven times for 152 yards last season to limited success. From what I can tell, he never returned kicks as LSU, which makes sense because he was never close to being the fastest player on those teams. I’d rather Ridley not return kicks next year.

Shane Verreen – This is one of my favorite options, he didn’t return for the Patriots last year, but he was also inactive most of the time and dealing with injuries. Vereen is an explosive player and had 24 returns for 551 yards in 2009 at Cal.

Matthew Slater – Slater only returned the ball four times last season, but in 08 and 09 he had 11 returns a piece. In his senior season at UCLA, Slater had 34 returns for 986 yards and three touchdowns. I doubt Belichick would hand the return duties to a player with a starting role, so Slater could see himself back there in ‘12.

Alfonzo Dennard – Dennard was a 7th round pick and despite his immense talent as a slot corner, might have to prove himself on special teams to help make the team. Dennard returned the ball as a freshman and sophomore at Nebraska 9 times for 175 yards.

Devin McCourty – McCourty returned the ball one time last year for 24 yards, but was a successful returner his senior year at Rutgers with 14 returns for 356 yards and one touchdown. McCourty is one of the fastest players on this team, and still holds special teams value even if he plays as poorly on defense as he did last year.

Patrick Chung – I wouldn’t expect Chung to take over the role, but he did return the ball 23 times for 542 yards during his career at Oregon.

Wes Welker – It’s too dangerous for a player of Welker’s caliber, but he’s by far the most experienced kick returner on the team. He has 180 returns for 4105 yards and a touchdown during his NFL career.

@DougKyedNEPD Is Kevin Faulk retired and who are the most likely veteran RB pick ups we can expect

I love Faulk… but I hope so. There’s just not many good reasons to have a 36 year old third down back who holds the same skills as players 10+ years younger than him. Faulk didn’t have much of an impact last year and the one game he touched the ball double digit times? Oh, they lost that game to Pittsburgh.

Faulk isn’t dangerous at all anymore, he’s just reliable, and Brady relies on him too heavily when he’s in the game. At this point, the Patriots have receivers who are reliable and dangerous in Gronkowski, Hernandez and Welker.

Faulk had a great career, but it’s time for him to hang up the cleats.

The Pats tried out Joseph Addai, Tim Hightower and Ryan Grant. It looks like Grant is going to sign with the Lions and the fact that they haven’t signed Addai and Hightower yet tells me they weren’t overly impressed with their tryouts.

There are some other intriguing candidates out there in free agency including Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Brown brought in since he’s a player that has hurt the Patriots in the past. The Pats need another every down type back.

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7 Responses to “NEPD Mailbag: Too Long For Twitter”

  1. Matt says:

    Doug, great job — I think you left out one candidate for the return game. Marquice Cole is probably the fastest guy on the team, and he was a pretty good punt returner in college. I’m not sure how much cornerback he can play, but athletically he’s at least as fast as Slater and I’d rather see him taking those hits than McCourty.

  2. JMC says:

    I think all listed above will make the team with the possible exception of Edelman.

    • Ken W says:

      Edelman will make the team because he can do many different things. Can play all three phases of the game, BB loves players like that.

      • JMC says:

        He’s an ok punt returner (although seemingly not against good teams), but not a very good return guy or on defense; and with Dennard and Wilson able to play the slot, if Gonzales and/or Stallworth fills in on offense, they ‘could-possibly’ look to keep more depth at LB (like Carpenter), OL or DL …..but we’ll see- it all depends on how things work out-

  3. Jim says:

    How long can Ryan Mallett sit as a number 3 QB? Hard for him to develop with no reps.

    • qwerty says:

      Mallet can sit for 3 more years with no problems. Mallet will become the back up QB next year since Hoyer will be free agent. I think Mallet will be starting QB in 2015 or earlier if Brady gets injured. Good to have the caliber of QB depth that the Patriots have.

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