NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed
Who wins the position battle between Deion Branch and Donte Stallworth? When are the NFL refs coming back? More importantly, when is Brian Waters coming back?!
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.
As it stands right now, I’d put Donte Stallworth slightly ahead of Deion Branch on the depth chart. It’s obvious that Brady likes Stallworth a lot as well and with a solid training camp, they could redevelop a good rapport. There’s no question to me who the more explosive player is at this point in their careers. Branch looked slow last year and looks slow again this year. The fact that Branch always knows where to be and which option to run in his route is the only thing keeping him in the debate here.
I’ve been outspoken in my roster projections that I think the Patriots should only keep five wide receivers this year because of Aaron Hernandez’s versatility. The Pats carried just five wide outs in last year’s Super Bowl, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll do the same with a full season in front of them. For me, that fifth WR comes down to Julian Edelman and Donte Stallworth. I’d still give the edge to Edelman, but he’s known to make boneheaded decisions, and if those keep up, it’s too much of a risk to keep him on the team.
When it comes down to it, if Branch is healthy by the time the season starts, he’ll likely be on the team.
Not soon enough. I’m sure it’s been covered many places before, but it’s absolutely insane that we may go into the 2012 season with guys who were fired from the lingerie league. Out of all major sports, NFL officials may have the biggest say in a given game. Not only are they given the power of major game altering calls like pass interference, but they’ll also be under the hood determining challenged calls and MAKING those calls that coaches will inevitably have to waste challenges on.
They’ll never do this, but as long as there are replacement officials in the NFL, coaches should be given unlimited challenges. Screwed up calls could severely alter this NFL season and every play should be reviewable because of it.
I think it was very interesting and telling that Bolden got snaps ahead of Shane Vereen. What complicates matters further is that both players looked impressive against the Saints. I will give the edge to Vereen though. He may have been playing against the Saints second string defense, but he was also running behind undrafted rookies on the offensive line. Vereen flashed the ability that the Patriots saw in him to use a second round pick in 2011. With 11 carries for 64 yards, he might have been the Patriots most impressive offensive player on Thursday.
I mentioned on twitter when Bolden came in after Ridley that Vereen could be this year’s Taylor Price. Price was drafted with a 3rd round pick in 2010 and was cut a year and a half later because he could never get on the field because of injuries and what I would assume was trouble learning the playbook.
Vereen missed almost all of last season with injuries and after getting passed on the depth chart by everyone, including an ancient Kevin Faulk. He’s healthy this year, but it was a bad sign to see an undrafted free agent ahead of him this early in the year on the depth chart.
Vereen’s performance tonight should vault him above Bolden and could even give a push to Ridley. Remember, Vereen was drafted before Ridley in 2011. There was a point and time when the Patriots preferred the Cal product.
As for the the All-Pro linemen? Like the NFL officials, they can’t come back soon enough. It’s fine to have one or two guys like Connolly, Cannon, Thomas or Wendell one the O-line, but once you have more reserves than starters, it’s not going to work. I expect Mankins to be back by week 1, I expect Waters to be back before the fourth preseason game and we’ll wait and see on Vollmer. He could start the season on the PUP. We really have no idea about his back injury. That can flare up at anytime.
Brian Waters, rookie grades and more on page two.