NEPD Mailbag: Patriots Post-Game Edition

Bill Belichick Saints

Who are these guys? (Photo: US Presswire)

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.

@TeamMamba24 asks
@DougKyedNEPD Hey Doug, in the coming weeks, do you think Stallworth will eventually take Branch’s spot or is the Brady-Branch chem. 2 good?

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.

@SamdamanNH asks
@DougKyedNEPD yah, when do we get the old refs back…

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.

@TeamMamba24 asks
@DougKyedNEPD Bolden taking snaps from Vereen? Status of 3 pro-bowl O-linemen pls?

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.

Continue to Page: 1 2

Tags: Chandler Jones, Deion Branch, Don'ta Hightower, NEPD Mailbag, Shane Vereen

4 Responses to “NEPD Mailbag: Patriots Post-Game Edition”

  1. MaineMan says:

    “Remember, Vereen was drafted before Ridley in 2011. There was a point and time when the Patriots preferred the Cal product.”

    Not buying this.

    Vereen and Ridley are distinctly different types of runners who would likely have different roles in the attack and the Pats probably liked both equally well for what the might be able to do.

    It’s the demand from the rest of the market that determines where the team has to draft a guy, if they want him, not the team’s preference or “ranking”. The Pats wanted Tavon Wilson enough to draft him. That they drafted him in the 2nd was because some other team(s) wanted Wilson, too, and the Pats knew he’d be gone before their next pick, NOT because they “ranked him” specifically as a 2nd round prospect.

  2. Hunter says:

    “If the Patriots have Ninkovich, Jones and Carter at DE, that could be one of the best pass rushing trios in the league.”

    Slow down there Sparky, back away from the Kool-Aid. As much as I love the Pats, I find it hard to anoint, after one preseason game, a rookie, a journeyman switching positions, and a 33 yr old coming off an injury who’s not even on an NFL team, as one of the best pass rushing trios in the league. If you wanted to call them “one of the most unknown pass rushing trios in the league” that would be more accurate.

  3. Dan says:

    I will comment on the Vereen/Bolden order…

    It’s the first game of pre-season…it’s less a game and more of a try out. We have already figured out the basics of this 53 man roster. So, the order in which guys are on the field is not because the coaches are following ridiculous flowchart of depth at each position…they are putting guys in during different situations…challenging them, seeing if they are worth keeping around or not. If not, they have to be working on another plan to find a replacement etc….

    Yes, they are games, and yes, they are trying to win…blah, blah, blah; but, these are big-boy try outs in reality.

    They have to make difficult decisions on players very soon, and they need to know if certain players deserve the practice time also…very important. They are trying to get ready for the season also, so figuring out who may be around sooner rather than later is key.

    They also want to test certain players to see if they can take the heat…take the pounding, like leaving them in there snap-after-snap…see how they play tired. Don’t look at Vereen getting all those carries as some “game plan”…it’s probably BB telling JM to try and wear him out…see what he is made of, the same with many other guys who took a lot of snaps.

    • MaineMan says:

      Yep. It’s all about “situational testing”, seeing what guys need to work on and about easing some guys in to work on their fundamentals at game speed. When they show up in that game – 1st half against the #1s or 2nd half against the scrubs – has little or nothing to do with any mythical “depth chart” stuff.

      If the offense opens a game in five-wide with Hernandez split out and no Gronk, does that make Gronk no longer a “starter”? Has he dropped down the “depth chart” behind Hernandez?



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