NEPD Mailbag: The Return

@ace_92101 asks
@NEPatriotsDraft @dougkyednepd Which veterans are most in danger of being cut?

Going through the roster: Tony Fiammetta, Spencer Larsen, Deion Branch, Donte Stallworth, Visanthe Shiancoe, Robert Gallery, Dan Koppen, Marcus Harrison, Gerard Warren and Tracy White could all be on the bubble for one reason or another.

All of those guys are playing positions where New England is very deep. I think the Patriots will only keep one fullback, so Fiammetta or Larsen will automatically be on the chopping block. I also think the Patriots will limit how many WRs they carry, and if they keep Branch and Stallworth, that might mean keeping seven WRs. Since Aaron Hernandez has so much versatility, it really makes no sense to hold onto that many wide outs.

Koppen was signed relatively late in the offseason process and it was after he was given every opportunity to sign with other teams. Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell and Nick McDonald all proved adept at getting starting minutes at center last season, so it wouldn’t be a big shock to see the veteran lineman dropped before week 1.

It would be a slight surprise to see White cut, since Belichick loves those Don Davis, Eric Alexander-type special teams LBs, but the Pats are deep at linebacker and a player like Jeff Tarpinian may be more valuable on defense, while also being a special teams contributor.

@ALykins32 asks
@DougKyedNEPD It looks like BB is looking for the most versatile secondary players possible rather than spec positions. Your Take?

I agree. Almost every DB on the Patriots roster can play multiple roles. This offseason, Will Allen, Marquice Cole, Alfonzo Dennard, Nate Ebner, Steve Gregory and Tavon Wilson were added. Allen can play inside or outside at cornerback as well as safety, Cole can play special teams or corner in a pinch, Dennard can play inside at slot or outside in press coverage, Ebner has only proved that he can play special teams, but I’m sure he’ll be groomed at other positions, Gregory can play either safety position or special teams and Wilson was a college corner who was drafted to play safety.

When Ras-I Dowling was drafted, Belichick said that he didn’t expect his cornerbacks to be playing safety. He seems to have loosened up in that regard a little bit as we all saw last season with McCourty and Moore.

@phildrach asks
@DougKyedNEPD Think Bill will take more than one UDFA on the roster this year? (Bolden and Francis) Hard not to. #NEPDMailbag

I think we’ll see one UDFA. There are too many talented vets to keep more than that barring injury. I think it will either be Bolden, Francis or one of the offensive linemen. We can get a little carried away with early training camp reports and while Bolden and Francis have looked good, we’re only a week and a half into the process.

@j3crosby asks
@dougkyednepd Can you suggest a hairy lumberjack player to fill the Matt Light shaped hole in my heart?

No one can ever replace Matt Light, either on the field or like, in our hearts and stuff. But may I suggest Robert Gallery to fill the hole in your heart?

If Matt Light is the carefree, pranking, fishing type of “hairy lumberjack” then Gallery is the “listening to Disturbed, watching Rob Zombie movies and having some sort of biker gimmick in the WWE” type of “hairy lumberjack.” You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

@WCPCUPBLOG asks
@DougKyedNEPD I have heard contradicting reports on Braces performance? How is he doing? Where should you say he stands on the depth chart?

I’ve only been to three training camp practices thus far, but from what I’ve seen I haven’t been overly impressed. I know some of the Patriots beat writers have come out in support of him though, and I trust all of those guys.

Wilfork and Love are the starters, Fanene has been impressive, Deaderick proved himself last year, Gerard Warren is a very consistent veteran and Myron Pryor can be a force when healthy. I’d put Brace after those guys. My issue with Brace is that he’s never going to contribute much in the passing game. Wilfork, Love and Deaderick are already great run stuffing options and I’m just not sure that Brace’s run stuffing abilities and potential upside are so great that it trumps guys like Warren or Pryor.

I also think the Patriots may be going small a lot this year at DE. I’ve seen some wide-9 techniques used in training camp and from what I’ve seen, the DEs are typically “elephant” players like Nink, Jones, Scott, Cunningham, etc. Last year we saw Brandon Deaderick and Shaun Ellis playing 5 and 7-technique, and if those type of players are being limited to playing DT, they won’t need as many of those bodies on the roster.

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