New England Patriots Mailbag: Pre-Training Camp Edition

Second-year defensive tackle Chris Jones is entering his first training camp as a member of the New England Patriots. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

The rookies report on July 20. The veterans arrive on July 23. And at 9:15 a.m. on July 24, the two sides of the New England Patriots spectrum will meet on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for training camp.

NEPatriotsDraft.com will be there to provide coverage of the first week as it unfolds. Yet until then, as the final days of the Patriots’ 2014 summer unfold, there are some things left to cover in this July 18 mailbag.

New England announced the retirement of 23-year-old defensive lineman Armond Armstead on Wednesday. The former USC and Canadian Football League standout signed with the team in January of 2013 after a 2012 All-Star campaign which consisted of 43 tackles and six sacks for the Toronto Argonauts.

Sadly, health complications prevented Armstead from seeing the field last season, as he was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list in late August. Those complications lingered into this offseason, and they ultimately prevented Armstead from continuing his promising football career.

The 6’5”, 305-pounder was thought to provide versatility to the Patriots as a 4-3 defensive tackle and a 3-4 defensive end. In the end, though, we’ll never know what he could have become on the NFL stage.

Armstead’s retirement trimmed New England’s roster to 89 players. Then on Thursday, it was trimmed down to 87 as the team announced the release of undrafted rookie wideouts Jeremy Johnson and Reese Wiggins. On Friday morning, however, the number climbed back up to 89. It was then that receiver Derrick Johnson re-signed, as the Boston Herald‘s Jeff Howe first reported, and rookie camp tryout Tyler McDonald joined him, per his agency.

Although it remains to be seen how the final open spot will be filled – New England signed five players in the week leading up to training camp last year – the case can be made that added depth would benefit the defensive end and tight end positions.

Which leads us to question regarding a pair of experienced free agent edge-rushers.

Is Jason Babin or Andre Carter a possible pick up?

-@ConnorXBrady

After voiding the final two years of his contract only re-sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars in March, it was a bit strange to see Jason Babin released by the organization in June. The Jaguars had enough confidence Chris Clemons and Andre Branch to let the 34-year-old Babin try to catch on elsewhere, but he hasn’t yet. And while Babin is closer to the finish line than he is the start, he still recorded 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2013.

As far as the Patriots are considered, Babin could be a fit as a situational left end on passing downs, spelling for Rob Ninkovich. But conversely, he could be a financial commitment; the 6’3”, 267-pounder’s recent three-year contract was worth $7.275 million and included a $500,000 roster bonus, per OverTheCap.com. Although that price range isn’t exactly a deal-breaker, it doesn’t seem like the kind of money the Patriots typically to spend at this juncture in the offseason. The team has just over $6 million in cap space.

For Andre Carter – who re-joined the team in 2013 after a one-year stint with the Oakland Raiders – there probably wouldn’t be a financial contingency. The 6’4”, 260-pounder filtered in at both defensive end spots for the Patriots last season.

(NFL Game Rewind)

He also aligned as a 3-4 outside linebacker, a 3-4 defensive end and a third-down defensive tackle on occasion.

(NFL Game Rewind)

But after taking over No. 3 duties from rookie Michael Buchanan, the production was far from 2011 form; Carter collected four tackles and two sacks over nine regular-season games.

At 35 years old, Carter may be on speed dial. But when it comes to generating pressure on third down, the Patriots seem to be looking elsewhere to fill out the rotation. Although Buchanan proved inconsistent in that role after the Patriots selected him the seventh round one year ago, his length and speed flashed in moments, even though his gap integrity did not.

In addition, rookie sixth-round pick Zach Moore and former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith have reason to be in the conversation if the Patriots elect to carry five ends. 2012 third-round choice Jake Bequette will need to get more reps in order to get into the conversation.

With those moving parts already in the fold, it doesn’t appear that a Babin signing or Carter return is imminent.

And the prominence of the two-tight end set seems to have fallen along similar lines.

What do you think the offense’s identity is going to be this year? 2 TE attack obviously gone. What now?

-@Grendel_the_Dog

Beyond utility tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, the Patriots turned to blocking tight end Matthew Mulligan and fullback James Develin to fill out “21” personnel after Rob Gronkowski tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee against the Cleveland Browns last December.

It wasn’t ideal from a receiving standpoint, as defenses often focused their attention elsewhere. But at the time it was a way to diversify the offense when wide receivers were battling injuries and the by-committee running game was needing a push.

(NFL Game Rewind)

Mulligan is now Chicago Bear, and Gronkowski is over seven months removed from his season-ending injury. As far as immediate candidates to round out the position this training camp, there is Develin, whose role has evolved into both a flex tight end and blocking back, and Hoomanawanui, who caught 12 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown in 2013.

Two of those receptions were the only ones registered by a Patriots tight end over the final three weeks of the regular season.

Joker tight end D.J. Williams played 15 snaps last year, and undrafted rookies Justin Jones and Asa Watson are also vying for snaps on the back end of the depth chart this year. However, it’s clear that the depth chart at wide receiver delves far deeper.

Because of that, three-receiver sets figure to be prominent moving forward.

(NFL Game Rewind)

Assuming Aaron Dobson re-acclimates from the stress fracture that cut his rookie season short, the former second-round pick is in line to serve as the split end “X” receiver. At the flanker across from him, New England is likely to feature feature a combination of 100-catch, 1,000-yard receiver Julian Edelman, a strong route-runner in second-year pro Kenbrell Thompkins, ex-Carolina Panther Brandon LaFell and sudden 2013 fourth-rounder Josh Boyce.

Edelman, the 6’3” LaFell and Danny Amendola are also capable candidates in the slot. The three ran a combined 917 routes from that location last season, according to Pro Football Focus, catching 118 passes in the process.

That is interchangeability. And while it may reduce the quantity of reps for some, it may increase the quality.

Perhaps that logic can be applied to second-year defensive tackle Chris Jones.

Compare and contrast Chris Jones to Mike Wright. I think Jones will be more effective playing less.

-@Joe_E_O

After brief stops with the Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jones found himself claimed off waivers by the Patriots on Sept. 11. He then found himself with big shoes to fill after Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly went down in consecutive weeks.

The 6’1”, 309-pound Bowling Green product was up to the task. He looked the part of a three-technique penetrator for his quick first step and ability to cut downhill in a hurry.

He netted five sacks through his first five NFL contests as a result, becoming the first Patriots defensive tackle to hit that mark since Mike Wright in 2010. Despite that strength, Jones revealed his share of weaknesses when defending the run.

As the season wore on, the sixth-round pick’s effectiveness rushing the passer began to wear down as well. He did not wrap up the quarterback again until Week 17, but finished third on the team with six sacks nonetheless.

Now Jones is unlikely to see upwards of 800 snaps again in 2014. But if he is able to coexist with skill sets of Wilfork, Kelly, Sealver Siliga, first-round pick Dominique Easley and even Joe Vellano in the preseason, he could certainly make the 53-man roster and carve a purpose in the sub-package defensive front.

Jones can play inside on a four-man line, and he can also play at the five-technique on a three-man line much like Wright used to. And while he lacks the length of the 6’4”, 295-pound retired Patriot, he too could have a productive career in Foxborough if dispersed in a similar manner.

At the very least, New England has reinforcements up front. And the same can be said on the offensive side of the ball.

If Cannon is the swing tackle or even the starting RG wouldn’t that mean drafting Fleming or Halapio was pointless?

-@Willjeff43

After a season in which offensive tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder missed time with injuries, New England’s offensive line was forced to adapt from the outside in.

There were games where left guard Logan Mankins moved to left tackle while undrafted rookie Josh Kline stepped into his place at left guard.

(NFL Game Rewind)

There were also two games where then-Patriots backup Will Svitek had to start at right tackle.

(NFL Game Rewind)

And there were six regular-season games where 2011 fifth-rounder Marcus Cannon had to start at right tackle as well.

His year concluded with well over 500 snaps logged between three different positions.

(NFL Game Rewind)

The Patriots have been known to look towards the future with an eye already staring down the present. Selecting Stanford tackle Cameron Fleming and Florida State center Bryan Stork in the fourth round, before taking Florida guard Jon Halapio the sixth round, coincide with that strategy. All three draft choices were well-received heading into May, and when they were available for the Patriots, it was a chance to attack the board and the needs list.

Sometimes it’s better to take care of needs before they become just that. Despite re-signing, incumbent center Ryan Wendell’s 2013 performance was a regression from 2012, and both right guard Dan Connolly and Cannon are entering the final years of their contacts. Regardless of what transpires with those three, the future of the offensive line appears to be in good standing.

And with that, we’re onto our final question.

Rate Pats’ chances of going 19-0 (on a scale of 19-19)

-@TheProBeest

It took some pondering to compose an answer to this one. For now, we’ll go with five on a scale of 19.

The Patriots have gone 181-69 in the Bill Belichick era, which averages out to roughly 13 wins per season when accounting for playoff games. That is a winning percentage of 72 percent. And when you look at the other 28 percent, well, five out of 19 is pretty close to 28 percent.

It makes sense if you don’t think about it.

Tags: Mailbag, Patriots Training Camp

29 Responses to “New England Patriots Mailbag: Pre-Training Camp Edition”

  1. MaineMan says:

    Kind of a sidebar, but related to our eagerness to have the physicality of cornerbacks Revis and Browner in the Pats press-man coverage scheme …

    Mike Pereira (NFL VP of Officiating) apparently tweeted earlier today that “…the biggest points of emphasis in the NFL’s (annual) officiating clinic were illegal contact and defensive holding. Last time the NFL had this as a major emphasis was 2004, and the number of illegal contact fouls went from 79 to 191.”

  2. MaineMan says:

    Reply to DMC413:

    WRT X-receivers, the Pats could have three. Boyce is only 5’11″, but at 206 lbs is 10-15 lbs heftier than any of the other WRs of similar height and just slightly lighter than the two tall guys, Dobson and LaFell. He also posted a 4.38/40 and “bests” among the WRs in broad jump (131″) and bench reps (22, which would actually be about average for a TE). He also posted a 4.10 shuttle and 6.68 3-cone – 2nd among WRs only to Edelman and the 3-cone is a virtual tie. So, he could potentially exhibit the long speed of Dobson combined with the agility of Edelman and exceptional burst and strength to beat the jam.

    What I like most about this WR corps is that pretty much everybody has the potential to line up anywhere and be effective.

    • DMC413 says:

      Didn’t know Boyce was that strong but now that I think about it, if my memory serves me right during the draft someone made the connection between him and Anquan Boldin IRT to strength and the ability to fight for the ball and possibly turning short yd catches into big gains…

      Just the other day in one of these blogs I was responding to someone screaming for Andre Johnson and their dislike for LaFell… My response was on the lines of how AJ would set us back for numerous reasons and on how LaFell… my point was much to what you alluded to, that the PAT’s WR corp are well rounded and will be one of the main reasons while we will be an elite offense!

      • steve earle says:

        Read that post re Johnson you made good points too. Never was much worried either way as the likelyhood of that trade seemed slim and none then and less so now. Both you, MaineMan and at least I like what we now have and the high upsides we think we see in them, This will be an exciting camp starting Thursday for not only WR’s but also at RB, DB, D-line and O-line.

  3. Kevan says:

    I agree, that would be a formidable formation. I think Lafell will be a great blocker from the slot or in-line in bunch packages. Having him on-line makes it easier for the defense to have DE or LB to get a hand on him,chip him, get him off his route. The 3rd Tackle as a TE would be used for obvious running plays or an occasional play fake. On 2nd and 9 on our own 33 I would rather not see a Taclkle playing 3rd TE, but if it’s 3rd and inches or 3rd and 2 and the Pats are on the opponents 19 yd line going in, then I want that 3rd Tackle on the field.

    • Kevan says:

      *this comment didn’t go where it was supposed to.*

    • MaineMan says:

      I agree entirely about the situational usage.

      The thing about LaFell being lined up inline is that (a) it’s likely to cause a certain amount of WTF? for the DE, and (b) the “moving a guy off his route” thing works both ways. LaFell doesn’t have to “hold his block” as an OL might. All he needs to do is re-route the DE/LB on his way to the backfield (which is about the most Hernandez ever accomplished). If it’s a pass, LaFell can slip off into the short flat. If it’s a run, LaFell may then have widened the cut-back lane, after which he just needs to continue to get in the defender’s way to delay him as the guy tries to change direction to follow the RB.

      That’s the thing about “blocking”. In a game where inches and fractions of a second can make the difference between success and failure, a guy like LaFell who’s sufficiently physical and who blocks aggressively and with good understanding of angles and good technique, can and will impede a defender just long enough and in the right direction to allow good things to happen.

      All the Pats WRs are required to block and some of them are very good at it. Watch Edelman sometime. He’s pretty amazing for a guy who’s just over 5’10″ and around 200 lbs – feisty, combative even. LaFell is the same, but about 4″ taller and 15 lbs heftier and unafraid to hit a DB downfield hard enough to put the guy on his butt (he did that a couple times to Pats’ DBs in the Carolina game last season – probably a big reason why he’s on the roster right now).

      • Kevan says:

        I’m sorry I’m just not sold on Lafell playing TE. Slot? Yes, In-Line? Yes, Te? NO. I’m well aware of Lafells and Edelman blocking ability, but I’m gonna keep Lafell at the WR spot.

        • DMC413 says:

          I agree, In-line and Slot- YES… However actually lining up with the offensive line as a blocking TE would next to a tackle then no, wouldn’t even look right.

  4. Jack says:

    Quite the letdown about Armstead, although not completely unexpected. With luck, out of Easly, Wilfork and Kelly, we should get 2 of 3 them healthy for much of the season. Hopefully, Silver Silega continues his excellent play from the end of last year. I don’t expect much from Bequette, Chris Jones, Vellanno, nor Will Smith for that matter, since he probably doesn’t have much left in the tank.

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if Zach Moore actually could contribute?

    I can’t wait to see Roy Finch!

    • steve earle says:

      Would love to see Zack Moore surprise but he was a 7th rd pick for a reason. That doesn’t mean folks weren’t wrong and he could be a starting calaber player but what are the odds? Counting Chris Jones out I think is a mistake and he will make the team as a situtional player on passing downs where he excelled last year before whearing down toward the end. Smith has enough left to spell or supplement DE in passing downs just like many older stars on the backside can as long as they are not overly used. Smith and Jones also will contribute on sp teams like punt blocking units imo. To early to be so pesimistic Jack, give things a chance to work out I think we will all be happy with the results.

      • MaineMan says:

        The thing about Jones is that pretty much all of his six sacks were of the “clean-up” type – when coverage was good enough that nearly the entire DL got into the backfield and were chasing the QB all over the back rank. Jones was merely the guy in the right spot at the right time to get the checkmate – he actually got very few pressures-per-snap on his own. Jones was also ranked as the worst DT in the league against the run by PFF.

        OTOH, Vellano ended up 14th in the league among DTs (ALL DTs, not only rookies) in run-stops, and had as many total tackles and pressures as Jones in about 125 fewer snaps (the difference was almost entirely from Jones playing end in 30-fronts).

        Anyway, with some development/improvement from both of them (not an unreasonable expectation), and the chance that Kelly could start the season on PUP (or be temporarily cut for week-1 to avoid the veteran salary guarantee – or even remanded to the “Shadow Roster”), and the probability that the Pats keep five DT, both Vellano could survive final cuts.

        • steve earle says:

          I’ll take clean-up sacks whenever I can get them MM. With our much improved D-backfield those situations should increase this year and I like Jones for that reason alone. In this kind of roll he should not run out of gas later in the season. Now I’m not looking at Jones as a starter as he was forced to be last year but as a solid back up in passing situations being able to give Wolfolk and Kelly much needed breaks helping to keep them fresher then would be otherwise without being a huge drop off himself. At least it all sounds good to me on paper but only time will tell.

      • MaineMan says:

        Actually, Moore was a 6th-rounder. Buchanan was a 7th, last draft. But, that’s kind of a distinction without a real difference. In many ways, Moore is kind of the same player as Buchanan – a development prospect with good length (nearly identical) and motor – but a year later.

        Buchanan showed a bit of rush ability early in his rookie season, but with limited technique that quickly failed him. He also showed limited awareness in the run game/edge-setting and limited strength/technique for shedding, so he sat out of scrimmage work most of the second half. However, he quickly became a valued special-teamer and was, thus, active for most games.

        Moore’s drill numbers are similar except that his broad jump (123″) was nearly a foot longer than Buchanan’s, potentially indicating more explosiveness off the line. OTOH, Moore’s 3-cone (7.41) was a full half second slower than Buchanan’s – or Nink’s, for that matter – potentially indicating less agility. A couple other differences are that Moore comes in already having more sand in his pants (269 lbs vs. Buchanan’s rookie weight of 255), but he’s also coming out of lower-competetion-level Concordia , whereas Buchanan is from Illinois.

        If Moore can show up on ST as well as Buchanan has, get at least some pressure and not be a liability against the run, he’s probably a lock. In which case, Will Smith might go to the “Shadow Roster” (older, still-competent veterans who can fill in when needed during the season like Andre Carter, Gerard Warren, Branch in 2012, etc.). If Moore does a face-plant in Camp, though, the Pats could try to sneak him through waivers to the PS and keep Smith. Actually, Smith is another guy who could be cut temporarily for week-1 to avoid the vet salary guarantee, and then be brought back in week-2 to replace Moore, when Moore might have a better chance to clear waivers than he would at final cuts, anyway.

    • MaineMan says:

      The battle among Houston, Finch and Bolden should be interesting once the pads come one and the hitting/tackling starts. I’m guessing that’s when Houston starts getting some notice.

      Houston is 4″ taller and 50 lbs heavier than Finch, yet Houston’s 40 (4.52), shuttle (4.23) and 3-cone (7.03) times are virtually equivalent to Finch’s, and Houston’s 10-yard split (1.58), vertical (40″) and broad jump (11-feet) are much better than Finch’s. Houston was also more productive (and more *consistently* productive) as a runner AND AS A RECEIVER than Finch was. In fact, WRT college receiving production, only Bolden was more productive than Houston (White actually places 3rd, and a full two-thirds of White’s total college receptions/yards-receiving came in his senior season (Bolden’s and Houston’s were more evenly spread out over their careers).

      OTOH, White was, by far, the most productive runner. He was a solid contributor and the 2nd leading rusher on his team for all three seasons, but in his final two college seasons alone he gained nearly as many yards (2250) and scored nearly as many TDs (25) as Houston did in three seasons and Bolden did in four. White’s senior season 1444 yards, 13 TDs) was more productive than Finch’s entire college career (1412, 6) – or, for that matter, Ridley’s (1319, 19).

      White is probably a lock for the roster if his running productivity translates at all, due to his ball security, receiving ability and pass-pro skills (and, well, yes – his draft position).

      Bolden, whose drill numbers are also very good (4.50/40 – 1.58/10yd – 38″ vert – 6.91 3-cone) has two problems that I see – (1) he’s not often very exciting and (2) he’s inconsistent. He’s generally an excellent special-teamer with a lot of coverage tackles, but has missed some key blocks on returns. He generally pass-protects very well, but has had some crucial lapses. He has a 4.9 ypa on 111 carries over two seasons with a long run of 46 yards and has demonstrated some solid power-running on occasion, but his ypa is largely built on a few breakout performances offsetting some fairly mediocre ones. He caught 21/152 in 2013 at a 75% catch rate (very good among RBs), but most of the other 25% was composed of drops on relatively easy catches. OTOH, he’s been more productive in his first two seasons than BGE was in *his* first two seasons – and Bolden also has ZERO REGULAR SEASON FUMBLES.

      If Houston or Finch are to move Bolden out of his spot, they’re going to need to be at least as good at ALL those things – running, receiving, pass-pro, special teams – AND show more consistency (though Bolden himself could gain more consistency entering his 3rd season).

      Here’s the thing for me, though. If White runs the ball in pre-season as well as Ridley (and more securely), it’s Ridley’s job that may be more at risk than Bolden’s if either Houston or Finch performs well in all four phases. Ridley runs and pass-protects well, but he’s never been much of a receiver (even at LSU) and doesn’t contribute much on special teams. And he fumbles.

      In effect, White replaces Ridley, Bolden stays, and either Houston or Finch takes the open #4 spot.

      • DMC413 says:

        Finch is exciting but don’t think he offers much on special teams which will hurt his chances severely for a roster spot. The video footage on Houston is impressive! If Bolden shows no progression he may be unseated if Houston can transition to the NFL and contribute on special teams. There is too much hit or miss when it comes to Bolden and even if Houston doesn’t look as good as Bolden in camp but shows promise the team may probably move on.

        Not sure if you were saying Ridley could lose his position as the #1 RB if White… or possibly not make the team? Ridley will probably look great during camp like he has in the past every year during training camps which I think is directly coupled to the lack of pressure that the regular season produce, but we’ll probably have to wait to see if he cleans up his fumbling ways as the season plays out.

        • MaineMan says:

          Actually, I *am* saying that Ridley could possibly not make the team (though he’d likely be traded, rather than cut).

          Ridley HAS BEEN a very good (but not “great”) runner, and unquestionably the best runner on the team the past couple seasons, Blount’s equivalent 2013 contributions notwithstanding. He has great vision for the hole and has been very decisive and quick to hit it (unlike Maroney, Ridley has delayed his dance moves until AFTER he’s passed the LoS). He has very good lateral agility (living up to his 6.78 3-cone) and exceptional balance.

          HOWEVER, it’s been my observation that his balance relies somewhat on him raising his pad level when attempting to wriggle out of contact and, to a great degree, on carrying the ball loosely – “low & away” rather than “high & tight” – and that’s where his fumbles come from. When he DOES force himself to carry securely and keep his pad level lower, his running often becomes very ordinary – he has less balance and wriggle and seems more tentative.

          The thing is, what WE get to see of him (and everybody) is quite a bit less than what the coaches get to see of him in practice every day. If they see him tending to backslide into his bad habits often enough in practices and through the first pre-season game – AND White plus one of Houston or Finch perform well enough, we and Ridley may not be given the chance to “see how it plays out over the course of the season”. He’s already had THREE seasons with some of the best coaches in the league to get this fixed. How many more chances are they going to give him if they feel they have an adequate (rookie) replacement on the roster?

          Maroney was traded to Denver at the beginning of *his* contract year (2010), so there IS precedent for such a move. BTW, the Pats got a 2011 4th for Maroney+a 6th from McDaniels, and ten the Pats traded that 4th to Seattle to get Branch back to replace Moss.

          RBs are not as valued now as they still were back then, plus there’s no McDaniels out there to prevail upon to get a good deal, so they’d probably be lucky to get a 5th-rounder, maybe even as little as a 6th. They’d have to weigh that outcome against keeping him for the season at the expense of someone like Bolden, Houston or Finch for the *possibility* that they’d get a higher 2016 compensatory pick after letting him walk in free agency in 2015. My guess is that they’d take the trade and move on if Ridley remains a risk and Bolden and Houston/Finch perform well enough. A 5th or 6th might be enough to pick up a fairly nifty RB in the 2015 draft anyway.

  5. MaineMan says:

    In a sense, the Pats might be going into the season with effectively three TEs, even if none of Watson, Williams or Jones make the roster. It’s just that the duties of that 3rd TE might be shared by Develin and LaFell.

    Develin could be considered a part-time second “blocking TE” along with Hooman. He lined up that way several times last season and seemed to hold his own. He also caught 4 of 4 targets for 62 yards out of the backfield in 2013 and has been reportedly running some routes from a TE spot during OTAs, so, like a “blocking TE”, he may occasionally run a pass pattern from an inline spot. He also ran the ball 4 times from the FB spot – which is kind of what an H-back tight end would do. In any case, a fullback’s role overlaps that of a blocking TE more tha it does that of a running back, so, in terms of roster-count, it makes sense to me to count him as a 3rd TE as much as it would to count him as a fifth RB. Splitting hairs, count him as 1/2 in the TE unit.

    LaFell has demonstrated that he can block effectively when lined up inline, both in pass-pro (a bit more than just as a “chip” blocker) and in the ground game, where he’s also demonstrated that he’s fully capable of holding up an LB long enough and of taking out a safety downfield altogether. He also made about 60% of his catches the last couple season when lined up inline or in the slot, or even in the backfield, much as a “move-TE” would do. Count him as another 1/2 in the TE unit.

    So, this means the Pats probably won’t run 2-TE sets nearly as much as they did in 2010-2012, but this also means they probably won’t have to abandon those sets entirely, because they may have covered the “move-TE/H-back” role “in the aggregate” – enough to “get by” in 2014 somewhat better than they did in 2013, even if they end up not signing Keller or Finley (due to health issues) or someone else. Like Moneyball applied to football – at least a temporary solution until the 2015 free-agent and draft classes (hopefully) present a prospect who can become a more permanent solution.

    BTW – reports I’ve read from Jets OTAs seem to agree that Amaro looked totally lost running routes over there, so, maybe it will turn out to have been smart NOT to draft him.

    • DMC413 says:

      MaineMan I can dig it, I actually like it… The way I see it this would only diversify our offense even more. If Develin and LaFell share such a duty the two of them on the field at the same time could create multiple options that could be exploited by TB and the offense depending on what defense is on the field.

      With Develin there is a lot of speculation on exactly what he can do and how we will use him. But if he continues to work hard and makes the natural progression from being in the system for a while he will be a player who has to be accounted for when on the field weather lining up in the back field on or on the line. The defense has to be cautious of his blocking and running abilities, though unseen and unproven short yard passes could be the missing piece of his game that puts him over the top and he makes the 53 man roster.

      We already know what LaFell is… And a lot of people get caught up on the fact he is not your household-name WR but if used in the right way he could play a major part in what could be a very complex offensive scheme to decipher.

      For example in a 2WR/1TE/2RB set with the previous mentioned players you essentially have 3 TE’s on the field to pass block for stouter defense and run block for smaller defensive units. Play calling would be essential and really come into play when trying to out wit a top shelf defense. But on the other hand they could just line up and run the play in a effort to showcase some power and indirectly say stop us if you can, much like San Frans pwr run formations that I come to fall in love with.

      O XXXXXO (Gronk)
      O O
      (LaFell) O (Develin)
      O

      There are endless match ups out of multiple formation sets that could create so much havoc, a good problem to have!!!!!!!!!

    • DMC413 says:

      My formation didn’t come out as I planned.

    • steve earle says:

      Agree with your premus on TE. I actually like Develin because of his flexability. He is good at a number of things though a master of none but gets the job done. A blue collar no nonsense kind of guy.

    • Kevan says:

      I think there is better chance that a back up Tackle plays the 3rd TE role. Cannon? He might start at Guard, there is Cameron Flemming as well. A 3rd TE is usually in the game to block right? If the pats want Gronk split out wide and still have 2 “TEs” in to block I think a Tackle makes more sense than Lafell. I remember the Patriots doing this with Solder his rookie season. What are the chances the Patriots develop Justin Jones as a Tackle? The guy is 6’8 280, he could add 20,30 lbs. to that frame. He probably won’t cut it at tight end anyway. Just a thought. I think it could work.

      • MaineMan says:

        IDK. It seems to me that LaFell lining up at an inline-TE spot AS IF he’s going to be a pass-blocker or run blocker doesn’t mean that the Pats WON’T use an OL in that spot situationally. But, LaFell really is a very good blocker in that spot and offers more versatility which keeps the defense guessing way more than if there’s an OL there.

        In any case, I’m not at all implying that LaFell is going to line up there on every snap in 2TE and 3TE sets. He probably ends up starting a play from every WR spot at one point or another over the season. It’s just that he has that added dimension to his game that other WRs don’t which would allow him to help fill the void and keep a few more pages in the playbook viable.

      • MaineMan says:

        ALSO: Most of the OTA reports I’ve read (when they mentioned Jones at all) portrayed Jones as a willing, but not particularly effective blocker. And that was without pads or hitting – meaning that already his positioning and technique appear to need some significant work.

        • Kevan says:

          Well it was an idea, who knows maybe after two years on the practice squad he could become an effective blocker. Probably not though. Lafell is a good blocker because he is blocking Safeties and cornerbacks. He could line up in the slot and chip on DE or LB, I just can’t see him lining up on the line, outside of maybe one play all year. I’ll take a 3rd tackle all day, with Lafell in the slot if Pats want to go with a run heavy package.

      • DMC413 says:

        I was envisioning a formation that had Gronk lining up on the line w/ 2 WR on the left/right, LaFell being the WR lined up closer to the offensive line and 2 RB’s, Develin lined up as the FB. Passing or running out of this formation with the previous mentioned players allow you to run or pass based on what TB sees in the defensive scheme and defensive personnel on the field. O/L-men playing the role as blocking TE would take away from the flexibility and mis-match opportunities that could exist and be exploited!

        • MaineMan says:

          That would look something like this:

          Dobson —————— O-O-C-O-O-Gronk ———-
          ……………………………………………………………………………………………..LaFell (flanker)
          ……………………………….Develin — White/Vereen

          From there, Develin could drop down to the line next to Solder with Dobson dropping back a step to left flanker and Gronk shifting out to right-slot (staying on the line). OR, Develin could stay in the backfield with LaFell dropping down as a split-end, and White/Vereen shifting to the slot to form “trips-right” with two good blockers out front.

          Yup – a WORLD of possibilities there.

          You could also start with this setup:

          ………………….. LaFell (slot) ……. O-O-C-O-O ………………………………………….. Gronk (s-e)
          Dobson (flanker)
          ……………………………………… Develin — White/Vereen

          From there, you could have Develin drop down to Vollmer’s right and have Gronk shift over to the right slot (off the line) and White/Vereen split out wide right.

          From either initial set, you could leave White/Vereen OR Develin in the backfield and the defense has no idea what’s coming.

          One way or another, though, I think you might want to end up with Dobson off the line and LaFell ON the line (“inline” or not) because LaFell’s physicality is likely to be better against jams, whereas Dobson would probably function better with a bit of a gap between him and the defender.

        • DMC413 says:

          MM that is exactly what I had in mind!!

          Dobson —————— O-O-C-O-O-Gronk ———-
          ……………………………………………………………………………………………..LaFell (flanker)
          ……………………………….Develin — White/Vereen

          From this run heavy formation motion Develin to line up next to Gronk, you now have your twin TE set that everyone keeps crying for(which is why I am very anxious to see if Develin can or has developed into a player who can run 5-10 run patterns and make catches).

          Staying with this heavy run formation and instead of motioning Develin, instead motion Vereen to the slot (we saw him line up in this position from time to time last year) you know have a 3 WR set with GRONK and Develin to aid in pass block or run routes as well. I could do this all day!!!!!

        • DMC413 says:

          IRT Dobson playing offline… I agree, yet he may pick up some helpful hints from LaFell during camp on how to use his size to be a better blocker.

          This is where Kenbrell Thompkins can excell, His first step and ability to get off the blocks from aggressive press man coverage was one of his strong points last year. It has also been reported KT has bulked up a little bit as well so if he can stay on his feet after the catch and Dobson “steers the course” toward the level his potential shows suggest, we could very well have two different but very capable X receiver’s that will keep the D honest by needing to shade a safety to their side for over the top help.






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