Friday Bag

#FridayBag: Bennett's back, and he brings a lot of questions with him

giardi-perry-fri-mailbag.jpg

#FridayBag: Bennett's back, and he brings a lot of questions with him

Every Friday, our Patriots guys answer your questions in a joint mailbag, or Friday Bag as they call it.You can it them up on husing the hashtag #FridayBag. Here’s this week’s installment . . . dominated, as you might expect, by Martellus Bennett:

That's the plan as of right now, Jay. The Patriots released Geneo Grissom on Thursday in order to make room for Bennett.

Can we start with catches, Doney? Or targets? He was targeted about four times per game last season. A lot of those came with Rob Gronkowski off the field. Between that, his shoulder, the fact that he's fitting in with some new pieces around him . . . I'd expect that number to drop from where it was in 2016.

Fun to watch? His game isn't really the kind of thing that will consistently rip people from their couches. If you like a good effective run block, or touchdown passes thrown to big targets in tight spaces . . . then yeah. Fun. Insofar as he should make the team better, that would make Bennett's addition fun for Patriots fans too. But I think what you're getting at is, will the team be more fun to follow now that he's here? The answer there is no doubt. The team lost a lot in the way of personality when Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, Logan Ryan, Chris Long and Rob Ninkovich didn't return for 2017. With Bennett in Foxboro, some of that is back. Players were very open about what Bennett brought to the team off the field last season, and they're now expecting him to do the same this year

If Tom Brady's evaluation is going to be year-to-year in Bill Belichick's eyes, you can bet that Bennett's will be the same. Couple of key things to consider when thinking about Bennett's future. 1) He's already said he's pretty sure he'll retire after this season. He has the right to change his mind, but oftentimes when you start to talk about retirement, you're not all that far off. 2) The Patriots aren't contractually bound to Bennett. He has no guaranteed money coming to him for 2018 and 2019 so even if he wants to continue to play, if the Patriots want to move on after this season they can without taking any kind of financial hit. 

Nope. That would happen after the fact. Can't get a look at a waived player in person until he's on your team. 

Rich, I think he’s once again been one of their most valuable players. He’s been asked to play closer to the line of scrimmage this year and has been fearless when it comes to sticking his nose in there and making a contested play or a tackle. McCourty’s intelligence and communication skills are unparalleled and the respect he commands in the room is second to none. He’s gotten older but I think the safety has aged well. 

Dan, his name comes up frequently in my timeline. Landry’s a talented player and as tough as they come. Understandably, Miami coach Adam Gase is on record as saying he wants Landry to be in the team’s plans for a long time, but they did just cough up around 9 million per for Kenny Stills and selected Devante Parker in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Parker’s growth has been hurt by injury but you have to wonder if you can eventually pay all three. I doubt it, but this is why plenty of organizations are poorly run. Miami has been exactly that prior to Gase;s arrival. We’ll see how it develops going forward. I fully expect if Landry pops free, the Pats will make a call.

Ah, the fullback. Old school, Jacob. I like it. I can’t study every team and every game they play so I won’t make any declarations on whether or not Develin is the best. I will say that he’s been an important piece over the last couple of weeks and that his play has improved considerably since the beginning of the season. Develin is still good for a whiff or two but I don’t think there’s a 100% hit rate at that position. Bottom line, he’s a solid player, a contributor on special teams and well-liked and appreciated in that locker room. That’s worth a lot. 

Man oh man, Sharks, there isn’t much here from those two drafts. The Pats selected just four players in 2017 and only one, Deatrich Wise, is on the active roster. He’s been a nice piece for the them in a specialist role. Love his attitude and his energy, and the dude’s arms are freakishly long. Interesting player going forward. As for 2016. 6 of the 9 players drafted are still in New England. The top pick, 62nd overall, Cyrus Jones, is on IR after blowing out his knee in the preseason. Love Joe Thuney. He’s sound as a pound at guard. Athletic and smart, he will occasionally get overwhelmed by power but he’s a nice player. Belichick got linebacker Elandon Roberts in the 6th round so I’d call that a successful pick even though I think he’s incredibly inconsistent. Ted Karras remains a practice squad guy and a depth piece for the interior offensive line while two of the better players in that class, DT Vincent Valentine and WR Malcolm Mitchell are both on IR. Both have progressed to the point where they could eventually be brought back but with the Pats losing one of the two spots because of Shea McClellin’s status, the Pats will have to decide whether they want one more playmaker or some more beef on the DLine. As for the sports jacket, it’s 9 Tailors all day, every day.

Interested to see just how much support Jerry Jones has from other owners. Powerful as he is, feels like it'll be hard for him to get what he's looking for unless the support is there from a significant chunk of the other 31. 

Like this one. Inclined to go with Guerschon Yabusele as a tight end because of his size (6-foot-8, 260), but how can you not try to find a way for Kyrie Irving to contribute in some way shape or form. His size (6-3, 193) and quickness would make him a pretty ideal fit in the secondary. Could line him up on any receiver imaginable, and he has the speed to play safety. Think that's who I'd go with. Red Sox is a tough one. Let's put Jackie Bradley Jr. back there to field punts. May not give you much in terms of explosive returns, but at least you know he's catching everything. As for the Bruins, I'd make Brad Marchand a slot corner. Or stick Zdeno Chara out there as part of the field goal block unit. Can't teach 6-foot-9. Can't do it. 

Potentially, Chuck. The Pony set would give the Patriots some flexibility in that both Lewis and White can align in the backfield or out wide. If they're in the backfield, and you want to run it, and there are too many men in the box, all Brady would have to do would be to flex one out, make one of those defenders go with him, and open up some space. Don't forget about Phillip Dorsett. He should see an uptick in snaps if Chris Hogan can't go. The Patriots run too much 11-personnel (three-receiver sets) to abandon it altogether. 

In Foxboro, there are a few candidates. Rob Gronkowski is up there. Very football intelligent. I think Kyle Van Noy is probably deserving of a mention here. His teammates have praised his smarts since he joined the team last year. Danny Amendola is one of the smarter football players in that room, too. He plays in a multitude of situations, offensively and on special teams, and the mental mistakes are few and far between. 

Would be surprised to see Eric Rowe back this week since he only began practicing this week after missing about a month. Never say never, but I know he's been focused on just building back up to full speed. May be early for him.

By interacting so frequently with people like you on social media, Jensen. Also, I’m old. Happy Holidays!

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

What’s next for Patriots’ banged-up receiver corps?

What’s next for Patriots’ banged-up receiver corps?

Every Friday, Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry answer your Patriots questions in a joint mailbag, or Friday Bag as they call it.

MORE PATRIOTS:

Got a question for the trio? Hit them up on Twitter using the hashtag #FridayBag. Here’s this week’s installment:

PP: Don't hit the panic button just yet on this receiver group, DD. Dorsett's knee has been a bit of an issue since Week 3. He had it iced up on Thursday in the Patriots locker room, and he's been wearing a compression sleeve on the knee consistently for a few weeks now. He played 20 snaps against Tampa and he saw 11 against the Jets last weekend. Unless he had a significant setback, which I don't believe he has, he should still be available as the team's No. 4 this weekend. As far as Hogan goes, that was a brutal shot he took to the ribs, but he remained in the game, and he's been practicing this week on a limited basis. Brandin Cooks is healthy, as is Danny Amendola. A few bumps and bruises for this group, but I don't think it's anything that is going to precipitate a roster move. They have two receivers on the practice squad in Cody Hollister and Riley McCarron, but there's no indication that any call-up is imminent. 

PP: Malcom Brown is relatively quiet when media members are in the locker room, but he's a clown-around-the-outside-of-the-scrum-when-a-teammate-is-being-interviewed guy. Surprised but not floored that Long would've given him that crown last year. I'd say when Long and Rob Ninkovich were together hamming it up in 2016, their corner of the locker room was probably the funniest. As far as this year goes, guys like Eric Rowe and Adam Butler are sneaky funny. Rob Gronkowski has been good for a laugh or two every week at his press conferences. He and our buddy Mike Reiss at ESPN need to go on tour at some point. They're the Gillette Stadium version of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. 

PP: Hey, Rich. Thanks for checking in. I'd say the chances of trading for Gilmore are extremely low. Like, zero. The trade deadline is Halloween. Would they cut bait before then after giving him an $18 million signing bonus and guaranteeing him $40 million overall? Given his contract and his play this season, there figure to be very few if any buyers. It would be the ultimate sell-low. And unless Butler ends up receiving much less on the open market than we think he will, my opinion is that he's likely headed elsewhere following the season. Never say never, but that's seemed like the outlook for Butler since Gilmore put pen to paper on his contract. On Martellus Bennett, the Packers aren't giving up on him. He hasn't been overwhelmingly productive in the passing game, but he's their top tight end. And with Aaron Rodgers out, Green Bay is probably going to want as many experienced short-to-intermediate options as possible. Patriots haven't gotten much from either Dwayne Allen or Jacob Hollister this season, but Bennett is not walking through that door. If the production at that position behind Gronkowski continues to be lacking, keep an eye on Will Tye, who recently signed to the Patriots practice squad. He's a more experienced player than the Patriots typically keep on that 10-man unit. 

PP: It's hard to argue that they do when they have other players on the roster who either don't chip in on special teams at all (David Harris) or play a minimal role (Jacob Hollister) in the kicking game holding roster spots. At least guys like Brandon King, Nate Ebner, Matthew Slater, Marquis Flowers, Geneo Grissom and Brandon Bolden give the team productive special-teams snaps on a consistent basis. And they all have to be ready to contribute in the other phases of the game. As we've seen with players like Jonathan Jones and Johnson Bademosi, there's a chance you're called upon to play a legitimate role either offensive or defensively in any given week. To this point, at least, both of those players have performed when asked.


TC: Very simple Wally, it’s Dr. Robert Leonard. Call 1-800-GET-HAIR if your salad is wilting. And that hair you can witness yourselves on Pregame Live and Postgame Live at 6:30 before Falcons-Patriots and immediately after.
 

TC: The Falcons defense struggled with tripping over their tongues more than anything else. That game – on rewatch – is fascinating because the Patriots didn’t struggle offensively, they just pooped themselves. They had six first-half drives. Four of them went into Atlanta territory. They had drives ended at the Atlanta 33 and 23 in the first half because of a fumble and a pick. Anyway, that doesn’t answer your question. The speed of the Falcons defense was a problem and that was at all three levels – defensive line on Pats OL, linebackers quick to swarm and help on Julian Edelman and closing speed of the safeties. To me, it’s part of the reason the team went away from a productive player they really liked in LeGarrette Blount. He just didn’t afford any two-way threat when he was on the field and a fast defense would swarm him before he could plant his foot and get upfield the way a smaller back would. So yes, the dual-threat capability of Lewis and White will be a factor. And I’m fascinated to see how the Falcons play with Edelman out and Gronk in.
 

TC: My Fine Man! Mentioned it to him in our NBCSports Boston studio recently and he shrugged a bit and didn’t really offer an answer other than that he’s still getting up before dawn and working out. He indicated that post-football life – for a player who emptied the bucket for so long every week – is interesting. He’s never actually had a “fall” to himself and his family and he enjoys it. He also misses all the things that a guy who plays into his 30s and has the success he did misses – the camaraderie, the thrill of game day and all that.

MG: Jacob, this goes all the way back to the offseason, if you ask me. No new deal, the big deal for Gilmore, the inability to work out a trade with the Saints brought Butler back to a situation he was desperate to get out of this spring. He did all the right things after that - in terms of coming to voluntary workouts and whatnot - but at some point during training camp, his play went sideways. Once it did, I think Butler struggled with his confidence, ended up losing snaps in week two at New Orleans and even now - despite the two big plays at MetLife - his play continues to be spotty. I think if Eric Rowe was healthy, Butler would be on the block. 

MG: TJ from back in the day! Give me a pass rusher, and give me one ASAP. Cassius Marsh has loads of athleticism but is struggling on the discipline front, and Hightower is not a 30 pass rush a game guy. At least I think he isn’t. Someone who can get home quick would cover up some of the sins from that back end, and we know there have been far too many to this point.

MG: Jimmy and I sat outside the TB12 facility at Patriot Place and drank beer while eating Doritos. It was glorious.

MG: See above answer. 
 

There's a rush on Should-They-Trade-Jimmy-G? questions

new-friday-bag-92917-w-curran.jpg

There's a rush on Should-They-Trade-Jimmy-G? questions

FOXBORO -- Every Friday we take your Patriots questions on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as they call it. 

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag. 

What’s up, Jim …

I’d have to peg that possibility as low for three reasons. One, the reasons the Patriots kept Garoppolo in the first place – he’s real good, he’s tremendous insurance, the team keeps its future options open at the position. Two, it would be selling really, really, really low on an asset that they were offered more for previously and (if they franchise him in March) may be again. Three, while the pocket pressure isn’t there, they keep dealing with slippery people like Alex Smith, Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton and (to a lesser degree) Jameis Winston that they don’t usually sellout to get on the ground. In other words, I’m not sure they’d agree their pass rush sucks.

SHHHHHHHHHHIMMMMMMONNNNNN. What’s up? No. No. A thousand times no.

Hey Vyas,

Three prime candidates are Malcolm Mitchell, Shea McClellin and Vincent Valentine. We discussed on the pod Thursday night
 

Interesting questions, Jorge. Alan Branch is a prime candidate. Garoppolo if the trade partner agrees to send back 25 percent ownership stake in the franchise and a new golf cart for the Family Kraft. Malcolm Butler. I would peg the latter two as unlikely in the extreme.
 

Ohhh, Andy.

Absolutely. The same five guys won a gottdamm Super Bowl in February. The parts around that group, the playcalling, the week-to-week matchups and challenges are all a bit different and you hope they get it fixed before Brady breaks but they will improve. They always do.

IRONHEAD!

I’m totally and completely flummoxed by his inability to contribute anywhere. Or for the Patriots to not look to him for contributions. Clearly, with the signing of Will Tye to the practice squad, the clock’s ticking on Allen now. He’s not even Scott Chandler-level. Chandler was kind of hurt and he at least got targets that he then screwed up. Allen’s not even getting that.

Hey, Pat. Tye is on the practice squad for now so he's not changing anyone's role on the 53-man roster. And I don't think his addition to the roster has much to do with what the Jets are doing. They have five games and four preseason games with new offensive coordinator John Morton under their belts. Morton comes from New Orleans, an offense the Patriots are very familiar with working closely with Sean Payton so frequently in training camps in recent years. So Tye isn't going to provide game-changing intel, I don't think. I do believe that the Patriots could use an extra body at the position with Rob Gronkowski banged up and Dwayne Allen scuffling. Tye is experienced and could realistically contribute in game action if he's able to pick up the offense. That's not always the case with practice-squad additions. 

Kevin. Interesting question. I hadn’t even thought of that. No.

Doc! The only person they have who opens up quickly and with regularity between the hashes is Amendola. White is a solid secondary outlet. But with no Edelman, and Cooks and Hogan to a lesser degree being more vertical receivers than horizontal, some of what you’ve seen you’ll keep seeing. Pats didn’t hesitate to use Gronk as a pass blocker earlier in the year and I’m sure we’ll see more until the tackles stabilize. 

 

I read things this week reflecting both views. In my unlearned opinion, he seems like a guy who was doing business as business was done back in 1492. Now, 550 years later, the things he’s blamed and credited for are seen in a context Chris, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella didn’t contemplate. If they had better foresight, they would have understood the hell they’d catch in the 21st century.
https://twitter.com/powhitekid1/status/918678099960782848
Either. But both must be frozen.

Hey, Bob. The draft capital lost because of Deflategate was significant, obviously. In theory, they're without at least two roster-quality players, and potentially more based on whether or not the Patriots would have been able to turn those two picks into multiple selections. We did this at the time of the 2016 and 2017 drafts, but just as a reminder, here are the players who went in the range of the No. 28 overall pick in 2016 and the No.118 overall pick in 2017. (It looked like the Patriots would initially lose No. 132 in 2017, but they picked up a higher fourth-rounder in the Brandin Cooks trade and were docked that pick instead.) Had the Patriots held onto the No. 28 pick last year, they would have had the opportunity to add any number of talented players to their defensive front seven. Defensive tackle Chris Jones (No. 37 to the Chiefs), linebacker Myles Jack (No. 36 to the Jaguars) would have been particularly intriguing fits because of their NFL-ready athletic ability. Later in that year's draft the Patriots took tackle Vincent Valentine and linebacker Elandon Roberts so those were positions they were interested in. If they decided to go with a corner, offensive lineman or quarterback -- the three positions the Patriots spent their first three picks on in 2016 -- what's interesting is that there weren't many impact players taken at those spots between picks No. 28 and No. 60, where they drafted Cyrus Jones. Christian Hackenberg was the only quarterback taken in that range. Xavien Howard, Mackensie Alexander and TJ Green were the corners to go in that area. Nick Martin and Cody Whitehair were the interior offensive linemen. As for what they might've missed out on at No. 188 this year? That's where the Eagles took receiver and special-teamer Mack Hollins. Bears running back Tarik Cohen went one pick later. The Patriots scooped up Deatrich Wise later in the round. 

Thanks for checking in, Tucker! It feels like we're wondering every week if THIS WILL BE THE WEEK THEY UNLEASH THE LEWIS. I wouldn't expect a drastic change in his role for a few reasons. It's been pretty apparent that he's one of their most dynamic backs. He's able to make something out of nothing better than any other player they have at the position. Yet for all the production he's had in 64 snaps (six missed tackles forced on 19 attempts), his workload hasn't changed all that much. His snap counts over five games look like this: 6, 14, 12, 14, 18. He had a season-high seven carries in Tampa, but I'm not sure if that number will rise soon. Rex Burkhead could be back, which could sap a portion of Lewis' workload, and it seems as though the Patriots want to try to manage Lewis to be as healthy as possible for the stretch run. His injury history is what it is, and if he could be a full-go in December and January, he could be a game-changer. The other thing to remember is the offense has been very efficient even with Lewis playing less than a full-time role. Their hand isn't exactly being forced at the moment.  

Want to thank the JPR for this contribution. I put some thought into this. I'm a hard "h" guy when I say the word "historian." (As opposed to "isstorian.") So I'd go with the radio host there. "A historian." Think if you're going "an isstorian" you're trying too hard. Know your concern level might now be through the roof, but you've kind of brought this upon yourself. Stop trying so hard. 

Mr. Q! They've spent a good deal on defensive personnel, depending on where you look. Stephon Gilmore is an obvious example. Devin McCourty was the highest-paid player at his position when he re-signed. Jerod Mayo got paid. Darrelle Revis got paid for one year. They've spent a good number of their first-round picks (who don't make as much as they used to but still get paid) recently on defensive players like Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Dominique Easley and Malcom Brown. I think they try to be smart with where they spend at every position. Don't think there's a specific budget for the defensive side versus the offensive side. As far as the bend-don't-break idea goes, I think that's more strategic than anything else. I think no matter the price of the personnel they have, if they can force offenses to sustain drives and come away with field goals instead of touchdowns, that's a plan they'd be OK with.

What do mean, Nick? On Twitter? Pshh. Never seen anything too . . . 

. . . Oh. 

Fast Eddy, I think we sniffed out the limitations Harris during that telling week of joint practices with the Texans. Didn’t matter which player got isolated on Harris in space, the veteran linebacker couldn’t keep up. Now he seems like a “break in case of emergency” type player. I’m not sure I see the value there, but they did pay him a million and a quarter in guaranteed dollars and maybe Belichick is seeing value in his leadership. Will be interesting to see who loses spots when two of the injured three (McClellin, Valentine, Mitchell) are able (if able?) to return. I’d put him at the head of the chopping block list.

Michael, this idea has been kicked around a lot and Lewis would certainly like more carries. He’s got some incentives in this, the final year of his contract that he’s now unlikely to reach. But with the injury to Burkhead, and even back to this summer with Edelman, the Pats are loathe to surrender a playmaker, even if this one doesn’t play all that much. Additionally, I don’t think you’re getting anything of value back for him. He’s more valuable here, doing what he’s doing, than a pick or back end of the roster guy.

Mix Master Marx (I just made that up), they couldn’t cover running backs when Collins was here either. I mean, he was athletic enough to do it and certainly flashed at times, but consistency was never his thing. With the speed of some of these so-called pass catching backs, the better matchup is a defensive back and we’ve certainly seen the Pats deploy six and sometimes seven DBs to protect themselves in that regard.

Not an unreasonable ask and something the Pats have done before, including versus the Texans on the game-winning drive (well on at least one of those plays. He also aided Cannon). But he’s still one of best receivers and a trusted guy for Brady. Can’t keep him in there forever. Pick your spots and move on, hoping Solder can get past his early season struggles.

https://twitter.com/MikeGiardi

Dwayne Allen is not getting cut, IMO. It hasn’t been great, but prior to Tampa, I didn’t think he was completely lost as a blocker. Anyway, it hasn’t been the greatest stretch of dealing for or signing NFL vets - Kony Ealy, Allen, Gilmore, Hit or Miss Marsh. As for Dorsett, one Pats wideout told me “he gets it” and there’s “ a lot of talent there we just haven’t gotten to see just yet.” I’ll take that man at his word. 9 Tailors can save almost anyone, even Tanguay.