Digesting some chat leftovers

Unable to get to every question in our weekly Patriots chat, here are five leftovers:

1. Chris (LaGuardiA): Can Ras I Dowling start?

"Absolutely, Chris. The coaching staff thought highly enough of Dowling to have him starting at the beginning of the 2011 season. I see no reason, if Dowling is healthy, that he wouldn't be in the mix for a possible starting assignment in 2012."

2. Pete (Vermont): Do you think Markell Carter might end up being the pass rusher we need?

"Pete, I think it's a stretch to definitively say that at this time. But Carter is the type of developmental prospect who will be given every chance to show what he can do in 2012. He was coveted by at least one other team, which looked to sign him off the practice squad late last season, but I think he made a smart decision to stick with the Patriots. He's added some muscle and was up in the high 260s. He'll be a player to watch in training camp."

3. JT (Cali): Brandon Lloyd will be 31 by the start of next season and has had only one decent season in the NFL (although it was a monster season in 2010). Do you think he's a legit No. 1 stretch-the-field receiver?

"JT, I think Lloyd is the type of receiver who could really help the Patriots based on his skill set, giving them more of an outside-the-numbers presence. I'd think his background in the offense, from his time playing under Josh McDaniels in Denver and St. Louis, would have additional value to the team. But I don't view him as a No. 1 type of target."

4. Sean (CA): Any chance Luke Kuechly will slip in the draft? And if he does is he someone the Pats would look at?

"Sean, after listening to draft analysts Mike Mayock and Todd McShay over the last two days, it sounds like Kuechly is the top player at the inside linebacker spot and unlikely to get past linebacker-needy teams like the Eagles in the middle of the round. Also, when I look at the Patriots' roster, I see that position as one of the strengths with Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher and Jeff Tarpinian all young and with upside."

5. Brian (Boston): Do you see the Pats using both of their 1st round picks this year?

"As we've seen in past years, I think the preference will once again be to trade one of them into next year's first round, while picking up a second-rounder this year as well. That's a move the Patriots seem willing to make 10 times out of 10. The challenge is that we don't know if that type of opportunity will present itself again."