Some leftovers from ESPNBoston.com's weekly Patriots chat:
Nate (Vermont): Hi Mike, I loved the pickup last year of tight end Jake Ballard. Can you give a quick update on how he looked moving around, if he was moving around at all?
Nate, Ballard is not known for his fluid movement skills. He's a big tight end at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds and as one might expect when coming back from a serious knee surgery, he's still working his way back to 100 percent. I thought he ran better than I was initially expecting. At the same time, he was never considered a fast tight end. I think his primary value projects to come as a blocker and in the short to intermediate areas of the field.
Prasad (Baltimore): Seems like there's some debate about Leon Washington's role (if he makes the team). This is a guy who caught 47 passes out of the backfield in '08, but has been virtually unused since then. The Pats love swing passes and change of pace, so why couldn't we see Washington contribute as a KR and pass-catcher out of the backfield?
I think Washington will make the team, Prasad, and that he will be more than just a pure return man. His short-area quickness showed up Tuesday in an open-field touch-up drill. This could be a case where the Patriots saw a player who was viewed one way in a different system, but who could have a unique fit in their own system. Sort of like Danny Woodhead when they signed him.
Dylan (Houston,Texas) -- Which receiver in the league is Aaron Dobson most similar to in your opinion?
Dylan, while acknowledging it's a still-developing picture, I was thinking of an outside receiver who isn't necessarily a top-end speed burner but who has good size, runs well enough, and competes with success for 50-50 type balls. Cowboys wideout Miles Austin (6-2, 217) is one target who came to mind when thinking of a good potential comparable to Dobson (6-3, 210).
Patrick (South Windsor, CT) -- Hey Mike, who would you say is the Patriots' best offensive player not named Brady that has been a consistent participant in OTAs.
Patrick, since a big part of the OTAs has been about the passing game, the eye is naturally drawn to the receiver position. With that context, Danny Amendola would be my choice.
Willy (Brooklyn): Hi Mike, with the acquisition of some bigger, fight-for-the-deep-ball type receivers and early reports of practicing deep fades and deeper QB drop backs, I'm wondering if the Patriots are looking to take a page out of the Ravens' offensive playbook this season in terms of taking a few more shots down field and not being so reliant on what some might call a "dink and dunk" offense. Thoughts?
Willy, I think that is the goal every year, but the Patriots haven't always had the personnel to pull it off. Tom Brady often says that the best passing game is one that attacks all levels of the field, and has an element of balance to it. If the receivers currently on the roster develop as the team hopes, I could envision them taking some more shots down the field this year.
Tron (Waltham, MA): Hey Mike, a lot is said about Michael Jenkins speed, but if he can get on the same page as Brady and displays the sure hands he's known for, how will he be much of downgrade compared to Lloyd? It's not like Lloyd really used his speed after he caught the ball, nor did he serve to "take the top off" the defense. I say this as someone who generally thinks Lloyd got a bad rep and was fairly productive for us.
Fair point, Tron. Let's say it's not a downgrade, so here is a return question: What are the chances it would be an upgrade? As we often hear coaches and players say on a yearly basis, the goal is for improvement. Jenkins deserves a fair shake and let's see how it all unfolds.
Jordan (New York): Hey Mike, why haven't we heard more from Donald Jones or Lavelle Hawkins? I figured they would have made better fits than Michael Jenkins to pair along with Amendola.
Jordan, when the Patriots went through some quarterback/receiver drills in the most recent practice open to reporters, I noticed that Amendola, Jones and Hawkins worked in the slot. Everyone else was on the outside. While we're looking at a limited snapshot, I took that as a reflection of Jones and Hawkins getting their initial work in the system at that position. The Patriots like their receivers to learn all the spots, but you have to start somewhere. That could explain why we haven't seen them as much on the outside.