A few leftover questions from our weekly Patriots chat:
Bobby (Mansfield, Mass.): Hey Mike, I was wondering what your opinion was on Stevan Ridley. Can we count on him to be the guy or are the Patriots going to be relying on Shane Vereen in a tandem backfield?
Bobby, I expect more of a tandem situation at running back if everyone is healthy, with the numbers trending heavier toward Vereen. Let's break down the playing time numbers from the last two seasons at running back, which can serve as a helpful guide:
Stevan Ridley -- 28.2 percent
Shane Vereen -- 24.7 percent
LeGarrette Blount -- 24.0 percent
Brandon Bolden -- 21.9 percent
Stevan Ridley -- 44.8 percent
Danny Woodhead -- 34.1 percent
Shane Vereen -- 12.7 percent
Brandon Bolden -- 7.5 percent
If Vereen was healthy for all 16 games last year, I think it's safe to say he would have topped the list. The other point is that the way the Patriots play offense, you're usually going to get a pretty even split between the "big back" and the "passing back." Finally, I don't think anything is just going to be handed to Ridley. He'll have to earn it.
Riders of Rohan Davey: Could Joseph Fauria be available from the Lions since they drafted Eric Ebron and already have Brandon Pettigrew? Perhaps a sixth or seventh rounder could get Christian's big nephew in a Patriots jersey?
I don't see the Lions trading Fauria for anything less than a high-round pick at this point. They'll still find a way to use him, as Fauria showed he was a solid red zone threat in 2013. A team can never have enough depth. Along these lines, I also asked ESPN.com Lions reporter Michael Rothstein for his opinion on the topic. His response: "Fauria, for now, is mostly a red zone threat. His size, his vertical and his extremely good hands make him a valuable target in the end zone for Matthew Stafford. Using him in that way also takes some pressure off of Calvin Johnson in the red zone. Fauria's goal is to be used more as a full-field tight end, but that did not materialize in his rookie year all that often. It looked like it would have this season, but the drafting of Eric Ebron changed that to an extent. His role is still somewhat to be determined in 2014, but he remains a red zone threat. If he can improve his blocking, he'll likely see even more time."
Sweet Lou (Longmeadow, Mass.): Hey Mike, where do you see the most competition during training camp?
I'd probably go with receiver, Lou. A lot of pass-catchers, and second-year players Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins should be improving. If they're not, it's a big disappointment for the team. Based on that dynamic, I'd stick with receiver, where you have the veteran addition of Brandon LaFell, the return of Julian Edelman to go along with Danny Amendola, seventh-round pick Jeremy Gallon and others.
Scott K. (Tilton, NH): Hi Mike, of the three divisional opponents, which one improved the most through the draft/free agency? Who is the biggest impact player pickup for that team and why? Does this team have an actual chance this season against a healthy Patriots team?
Scott, I'd pick the Jets because of what they added offensively in quarterback Michael Vick (insurance for Geno Smith), receiver Eric Decker, running back Chris Johnson and tight end Jace Amaro (second round), among others. I've always had respect for their defense, but felt like they needed a boost offensively. I could envision Vick being the key acquisition for them because I'm not sold on Smith, whereas a team like the Bills seems to be putting all of its footballs in the E.J. Manuel basket, which seems a bit more risky. I also like how the Dolphins have rebuilt their offensive line, but I'd give the overall edge to the Jets.