A few leftover pieces of mail from the weekly Patriots mailbag:
CJ (New York): Hi Mike, is it possible that we're heaping too high of expectations on Jamie Collins? I liked what I saw from him at the end of the season, and we know the emphasis the Patriots place on the Year 2 jump, but isn't it a bit early to slate him as a breakout performer, defensive centerpiece, etc. after only a small sample of his work?
CJ, it was a small sample, with Collins playing 25.8 percent of the defensive snaps in the regular season. That picked up considerably in the playoffs when he was a three-down player for the team and was impressive in the role, and I think that's why several analysts see the arrow pointing up with Collins. He still has to prove it over time, but it seems fair to say it's heading in the right direction.
Steve (Boston): Do you think that having the talent of Revis to practice against will accelerate the development of the young wide receivers?
Steve, that was a little bit of a theme that we heard from a few of the more receivers last week. Julian Edelman said, "If you're going to be lazy with something, these types of guys can take advantage of that opportunity for them. It's going to make me better and hopefully it's going to make them better." Specific to the young receivers, Aaron Dobson is recovering from February surgery on a stress fracture in his left foot and is not yet practicing. But the others are out there and that can only help them.
Corky (Florida): Mike, I know it's early, but compared to the championship teams of the past, how does this year look right now leadership-wise and with raw talent? Regardless of what a lot of the press say, I do think this is the last ditch effort to win another ring with Tom. So do we have the players?
Yes, Corky, I think they have the players from a leadership and talent perspective to win another championship. Every team needs some breaks to go its way over the journey, but I expect the Patriots to be in the hunt again.
David (Chicago): Mike, my question surrounds the issue of Aaron Hernandez's cap hit. Do you have any indication of when (or if) the league will grant the Patriots any relief on his cap hit given that he is now charged with another offense?
David, my understanding is that nothing is imminent. The charges alone won't accelerate that process based on my understanding, as any relief would only come after there is an actual court ruling. I'll double-check in the coming days to see if that is still the case.
Jeff (Scituate, Mass): With the depth in the secondary, can we expect more nickel and dime packages?
Jeff, the Patriots were in nickel or dime packages 67 percent of the time last season and I'd expect similar numbers this year. Those decisions likely won't be made based on secondary depth as much as each individual matchup. Projecting ahead, I'd guess that the season-opener against the Dolphins will probably be mostly a nickel or dime game. But the next week, when stopping Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is probably going to be goal No. 1, I could see it as more of a base defense type of game so they are a bit sturdier in the box.