Exploring hot topics around the New England Patriots in mailbag form:
@MikeReiss think Pats talk to Dez since we need WRs or no chance?— gweeeeeDOUGH (@crypt0gweedough) August 23, 2018
I don't see Dez Bryant as a likely scenario for the Patriots, even though the receiver ranks have been thinned since the start of training camp with the releases of Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Mitchell and Kenny Britt. A more likely scenario to me, if the Patriots are truly thinking of adding another veteran receiver, would be to consider free agent Brandon LaFell (who played for the team in 2014-2015). But I don't sense them making that type of move unless there is another significant injury at the position.
Specific to Bryant, there are two layers from my view: Does he fit the system, and does he fit the culture? While a case could be made it's worth exploring the first part given the shortage of proven receivers, my biggest reluctance would be the second part. Some of the things Bryant has said about his former Dallas teammates didn't strike me as a player who puts the team first, which is a Patriots staple.
My feeling is that Bryant would have to make a strong sales pitch to the team in that area -- including accepting a modest financial deal -- for it to have a chance to happen.
That's why I see longer odds.
Hi Mike, how many do you believe are likely to make final roster?— Olivia (@Liv_Lanes) August 22, 2018
Olivia, my locks at wide receiver are Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson, with Patterson's spot solidified more as a kickoff returner than a regular presence on offense (Julian Edelman won't count against the initial 53-man roster). The team would also have special-teams captain Matthew Slater on the roster, but he's not a big factor on offense. Barring a trade to acquire a receiver, it wouldn't surprise me if those are the only receivers on the initial 53-man roster, which would be lighter than the norm.
And while the receiver position itself is a bit thin, the Patriots have weapons in other areas on offense. The running back corps, with Rex Burkhead, James White, Sony Michel and possibly Jeremy Hill, will be relied on more. The tight end spot, with Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister, could be an even bigger part of the attack.
There's still plenty for opposing defenses to have to handle.
@MikeReiss Good morning Mike. I have huge expectations for Sony. Might be a bit too excited. What do you see happening from him this season?— Daniel Justice (@JUST_ICE_LIFE) August 23, 2018
Daniel, assuming a return to health (which is expected), I think a fair projection for Michel is to be part of a committee with Burkhead, White and possibly Hill. That would be four solid players at the position, and as we saw in 2017, the best players will get the best chances. It's easy to forget now, but Dion Lewis didn't break through as the No. 1 option last year until Week 6; that was initially Mike Gillislee's job until Lewis outperformed him.
So if Michel is the best of the group -- which might be a challenge for him initially after missing so much of training camp/preseason -- I wouldn't be surprised to see significant production. It just might be more likely to come as the year goes on, as Michel gets his legs back under him. If you were to project 450 yards rushing and 25 catches, I could buy that.