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Exploring hot topics around the New England Patriots in mailbag form:
Sideline Salvos
Replying to @ChriswithaTIAN @MikeReiss
Belichick likes particular college programs and coaches. Has Georgia risen in his estimation while ‘Bama has dropped?

To put it another way, is red is the new crimson?

(Can’t tell after one draft, of course. Although he did take Mitchell two years ago).

3:52 AM – May 10, 2018
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The Patriots have five Georgia players on their current roster: First-round picks Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel, starting center David Andrews, backup receiver Malcolm Mitchell and undrafted free agent John Atkins. That ties Iowa for the high total. After the first round of this year’s draft, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said of the Georgia double dip with Wynn and Michel: “Both players come from a great program. We have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach [Kirby] Smart and the job he does and he’s doing at Georgia and the job he did at Alabama [as defensive coordinator].”
Sony Michel is one of five former Bulldogs on the Patriots roster, tying Iowa for most on the team. Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
So that provides some good insight as to how the Patriots view Georgia, but I’d caution from taking this connection too far because had a few things unfolded differently in the first round of the draft, I easily could have seen the Patriots going in a different direction. For example, had Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander, Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, or Arkansas center Frank Ragnow been available at No. 23, I could have envisioned all three been given serious consideration over Wynn. Likewise, had a team offered a nice trade package for the No. 31 pick, I could have envisioned a scenario in which the Patriots traded back and gave up the chance to select Michel there.

With that context, I’m not reading too much into the team having five Georgia players on the current roster. While the program is obviously highly regarded by the team, I’d put this into the category of a result of circumstance than any calculated plan.
Replying to @MikeReiss
Mike given how these players are more in tune with training regiments, other then rookies and new vet signings, are OTA’s necessary?

8:20 PM – May 5, 2018
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Pzan, one of the points that Bill Belichick stresses annually is how these sessions are geared toward teaching — not evaluating. The idea is that by teaching/reviewing the system, it gives players a chance to be at their best when training camp begins and the coaching focus shifts more to evaluation than teaching in a competitive environment. So, to answer the question, are these necessary? I think they can only help most players, whose developmental time with coaches is already limited. They are especially helpful for younger players. But there are also stories of teams who don’t place a high emphasis on the offseason program that have still had success, and one example to relay is the 2007 Indianapolis Colts under Tony Dungy. When I was visiting ESPN a few weeks ago, analyst (and former Colts GM) Bill Polian relayed a story about how the team was coming off its Super Bowl championship in the 2006 season and there was a sense of fatigue among some in the building as players returned for the following season. The way I remember Polian telling the story, Dungy asked if he could significantly pull things back quite a bit until training camp, and Polian agreed it would be a smart decision. The Colts then went 13-3 in the 2007 season and lost to the Chargers in the divisional playoffs. I pass along the story as one example of how teams do things differently. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer, as much as it is the preferred philosophy of those in charge.
Brian Goodwin
Replying to @MikeReiss
Great insight, Mike. Thanks for sharing. Granted it’s super early, but what positional battle do you think will be the most fun to watch unfold? OL, RB, WR? #Patriots

8:45 PM – May 5, 2018
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Brian, I’ll pick the receiver competition because there are a lot of different possibilities for how it plays out. I view Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan as being in the “sure thing” category in terms of knowledge of the system, consistent production over multiple years in New England, and rapport with Tom Brady. After those two, it’s going to be intense when factoring in Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett, Jordan Matthews, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Braxton Berrios, Riley McCarron, Cody Hollister and Chris Lacy. There are some special traits within that group, but not a lot of clarity as to how it all fits together. I’d think Patterson will stick because of his special-teams prowess, and like Twitter follower Sam, I’m curious to see if Berrios — the sixth-round pick out of Miami — can make a favorable impression to earn a roster spot as a slot option/punt returner. Onlookers could tell right away in 2009 with Edelman, and I’m interested to see if it’s similar with Berrios. Will Mitchell’s knee injury slow him down again? Can Dorsett find the form that made him a 2015 first-round pick in his second year in the system? Will Matthews become an invaluable move-him-all-around-the-inside-part-of-the-field type of option like he was at times in Philadelphia? Will Britt become the dominant player the Browns envisioned him at this point last year when signing him to a deal that averaged $8 million per season? Can McCarron, Hollister and Lacy make a charge for a spot? I’m interested to learn the answers to all those questions, and more.