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Ask Shalise: Constructing the roster

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff  August 3, 2011 11:46 PM

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I realize the public is not privy to all deals going on behind closed doors. There are two players the Pats have shown no interest. Mark Herzlich who went with the Giants and Ricky Williams who is still a free agent. I think Herzlich would be a perfect fit for the Pats and Ricky still has a lot of football left and is a great grinder. Why?
Sherman, Jamaica Plain
I know there were a lot of people who wanted New England to draft Herzlich and then when that didn’t happen, sign him as a free agent, but he did wind up with the Giants. At the Senior Bowl, there was a lot of talk that Herzlich couldn’t run like he could before his cancer diagnosis, which led to him having a steel rod inserted in his upper leg. There was also a question of whether he’d be a good fit in a 3-4 system, though that point isn’t as important with it looking like the Patriots are going to play more 4-3 this year. Herzlich is undeniably a great locker room guy and an incredible worker, but we may never know why the Pats didn’t sign him.
As for Williams, I haven’t heard of there being interest from the Pats.

What did the Pats have to give up to Chad Ochocinco?
Tom, Alpharetta, Ga.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the trade was for a fifth-round pick in 2012 and sixth-round pick in 2013. New England had already committed its sixth-round pick in ’12 to the Eagles as part of the trade to acquire special-teamer Tracy White last year.

I am interested in your upside estimate for Shane Vereen. I am a professor at Cal, and a major Pats fan, and I think there is a chance Shane Vereen could surprise. Though overshadowed at times by other players, and limited by Coach Tedford's unimaginative play-calling, Vereen showed great versatility; he caught passes in 37 of the 38 games he played in, had over 4,000 all-purpose yards in his three-year career, and never lost a game due to injury. He was second among running backs at the NFL combine in reps with the 225 bench press too. And he is smart - graduated in less than four years from Cal! Sounds like a player that Belichick can mold into a very useful player. Do you agree?
Professor Rob, Berkeley, Calif.
We have only seen Vereen in one-plus practice to this point (he left the field on Wednesday night and didn’t return), but scouting reports were that he would be a versatile performer in the NFL, and when he was drafted many saw a player similar to Kevin Faulk. Faulk may not be the most decorated guy – he’s never been to a Pro Bowl, and he may not be that well-known outside of Patriots fans – but most players would probably be very happy with the career that Faulk has fashioned for himself.
Based on Vereen’s college career he could be a similar player, but I’ll reserve judgment until we’ve seen him in a few more practices.

Why did the Patriots draft Cunningham at number 52 (in 2010) when (college teammate Carlos) Dunlap at number 53 was a better player? Carlos had 9.5 sacks for Cincinnati last year; Cunningham had one for New England. Both played at Florida and Dunlap was clearly the better athlete.
Joe, Taunton
Colleague Chris Gasper and I have had this discussion, Joe, and the simplest answer I can offer is that Bill Belichick preferred what he saw from Cunningham, which is why he drafted him and not Dunlap. While statistically Dunlap clearly had the better rookie season, I’d wait to judge Cunningham too harshly just yet; players need at least two years before we can get an idea of whether they’re were a good draft pick or a bust.

Questions on a couple of players...Brandon Spikes? How is Stephen Gostkowski? Will he be back? Do we still have the kid from South Florida who tore up his knee a few years ago?
Katheryn, Saco, Maine
With the Patriots showing a lot of 4-3 looks thus far in camp, Spikes has had some impressive practices. He’s playing middle linebacker with Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton on either side of him and has made some nice plays thus far.
As for Gostkowski, he told me last month that he was feeling fine after the torn quadriceps that ended his season last year but clearly the Patriots are easing the kicker back into things – they signed former UMass kicker Chris Koppelin and he has been handling the kickoffs in camp thus far. But Koppelin has struggled on field goals.
And the player fro- South Florida, Tyrone McKenzie, was released last year and signed with Tampa Bay, where he is expected to be the starting middle linebacker.

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