What is the biggest reason for the Patriots’ optimism this season?

Q: It’s been reported that Billy Zabby has been offered several teams to include him in their training squad. Do players have a choice? – Gillian W

The answer to this question is yes, players have a choice as to which coaching team to join. Unless they are designated as players on the protected practice squad, players on the practice squad are also essentially free agents, and are free to sign to any 53-man roster at any time (must be 53). But players with less than four cumulative seasons who are on waivers can’t control their claim. In Zabi’s case, he cleared waivers and opted to sign with the Patriots’ practice squad. In Corral’s case, he was claimed off waivers, so he had to come to New England.

Reports indicate that Zappe had multiple offers to join the other team’s practice squads. However, it makes sense that Zabi decided to return to the Patriots. He spent the entire offseason and training camp on Bill O’Brien’s offense. Instead of trying to learn an entirely new playbook to vie for a spot on the roster, he’s staying in a familiar place. Every other team in the league has kept at least two quarterbacks, so, at best, he’s a QB3 on another team’s depth chart. He has the inside track to QB2 in New England and knows Mac is in for proving it. And as we saw last season, opportunity can arise quickly. Although my guess is he’ll stay on the practice squad for now, one would think Zappe would be in line to step up on game day to support Mac in Week 1. And it seems unlikely that Corral will be ready to serve as a backup with few practices in New England.

Q: The Patriots have Sir Sue, a guard in college, lining up at tackle. Riley Rev, a career NFL tackle, lines up at guard. What is the logic behind these guys exchanging positions? – Tim J

The Patriots reportedly viewed Soo as a potential tackle option after they drafted him in the fourth round this past April. Sow is approximately 6 feet 5 inches tall, with an arm span of 33 inches and has scored a 9.03 out of ten relative sports score (RAS) as a tackle. He has the height and athletic shape to play in the NFL. With the Patriots needing OTs, that explains why they developed Sow there. His footwork, which led to a short corner kick and poor leveling of the platform, is a work in progress. If he can improve his angles and passing style, Sow has the physical tools to do so as a tackle. He may be forced into the squad as a rookie, but Su will be better off as a long-term project to get his foot in a new position.

As for Reeve, who has now missed at least four games as an injured reserve during the season, it was clear from spring all the way to early training camp that his foot speed/tackle range was an issue. Reiff is having a hard time protecting his advantage, and that was especially evident when he took on a very fast attacker in Josh Uche. At guard, Reeve plays in a phone booth, where he can rely more on his experience and strength rather than his athleticism. Honestly, even with moving in, I’m still worried about Riff.

Q: Will we see Bob Douglas and Marcus Jones on the field together as receivers? It would be a rivalry nightmare for defensemen. – Jim W

Putting two explosive playmakers like Bob and Jones on the field together makes for an attractive package of personnel. However, we are not given any indication that Marcus Jones will play offense this season. Now, that can always change, especially if the offense is looking for big plays. But the Patriots seemed intent on developing Jones in his preferred cornerback position while he would still be the primary penalty returner going into year two (and possibly a kickoff returner as well). My read about using him offensively as a rookie is that they were desperate to find explosive plays, so they opened the Marcus Jones package. They could take a similar approach this season or shock most reporters by unleashing Jones on offense, but I don’t expect to see him there.

Q: In theory, what would the trade look like if the Patriots traded Chris Jones or Mike Evans? – @chickenuruu

Firstly, I would be totally appalled if the Chiefs replaced Chris Jones. There appears to be a middle ground in those negotiations, and the winning window is now hit hard without him in their defence. It would also take quite a bit of money to facilitate the trade, likely the first player as well as another pick and possibly an alternate player on the D-Line. An elusive trade for all parties out there.

As for Evans, there have been rumors that he could be available throughout the season. Evans is 30 years old, has a huge contract, and Tampa is in a reboot after Brady. However, his age and contract status are similar to DeAndre Hopkins’ market this season. Evans is more durable than D-Hop, but I don’t anticipate a huge market, especially with a $13 million cap coming in 2023. The Bucs will get a compensatory fifth-round pick for Evans if he joins free agency next off-season. So maybe the third or fourth round? It seems counterintuitive for the Patriots, but they’ll have to pay his salary for 2023, and Evans wants an extension. I don’t see that happening.

Q: Given that there aren’t many changes to the unit, can we expect the special teams to be better this year? – @ElLichaTW

With respect, I do not agree that the Patriots have not made changes to the special teams. Assistant coach Joe Judge is back to coach the special teams. They also have a new kick and punter with the addition of pieces like veteran Chris Board and rookie Amir Speed. They’ve done a lot to improve their kicking game, probably more than most teams do. Let’s hope the results are there.

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