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Ask PFW: Losing steam

Posted Oct 8, 2013

New England's first loss of the season brought about some doubt and criticism in Patriot Nation, filling out this week's emotional and somewhat reactionary edition of Ask PFW.

While coach BB accepted responsibility for the losses countless times, has he ever accepted responsibility for his shortcomings as a GM?
Stan C.

Love you guys and your work to keep us up to date on our favorite team. With the seeming struggle to get quality players on the field, wouldn't it be wise to let Belichick coach and hire a GM to run the team?
Doug Tozier

Stan, you are obviously alluding to the fact that Belichick always includes coaching better among the first issues he addresses in his postgame press conference after each and every New England loss, ever. I wouldn’t put too much credence into that, it’s simply what he does as he’s throwing out postgame, cut-and-paste answers in the immediate emotion of defeat. The questions about the talent on the team, and the role Belichick the GM plays in that area, are more of the big-picture variety. On that level, Belichick has said in the past that he’s ultimately responsible for everything that goes on with the football operation in New England. But you are right in that he’s never said they have to draft better, at least as far as I can remember. As for bringing in GM to make the personnel decisions, that’s just not going to happen. Belichick has the full power in New England and I can’t see any way he’d give that up to split the duties. And let’s be honest, though his draft track record is inconsistent he has won a lot of football games and had a lot of success, even in recent years. I’m not sure there are too many GMs that have a better success record than Belichick, and plenty of impressive talent evaluators have put together teams this year with the Giants, Steelers, Falcons and other places that are off to much worse starts than the Patriots. As I’ve always said, you take the total package with Belichick – the good, the bad and the ugly. Even though I’m not sure there really is much of the latter two.
Andy Hart

Hey guys I know a lot is being said about the young WRs and as blasphemous and this might sound, maybe a Brady is the problem. I have been watching him since he took over in 2001 and this year he's looked off, misfiring, missing open WRs, looking very uncomfortable in the pocket, throwing a lot of Tebow balls. My question is do you think Brady is on the decline and do you see Belichick making a move at QB in next year’s draft?
Clarens Jarbath

I know the receivers are getting the lion's share of the blame, but isn't at least half of the problem inaccurate throws by TB12? It seems they have to reach back for every throw over the middle, jump for most screens, and find a new gear to catch up with most down-field throws. How much of this is "timing" and how much is erosion of skills? If it’s just execution, when does it get better?
Rodney Sheridan

Hi and thank you for the great work you’re doing for Pats fans around the world. I think I'm the biggest Brady fan, however, don’t you guys think he sucks from the beginning of the season? We can always use the excuses, injuries, rookie receivers etc..., but he keep missing open receivers, a lot of 3 and outs, very bad on 3rd down. He is a superstar, he should pull the team to victories even on a bad day. He is not even close to what he used to be 2 or 3 years ago. Your thoughts? thank you.
Guy Hilli

My thoughts? I thought I was a reactionary cynic, but after reading these harsh criticisms I realize that my glass is a lot fuller than I previously believed it to be. And I’m not sure the biggest Brady fan would write “sucks” to describe the quarterback even at this point in a sub-par season. I’m not ready to kick No. 12 to the curb and blame all the issues in the passing game on him. Sure, he’s made some bad throws. Sure, his deeps balls have always been a bit of an issue. Sure he’s anticipated the pressure and been more affected by it in recent years than earlier in his career. But I can’t just lay all the blame at his Ugg-covered feet. Timing and accuracy on passes is just as much about the receiver as the quarterback, and is really based on the cohesion between the two. That’s just not there right now for Brady with really any of his targets – none of whom were big parts of the offense in previous years. I’ve also been disappointed in the offensive line early in the year, both in terms of the protection it is giving Brady and the lack of dominance in the run game. The entire offense is to blame right now. I tend to think if the rest of the guys around Brady start doing their jobs a bit better, then the results will improve drastically. Maybe Brady has lost a little something, I’m sure he has at age 36, but I don’t think that’s the entire reason that the passing game is struggling. Call me a homer, but I think Brady is still pretty good. And have you watched some of the truly crappy quarterback play that’s been going on elsewhere early this season? It’s all about expectations and perspective.
Andy Hart

Is the Wilson/Hart index available online?
Keith Murrow

Heck yeah! The Wilson-Hart Power Index is posted on the Patriots Football Weekly blog on Patriots.com each and every Tuesday from Week 5 through the end of the regular season. Click on over and enjoy!
Andy Hart

Hey guys I'm a huge Pats fan from Brazil and I have two questions. First one, Wilfork is done for season and in the last game Kelly was hurt, will Pats look for any free agent DL? And why is our offense are playing so bad?
Lucas Carvalho

Given the injury to Kelly, although he seemed to downplay the issue, I have to think the Patriots are indeed concerned about the depth and talent at the defensive tackle spot. With Kelly sidelined in Cincy for a time, undrafted rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones were all New England had at the position. Though there aren’t a ton of perfect candidates out there, there are some veteran names on the market who might be worth a look simply to add at least an experienced body at the spot. Of course there is also a chance the CFL-import Armond Armstead could be a boost on the defensive line when he’s eligible to begin practicing/come off NFI next week. As for why the offense is so bad, I think it’s as simple as the complete turnover of the roster of skill players due to offseason transactions and injuries. Maybe the best indication of that is that in Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati the Patriots were without every single player who touched the ball in last January’s playoff win over the Texans other than Brady. That’s eye-opening in even by NFL standards that sees a good deal of roster turnover with many teams. The talent just isn’t there. The timing just isn’t there. The success just isn’t there. But hey, at least the defense is playing well!
Andy Hart

One of several reasons for Patriots offensive struggles has been predictability of play calling. For instance, after a first down pass incompletion the Patriots always run the ball. You can't do that against a stout front like the Bengals. And I wonder if BB will hold J. McDaniel's feet to the fire and get him to improve play calling amongst other things.
Jake B.

I will be honest, I’ve never been big in terms of criticizing the play calling. I think it’s a drum that’s a bit overbeaten. But looking back on the Bengals game, you are right. Every time there was a first-down incompletion other than in two-minute/hurry-up chances the Patriots followed that up with a run. That’s a bit too predictable and constant against good NFL opposition, even with a team that I think should be able to run the ball better given its talent and continuity on the offensive line. I’m sure Belichick will hold McDaniels accountable. Given the slim margin of error on offense right now that Brady has pointed to so often, play calling could be an advantage/disadvantage that makes a big difference. Let’s remember, though, McDaniels has a long track record of successful play calling and offense in the NFL. He’s done it many different times in many different ways with many different players. I still have faith in the job he does, but there is always room for improvement with anyone.
Andy Hart

Any chance the Patriots go after Hakeem Nicks? The Giants are going nowhere and haven't been close to a contract extension with him. Perhaps the Pats could get him at a relatively cheap price due to his pending free agency.
Herb Edwards

While the Patriots might be able to trade for him, there would still be the issue of trying to sign Nicks to a long-term deal so he’s not just a late-season rental. There is also the issue of getting him acclimated into an offense that’s struggled to bring veterans into the mix at times in recent years, even with full offseasons. Nicks is a big name and a big talent. I would certainly deem the likelihood of a deal for Nicks rather unlikely.
Andy Hart

Hey Guys. Ugly loss in Cincy. The receivers are taking a lot of criticism (and rightfully so), but what about the tight end situation? One reception by Hooman for 2 yards? Pitiful! Certainly there must be better options out there - what about bringing back Ballard or Fells? There is a possibility Gronk may not be back or will be ineffective, so what is Plan B at TE? Thanks.
Bob Malloy

The tight end position has been non-factor through five games, unless you include the turnovers that have come from the spot. I’m probably a bit biased, but I think Daniel Fells, if healthy, could help out this passing attack at least until Gronkowski is healthy. But since Fells has worked out for other teams and failed to land a job, either he’s not healthy or I’ve overrated him more than any player in recent memory. The bottom line is that New England needs Gronk back in action sooner rather than later. And given how much time he’s had on the practice field to open the season, I’m going to expect him to be more ready and more productive than I would have had he returned to action a few weeks earlier. The tight end position, and its hopefully improved production, is all about No. 87.
Andy Hart

Josh Gordon, anyone?
John A.

The Cleveland Browns seem to be having a yard sale with their entire roster and some rumors have been surfacing that the Patriots have made a offer for WR Josh Gordon, My question is "If" the Pats did make an offer what is more valuable at this point a talented receiver who does not know the play book or more reps for the young receivers already on the roster.
Jim Vanderpoel

I haven’t seen the reports that the Patriots have made an offer for Gordon, but he’s clearly available. The 49ers are reportedly in the mix for his services. Gordon has some off-field issues and is one misstep away from another suspension. He’s a talented guy who’s not always seen as a hard worker. Given that reputation, I’d have my reservations about adding him to the Patriots mix in the middle of the season, even given the uncertainty and issues at receiver in New England. I’ve not yet given up on the rookies, but I’m also not sold on simply giving them endless reps to try to get up to speed. Winning is the most important factor moving forward. If they can’t be ready to contribute to that, then I’m all for looking at other options.
Andy Hart

How are we supposed to be able to contend with the Broncos, Saints and Seahawks when we stunk versus the Cincicrappi Bengals? This TE situation really messed us up, Gronk better be on the field versus NO. I blame him for messing up Brady's streak. Also one good CB in Talib isn't enough, he will have an off game like he did today and no one else stepped up. Vince and Kelly's injuries are what killed our run defense today. When will the organization wake up and realize we need to trade up to get that stellar D we had in the Dynasty years?
Salami Jonze

This email comes from the writer with by far the best name of the week. Some day I’d like to meat you, Salami! Anyway, I think you are being a bit emotional right now. You seem angry. It was an ugly loss, sure. But the Bengals are a talented team that many predicted to compete for a Super Bowl berth this season. Gronk is a key moving forward and I do think he needs to be on the field against the Saints. As for Talib, he’s playing great football and very few teams, if any, field two corners that play at an elite level. There are just not enough of those guys to go around the NFL at what I think is the most physically demanding position in football. Finally, the Patriots did trade up in the draft to bolster the defense in the first round two years ago with Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. How those guys develop in the near future will go a long way toward how good this defense can be. The Patriots didn’t always trade up during the “Dynasty” years, either. A lot of that talent was procured prior to those winning days, or came at the spot the team was slotted to pick. Take a deep breath, have a sandwich and things will be OK.
Andy Hart

Hey guys. From the games I've been able to watch it looks like the biggest problems with our receivers is that they don't catch the ball cleanly. They always bobble it. Do you see the same thing? Is this fixable?
Monty B.

Yes I see the same thing. Both Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins have a tendency to bobble or double-catch passes. They’ve also dropped far too many passes in the first five games of their careers. But it is definitely a fixable problem. While some guys struggle with their hands over their entire career, others improve in that area with extra reps and plenty of work. Here’s hoping these two guys fall into the latter category. Maybe neither will ever have truly natural, soft, elite hands, but it certainly can be much better than it has been.
Andy Hart

Hey guys... love what you do for a fan way out here on the West Coast. I'm sitting here thinking about Wilfork on the disabled list and looking at the depth chart and trying not to freak out. I see 3 DTs. Yikes! So how do you fill the hole from within the team without waiting for a trade or a FA pickup? Do you take a take a DE like Michael Buchanan and move him in? Take an ILB and move him up? What do you do?
Wolf
Oregon

While some things can be done schematically, like a few more run blitzes for a guy like Brandon Spikes who can be a thumper in the middle, it’s hard to make a nose tackle out of thin (or heavy!) air. The requirements of playing the position of defensive tackle include being a 300-pounder with a good base and playing strength. Those guys don’t grow on trees and they can’t be forcefully forged out of defensive end or inside linebacker. The three guys that remain, including the two rookies, must play more and better. The other guys on the defensive front need to play better. As a single guy, Wilfork is irreplaceable. But that doesn’t mean the team can’t overcome the loss of the big man.
Andy Hart

Hello guys I'm Peruvian, live in Japan and love the Patriots simple right! I have three questions. One is you see BB trading like he did for Talib for a defense/offense player. Two Talib right now is playing his best you guys see a big contract coming for NE side trying to lock him and the last is how much picks or players we have to put to try to get Larry Fitzgerald Thanks for you work .
Jose Mendoza

I think Belichick always looks for ways to improve his team. Talib is the perfect example. He needed a corner last year and went and got the best option available. So I wouldn’t rule out him doing something in that way this year. But that also doesn’t mean that a No. 1 receiver is on his way to Foxborough. As for Talib, I do think the Patriots need to try and sign him. We’ve seen how long it’s taken the team to replace the likes of Asante Samuel and Ty Law in the past. The question, though, is what is Talib’s value? How much does he want? How much would he get on the open market at a position that didn’t see the big dollars last year? And how much would the Patriots be willing to pay? Those questions make for a tough in-season negotiation. Finally, I don’t think the Cardinals would trade Fitzgerald. If they were to consider it, I think it would take a first-round pick and more to get this no-chance trade done.
Andy Hart

Trying to replace Wilork with a trade is impossible and these people who think Seymour is a solution know nothing about football and should stay off these blogs. My question is about using Spikes as an interior defensive linemen on some snaps. He is a big strong guy and he's good against the run. Would he have the ability to help the line in this type of role?
Matthew Cole

If you are talking about Spikes playing more and maybe filling gaps a bit more aggressively in run blitzes, then sure. If you are talking about him actually lining up in a three-point stance on the line as a defensive tackle, then no way. Spikes is a good, aggressive, physical player against the run. But he’s not a defensive lineman.
Andy Hart

Do you think Kenbrell Thompkins could be the next great Patriots receiver based on his performance week 1-4 and do you think Julian Edelman is actually a great slot receiver or just a product of New England’s system?
Parker Leclaire

I think Edelman is closer to being a great slot receiver than Thompkins is to being the next great Patriots receiver. In my opinion the rookie has shown really suspect hands throughout his early time in New England. He has too many drops and double-catches too many of the balls he does actually haul in. There is still room for improvement for the undrafted rookie, but I just don’t see him going from what he is now to great. Great is a guy like Randy Moss. Great is natural and beautiful. I just don’t think Thompkins will ever be truly great.
Andy Hart

Over the years we've seen many transactions involving players at the bottom end of the 53 being waived and re-signed, signed and waived or moved back and forth from the practice squad. Can you give us an idea of what these players make and is there much of a difference in salary between the lower end of the 53 and the practice squad? I'm sure it’s hard to be specific, just trying to get a sense of any financial hardships/uncertainties these guys face working on the fringes as they pursue their NFL dreams. Thanks for any insight.
Paul Miller

Players that are on an active roster are paid game checks for each week of the season that they are on the roster. So, essentially, that comes to 1/17th of whatever their salary is for that season. The minimum salaries for 2013 range from $405,000 for a rookie up to $940,000 for veterans with 10 years of experience or more. So game checks for those guys would range between $23,823 and $55,294. By comparison players on the practice squad for 2013 earn a minimum of $6000 a week, although some players can and do negotiate salaries that are far more lucrative than that. In general, though, a young player can earn four times as much money in a given week by being on the roster as compared to being on the practice squad.
Andy Hart

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