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Patriots Monday (WEEI Simulcast) Mon Nov 19 | 09:00 AM - 06:00 PM

Ask PFW: Adding depth, improving defense and more

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I think that there is untold story as to why Patriots are signing cheap guys like Obi Melifonwu and Albert McClellan. Patriots have an aging team with its cap space pushed to the limit, and the reason for that is years of mediocre drafting. I feel that this is the best remaining year for this organization to win a Super Bowl, but poor drafting may ultimately undermine it just as it did in the last year’s SB loss. Patriots could really use a speedy LB and a quality CB and I don’t see how these signings addressed that need?

Ken Kannapan

There’s no question that the Patriots haven’t gotten as much out of their draft classes in recent years as they would have liked. This particular class has been largely injured and therefore not available to help, which is a problem. But I would also say adding players like Melifonwu and McClellan isn’t really out of character for the Patriots whether they have tons of cap space available or not. McClellan is a linebacker who has played a lot of special teams, much like Marquis Flowers or Jonathan Casillas who they’ve acquired in the past. Melifonwu was a second-round pick who failed in Oakland, which is another common New England course of action – adding former high draft who become available. Whether either player winds up contributing to the Patriots this season is unknown at this time but these are the types of transactions the Patriots have always made. Some have worked and others haven’t. I’m just not sure where you think the “quality” and “speedy” linebackers and corners were for the Patriots to pick up. It has less to do with money than it does availability. I was a bit surprised the team didn’t make a trade at the deadline but never did I think it was due to an unwillingness to spend money.

Paul Perillo

I’m curious what your thoughts are on the running back situation and more specifically, if the Pats will bring back Mike Gillislee and/or why other running-back needy teams haven't picked him up? Was his most recent play as efficient as it was in 2016? No. Obviously, he's not in the form he was a few years ago, but no one's expecting him to be lights out--I mean, he was cut for a reason. Do we know any more than we last heard about Rex Burkhead’s prospects to return off of IR and if so, his progress/timeline? Or Sony Michel to get a full healthy clearance?

Jonathan Kirshenbaum

I can’t really speak to the specific reason that Gillislee hasn’t signed anywhere other than to guess that his performance hasn’t warranted it. Last season was not a good one for Gillislee and he showed nothing during training camp or the preseason to make me believe this season would be different. I was not surprised when he was cut. Now, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t explore the possibility of bringing him back and my guess is the team has done so. I don’t know why that hasn’t happened – perhaps Gillislee isn’t too eager to return knowing that he doesn’t have much of a long-term chance to stick around. I do feel Burkhead is a candidate to return, although I admit I have no update on his medical condition at the moment. It sounds like Michel has a chance to return soon so maybe with Michel and Burkhead potentially in the fold there is no need to re-sign Gillislee, but based on the on-field product I’m not sure he would make a huge difference from the Patriots already have.

Paul Perillo

A player’s love for the game of football is very important to Bill Belichick. Still he took Josh Gordon, whose love for the game was in doubt. Perhaps Gordon realized that he can get to a lucrative contract if he "does the job" for the Pats this year. Can this be said of another reclamation project Patriots just signed - Obi Melifonwu? Pats surely can use help at SS but can he be coached to do the job? And what about bringing another ex-Raider Bruce Irvin? Is he worth a shot?

Pascal L.

It will be interesting to see how Melifonwu works out after a disastrous stint in Oakland. My instincts tell me that a lot of players have trouble in Oakland and that’s not necessarily an indictment of the safety’s ability. But I also have to admit that it’s rare for any team to cut ties with a second-round pick after just one season, so maybe there’s more to that story than we know. What we do know if he’s a very athletic player who at the very least should help on special teams. As for Irvin, I’d be interested in kicking the tires as a one-dimensional edge rusher. He may not be dominant but he could provide some help. Unlikely to happen though.

Paul Perillo

I’d be very interested to know your take on Rob Gronkowski and his role in the offense this year. He hasn’t scored a TD since Week 1, and it’s been said that he just doesn’t “look right.” After being ruled out for the Packers game, is there more to his injury than we have heard so far? Or do you think it could be the case that the long list of his career injuries is finally slowing him down?

David Harvey

Gronkowski has been dealing with back issue in recent weeks in addition to the ankle problems he’s been fighting throughout the season. The combination has definitely taken its toll. I felt he lacked his normal explosiveness all season, right from the first game when he was outstanding. Although he caught a touchdown and had a terrific game with over 100 yards receiving, I felt he was working much harder than normal to make those catches and fighting through coverages. I remember thinking after his touchdown, that kind of play will be awfully tough to sustain. Turns out he hasn’t been able to, and I definitely feel it’s due to the injuries. I don’t think there’s anything more to the injuries than we’ve heard, but I do feel they are significant. He’s already missed two games so that alone is an indication of that.

Paul Perillo

Solid win with probably the most well-rounded performance of the season thus far. My question is about the backfield situation the Pats currently are dealing with. Cordarrelle Patterson has looked better than anticipated working out of the backfield. I wouldn’t say I’d use him over Sony Michel once he returns but he seems to have more conviction running than he did last week against the Bills. Do you think Patterson will work in rotation in the backfield once Michel is back or do you think Bill and Josh are just using him as a stop gap?

Robert Hayes

My guess is Patterson’s days as a true running back will end when Michel is healthy, and especially if Burkhead can return as well. Patterson did a nice job running between the tackles in the second quarter against Green Bay and gave the offense a huge lift. He’s a big guy at 228 pounds and showed some power in breaking tackles. But I don’t believe he offers the same upside at the position as Michel, who I feel would have had a huge game against the Packers given the porous nature of their run defense. Once the Packers settled down in the second half expecting him to run, Patterson was limited to 9 yards on five carries. Michel is the better option, although I would expect Belichick to continue to find ways to incorporate Patterson into the mix in different ways.

Paul Perillo

Great win against the Pack. Just wondering if you guys are seeing anything health wise with Chris Hogan? In a contract year he’s not doing much. I expected way more with Rob Gronkowski not looking right and Julian Edelman rounding back into form. Do you think he’s having health issues, just can’t get open or has simply fallen out of trust with Tom Brady? Athletic kid and had a good season last year and looked good in the playoffs. Just wondering your thoughts?

Steve Lawlor

I have not heard of anything that Hogan is dealing with from a physical perspective but I would say that he’s had trouble getting open consistently for the better part of the last two seasons. He had a nice first season with the Patriots in 2016, then got off to a great start last year before injuring his shoulder. That set him back but once he returned he definitely struggled to become a consistent part of the offense. He missed of the last eight games last year and was very quiet in the two playoffs wins, catching a total of three passes for 24 yards in victories over Tennessee and Jacksonville. He turned in a solid Super Bowl with six catches for 128 yards and a touchdown, but that was the one outlier. Since then his struggles have continued this season as he has just 23 catches for 333 yards and a pair of touchdowns despite, as you mentioned, being one of the few consistently available options in the passing game. I’m not sure if there are any reasons for his drop-off but he does still show occasional flashes – like the second half in Chicago when he caught six passes for 63 yards in the win over the Bears. But overall he’s been quiet.

Paul Perillo

We saw Adrian Clayborn and Joe Thuney sprinting downfield blocking the past couple weeks, both look faster than I thought. Who do you think looked faster Clayborn or Thuney?

Andrew W.

First I’d say that both were quite impressive in their hustle on plays when they were able to get out in front and provide some extra blocking. In my view Clayborn was really the big surprise as he was motoring in front of Devin McCourty, who according to Next Gen Stats was moving faster than any NFL player on the field this year at 22 mph. Clayborn was said to be traveling at almost 20 mph, which is ridiculous for a man his size. Thuney’s athleticism was also impressive, but to answer your question I didn’t feel he was moving at quite the same rate of speed. But both opened some eyes with their hustle nonetheless.

Paul Perillo

With so many nagging injuries would the Pats consider giving Gronk, Sony, Shaq and maybe some other dinged up players limited reps, sit vs Titans and enjoy bye week. It would be about a month to recover.

Dave Brown

The coaches definitely take those types of things into consideration when making decisions regarding personnel, but the No. 1 overriding factor is the individual player’s health. In general, if the player is healthy enough to play, he does. I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent as I’m sure there have been times when a player who could have gone has been held out in order to further recuperate in an effort to have that player available at the end of the season, but as a rule Belichick always tells us these decisions are about health and the coaches base them off what the doctors’ information suggests. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more of above three players sit out against the Titans with the bye coming, but if they’re all ready to go they will.

Paul Perillo

It was nice to see Dwayne Allen get a nice 20-plus-yard catch and run against the Packers. He seemed to run pretty well after the catch. My question is why not use him a little more in the passing game rather than James Develin as that fourth read, short dump off pass in the flat? I know he is primarily a blocker but once he makes a chip or two he can squeeze out into the flat from time to time and catch a D unaware. I think they will get more YAC from him than Develin.

Alan Bernstein

This is something we’ve been talking about since training camp, and even going back to the spring. Allen came back this year looking much more mobile than he was in his first year in New England, moving around well and doing a great job of catching passes during the OTA and camp practices. We felt this might be a sign that he would be a bigger part of the passing game, but once the season started he’s been once again relegated to strictly a blocking role. I agree that he’d be a better safety valve option than Develin with much bigger upside on a particular play. No one is expecting him to replace Gronk’s receiving abilities but maybe he should be targeted once or twice a game if for nothing else than to keep defenses honest. I think he has the ability to do more in the passing game.

Paul Perillo

I’m pretty sure you guys will discuss this at length but why wouldn’t BB challenge that Josh Gordon play on the sideline. Do you guys agree that his foot touched down before going out and why with a minute left in the half after the Rodgers fumble, why no timeout to give Brady more time to try something.

Tracy Farley

When I saw the replay I shared your belief that it may have been worth a challenge. Gordon appeared to get a toe down in bounds before the foot slipped into the white. Belichick didn’t feel the same way, explaining that he didn’t think it would have been overturned. Watching further there is a chance that the ruling would have stood because the foot continues onto the white sideline and might have been considered out of bounds in that case. Unlike when a receiver taps his feet in bounds, there are times when the continuation of the action leads to the feet eventually going out that the officials rule it incomplete, and it’s difficult to tell how they would have ruled in that case. Still, I thought it was close enough to warrant a second look. As for the lack of timeout, I agree. I’m sure Belichick was thinking the Packers might choose to go for it from midfield and a timeout may have led to Green Bay getting some points on the board, but I would have gotten aggressive there and forced the Packers to make a decision. But with the lead and a banged up offense, I can understand the decision.

Paul Perillo

To me, it was no secret why Belichick went to the NC State pro day last spring. With Ryan Finley one of the top QB prospects this season, his style is much like Tom Brady’s. What do the Patriots have to offer anyone to get in the top five of next year’s draft to grab this guy?

Denis Wotton

I’m not going to comment specifically on Finley because I haven’t seen him play much. I’ve watched him in bits and pieces in games this year against Boston College and Syracuse but not nearly enough to make any kind of accurate assessment. In order to get into the top five the Patriots would have to give up a bunch of picks considering they will be sitting down around 30 or so depending on how the season unfolds. It’s almost impossible to get into the top five from there but there’s always a chance a player could be added into the mix as well, like the rumors we heard of Rob Gronkowski being dealt before the draft last spring. In short, it would be very tough for the Patriots to move up 25 or so spots in the first round.

Paul Perillo

Just wondering, if the defense doesn’t improve much this year, do you think Belichick would explore hiring an outside defensive coordinator outside the system like Jack Del Rio?

Jake Dio

Belichick doesn’t generally hire coaches from outside the organization so adding someone like Del Rio (or Jake Dio??) would be a longshot. Other than Dom Capers back in 2008, high-profile coaches coming to New England from other teams is a rarity. And the defense is showing signs of improvement the last couple of weeks so perhaps this is a moot point anyway.

Paul Perillo

With help needed at running back, what are the chances BB re-signs Ralph Webb who looked pretty good in the preseason?

Ryan London

Webb had some nice moments during the preseason but I think people have an inflated opinion of what he did this summer. Webb carried the ball 31 times for 102 yards for a 3.3-yard average. He did have two rushing touchdowns but overall those numbers are not very good. He spent some time on the practice squad but despite the Patriots lack of healthy bodies at running back he was let go in favor of Kenneth Farrow. The fact that Webb is still unsigned may also be an indication of how other teams view him. I’m not sure he’s capable to filling even a depth role for an NFL team at this point.

Paul Perillo

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