Is Kyle Van Noy really our best option at edge defender opposite Trey Flowers? He struggles to get off blocks vs. the run and is non-existent as a pass rusher.
Van Noy has been pretty active in the early part of the season, although I would agree with you that the Chiefs game was not one of his better efforts. He has shown some speed and versatility to his game and I don't agree that he has been non-existent as a pass rusher. He won't remind anyone of Khalil Mack coming off the edge, but he has put some heat on the passer at times. He also generally does a pretty good job of setting the edge. Also, it's not like the Patriots are loaded with options on the edge. Adrian Clayborn has been relatively quiet and has been used as a part-time player. Beyond Clayborn, I'm not sure the Patriots have any other options on the edge that I like more than Van Noy.
Is it just me or did the Patriots defense completely fall apart in the second half of the Kansas City game? Do you think the defense will improve anymore this season or is this going to be another season where we fall short in the Super Bowl because our defense is not good? I feel like six games is enough time to work out kinks.
The defense definitely struggled against the Chiefs – really for the entire game but especially in the 31-point second half. Really it has been an ongoing problem the team has dealt with for most of the last decade at least. The Patriots formula for success going back to 2007 has been overwhelming teams with offense, and honestly that's the way the game is played today. I'm not trying to be the typical team-oriented media guy by overlooking the problems on defense. They exist. The front doesn't get much pressure and the secondary struggles to cover. They've allowed too many big plays and have even been inconsistent stopping the run. My feeling is a lot of these shortcomings won't matter as long as the offense continues to play as it has for the last decade as well. There's always a chance you could lose a shootout – it happened in the Super Bowl and it almost happened against the Chiefs – but more often than not the offense will lead the way.
Am I the only one who thinks Devin McCourty is far from his supposed level of performance (and salary cap $12M)? In the Super Bowl he was not good, but since season started it's worse. He is responsible basically of at least three TDs against the Chiefs.
McCourty is definitely struggling and you are correct to go back to last year because I didn't think he was particularly good then either. He looks a little slow to react at times and has had trouble in coverage. The funny thing is he still appears to have excellent straight-line speed, as is evidence by his ability to run down players in the open field at times. The problem is he's had to do that too often this season, and his quickness may not be what it once was either. I'm not sure what the solution is because the Patriots don't have any better options. Perhaps a trade for a safety (Oakland reportedly is interested in dealing Karl Joseph) could be coming, but even then it would be hard to just plug a new guy on the fly. McCourty needs to play more consistently.
After being beaten in Week 2 by the Jags, I accepted that we were outplayed by a good team. Since then I have been utterly frustrated with their performance. Why does Blake Bortles only remember how to be a decent QB against the Pats?
Not sure there's anything to put a finger on for this one but it's tough to argue with you. Bortles at best is a mediocre quarterback – and more likely isn't even at that level – yet has played well against the Patriots in his last two games against them. Certainly the Patriots defense isn't the best in the league but is it really any worse than most other teams? Probably not, yet it seems Bortles doesn't perform as well against most of these other teams. Take Kansas City as an example. The Chiefs have the worst defense in football statistically yet they hounded Bortles two weeks ago and made him look terrible. It's hard to imagine the Patriots couldn't do the same thing, but they haven't when given the chance.
Why don't we prepare for the future by making a trade offer for Derek Carr? The Raiders are a mess with Jon Gruden in charge, so we may be able to get him.
I'm not sure how I feel about Carr at this stage of his career. Two years ago it looked like he was on track to become a solid quarterback. He was playing at an MVP level and then he broke his leg and hasn't been the same over the past year-plus. He looks jittery in the pocket and hasn't been able to get the ball downfield at all. Gruden definitely seems frustrated with him at times so I understand why you suggest making a run at him, but I'm not sure he would be worth it. He's still a young quarterback with potential so the Raiders wouldn't just give him away. How's that for a definite maybe … I know that's pathetic. I'll say pass on Carr, but I understand the interest.
This year's kickoff coverage has not been up to the Patriots usual standards. In addition, the pooch/squib kicks always seem to backfire. With this in mind, why wouldn't Bill Belichick just opt for Stephen Gostkowski to bang it for the touchback? I would rather play it safe and make the opposition have to drive 75 yards.
East Hanover, N.J.
I agree 100 percent with this assessment. The Patriots had some success hanging kicks high and short last season at times and were able to keep returners inside the 25. This season it seems Gostkowski is struggling a bit with his placement and has either put it in the end zone (where returners are wisely taking the touchback) and not hanging it as high and allowing returns. The changes in the coverage rules also likely play a part but there's no question that the coverage needs to improve. Teams have routinely made it past the 25 and the Kansas City game was the most glaring example.
With Oakland rumored to be shopping Amari Cooper and Karl Joseph around, do you see the Patriots making a move? Yes, the cost will be high - a first round pick. But Cooper is a proven receiver who will do well with Brady.
I have no real interest in Cooper. I think he's a trick or treat receiver who has ability but has never really consistently put it together. I wouldn't even consider giving up a first-round pick for him and I doubt anyone else would, either. I'd give him a shot if the price was right – maybe a late-round pick – but with Julian Edelman back and Josh Gordon getting more comfortable each week I don't really see the need to use any valuable resources to acquire Cooper as a depth piece. Joseph is more interesting to me, but I also wonder why the Raiders would be so interested in moving a young player with two more years of control. He might add some speed and depth to the safety position if healthy but I must admit I'm not up to speed on the Raiders performance this season in the secondary. So it's quite possible that Gruden wants to move Joseph because he hasn't played well. Sometimes the idea of a player (both guys are former first-round picks) exceeds the actual value that he brings. Something tells me that's the case here. But given the lack of depth in the secondary I'd take a shot with Joseph – again, if the price is right.
Our defensive line seems to be unable to bring pressure consistently. Is this something you can see changing?
I feel the best we can hope for in terms of pressure is getting some timely heat on the quarterback. This has happened occasionally this season, like against the Chiefs on one of the plays where Patrick Mahomes missed Travis Kelce it was due to some pressure making him throw the ball before he wanted to. I don't see the pressure rising significantly on a consistent basis because I don't think the Patriots have many talented pass rushers who require special attention for the opposition. But if Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn and Deatrich Wise, and perhaps the linebackers can occasionally make quarterbacks throw the ball sooner than they want in key spots I think the defense will improve.
Can you please comment on the importance of the fullback on the Patriots running back strategies? For me, I think that James Develin was doing an excellent job opening holes for Sony Michel. What do you think about it?
Gerson Beraldo Matter
I thought Develin was outstanding against Kansas City, consistently carving out space for Michel by clearing out the linebackers. This was especially true near the goal line on Michel's two touchdown runs. Develin has been a valuable part of the offense for several years and his contributions have not gone unnoticed. He provides a physicality to the team and he's one of the more respected players in the locker room.
After seeing what Tyreek Hill did to us with his speed and explosiveness I think Keion Crossen will be very key in covering Hill if we see the Chiefs again in the playoffs. On a related note, I realize our defense needs more focus at the moment but what if we had Crossen play WR on certain packages. Brady loves taking deep shots and having a burner like Crossen running vertical or post routes could be a nice hidden weapon. If anything, it draws more attention away from Gordon, Edelman, Hogan, Gronk etc. on underneath routes. I thought Dorsett or Patterson would be that guy to stretch the secondary but we just haven't seen it and probably never will. Your thoughts?
I understand the Crossen has exceptional speed but that isn't the only thing required to provide a deep threat in the passing game. He never played offense in his college career and in fact had minimal experience as a returner, so despite that blazing speed there's nothing to indicate he could make an impact on offense. Now, given his obviously physical traits, if Belichick wanted to tinker with something like that I'd be curious to see how it went. But there's nothing to suggest he'd be capable of making such a move. And as far as Crossen being able to handle Hill in a rematch, that would scare me to death. The rookie has barely played let alone been tasked with such a difficult assignment as chasing Hill, who Patriots defenders to a man said was the fastest player they've ever faced. I like the outside-the-box thinking but I'm not sure about this one.
I read an article last week suggesting one player each team should trade and Dorsett was the Patriot mentioned. I dismissed it at first, thinking even if Gordon and Edelman eat into his targets, he still has a role to play even as injury or a Gordon relapse insurance. But after he had no targets against the Chiefs, I'm starting to think it's the type of move Belichick makes. There are teams out there desperate for receiver help and Dorsett's value is only going to fall with less targets, and we know Bill loves value! Do you think it could happen?
There's no way you're getting me to say that Belichick would never do something so the short answer to your question is yes, it could happen. I don't think it will and part of the reason is what you said. At this stage I believe the wide receiver situation is solid with Edelman, Gordon and Hogan to go with Dorsett and Patterson. That's solid but also would look a lot different without one of the top guys. So if they traded Dorsett and then Edelman got hurt, I think we'd be back where we were in September, which is to say severely lacking in weapons. I'd keep this group as is and hope they stay healthy.
Jacksonville's defense has been torched for 40 points three times in their last nine games. We know their team is loaded with superb talent but have the passing rules and roughing rules become so anti-defense, that it almost doesn't make sense to spend mega dollars on defenses anymore?
This is an interesting look at the game today, and although it's a rather simplistic outlook on what is likely a much more layered situation I largely agree with it. In fact I've been arguing this for a while … in today's NFL it's very difficult to consistently play top-notch defense. You see teams do it in the short-term like Denver in 2015 and Seattle in 2014 or even Minnesota last year. But generally those teams have a tough time continuing that level of play on defense, especially when they don't have the offense to augment it. That's why I feel the teams with the best offenses are always the ones I worry most about when it comes to the Patriots. You aren't beating Brady 17-13 very often. In order to consistently compete, you need to score. And to your point it doesn't always make a lot of sense to invest heavily on defense for that reason. Again, that's a simplistic analysis but it's just very tough to consistently hold teams under 25 on a weekly basis unless the other team has no offense/quarterback.
Can Eric Rowe Play safety? He is a below average cornerback but big enough to play safety. Devin McCourty has gotten old and slow and a liability this year?
I actually disagree with your assessment of Rowe. He's not a star or anything but he's not a below average corner. But to answer your question, yes, he can and has played safety. He has the size and he's pretty physical as well. He played back there at times in college at Utah. Rowe's biggest problem has been staying healthy, though. Until that happens he can't carve out any kind of consistent role on defense.
Is it just me or did the defense leave Tyreek Hill wide open on purpose for that late quarter TD tonight? Maybe I'm giving the hooded one too much credit, but I felt better about Brady's chances of managing the clock and moving into field goal range than about the D's odds of stopping Mahomes with the game on the line. It wouldn't be out of character for BB, but then again, that play wasn't exactly out of character for the defense tonight either.
I find it awfully tough to believe that Belichick allowed a 75-yard touchdown on purpose. In fact, Duron Harmon was actually behind Hill on the play but was simply unable to make the tackle and allowed Hill get past him. The clock really wasn't a factor at the time since both teams were moving the ball so easily and effectively. I actually thought the quick score might have benefitted the Chiefs at the time because I felt certain the Patriots would move into field goal range but feared they might have trouble milking that extra time off the clock. Turned out it was not tough at all, but in terms of the final drive I would have felt better had Brady only had a minute or so left rather than more than three minutes just because I feel it would be easier to move quickly and not worry about leaving any time for the Chiefs. But the offenses were so good it didn't matter.