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Ask PFW: Christmas Eve edition

It was a quiet night before Christmas in this week's PFW mailbag.

Hi. Patriots fan from Montana here. (I get a lot of crap from Denver and Seahawk fans.) My biggest concern this year was getting in the red zone, and it seemed Gronkowski was our only consistent answer. Gronk is a dominant force on the field, but if he can't stay healthy, how valuable can he be to a team? The Pats are definitely not playing their best football this year – most games it seems are won in the final minute. Unless Belichick can find a way to punch it into the end zone, I don't know how they have a chance in the playoffs. I agree they need to run the ball more, especially in the red zone and keep the defense honest. Was Gronk our only real red zone player? Teresa Gonzales

Yes, Gronk is a an unstoppable force, particularly in the red zone, but he's not the only Patriot who can make a positive difference down there. His fumbling issues aside, Stevan Ridley has proven to be more than capable of scoring from close range, as has fellow ball carrier LeGarrette Blount. I'm also very confident in wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola in those situations. There's no denying that this Patriots offense is less potent without Gronk, but he's not the only option the team has. Erik Scalavino

How involved in the offense is Michael Hoomanawanui going to be? Do you think he can make some plays because of Gronk being out? Mike Sears

Can you explain the reluctance of the Patriots to use Hooman as a receiving TE. He seems to perform very well when called upon and gets good yardage after the catch. With no other good receiving TEs on the staff I would expect more attempts his way. Pat Mackey

Hooman has been a pleasant surprise since arriving here last season. He's developed very nicely into a solid player – one who originally was looked at more as a blocker, but has since shown the ability to make plays in the passing game as well. Gronk's absence won't do much to change how the Patriots employ Hooman, however. They're not using him any differently now than they were when Gronk wasn't playing the early part of the season. He's a good, reliable player, but the team has other options – namely Edelman, Amendola, and (at times) rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, as well as running back Shane Vereen.

I would much rather see the ball being fed to those guys as much as possible, but I have faith, too, in Hooman whenever passes are thrown his way. I don't see Hooman's supporting role as a reluctance on the part of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to showcase him. Quite the contrary. As we saw in the recent loss to Miami, when the game was on the line, of the guys to be targeted in the end zone by Tom Brady was none other than Hooman. He didn't make the play in that situation (one could argue he should've drawn a pass interference penalty against the Dolphins), but the fact that he was on the field and being trusted with the ball speaks volumes about what this team thinks of his abilities. Erik Scalavino


With Gronk out for the year, do you think Bill would consider putting Chandler Jones in as a TE when the offence is in the red zone area. It work quit well for them when they put Mike in years back.* *John Harmon

It's never wise to say "never" with Bill Belichick, but there are certain scenarios that seem implausible, even for him. This would be one such case. Jones is this team's premier pass rusher, and, as such, far too valuable a component of the defense. Making him play both ways would expose him to a greater risk of injury, and that's something the team cannot afford.

Also, there's absolutely no evidence to suggest that Jones is competent enough to perform the role of tight end, ala Mike Vrabel back in the day. If Jones were known to possess Vrabel-like skill in catching the football, perhaps I'd be more open to the idea. But as it stands, no, I don't see Jones playing tight end anytime soon. Erik Scalavino

Is Jerod Mayo going to play during the 2014 season? Destiny Peabody

Funny you should mention him, as I just saw him in the locker room on Christmas Eve – first appearance in there during media period since he was hurt earlier this season. I fully expect Mayo, who's on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle, to return to the field at some point in 2014, yes. Whether that's as early as OTAs and mini-camp or later in training camp, I'm not sure, but he'll be back next season. Erik Scalavino

Who did Tom Brady throw his first TD pass to? Also, who did Drew Bledsoe throw his last TD pass to (as a Patriot)? Kyle L.

This is a great trivia question, Kyle! We put our heads together in the PFW office the other day and came up with this answer: Brady's first TD toss was a 21-yarder against the San Diego Chargers, in a home game at Gillette Stadium, to – believe it or not – Terry Glenn, in one of his final appearances as a Patriot. Bledsoe, meantime, threw his last touchdown as a Patriot later that season. In the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh, Bledsoe came on in relief of an injured Brady and threw that famous corner-of-the-end-zone pass to David Patten, which helped the team get back to the Super Bowl. Erik Scalavino

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