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Ask PFW: Dealing with the loss of Dion Lewis

With Dion Lewis injury, the question is, who will be Tom Brady's outlet for quick passes out of the backfield? I wonder if LeGarrette Blount can be catching passes as well as doing traditional RB duty? I saw him do it in a limited way. I just don't see James White being on the field while a better player – a receiver or TE is on the bench especially on critical downs. I also wonder if Brandon Bolden's TD catch shows that he can do a lot more of it?

Stan C.

We all know that in all likelihood no one player will replace Lewis or replicate his contributions. It will be a group effort. But the next guy in line for the passing back duties is clearly White. The 2014 fourth-round pick was drafted for that role, to the point that Bill Belichick drew a comparison between him and Shane Vereen on draft weekend. White had a solid summer and impressive preseason. He's not nearly as electric as Lewis, but can still make people miss and certainly ran the ball at Wisconsin. If he's not going to fill in now, then I don't really understand when he would. Blount is not a pass catcher. He's not going to fulfill the pass-catching duties that are needed in the role in the Patriots spread sets. Bolden can do the job on a limited basis, but has never proven healthy enough or worthy taking the role on a full-time basis. I think the coaches love him as a core special teamer and reliable backup, but don't get the vibe they embrace the idea of his role increasing to more than that on a regular basis. From where I see things, it's time for White to do his job. It's now or maybe never.

Andy Hart

With the loss of Deion Lewis do you think the Pats might take look at ex-Steelers RB Dri Archer from Kent St.?

Jason Pacheco

Take a look? Sure. Dive all in to sign him and give in a key role in Brady's offense? No. He's more of a speed-based gimmick than a proven football player or passing back. He can return kicks, but didn't have a single carry or catch for Pittsburgh this year before his release. From afar, I also don't like that he turned down a reported 10 teams' offers to join their practice squad, including Pittsburgh, after the Steelers released him. Does he think he's too good as a former third-round pick for a practice squad? That rubs me the wrong way. Just doesn't sound like the type of player who could come in midseason and become a trusted Brady weapon and pass protector. I just don't see it. Kicker returner? Yes. Running back? No.

Andy Hart

With Neon Dion out for the year, don't you think it's time for Josh to bury the hatchet and sign Peyton Hillis? I think he's still out there and seemed reliable last year with the Giants.

Bill Hughes

First, Josh McDaniels doesn't sign players, Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio make those decisions. Second, Hillis hasn't been an active pass catcher since his days with the Browns in 2011. Third, I'm not really aware of any confirmed issues that McDaniels had with Hillis. Fourth, I don't think he would really help the Patriots in any way at this point.

Andy Hart

Why was the Patriots game plan so bizarre against the redskins? Despite the injuries it looked like we were all over the place in our play calls. Don't you think?

Dennis Siddons

At some point, with the injuries and an offensive line that essentially include four centers, I think McDaniels and Belichick took a conservative approach to run the ball at a bad run defense and get out with a victory. It was a unique game against a clearly inferior football team. I wouldn't read too much into it.

Andy Hart

Can a player like Amendola take some snaps at RB, and help replace the production from Lewis? Can that be an option?

Albert Gonzalez

While I'm not sure we'll see Amendola take many snaps in the backfield, if any at all, I do think he's an option to see his role increase a bit after the Lewis injury. In the first half of the season it seemed that Brady's top three options, in some order, were Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Lewis. White will likely assume the passing back role, but may not slide into a spot in which he's one of Brady's top three trusted options. That could open up more reps, reads and catches for Amendola, Brandon LaFell or even Scott Chandler. And, if White struggles in any way to take advantage of his chances in the backfield, then you could see extreme measures like Edelman or Amendola lining up there. But I don't think we're at that point yet in the process.

Andy Hart

If the Patriots and the Bengals go undefeated, not saying it will happen but suppose it does, who gets the number 1 seed?

Dave

If that were the case, I believe the tie would be broken on strength of victory. That means it would go to the team whose opponents had better combined winning percentage over the course of the season. That number doesn't play out until all the games for the season have been played. Right now, the Patriots would win that tie based on a current strength of victory that's .424 as opposed to .388 for the Bengals. But that changes each week through the conclusion of the season. It would certainly be interesting to see it play out that way, though!

Andy Hart

Everyone is going to ask about our offensive line and running backs but what about Rob Gronkowski? Why does he still have that sleeve and heavy brace on and should we be concerned about his arm still? And why doesn't Tommy throw Gronk the ball? I think he is hurt.

Charlie Wilburn

I am not aware of any injury for Gronkowski. I don't think he looks hurt, either. The brace is here to stay. It protects his twice-broken arm from any more issues and is simply a part of his normal game-day attire at this point. I also think any limitation to his production – and he sets the bar so high that a solid day for any normal tight end is seen as a down day for Gronk! – is due to the problems on the line and the fact that he's been asked to stay in and block more in some games this season, like in Dallas and last week against the Redskins. The Patriots have a bunch of health issues and production question marks right now, but Gronkowski is not one of them.

Andy Hart

I'm glad the team won, but what a peculiar game on Sunday? We saw the onside kick, a lot of screen passes, an end around, going deep for the fun of it, and things like that. Dare I say it looked as if the Patriots had better things to do on Sunday than play this game, so they opted to "play games" on the field and get it over with. Why was the dynamics of this game so lackadaisical and whimsical even?

Shawn McMickle

While I don't think lackadaisical is the right description, I do think there was a bit of an opening up of the playbook early on against the Redskins. I won't say the Patriots were looking past Washington or treating it like a preseason game, as I've heard some people describe it. But I do think there was an effort to try a lot of things early on and maybe use it as a chance to get some things on tape in a way that might benefit the team down the road. That all changed, though, after the injury to Sebastian Vollmer (head) and then loss of Lewis. Then it was tightened up a bit a more conservative approach to get the win and move on.

Andy Hart

Hey guys, with all the injuries to the offensive linemen I keep expecting to see an announcement of a free agent OT picked up. How late into the week do you think they can afford to go before it's too late to be able to play this week?

S Cro

I think it's already too late to pick up a guy off the street, with no history in the New England offense and expect him to play this week. The team did add a couple linemen to the practice squad, though. I also think there is a chance that we see Marcus Cannon (toe) return to practice, which would boost the depth at tackle. There is also a chance that tight end Michael Williams, a 300-plus pounder who was playing tackle this summer in Detroit, gets practice reps at the position. And the most likely addition to the roster at tackle would be the call-up of a practice squader, such as Blaine Clausell. It's not ideal, but it's probably more likely than a guy coming in off the street and being ready to help in any way at all.

Andy Hart

Do you guys rue the missed opportunity to trade for help on the o-line or do you see any free agents coming in to help? Maybe coax someone out of retirement?

Thanks
Mark

The situation at tackle might be looked at differently if the trading deadline had not passed last week. Then the team may have been able to add a proven, experienced veteran at a relatively low cost to help out the depth at the position. But that's not an option. And any guy that's on the street right now, given a pretty severe lack of tackle depth across the league, is probably not a great option, either. It's why it's important for Cannon to get healthy, Vollmer to get back as soon as possible and the rest of Dave DeGuglielmo's options to get up to game-ready status ASAP.

Andy Hart

I'm big fan from Brazil, and I heard that Brazil has one of the biggest official Patriots fan clubs worldwide. (American) Football in Brazil is an emerging market, what is the possibility in a near future that we have preseason or pro ball game here??

Lucas Carvalho

Given the NFL's plans to hold more international games in places other than just London and Canada, I think there is a decent chance that South America, and Brazil in particular, could be in the mix for at least a preseason game. There is already talk of places like Germany and Mexico. There are a lot of big sporting events – World Cup and Olympics – that have probably put in place avenues to help host an NFL game. Keep your fingers crossed, but I don't think it's a crazy idea. And with Tom Brady's wife, Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen, a part of the mix, maybe the Patriots would be just the team to fly south and put on a show for its Brazilian fans!

Andy Hart

I would prefer losing a game in the regular season than going for the next undefeated one. Pressure would grow and grow, everybody talking about a 19:0. We saw it last year: the brutal loss in KC woke them up. Thoughts?

Regards from a long time fan from Germany, keep up the good work!

Thorsten Geil

This is a common theory among fans and media alike. It's not one I believe in. I think a team plays each game to win and makes decisions in the best interest of the team each week. (Right Bill!?) While injuries and player safety in the final weeks are always a consideration, I can't see the Patriots just throwing a game to alleviate pressure. I don't think it works that way. I also don't think they lost Super Bowl XLII because they were undefeated or feeling the pressure of the undefeated record. They had a bad day and got beaten by a team that had a better day. And I don't think this Patriots team needs any kind of wakeup call. The mission is obvious and being executed well so far. Steady is the course.

Andy Hart

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