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Ask PFW: Final edition of 2010

A mixed mailbag this week, as the Patriots end the calendar year with a big win in Buffalo.

Do you believe that the team and Logan Mankins can settle down enough to maybe talk about a contract extension or is it to late for that? Since he has returned, the O-Line is a lot better. Sure would like to have him stay. Would like to hear your thoughts. Thanks, guys.Daniel O'Neil

At the beginning of the season, Daniel, I would have said, 'No way. The bridge has been burned and the damage, irreparable.' But since Mankins has returned (earlier than he had to, by the way), he appears to be playing the good soldier and remains a well-liked presence in the Patriots locker room. Furthermore, owner Robert Kraft recently said some positive, encouraging words about Mankins' situation. The team is rolling, and Mankins seems happy.

One other factor to consider: during his holdout, Mankins stayed here, in New England, not in California, where he has another home, as many of us had assumed. Which leads me to believe he wanted to remain a Patriot all along. These facts don't add up to a guarantee that he'll re-sign in the offseason, but there's a greater chance of that now than there was just a couple of months ago.
Erik Scalavino

You guys do great work. I've been reading this for years but never asked a question until now (does that make me a lurker?). I am having so much fun watching the play of the tight ends this year. It brings me back to the glory days of Ben Coates. So here's my question: In this copy-cat league, would you anticipate a lot of teams featuring multiple tight-end sets? Does any other team run a similar offense now? There was a lot of head scratching at draft time over the selections of [Rob] Gronkowski and [Aaron] Hernandez in addition to acquiring Alge Crumpler, but from the other end of the season it's looking like a stroke of genius.
Peter Doran

Let me work my way backwards here. Head scratching? You must have been talking to some clueless folks, Peter, because there was no shock among those of us who cover this team for a living when the Patriots drafted G-Force and H-Bomb (my colleague Andy Hart's nicknames for the rookie duo) or signed Captain Crump (the rookies' nickname for him) as a free agent. New England's tight ends have been atrocious during the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era. So, it was high time they upgraded with some legitimate talent, which they did with this trio of youth and experience.

There are several teams in the NFL with playmaking individuals at tight end, but I haven't seen any that have as much depth at the position as New England does. That makes your first question easy to answer: Yes, teams will try to imitate what New England has done with the position, but without the capable personnel, that will prove difficult, if not impossible.
Erik Scalavino

The third wide receiver slot doesn't seem too productive with Brandon Tate. Any chance of seeing [rookie Taylor] Price on the field.
Jack Perrault

First of all, Tate isn't the third receiver. Maybe on the depth chart, he is, but on the field, in reality, that role has effectively belonged to Hernandez. Tate has made some nice catches this year, but he's still a year or two away from becoming a more consistent element of this offense.

I think you need to give up on Price for this year. Maybe there's a slim chance he'll be active for the regular season finale this Sunday, if the Patriots decide to rest some regulars, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Your best hope for Price is for him to have a strong offseason program and have excellent spring practices (assuming there's no lockout).
Erik Scalavino

What are the odds that Chad Ochocinco comes to New England? Is he a bit too much of a personality for a BB team?
Mark L.

Well, Bill Belichick has had nothing but praise for Ochocinco, both as a player and a person, when asked about him in the past. But think about this for a moment: the Patriots got rid of one prima donna wide receiver this year and the offense got exponentially better. Do you really want to add another one and ruin the great attack that's been built in the latter half of this season? I don't.
Erik Scalavino

We all know that prepping for an opponent starts way before the week before the game. With collecting game film, personnel stats, play calling data, etc., that must be a huge undertaking. Who are the staff that does that for New England? These guys probably get no recognition yet are an extremely important part of the process. With Coach Belichick's obvious attention to detail, do the Patriots have a bigger staff compared to other organizations?
Marc Roy

In addition to the scouting department, there is an entire department in New England's football operations dedicated to collecting and editing game film, just as there is in every other organization in the league. Yes, the work is long and probably tedious at times, but it is essential to the jobs that the head coaches and their assistants do when implementing their game plans each week. Belichick was one of those people when he began his career with the Baltimore Colts. Former assistants like Josh McDaniels also worked their way up the totem pole by starting as film cut-up guys. So, some of them eventually do get the recognition they deserve. It's a great way to learn the intricacies of coaching before you actually get out on the field and do it for real.
Erik Scalavino

Hey guys, happy holidays! Any update on all the injuries to the d-line? Does Mike Wright really have a concussion? 5 weeks seems like a long time to be out for one of those. Also, what do you think of Darius Butler's play in his limited reps? Have you seen any improvement from early on?
Sam Frankel

Well, the injury report lists Wright each week with a concussion, and we have no reason to believe otherwise. It must be more severe than most, however, for him to have been out for so long. We haven't even spotted Wright in the locker room since the Indy game back in November. It's worrisome, actually, but we have no other information to go on.

Butler, meanwhile, has been getting more work recently, but I still feel apprehensive when I see him on the field.
Erik Scalavino

Hi Guys and Merry christmas for all of you. I'd like to know what do you think of the comeback of Brandon Spikes. Do you think that he could be a starter in the postseason with Jerod Mayo as ILB, or will [Gary] Guyton start? I'm also interested in the future of Eric Moore. He had some good plays in the last couple of weeks. What do you think of his future as a patriot? Thanks.
Jozsef Bakk, Hungary

Yes, Spikes will return to his starting role beside Mayo when the playoffs arrive. You've seen how soft the Patriots have been against the run lately, due to the thinning of the defensive line due to injury and the absence of Spikes, who's played his best against the run. Guyton is more of a free-roving playmaker, not an interior run-stuffer. But, as always, the personnel decisions will be game-plan related, meaning if Belichick feels a particular player is better suited to play more snaps against a particular opponent, then that player will see more of the field on that day. In general, though, I expect to see plenty of Spikes in the postseason.

Moore has been a pleasant surprise. He's picked up the defense fairly quickly and is displaying a knack for being around the football and making plays. If he keeps this up, there's every reason to believe he'll be invited back next season.
Erik Scalavino

Hey Guys, I love reading your responses to our questions each week. While reading this week addition, I had an interesting though that might be fun to see with Ask PFW. Have two or more of you respond to each question and maybe to make it even more fun, each one submits their answers without seeing anyone else's answers. Thanks.Patrick Connolly

Thanks for the advice, Patrick. We actually do something similar to your idea during the offseason. It's called 'Debate Friday,' when, each week, we pick a timely topic to discuss and post it on We also include a poll so readers can take part by voting for the more convincing argument.

P.S. Any relation to Dan?
Erik Scalavino

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