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Patriots Replay Fri May 29 | 12:00 AM - 11:58 PM

Ask PFW: How would you approach the offensive line?

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Hey PFW crew, David from Denmark. Been a Pats fan for several years. If you had the Patriots in the off season how would you approach the offensive line? Everyone can see what we are doing now is not the answer, which players/changes would you have done?* *David Jensen

First, I would not have traded Logan Mankins. I'd have left Ryan Wendell at center and Dan Connolly at right guard. I'd have done what New England did do with its rookie center, Bryan Stork, and start him as soon as he was healthy enough to do so. That would have minimized the upheaval at the position that we saw throughout September. Oh, and I'd have asked Dante Scarnecchia to leave me his phone number so I could pick his brain whenever I needed an informed, o-line-related opinion or advice. Erik Scalavino

I have two questions: 1. What do you think this defense will look like when [CB Brandon] Browner comes back? 2. Will the Patriots trade for a down the field receiver or just keep [Aaron] Dobson or possibly Brian Tyms? Vikram Sakotai

I don't expect the defense to look all that different when Browner is activated. Maybe the unit will incur more penalties for illegal contact, if you can even imagine that, but otherwise, I don't see Browner making all that big a difference. He'll be part of the cornerback rotation, based on matchups week-to-week. Tyms certainly has more of a chance now that Kenbrell Thompkins has been released. Erik Scalavino

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What is BB doing? He always says he is doing what is best for the team to win, but that seems to be the opposite of what he is actually doing. I personally, as a fan who spends his hard-earned money supporting this team, am becoming agitated with what he is doing. Please explain this latest move with Thompkins to bring up a practice squad player. This does not seem like a move to help the team but rather another move to upset Brady. Thanks you guys are the best.* *James DeMichael

I like your passion, James. The head coach of this team is an imperfect human being, just like the rest of us, and like you said, it's your money that's at stake here. You have every right to question and criticize how your fan dollars are being funneled to the team and affecting the product on the field.

In the Thompkins case specifically, I can understand Belichick's rationale. He had a starting linebacker, Dont'a Hightower, who wasn't going to play versus Cincinnati because of a knee injury, and the linebacker corps was already woefully thin. So, he brought up a guy who's been in the system over a year and could play some special teams in place of Hightower's understudy. The coach chose to make room by letting go a player – Thompkins – who was having trouble being active on game days already. Perfectly logical move with little collateral damage. Erik Scalavino

Hey guys! While I am happy with the win and the overall improvement I don't think WR and pass rush is good enough to beat teams like Denver. Do you see any trades to help? Mike Koehl

It's always difficult to predict trade scenarios in the NFL. I agree that the positions you mentioned could use talent infusions, but on the defensive side, there's also a scheme change that needs to take place. This is a 4-3 personnel team that's being forced to play a 3-4. But that aside, New England had its chance to acquire a top-flight pass rusher this offseason and elected not to. I don't expect them to make any trades for such talent now because anyone of value has already signed big, long-term free agent deals this offseason. Wide receiver is a more likely option for a trade, but even then, I'm not putting a high probability on it. Players who've been on this team for a year or more still aren't completely "on the same page," as they say, with their quarterback. It would be unrealistic to assume that a player brought in mid-season could catch on immediately. Erik Scalavino

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Hey guys! Thanks for all your great work, you give great information on the Patriots and I enjoy reading your stuff. Everyone wants to question the players' performance and rightfully so. But my question to you is, how would you grade the coaching staff's performance thus far? Coach Belichick, McDaniels, Patricia and so on?* *Ajay Salvesen

After the first quarter of the season, I'd have to say C . The W-L record was 2-2 – average – there were still several positions with insecure personnel (o-line, wide receiver, second safety), and a front seven that was being asked to do things it can't be expected to do often with great success (see previous answer regarding 3-4). However, this is a staff that has won double-digit games for how many years now? It deserves a measure of respect for that, hence the "plus" in their average grade. Much is left to be desired overall from the head coach on down. Thankfully, there's a whole lot of football left for them to improve their grades. Erik Scalavino

Is a team allowed to pick up a player off of another team's practice squad and place him on their active roster? I am specifically looking at New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandon Coleman. Before his last year at Rutgers he was supposed to be one of the top receivers in all of college football, but injuries hindered his production. However, with his size and speed I believe he could be the deep threat the Patriots are looking for. Rory Harwood

Yes, NFL teams are allowed to do what you just suggested. In fact, the Patriots just did this a couple of weeks ago with defensive lineman Casey Walker, who was on Carolina's practice squad and is now on New England's 53. Such moves happen frequently during the regular season. Rarely, though, do they result in the acquired player being a truly impactful force, like you're expecting this Coleman fellow to be. I wouldn't hold my breath, Rory. If Coleman were that good, he wouldn't be languishing on someone else's practice squad right now. Erik Scalavino

I LOVE the Patriots and am so distressed about the season to date. All the Brady to the bench talk is ridiculous. We need to block. My question is, why not take a leap and sign Eric Winston (multiple Pro Bowler), and, hold your breath, Richie Incognito (ala Corey Dillon, etc). Isn't it worth a shot? The talent level would be upgraded substantially. Michael McDonough

Winston is a guy I thought might be a free agent candidate this offseason, though not as a starter. And Incognito is the Brandon Lloyd of offensive lineman: an overrated player who's more trouble on and off the field than he's worth. Why do you think he's played for so many different NFL teams? If he was that good, he wouldn't be a journeyman. The Patriots could have used a talented vet like Winston, but are much better off without the likes of Incognito, no matter how dire the straits might look there in the offensive trenches. *Erik Scalavino

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