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Ask PFW: Hurtin' for Certain

Injuries are starting to pile up for the Patriots and fans are wondering about potential changes down the road. That and more in this week's edition of "Ask PFW."


Can the Patriots sign Aqib Talib to a multi-year deal right now or do they have to wait until the end of the year? I think he has been as valuable, if not more so, than Tom Brady. Since Brady took less money do you think they will sign Talib?
Monty B.

The Patriots can re-sign Talib at any time and I agree with you that he's been the team's most valuable player so far. Whether the Patriots decide to do so before the end of the year remains to be seen, but it is an option. I don't believe Brady's extension won't have much of a bearing on Talib's potential deal, though. Brady's decision won't likely factor into Talib's when he's deciding what to do. If he wants to stay and is willing to do so at less than he could get in free agency, he will. But oftentimes players want to hit the open market to find the best deal. I don't know what Talib will think, and with his hip bothering perhaps that may lead him to sign earlier in an effort to play it safe. His future will be very interesting.
Paul Perillo

If Rob Gronkowski doesn't play this week, should the Pats place him on IR? I feel he is becoming a distraction, we are 5-1 without him, so he is hardly missed. I realize it has been a struggle, but so be it.
Bob Sears

The only way he would be placed on IR is if the injury prevents him from playing moving forward. We all know the situation at this point. He's still waiting to receive full medical clearance. If that doesn't change in the next few weeks, perhaps they'll put him on injured reserve. But I don't think they'll do that because of any distraction, and I certainly don't think they haven't missed him. The offense hasn't been anywhere near as consistent as it needs to be and nobody will convince me a healthy Gronkowski wouldn't change that. They need him and I don't expect him to wind up on IR.
Paul Perillo

I'm a huge stats guy. When watching the New Orleans game, I thought I saw Chandler Jones record two sacks. But on it only posts one for the entire team. I also thought I saw them short Jones a sack in a previous game. Isn't anytime the QB goes down behind the line of scrimmage a sack?
Mike Rioux

To answer the last part, actually no. If the quarterback is deemed to be a runner it goes as a tackle for loss and not a sack. Drew Brees was trying to hit a naked bootleg on the last third down for the Saints and Jones managed to trip him up. But he was running the ball so it does not go down as a sack. I'm not sure what other instance you are referring to with regard to Jones but my guess would be it was a similar situation. I know Cincy's Andy Dalton attempted a few runs for the Bengals and Jones' tackle behind the line similarly wouldn't go down as a sack. Either way the tackle of Brees represented a huge play to allow the Patriots to get the ball back.
Paul Perillo


Between Tom Brady's interception and his game-winning touchdown I began to reflect that Brady's form has been very off this season, under-throwing receivers, making bad reads (the pick a prime example) and calling odd audibles (3 red zones off tackle runs in a row). Is this an overreaction, or will we see No. 12 back to his best when the receivers start to blend in more, and maybe some improved play-calling?**
Alex Marr

Although far from a complete performance I think the Saints victory was the most satisfying of the season, what a roller coaster from the interception to that vintage Brady drive for the win. I was just wondering what your take was on the goal line series earlier in the game, we had the ball on the Saints 1-yard line and ran the ball twice with no effect, on third-and-goal when they lined up it appeared that Brady changed the play and we ran the ball and again came up short.
Rob Masters

I think this is a huge overreaction. Brady hasn't been perfect this season. Some of that has been of his doing to be certain. I thought he missed an open Danny Amendola for a potential big play deep down the seam against the Saints as an example. But he also has been sharper than his stats would show. The receivers have consistently dropped passes all year, and his top target Rob Gronkowski has been on the shelf all year. As for play-calling, I agree that the third down run in the fourth quarter against the Saints appeared to be an audible and one that I didn't like. But if that was the case, clearly Brady saw something in the defense that led him to believe a run would be productive. Sometimes you miss on those and that may have been one of those cases. To suggest Brady is the problem on offense, however, is misguided.

As for the summation of the goal-line series, first, it was first-and-goal at the 9 and Stevan Ridley was stuffed for no gain. Then on second down Brandon Bolden ran 5 yards to the 4. On third-and-goal, Brady appeared to check to the run and Bolden lost a yard. This is the play I disagreed with and obviously you guys did as well. But like I said, Brady has checked out of plays numerous times during his career and done so effectively. If that's what happened on this play, it didn't work but I don't want him to stop doing it.
Paul Perillo

What do you think of Adrian Wilson coming off IR next week vs. Jets?
Sonny Chandler

Wilson was placed on season-ending injured reserve and is not eligible to play for the Patriots in 2013. Shane Vereen is on IR-DFR, which means after eight weeks he's eligible for a return. But teams are only allowed to use that designation for one player, and it was Vereen and not Wilson.
Paul Perillo


If I were coach of the Pats, here are the changes I would make: Stevan Ridley plays 80 percent of the snaps, move Dan Connolly to center and start Marcus Cannon at RG, Josh Boyce as primary kick returner and give him more opportunities at WR, play Jamie Collins more and sub-out Brandon Spikes, and hold Gronkowski out until after the bye week. I think this would give us the best chance to win. It would give the most talented and productive players more opportunities. Gronk would presumably be fully recovered and hopefully mentally ready. What are your thoughts?**
Melvino Birdie

I don't like your offensive line change for starters. We saw a glimpse of Cannon in the lineup against the Saints and Brady was sacked a season-high five times. Connolly was out with a concussion so he wasn't at center, but I feel Ryan Wendell and Connolly is the team's best combination in my opinion. I do agree with your assessment of Boyce. I feel he should be given more opportunities to make plays, whether that be as a kick returner or wide receiver. I feel the team should do more to try to get the ball in his hands in space. Gronkowski should return as soon as is humanly possible. Once he's ready physically I want him on the field. I'm not interested in holding him back if he's ready. The other moves will be game plan oriented. Ridley can be the lead back one week and that could change based on a matchup. Same with Spikes and Collins. I'd prefer to see more of Ridley on a regular basis regardless because I feel he's the team's best ball carrier, but that's not always how Belichick does things.
Paul Perillo

Considering the offensive line has struggled at times this season, giving up many sacks and pressuring Tom Brady into bad throws, how come the Patriots let Brian Waters walk to Dallas where he has solidified their line?
Ewan Canning

Waters didn't want to play for New England and made it clear he would remain retired unless he got a chance to play in his home state of Texas. So, the Patriots could have continued to maintain his rights but he would not have played for them and solidified their line. Waters would have stayed retired.
Paul Perillo

Why are we not seeing much more of Josh Boyce?
Donny Oldengarm

As I just mentioned, I too would like to see more of Boyce, but I can only assume the rookie isn't performing well enough in practice in order to get those opportunities. Boyce has clearly been No. 3 in the pecking order among the rookie wideouts since training camp, and the fact that he's now a healthy scratch tells me that's still the case. I admit that I'm intrigued by his speed and athleticism but if he's not earning a role I don't want to just give him one. There's still a lot of season left, though, so perhaps Boyce can still emerge.
Paul Perillo


Just wondering if you think it would be a good idea for the Patriots to explore either having Danny Amendola or Julian Edelman line up in the backfield on pass plays so the team could keep both Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins on the field at the same time? And if they were to do that wouldn't it create matchup nightmares because Kenbrell and Aaron could stretch the field with either Edelman or Amendola in slot with the other in the backfield and you could have a tight end or fullback in as an extra blocker? I think that could do a lot for the offense because whoever is in the backfield would most likely draw a linebacker in coverage.**
Kealand McKinnon

I'm not sure I completely understand what it is you're trying to do with this lineup. It sounds like you want four wide receivers on the field at the same time in Amendola, Edelman, Dobson and Thompkins. If that's the case defenses aren't going to put linebackers against wide receivers consistently. Sometimes that happens when teams get caught with the wrong personnel on the field, but teams would treat Amendola or Edelman as receivers even if they lined up in the backfield. In fact they'd welcome the opportunity to adjust to a running play with either used as a traditional back. Both have been used on end arounds and such, but as true backs I'm not sure they'd be solid options running between the tackles and taking more unnecessary punishment. The Patriots used many formations and alignments with their varied personnel and do a good job of finding mismatches but I'm not sure having no backs on the field with Edelman or Amendola behind Brady allows them to do that.
Paul Perillo

Curious to know why some players each year get signed and then released repeatedly, e.g. Marquice Cole. I know nothing about these players, but this revolving door policy seems silly to me. What kind of morale boost is this for the player? If I was in Cole's shoes, I'd be tempted to tell BB that I'm tired of this merry-go-round and look elsewhere to make a living.
James Farrell

Actually, Cole has been treated quite well by Belichick in this merry-go-round as you referred to it. Cole was dealing with a sore hamstring that was going to prevent him from playing against the Falcons and Bengals. It wasn't serious enough to place him on season-ending IR, but the team wanted to replace him on the roster for those games. So they released Cole and hoped no one would sign an injured special teams player and promoted Kanorris Davis off the practice squad each game. By re-signing him each week before cutting him before the game, the Patriots actually paid Cole as if he had been with the team on each game day. So the player earns his money and the team is able to replace a player that would have otherwise been unavailable. I know these things sometimes seem like that have no purpose, but many teams do exactly what the Patriots did with Cole, and it actually is a good thing for the individuals involved.
Paul Perillo

Why are the Pats not aggressively pursuing a trade for Tony Gonzalez (even if they need to give a 2nd or 3rd round pick in 2014) as Atlanta is pretty much done for the season and Pats can go to a two TE offense with Gronkowski coming back soon (actually the two together would be scary for opposing defenses) and they can truly compete with the likes of Broncos and Saints?
Ram Narayan

First, who says the Patriots aren't aggressively pursuing such a trade. I have no idea what kinds of calls the Patriots are making, or not, regarding the trade deadline. Second, who says Gonzalez is available? Falcons coach Mike Smith vehemently shot that notion down last week. Perhaps he was not being truthful but I can't assume Gonzalez would be available. Obviously Gonzalez would be a huge addition but I wouldn't bet on it.
Paul Perillo

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