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Patriots Replay Mon Nov 19 | 06:00 PM - 11:59 PM

Ask PFW: Picking up the pieces

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I know Sony Michel is a first-round pick but he’s not ready for the NFL yet. He had a couple of nice runs on Sunday, but overall for the season it seems like he always picks the wrong hole and hasn’t yet realized he can’t outrun linebackers in the NFL like he did in college. Meanwhile you have a proven winner in James White who is limited in action because the Pats can’t admit they made another mistake with their first pick. Right now Tom Brady needs all the proven pass catchers he can get and based on White’s performance in the Super Bowl it’s stunning to me to see him sit most of the time while Michel continues to struggle. Thomas Walkden

It’s been interesting to me to see and hear how much criticism Michel has received after playing just two games. He’s a rookie running back who missed most of training camp and the entire preseason, then he got off to a slow start in his two games and people are ready to call him a bust. I’m not sure I understand this line of thinking. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels certainly know what James White is capable of but maybe they’re trying to figure out exactly what kinds of contributions they can expect from Michel this season and they’re trying to give him a heavy workload to get his up to speed. I would agree that the early returns haven’t been anything special, but let’s not write a guy off after just two football games. Michel has some ability and my feeling is he will improve as he gets more comfortable with his role.
Paul Perillo

Bad and effortless lost against the Lions. Both offense and defense were awful. I know that Brady and offense will start to play but I’m surprise by the defense. They bring back nearly every starter (except Malcolm Butler). Plus they have an important player return from injury, thru trade and free agency. They’re supposed to be better than the 2017 defense. How is it possible that the same players (or even better) have forgotten how to tackle? Vincent Kaculini

I’m not here to tell you what your feelings were regarding the defense heading into the season. I felt the return of Dont’a Hightower would improve things and the front seven had more overall depth than last year with Adrian Clayborn and possibly Derek Rivers in the mix. I was concerned about the secondary, however, particularly finding Butler’s replacement at cornerback. Overall I was cautiously optimistic about any defensive improvement but by no means was I sure it would be coming. Hightower doesn’t look healthy to me and that has been a problem as the linebackers in general look slow and have had a hard time tackling after short throws to running backs and other receivers across the middle. I believe things will improve but in general I’ve felt for a long time that the defense has greatly benefited from the offense’s dominance and in fact has struggled on the rare occasions when the offense didn’t allow the team to play with the lead. Obviously that hasn’t happened much in the first three weeks and the defense hasn’t responded. I agree with your criticisms about the tackling. Clearly that has to improve if the unit’s play is going to increase much in the coming weeks.
Paul Perillo

I am with Tom Brady on this one: I too can no longer stand Bill Belichick’s stone-arrogant-angry face anymore. And he can take his “play better, coach better” mantra and hang it over his bedside. He is a 1-2 record coach-GM, NOW, and he is not getting a pass for how many Super Bowl rings he painted on his boat. If he wants us fans to be with him in this challenging period, eat some humble pie. Pass it on to him - will you? Marc Rosen

C’mon now Marc, take that back. I know you don’t really believe that. I know you love when Belichick doesn’t answer questions when the Patriots win, so you can’t then be upset with the coach doing so after a loss. Belichick is extremely consistent when dealing with the media – he almost never offers much insight into what he’s truly feeling. If you believe Belichick isn’t frustrated with how things are going and more importantly aren’t using history to tell you that things will get better, then I’m not sure I can help you. I know things haven’t looked good, but this isn’t the first time the Patriots have struggled out of the gates. And yes, he does deserve the benefit of the doubt because of all the winning he has done. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and show some faith.
Paul Perillo

This year’s slow start seems different to me than in years past. Back when KC throttled them in 2014 I was more optimistic about the players: they had just acquired Darrelle Revis and other key contributors were coming back from injury. It seemed like they just needed to put the pieces together. This year I’m more worried about the pieces. Julian Edelman, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung (and Brady) are all older/coming off injury and make me worried about a drop off in play. The new pieces to get excited about seem to be Adrian Clayborn, Sony Michel, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Josh Gordon. Clayborn hasn’t made much impact, Michel seems fine but hasn’t made anyone forget Dion Lewis, Bentley seems to fit the mold of a slow linebacker that gets exposed covering backs and Gordon seems like a desperation trade that most likely won’t pan out. Basically seems like Trent Dilfer’s criticisms of that 2014 team wouldn’t be misplaced with this team. What do you think: too much worrying or does this time feel different? Look forward to your thoughts and I hope to be proven wrong. Burke Van Norman

These two posts honestly came in back-to-back and it’s fitting that after I tried to make Marc feel better after his rant against Belichick that I now an forced to offer some agreement with Burke’s overall feeling that things this time feel different than other slot starts. While I remain optimistic that things will improve, I must admit that my feelings are almost entirely based on history and my immense respect for Belichick and Brady. If I’m operating solely on what I’m seeing on the field, then I’d say I’m a bit worried. All of the personnel-related points you made are tough to argue against. I’m going to wait to see how the offense looks once Edelman is back in the lineup before I write off that group, and I also have watched Belichick patch together defenses in the past enough to create improvement. Again, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with your points based on what we’ve seen thus far. I just have enough experience watching the Patriots to understand that what we see in September isn’t always what we will see in December. There’s time for things to change.
Paul Perillo

Do you think that Patriots will trade for Le’Veon Bell? I think that he can fix some of our problems and give Tom another option. Mike Saunders

I don’t see such a deal being made for a couple of reasons. First and foremost Bell is looking for a huge contract and I’m not sure the Patriots would want to give it him after using a first-round pick on a running back in April. Bell has clearly demonstrated that he doesn’t want to play under the franchise tag, so even if the Patriots could carve out the cap space (they could) to take on the salary now they’d likely be trading resources for a player who will sit out until Week 10 before returning. Bell is a terrific talent but I don’t see the Patriots acquiring him.
Paul Perillo

I love the change of pace we seem to get from Cordarrelle Patterson but he isn’t really being targeted much. It just seems to me like he would put the fear in the opposing team if he was targeted on an early go route, or even just putting him more on the outside. The man can fly and seems to catch the ball well considering what he did in preseason. If the Pats want to put the fear on DBs and open running lanes it seems to me that a deep ball to Patterson is a more threatening prospect than Phillip Dorsett. My question: Do you see the Pats looking to use Patterson more than his current role going forward or do you see him staying a depth/special team option almost exclusively? Robert Hayes

That’s a question that only the coaching staff knows for sure but my guess is Patterson will remain a niche player whose unique skills can be used in spots. He can make some plays on screens, jet sweeps and things of that nature, but he has never really shown the ability to do what you’re suggesting the Patriots try. Case in point: you contend that Patterson would be a better deep alternative than Dorsett and lament Brady’s interception in Lions game. You ignored the fact that Patterson was supposed to run a post on the play when Brady was called for intentional grounding but didn’t execute his assignment. Based on what we’ve seen so far, that hasn’t been the only time Patterson appears to be out of position. He isn’t a guy who has the entire route tree at his disposal and that limits what the offense can do with him. Yes he has exceptional athleticism but we’ve yet to see that athleticism manifest itself on the field. My feeling is Josh Gordon is much more suited for such a role and if he can get up to speed he will be a more useful option moving forward.
Paul Perillo

Speed kills. Patriots are slow, everywhere. Except for a player here and a player there, Patriots don’t have speed to compete on both sides of the ball. You can only go so far with “knowing where to be” but the lack of speed is hurting this team. And I don’t see how that can be fixed. Do you? Ken Kannapan

This would be my top concern for the defense. I don’t see a tremendous amount of team speed on that side of the ball and that indeed is a difficult thing to fix. I don’t necessarily believe speed is an issue on offense, however. Patterson and Dorsett both have above average speed and Edelman still looked plenty quick and fast during the summer. Michel, White and Rex Burkhead all have better than average speed as well, so the skill positions on offense aren’t lacking in that department. I understand your point and it has certainly been eye-opening to watch the defense trying to contend with a lot of short throws in the early going. Maybe this could lead to more usage for rookie defensive backs J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen. They are both raw but have some speed and athleticism to add to the mix. Again, it’s been just three games so it’s not time to panic.
Paul Perillo

Sunday night’s game was flat out awful. The run defense was not able to stop the Lions RBs, and the defensive backfield was very porous. Tom Brady seemed very uncomfortable in the pocket and the offense didn’t seem together at all. Your opinion is desired for this question. Do you think this is the beginning of the end of the Patriots incredible run over the last 19 years? What can be done to fix all the problems? Chip Clark

Clearly this is the theme of the week and I have to repeat that I’m simply not ready to believe that the dynasty is over. The Patriots have some real issues on both sides of the ball and they won’t just magically fix themselves. Edelman’s return will be a nice start but Gordon might have to provide a spark as well. The offense is short on weapons and it might need more than just Edelman in the slot to fix them. That’s a bit worrisome to me because Gordon is such a hard player to rely on. Defensively I know things will improve because they pretty much always do. The unit was without three starters Sunday night and that is going to make an impact. It’s too early to write them off. The pass rush needs to improve and that will help the coverage. At this point the players simply have to perform better, and most of the guys we’re talking about have a history of doing just that.
Paul Perillo

It appears that the Pats felt their former DC wouldn’t remember any of his practices against the Pats over the years. Instead of Josh dialing up any plays that might disguise their true intentions, they were all so vanilla. Perhaps it is time for an infusion of new ideas and BB should look outside the coaching tree for some fresh ideas. Granted only Gronk is a starting pass catcher but that is on BB refusing to honor that position and being so abysmally poor in the first 3 rounds of the draft over the past 3 years. Definitely passed on too many players for questionable (at best) choices. Is he purposely gutting the team in preparation for retiring or is his ability to judge todays skill set requirements not up to date. He is still No. 1 among coaching but talent is needed almost everywhere. Dave Brown

I didn’t necessarily think the approach to Sunday night’s game was a huge problem. I thought it had a lot more to do with execution. There were some individual things I disagreed with but that’s always the case. I didn’t like the hurry-up approach before running Sony Michel on third and short, which failed. But I also hated Matt Patricia’s decision to kick a field goal on the first possession of the game on fourth and an inch. That didn’t seem to prevent the Lions from winning. Overall the execution has been poor in the first three weeks, especially on third downs on both sides of the ball. We can blame coaching and that’s definitely been part of the problem as Belichick and McDaniels have said. But the players need to play better. Pretty simple.
Paul Perillo

Patriots are becoming new Cleveland. This is not an overreaction, it is the fact of their roster moves (from Browns) and their record which is worse than Browns now. In fact, is that right that Patriots are ranked dead last in the young talent category? Chris Dickson

No Chris, the Patriots are becoming Cleveland is the very definition of an overreaction.
Paul Perillo

Guys, I don’t understand how they can justify playing Hightower at all. None of the linebackers are scaring other teams right now. However, Bentley flashes for a rookie, Rivers looks faster than Hightower and Van Noy is at least not an embarrassment. Hightower runs like he weighs 270lbs (which he does) but he seems to have the playing strength of a 220-pound safety right now. Am I being too harsh, or do you guys kind of agree? If you agree, why do you think he's still getting snaps? Chris Brownlee

I think you’re being way too harsh. Hightower gets singled out because he is by far and away the most talented linebacker the team has but his subpar play has not been alone. All of the linebackers have looked slow, and Rivers didn’t do anything special with his reps Sunday night either. The defense is clearly going through a transition with some new blood (Rivers, Bentley, Keionta Davis, Crossen, Jackson) being added into the mix. How these young players perform will go a long way toward deciding how much the group can improve in the coming weeks. Hightower has not looked healthy to me in the first few weeks but I still have a lot of faith in him based on what he’s done. There’s always a chance that he won’t return to form, but I need more than three games to make that determination.
Paul Perillo

I am curious how compensatory picks work with early season trades. If Josh Gordon plays the way we all hope, and a new team signs him in the offseason, can the Patriots receive a compensatory pick? In which case the Patriots would have basically traded a fifth-round pick in exchange for Josh Gordon AND potentially a third-round pick? Justin J., Chicago, Ill.

Gordon will be a restricted free agent after this season and therefore the Patriots will have the ability to give him a tender offer at four different levels. There is a first-round tender, a second-round tender, the original round tender and a right of first refusal. Assuming Gordon makes it through the season he would become a restricted free agent and the Patriots would have the option of using one of these tenders.
Paul Perillo

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