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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu May 23 - 02:00 PM | Tue May 28 - 11:55 AM

Ask PFW: Running game, OL and Brady's back

This week's mailbag has plenty fans excited about the return of Tom Brady.

I have no idea why someone predicted that Jacoby Brissett, with the worse mid-long range ball accuracy in his college conference, would be an NFL franchise QB or even a quality starter?
Corey Lamberg

I'm not sure who you are referring to when you suggest that Brissett was deemed a franchise quarterback. Right now he's a third-string rookie third-round pick who has shown some poise at times and looks like he may be worth developing. But to say he's a franchise quarterback, after two and a half games, is way too premature. He has a lot of things to work on, not the least of which is his accuracy, and he'll need to develop a better understanding of handling the pass rush and reading coverages. But these are things all young quarterbacks have to develop and Brissett certainly looks like a player worth investing some time in.
Paul Perillo

Will Tom Brady be allowed to practice with Patriots the day after the Bills game?
James Gauthier

Brady was indeed eligible to return to the team the day after the Patriots Week 4 loss to Buffalo. The Patriots don't typically practice the Monday following a game but Brady was able to return to the team, participate in meetings and immediately get to work on preparations for the Cleveland Browns.
Paul Perillo

I love Bill Belichick and respect all he has done for our great sport and the New England Patriots, but I think the media gives him a free pass on his press conference act. Look, I get it, he's not used to losing, but the infancy he's displaying is egregious. I would expect a 64-year-old professional football coach with over 40 years coaching to have a little more professionalism and not respond like a crybaby? All we get is "Waa! Waa! We didn't do enough." He gave his normal response "We're on to Cleveland" then when asked about Brady he said, "I'm worried about Buffalo." Which one is it, Bill? And I know, I know, he isn't going to change his ways, but, isn't it frustrating Paul, as a member of the media?
Connor Strickland

I've have been frustrated many times over the years as a regular attendee at Belichick's press conferences but I've also long since stopped worrying about it. You answered your question yourself – Bill isn't going to change. So why waste time and energy getting worked up about it? He's often frustrated after losses and doesn't like to expand beyond the superficial when discussing much about his football team after a win or a loss. He's often complimentary of his players but that's about it. He's not going to get into the whys and hows of where things went wrong. The hypocrisy on display during your final two comments does often frustrate us all, but it all comes with the territory and Belichick's record has to supersede any of these frustrations.
Paul Perillo

Since we will probably lose Josh McDaniels after this season due to a head coaching job, who do you see us replacing him with?
Robert Miles


It certainly does look like McDaniels will be a very hot commodity this offseason when it comes to the head coaching market. If I had to make a guess as to who might replace him as offensive coordinator, my money would be on tight ends coach Brian Daboll. Daboll has past experience running offenses in Cleveland, Kansas City and Miami and has been with the Patriots for 11 years all together. Belichick thought enough of him to bring him back for a second stint and his experience with the team would likely make him an easy choice.
Paul Perillo

So I actually tweeted all of you at PFW but I thought I'd bring it up here in case you all missed it. So there's been numerous articles about the amount of former Browns players on the Pats roster (I think it's at 14) and I have a theory why. Since Josh Gordon is in the process of being released while he is now going to attend rehab, the Patriots are in perfect position to swoop him up. But what persuades a player to join a team? It can't just be the winning culture and the money. It's also to be with former friends. Belichick has masterly been acquiring former Browns talent to fill up the roster with his former teammates to have an edge in signing him. That alone helps his case joining us, but the idea of playing with G.O.A.T Brady and being coached by another G.O.A.T. Those three things will be enough to convince him to join and then propel us to a Super Bowl. Anyways, I know this isn't the reason at all, but it's more like "How possible is it that this was BB's master plan and idea from the get-go to convince him to join the Patriots before things went south with the continual weed smoking?"
Kraemer Soto

After reading this rambling post I feel like I need to check myself into a facility so some sort. First, Mike Lombardi was with Cleveland in the past so when he was alongside Belichick the last two seasons he was familiar with the Browns personnel. Therefore, the propensity to pick up Cleveland's scraps was likely due to little more than Lombardi's familiarity with some of them. Unfortunately, Jabaal Sheard and Dion Lewis are the only ones who've made much of an impact. Barkevious Mingo is strictly a special teams player, which is exactly what he was in Cleveland. The release of John Hughes III was the latest former Brown who quickly became a former Patriot after signing in New England. Josh Gordon is an intriguing talent but he's also clearly dealing with some serious personal issues. When and if he is ever ready to get back on the football field I would think the Patriots, like the rest of the league, would be interested in seeing if he can make it back. But until then I don't expect to see him anywhere.
Paul Perillo

With the news about Josh Gordon being released from the Browns, obviously not today while he's in rehab, but sometime down the road could you see Bill trying to make a move on him while he's a free agent? Yes we all know his history but he seems like a guy who is genuinely trying to better himself. Seems like the perfect Patriot to me, someone with past issues and superstar potential who hasn't yet found his way.
Dakoda Esposito

Like I said, Gordon is very talented but also very troubled. If the Patriots could sign him to a low-risk contract then obviously it would make sense. I wouldn't risk losing anything to get him, though, considering his status. He would be one misstep away from at least a year-long suspension and since he's now headed to rehab reportedly for alcohol it doesn't appear as if his troubles are behind him. I would definitely love to see a talent like Gordon on the outside but I just don't see it as a viable option given all the red tape surrounding him.
Paul Perillo

For me, as a diehard Pats fan, my number one desire is that we allow Tom Brady to go out on his own terms, whenever that day comes. Plain and simple. I think it is critical that we preserve the legacy of the greatest player to ever play the game. Reason being, there's only one of those, and he's ours. Not to mention the amount of class and dignity that the man has displayed publicly for almost two decades. Representing this great community with such honor and grace. Never once has the guy embarrassed us, never once has he not given us 100 percent. I'd be extremely disappointed if we ever did to Tom what we once did to Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour or Logan Mankins. All great players indeed, but not the greatest. Even if he starts to look like Archie Manning's boy did last year, I'm going down with him. In my opinion, it's more important than winning. My question for you: Am I crazy?

No way are you crazy for thinking like that. In fact I bet you are far from alone. While there's definitely a logical football argument to be made against keeping Brady right till the very end, regardless of the outcome, sometimes there are circumstances where logic should take a backseat to sentimentality and respect. Brady has earned that with his greatness and you thinking that way is by no means crazy. However, I personally would try my best to keep the emotion out of it and make the best decision possible. Right now, based on what I saw last year and this summer, Brady does not appear to be ready to go anywhere. As long as he keeps playing at a high level I'd ride it out with him, even if that means losing Jimmy Garoppolo. But if Brady shows signs of slipping and it's clear he only has a year or two left, that changes things for me. In that case, I'd go with the younger guy. But we'll see how he plays the rest of 2016 and then assess the situation at the end of the season.
Paul Perillo

My question is more about the defensive back corps. With the defensive line and linebacker positions seemingly this team's strength, what has your thoughts been on Logan Ryan?
Brody Reyno

I think the secondary has been inconsistent, which has really been the case for the most part over the past two seasons. I love Malcolm Butler and I feel he's very competitive as the top corner but Ryan is much less consistent. While Butler has had some struggles early on this season, Ryan was really victimized in Arizona by Larry Fitzgerald (no shame there) and again against the Bills Robert Woods (much less understandable). Ryan is capable of applying tight coverage and he was competitive with DeAndre Hopkins, but I felt that was more due to a poor game plan by Houston and some terrible throws by Brock Osweiler. Overall I feel you could do worse than Ryan as the No. 2 corner, and Justin Coleman has been competitive and equally inconsistent in the slot as the third guy in most game. But I also think the defensive line is getting a bit of a pass for not applying much pressure really in any game so far. Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower have been solid, although Hightower had to miss two games. But otherwise the defense has been inconsistent as a whole and not just in the secondary.
Paul Perillo

I think the return of a healthy James Develin should not go unnoticed or unappreciated. I think the running game suffered when the Pats needed it last year partly because of Develin's absence. There is absolutely improved play on the O-line this year - especially on the interior - but the return of Develin has also mattered. I'd love your thoughts on one of my favorite Patriots and his successful return from injury. Has LeGarrette Blount lost weight? He seems much quicker and more agile than last year. In case you've not noticed from the trend of my questions/comments, I'm over the moon that the Pats have rediscovered the run. Being able to run is always a sign an offence has grit... and I like that.
Rob Biller
Quesnel, B.C., Canada

I wish I could share your overall enthusiasm with the running game but I don't. I feel the offensive line has been marginally improved over last year in that there haven't been many apparent communication breakdowns that have led to runaway rushers coming free. But there haven't been many holes to run through either, and the pressure on the quarterback has been pretty constant through the first month. Blount is at his best when he can pile up the carries in games in which the Patriots are leading and therefore can pound away against a defense that is ready to quit. That was the case against Houston when the Texans were trailing 20-0 in the fourth quarter and Blount finished things off. Blount was excellent in the fourth quarter against Miami in a much closer game as well. But when the Patriots can't play with the lead, like against Buffalo, things are different. So Develin has helped a bit but I haven't noticed the drastic improvement. The first three weeks the Patriots trailed for just a couple of minutes against Arizona and not at all in the other two games. Under those conditions the running game can wear down opponents late. But the lack of production in the first three quarters is harder to ignore if the Patriots fall behind like they did against Buffalo.
Paul Perillo

Why are so many of these questions out of left field and completely irrational? But I know one thing that has really impressed me this year the O-line play has vastly improved from what we saw in Denver. Nate Solder has played pretty well. He's actually had no errors which is very good. I feel like Joe Thuney will be a stud at left guard and both David Andrews and Shaq Mason have room to improve their games as well. I almost don't know how to say this but Marcus Cannon hasn't been as bad as last year, he's not your ideal starter at all but so far he's been playing like a serviceable backup RT. I know LeGarrette Blount isn't a loved man around here but I think he's played well so I far I know those two fumbles aren't ideal.
Ricky Cochran

Well I agree to a point. I believe the play of the offensive line has been improvement over what we last saw in Denver last January. But that was a pretty low standard. Solder has indeed played pretty well and I believe he's been their best lineman thus far, but he has not been without errors. He's been nabbed for penalties a few times, holding twice and an illegal chop block, but overall he's been the most reliable player to run behind and Blount has taken advantage of that. Thuney has been pretty steady as well. The rest have been spotty. The running game has shown signs of life, but I states earlier, I don't feel it has been as productive as some might believe. Blount's numbers in terms of average are actually lower than they were last season when the Patriots struggled to run the football. Overall things are improving up front and there's at least some hope that the running game can at least be an option, and with Brady back the offense should flourish regardless.
Paul Perillo

If Wes Welker is a free agent and healthy and catching passes from Brady, why isn't he back with the Patriots?
Steve Ware

Who do you want him to replace? Edelman? Amendola? Hogan? I'm not sure Welker is better at this stage of his career than any of those options. I love Welker but he should remain on the sidelines and keep himself healthy at this point.
Paul Perillo

Do you think the Bears or any other team would offer a top-10 pick in next year's draft for Jimmy Garoppolo and do you think it would be enough compensation to land him or would a sweetner be required say a future second round pick also? I would like to see the Patriots use that pick to select Leonard Fournette to pair with Blount in our back field next year. What do you think?
Bobby MacAllister

I think a team like Chicago very well could offer a first-round pick for Garoppolo but I'm not as convinced as most other people that would be a sure thing. Garoppolo would require both the draft pick followed by a big-money contract and that's a lot for a team to give up. Houston gave Brock Osweiler a ton of money but did not have to cough up a first-round pick to do so. Garoppolo would require both, but based on the small sample of success he enjoyed I would not be stunned if a team did just that. I would not pick Fournette or any other running back, though. I feel running backs can be acquired all over the draft and it doesn't have to be at the top of the first round. As long as Brady remains the man I don't feel the Patriots need a blue-chip running back in order for the offense to succeed.
Paul Perillo

I am a big fan from Hong Kong, as we always talk about re-signing all the main players like Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower and Malcom Butler as our priority, are the negotiation in progress? Collins will get a big contract for sure if he hits the free agent market. If we can't afford to re-sign all of them, will we trade them for the drafts picks or something instead of losing them for nothing?
Ben Poon

Only time will tell if any or all of them will be re-signed but I can virtually assure you that none of them will be traded before the season is over. Collins would appear to be the one with the biggest pay day coming up with Hightower's value perhaps being diminished by the nagging injuries he's suffered and Butler's restricted free agent status. Collins could be waiting to hit the jackpot after watching players like Olivier Vernon hit it big this past offseason. Vernon is an edge pass rusher so he's not exactly the same position as Collins, but one could certainly argue that Collins is the better player and deserving of the money. Hightower is going to command a hefty price tag as well. One of them could wind up getting franchised too. Butler will likely have to wait another year for the really big money, but the good news is the Patriots have plenty of cap space so they will be able to sign all three if they choose to do so. But like I said, whether that happens or not remains to be seen.
Paul Perillo

Is there any reason Duron Harmon doesn't have a bigger role on the team? I know Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung are great safeties, so maybe it's just deciding which 11 players you want on the field, but Harmon seems to constantly be around the ball, making great breaks and closing lots of ground. Any chance of him seeing increased work?
Kurt C.

Harmon's skill set is similar to McCourty's and therefore he does not receive as much playing time in most games. Harmon is on the field more often against teams that use three- and four-receiver sets, often playing the deep middle alongside McCourty. So there will be some games where his playing time is a bit higher and others – like Sunday against Buffalo's run-heavy approach – where it's a bit lighter. Harmon generally does a nice job as a center fielders but he's not as sure a tackler as the starting safeties and that's probably why Belichick opts to use him on a situational basis.
Paul Perillo

In reading the discussions about whether to trade Jimmy Garoppolo or not is there anything in the NFL rules that would prevent a loaner arrangement like those in European football? For example, send him to Cleveland (or wherever) for two years with a clause that sends him back to New England at the end of that period.
Bill Duncan

Why would any team want to make such an arrangement? Why would the Patriots want to give another team a player they want to keep, therefore losing the opportunity to continue developing him while also losing the insurance of having him around in case of an injury to Brady/ And why would Cleveland, or any other team, want to acquire a player for two years, only to be forced to return him? It would be almost a no-win situation. If Garoppolo played really well it would be terribly disappointing to have to give him back. And if he didn't then the Browns would have given up something to get him and not gotten anything in return. I just don't see how that situation would play out in the NFL.
Paul Perillo

When Ron Ninkovich returns after next week, what will happen to Chris Long? Will he be relegated to backup, or will he be put into a different position on the line. I would hate to think about losing his aggressive style.
Ron Dionne

I would assume Ninkovich will return to his starting position and Long would be moved to more of a situational role, which would be best for the team. Ninkovich is better-suited for a full-time role than Long based on what I've seen thus far. Long provides occasional pressure on the passer but hasn't looked like the most reliable player in run defense. Against Buffalo there were times early in the game where Belichick removed Long and added a bulkier defensive tackle (Vincent Valentine) in his place. Long sometimes loses containment and seems to have trouble setting the edge, which I feel is one of Ninkovich's strengths, especially staying home on back side cutbacks. So Long might actually benefit from the decrease in snaps, which could make him more dangerous as a pass rusher.
Paul Perillo

Assuming the Patriots can only afford (or only decide) to keep two of the three big-name free agents on defense - Butler, Collins and Hightower – which two would you keep and why? I think all three are valuable and couldn't decide who I would let go if in this situation.
Jeff McCarroll
North Bay, Ontario

This is obviously one of the biggest questions facing the team next offseason and there's clearly no definitive answer. In terms of ability I'd say Collins is the best player but I'd also say Hightower is more consistent. But Hightower also misses games each year to injury and is already dealing with a knee problem this year. Butler plays the position that is toughest to fill, so that puts him in the mix too. But he's going to be a restricted free agent, which should make him easier to retain. In terms of re-signing, I'd go with Hightower and Butler if I could only pick two because I feel Collins will get overpaid. As I mentioned, I don't want to chase a starting caliber left corner again so I'm keeping Butler, and I feel Hightower's consistency gives him an edge over Collins. But in reality, there's no reason why all three can't be retained.
Paul Perillo

Is Malcolm Butler struggling and do you think we will see his performance to pick up to what we really expect him to be as our shutdown corner?
Anthony Brown

I don't think Butler has been great but to say he's been struggling I think would be overstating things a bit. He's generally been his competitive self but has allowed a few plays here and there. He also seems to be fighting through some nagging injuries – he looked like he was favoring his knee after allowing a completion against the Bills. Still, Butler has been easily the team's best cover man and I'm not at all worried about him as long as he's healthy.
Paul Perillo

Hey Paul, I love reading your Ask PFW whenever it comes out but have never asked a question. My question is this, if you had to pick five players that you truly believe the Patriots will sign this offseason, who's contracts are expiring at the end of this season who would they be?

This is going to be an offseason where the Patriots biggest moves will be re-signing their own players. We've already talked plenty about Collins, Hightower and Butler but they are not alone. Jabaal Sheard will be a free agent, as will Martellus Bennett, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan among others. I don't see Bennett returning but it's possible the rest are back. Ryan would seem to be the one who command some dollars on the market as a starter for a very successful team so he could be tough to retain. But Collins, Hightower, Butler and Sheard all could be back. In terms of players from other teams it's a little early to analyze that without knowing which players will re-sign with their teams and which players the Patriots might allow to leave. As an example, if Collins and Hightower depart, the Patriots would clearly need to add some linebackers to the mix. At this point, I'd wouldn't even begin to guess which potential free agents might be in the Patriots plans.
Paul Perillo

What are the rules for placing a player on injured reserve, and how are they policed by the NFL. Specifically I'm wondering if a player has an injury that would only hamper him for a few weeks can a team put him on season ending IR without any repercussions from the league? In other words with two players coming back from suspension can someone not expected to contribute much this year be stashed away for next year on IR?
Michael Blokland

The scenarios you painted are legal and at times practiced by every team in the league. There have been countless examples of young players who show promise but don't appear to be ready to contribute much right away, and then maybe they suffer a minor injury and are placed on injured reserve. Teams don't like to do this all the time because it prevents the players from practicing, which hurts their development, and teams also would have to pay those players. Only one player is allowed to return to the active roster after being placed on IR (after at least eight weeks) so it's not a great way to manipulate the roster. But teams have occasionally stashed players to get another year of work in with a young player who shows some promise. Sometimes players don't want to do that and they reach injury settlements with teams, which allow them to sign elsewhere after a certain period of time depending on the length of the settlement. There are a lot of behind the scenes elements to these decisions, but the bottom line answer to your question is teams are within their rights to place a player even with a minor ailment on IR.
Paul Perillo

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