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Ask PFW: Stumbling out of the gates

I am just throwing this out there, is it time for Belichick to go after this season? Before you blow me up note that I am one of the biggest BB fans and know he has done so much for this team, one of the best ever. I am just trying to look at this objectively and wonder if its time for some fresh blood and new offensive/defensive systems. From giving away top players, poor draft choices over recent years, and sub par performances from free agents (not including Moss, Welker or Mayo), the Pats seem to spiraling downhill fast. We don't have the talent we used to, and what direction do you see the Pats going? After all these years, do you think the other teams have finally figured BB out both defensively and offensively? As in the case when BB rates his players and seems to trade them when they fall below a certain value point what about him? Who holds him accountable? I personally wouldn't like seeing BB anywhere else but the team needs some spark, some identity, and some leadership. What do you think?Jeff Cabral

Two games removed from leading the Brady-less Patrtiost to an 11-5 record you are ready to run Belichick out of town? Come on! Things don't look great so far, I'll admit that. But there is no other coach I'd rather have running the show than Belichick. It's hard to win in the NFL. That's the bottom line. It's hard to make offensive play look as perfect as Brady and Co. did in 2007. The difference between winning and losing is miniscule. And until I feel it's proven otherwise, I still think Belichick gives the Patriots the best chance. I don't think getting rid of Belichick – who is obviously held responsible by Patriots Owner Robert Kraft – is the best way to give the team "spark, identity and leadership." In fact I think it's just the opposite. Take a breath and let the season play out a bit more, Jeff, before we go all crazy around here. OK?
Andy Hart

What's up PFW? I just wanted to address something. Why are we not running the ball? We have 5 RBs and we only ran the ball 20 times for 83 yards (that included Brady). We have Taylor, Maroney, Morris, Faulk, and the Law Firm. Why is Brady throwing the ball 47 times and we only run it 20? We were not down by two TDs, so what's the deal? I thought both Taylor and Maroney ran well when they had the chance to but that's not often. Obviously Brady still needs to get more comfortable and he will as the season goes on, but cant we get the ground game going?
Rick Garcia

Unlike the email to open this week's bag, I think this is a legitimate question. The running game has been rather quiet. At times in games the team has seemed to give it a chance, only to jump ship upon the slightest hint of a short run or second-and-long. I don't really have an answer for it. The games have been close. Last week, a key cog in the passing game was missing with Wes Welker sidelined. You correctly point out the depth at running back. And theoretically it might take Brady a while to knock off the rust and be ready to spread it out all the time and chuck it. All those factors would seem to point to a chance to give the committee of backs a chance to show their stuff. They haven't gotten that chance to date and I don't really know why unless it's a lack of faith in the guys up front to open holes, at least last weekend, against a pretty formidable Jets front. It will be interesting to see if the offense balances out in the coming weeks and gets away from the 100-pass-to-43-run ratio that we've seen over the first two weeks.
Andy Hart

I think we could have won that game vs. the Jets. We are the better team. Go Patriots!!!!
Ian M.

That's the spirit! I figured this would be a long, negative collection of Ask PFWs so I wanted to mix this one in for good measure. You stay positive, Ian. Not too many of your cohorts in Patriots Nation are doing that right now, at least not based on the barrage of emails we got after the loss to New York.
Andy Hart

Guys, We need pressure. Can we take a page out of the Jets and Ravens playbook and be creative on D? We are expecting too much from a 3 and 4 man line to put pressure on the QB. The Jets consistently brought 5,6 and 7 guys yesterday. They disguised blitzes, changed fronts, basically caused confusion at times. With BB being a defensive "genius" I'm starting to wonder after yesterday's game who the real defensive "genius" is...
John Q.

Wow, John Q. I hope you don't speak for the public as an entirety when questioning Belichick's defensive knowledge. But this is a question many of us have been asking for the better part of a year now. If you can't get pressure with a regular rush, why not throw a few more blitz wrinkles at the opposing offense? Part of the issue seems to have to do with, even dating back to last season, questions about the secondary. I think the Jets blitz in part because of some pretty good confidence in their talented corners. Maybe the Patriots don't have that confidence yet and aren't ready to put those guys on an island with out a net. (Love those mixed metaphors. I mean, if you were stranded on an island you'd love a net to go fishing with. Right?) To me the problem is the Patriots just don't have any playmakers on defense right now. You can't always count on out-scheming an opponent or blitzing them to death. Somebody needs to step up and start making plays on both sides of the ball. On defense I think that falls on Adalius Thomas first and Derrick Burgess second.
Andy Hart

I don't understand the blame aimed towards the defense so far this season. You are right that when they really need a stop, they rarely get it (although they did get the ball back with 2 min. left on Sunday). Giving up 17 and 16 points is not bad, regardless of the opponent. Considering how much turnover they have had, I would expect some growing pains. How would you grade the pats D over the first two games?Lance Topey

Maybe I'm out of the loop, but I haven't heard much blame thrown toward the defense. In fact I've heard plenty of people, including PFW boss Fred Kirsch, continually repeating that the silver lining in the 1-1 start is that the defense hasn't been too bad. I would give the D a C for the first couple games. They haven't made too many plays, but they haven't given many up either. But they also haven't been tested much. They took away T.O. in the opener and that's praise worthy. Beyond that, they've been challenged very little. All told they've been good enough to win games if the offense had lived up to its hype entering the season. That's the side of the ball that's greatly underachieved so far.
Andy Hart

I don't understand why the Pats defensive line are not playing better. Despite the loss of Seymour, I would say they have three Pro-Bowl level players in Warren, Wilfork and Burgess. Jarvis Green is a solid end, and Mike Wright is a good back-up. I expect more production out of them while the LB's get up to speed. Why can't the DL generate much pass-rush on their own now? They are playing a 4-3, they have to.
Trent Crews

I came upon this email shortly after answering Lance's previous inquiry and just had to post it. I guess there are those who are criticizing the defense. And the facts of this email are basically accurate. So far I think Wilfork has lived up to his resume. I haven't seen much from Warren. Most disappointing is that I think Burgess has been a complete non-factor for the month-plus he's been in New England. He may have once been an elite pass rusher, but he hasn't looked like one on the practice fields, in preseason action or on the regular season game field since he landed in New England. Maybe he's still getting up to speed with the defense. Or maybe he's not the double-digit sack guy many of us thought the team was getting. I'm starting to think I had much higher hopes for Burgess' pass rush talents than his body can live up to at this point. Maybe that will change, but so far I've seen nothing to lead me to believe that will be the case.
Andy Hart

I know everyone is going to be second guessing everything the Pats do after this loss. But, you have to admit two glaring offensive problems: (1) Brady is still off, his accuracy is not what it could be, and (2)the offensive play calling is horrible. While Brady's problem may be solved with the pass of time, who's responsible for play calls such as that slow (and ultimately non-) developing hand-off on 3rd and short in the 4th Qt.? Brady had been doing successful QB sneaks all game! And, apart from this disaster, why is the overall run game abandoned so early? The ratio of run to pass, as everyone has noted, is very unbalanced. And, Maroney and Taylor actually looked good at times. At least they're running hard. Can we expect a change in offensive philosophy (or coaching staff) anytime soon?
Jonathan Young

As long as Belichick is the man in charge, I don't think we'll be seeing any changes in offensive philosophy. And since we're in the middle of the season and there is no official offensive coordinator, I don't think we'll see any changes to the staff. As I said earlier, I think the team could be doing a better job trying to establish the run. This team ran for nearly 2,300 yards last fall and I think it is set up to be even better in that area this year. Give it a chance. Brady is rusty. No argument here. The offense as a whole has lacked any rhythm and as No. 12 said, is not hitting on all cylinders. As for the third-down run, I think that play failed when the line didn't get its job done. In those types of plays, be it a traditional run or a QB sneak, it starts and ends with the push the line gets. And if the yardage is more than half a yard or so, that usually removes the QB option. That area has to improve, but I'm of the belief it might get better if the hogs in the trenches got more of a chance to establish their will, get in the mindset of running the ball and move the line of scrimmage. I think it's hard to throw the ball 50 times a game and then just decide to be a power-running line at the flick of a switch. It's just not that easy.
Andy Hart

I don't agree with Eric Scalavino's post-game analysis of the game. I don't feel at all that the Pats were "psyched out" or otherwise intimidated by the Jets. I think the media is overblowing that whole angle. I feel that the Jets simply game-planned much better than the Patriots did. The Patriots looked like they were shocked that the Jets came with so much pressure. I don't know why, everybody knew it was coming. I saw little-to-no offensive play calling in the second half that used screens or draw plays to help counter the Jets aggressiveness. What is your opinion of the whole "Jets got in their head" angle?Scott Lampkin

I agree with it. I think New England put too much stock in the Kevin O'Connell angle and tried to be too creative to deal with that and the hostile environment by going to the wrist bands and whiteboard. It was a complete change of communication on offense and it didn't work. The team failed to get the supposed up-tempo attack rolling. Players were out of place. It earned three delay-of-game flags. I just didn't see the need for it. Brady and Co. have gone with hurry-up, spread attacks in hostile places in the past without using all the wrist bands and such. I think the change was a little too much thinking for my liking. We knew the Jets would blitz. So did the Patriots. They just didn't deal with it well on the field and added a new wrinkle to the offensive process that I don't think was needed. Maybe I'm wrong. Belichick thought it was called for. Even in this case, I'll stick with his decision as he's earned the benefit of the doubt. More often than not his decisions, his game plans, are of the winning variety even if it didn't work out that way this past Sunday.
Andy Hart

Thank you for your informative and often amusing insights. My question concerns this week's difficult loss to the Jets. Don't you think perhaps New York's trade to obtain Kevin O'Connell made more difference in this game than anyone appreciates. It can't hurt to pick the brain of a guy who knows every nuance of your game. Quarterbacks tend to be a smart group and I suspect he brought with him a wealth of inside information. Couple this with the very short time between the trade and this game and thus little time to make large scale changes. I think we will see a much different matchup come November. Revenge is a dish best served cold and we all know what November in Foxboro can be like! I don't think Bill appreciated the "all ex-Patriot" Jets team captains. He will have got the message Coach Ryan was sending loud and clear. I would not want to be on the receiving end of his eventual response.Rick Morand

I do think O'Connell made a difference, as I said in the previous answer. His presence seemed to partially influence what the Patriots did in terms of communication on offense. So whether he could have made a difference through his double spy maneuverings in terms of game action or not, it seems his landing in New York affected the Patriots game plan. I agree that Belichick probably didn't appreciate or see the humor in the ex-Patriots as game captains for New York. You can sell it that Larry Izzo and veteran offensive lineman Damien Woody might have earned such a nod, but there is no way O'Connell should have been a captain against his ex-team just a couple weeks after joining his new one. Whether the gesture was Ryan thanking O'Connell for all the help in prepping for his old team or simply more mind games and high jinx from the new New York sideline boss, I can't imagine it sat well with Belichick. Revenge will clearly be the goal on the scoreboard next time around at Gillette, but the Patriots will have to beat a pretty good Jets football team to succeed in that area and not simply win the battle of pregame mind games.
Andy Hart

I understand it's still early - but wouldn't it make more sense to promote an up & coming young practice squad wide out like Terrence Nunn and get him reps( all he did all summer was make plays ) than continue to allow valuable practice & game time action to the obviously fading skills of the rapidly aging Joey Galloway ( who had a ho-hum camp at best and seems over-matched thru 2 games )? At the very least - it seems BB should promote Nunn and call it a day with the Matthew Slater experiment . . . we need players that can help us win NOW .Anthony Aveyard

As anyone who's read or listened to anything produced by PFW can attest, I'm a big Nunn fan. I thought he had a very good summer and had a chance to make the team. He's obviously still learning the system on the practice squad, although it's not the same as reps as a member of the team. But right now Belichick doesn't seem to agree with us in terms of a roster spot. For all his faults, and we've seen plenty of them, Slater is a very good special teams coverage guy. Those tackles are something the team needs. I also agree that Galloway has been terribly slow to get up to speed with the system and show positive results on the field. But he's also a part of a dangerously thin receiving corps. As much as a like Nunn I can't see making an undrafted player who was out of football a year ago the team's No. 3 target, the role Galloway played on Sunday in New York. Galloway simple needs to get on the same page with Tom Brady and get up to pace in his route running. The team is going to need him to contribute this year (especially with Welker already banged up) and he still has the speed to do so as we saw when he got behind the Jets defense on Sunday. I feel like I should say give him time, but that's not right. He's a veteran. He's been here all offseason. He needs to step up and get it done, now.
Andy Hart

I think we are very fortunate to win on Monday night to be 1-1 and not 0-2. I know lot of people have too many questions especially on defense in letting go Vrabel and Seymour. After watching both the games I have questions on our offense team structure. If Bill Belichick wants to spread offense and put everything on Brady's arm I have few questions: 1. Why do we have so many running backs in the team? 2. Why did we not load receivers and if Welker/Moss get injured then the season is over. 3. Why do we have so many blocking tight ends if we are not even attempting to run? I think if Bill wants to pass more than he runs I will not blame him because we have Brady, Moss, Welker and Watson and that's our strength but why not have more receivers in the bench instead of five running backs who are not doing anything, All we need is Kevin Faulk and Maroney, and maybe Green Ellis as a insurance. They are all cheap but not contributing anything.Karthik Ramachandran

I have to say mixed in with all the Chicken Littles, this was a great week for emails. I have to agree with our man Karthik. (And by the way, stop holding the end of your tongue and take a Dramamine for that. It happens to me every time I take a long car ride as a passenger in my wife's car. Dramamine works.) The roster seems built to be a balanced offense but we've seen nothing like that through two weeks of action. I know the Patriots will always be a game plan team and change week to week. But give the runners a chance. They have talent. They can produce, even if they're not as flashy as Brady, Moss and Co. (Who by the way haven't looked all that flashy this last couple weeks.) Plus, it will making the passing game that much more difficult to defend and save some bullets in a Brady/Moss/Welker gun. If you are going to bother to have a committee of backs, you might as well use them. If you have a big committee and just have it sit around, you might as well call this politics not football.
Andy Hart

I understand that the Jets defense played a very solid game, but there a few things the Pats did that bothered me. The no-huddle offence and calling plays on the line of scrimmage with the N.Y. fans being super loud is one of them. But the thing that concerns me the most was our special teams. I feel it was largely responsible for the momentum swing between halves. Bad kick-off coverage, barely passing the 20-yard line on kick-off returns and very average punts by Hanson. It's only one game and they did better in the Buffalo game, but I would still like to read your opinion on that matter. Thanks.Karim Sassi

Agreed. The special teams have been too inconsistent to start the year. Maroney has had a couple decent kick returns. Gostkowski has been solid for the most part. But the rest has been too inconsistent. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt because it's still early and it takes a lot of different bodies coming together quickly to succeed in the kicking game. It's also Scott O'Brien's first two games coaching the unit. That's all understandable. But it must become a bigger strength and not a weakness in the coming weeks.
Andy Hart

With Mayo being injured do you seeing us picking up a veteran MLB to help O-out? I know that we'd all like to see Bruschi back to help out but, I was wondering if anybody has given any thought to Zack Thomas for 1yr deal. As far as I know he hasn't been picked up since KC let him go. Thanks for your time, keep up the good work. GO PATSDave Whatley

Are the Pat going to go after D. Brooks and if so when will he be available.John Simon

A reliable source (PFT.com) indicates an MCL sprain for Jerod Mayo. The recovery time is 6-8 weeks for that injury according to a quick perusal of previous NFL injury stories. Is there any trickle of information from inside 1 Patriot Place that might give us hope that he could be back before the bye-week? This is a terrible loss, although I suppose Bears fans would tell us a 1/2 season is better than no season at all...Nate Stafford

I thought I'd post these emails related to the Mayo injury from Week 1 and throw in my two cents. Mayo's loss is huge. I won't sugarcoat it. Coming into the season I thought the guys that had to stay healthy for this team to compete at a high level included Brady, Moss, Welker and Mayo. (Not good that two of those guys are already missing time in Week 2!) He's reached that level of importance in my mind. I expected big things from him, including more game-changing plays. It looks like the team will have to get by without him. So far, at least in New York, it looks like the plan is to do so with more 4-3 action and Guyton at middle linebacker. While I've voiced my doubts about Guyton as an every-down, stout run defender in the past I'm interested to see how this plays out. And I'm not looking to sign anyone at this point, mostly because I don't really think anyone who's out there could really be that big of a help. I think the one exception to that is the ageless Junior Seau and he seems to have no intention of coming aboard before late November. We'd need him now, so I'll let him stay retired. Let's see what the defenders can do up front. They've worked hard all summer. Maybe Guyton, Banta-Cain, Burgess and others will step up to pleasantly surprise us. I'd at least like to find out before I bring in old-timers whose best days are behind them like Brooks or Willie McGinest. And I don't think Bruschi has much interest in coming back. But who knows how this will all play out based on need in the coming weeks? The recent trade for Prescott Burgess adds a little more depth to the linebacker spot, but I'm not sure how much of an impact player the younger New England Burgess can be especially joining the team late in the process here.
Andy Hart

Hey guys big fan of your work I tune in every week. Overall, Joey Galloway has been virtually nonexistent in the Pats offense. In fact, I only remember one first down reception that he caught against the Redskins. Is he going to be another Donte Stallworth that is just on the team to attract the double coverage but not really a big part of the offense? The way things have been going, I don't see Galloway catching more than 3-4 TDs this year. I mean, he had no receptions the first game. The tight end Watson proved to be more productive than the Hall of Fame-bound receiver!
David Guerra

I think the idea for him was to be another Stallworth, but I think that 2007 role is more than you're making it out to be. Stallworth caught 46 passes for 697 yards and three touchdowns, with an impressive 15.2-yard average that was identical to Moss'. He helped stretch the field and keep defenses honest when it came to Moss and Welker. But I also think that 46 catches for a third receiver, especially for a team that had three other players catch 36 or more passes. I hope Galloway gets his act together in time to be as good as Stallworth was in 2007. Right now, it doesn't look too promising. Of course I also think you are giving Galloway a little bit more resume credit than he deserves. I don't see any way that he's a Hall of Fame receiver.
Andy Hart

Hey guys. Being part of the Air Force takes me around the country often and I'm not home in Massachusetts during football season so Ask PFW is always welcome. I had a question that I'm sure I'm probably the only one who doesn't know the answer to. On the 50-yard line at Gillette Stadium there is a gray and yellow design. What is that supposed to represent? Thanks guys.Nathan Ellsworth

You'd think you were the only one with this question since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002….but you're not even close. We get dozens of emails each week after home games with the same question. Then we answer it often in Ask PFW. Yet no one seems to listen/read/or catch on. I'm not criticizing you here in any way, more that I'm airing frustration from getting the same emails every week for eight years. Sorry if I seem cranky. Anyway, the design on the Gillette Stadium turf you are talking about is the Gillette Stadium logo. It includes the stadium's lighthouse and bridge. Clearly the logo has not caught on well or made its mark with Patriots fans. It's not exactly one of those designs that you see and immediately a company, product, image or marketing campaign comes to mind. More often than not it seems that fans see the logo and are left with nothing more than, "What the heck is that?" Again, to make this answer clear -- THE GRAY AND YELLOW DESIGN ON THE GILLETTE STADIUM TURF YOU ARE ALL ASKING ABOUT IS THE GILLETTE STADIUM LOGO!!! Thank you. No further questions, please.
Andy Hart

I am curious what the 4 stars underneath the Captains patches on the game uniforms represent. Also, why are some of the stars highlighted and others not? I know this isn't a Pats question, but if you are going to ask a question, you may as well start by asking the smartest people, correct?Clint Kerby

So after you emailed this question to ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss and he didn't get back to you, I assume you moved past asking the smartest people and just settled with us. No problem. Anyway, I have no idea why four stars. Maybe it's a reference to four-star generals? I can answer the part about the stars being yellow. Each yellow star highlights how many times the players has been a captain under the league's program utilizing the patches that began in 2007. So three yellow stars means the player has been a captain for each of the three years that the program has been in place. I also asked Belichick recently why the Patriots don't wear them, going with your whole ask-the-smartest-people theory. He told me, "Because we don't wear them." Guess that means your little theory has failed both of us now, huh! P.S. For what it's worth according to ESPN.com the Patriots were actually one of just three teams to wear captains' patches in the last 50 years when Vincent Brown wore a "C" on his jersey in 1994.
Andy Hart

Hi guys, love your work. Love it even more now that I have moved out of the NE area (to Austin, TX). On to the question, what is the rule/guideline regarding hitting a quarterback low? I thought the hit has to be at the knee or below to be illegal. When Wilfork sacked Edwards this past Monday night, he was flagged. I saw clearly him wrapping his arms around Edwards upper legs and his helmet is right below Edwards' belly. What exactly did Wilfork do to be considered illegal?Dan N.

That was a bad call, plain and simple. Nothing more.
Andy Hart

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