What's up guys? I was wondering what's your take on the defense when Mayo gets back. I believe Guyton has done a great job since Mayo has been down and am afraid it might mess with the chemistry when he returns. We all know that Guyton is no Mayo, but you can't just take this guy off the field after he has been pretty much running the D since week 1. The pass rush has been pretty good so far in the 4-3 and I can't see why BB would change it (well knowing BB he does whatever he wants anyways). I just think that the D is beginning to get some good chemistry and since Mayo hasn't played since week 1, by him coming back and taking over what Guyton has done might not go as smooth as we like. Maybe I'm just overreacting. On another note, what's your take on BB comment in regards to the 2009 Defense the best this decade? It's not like BB likes to crown anyone anything, let alone hand this defense that title this early in the season. I'm not going to disagree with him because he knows better than anyone else. I'm just surprised he would make such a statement so early.
First Rick, I think you misheard some of Belichick's postgame comments after the win over Baltimore. Here is the first part of Belichick's opening comments in his press conference:
"It was quite a finish. That was a good football game out there today. I'm really proud of our players, couldn't be prouder of them. They stepped up, went toe-to-toe with a team that, offensively, already set some franchise records this early in the season. Defensively, [they are] probably as good a defense — really clearly the best defense — in this decade. They've got some great football players. I thought our guys really hung in there and made enough plays to win. I'm really proud of them."
The best defense "in this decade" is a reference to the Ravens and what they've done over the last 10 years. It wasn't necessarily a description of the unit that took the field against New England on Sunday but a recognition of what guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have done over the years. Belichick certainly wasn't talking about his own defense.
As for your fears about Mayo coming back, I think you are thinking too much. Mayo is a great young player. Any disruption he brings to the chemistry – which I think in and of itself is over-thinking and will be non-existent – will be overshadowed by his physical presence on the field. He will make the team better. While he would allow the team to use more 3-4 fronts if Belichick chooses, my guess is that they'll remain primarily 4-3 with Guyton sliding to the right outside linebacker slot. He's played there in the preseason/training camp and is probably a true 4-3 outside linebacker at heart. He'll also get to continue to shine in his roles on sub defense. Regardless of how it all plays out, getting Mayo back is one of the best things that could happen to this defense in the coming weeks. It's in no way a problem, except for opposing offenses.
Am I wrong in thinking that the Pats have found something in undrafted free-agent Gary Guyton? Against a good Ravens offense, Guyton looked to be flying around and involved on a lot of plays, a far cry from the brief Eric Alexander experiment, where the only time you saw him was 3 yards behind a receiver who had just caught a pass over the middle and was running free up field. When Mayo comes back, do the Pats go back to predominantly the 3-4 with Guyton joining Mayo as a starter? It seemed like they were playing more 4-3 in the preseason because they had Mayo and no one else in the middle, but it looks to me like Guyton is solid in there. What are your thoughts?Nate Stafford
Hey guys, thanks for helping those of us Pats fans that no longer live in New England! My question is about Gary Guyton. Is it me, or has he been doing a decent job subbing for Mayo? Is anyone else excited for when Mayo gets back, having two quality middle linebackers? Or am I just giving him too much credit?Joshua Cameron
Don't worry, all, we're seeing the same things. Guyton clearly is doing some nice things on the field in his increased role. He was a find for the team as a rookie free agent last fall in sub packages and his value continues to grow. He's calling the defense and making some plays as a middle linebacker. It's rare to get a guy like that who can do all that in just his second season, never mind an undrafted guy. I think he'll see plenty of action at OLB in the 4-3, which takes advantage of his speed as both a pass rusher and covering. Remember he started the opener at OLB when Mayo was still healthy. I like him more on the outside in the 4-3 than inside in the a 3-4 because I think it allows him to use his speed more. Sure you'll likely see some 3-4 fronts with Mayo and Guyton inside at times, but based on what I've seen I think a 4-3 look with Guyton outside is probably the team's best scheme moving forward. The four-man fronts have done a good job against the run for the most part and getting some pass rush. Guyton continues to impress. I don't see that changing moving forward. The only fear I have for Guyton is him getting overpowered and over-exposed as an every down inside guy in the 3-4. I think Belichick will limit that risk with limited reps, if any, for him in that role.
Where is Pat Chung? Is he playing just special teams?
Hey guys, I am a long time fan and a first time writer. I've been living in Florida for the past 9 years and if you think Jet fans are idiots you won't believe what a bunch of sorry losers the Dolphin fans are! Anyway, I was just wondering about the progress of Patrick Chung. I haven't been able to watch the last 2 games but I checked the box score online and Chung had no tackles. Is he struggling to learn the defense, much like Meriweather did his rookie year, or is he simply buried on the depth chart?
It seems to me that it's more of a numbers thing. He has three very good safeties ahead of him and the team also has good depth at cornerback. As such he's probably the eighth defensive back on the depth chart. That's not a spot that sees a lot of playing time. He's been active in the kicking game with six special teams tackles in four games. He was lauded for his football smarts and the mental side of the game coming into the league, so I doubt he's struggling to learn the scheme. But I don't know for sure. I'll stick with my guess that it's more to do with depth in the secondary, although we know how that works. As Belichick likes to remind us depth in early October is very different from depth in December. My guess is we'll see Chung needed on defense at some point this season. Then we can see what he brings to the table.
Hey guys, great column, really helps me keep up to speed with what's happening. My question regards the reserves list. What is the story with the likes of Tyree Barnes and Eric Kettani who are listed on the reserves as military. Can they play this year or what? And also, could Mark LeVoir and Brandon Tate be activated this year as they're not technically on the injured reserve? Thanks guys.
Both LeVoir and Tate could by rule begin practicing after New England's game with Tennessee in Week 6. At whatever point they begin practicing the team has a three-week window to decide whether to basically put them on injured reserve for the season, activate them to the roster or release them. LeVoir is a guy the team seems to like. So I wouldn't be surprised to see him added to the roster at some point, although if the line stays healthy that could come as late as Week 12. Tate is interesting. Given that the team has seemed thin at WR – just four guys were active on Sunday – and Joey Galloway has struggled to work his way into the offense it will be fun to see if Tate is healthy enough to be an option in the coming months. I still doubt he'd be healthy enough to play, pick up the offense and break into the rotation. But remember he's also considered a talented returner. Depending on how injuries shake out, both guys will at least warrant consideration for joining the team down the line.
As for the military list, the players land there when their military commitments keep them from the team. The rules are similar to the rules when a player retires after reporting to his team. So the player is not eligible to practice or play and he must apply for reinstatement. The team must also go through a series of procedural measures to return him to its active list. And no reinstatement permitted in last 30 days of a regular season. So it's pretty unlikely we'd ever see a guy jump from the military reserve list to the roster, especially when considering undrafted free agent types like Barnes, Kettani and Shun White, who are all on New England's reserve/military list right now.
With a quarter of the season through, who or what have been the early season surprises? I like Brandon McGowan as my early season surprise pick, I thought he would be a solid special teams player, but he has gotten a significant amount of playing time and has been very productive. Thanks guys!
McGowan would have to lead the pack of surprises. He's been very good so far, flying around the field and making plays as an unlikely starter. I, too, thought he'd be more of a reserve and special teamer. If he can stay healthy – a big IF considering his style of play and injury history – he looks like a key playmaker for this unit. Other guys I'd include for consideration would be Guyton, who was discussed at length to open this week's Ask PFW, and Mike Wright. Wright has been thrown into the starting lineup at defensive tackle and done a very good job. He's shown up with plays in every game, including a pair of sacks this past week. He's always been a solid backup and special teamer, but he's now proving he can make plays with some regularity on defense. Not bad for an undersized former undrafted defensive lineman. But if we're going to pick just one guy, I think we'd have to go with McGowan.
This week's win over the Ravens could be summarized in three words, the Good, the Bad and the Lucky. While it was great to beat the hated Ravens, the game ball should go to Lady Luck because you just had the feeling that if Mark Clayton didn't drop that ball inside the Pats 10 yard line, the Ravens were going to win. On the Good side, the Pats defense was more aggressive and got pressure on Joe Flacco, Brandon Meriweather seems to be finally living up to his first-round potential, Darius Butler looks like a good cover corner in the making and Mike Wright's motor never stops running. On the Bad side, the defense never seems to make a stop on third down. Giving up a first down on 9 out of 14 tries (and 7 out of 9 at one point) isn't going to cut it and Laurence Maroney gaining only 6 yards on seven carries when everyone else ran far better shouldn't cut it either. With the above in mind I have two questions, is the Pats lack of success on third down defense a matter of personnel or schemes, and if schemes why does Dean Pees never seem to get any credit? Also, can we finally say that we've seen the last of Laurence Maroney and start seeing more of the law firm?
Did you want to assign Pees with credit, or blame? I don't think he's overly deserving of either. If we give Belichick the bulk of the credit for the defense over the years, then we need to give him the blame when things fail. That said, I think the defense has been anything but a failure this year, even with the third-down numbers. The unit has been borderline great considering the expectations entering the season. It's a good sign for things to come as Belichick teams, and defenses, are generally better later in the season. Third down has been an issue. And as such they've given up too many yards. But the bottom line is they've given up less than 17 points in every game (considering points scored by the opposing defense against Buffalo and Baltimore). The third down defense should improve as the team gets more faith in the secondary and, in turn, possibly gets a little more aggressive in the rush as we saw in the second half against Baltimore. I think there is still a growing process going on with the defense and a feeling out. But overall it's shown the ability to make plays and get key stops, including on fourth down against the Ravens. As for Maroney, I have to think he's getting dangerously close to losing reps and playing time. Even this year he's had some good runs and flashes of positive gains, but it remains too inconsistent. That doesn't compare favorably to what we've seen from Taylor, Morris, Faulk and even Green-Ellis. More often than not those guys have maximized their opportunities.
What is going wrong with our wide receivers (other than Moss and Welker)? Joey Galloway has been awful, Sam Aiken is only a special-teamer, and Julian Edelman needs way more time to develop. Any chance of a trade for someone like Deion Branch, Rashied Davis, or Josh Reed, or a free agent signing like Ronald Curry, Matt Jones, or DJ Hackett? Thanks!!!!!!!
I think a trade at this point, approaching the Oct. 20 trading deadline, is unlikely. A free agent signing is still a possibility, but I wouldn't hold my breath. While guys have come in late in the process before and succeeded – see Jabar Gaffney – it's not always that easy. Galloway can attest to that. My guess is that either Galloway is going to have to make sudden strides or we're going to see more than most would like of Edelman and Aiken with the possible addition to the roster of more unproven talent like Terrence Nunn or Tate. The position lacks depth, that's just the way it is. Baring some magic, surprise solution it's going to lack depth all year long. So we may see more games like Sunday's where the backs and tight ends are called on to spread the receiving load.
Can you give an honest answer to your football (not Patriots) reaction to Suggs getting called for a penalty as Brady whined? What is that was Thomas getting called with Sanchez whining? Come on, let's play football! It's not flag football here. For the record, I am a Niner fan and have no beef with the Pats, just want to see football as it should be played.
La Mesa, CA
I specialize in honesty. It's why so many people seem to dislike me. I hated the call on Suggs and hate many of the roughing the passer calls. This one was worse because Brady seemed to call for it, even after Suggs barely made contact with him. Maybe Suggs was trying to take a cheap shot on Brady, I don't know. But he didn't land it which is what is supposed to be a penalty. Quarterbacks are protected more than any player on the field. They are treated differently than the rest of the team. Sure you can protect your stars – a move that's clearly made more with money in mind than some altruistic goal of player safety – but at some point you change the nature of the game and hurt the product. I think we've reached that point. Pass rushers can get flagged on almost every play. Sooner or later, knowing they're probably going to get flagged anyway, I think they're going to just start taking more big hits and not less. That will put more quarterbacks in harms way. As Ray Lewis said, you shouldn't be smiling if it was roughing the passer. Brady was smiling and supposedly acknowledging that it was a cheap call on the field on Sunday. As Belichick would say, that's not what we're looking for. He stole a flag, kept a drive alive and helped win a game. But at what cost? I thought the call stunk and I hate the direction the league is taking in that area. Protecting players is a honorable goal in a brutal sport, but protect them all and for the right reasons. Not sure that's been the way of the league of late.
Hey guys, great work! I have two questions for you. First, what happened to the Split-Backs formation? It seems like nobody runs this anymore. I think it would really help the Patriots' run game, since they have 5 running backs. They can confuse the D as to which back is running. Second, What rookies are making an impact on the team so far? I'm a Patriots fan in Florida. I don't get to watch many games.Hank B.
The Patriots actually used a lot of split backs in training camp and have done some of it early in the season. It's a new wrinkle for the offense and does put the depth at running back to use. But it's also contrary to the team's primary offense of late which is three-plus receivers and spread formations. That seems to be the wave of both the present and the future. But do keep an eye out for some split-back looks throughout the season, I'm sure you'll see some.
Why is Lawrence Maroney still returning kicks? Aside from opening day, he has been absolutely horrible. He is returning kicks exactly the same way he runs: dances around the 15 - 20 yard line with no speed, looking for a big hole to break outside. Clearly that is not the blueprint for success in the return game. In addition, his running game is frustrating. For example, he had a run yesterday when he could have put his head down and grinded out a yard or two. Instead, he danced around, loses a yard and proceeds to get booed by the crowd. Let's get someone else on the kick returns!
I never doubt or second-guess BB, but I think now is the time to permanently sit LM. He hops and side steps behind the line too much. I watch him week after week swear he's ready to have big games and he blows it week after week by being too indecisive.
I am a bit confused. Why is Maroney starting over Fred Taylor? I'm sure you noticed the sideline to sideline running and the lack of effort so far this season. Seven rushes for 6 yards is unacceptable. I'm confident I could do much better than he did yesterday. Fred Taylor had 105 yards and a TD last week against a solid Atlanta D, and seven rushes for 25 yards yesterday. Faulk had 5 attempts for 22 yards and Morris had 6 rushes for 21 yards and a score. Brady ran harder than Maroney! Can you explain the reasoning behind this? Watching Taylor, Morris, and Faulk run the ball, they run in the holes available, and when they don't, they drop their shoulder and bust through the defender. I'm sick of seeing the dancing in the backfield.
I don't have an answer for this. The only thing I can throw out there is what you fans seem to throw at me when I question decisions: In Bill We Trust. Belichick has decided through he first month that Maroney is his starting running back. It is what it is. I still think he has a lot of physical talent, but he's often out-produced by every other back that gets a chance to run. At some point you have to move on. I'm also disappointed that on Sunday he seemed to bring his dancing, indecisive running style to kickoff returns. He's been a proven, solid and even game-changing kick returner at times in the league. In the past we all wondered why he couldn't run out of the backfield with the style he took, successfully, to kickoff returns. Instead of doing that he's gone the other way and danced his way to less than a 20-yard average on kick returns against the Ravens. To put a knew spin on Jeff Foxworthy's comic shtick, "You might be a bust if your rushing total is less than your attempts." Beyond that I'm just saying In Bill We Trust. Right?
Watching Sunday's game I couldn't help but to think back to the Pats team that won the back-to-back titles. Those teams played like a team and won games in the 4th quarter. I also wanted to give a shout to all the DBs they were awesome out there! I feel Brady is shaking off the rust and throwing the ball to any one with a name tag.... just like the old days. Some people were writing off BB too soon... it seems something is in the air... What do you guys think? Happy with the team's growth? And where do you see that D ranking by the end of the season?!? Thanks for keeping Canada part of Patriot Nation!
Patriots Nation has no borders and welcomes all comers. Sunday's win over the Ravens certainly did have a feel of Patriots football from a few years back. Spreading the ball around on offense to a variety of targets and grinding out the points. Defense that bent but didn't break and had the key stops when it needed them. The other team not making the play it needed when it needed it most. It was a great game to watch. The only difference I see, and the only downside of the defense to date, is a still somewhat limited supply of playmakers on that side of the ball. Wright has been good. McGowan too! But when it came down to it at the end on Sunday Mark Clayton simply flat out dropped the ball. There was a little luck there. In the old days it seemed that Rodney Harrison would have had the sack or Tedy Bruschi would have batted it away. It's a work in progress and I think this team is building toward being a very good, well-rounded unit later in the year. There could be some bumps along the way. And I still have my doubts about the pass rush on defense and a lack of depth at receiver. But in this world few things are a certainty. There's the old death and taxes, sure. Then there's the fact that a Belichick-coached Patriots team will be better in November and December than it was early in the season. If that plays out once again New England is currently setting a nice foundation for another great season. Time will tell.
An ideal RB should do all three: run, catch, block. Over the years Kevin Faulk did all that for us, while not being a power back. Who of the two - Morris or Maroney do you think can develop their blocking and catching skills to morph into that role.Joe Kolston
Not sure exactly the point of this question. Morris has already proven in a Patriots uniform that he's more than capable in all three of your duties. Maroney has been questionable at times in all three. Does that mean Morris should replace Faulk? They're both complementary parts of the offense. They're part of what makes the backfield so diverse. But Morris is an aging veteran much like Faulk. He won't be filling Faulk's very large (figuratively, of course) shoes at whatever point Faulk moves on. Faulk is a pretty special player and I think it will be some time before anyone comes along who can fulfill all the various duties he's held over the years. He's done a lot for this team, made a ton of huge plays and will be missed when he's gone. The good news is he's still here and still making plays at a high level. So enjoy it before you start worrying about grooming his replacement.
Why is Kevin Faulk returning kickoffs? He has not done this in years. Is he the "hands" guy on this team now for both punts and kicks? I do not recall hearing many concerns expressed about Maroney's ability to catch the ball on kickoffs.Bryant Hopkins
Bryant is referring to Faulk's effort in the win over Atlanta. Maroney left that game with a thigh injury and did not return, that's why Faulk replaced him back deep. For the record Faulk has returned kickoffs, at various times, during every year of his career. He's sure-handed and experienced. So when Maroney went down, he slid into place. There are no concerns about Maroney ability to catch the ball on kickoffs, when he's healthy. He's a secure, productive and at times dynamic kick returner despite some of the dancing he showed this week against Baltimore.
What is the time table for Mayo's return? I've seen him on the injury report but he isn't on the report as being out just in the report for not participating in practice, can we assume he will be back soon?
You can assume anything you want. Reality, that may be a different story. Mayo returned to the practice field, at least on a limited basis last Friday. He's walking around the locker room without crutches or any noticeable limp. When he first went down in the opener published reports indicated he could miss six to eight weeks. So far he's missed three weeks of game action. It's clearly a good sign that he's back on the practice field and off crutches. Belichick said his return was a "good lift for everybody." But I don't think the team will rush him back out there. He's too important. My guess is – and this is purely a guess – it could be a couple more weeks until we see him back on the game field. But as most Ask PFW readers know, I've been wrong before. Many, many times. I hope I'm wrong again as I'd love to see the centerpiece of the defense return sooner rather than later.
I have watched 2 out of the 3 Pats games so far but I haven't seen much of Derrick Burgess. He seemed to have a pretty good preseason. And with everyone talking about the Pats supposed defensive woes why hasn't Burgess played that much? The Pats did in fact bring him in to be a pass rusher why not use him?Timothy Suydan
Burgess has played plenty in the first four games. He even flashed around the quarterback against Joe Flacco and the Ravens on Sunday. But he's clearly been a disappointment as a pass rusher since joining the team via trade from the Raiders. I didn't see him do anything great in training camp practice, preseason action or to date in the regular season. But he's been a big part of the team's smaller 4-3 packages. He just hasn't made a ton of plays. Hopefully that will change in the coming weeks as he continues to get more comfortable in the defense.
Guys, I felt at the end of last season that the team should have resigned Jabar Gaffney. He and Tom worked well together. Why didn't they re-sign him?Rich Meyers
Money. Gaffney reportedly signed a four-year, $10 million deal with Denver that included $3 million guaranteed. That was probably too rich for the Patriots blood at receiver, considering the money the team has tied up with Randy Moss and Wes Welker. He also didn't have a great season a year ago with more drops than New England would have liked. His offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels still wanted him, though, only it was for the Broncos. I didn't think it was a huge loss at the time and was never a big Gaffney fan. But as things have played out now, Gaffney would look nice on the receiver depth chart, although not at the money he got in Denver.
What are the odds good old BB has something up his sleeve to debut at the first Miami game...aka a New England version of the Wildcat. Obviously Brady isn't lining up at WR, but we do know Julian Edelman used to be a QB, and a reverse with him could easily end up being a pass. Just a thought.Brian Anderson
Belichick could unveil a little trickery at any point. He's done so over the years. But I don't think there is any fixation on doing so against Miami because they burnt the Patriots that way last fall. New England ran a version of the Wildcat last year. They could do it again. But it will be aimed at catching a defense off guard and winning games. It won't be some vindictive plot aimed at revenge. That said, I clearly think Edelman's perceived versatility will be put to use in some trickery at some point.
Last game against the Ravens, Vince Wilfork put up his arm and deflected a pass. He was unable to secure what could have been an interception because his right arm was being held. Should that have been called offensive pass interference? Or offensive holding? Or was no call the correct one?Rick VanAmburg
I remember the play you are talking about and remember thinking the same thing you did. I believe both penalties could have been called on the play. Clearly he was being held and clearly the ball was in the air and that holding affected Wilfork's ability to potentially catch the pass. But, alas, no call was made. Guess the officials were too busy using their flags for roughing the passer calls to worry about any other players or infractions.
What is title of song and who sings it...sounds like Bon Jovi? I must add to my music collection. Thanks.Brian Silva
It does sound a LOT like Bon Jovi. And considering he's a very good, personal friend of Coach Belichick, that would seem to make sense. So if I were looking to get the song, that's where I'd start. But as far as I know there has been no official announcement of the artist that sings the Patriots new touchdown song. For what it is worth, I like it. I think it is catchy, unique and gets the job done. I think it's an upgrade over last season.
The young speedy defense seems to be getting better each week and has yet to allow more than 16 points in a game. But could you settle an argument for me by posting the comparative time of possession for the offense versus the opposing teams in each of the first four games.Bob Robertson
The Bills held the ball for 22:52 in the opener, the Jets for 29:10 in Week 2, Atlanta for just 20:11 two weeks ago and the Ravens for 25:04 this past Sunday. On the season the Patriots average time of possession is 35:41 compared to just 24:19 for the opposition.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Bill B has to decide as when loyalty is going to effect this team. Matt Light needs to retire or move on. He is too slow. That explains all the holding penalties. He will cost this team further down in the season. Move him NOW.............John Martin
I don't get all the Light turmoil. I feel like we've seen the same exact Matt Light since he became a starter as a rookie in 2001. He's a solid left tackle. He struggles with some elite pass rushers and needs help at times. But he also has some great performances against some pretty elite opposition as he did two weeks ago against John Abraham. He's not a franchise left tackle and he's not paid like one. He was overrated when he quizzically took All-Pro honors in 2007. He's not that good. But he's not too bad either. Did you want to run him out of town or into retirement during his other hiccup games over the years? It doesn't seem much different to me now. Belichick has always thought Light was good enough, and he continues to think that now. And his opinion, based in football facts and not any loyalty, is the only one that matters. Funny, seems like this is the first time I've ever heard Belichick criticized for hurting his team by being too loyal. Guess you hear something new every day!
The Patriots will be playing the 5th straight team that's undefeated. Has this happened before?Ryan Pickup
I passed this question on to the Patriots crack PR department and they got back to me with the following info:
"Excluding the first week of the season, Sunday's game will be the fourth straight game that the Patriots have faced an undefeated team after playing the 1-0 New York Jets, 2-0 Falcons and 3-0 Ravens in each of the last three weeks. The Patriots are the second team since the NFL merger to play four straight games against an undefeated team (excluding the first game of the season). The only other team to face four consecutive undefeated teams was the 1986 Philadelphia Eagles."
Pretty interesting note. And I agree with excluding Week 1 when all teams, including the Bills, were undefeated. It's still a pretty unique stretch of games. It doesn't really mean much, just a fun fact. And we're all about fun here at Ask PFW! Glad you picked up on it, Ryan.
Last week it said that Jerod Mayo was practicing again. Is that true? And if it is do you think he'll be ready to play again against Denver?
Mayo returned to practice last Friday. Despite an erroneous report that he might play 15 to 20 snaps against Baltimore, he was inactive for the game on Sunday. Is there a chance he could play in Denver? Obviously, but my best guess is that he could return either against the Titans or Bucs in the coming weeks. Either one would be a quicker return than some initially reported when he went down with his knee injury in the opener.