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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Tue Oct 04 | 12:00 AM - 11:55 AM

Patriots Mailbag: Picking a lead back, dealing with OL issues and more

Some concern about the offensive line and running back depth in this week's mailbag.

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With all of the chatter surrounding our offensive line and Isaiah Wynn, would it make sense to explore Wynn at right guard and move Mike Onwenu out to tackle? Wynn is the more athletic option for the type of scheme that is being implemented.

Robert W.

I think your suggestion is more than reasonable. In strict terms of skill set it would seem that Wynn is more mobile than Onwenu and therefore more suited to fill the athletic requirements in the running game based on the changes that we've been told about. However, I feel the tackle position is still the more important of the two and clearly the coaches felt last year that Onwenu was better suited for guard than tackle as they played him at tackle just three times in 2021 despite the fact that Trent Brown and Wynn missed a combined 10 games. Instead they opted for Yodny Cajuste and Yasir Durant while either keeping Onwenu on the bench or at guard. Maybe the coaches are now more convinced that Onwenu is a better option at tackle, which is where he played in the preseason game against the Panthers. Either way, Wynn's injury history is a major concern and the Patriots need to find some options in terms of backups because it seems unlikely that he would be available to play all 17 games.

Paul Perillo

Just saw another article the other day calling Jerod Mayo one of the next great head coaching candidates. With him being relatively "young" as a coach and no official defensive coordinator title, what makes him such a commodity? Is it charisma/personality? Or am I just subject to click bait seeing as I follow the team from Nebraska and try and get any info that I can?

Ryan Blodgett

It's an interesting question because you are correct in pointing out that Mayo has never been a head coach at any level and to this point hasn't really been a true coordinator either. I think one thing working in his favor is his reputation as a player was always viewed as an extra coach on the field. Even as a rookie Bill Belichick praised his ability to lead the defense as a middle linebacker and I'm sure people took notice of such lofty opinions. Also, you are right to bring up Mayo's charisma/personality. He's an extremely impressive guy to speak to and I'm sure that translates to people looking for candidates to lead their teams. I don't know if Mayo will be getting a head coaching job next season but I am fairly certain that he will be one someday and that will be in large part to his combination of football acumen and his ability to communicate and lead.

Paul Perillo

I've been hearing so much talk nationally that Rhamondre Stevenson is the best running back and that Damien Harris might get traded. This seems ludicrous to me. Harris is by far the steadier hand, the more reliable RB, the goal line pounder, better in pass protection, better with ball security and in my mind, the clear cut RB1. Nothing against Rhamondre, but at this point in their careers, Harris is clearly the better back for this team. What do you think are the chances, in percentage, that Harris gets the most carries for the Patriots this season? I'm going to say it's 85-90 percent.

Cory King

I feel the Patriots have a solid one-two punch at running back with both Harris and Stevenson capable of carrying the load. I don't think Harris is in danger of being traded even though he's going into the final year of his rookie deal and will be a free agent at the end of the season. The reason for that is I haven't seen a lot from either of the two rookies, Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris, and I'm not sure either is ready to fill any significant role in 2022. So I'd keep Harris and continue to go with the committee approach. However, I disagree with your assessment that Harris is a better option than Stevenson. I believe Stevenson has more power and explosiveness and is better suited to be part of the passing game as a three-down option. Both are sound in pass protection and both showed a nose for the goal line and both averaged 4.6 yards per carry last year. Both fumbled twice last year so not much of a difference in terms of ball security either, although Harris did have about 70 more touches than Stevenson. Again, I like the idea of using both to keep them fresh and healthy, but if I had to choose I'd go with Stevenson.

Paul Perillo

Got to love Paul. In one breath he says, "Who cares about Wynn's contract amount and years, if he is better, keep him." Then literally the next topic he says let Cody Davis go. He's better now but won't help you in three years. I get that you are a mini-Felger Paul, (or wish to be) where you try to spin the negative side for literally everything but try to hide your inconsistencies please. The best part is you take little shots at Wynn until it is clear they are moving on, then you have something good to say. Your schtick is lame. More Evan please! I prefer somebody who can break a game down with no bias either way. Thanks all, excited for the season!

J.J. Barnes

You obviously have a tough time listening and understanding. First, I don't think Wynn is anything special at tackle and if the Patriots trade him I don't think that would be a terrible move. My problem with moves like that is I don't like trading players simply to save money. And that's what that trade would be. I said if Wynn is better than the backup tackle, then they should keep him. Pretty simple logic. If Justin Herron or Yodny Cajuste is as good as Wynn, then trade him. I don't believe that's the case. And I never said to dump Cody Davis either. I explained the way coaches attack these sorts of decisions – as Bill Belichick has explained to me many times in the past – is by weighing a young player's upside against that of a veteran who has already maxed out his potential. In this case, I suggested that if DaMarcus Mitchell or Brenden Schooler (two young guys battling for spots as special teamers) project as being able to help on defense down the road, then the coaches might see more value in that since Davis clearly does not factor in on defense. Again, a pretty simple line of thought. (Unless you have a bias against the person giving the thought). When it comes to money and salaries, I'm extremely consistent. It almost never matters to me because it's not a hard cap. So I don't like to make my decisions based on salaries. I'd rather go with talent. And comparing tackles to special teamers is a little silly in the first place. Saying you want to keep Wynn because he's better than the backup is not the same as suggesting a rookie special teamer can take a veteran's spot. It's apples and oranges. And speaking of lame schtick … how many times are you going to compare me to Michael Felger? Yes, I've worked with Felger and Mazz for over 30 years and I like and respect them both personally and professionally. That doesn't mean I agree with everything they do and say. Everyone has an inherent bias in what they do. Yours is to criticize anyone who doesn't see things your way.

Paul Perillo

What was in my opinion once a team strength (offensive line) now appears to be a weakness. I still am scratching my head over the giveaway of Shaq Mason. They could have retained him and used that first-round pick to address the glaring need at cornerback. Instead they traded away Mason and in my opinion could have gotten much better value for him. When teams start doing roster cuts and if an offensive lineman, cornerback and defensive lineman are available do you think they will look to pick up any of those positions? This year feels like a step back year for me and instead of seeing improvement with the team it appears they are regressing. For me Christian Barmore is by far the biggest impact player on their defensive line and my fear is Bill Belichick will look to be moving from him like he did Richard Seymour and Chandler Jones very soon before his rookie contract expires and while I understand the cap implications I don't like this philosophy of the Patriots. I think they could do better in managing their payroll without always dumping their biggest impact players. Your thoughts?

Robert Simmons

The offensive line has struggled throughout the summer, both in terms of performance and health. Tackles Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn saw very little playing time for various reasons, and when they did play the performance wasn't great. There have been some changes to the blocking schemes up front and it looks like the linemen are having a tough time learning any new assignments they might have because the running game has been virtually non-existent. I also did not like the Mason trade. As I just explained, I don't like deals that are based almost entirely on money and the Mason deal certainly appears to fall into that category. I thought he was one of the team's best players last season and certainly their best and most consistent lineman. But at the same time I don't feel the Patriots have made it a habit of dealing a lot talented young players when they reach the end of their rookie deals. Seymour was a mainstay in New England for eight years and signed a lucrative extension to stay before his rookie deal expired. Jones did leave as a free agent when his rookie contract expired but he would be an exception in that regard (and there were other favtors involved). There have been plenty of examples of players staying – like Dont'a Hightower, who came in with Jones as a first-round pick in 2012. I agree the salary cap excuse gets real tiring but all teams do have to deal with it and sometimes players wind up leaving. I don't always agree with the moves but as Bill would say it is what it is.

Paul Perillo

After an unimpressive game at the running back position with only Rhamondre Stevenson shining would you go and take a look at maybe hiring someone with proven experience like Kenyon Drake or sit and wait for the rookies to potentially contribute?

Marc Saez

I feel that the running back position group is one of the deepest and most talented on the roster with perhaps only safety ranking higher. Damien Harris was injured during joint practices in Las Vegas and didn't play in the game against the Raiders. Along with Stevenson they provide a solid one-two punch. The problem has been the running game is struggling to get going behind an offensive line that is struggling to execute some zone blocking schemes. Ty Montgomery has shown his versatility throughout camp but he injured his ankle against the Raiders and might have to miss some time. He wasn't at practice on Monday so his status is unknown. Assuming it's not an injury that is going to keep him out for the season, those three along with the two rookies is a pretty deep group. If Montgomery is going to miss a lot of time, then perhaps J.J. Taylor can stick around. Kenyan Drake is coming off an injury as well, plus he would have to learn the Patriots offense if the team decided to bring him in. In addition, he is signing with Baltimore so it looks like that option is off the table. Overall I don't see running back as a position of need.

Paul Perillo

Why are you placing coaches into the positions they are the worst at? Matt Patricia on offense is a joke. Are you asking the coaches what they need help with, so they can be better head coaches somewhere else? That's a great way to tank this year, like we did last year! Get a real offensive coordinator. Get a real defensive coordinator.

Robert Cox

I've been a Patriot fan since the Jim Plunkett days and I think Bill Belichick is the greatest coach in the history of the NFL. That being said, what is happening with our offense is, in my opinion, coaching malpractice. I don't care how good a coach is (Matt Patricia and Joe Judge), the NFL has become an offensive dominated league with the vast majority of head coaches and coordinators with a strong offensive background, except in New England. How can you not have a coach, on the offensive side of the ball, with extensive experience running an offense? Our offense has looked horrible and I do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. It is looking like a painfully long season. Am I overreacting?

Jeff Drzadinski

You probably are Jeff but that's what makes you a fan, right? I share your concern and I haven't felt great about the idea of having two coaches with little to no offensive experience now running the offense. And there's no doubt that it's been a struggle so far. But this is where I think there has been some overreaction. It's still just the summer and a lot can change over the next several weeks. If the offensive line can settle in and start opening up holes in the running game, it would make life a lot easier on Mac Jones. If that happens, then the coaches can start to establish some rhythm in their play calling, and once the regular season starts and Bill Belichick and the staff start to formulate some game plans designed to attack a specific defense, things should improve. But I can't argue with the fact that nothing looks great on offense at the moment.

Paul Perillo

Bailey Zappe seems to be an exciting choice for backing up Mac Jones. With his consent, I think this would make the years of hard work, practice and study Brian Hoyer more qualified to assist the OL. Is there any chance of using Hoyer's time as part of the Patriots as a benefit to what fans see as a possible problem this season?

Fior Sawyer

Hoyer is firmly entrenched as the team's backup quarterback and has never expressed the desire to be a coach. He wants to play and you can understand why when thinking about the differences between salaries and work hours for coaches as opposed to players. Zappe has shown some ability, but he's also shown that he is a long way away from being ready to perform at an NFL level on a consistent basis. Hopefully it won't matter and Jones will play all 17 games just like last year. But if health becomes a concern, it would be Hoyer stepping in.

Paul Perillo

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