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Replay: Patriots Postgame Show Fri Dec 02 - 01:00 AM | Mon Dec 05 - 08:55 AM

Patriots Unfiltered Mailbag: Taking Patriots attack to the next level 

In this week’s mailbag, Patriots fans are wondering about the quarterback situation, personnel usage and the return of the throwback uniforms.

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Do you think the throwback uniform will make it into regular season circulation? They looked sharp last Sunday against the Lions. -George Hernandez

Let get this mailbag started with a layup as I agree with you George, they looked sharp and I'd be in great favor of seeing them used more than just the two games this season (the next one will come at home on Thursday Night Football against the Bills). Most surprising to me was the feeling of nostalgia after seeing the uniforms and the stadium siding remade in the old 80's Patriots way. This was when I grew up first going to games and it was a nice reminder of how things used to be when they didn't win a whole lot. Sometimes it feels like 2001-2018 is hanging over this team's head and for just one game it felt like that pressure wasn't quite there. Instead, it was just about the good old New England Patriots trying to win a game. And to expand on this even further I'd bang the table for the old dynasty unforms to get back into the rotation at some point. I love what the Chargers do. They have a lot of different options to play with. The more uniforms and possibilities the better as I see it. So keep the reds, bring back the ones from 2000-2019 and use a liberal rotation of the three combinations. That's my vote. Okay, now we can get into the Zappe of it all. -Mike Dussault

Now that it seems that a decent part of the fan base is rallying behind Zappe. I wonder what the reaction will be if Mac Jones comes back and plays exceptionally well. -Matt John

Well I'd hope that everyone would suddenly remember that Mac had a great rookie year and was poised to build on it this season before he got off to a slow start and then got injured. That said, you can't fault fans who are excited because the Pats have won two in a row and gotten their season back on track despite having a third-string rookie quarterback under center. We can get into splitting all the hairs of how much more was being asked of Mac and what the offensive limitations were with Zappe, but the bottom line is wins and losses. It's hard to parse out at this point, not knowing how healthy Mac is and how close to 100 percent he is, but I still think once he's fully cleared Mac will back under center. But there's no debate that there's going to be a Zappe chorus following him around if he struggles with mistakes and doesn't lead the offense to point production. Ultimately it's a great thing for the Patriots to have found rookie quarterbacks who can both play in the last two seasons. But where I get stuck is where are their ceilings? Who can lead this team to compete with the likes of the Chiefs and Bills? Mac still gets my vote, but he needs to get back on the field and play well enough to show he can attain that level of play. -Mike Dussault

Did the offense completely transition back to their "normal" offense with Hoyer and Zappe, or was this also happening when Mac was still healthy? If the change happened after Mac went out, do you see him doing better if they keep this in place when he gets back? -Ray Sanchez

Tough to tell exactly, but generally I'd say we've seen a lot less outside zone runs than we saw in camp and gotten more traditional power and gap schemes that have been the most successful. The biggest difference between the offense with Mac and Zappe to me is the desire to push the ball down the field. How much of that was a new philosophy to make big plays more of a priority out of the gate? Will Mac still take those shots when he gets back? Hopefully he's gotten some perspective by watching for a few weeks and received a nice reminder from Zappe's play how far clean, mistake-free performance goes. But I don't think it's a guarantee that Mac just steps in and everything is back on a better track than where it was when he went out. They did a lot of good stuff against the Ravens that can be built from, but the ill-advised mistakes must cease. -Mike Dussault

Do you think that the failure of production of the tight ends is because they are more traditional, block, run and catch slants, type of players. Gronk was more of a move TE with his ability to get open, box out, etc. I think TE snaps will go to receivers. -Daniel Helming

I think we've seen the tight ends reemerging in the last two games, I don't think it's so much they're traditional, it's just that Gronk was an absolute freak who could do everything at a high level. Henry and Jonnu are both savvy and useful in the passing game and both can be moved around on passing downs. If anything, I think that's where their games are the closest to Gronk's, at least with their athleticism. I'll be very curious if their production continues or tails back off when Mac returns. I have to think Hunter Henry should continue to produce, especially in the red zone, he's really coming on in all aspects. -Mike Dussault

Mike, Is there a hypothetical trade out there for an OL with an aversion to penalties? -Patrick Rollo

Hard to find someone who would really improve the position. The signing of Marcus Cannon is probably about as close as we're going to get. As much as it's easy to target Isaiah Wynn for his penalty and allowed sack against the Browns, there's been some good in there too. Let's not forget he got beat by Myles Garrett on the sack, something that can happen to any tackle in the league. I get the bigger point, he needs to cut down on his mistakes because he's made the most of them, but let's not also completely dismiss his athleticism and take into account he's just six games into playing a side he's never played before. -Mike Dussault

Why is Jabrill Peppers snap count so low? He seems to play well when he's gotten the chance, but rarely sees the field. None of the safeties are playing bad, so not suggesting he truly replaces anyone, but why not rotate a bit to keep them all fresh? -@PatsFanKev

Peppers played a season-low three defensive snaps against the Browns while McCourty, Dugger and Phillips made up three of the top four snap amounts on defense. I'm not sure why his snaps decreased, I like his traits and he seems like a fierce tackler despite not being the biggest guy. I think it might just be a numbers game right now, with three of the Patriots best defensive players above him and more experienced in this system. It might take an injury to get Peppers more involved which is a bit disappointing because as a former first round pick, he's got some intriguing talent that I wish could be incorporated. It's a long season though, we'll see how it goes. -Mike Dussault

Hi! In your opinion, what does Bailey Zappe need to do to earn the starting role when Mac Jones returns? Is there even anything that he can do or it is not really a plausible option? There are a number of difference reasons that can be cited for the improved offensive efficiency that aren't necessarily related to Zappe being under center, but the team has looked good. Obviously Coach won't even broach the subject until Jones is medically cleared to return, so maybe the notoriously long recovery time for high ankle sprains is a blessing in disguise for the time being. -Nathan Elsworth

You didn't think we were done with Zappe questions yet, did you? I like how you laid this out Nathan and I'm not sure there's anything Zappe could do independent of Mac Jones to truly take the starting job from him, at least against the upcoming competition. Mac gets a degree of leeway based on the early games in the season facing some good teams while adjusting to a number of new factors with his own offense. I don't think there's any question that Mac gets the starting job back when he's ready to go. Zappe hasn't outplayed him that badly and you've already invested a year-plus in Mac. His development and smarts are worth a lot and should open more options on offense. Now with that said, if Mac returns and the game-killing turnovers start popping up and the offense isn't producing, then there might be something to discuss. But I think we're a long way off from that. The team should have success this week against Chicago no matter who plays QB. But after that it's off to New Jersey to face a surging divisional rival in the Jets. That's a pretty important game and whoever plays will have some added pressure to perform on them for sure. -Mike Dussault

Can you list all the Patriot players that have left the organization only to return (there are so many I can't keep track myself). -John Woodward

Everyone loves a good homecoming story! I'm going to come up with as many as I can here, at least the more notable ones. But please let me know which I miss!

Jamie Collins, Deion Branch, Marcus Cannon, Harvey Langi, Kyle Van Noy, Brandon Bolden, Ted Karras, Brian Hoyer, Patrick Chung, Tully Banta-Cain, Martellus Bennett, Trent Brown, Doug Flutie.

Of these I think my two favorites were Deion Branch and Patrick Chung. Chung was a favorite of mine after he was drafted in 2009 but never lived up to those expectations in his initial stint with the team. Then, he comes back and it all fits, resulting in three championships. Branch coming back in 2010 and helping Brady win an MVP was a much better ending than when Branch was traded to Seattle in 2006. That never felt quite right to me and Branch's return, including a touchdown against Baltimore in his first game back was a special one. -Mike Dussault

Might be recency bias, but recent seasons seem to be having greater rates of injury. Between that and the league pushing for more games, it begs the question: why are there any restrictions placed on how many players can return from being on IR? A minimum of four weeks on IR seems reasonable, just to prevent abusing the system, but I can't see the downside to allowing players time to recover if needed and to return when ready; if anything, all it does is allow for a better quality product on the field, and better yet, improve quality of life for the players. While it could lead to teams placing greater pressure on players to utilize non-season ending rehab interventions, that's for the NFLPA to ensure the players have the knowledge and resources to navigate those situations, which it should be doing anyways. -Mike A

I like the direction the league has taken in recent years, going from Injured Reserve means your season is done to the point now where eight players can return as long as they miss four games while on IR. I think eight is a fine number though, it's high enough that it shouldn't be restrictive but also puts something in place to prevent teams from really messing around with it, using it to stash guys who might not even be injured or some other scheme. But really, if you've got eight guys sustaining major injuries over the course of the season that should keep them out a month, that's a huge number. I don't think raising that number again will make that much of a difference so I think this rule is in okay shape. I also love the practice squad adjustments to keep veterans as well, that gives some additional freedom too. -Mike Dussault

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