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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: Finding offense, Brady's future and more

20191224-UnfilteredQandA-PDC

I'm probably one of the few people happy to see Marshall Newhouse in, even though it's never good to see an injury. However Cannon's injuries have been more frequent and I just don't think he's ever gotten back to his original form. Newhouse was always much faster (especially in the Cone Drills). Interesting note is that Cannon couldn't break in as left tackle at TCU until Newhouse graduated. Yeah, he's bounced around a lot but I think that just adds to his experience level. I thought his play Saturday both in run and pass was superior to Cannon. Do you think they'll stay with Newhouse the rest of the year?
Thomas Walkden

Interesting take here on Newhouse, especially going back to his days at TCU with Cannon. First, I will say that I thought Newhouse played extremely well against Buffalo in relief of Cannon. And I agree I thought the overall performance of the offensive line was at least as good if not better after Cannon was injured. But I don't believe the Patriots will stick with Newhouse over a healthy Cannon and I don't think they should. Cannon has been a big part of the offensive line for several years and he's proven to be a better performer than Newhouse. While I understand your point, and I actually agree that Newhouse has taken too much of the blame for the offensive line struggles this year, Cannon has been a mainstay at right tackle and if he is healthy he's the better option.
Paul Perillo

Joe Judge does an amazing job with special teams, there's no doubt. But no one gets open in this offense and no one talks about Joe Judge first-year as wide receivers coach. Why? Is he part of the problem? Is it a matter of technique or just speed? Why has Mohamed Sanu been such a disappointment? Is there any hope he can fix his connection with Tom Brady?
Gregorio Ladeira

I think Judge's unique situation of being responsible for two separate groups has been discussed quite a bit, but I'm not sure I would blame the lack of production at wide receiver on the coach. There has been a lack of depth at the spot all season, and injuries to Josh Gordon (before he was released), N'Keal Harry and Sanu have added to those problems. I think the Patriots have done the best they could with the talent they have on the outside, and at this point things are starting to look a little better as Brady gets more comfortable with some of the moving pieces. Sanu's ankle injury hasn't made life any easier on his as he continues to get up to speed in a new offense. I agree he's been disappointing for the most part but I do think health has had something to do with that.
Paul Perillo

We know the offense has been struggling big time. What has happened to the screen game? When Brady first got into the league, Charlie Weis/Josh McDaniels dialed up screens to slow down the blitz. If the offensive line can't block, they can't run. Why not throw some screens. The little bit of screens they've thrown, most have worked. Put James White as a slot opposite Julian Edelman. Hopefully can open up the middle.
Jose Rivera

I think they've used the screen game quite a bit this season with very varied results. On Saturday, Rex Burkhead had a couple of nice gains on screens but there were also a couple of occasions where Brady was forced to throw the ball into the ground when others didn't develop as well. Screens can be an effective way to slow down the pass push, as you stated, and the Patriots have done that pretty well at times. Against Cincinnati and Buffalo screens were very successful, so perhaps that's a sign that the line and the timing are getting in synch as the playoffs approach. As for using White in the slot, the key would be forcing linebackers to cover him regardless of where he lines up. White is a matchup problem for linebackers but often this season opponents have used corners and safeties to cover him. That's one reason why he hasn't always been a huge part of the offense this season. The wideouts need to be more consistent in order to force opponents to respect them so they don't have the bodies to cover White with corners.
Paul Perillo

While this has been a down year for Brady and the offense, I am not ready to see him retire and certainly not ready to see him play for another team. What do you think is the most likely outcome for him next season? Re-signs with the Pats, retires or is playing elsewhere? Putting his house up for sale seems like an ominous sign.
Angelo in Dallas

This has been by far the most talked about topic of the season for the Patriots this year. Brady's future has all of us concerned because he's never been this close to hitting free agency before. Since he's not under contract for 2020, it's only natural to wonder what will happen. I feel he will retire at the end of the season and walk away as the game's greatest quarterback. I do recognize the possibility that he would still like to play, but I feel the wear and tear of various injuries is weighing on him and at this stage I'm not sure he wants to go elsewhere and try to win with a whole new team and set of teammates. I'm also not sure he will be offered the kind of money he's looking for to stay here, so therefore I'm going with retirement. But we're all just guessing at this point because only Tom knows exactly what he wants to do. But it will be the most fascinating storyline perhaps we've ever seen once the season ends.
Paul Perillo

I have a theory that Josh McDaniels has a wildcat package that puts Julian Edelman or Mohamed Sanu taking snaps while Tom Brady is lined up in a position other than QB. I also believe he is saving this for the playoffs. A few years ago the idea of taking a single snap away from Brady was ludicrous, but now I feel like it is a necessity considering how predictable our offense is, and the lack of running threat Brady provides. The Saints have been running various packages with Taysom Hill under center and have experienced some decent success. My only concerns are Brady's willingness to run these types of plays, and the injury factor he presents at a skill position other than QB. Those two aside, I think this is the year McDaniels finally rolls it out during the playoffs, without a second to spare. Do you think we have a chance to see a wildcat-type package, and if so, how successful do you think it would be?
Patrick Colletta

McDaniels has never been afraid to tinker with trick plays and he has used them frequently this season as the offense continues to search for ways to be more consistent. The Patriots tried something like you are talking about against Buffalo when Sanu took a direct snap and ran an option to the right and pitched to James White. The play was stopped for no gain, however. I would definitely continue to look for plays like that since McDaniels has used several gadgets already this season.
Paul Perillo

On the Julian Edelman pass interference call, can you explain how the refs determine which side is responsible for the interference? I get that you can't intentionally run a pick play, and make a defender run around you, but I've watched that clip a ton of times and I can't imagine that play was drawn up to get contact like that. Jules got steamrolled and looks like he ran into a wall - he wasn't even trying to protect himself. Doesn't he have the right to run his route without getting hit?
Dave in Fredericksburg

I think you are selling Edelman a bit short here by saying he wasn't trying to protect himself. Edelman clearly braced for contact and he knew exactly what he was doing on the play. In fact he admitted as much after the game by claiming he was trying to "sell it" in order to avoid the penalty but then saw three flags come out. These plays can be difficult to officiate and we've seen some inconsistency with those calls. If Edelman was looking back toward Brady as if he were the intended receiver on a slant route perhaps the officials might determine that the contact was incidental and not intentional. Looking at it, though, Edelman is looking at the safety and the two collide, which is the only reason Watson was free on the play. It's tough to argue that call, which reminded me of the play the Chiefs ran to Sammy Watkins in the playoffs last year that Belichick was fuming about after the fact. In general terms, this is one of the few cases where I think the officials should err on the side of throwing the flag because picks are almost always intentional and lead to big plays where the defenders are put in a tough spot.
Paul Perillo

We are big Patriots fans from Georgia, but we knew this was going to be a tough year when Gronk retired, then we lose David Andrews to illness (praying for his health) and James Develin to injury. We think our team has been overly nitpicked by everyone. The team looked great against the Bills on TV, back to fundamentals and great execution on both sides of the ball. Wondering what you guys saw live at the game, especially any injury worries?
James Maret

I thought Saturday's win was the Patriots best performance of the season. I thought both sides of the ball contributed greatly to the win, unlike most weeks this year when the offense struggled and benefited from the defense's dominance. On Saturday, the defense played well but didn't force any turnovers and didn't set up the offense on any short fields. Despite that, the offense racked up over 400 yards and managed to put 24 points on the board against a pretty good Buffalo defense. Marcus Cannon's injury is a concern, but overall I came away from the game believing the Patriots have a chance to do what they did last year and that is play their best football in the playoffs. Time will tell.
Paul Perillo

Which starting Patriots players should they sit against the Dolphins?
Arturo from Sacramento

Unfortunately I don't think the Patriots have the luxury of resting any players this week against Miami because the team really needs the win. New England still needs one more victory to secure the first-round bye, and Bill Belichick has already said the team is treating this week like a playoff game. So, that means the Patriots front-line players will most likely be out on the field. If there's a question about a specific player then that might change things. As an example, Marcus Cannon left the game against the Bills with what was announced as an ankle injury and he did not return. He could sit this one out if the team feels like he won't be able to go. But for the most part I think you'll see all the usual suspects because they really need the win.
Paul Perillo

Watching the Patriots through the Brady era, there has only been one other QB who equaled him, in physical stature, mental attributes (understanding and management games,) and an uncanny ability to play mistake free. That QB was Alex Smith. And as the Brady era seemingly might be at an end, it also seems that Alex Smith is ready to return from his lengthy injury rehab, and what better landing spot could there be for him, than the Patriots? Belichick would be able to give Smith the support he's never had before, and in return, he'd be able to give the Pats a bridge to a long-term successor. Do you agree?_
Gene Philips

I don't necessarily agree with a lot of your descriptions but in terms of the basis of your point I agree 100 percent. Smith would definitely be a nice stop gap option – if he's healthy and intends to play again. Smith has been a steady if unspectacular quarterback when he's had good coaching, which was the case with both Jim Harbaugh and Andy Reid. I have little doubt that he'd succeed with Belichick and in the Patriots offense. However, I'm not sure the Patriots would be willing to pay a veteran to come in and fill the role. I don't know exactly what Smith would command coming off the broken leg and missing an entire season, but players with his ability and experience who expect to start don't normally play for peanuts. If Brady doesn't return I think the Patriots would rather go with a young cheap option while using the money saved on the rest of the roster. There's a chance the turnover on defense will be significant, so money will be needed to either retain or replace some of those players. Having Jarrett Stidham fill the role would save money while the money could be used elsewhere. But that's a story for after the season.
Paul Perillo

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