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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: Hope for a Patriots playoff run?

20191210-UnfilteredQandA-PDC

I liked how our D adjusted to the Chiefs during the game. Gave me hope for the playoffs. But I guess the offense is the key to success there. Sony Michel is getting fewer touches, it seems to me. Is it purely because of how games evolve or are the coaches seeing him as less valuable? Do you think he will be traded away in the offseason, if he doesn't prove himself in the remainder of the season? Would we be able to get a 2nd rounder for him?- Trygve Johannes Lereim Saevareid

Michel's usage has been a bit of a head scratcher. He had 15 carries or more in seven of the first eight games but has had 10 or fewer in four of the last five, including all three losses where he's had 19 total carries. Bill Belichick tells us it's just how the game is unfolding and the Pats got into early deficits in those recent games that made it more of a passing-centric gameplan. Still, the offense continues to struggle to move the ball so you'd think there should be more opportunity for Michel to keep defenses honest. I don't think there's any way he gets traded this offseason as they still have him on a favorable rookie contract and will give him a chance to bounce back from this sophomore slump when so many of the complimentary pieces in the run game have been in flux. –Mike Dussault

Just wanted an educated opinion on whether N'Keal Harry could be a suitable option to play tight end. He's a good blocker on the outside (I know linebackers are tougher). He's a slow wide receiver, but he'd be a fast TE... his route running seems lacking as a WR, but from the TE slot where he'd be matched up against slower linebackers it seems like that would matter less. I think defense would focus less on Edelman if they had him catching seam routes like Gronk used to.Todd Tatro

While Harry is a willing blocker, I don't think he's ready to be a consistent in-line blocker any time soon. But at least moving him inside and running him out of the slot could help dictate more favorable matchups for the big rookie. There's no question the Patriots need to make multiple additions at the tight end position this offseason and hopefully they can find a nice complimentary piece to Harry, who should really benefit from having a full offseason in the program. It seems pretty apparent what kind of role he'd have at his best, a big outside receiver who can win contested catches and run people over as we saw against the Chiefs. –Mike Dussault

Pats lost 3 games to the teams with the winning record, and btw, Texans were beaten badly by the Broncos at home. Now, put Patriots 10-3 record in perspective, and even if it ends up being 13-3, can you say that this team is anywhere near what the Patriots teams with comparable records of the past were?Tom Green

It's hard to play transitive property with how all the other teams play against each other. The Patriots bring a unique element to every matchup and I don't think it's all that surprising that Houston would lay an egg against an inferior team after getting a huge first-time win for this regime over the vaunted Patriots. Nothing lines up neatly at the end of the season where all teams beat the teams they're supposed and lose to the teams they're supposed to. As far as stacking this team up we're certainly outside the norm. The defense and special teams, aside from the kicker situation, are among the best of the last two decades. Even in tough losses they've proven that. And there's no secret that the offense is not the juggernaut they've been known as. But last year's offense wasn't really that same kind of juggernaut either, just an effective one that found their stride in the playoffs. There have been down offensive years before, like 2006, 2013 and 2015 to name a few. All those teams still made it to the conference championship and fought hard in losses that held them short of the Super Bowl. We'll see where on the spectrum this team's fate falls. – Mike Dussault

Why do Pats fans boo? My take: we are used to some incremental progress as the season goes on, and it feels like this offense is regressing. We also expect them to do their job, and it feels like many players on offense are not doing it. Finally, we want to see some changes to inject optimism, like getting AB back, but it's shut down, so hopelessness sets in, and booing is venting it, demanding something to happen. – Cory Lukin

It's not surprising that Patriots fans have high expectations and this has been a frustrating year, the likes of which they certainly are not used to. A lot of this has been building in recent weeks, with the team losing three of their last five. The drum beat is constant from many fans to bring back Antonio Brown but it's just not going to happen. And at this point, with the number of struggles they've had, I'm not even sure Brown would be a fix-all by any means. The boos were disappointing considering the success the team has had but when fans are frustrated they let you know and I think everyone understands that frustration now. Certainly other boos in the game might've been directed toward some of the poor officiating. –Mike Dussault

Chiefs played without their top RB, top CB and with Mahomes' arm X-rayed early in the game. It seems to me that they have some upside to their personnel if these teams meet again in the playoffs. Where is Patriots upside besides Karras taking over for Ferentz? You once said it is the running game, but it went nowhere against Chiefs suspect D. So what is the upside?Larry Goff

The upside is that the younger and inexperienced players will have three more games under their belt by the time there's a rematch and that experience can go a long way. They had some close plays against the Chiefs that ended in drops or other miscues. Players like Jakobi Meyers, N'Keal Harry, Isaiah Wynn and Matt LaCosse will almost certainly be better in January than they are now and each of them have plenty to improve on. That might not be enough to convince anyone that they should suddenly be Super Bowl favorites but it is some upside. –Mike Dussault

Proud Patriot fan out here in West Central Texas, which ain't easy. Many people have said, if Brady has made average players better in the past, why not now? They say we are making excuses. So, why not now?Bobby Keesee

It seems that the problems this year run deeper than just having to make things work with some inexperienced wide receivers. The list of turnover and injuries is longer this year than it's ever been. Wynn is just the fourth starting left tackle Brady's had entering a season. They lost Gronk, Andrews and Develin who were critical parts of the offense last year. Then you add in rookie receivers and newcomers like Mohamed Sanu and all you can really say that Brady has right now is what he's been relying on – Edelman and White. The bigger problem is just that the inconsistency runs across the offense. In the past you could say the offensive line would be coming around by December and that's where everything starts. That hasn't been the case this year and it's why things ping pong from good plays to bad ones. There is a solid offense in there somewhere but they have to stop beating themselves with mental mistakes and drops. –Mike Dussault

I have heard some ex-players like Reggie Wayne say how complex the Patriots Offensive Playbook is. My question is: Why doesn't Josh McDaniels dumb it down a little bit or at least concentrate more on basic simplistic plays for the rookies and newbies on the team? Less is more type of approach. Especially this late in the season... Maybe everyone can get on the same page with an easier playbook.Chris Sharp

I just don't think they believe a simple playbook is really a way to win, and I'm not sure who would get the unenviable task of telling Brady and Edelman that they're going back to remedial football plays. What makes the Pats offense so tough is their reliance on making post-snap reads, adjusting to coverage on the fly. In theory, and in practice for many years now, it's the most effective way of running offense because it can react to what the defense does. Once you go down that road I don't think there's any way to suddenly going back to just running what's called and if it's a terrible play or route just run it anyway. –Mike Dussault

Why is Josh McDaniels relatively free of criticism this year? In my opinion, he has been incredibly unimaginative in his playcalling and has been thoroughly outcoached on a number of occasions. He consistently underutilizes James White, consistently runs Sony Michel up the middle which is easy to defend, rarely uses easy screens to get receivers involved, etc. They have become very predictable on offense while I believe Brady is still operating at an extremely high level. McDaniels poor playcalling has also put the Pats in an early hole by making them play from behind (at least when they play good teams). And yes, I understand that they don't have great tight ends and yes I understand that the offensive line has suffered injuries. Nonetheless, McDaniels has shown zero ability to adapt and thrive. What am I missing here?Bill Cohen

I think they've used White plenty the last couple weeks and have had special attention to runs to the outside with Michel, while their screen game has been hit or miss. I don't think McDaniels skates off free and clear of the offense's woes this season but I think his creative playcalls have been some of the only things working this season, just take the flea flicker and the halfback pass against the Chiefs. No plays look good when the execution is as inconsistent as it has been this season for the Patriots. McDaniels has been pushing a lot of buttons, looking for what works and what they can hang their hat on but have not found it yet. There's just only so much to work with right now and he's given everyone a shot so far to mixed results. But to me if we're playing the blame game for the offense, McDaniels would rank close to the bottom. –Mike Dussault

Why is Cody Kessler taking up a valuable roster spot? If the Pats really need a good backup QB, Kaepernick is clearly available, albeit somewhat controversial. Is Kessler just a place holder and regular healthy scratch until the Pats find a WR or TE to add to the roster?Steve Cook

Kessler's contribution comes behind the scenes, helping run the scout offense and taking some things off of Jarrett Stidham's plate. I'm sure if there was a tight end or wide receiver they liked and wanted they'd find a way to bring them in and wouldn't let Kessler's presence deny them. If Stidham is ever pressed into action, Kessler will be a significant reason why he'll be better prepared than if he was fully occupied with running other team's offenses in practice rather than focusing on the Patriots offense.

On the Patriots last play do you have any idea why Harry was not in it? He's what, 6'4" and was drafted, I thought, for his ability to catch contested passes. Seems like his size and skills would be more important than Toms' trust at that moment. Thanks.Ted Keller

I agree with this point however Harry suffered a hip injury after his should've-been touchdown so that might be why he was unavailable. Clearly the team designed the swing pass play for him and it actually worked despite not being counted as a score. More of those kind of specific purpose plays, especially in the red zone, with Harry should continue to be a point of focus in these final couple months. –Mike Dussault

In the past the Patriots have always seemed to have trouble drafting specific positions, some of these being cornerback, wide receiver and running back. Though there are a small amount of exceptions (Malcolm mitchell before his injury trouble but even he didn't pan out) what is the problem that we seem to have with these positions? Do we have trouble scouting these positions, is the player development at these positions hard, or is the patriots system as a whole too difficult to grasp for these rookies and young players even after a few years with the team? Any insight would be helpful and thank you for doing this Q&A week after week! – Logan Morrison

It's a great question, especially when you consider the success they've had with undrafted cornerbacks versus ones they took in the upper rounds. The one I'd really target though is wide receiver where, along with the draft, they've thrown a ton at the wall and barely anything has stuck. With Edelman at the point where players of his style start to slow down, things will come home to roost soon if they don't find a new crop of functional receivers. It's obvious those quick-open slot guys are the bread and butter of the offense so I'd keep grabbing as many of those guys as they can, especially if they're going to give N'Keal Harry a shot on the outside as a full-time player next year. I think it's worth pointing out that while Edelman had a solid rookie year and showed promise it took him until 2013, on his second contract, before it really clicked for him. With three rookie receivers on the roster this season, the hope is that they can all develop into next year.

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