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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: Injury concerns, Bolden's role and what makes the defense so good

20191015-UnfilteredQandA-PDC

Not understanding the rules of Reserve/NFI, can you shed some light on whether or not Yodney Cajuste is eligible to return this season? Given the challenges they've faced on the line, is there any chance of him seeing practice/game action? Thanks. Jack L

Cajuste is eligible to return this week just as Harry is but the general feeling as been that he'll miss the full season recovering from offseason quad surgery. Basically the only difference between the NFI list and regular PUP is that the team does not have the pay the full salary since the injury was suffered before the team acquired the player, or outside of football. The Pats could certainly use Cajuste and he'll be a nice player to add into the mix next summer. Mike Dussault

With the word that Ben Watson is coming back, along with the injuries to both fullbacks, what do you think about Izzo taking on more of a Devlin type role in the back field. Granted no two players are completely interchangeable and moving positions is oten an underestimated idea (not as easy as one might assume). It is obvious Michel misses Devlin's lead blocking and there is no one else on the roster. The undrafted kid from Texas was picked off the practice roster right away although he might have been a decent option. If not Izzo, who? Bolden? Seems like the running game is a weak link and the line may improve some, but more help is needed if they want to make a deep run into the playoffs. Rick M.

The loss of a second fullback will take away a lot of what the Pats have liked to do the past few years. Unfortunately, it's a really tough position to find personnel for, unlike tight end where a decent blocker like Eric Tomlinson was available on the free agent market. Andrew Beck played more of that H-back kind of role than Izzo has, so yes, he'd make some sense but he's currently on the Broncos. At this point the best bet might be to just solidify the tight end spot with Watson and Tomlinson and then go from there. You can use them in some H-back roles to make up for the lack of a pure fullback. Mike Dussault

I'm wondering why the Pats wouldn't at least consider signing somebody like Maurice Harris, who at least has some knowledge of the Pats O, looked fairly decent in the offseason, and who we wouldn't need to break the bank to get. Harry may be coming back but who knows what you're going to get from a rookie who missed the first half of the season. Harris is faaaaaar from a star but at least is an "NFL player" as Paul likes to say. If Dorsett misses substantial time or if Gordon goes AWOL, we're going to need somebody with some real NFL experience that Brady could at least consider throwing at 3-4 times a game. What are your thoughts on this, and are there any other low-budget "NFL players" in the free agency you think the Pats should consider? Joey T.

Harris showed up and made some nice catches early in camp but then it was a quick descent from there after he got hurt in Tennessee. It is a good question considering how thin the depth is, but with Harry back in the mix that at least provides a small potential boost. Still, if the team has gone this long without signing him it's probably a good indicator that they don't really feel like he could help them. Mike Dussault

When is the actual earliest game that Wynn and Harry could appear in? Is it a minimum of 8 weeks or 8 games a player must be on IR before returning? David B.

It is 8 games so Wynn could return at Philadelphia even though his eighth week on IR will be the week before during the bye. Harry can return against the Ravens so he'll have the next two weeks of practice to get up to speed. Mike Dussault

So, my analytically interesting question is...how come the defense has been so transformed? Ok we’ve added the returning Collins and yes, he’s been great, but then we are minus Flowers who’s a top DL,, so, what are the other factors that have transformed essentially the same group of players from being slightly better than average to ELITE. This seems to me to be an obvious enigmatic mystery that no one seems to be asking or addressing. Can you??Nick. G

Collins' return along with Van Noy's emergence are what is keying this defense in a way that hasn't happened since 2003-2004 when they had a versatile group of linebackers who could do it all. Now, the linebackers are back to being the centerpiece and with the athleticism of the weaponry in today's NFL they're the model for how to best construct a team that can deal with mobile quarterbacks and offenses with multiple looks. What puts them over the top is that they have an experienced secondary who have been together now for multiple years. The safeties have been together since 2014. The cornerbacks were all here last year. Together, they're all playing in sync and that makes things even easier for the front. Not to be forgotten, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler and Lawrence Guy have all taken significant steps forward. All of this is closely related and each unit is just helping to boost the others. Everyone is playing together and playing great. Mike Dussault

Why haven't they played the RB from Alabama Damien Harris he was Alabama's best RB, also why don't they use Bolden more he's a beast. Joseph W

With the continued issues for the O-Line, why do we continue to try to use Michel. He's got to be less than 10% successful in converting with less than a yard to make. I don't think Michel is strong enough to move the defensive line without a seam, but Bolden seems to have more power. Additionally Bolden can catch better and block better, so alternating him with White until the second half when the D wears down seems to make sense. Don't you worry with Brady making so many sneaks that he's going to get injured. Also I wonder if we shouldn't consider Collins for short yardage since he is quick & strong and also has a 40" vertical leap, so he could go over the top much more easily.Thomas W

Lots of questions about Harris these days, it shouldn't be surprising considering the struggles of the run game. Big thing for Harris is that he doesn't play special teams, so until Sony Michel gets hurt or plays so badly the coaches want to bench him, it's likely Harris is on a redshirt plan for his rookie season. There's no question he has the kind of "one-cut-and-go" style that we'd like to see more of from Michel, but there's so much that goes into rookie development including pass protection and ball security, that the coaches will make sure are pounded into his head before he gets on the field.

As for Bolden, he's been a great spot contributor this year, making plays on special teams and offense. He's the kind of player you need on your team, one who can chip in with plays, but is largely under the radar when it comes to splashy signings that were talked about far more often this offseason. But still, it would seem that his ideal spot is where he's at -- core special teamer who can step in at running back when needed and do a solid job. Mike Dussault

I understand the team is essentially right at the salary cap for this year, but why keep three QB's on the active roster when you could throw an extra WR or TE in the mix? Bill explained that they "didn't have a roster spot" for Watson which led to his release, but do we really need Kessler on the roster just because Stidham had one bad throw in garbage time against the Jets? David B.

Well this all went out the window on Tuesday as it appears Kessler has been cut so that the Pats could bring in two tight ends. The other roster spot was available as Jakob Johnson was put on IR. That injury and one to Matt LaCosse forced the Patriots hand in terms of keeping a third quarterback. But it was still an interesting personnel decision to bring him in to help ease some of the burden (or push?) Jarrett Stidham. Mike Dussault

So far so good, 5-0 and probably 6-0 after thursday's game but when you look at the teams beaten: 3 winless teams and 2 (maybe 3) subpar at best teams. The only good one is the Bills and even in this case we can argue, their offense being mediocre. Do you think the perfect record is misleading? David A.

I think as we saw this past weekend there's more parity in the league than the first few weeks might've led us to believe. If anything the wins over the Steelers, Jets and Bills should look a bit more impressive now than they might've initially. Still, there's no question the Pats have faced some of the bottom-feeding offenses in the league, but it's not like they've squeezed out wins over them. They've done everything you can ask and dominated teams they should've dominated. There's always an element of finding yourself as a team early in the season and the Pats have their questions just like every other team, but they're off to the kind of solid start that will buy them even more time to figure themselves out. Mike Dussault

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