How do you think the Patriots prepare for [Baltimore Ravens QB] Lamar Jackson? Do they use an RB as a scout team QB? Or what about Cam [Newton]? It seems to me he's the best option they have for simulating a mobile QB that can throw, but obviously they need him practicing with the first team, not preparing the defense with the scout team. So what do you think the strategy is here? Joel Lindgren
That's one of the toughest aspects of defending athletes like Jackson, whom the Patriots will face this Sunday at Gillette Stadium. How do you replicate their rare skills during practice? In the past, we've often seen drill periods at practice in which New England tries to simulate the elusiveness of players like Jackson by having a defensive back – Keion Crossen immediately comes to mind – scramble around a confined space while several defenders try to contain him.
Aside from that, though, during the regular season, we're not privy to what goes on once the team ends its drill periods at the start of practice. So, it's hard to say who's taking the scout team snaps to mimic Jackson. An out-of-the-box consideration is second-year WR Jakobi Meyers, who was actually a quarterback in high school and his redshirt freshman year of college. Erik Scalavino
Do you think the Patriots should play Cam the rest of the season, if healthy, to see if he is a long-term possibility? I know rumors are out there about Jimmy G possibly coming back next year. I honestly think Cam can be the leader on this team. We have talked all season about the lack of talent around him, and he was looking really comfortable before he was out due to COVID. He looked like he was returning to that form during the Bills game. He seems to have a great relationship with Bill Belichick and [offensive coordinator Josh] McDaniels even during this losing streak. I just hope he has a great rest of the season, and we can build around him with some draft picks and FAs. Wayne Simmons
Belichick has been asked about his QB situation several times during the 2020 regular season, and his responses have been consistent: "Cam is our quarterback." I agree with Bill. Newton is the most talented passer on the roster and thus gives New England the best chance to win games right now.
By the same token, at this point, I think the club knows what it has in Newton, and I'm not sure the rest of this season can be viewed as an audition. Would I be entirely stunned if Newton is back next season? No, although I have to imagine the team will be looking long and hard at this position and how it can be improved – even if that means bringing in someone else, be it a youngster or a veteran. Erik Scalavino
If the Patriots did have more cap space and money, do you think they would've signed Cam Newton to a longer deal or was a one-year contract always going to be the option? Also with Cam's up-and-down (mostly down) play this season do you see the Patriots re-signing him at all? Patrick Ogunnaya
Knowing how frugal this team is, I think they would have tried to sign Newton to as team-friendly a deal as possible, regardless of how much room they might have had under the cap. I'm not sure anyone expected Newton to be available as late as he was in the offseason, so, it seemed like an entirely convenient pairing for both sides. As I mentioned in the previous answer, I could envision a scenario in which Newton is back next season, but I do expect there to be at least one new player competing for the QB job here in 2021. Erik Scalavino
Hypothetical question: If the Jets moved on from Sam Darnold and went for Clemson's Trevor Lawrence or one of the other top QBs available next year, would you go after Darnold? Or would you go after Lawrence instead? Obviously that depends on Newton's performance for the rest of the season. Keith Nelson
J.J. Watt said he doesn't want to be part of the Texans rebuild, but here in New England he might lead a partial rebuild/winning culture. What's your reaction to trying to lure Wattt? Gary Abrams
Well, if I were answering as Bill Belichick right now, I'd say I can't talk about players who are on other teams. Even though I'm not Bill, I'll keep my comments here as general as possible while still giving you a semblance of an answer.
I believe Darnold is still a good quarterback who will have a job somewhere in the NFL next season, whether that's in New York or elsewhere. Lawrence appears to be one of those can't-miss prospects, however, so, it would be difficult to pass up any opportunity to acquire him, assuming he makes himself eligible for the 20201 Draft.
And as far as Watt is concerned, the only negative is that he is all too frequently injured and misses long stretches of time. I have no idea what his feelings are about staying with Houston beyond this season, but any team would be fortunate to have a player of his caliber on their defense. Erik Scalavino
Why is everyone giving up on Cam? I don't think that any of these losses have been his fault. Many people may disagree but I think Cam is a great fit for the Patriots. I think we need to focus on getting better WRs and leave Cam alone. He's done his job. Billy Schmidt
Clearly, not everyone is giving up on Newton, as some of the above questions submitted would suggest. If anyone is saying the losses the Patriots have suffered this year are at all Newton's fault… it's Newton himself, who takes losing quite hard. His post-game press conferences after losses illustrate just how personally he accepts responsibility for the subpar results New England has thus far attained. Any good leader accepts his share of the blame, and that seems to be what Newton is doing.
Obviously, it's not all his fault, as you correctly point out. Talent infusions are needed at several positions on this roster, but that doesn't excuse the many miscues Newton has made. And to his credit, he's not making any excuses for the way he's played in New England's losing efforts. That alone should be reason enough not to give up on him just yet. Erik Scalavino
After spending back to back picks on tight ends, why are we not seeing the use of tight ends like before? With the lack of production from the WRs this year, why not try out 13 personnel groups much like the Ravens did last year. Jakob Johnson, Dalton Keene, and Ryan Izzo on the field together could offer great play action options if we continue running the ball like we are. Cole Dawson
Totally agree with you about the need for tight end contributions, Cole. Problem is, they've all been injured for most of the year and can't seem to stay on the field for any long stretches of time. Izzo has been playing through a hamstring issue, while the rookie Keene is dealing with a knee injury. Devin Asiasi is currently on IR as well for reasons unclear. It's a shame, because when the latter duo was drafted earlier this year, high hopes were attached to them. There's still another half of regular season football to be played, so, perhaps there's a chance we'll see more of them down the road. Erik Scalavino
We finally managed to make an attempt to get some help at WR. What are your thoughts on [Isaiah] Ford and the deal made for him? Alex Landkammer
While Ford isn't a household name – unless you're talking about American trucks and automobiles – he left a good impression on me with his performance against the Patriots last season when he was with Miami. Ford had to sit out the Monday nighter in New York while he undergoes routine COVID-19 protocols for new arrivals to NFL teams. But I'm very anxious to see if he can provide a spark at wide receiver for the Patriots. His big size (6-2, 200) could give Newton another option for downfield throws against smaller defenders. Erik Scalavino