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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: RB depth, Mac or Cam and more

Lots of roster related questions in this week's mailbag, including a look at the running back depth.


I know it's only one preseason game down but I thought some of the character traits, mental ability and play that Mac Jones displayed were very encouraging. I was overall impressed with his play against Washington, his anticipation, reads, focus, timing and quick release which were all very encouraging for the future but the most impressive things about him I think were his ingrained character traits. The way you can see he has a calming effect on the huddle and at the line of scrimmage is excellent but even better is his reaction to not making a play, pure competitive anger then the refocusing and locking in to the next play which is exactly what you want to see. Like I said I know it's only one preseason game but what is your overall opinion on what Mac Jones showed us in this game? - Mark Saez

Overall I thought it was a fairly nice start for Jones in his first preseason action. I've been much more impressed with his consistency during practices, however, which I think offer a much better indication of ability than exhibition games where the situations aren't always as difficult as they are in camp. I'm not going to comment on most of the "traits" you are crediting him with because I honestly don't have the ability to sense what's going on inside another person's mind, and specifically what was supposed to happen on most of the plays he was involved with. So for me to say I thought he made good reads and had showed good timing assumes that I know how plays are designed to unfold. There was one completion in particularly to J.J. Taylor when Scott Zolak felt he missed an open receiver downfield. If that was the case, then something that appeared to be a positive was actually viewed much differently by the coaches. But overall I like Jones' demeanor and consistency. He makes mistakes and at times in practice he's let those get to him a bit, but I've noticed that seems to be less and less the case as days go by. Like everyone else I'm anxious to keep watching him to see how he develops and if he can put the negative plays behind him quickly and learn from them. Definitely agree that it was a nice start. - Paul Perillo

When Bill Belichick was asked why he didn't challenge what looked to everyone like a catch from Mac Jones to Jakobi Meyers, he gave a total non-answer to the effect that he didn't feel like it. Considering BB talks about how the preseason is a chance for both coaches and players to learn and re-acclimate, his non-answer makes no sense. Is it more the case that Matt Patricia (taking over in part for Ernie Adams) just didn't spot the obvious and let BB know to throw the red challenge flag? BB isn't going to throw his new "Senior Football Advisor" under the bus for a blown challenge opportunity, so the non-answer was the way to avoid the issue. - Alan Bernstein

I suppose your theory about not getting the information in time is plausible, and if that were the case then I'd agree he would probably not want to say so publicly and make anyone look bad. But my feeling is that Belichick more likely wanted to create difficult situations for Mac Jones, and having that pass called incomplete set up a third down. Belichick probably didn't mind having Jones drop back to complete a big third down, which the rookie did. Obviously I have idea for sure why Belichick chose not to challenge – not that it matters but I don't think it was an obvious catch until I saw the replay. I could see the benefit of having Jones operate on third-and-long if that was indeed part of the thought process. - Paul Perillo


Is J.J. Taylor the second coming of Mini-Mack Herron or is it just a numbers thing … 42, 5-5 v. 5-6, All purpose player: run, pass receiving in the mold of Lydell Mitchel, and run, pass receiving and return Mack Herron. All he needs to do now is grab onto Jakob Johnson's jersey when he goes into the hole. - Andrew Spence

I actually see more Dion Lewis in Taylor than anyone else – both guys are small in stature but run with toughness with a thick base. Mitchell was a tremendous player for the Colts back in the day and that's awfully ambitious to put Taylor in that category. Herron had a brief run in New England but electrified us with his speed and we'll see if Taylor provides anything like that. He was terrific in the preseason opener and should get more chances to build on that. - Paul Perillo

Game 1 is in the books, I'm cautiously optimistic after seeing the rookies step up and perform. Mac Jones is the real deal, Newton for all the talk looked an awful lot like last year. Rhamondre Stevenson … just WOW. All things being equal I think the team is looking good, barring injuries of course. Curious what you all think? - David Phillips

It's way to early for statements like – Mac Jones in the real deal. He played in two-plus weeks of practices and one preseason game. He had moments of solid play and others when things didn't look quite as solid. But overall I liked what I saw and I'm curious to see how he builds on that. I actually thought Newton looked solid on his second series (he only played two sets of downs). He got the ball out quickly, hit a nice screen to James White, which was a problem last year, and he moved the team effectively downfield. He didn't play enough in the game to truly gauge how different he is from last year but I liked what I saw on the second series. Stevenson showed some nice power on the drive following Joejuan Williams' interception. I'd like to see more of him, perhaps earlier in the game, to see if he can be a true contributor this season. - Paul Perillo


What do you think of linebackers like Chase Winovich and Josh Uche playing at a bigger size? I'd read that Chase bulked up some, and I heard some beat reporters suggest the same about Uche. I was excited to see the Pats draft these type of linebackers actually because I thought it would help with slowing the athletic mobile quarterbacks. Asking them to bulk up seems counter productive to me…I know it helps set the edge but I've thought for years we needed more speed at linebacker. What do you think? In our defense is that hybrid safety/linebacker like Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger more important to containing mobile QBs than an athletic linebacker? - Austin Evans

I think Uche looks like he added some muscle to his frame, which I do believe he needed in order to be a threat to play on all downs. I haven't seen Winovich much to know if that's the case with him as well. I agree with your sentiments when it comes to the need for speed at linebacker. The Patriots were painfully slow in the middle last season and that needs to improve. Uche has some of that mobility to his game for sure. In terms of having safeties play in the box against mobile quarterbacks, that can be a double-edged sword. We've watched teams run at will against the Patriots in recent seasons because there isn't enough bulk in the front seven when safeties are regularly deployed in that manner. So if Uche and Winovich can develop into reliable three-down players who can stop the run and play in space I'm all for it. Of course, Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy will be part of that as well. - Paul Perillo

With Tom Brady's return to Gillette set for Week 4 what sort of response do you expect the organization to give him? Will there be a video montage or thank you message given? In instances like these does the team reach out prior to ask permission to honor TB12 or do you think it will be just a normal game and Patriots will save any touching tributes for when he actually retires? - Joel Greyling

I honestly don't know exactly what the plans are for Brady that night but I can almost guarantee that there will be some sort of video tribute before the game. Players like Brady don't come along every day and I'd be stunned if the organization doesn't do something significant to acknowledge his return. It might be well before the start of the game when the teams are in the locker room but it almost certainly will happen. - Paul Perillo

Does the solid play from Damien Harris, J.J. Taylor and Rhamondre Stevenson put Sony Michel on the roster bubble, and would it be a surprise if he is not cut or playing in the final preseason game? - David Beckett

I think there's a real possibility of Michel getting traded if the coaching staff deems Stevenson ready to contribute immediately as a rookie. I do not see any chance that Michel is released, however. If they choose to move on they will trade him. If they find no takers, then he will stay because he's affordable in the final year of his rookie contract. But with the depth in the backfield I could see the coaches deciding that Michel could go. - Paul Perillo


I am pleased to hear all the positive comments about N'Keal Harry. Everything from his humble media statement that he wants to be in New England, up to and including all the media coverage applauding his camp performance. So what's up? New attitude? Better prepared? Learning curve jump? In previous years, aside from injuries and other set backs, the read on Harry was he was too slow, could not create separation and did not run routes consistently. Brady certainly did care for his effort. Seems that the wake up call has taken effect, but my question is how has he improved his execution? What is different this year? - Rick Malec

I think Harry looks to be a bit slimmer this season but honestly I haven't really noticed much in the way of changes on the field. The biggest difference is he's been on the field every day and appears to be healthy. In the past two years he's dealt with a lot of nagging injuries, and this summer he's been on the field every day and taking part in every drill. But in terms of performance, he still has trouble consistently separating and making plays. I don't see any problems with his effort but overall he still seems to struggle to get open. He's been better this summer for sure but I still expect him to get traded. - Paul Perillo

Would it be possible to give us a breakdown on the O-Line? Projected starters and backups along with NFL experience in years and how many more seasons under contract with the Patriots. Also a little bio on the O-Line coaches experience. And if this question is asking for too much information can you break it down somehow in short form? Just wanted to get an idea of the O-Line situation for now and the near future. Thank you. - Ron Scarlata

The projected starting offensive line figures to be from left to right: Isaiah Wynn, Mike Onwenu, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Trent Brown. This is Wynn's fourth year in the league and with the Patriots, and he is under contract for one more season. It's year two for Onwenu of a four-year deal, year seven for Andrews of his new four-year deal and year seven for Mason, who is signed through 2023. Brown is back for his second tour of duty with New England and his seventh in the NFL overall. He will be a free agent after the season. Projecting the backups is a little tougher but Ted Karras just signed a one-year to deal to return to the Patriots, and Justin Herron is in the second year of his four-year rookie deal. The offensive line coach is Carmen Bricillo, who is in his third season with the Patriots. Previously he spent nine years at Youngstown State working with the offensive line. - Paul Perillo


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