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Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: Resetting the roster over the bye week

This week's fan mailbag focuses on questions about the offensive line and wide receiver positions as the team is fresh out of the bye and preparing to take on the Eagles.


What are the odds in the 2nd half of the season that Bill Belichick will let Mohammed Sanu throw his illustrious flea flicker? Mohammed Sanu has career passing stats of 7/8 233 yards 0 INT 4 TD's with a passer rating of 158.3Vinny S.

Thanks for the good stats, Vinny! Though I think Sanu is mostly focused on getting up to speed with the regular playbook as a wide receiver at this point, we can never rule out the Patriots taking advantage of his arm. We've seen plenty of times the team has needed a special play to spark them and against aggressive defenses like Baltimore and Pittsburgh they always seem to have something up their sleeve. The playoff bye week would be a perfect time to install something special for the divisional round, as Sanu should be mostly up to speed on offense by that point and ready to add a wrinkle. –Mike Dussault

Didn't we activate N'keal Harry? Why didn't we use him against the Ravens?Bryant T.

The Patriots had to activate N'Keal Harry by last Monday so it wasn't just about needing him for the Ravens game but getting him fully onto the roster before the deadline. Expectations are high for Harry as a first-round pick, but expecting him to jump right in the first week he's eligible after he's missed two-and-a-half months of football is asking a lot. This was compounded by a gameplan where the offense ran mostly no huddle from a three-receiver package. Again, few rookie receivers would be able to step right in and play in that kind of gameplan, not only knowing the call at the line of scrimmage but also adjusting routes post-snap. Expect Harry to start working in slowly in the coming weeks where the offense can certainly use him in low-tempo, red zone situations where his size will be an advantage. It's not a lost season for Harry but he has a lot of ground to make up before he sees significant snap totals, but he could be a useful weapon in spots down the stretch. – Mike Dussault

Love your work guys! In a recent version of Q&A, you clearly explained how Josh Gordon was removed from the team and subsequently signed by Seattle, but you didn't address why he was removed. Do you have any insight into the real reasons for his falling out of the good graces of the organization? Given the well-documented challenges at the receiver position this season, I'm still puzzled by his release. The Seahawks medical staff cleared him to play almost immediately upon his signing, so I'm assuming the Patriots also thought he would heal in a reasonable amount of time to get back on the field. Which leads me to think that there must have been other non-injury related reasons for his release - perhaps a lack of trust with Brady and/or the coaching staff? I appreciate your input.Bob D.

It was surprising how Gordon's release went down, though he did pop up on Seattle's injury report with an ankle issue that might've been related to what looked like a season-ending leg pretzel he sustained against the Giants. Injuries were certainly part of it, but the biggest part? Maybe not. What seemed clear was that the Patriots were done with Gordon -- that they got a full sense of who he was as a player now and didn't feel like they needed or wanted him. Who was Gordon as a player now? Certainly not the speed burner he once was, but he could still use his good size and strength to make plays on the perimeter and downfield. But were those plays consistent enough? Was he trending upward? Could he do enough in the Patriots offense to be an effective enough outside receiver? Those are the questions the team was likely asking themselves. Chances are the Patriots felt better about N'Keal Harry long term on the outside and the direction of the offense with Mohamed Sanu and preferred to lock their focus on those elements, than wanting to rely on what they were getting from Gordon. I would still say it was a football decision more than anything. – Mike Dussault

May be BB is the best coach ever, but as GM?? He treats draft like "crapshoot". He also trades draft picks for players majority of whom do not work out. He traded and/or passed on several franchise QB's. He operates near the cap space limit with little-to-no room to maneuver. Over the years here, he feasted on foolishness of some dysfunctional teams and brought in some key players, and for that deserves a credit. But the league is getting smarter and such pickings seem to be more rare, and when they happen (AB), they do not work out. So do you think BB is a genius GM? Can his GM function be evaluated separately from his coaching?Stan C.

Generally, I think the draft is a crapshoot and nobody maximizes their chances like Belichick does. I'm not sure anyone is a "genius" GM, it's easy to cherry pick who they could've and should've drafted after the fact, but when you take all team building from a big-picture view – external free agency (especially finding low-cost vets at the middle and low end of the roster who blossom), draft, rookie free agency and, most importantly, internally developing the players you get, it's hard to argue there's a team out there doing it better. There's no question injuries and veteran depth are painting a specific story about the recent high-round picks but there's still time for those players to develop on their rookie deals. What you have to enjoy about the Patriots is that they're willing to take risks like signing Antonio Brown, along with the long list of similar types of players over the years like Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, Albert Haynesworth and others. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't but the Patriots never stop throwing everything they can at the wall and the results are what matters most. –Mike Dussault

With the return of Wynn it should help the o-line hopefully generate clear running lanes for the halfbacks. My question is does Bill and the staff keep Newhouse around knowing Wynn injury history. Newhouse hasn't appeared to be good this year. So does keeping him around on the practice squad or releasing a player make any sense?Willie M.

At 31, Newhouse probably doesn't have a long-term future with the team but it could be worth exploring giving him a low-end veteran deal to return next season, at least as insurance and training camp competition. Yodny Cajuste was a third-round pick but will spend this season recovering from a torn quad after having surgery back in March. Cajuste is a real wild card and the team certainly could use another talented young tackle with Wynn's uncertainty and Marcus Cannon, who is 31 and whose salary cap hit jumps to almost $9 million next season, penciled in as starters in 2020.

Hi, my question is about the o-line. Seems like it's been struggling all season, I understand it could be due to injuries, personnel and bad play. But certain players have struggled more than others. I don't know enough or watch that closely, but do you think the play has gotten better at all? If not I'm surprised they haven't tried something different (perhaps they have in practice). I know the Coach prefers to keep the same 5 for continuity, but is Newhouse the best they have? Usually they like to shuffle players on/off practice the practice squad looking for a hidden gem, but I don't see that this year. Seems like they always have a back-up plan, but this year with injuries, retirements, they've been caught in a bad situation. Finally, seems like the seasons success is largely dependent on the return of Wynn,  that too seems risky, as he has been unlucky with injuries. – Mark W.

You're pretty dead on, Mark. There just doesn't seem to be a potential starter buried among the depth like there usually seems to be, like a Dan Connolly or even Ryan Wendell. A lot of that is due to injuries and retirements this year, but there's no question the team badly needs Wynn, Froholdt and Cajuste to develop. With Joe Thuney facing free agency this offseason, it will be interesting to see how the team approaches the offensive line where the only sure thing at this point seems like Shaq Mason being the starting right guard. At this point for 2019 they just have to do the best with what they have, there isn't any other easy option.

Hello. Here is an interesting discussion question: If you could insert any Patriots player from 1960 through 2018 (in their heyday) onto this year's team, who would it be? My answer would be John Hannah.Francis F.

Great pick, Francis! Hannah and Shaq Mason playing together in the running game would be something to behold. Put me down for Rob Gronkowski because his impact in the passing and blocking game would instantly transform this offense into a better version and improve them in their standout weaknesses like the red zone, short yardage runs and threatening the middle of the field. Now this is not to say Gronk's coming back this year or that he even is still that same player. Make it Gronk 2011 I'm looking for! –Mike Dussault

What color jersey will the Patriots wear for the Texans game on 12/1/19?Sandra P.

They'll be wearing their standard road whites in the game against the Texans on Sunday Night Football. They have just one game left with their alternates, December 8th against the Chiefs. –Mike Dussault

Will the team recover and play the rest of the season well and get multiple wins in the remaining regular-season games?Kevin O.

I'm going to say yes, Kevin. The 2019 Patriots have some unique strengths and challenges and won't be immune to another loss or two along the way. The strange part is it really boils down to the next four games – at Eagles, vs. Cowboys, at Texans, and vs. Chiefs. Zero or one loss and they'll likely get homefield advantage (assuming the Ravens stumble and lose a game themselves). Even two losses should still give them a good chance at a playoff bye unless those losses come against the Texans and Chiefs, then things could get dicey. The NFC games matter slightly less. –Mike Dussault

Do you feel like Jarrett Stidham will be more than a backup in the NFL? I know its hard to predict these things and we haven't seen much of him so far, but its a bye week so I figured I would ask. – Chuck B.

Hard to know for sure at this point, Chuck, as we haven't seen anything more of Stidham playing than anyone else since we only see stretching in practice. But I think what we saw out of the rookie this summer was about all you can ask and that's consistent improvement and making tough throws under pressure. I don't see him as a slam dunk like Jimmy Garoppolo was, Garoppolo had a unique quick release that set him apart. Stidham doesn't have a skill that jumps out like that, but if he continues to improve behind the scenes it will be fun to see how he's developed next summer. I would still put the Patriots very much in the quarterback market in free agency and the draft. –Mike Dussault

Next season if Brady retires or goes elsewhere would you be interested in signing Teddy Bridgewater?
Also Dez Bryant is looking to comeback in a few weeks. Should the patriots bring him in as a red zone threat? – Matt B.

After the Saints loss to the Falcons I think everyone is wondering what Bridgewater's value is around the league. At just 27 he's still got some good years of football left in him, so yes, I'd be all for bringing him in. The problem is that some needier team is likely to pay him big starter money and he's earned another chance to helm a team. Would the Patriots be ready to jump in if Brady were to leave? There's a good argument to be made that he could do the job better than Stidham at this point. As for Dez, I think the team is locked in on what they have and who they want to be and bringing in another player, especially like Dez, would re-complicate things. I think it's too similar to Gordon situation in that Bryant does what he does at this point and likely isn't the same explosive player. –Mike Dussault

Has Belichick ever won coach of the year and if so when? Why has he not even been considered this decade? Thanks. – Gerry K.

He's won it three times – 2003, 2007 and 2010. Of those three times you're looking at the best defense in the league (2003), the best offense in the history of the league at that point (2007) and then a close reproduction of that offensive dominance with a new flair (2010). Since then, the Patriots teams have always been very good but not regular-season special like those three teams were. Now, the 2019 defense is off to a historic first half and if they keep up that pace it would certainly be the kind of year that could earn Belichick another nod. A big part of it too is that greatness is more or less expected from the Patriots now, so it really takes something special to move the needle for Belichick to get consideration. Another team could go from a two-win season to an 11-win season and could get more notice than 12-win seasons over and over again by Belichick's teams. –Mike Dussault

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