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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Fri Apr 16 - 12:00 AM | Sun Apr 18 - 11:59 PM

Patriots Unfiltered Q&A: What happened to the running game?

2020-UnfilteredQandAEmpower-PDC

Defensively we seem to lack enough pass rush to give opponents problems and allow us to get off the field. We have high motor guys like Chase Winovich who will get there eventually, but as good as our DBs are it isn't sustainable to ask them to cover for 5-plus seconds seemingly every play while QBs stand in a clean pocket. In the offseason should a top pass rusher who can get consistent pressure be a priority? Pass rusher, tight end and wide receiver seem to be areas we are really lacking.
Alex Marr

I would agree with your entire assessment, only I would add quarterback to your long list of pressing needs. No doubt this team needs to find some players who can win one-on-one matchups and create pressure on the quarterback. I understand there was some fear of having Deshaun Watson getting out of the pocket to make plays, but that doesn't mean the defensive front wasn't allowed to get near him on most passing plays, especially working against two backups on the left side. The Patriots need some speed and athleticism off the edge and those are players who are normally available early in the first round. At this point it would appear as if the Patriots will be picking in the top half of the round, so that would definitely be a position of need to keep an eye on.
Paul Perillo

I'm very disappointed from this loss against Texans. I thought I would see Patriots that win against Ravens but I saw the Patriots that won against the Jets. Why did the coaching staff decide to go pass heavy against the NFL worst rushing defense.
Vincent Kaculini

I think there were a couple of factors in play that affected the game plan. The first was, after the terrific opening drive, the Patriots didn't run the ball all that effectively. Damian Harris carried five times for 25 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive and appeared to be on his way to a big day. But the Texans adjusted a bit and limited him to just 18 yards on his next six carries. At the same time, Houston's offense took control of the game and sprinted out to a 21-10 lead, which forced the Patriots to play catchup the entire second half. I did think there were some opportunities to run the ball that New England opted to throw – one example coming late in the first half when it was still 14-10. The Patriots took possession with about four minutes left in the half and threw the ball on two of the three plays, going three-and-out and being forced to punt. But overall Harris was stopped after the fast start and the Patriots needed to move the ball through the air. Ultimately they failed to do so consistently enough to pull out the victory.
Paul Perillo

Realistically, do the Pats have a shot making it into the playoffs with a 10-6 record? I know you don't have a crystal ball, but assuming the Pats sweep the Dolphins and beat the Bills next time, can we still sneak in? Or will the 10-6 record not be enough?
Dave Guerra

I would say that a 10-6 record would definitely get the Patriots in the playoffs. The problem with that is I think the chances of the Patriots finishing with a 10-6 record are quite remote. I just can't see a season-ending six-game winning streak at this point given the lack of consistency on both sides of the ball. New England is 1-4 on the road and in two weeks they will go on a three-game road trip. Expecting to win all three (Chargers, Rams, Dolphins) would seem to be a rather tall task. But if the Patriots could somehow put things together and rip off six straight wins to finish 10-6, I definitely feel that would be enough to qualify for the playoffs.
Paul Perillo

A field goal separates the Patriots from Jets, the worst team in the NFL. Is Bill Belichick getting a free pass on this performance from the ownership? If yes, will he get it the next year?
Stan C.

I have no idea how ownership feels about this season or Belichick in general but if he's getting a free pass I would say that he deserves it based on the last 20 years of excellence. Tom Brady is no longer here and the Patriots are trying begin a transition period that is obviously begin pretty rocky here through 10 games. But that doesn't mean Belichick should be feeling any heat. This should be expected, and it's life for most of the rest of the NFL. Let's give it some time to see how the Patriots rebuild going forward and how things look after some time and then figure out whether or not we feel Belichick is the right guy for the future. But Belichick deserves a lot more rope than this given the six titles and all of the wins over the past 20 years.
Paul Perillo

Can you throw some light on what has happened to Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene this year? Neither has played in games and both appear on the injured reserve list. How do two highly regarded rookies, who have barely played for the Patriots, end up more or less continuously on IR?
Edward Diener

Both players have played in games and both subsequently were injured. Keene actually was hurt coming out of training camp and wasn't available at the start of the season. Then he returned and got into a game and evidently was injured again and has been placed on IR. Asiasi is a little more confusing because he had been playing each week to start the season, then was inactive when Keene return, and eventually he missed a game due for personal reasons. Shortly after that he was placed on injured reserve and Belichick explained that it was due to an injury, although I'm not sure what that injury was. But injuries do happen and this has amounted to little more than a red-shirt year for both rookie tight ends, and that has been a huge disappointment.
Paul Perillo

When will the Patriots wear the red uniforms? Really like the red throwback with the Pat helmet.
Cory Desisto

The Patriots have no plans to wear those throwback uniforms this season and the helmets haven't been worn for years since the NFL instituted a rule requiring players to use just one helmet throughout the season. So, using the Pat Patriot logo becomes more difficult under those limitations.
Paul Perillo

What is J.J. Taylor's status and why haven't we really seen him back after a strong start in Week 1? While the other RBs have been good it just seemed like he had amazing potential.
Steve Stewart

Taylor played in the first three games and contributed with his limited opportunities. He definitely showed some flashes of ability during those games. As Damien Harris emerged as the lead ball carrier the need for Taylor was lessened. Taylor also dealt with an undisclosed illness along the way and that cost him some time as well. Taylor has been declared out for the last seven games, but perhaps with Rex Burkhead's injury there might be more opportunities to get him in uniform moving forward.
Paul Perillo

I think the number and quality of COVID opt-outs the Pats are experiencing this season continue to limit their playoff prospects, while also forcing them to develop their younger players very fast. Do you think their season would be much different at this point if they had a "normal" number of opt-outs?
John Gawienowski

I'm not really sure what a "normal" amount of COVID opt outs is but I don't think things would be much different regardless. Dont'a Hightower obviously would help the defense at a position where the team is severely lacking. Would that translate into more wins? Impossible to know for sure but he would have helped. Patrick Chung also would have helped, but Adrian Phillips, Terrence Brooks and Kyle Dugger have played well in his place. So those two opt outs might have made a difference, although like I said it's tough to quantify it in terms of wins. The others really are non-factors with one possible exception – Marqise Lee. Depending on how Lee adapted to his new surroundings, he might have provided the offense with another option at wide receiver. But that's a big if considering how difficult it's been for receivers to step in immediately and contribute. It certainly didn't help to lose players to COVID, that's for sure.
Paul Perillo

What's your take on the QB situation for 2021 season? Obviously it depends on how Cam Newton does for the rest of the year. Do you think Belichick has seen enough to commit long term to Cam, or do they move up/draft a QB or go after a veteran like Sam Darnold, since it appears the Jets will probably draft Trevor Lawrence?
Keith Nelson

This seems to be emerging as the top question surrounding the team at this point. I really don't need to see what happens the rest of the way to make my decision. I've seen enough and I'd rather have another option at quarterback, whether it's a veteran free agent or drafting a rookie. Obviously there's no way of knowing for sure which quarterbacks are going to be available, but I don't see Newton as being a viable answer going forward. He doesn't throw the ball with enough accuracy to consistently put pressure on the defense and put points on the board. He's reliant on a strong running game, and excellent pass protection. Otherwise he really struggles to put positive plays together. So for those reasons I'd rather see another option come in, especially if it's a younger option.
Paul Perillo

We're in the third quarter of the season and I think it's safe to see if Newton will stay with the team next year. I personally don't think so because he'll want a big contract and Bill isn't about that. If that is the case, will Jarrett Stidham be an option for next season starter or someone else from the draft?
Alexis Sein

Another Newton-related question but I have to say the size of the contract really doesn't impact my opinion much at all. He could agree to an affordable deal and I'd still rather move on and find someone else. I'm not sure I'd feel good about Stidham being the guy based on what I've seen. He's been shaky and unsteady in the pocket, and prone to turnovers as well. Stidham will probably be around to compete with whoever they decide to bring in, but in my view I'd rather not have that someone be Newton.
Paul Perillo

I'm a really big fan of the Patriots and I just wanted to say that if they continue to play like they did against Baltimore that they would be hard to beat. But my question is now that the offense has its sparks going when is N'Keal Harry going to break out and give us what we knew he had all along inside of him?
Stacey Redd

This one came in before the Houston game so obviously there's a different slant now, but my answer wouldn't have changed much. The Patriots generally play hard and find ways to hang around and be competitive in games, but they lack the ability to make enough plays to win tight games and that's been the problem all year. I haven't really seen anything from Harry to indicate he has much of a chance to break out moving forward as he still seems a bit stiff in his route-running and lacks the burst to create consistent separation and make plays. Overall the Patriots will have a tough time creating the consistency needed to string wins together.
Paul Perillo

N'Keal Harry has not been a lot of fun the past two years but watching him against the Ravens I was impressed with his ability to block. Do you think that Josh McDaniels may consider turning Harry into some sort of H-Back or straight up tight end to take advantage of his skill set which would fit into what Josh likes to do?
Johnny Keough

Harry is a big wide receiver but at 225 pounds would be a very small tight end. I also don't view him as a great blocker despite some of the work he displayed against Baltimore. He was not very good in that department against Houston and was called for a couple of penalties, and he would need to put on some weight to be a suitable option at that position. I wouldn't be opposed to giving it a shot because at this point I don't feel there would be much to lose. Perhaps he could be a pass-catching tight end who could take advantage of some matchups against smaller defenders. Again, worth a shot.
Paul Perillo

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