With Isaiah Wynn's return do you believe the running game will be more efficient than it has been thus far this year? Personally I believe losing James Develin was a massive blow and I really believe to get the most out of the run game we need a fullback. Who on the roster (or that is available as a free agent) could fill that role down the stretch? Or do we need to sign someone like LeGarrette Blount to be a big bodied back?
I do feel that Wynn's return should help the offensive line and the running game in general. How much of an improvement should we expect? That's much more difficult to answer. Wynn played in Week 1 against Pittsburgh when the Patriots had James Develin at fullback as well and the running game was awful. Sony Michel has 14 yards on 15 carries that night and the Patriots averaged just 3.4 yards per carry as a team. So I think it might be asking too much for Wynn's mere presence to completely turn things around. The loss of Develin hasn't helped, nor has the absence of a true blocking tight end. But personnel the Patriots currently have is about what we can expect at this point, and I don't think a bigger back would do much to improve the situation either. The running game is still trying to figure things out and hopefully Wynn's return will at least offer some improvement.
I really felt good about our defense in Philly and after watching Baltimore crush Houston I felt better about our effort in Baltimore. I didn't think Wynn would help our run game so much, but after watching how much better our D got on runs after Philly had injury issues with their tackles, wonder if Wynn might be as much benefit to running as to passing? Also do you think Marshall Newhouse will sit or take on of the other O-Line positions?
I do believe Wynn's return will help a lot up front. Newhouse stepped in and filled the void for about half the season and although he had some struggles he wasn't the sole reason for the struggles up front. The offensive line needs to perform better as a unit and Wynn should help, but it's not all about one guy. There have been struggles all along the front periodically, and really aside from Joe Thuney, who I feel has played extremely well, that goes for everyone. I think Newhouse will serve as a backup when Wynn returns but I do feel both the protection and the run blocking should be better down the stretch assuming he can stay healthy.
Why is Brandon Bolden returning kickoffs? He doesn't have the burst or the speed for this role and looks a lot like LeGarrette Blount used to look where it took way too long for him to get up a head of steam to get the yards. I would think Gunner Olszewski would be a better option given his punt returning role and his shiftiness and burst. Every time Bolden takes a kickoff out of the end zone I cringe knowing that he's likely going to be dropped for a loss around the 15 or 20. I just want him to take a touchback every time, if possible, to avoid losing starting field position. This happened again in the Eagles game. I think he has returned one kickoff beyond the 25, with the others a net negative in starting field position. It's time to give the job to someone else.
I, too, would like to see a more dynamic option get a crack at returning kicks and my choice is a little bit outside the box. I do think there's a faster player on the team than Jonathan Jones and I think he might be able to provide a spark if given the chance. He takes reps occasionally on the practice field during training camp but I've never seen him get a shot in games. But regardless, unless the blocking improves it really won't matter who's getting the reps. Has there been an occasion where you felt Bolden had an opportunity to shoot through a hole but was too slow to react or find open space? While I think there might be some better options, I honestly can't think of a time when Bolden was too slow getting upfield and failed to produce a big return because of his speed. Usually he's greeted by multiple tacklers inside the 20 and is forced to break tackles just to approach the 25. It's an area that could use some improvement across the board.
The running game has been terrible ever since James Develin went down in Week 2, showing just how important he is to the running game. They have tried to replace him with several players at that fullback position (Elandon Roberts, Brandon Bolden) and none of them have been able to. Will James Develin return this year, and if so when?
Develin has been a big part of the offense for several years now and the running game certainly takes a hit when he's out of the lineup. He went down in Miami in Week 2 but the running game wasn't very productive in Week 1 when he played so it's not all just about the lack of a fullback. But I definitely agree he's been missed. Unfortunately he is out for the season on injured reserve as the Patriots have already used their two spots for returners on N'Keal Harry and Isaiah Wynn. Develin is still a big part of the team as he's with the players every day in meetings and on the practice field and at games. Few have brought more class and professionalism to the team during his time in Foxborough.
We have blamed everyone from the receivers to the offensive line the tight ends and running backs for our offensive struggles this year but one person that usually escapes that blame is Tom Brady. As a huge Brady fan it hurts to say this but blame really starts with Brady. I have not seen many throws from him in tight windows and he is even missing short throws like screen passes with alarming rates. I feel like something has changed for Brady since the last Super Bowl and even though he has good games, he is just not the same person. He seems nonchalant, more interested in social media presence and has lost the chip-on-the-shoulder attitude. I know you probably feel I am being overly critical.
I agree to a point in that I feel he hasn't really received much criticism for the offense's lack of production but I feel you are dismissing all of the factors that go into it. You mention all the groups but you don't seem to think those problems have anything to do with the struggles. Basically, the offense hasn't been operating at peak capacity at any level all year long. That's hard for a quarterback to deal with. I'm not trying to make excuses for him (although I'm sure that's how it will be interpreted). He's dealt with spotty pass protection, no running game to speak of, one real true wide receiver who is consistently capable of making plays and no real options at tight end for the large majority of the season. He has Julian Edelman and James White as players he can truly rely on. That's hard to overcome, and yet he's still done enough to have the team sitting with a 9-1 record. Obviously that's almost all due to the incredible play of the defense, but Brady has found ways to put just enough points on the board to keep the team successful. And as far as hit nonchalant attitude, as you call it … if you feel he's lost some edge then why do you think he seemed so frustrated after the win over the Eagles? Most quarterbacks would have been satisfied with a win. Brady knows he and the rest of the offense will need to do much more to win another title. I see no complacency in his game at all. Could he be laying better? Absolutely. Same goes for the rest of the unit.
Boy that Eagles TD in the end zone sure looked like an interception to me. Was that a bad review? My opinion of the Pittsburgh-Browns brawl. Pittsburgh's center should've been suspended more than just three games and Mason Rudolph should've been suspended as well, at least one game. You're thoughts?
Well, my answers here probably aren't what you're looking for. First, I thought the decision to overturn the call in the end zone was the right call. Dallas Goedert caught the ball, crossed the goal line, went all the way to the ground and only then did Jonathan Jones wrestle the ball away from him. It was a solid play by Jones in an effort to not quit but I felt Goedert secured the ball and it was a touchdown. As for the Steelers-Browns fiasco … again I disagree. I understand that Rudolph had a role in the fight but a fine is all he earned in my view. First, Myles Garrett really started everything with an extremely late and unnecessary takedown of Rudolph. People have pointed to Rudolph's actions at this point, grabbing Garrett's facemask (among other things) and trying to pry his helmet off. That's where he earned a fine. Had Garrett not ripped off his helmet and subsequently treat Rudolph as a railroad spike fines would have been the end of it for everyone. But Garrett lost his mind and earned his lengthy suspension, and Pouncey's actions, why commendable coming to the aid of his quarterback, definitely crossed the line with punches and kicks involved. I could see him getting a game trimmed off via appeal, but definitely didn't deserve more than three games. It was an ugly incident to be sure but I feel the league has done a reasonable job sorting it out thus far.
I am very excited about the young receiver corps the Pats are building. Jakobi Meyers and N'Keal Harry could be a great 1-2 receiver tandem in the future but my question is do you think the Pats will look to draft a top prospect at tight end in the draft? You could never replace Rob Gronkowski but it is obvious they are lacking at that position.
I'm probably not the right person to ask this question because I was pretty convinced the Patriots were going to draft a tight end in last year's draft. Instead, they passed, and given the state to the depth chart at the position my guess is Bill Belichick wishes he hadn't. Ben Watson is doing admirably as the top guy at age 37 but clearly the Patriots will need more at the position next season. Even if Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo are deemed worth keeping and further development, I would expect the Patriots to use a pick, likely in the top three rounds, on a tight end.
What are the chances of bringing the current defense back next year? Is it even desirable? Who are we most likely to lose through retirement/free agency?
It's really tough to bring back everyone at any time in the current NFL landscape. Players often hit free agency and looked to cash in while others are in the latter stages of their careers and decide to move on. This happens to every team, every year. For the Patriots, there will almost certainly be some turnover. Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy will be free agents at linebacker and one or both could easily move on. Collins I would guess is the most likely to leave after coming back on an affordable one-year deal. Van Noy could be in for a huge payday if he decided to test the free agent waters. Devin McCourty also will be a free agent and after talking about retiring at the Super Bowl last year it wouldn't be a shock if he stepped away this time around. Those would be the biggest free agents but then there would be guys like Adam Butler (restricted) and Danny Shelton (unrestricted) and veterans who would still be under contract but might be nearing the end of the line (Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jason McCourty). The good news is the Patriots also have some young developing talent ready to step in, but to answer your question my feeling is there will be some turnover on both sides of the ball. There always is.
I love Sony Michel but he doesn't seem to be taking off quite as I hoped this year. Wouldn't it be wise to at least give the rookie Damien Harris a chance to see what he can do? Why can't they trust him to take on a few carries and mix it up a little?
I think it's possible that Harris will get some opportunities as the season winds down but he needs to stay healthy and on the field to do so. He got banged up in practice last week and did not make the trip to Philadelphia as a result. I'm not sure he would have been active anyway (likely not since he's spent most of the year as a healthy scratch). Harris showed some promise in the summer and I'd like to see him get some chance as well. The problem is finding a spot for him. Assuming all the running backs are healthy and Michel remains as the lead back, then Harris would have a hard time getting in the lineup. Rex Burkhead has a role on offense and is a big part of the special teams. Brandon Bolden obviously has a huge role on special teams. James White is one of the game's elite passing backs. So where does that leave Harris? He's basically just a backup running back right now with no special teams value. Most of Belichick's backups full roles on special teams. So unless there's an injury, or if Belichick decided to make a change, I'm not sure we'll see Harris get that shot.
I know about retirements and injuries ... but, the Pats are supposed to be the team that never has O-Line problems. Supposedly we can take linemen off the street, or find big guys from Europe to play at a high level under Dante Scarnecchia - what happened? I thought we had a call back list that was capable of producing starting linemen.
I don't have much to add here other than you basically answered your own question. Retirements and injuries sound like excuses, but they're also facts. Jared Veldheer and Brian Schwenke would have filled backup roles had they not retired. Veldheer would have been the starter with Wynn out as well. Things would likely look a lot better in that case. Health problems for Wynn and David Andrews have also contributed to the struggles. There's only so much coaching can do, and that said I don't think the offensive line has been a disaster. There have been problems for sure. But through it all Brady has been able to avoid taking too many hits for the most part and the offense, although inconsistent, has done just enough. But I can't pretend this is not a huge concern heading down the stretch.
Do you agree that 12-4 should be enough for the No.1 seed in the AFC? And that the Bills, Raiders and Colts should be fighting over the wild cards?
There's still six weeks of football left to be played but looking at things as they stand right now I don't think 12-4 will be enough to secure the No. 1 seed. That should be enough to grab a bye, but the Ravens are just a game back of the 9-1 Patriots at 8-2. If the Patriots finished 12-4, that would mean the Ravens would have to lose three of their remaining six games to finish 11-5 behind New England. Baltimore hold the tiebreaker based on its win over the Patriots in Week 9. Even 13-3 might not be enough to grab the top seed considering how well the Ravens are playing. Both teams have some challenging games remaining on their schedules with the Ravens facing the Rams, 49ers, Bills, Jets, Browns and Steelers while the Patriots take on the Cowboys, Texans, Chiefs, Bengals, Bills and Dolphins. Both teams likely have another loss or two on the horizon but I don't think the Ravens will lose three of those final six.