The Patriots rallied from a slow start to win their last two games and regain the top spot in the AFC East at 3-2. But even the most loyal fans of the team would recognize there's still plenty of room for improvement for a team that annually expects to play deep into January.
The NFL trade deadline is coming up in a couple of weeks (Oct. 30) and there have been some interesting names thrown around that might be available. Some of those names have even been tied to the Patriots, which perhaps adds some intrigue to a period of time in which Bill Belichick always seems to be active.
Last season New England dealt backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers at the deadline, surprising just about everybody in the process. Is there another such deal in offing this time around?
This week's Samsonite Make Your Case is going to assume there is, but is looking to be more specific. Which player should the Patriots target at the trade deadline?
PFW's Andy Hart says …
The Patriots defense has struggled at all levels during the early part of the season. The run defense has improved in recent weeks but I still have some concerns about the back two levels, especially the linebackers. That's an area in need of some depth and more importantly, some athleticism. Deone Bucannon is the type of player I feel could add some speed and versatility to this group.
The defense has had trouble covering running backs for quite some time, and Bucannon has the skill set to contribute in that area. With Ja'Whaun Bentley on injured reserve the depth at linebacker is lacking, and Bucannon is a player who has had success in the past.
Prior to 2018 he'd never had fewer than 80 tackles in a season in his previous four years. The Cardinals have a new coach in Steve Wilks and it seems Bucannon is not a fit in his new defensive scheme. That's why I feel he might be available, and Bill Belichick will find a way to incorporate his skills into the defense.
Adding Bucannon would make a lot of sense at a time when depth is needed.
PFW's Paul Perillo says …
What's old is new again and sometimes the second time around makes a world of difference. Jamie Collins was a terrific player for the Patriots early in his career and then seemed unhappy with his role and was traded to Cleveland. Since then it seems the Browns are phasing him out after giving him a big new contract, and perhaps a return to New England might re-energize his career.
Collins has the exact skill set the Patriots defense is lacking – a fast, versatile linebacker who could fill different roles in an area that is dangerously thin. We already know he has the ability to thrive in New England's system and he would be welcomed by many teammates who were upset to see him go in the first place.
Patrick Chung once left as a free agent, only to return as a much better player than he was in his first stint. Perhaps Collins could have a similar resurgence while helping to add some speed to a linebacker corps that needs help in pass coverage. It wouldn't take much to get him, and it wouldn't take long to get him up to speed. Bring Collins back.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.