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Unfiltered Mailbag: Trade deadline possibilities, Bourne's impact and Mac outlook

Patriots fans are wondering what’s next for the 2-6 Patriots as they focus on the trade deadline, remaining schedule and draft potential.

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Is there anything more scary than the 2-6 Patriots? @BaderThfc

Well, 1-7 or 0-8 would be pretty scary too, but it's been a tough year all around, from the frightening concussion to Isaiah Bolden in preseason to all the injuries that have struck some of their best and most promising players to the same problems on the field popping up over and over again. Last week it felt like the Pats might've found something against the Bills and it was encouraging to see the interception and score that they started off against the Dolphins with, but from there things devolved into a game we've seen many times. The opponent pulls away with a lead aided by at least one Patriots turnover and then the Pats try to make a push late in the game that falls well short. Many of these games have felt like Groundhog Day over and over and I'm not sure how they break out of the cycle. Maybe these next few games will reveal something new.

You want to get a QB next year, explosive skill player or trade down to fix wide receiver and offensive line? @jamesa27152778

Really hard to make definitive statements at this point of the year with draft position and so many prospects largely unknown quantities at this point. I'm still okay with Mac Jones at quarterback next year unless the Pats truly bottom out to the point where they get a top-three pick. But if Mac continues to turn the ball over like he has, all bets could be off. I still know that I don't want to go pay some journeyman veteran quarterback who won't win a Super Bowl here and won't be part of the foundation of building toward that, so instead so let's just say the team isn't drafting high enough to get Williams or Maye and we decide to ride out Mac Year 4 on a rookie contract. In that case I'd look tight end/receiver and tackle with the top two picks in whatever order. But the bottom line is that they need impact playmakers on offense, in almost any form. If they could get Brock Bowers and a potential starting tackle with those two picks, I think those could really be good foundational pieces at positions of huge need as well as importance. Bottom line, a rookie first-round quarterback wouldn't get much support around him until early in the second round at best, so you ride the former first rounder you already have at that position under a rookie contract and keep stacking other positions around him.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10).
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10).

What is the downside of giving the Pats' backup QBs a couple of starts each (unless one does well enough for more starts)? @vastleft

It's a good question that I'd probably save until after the bye. I'd almost look at these next three – Commanders, Colts, Giants -- as Mac's chances to turn a corner. Won't be easy without Bourne and maybe Parker too. I don't think Zappe or Grier will get a shot until the wheels truly fall off. There are still plays to be made on offense that Mac has been too inconsistent with. Can he start hitting those plays consistently at some point? If not, I think we're probably on the same page, especially as we get to games like Christmas Eve in Denver, where it can't hurt to just see if the backups bring any kind of resetting spark. Just not sure I'd make the move before then because once you do, you're starting a whole new phase with Mac and it will be hard to go back.

"What a difference a game makes"... lol.. Don't you think that even a guarded optimism for this team was misplaced last week? -Stan C.

Depends on who you ask. I was tempered in my excitement, focused on enjoying the positivity boost of last week instead of instantly pondering what one upset win over Buffalo in Week 6 could mean for the rest of the season. Last week was fun for that reason, and I can't say I was surprised to see the team regress to a more familiar outcome in Miami. I think the truth is that this is who these Patriots are because it's what they've repeatedly shown us in games where they have a chance to make a real statement. If they don't start reeling off some wins, that Miami game could've been the last game this season where they really have that chance. Upset wins over the Chiefs or in Buffalo could move the needle, and the Jets could very well be coming to Foxborough in the season finale with something to play for, so it can still be interesting for what it's worth, it just in all likelihood won't be the playoffs for a third time in four years.

Does Boutte get a chance now with Bourne out for the year? @richg6567

I'd like to think so. The rookies have to play as much as possible from here on out in my opinion. Try to burn off all of their rookie mistakes as quickly as possible and find out who at the bottom edge of this roster has potential to grow into a real contributor next year. Bourne's injury, while terribly deflating and unfortunate, along with Parker's, might at least give guys like Boutte and Thornton a little more opportunity to get in there. I think it will also put a spotlight on Juju Smith-Schuster who should be able to do a lot of what Bourne did, at least in theory considering his skillset. There's a lot of competition at wide receiver, we'll see if it can produce another promising gem like Pop Douglas before this season ends. Nothing would be better than to see Boutte, Thornton or maybe even Reagor start to make an impact that offers hope for next year. Bourne is a free agent, so this injury really complicates things for him. Even if the Pats retain him he could be looking at a PUP start to the 2024 season, highlighting the kind of work they'll have to do at the position this offseason.

At this point, what would you consider a successful rest of the season? @OptomechanicalR

Rookie contributions! White, Mapu and Boutte all join Douglas with promising outputs and we start to get a sense that this rookie class was a stacked, game-changing group that will get valuable playing time as the season winds down. Throw Sidy Sow in there, he looks like he has real potential at guard. I'd also like to see what Mac Jones does as they keep rolling him out there. Can it really just keep unfolding the way it has? Can he turn a corner? Can we discover anything new about him as a player? Finally, how about a final home win to keep the Jets out of the playoffs? I know there are no more moral victories but that is one semi-fun way the season could come to a somewhat satisfying ending when you're not going to the postseason.

If the Patriots don't win another game, and the end up having a top-five pick, do you see Bill staying put to draft an offensive weapon for Mac, drafting protection for Mac, or trading out for more picks? @chdmrtn

Unfortunately at this point I feel like anything after third overall is dicey. Top three and it's easy to say you gotta take Williams, Maye or Harrison. Fourth overall and you're probably at least considering trading up to get one of those three highly regarded prospects. I hate to say it but after that it's probably a tackle or tight end Brock Bowers and they really need to fill those positions with studs. I know a tackle selection would drive everyone nuts no matter how big of a need it is and I get that. It's just a tough draft for what the Pats really need, what the fans really want and the reality of how it will all come together. Right now a top-10 pick seems likely, but there's a huge difference between third overall and seventh overall. Plenty of time to get into it this offseason when we see where the Pats line up in the draft and how this season actually finishes. ­

Do the Patriots have any sensible trade offs? Struggling to think of one who other teams would actually want or would be in our interests to move and salary cap sensibility. @CJSOUSA14

I don't really see any gems out there worth using valuable draft capital on right now. What is worth the most to me at this point are draft picks. So if they want to swing a current player for a pick I'd be fine with it, although I'm not all that sure they'll get anything more than a Day 3 selection for any player they might be willing to move. Uche is hurt, Owenu is too valuable currently and Dugger is just starting to come on after a slow start that undoubtedly hurt his value. I am not expecting anything from the trade deadline. The Patriots shouldn't be buyers and they don't have much to sell at the moment.

Who are you dressing up as for Halloween? @clazzyclare

Ugh, probably nothing. I'm lame.

What's your favorite candy? @ChriswithaTIAN

Although I've gone to dark chocolate peanut butter cups in my old age, for Halloween I'll go with the OG, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (with milk chocolate) as my favorite with a special shout out to the holiday variations that are always a little bigger and thicker that traditional peanut butter cups.

Team photographers David Silverman and Eric J. Adler present their best photos from the Patriots Week 8 game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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