Every Friday, Phil Perry and Mike Giardi will take your Patriots questions on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag - or Friday Bag, as they call it. This week, with the Thursday night game, they've moved it to Sunday. Different day, same great Bag.
Got questions for next week? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag. But for now, give the latest edition of the Bag a read.
PP: That to me is the only explanation, Wally. Yes, Mike Gillislee is the bigger, stronger player. It makes sense that they'd like to get him going in short-yardage and other "big-back" situations. And yes, James White deserves plenty of playing time as the team's top receiving back. But Lewis has been electric with the ball in his hands, and I think the Patriots would like to do everything in their power to ensure that he's around for the long haul. On Thursday he was their most elusive running back, forcing three missed tackles on seven carries and averaging more than 6.5 yards after contact, per Pro Football Focus. On the season, he's broken six tackles. For comparison's sake, Gillislee has broken seven on 50 more carries.
PP: Hey, Scott. Don't think there's anything wrong with Dorsett. He's simply the No. 4 receiver right now on a team that doesn't use a four-receiver package extensively when it's at its best. Dorsett saw 20 snaps on Thursday (after seeing a combined 16 in Weeks 3 and 4) thanks in part to Rob Gronkowski being out and Josh McDaniels turning to that four-wideout package more often. If you were to see an injury to any of the top three at his position, you'd see much more of Dorsett. Plus it's still early. He's been with the team for about a month, and though he's not being asked to learn the entirety of the playbook, we it takes some time to build up a rapport with Tom Brady (and McDaniels, and Bill Belichick...) before you're trusted to be a significant part of the offense. Maybe with more time, we'll start to see even more of the speedster even in three-receiver looks.
PP: Hey, Chris. I know Mike Lombardi put Matt Patricia on the "hot seat" in one of his latest Ringer videos, but I think someone in his sixth year as defensive coordinator and coming off of his second Super Bowl would get a little more than four weeks of the regular season to turn his defense around. Things looked improved (though far from perfect) on Thursday so Patricia gets some credit there. As long as that improvement continues, I believe Patricia has plenty of rope with Belichick.
PP: Can we go with E) All of the above? I won't pretend to know what the scheme is on a snap-to-snap basis, but I believe there are plays where the Patriots just have a less-than-ideal calls in that lead to being beat off the snap. Take the first sack Brady took on Thursday night, for example. The Patriots tried to sell a stretch run to the right, and David Andrews was never really able to get a good angle on Clinton McDonald. Once McDonald realized Brady was passing, he got up the field with ease. I think linemen not playing up to their expected level -- lump Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder in that category together -- is an issue. The vertical nature of the Patriots passing game is chipping in as well because Brady has to hold onto the football longer than he otherwise might. They've also played some talented fronts. Tampa Bay (outside of Gerald McCoy) isn't necessarily one of them, but Houston and Kansas City might be the two best defensive fronts they face all year. It's been a perfect storm in some ways, and that's why Brady's on pace to absorb somewhere in the realm of 100 hits by season's end.
PP: Maybe not. However, a tortoise on a faster track? Champion.
MG: Morning Kevin (or afternoon, depending on when I get this done). David Harris has zero value. Zip. Zilch. His lack of foot speed was evident during the joint practices with the Texans and made me wonder if he even had a spot on the team. Clearly the Pats thought he’d bring more to the table. They gave him 1.25 million guaranteed. But he is behind Van Noy, Roberts and the other Flowers. Not sure why Bill would keep him around, considering how much he values his roster spots and flexibility. As for Allen, he just hasn’t been what he once was in Indy. Brady doesn’t trust him, and his blocking is ok but not “the best blocking tight end in the league” as Allen wanted to be. But they don’t have anyone else to replicate that strength at the point of attack so he stays. I am dealing with a calf injury currently. Timetable is 2 to 4 years…
MG: Lisa, I saw one play and one play only where someone from Tampa ran so free that it gave me flashbacks to the week prior versus Carolina. That tells me they came a long way in such a short week. Solved? Probably not quite yet, but having Hightower out there for nearly the entire game - including a few snaps in the middle - certainly helps to bridge the talk from front to back.
MG: Joao, I don’t think Gilmore is whining. I really don’t. This is who he is as a player. Belichick knew this when he signed him. Also, when Revis wanted guys one-on-one was that seen as a bad thing? And you know what? Just like with Revis, the first time they let Gilmore do his thing (though there was plenty of zone mixed in Thursday) he played his best game as a Patriot. Coincidence? I think not. However, they want just go man all the time. It’s just not Belichick’s way. Each game is it’s own entity but maybe just maybe, Gilmore got a little more swagger back. He’ll need it.
MG: We need LB help, the depth and talent has an effect on all 3 tiers of defense... does mclellin fill that need? Does ninko consider a return?
McClellin, Vincent Valentine and Malcolm Mitchell are all eligible to come back from IR when the time comes but you can only bring two back. Right now, I’d rate ‘em in the order of the prior sentence. That may surprise some, because Mitchell was such a key guy for the offense late. But that side of the ball - and that position - is the least of my concerns right now (obviously this can change in the weeks to come). The Pats need someone to push Van Noy. They could also use McClellin’s versatility. So while not an impact player, he should provide some stability. Valentine would be second based on the Alan Branch scenario. Not playing well, then not even traveling. If he’s not active and playing Sunday versus the Jets, I’d say the message that got sent wasn’t received. As for Ninkovich, please. No. Just…no.
MG: Niko, I like Cassius Marsh’s energy and athleticism but he is still struggling to grasp how to rush the passer. The Pats do it differently than the Seahawks. He’s got flying past the spot and QB too often for anyone’s liking. He’s also had a hard time at times holding the edge. He’s lighter than Ninkovich was. I’m sure they’d love to add at that spot but I just can’t imagine there’s too much out there that we would consider “impact” players. Also (believe it or not) they’re closer to the cap than you’d think. That might make a veteran add harder to accomplish as well. You might instead be looking at an Akeem Ayers type again.
MG: What's a position they can target in the draft early? few years w/o a 1st rounder. Could be important for them to get some high end talent.
Draft talk? In October? I love it! I think they need to recoup some picks after all this wheeling and dealing for players. So don’t be surprised if they turn their first rounder into a 2nd and a 4th. As for positions, that edge spot opposite Trey Flowers. Maybe a big fella to play the interior, with Branch being 32 years old and Brown heading into the 4th year of his rookie deal (will they pick up the option on the 5th? Not sure). Also perhaps a left tackle if they’re not sold on Tony Garcia, who no one has seen in 6 weeks or so.