Friday Bag

#FridayBag: Don't worry, you can keep your hands to yourself


#FridayBag: Don't worry, you can keep your hands to yourself

FOXBORO - 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.

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag. But for now, give the latest edition of the Bag a read.

MG: Hopefully that’s not needed, Casey, but I will pass it on. 

MG: BIG GAME! Sure. Why the hell not?

MG: Allie, this is a question that’s I’ve been pondering for years, or at least months . . . ok, for about 3 minutes. Tarzan has either a) been duping us all this time and actually has a job, drives an BMW and has a colonial with 2 1/2 baths or b) he’s a baby face who never hit puberty. 

MG: Mikey! Here’s a quite from Todd Wash, Jags DC, when asked about Ramsey possibly covering Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski Sunday: “I think the last thing you can do is to go into a game like this and you try and reinvent the wheel . . . Jalen is a good corner and he plays against wide receivers . . . "

So either he’s telling the truth or he doesn’t want to reveal a wrinkle. My opinion: Why waste Ramsey outside the entire game? Brady’s at his best attacking inside the numbers and even more to the point, inside the hashes. At the very least, I’d deploy Ramsey on Gronk in the red area and make Tommy boy look elsewhere.

MG: Yeah, tough injury. Jon Jones has been terrific on special teams for two years, a likely heir apparent to Matt Slater as that guy who ends up being in the Pro Bowl every year. Love almost every bit of what he brings. Would say Jonathan Bademosi will be active this week and move into that role. 

MG: Sizzle, for sure. We’ve done a lot of X’s and O’s on this one and one area where the Jags have been especially vulnerable is under the linebackers. That means running backs, that means shorter crossing patterns and that means combo platters designed to force these LBs to make a decision. Telvin Smith was targeted 13 times last weekend (according to Pro Football Focus) and surrendered 12 catches. A healthy Brady feasts on this.

MG: Goose making his #FridayBag debut. Welcome. Best matchup is Matt Patricia and his big brains versus Blake Bortles. If that kid thinks he’s going to be looking at the same thing very often, I got a bridge to sell him. Worst matchup is T.J. Yeldon on the linebackers. We’ve spent a ton of time talking about Leonard Fournette and what he brings if he’s healthy but Yeldon is both strong, shifty and can catch. With a skittish QB, Yeldon could be heavily involved.

PP: JP, checking in from the District! I'd say the chances are minimal. I would do it. You might do it. Go out on top and all that. But you and I haven't been saying for years that we're planing to work into our mid-40s. And we don't have post-retirement business plans that kind of hinge on our ability to work into our mid-40s. We also aren't about to be named MVP...of anything. We'll see, but I would be very surprised if this ends up being Brady's last season.

PP: Good question, Michael. Also a scary one for Patriots fans, I'd think. If the unexpected happens and Brady can't take the field, I think you'd have some packages in place for Chris Hogan or Jacob Hollister just in case something happened to Brian Hoyer. Hogan is arguably one of the most versatile athletes on the team, and he threw a pass (left-handed) at MetLife last year. Hollister was a walk-on quarterback at the University of Nevada. When he transferred to Arizona Western Community College, he made the transition to tight end.

PP: To me, all of these questions are related, so let's smash them all together. I do believe the Patriots will show plenty of "21" and "12" personnel in this game. That means either a) two receivers, two backs and one tight end, or b) two receivers, one back and two tight ends. In that scenario, the receivers would be -- in my opinion -- some combination of Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola. I'd use the Cooks-Amendola combination most frequently unless it seems like Hogan has completely shaken the rust from his long regular-season absence. The reason it would be a good idea to use theses heavier formations -- as opposed to "11" personnel with three wideouts -- is that it attacks the Jaguars with their weaker coverage people on the field. If the Patriots deploy, say, James Develin, Dion Lewis and Rob Gronkowski in the same look, Jacksonville would likely have to respond by putting run-stuffing linebacker Paul Posluszny on the field. If the Patriots can manipulate the coverage to get any non-Develin weapon on Posluszny, that's a mismatch they can exploit. We go into further detail on how the Patriots can exploit the Jaguars' base defense -- which has struggled in coverage this season -- here


When all's said and done, don't expect Brady or Belichick to leave


When all's said and done, don't expect Brady or Belichick to leave

FOXBORO -- 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.

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag. But for now, give the latest edition of the Bag a read.

PP: Anthony! No chance. As soon as Jimmy Garoppolo was dealt, that essentially made Tom Brady a Patriot for life. Anyone the Patriots draft -- whether it's this season, which I think it will be, or next -- will need some time to develop. The timeline should work out that Brady can essentially walk off into the sunset whenever the next guy is ready. So when you hear a breakup suggested due to the incidents detailed in ESPN's report on Friday, it's really, in my opinion, a suggestion that Bill Belichick could leave or retire. Robert Kraft obviously isn't going anywhere. And given the Garoppolo trade, Brady isn't either. The only caveat here: Brady could force the team's hand by refusing to retire once he "sucks" -- he's said before that's when he'll hang 'em up -- and make the Patriots choose between him and a younger quarterback who's better. If that happens, I could see him playing somewhere else. Seems unlikely, though.

PP: I don't think Belichick is gone after this season. And I don't think anyone really knows when Belichick is planning on retiring -- although Kraft indicated last year during Super Bowl week that he had an idea -- so it'd be hard for any assistant to plan based on Belichick's future plans. I don't think the next head coach of the Patriots is on the staff at the moment. I do think, if they could somehow make it work, that Bill O'Brien would be an interesting candidate. He's handled tough coaching jobs in the past, he has the demeanor to help him navigate life as Belichick's replacement, and I think he wouldn't mind being back in the area. 

MG: Lorne, he was ornery and borderline rude in his first interaction with us and then much more pleasant following the game, although there was that whole “put lotion on my back” thing and -- just prior -- some semi-nasty remarks to teammate Jonathan Bademosi regarding the media’s overall intentions. Overall, I’d say he came as advertised. He is very happy to be playing football and feeling like he is being given the opportunity to contribute. The guys look at him like he’s a rental. Get here, do a job and let the coaches/front office figure out if he has a future here beyond this season (seems highly unlikely).

MG: Eddie, he is definitely going to have to answer questions about the clown shirt, but I think the people that know him respect him. Plus, Belichick is a huge backer of his. That carries a lot of weight in this league when it comes to hirings and firings (ask John Harbaugh). I think the other thing to consider here is how well-versed Patricia is not just on the defensive side of the ball, but in a multitude of areas. Belichick loves to break in his newbies with a variety of tasks and Patricia was able to handle all of them. He’s getting a job if he wants it.

MG: Carl, way too early to say what QBs might be a fit here but I suspect that’s fairly high up on the list of priorities this offseason -- finding that developmental signal caller who could maybe be Brady’s heir apparent in a couple of years. As for the other spots, I’d look long at hard at linebacker/edge rusher, maybe another stout defensive tackle, a tight end and certainly a tackle, maybe even one fairly high up depending on what happens with Nate Solder and free agency.

MG: Don, the Pats have had to go pretty far into the well this year because of injuries so I’m not sure anyone can be a breakout player at this point. But as for someone who is asked to do a fair amount and is just thought of as another guy, I’m going to peg Eric Lee. He’s going to get a fair amount of snaps and he’s shown up here and there with sacks and that interception versus Buffalo. Maybe he makes a splashy play somewhere in this postseason.

MG: One Tom E. Curran would say it’s him hands down. He does play like 40 hours a week. Phil Perry would argue that he would take Curran down on the low block, put him in the torture chamber and bleed him out slowly but surely. No one has the range I do. That’s a fact. I’m like a 5-foot-9 Steph Curry. I’m in the hot zone the second I cross over half court. I’m also scrappy. And a little mean (dirty). I guess it’s a toss-up but what I would say is that as a 3-on-3 team, we wouldn’t lose and none of the games would be close. 

MG: Barb, he still has some work to do. Nate is also dealing with some developing power alleys in the front but while that may suck for him, I think it enhances the overall impact of said mullet. Nate isn’t sure if he chose the mullet or the mullet chose him but I’m embracing it and he is too.

MG:TT! Trillium but only because I’ve had limited experience with Treehouse. And don’t sleep on Night Shift. Awake is delicious.

MG:Murph, Happy New Year to ya. 1) I’m going to say Van Noy but only because of the number of solid snaps he gives them. Mitchell could certainly help Tom Brady with his ability to run the comebacks/curls and his willingness to fight for the football, but who knows how he’ll hold up after missing the entire regular season. 2) Anything that puts him north of 50 million guaranteed would surprise me. Not that I don’t think he’ll eventually be worth it (I think he’s already there) but there’s still only the 7 starts on the resume. Osweiler got what? 36 million guaranteed with just about the same number of starts. Maybe a little more than that. If I was him, I’d be cool with the franchise tag, ball out and then got oodles and oodles of dollars the following year. 3) Biggest slob is Matt Cefali. Have you seen his shirts? I’m kidding. That has nothing to do with his cleanliness. Just bad taste. Tanguay’s desk is a bit of a cluster, and I think Curran showers only on the days he plays hoops.

PP: If the Patriots did move to activate Malcolm Mitchell, I think they'd make a corresponding move to the receiver group. To me, Kenny Britt would make the most sense as the player lopped off the roster. Otherwise, you're almost too deep at receiver. They'd be hurting themselves elsewhere on the 53 for a sixth receiver. Wouldn't make sense. The Patriots have time to determine if they want Mitchell back, and they've been watching him closely to see how he's progressing since returning to practice. Indications are he's responded to the workload well. Just hard to see exactly how ready he is when he's been out as long as he has, and when the staff is going off of walkthroughs and relatively light practice sessions. 

PP: Great question. Don't be surprised to see a funky field-goal block or another odd-looking onside kick. The Patriots are as forward-thinking as any other team when it comes to creativity on special teams. Remember they tried a misdirection punt return in the Super Bowl with Patrick Chung. And don't be shocked if something that was used this college bowl season pops up. The fake kneeldown the Patriots used at the very end of regulation in the Super Bowl with Dion Lewis last year was plucked from Western Kentucky's bowl game against Memphis a couple of months prior. The Patriots called it "Hilltopper" after the Western Kentucky mascot. They're watching everything. 


Butler's exit signs continue to shine bright

Butler's exit signs continue to shine bright

FOXBORO -- 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.

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag. But for now, give the latest edition of the Bag a read.

Eddie!!! I’m putting the chances of his return at single digits and that was before this nonsense. His explanation seemed implausible to me. You could accidentally hit the retweet button but then you have to say yes to retweeting it. I don’t know. That’s never happened to me before and I tweet entirely too much. Liking something would have made more sense. Anyway, I think he’s been a pain in the butt and I think his play has suffered this year as he eyeballs free agency and a new contract.

Miguel checking in with a tough one off the bat. Let's eliminate specialists -- Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona -- from the equation. I think Gostkowski would be the clear winner if he was in the mix. He's impacted a lot of games in a positive way for them with his field goals and kick placement. If we go outside of that trio, the question gets tougher. Matthew Slater has been unavailable for much of the season. Nate Ebner is out. And the list of solid week-to-week contributors is long. I'm going to go with Jonathan Jones, who's been out there consistently and is one of their top players when it comes to covering kicks. The Patriots are among the best in the league when it comes to opposing starting field position, and it's because of players like Jones. Johnson Bademosi, Brandon King and Brandon Bolden all deserve honorable mention, but Jones is my choice. If Patriots opponents were more willing to allow the Patriots to return kicks, then Dion Lewis would be in the running as well. But he's taking a knee more often than not.

Rich, the Patriots ask their edge players to do a hell of a lot more than just set the edge. It’s why Rob Ninkovich was an ironman on that defense for a long time, why they drafted a player like Chandler Jones in the first round, and why they were quite confident in letting Dont’a Hightower expand his role in that regard before the injuries struck. The Pats also drafted Derek Rivers but lost him to a knee injury in the summer and made that ill-fated trade for Kony Ealy. One of the reasons Ealy didn’t work here was because he was unable/unwilling to handle some of those duties, which include dropping into coverage.

Let's set it at 6.5! Any more than two catches a game over the next three, I think, would be encouraging -- or it would mean someone's been injured. There's a lot to absorb for Britt, obviously, and he's competing with a pretty deep group of pass-catchers for looks. When Michael Floyd was here at the end of last season, he caught four passes in two games, and there were no Rob Gronkowski or Brandin Cooks to absorb targets. I'm taking the under.

The Malcolm Mitchell situation is a murky one. He's been in the building. He's been rehabbing. But as far as I understand it, even he's not entirely sure if there's a plan in place to bring him back this season. I think the Britt signing further muddies the picture.

He's nice depth if the Patriots are hoping to give Mitchell the full year off to heal and be an impact player for the foreseeable future.

Vincent Valentine is in a situation where he's also doing everything that's asked of him. He was encouraged by his progress midseason, and he stuck in Foxboro through the bye week to continue to stay on his rehab plan. What's happening now with Alan Branch -- who missed practice all week because of an injured knee and almost certainly won't be available Sunday -- could impact how the Patriots view a potential return for the second-year defensive tackle. Their defense has struggled against the run. They're allowing an average of 5.0 yards per carry, worst in the league. If Branch is going to miss some time moving forward, maybe that forces the Patriots to break glass on Valentine.

My answer might've been different a month or two ago. Back then, the concerns about Andrew Luck's shoulder weren't as alarming as they are now. Back then, Giants ownership hadn't yet made a big ugly mess of its quarterback situation. I still think there are going to be enough enticing opportunities out there for McDaniels to seriously consider taking one. His choice could be the Giants, who have talent in place and the perfect bridge quarterback ready to go. It could be the Bears, if he believes in Mitchell Trubisky. It could be the Browns, if McDaniels wants to go back to the Cleveland area, and if he can stomach the way ownership has handled things in recent years, and if he likes the idea of working with new general manager John Dorsey.

I don't think the opportunities are as shiny as they were earlier this season, but they are plentiful, and now may be as good a time as any for McDaniels to make his second run as a head coach.

Well, I’d say any quarterback who loses his top two options won’t be as good, right? Also, let’s give some credit to Miami. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke came up with a good plan and there were times where Brady was clearly unsure about what he was seeing. Combine that with receivers that had a hard time separating from press man coverage and you had the perfect storm Monday night. It’ll look a lot better this weekend in Pittsburgh. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict the Pats won’t go 0-for-11 on third downs.

I do think Derek Rivers will make an impact. First of all, if his knee can get right, and indications I've gotten are that rehab has gone well, he's athletic enough to make plays on the edge. Physically, his skill set should translate. We were starting to see flashes of that in training camp before he was injured. Second of all, it looks like he's going to have all kinds of opportunity. The picture on the edge could change depending on what the Patriots do in the draft and free agency, obviously, but after Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise and Kyle Van Noy, there aren't many edge defenders who look like locks for roles in 2018.

Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy have been very good of late, but they may be asked to play more if Branch can't go. How that impacts their legs late will be worth watching. Otherwise, the tackling at the second level needs to improve -- and it should. It's not often you see someone like Patrick Chung whiff in the hole to give up a big gain, which is what happened in Miami on one of Kenyan Drake's longest runs of the night. I don't think we'll see much in the way of drastic scheme change, especially since you can't sell out against the run and leave yourself vulnerable to the pass against the Steelers. If they clean up some technique, they'll improve. And remember, the Steelers haven't been very efficient running the football this year. Le'Veon Bell averages 3.9 yards per carry. That helps.

Jordan, you gotta figure this will be an area to address in the offseason, even with Rivers and Hightower coming back from their respective injuries. Also, Alan Branch hasn’t been the same player this year and Vincent Valentine has been on IR all season. I’d say depending on what happens at left tackle (Nate Solder’s in the last year of a two-year deal). this might be where a fair amount of resources are devoted.

The Patriots very rarely double with two corners unless it's a slot player and an outside guy. They also have been prone to using their second-best corner and a safety on an opposing team's No. 1. If they use Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler on Antonio Brown, they'd be using their top two outside corners. I don't see it. What I could see is Butler underneath with a safety over the top. And in the red zone? I wouldn't be shocked to see Butler with a linebacker or a slot player bracketing Brown. Butler hasn't been all that great when it comes to excelling leverage-wise when he has help this year -- there's an art to the double team -- so I also wouldn't be surprised if Jonathan Jones saw some work as the underneath player on Brown. I'd deploy Gilmore on JuJu Smith-Schuster (who has become Pittsburgh's No. 2) and Eric Rowe on Martavis Bryant.

Sebastian, what do you mean? African or European swallow? I’ll wait for your answer . . .