Every Friday we take your Patriots questions on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as we call it. After Phil Perry flew solo last week, CSN Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran and Mike Giardi are back, along with Perry, for this week’s edition.
Got a Patriots question? Tweet the trio using the hashtag #FridayBag. They’ll get to as many as they can.
On to the Bag:
Are we going to see two Gronks on the field in Buffalo?— Rob (@samgash33) October 28, 2016
TC: Only if Gordie gets a sideline pass and wanders between the white lines. I would be shocked if Glenn Gronkowski gets elevated from the practice squad.
any updates on Vollmer?— Greg Barber (@gchuckb) October 28, 2016
TC: Have heard nothing and seen nothing on the big German. I’m sure he’s around and working on rehab and conditioning but he hasn’t yet been on the practice field.
how has the front been when actually attempting to get pressure on the QB, I feel as our pass rush has been lack luster..— mark christensen (@redsoxjunky123) October 28, 2016
TC: I don’t think they’ve really sold out and been in many positions where they send five. They play coverage and try to keep the quarterbacks contained while guarding against big plays by dropping more guys. The stray A-gap blitzes offered by Donta Hightower and Jamie Collins are the extent of the extra pressure that gets sent for the most part and those seem to be conditional blitzes – if a back stays in, then they go. I don’t think there are many occasions where the four they rush – or three – are defeating blocks and applying pressure though. Chris Long has had the most impactful rushes, then Jabaal Sheard, then Malcom Brown.
why is the name of our town lakeville if all we have is ponds?— Mike (@Ellis_Mike_) October 28, 2016
TC: Good question. Because they look like lakes since they’re so damn big but they’re really ponds because they’re not that deep.
what do you think the Patriots will focus on most? Exploiting the Bills defense or slowing down Shady McCoy?— BostonSportsBarrage (@bhowesports) October 28, 2016
TC: I’m going to say they can do both because one would be an offensive effort and the other would be a defensive priority. But the No. 1 defensive priority is going to be tackling. Tackling, tackling, tackling, tackling. And then tackling. It was horrific in the first meeting with Buffalo.
besides Flutie, best pro player to ever come out of New England?— Shawn M. Keefe (@SKeefe1976) October 28, 2016
TC: Good question. Let’s stick with Massachusetts for this week but hit me back with the other five states in coming weeks. My list of the top 13 (in knee-jerk order): Howie Long, Nick Buoniconti, Fred Smerlas, Tom Nalen, Matt Hasselbeck, Pete Kendall, Mark Chmura, Bruce Laird, Billy Brooks, Mark van Eeghen, Steve DeOssie, Lofa Tatupu, Zak DeOssie. A few other names of note: Mark Hartsell, Chris Sullivan, Eric Johnson, Marc Colombo, Peter Cronan, Greg Comella, Joe Dudek, Rob Konrad. Todd Collins, Lake Dawson, James Ihedigbo, Greg McMurtry, Omar Easy, Jordan Todman, Sean Morey, Brian St. Pierre, Jim Pyne, Steve Strachan, Steve Trapilo, Paul Zukauskus, Joe Nash and Tim Hasselbeck.
Am I crazy, or are the Jaguars mustard colored unis not terrible?— Kevin Peters (@kfpeters) October 28, 2016
TC: That’s a shade normally seen when changing a diaper. I down vote. And unfriend you.
Would BB ever alter a player's playing time or role in scheme to suppress his value as a free agent so he could sign cheaper?— Mr.Quindazzi (@MrQuindazzi) October 28, 2016
TC: I remember in 2005 David Givens intimating that to me and – after I wrote about it – he got absolutely eviscerated by the front office and coaching staff. There have been occasions where they’ve tried to get guys to performance escalators (Deion Branch being one). But I think you’re asking if they’d hide a guy to keep him off other team’s radars? I don’t think so, Q. Not a player of impact as you seem to be indicating by framing the question around a sought-after free agent.
what happens if/when Blount gets hurt? None of those guys can handle 20 carries a game. Steven Jackson round 2?— Cooch (@cooch5) October 28, 2016
TC: Good question. Brandon Bolden, who I had confidence in, is regressing rapidly as a back since last year. Tyler Gaffney doesn’t inspire. You can’t go with itty-bitty sub backs between the tackles. So, yeah. Hope Blount stays upright.
why does Belichick refuse to rush the passer be design— Peter (@SFTP_) October 28, 2016
TC: Because in some instances – Pittsburgh being a prime one – dropping eight so that Antonio Brown or LeVeon Bell have plenty of company when they inevitably get in space is more important than dogging Landry Jones around the offensive backfield and running the risk of Brown or Bell going the distance on you because you didn’t keep enough guys back. I understand people want to see some defensive chaos – it’s maddening to watch a guy stand back there and knock down uncontested jumpers as Jones did last week – but the 16 points and 1-for-6 scoring touchdowns on trips inside the 40 is proof it worked.
is it really a surprise Pats pass rush took a step back w/o Easley (PFF's #1 per-snap rusher in '16) and Jones (5 sacks in '17)?— The Grand Jordanian (@junkfishjordan) October 27, 2016
PP: It's not that the pass-rush has taken a step back, Stephen. It's that it's been downright non-existent at times that has raised some eyebrows. They're without two talented pass-rushers who were on the roster last season, but they set a franchise record for sacks in 2015, and they currently rank in the bottom-third of the league in sacks. Is that solely due to the loss of Jones and Easley? I think part of what we're seeing is game-plan related. But part of it is players a) not finishing plays or b) not winning one-on-one matchups and having a chance to finish. One player who I think will finish more frequently as the season goes on? Jabaal Sheard. He is their most talented pass-rusher, and he's seventh among NFL 4-3 defensive ends with 25 total pressures (sacks, hits and hurries), per Pro Football Focus. Eventually, some of those hits and hurries will turn into sacks.
PP: Jesus Christ?
Which AFC team is most likely to prevent Patriots reaching the Superbowl? #fridaybag— Guðmundur Sigurðsson (@gummisig54) October 27, 2016
PP: My answer to this will be Denver until another team steps up and shows that it has a defense capable of slowing down Tom Brady and his friends. When Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware are right, combined with Chris Harris and Aqib Talib in the secondary, they can do just that. What will be key for the New England offense, if it does have to go through the Broncos in the postseason, will be for its running backs and offensive linemen to stay healthy. They'll need to be able to turn to a legitimate running game. When Denver pass-rushers were allowed to tee off on Brady in the AFC title game, it was as good as over. I don't care that the Broncos have an unproven quarterback. He seems good enough given what's around him. Until the Raiders prove they can defend more consistently they don't belong in this conversation.
who is the odd man out when Dion Lewis is activated?— Tom Giles (@TomGilesNBCS) October 27, 2016
PP: Welcome to the Bag, Tom. It's an honor, really, to have you check in. What's interesting is that the Patriots have an open roster spot (as of Friday morning). I don't expect that to hold for long, though, so in all likelihood someone will have to be released whenever the Patriots do decide to activate Lewis -- if they decide to activate him -- in the next three weeks. There's a good chance, just based on the fact that football is a physical game that hurts people, an injury will make this decision an easier one. But if the entire 53-man roster remained healthy between now and the time of Lewis' activation, I'd say DJ Foster would be a potential candidate to go. Three sub backs (Lewis, White and Foster) at one time seems like one to many, in my opinion. Anthony Johnson is the early favorite to win the 2016 Ross Ventrone Award for most mentions on the transaction wire, so he would be a decent guess as well.
1) What to make of Derby trade? 2) What do Pats do at TE in '16? Only 2 on roster now. This mean Bennett back in '17? #FridayBag— Dave Cherubin (@DaveCherubin) October 27, 2016
PP: When it comes to the Derby deal, the return was too enticing for the Patriots to pass up. That they felt comfortable dealing Derby to an AFC rival in desperate need of an athletic tight end is an indication that they felt very good about sending away a former sixth-rounder to get a fifth-rounder back. How this impacts Bennett is an angle of the Derby trade I hadn't thought about, in all honesty. The argument could have been made that since the Patriots had a promising developmental tight end in their system, they had a little insurance in case Bennett could not be retained. Now that that parachute is gone, are they more likely to sell out to keep the 6-foot-7, 275-pound Harry Potter fan who has been everything they could have imagined on the field? I don't necessarily think so. If they have to, I think they'd be OK going into the 2017 season with Rob Gronkowski and figuring out the rest of the depth chart in free agency and the draft. He's not a bad guy to build around. Because of where the Patriots are contractually with several of their young studs -- particularly on defense -- the Bennett decision could be a tricky one. The 29-year-old been a revelation, but how much will he command as a free agent, and how far will the Patriots be willing to go? I think those questions would have been in play whether Derby was in town or not.
MG: Pete. My man. Hope that Florida weather is treating you well. The answer to your question is no, at least in my opinion. And I’ll start with what LGB has earned, and that’s carries. He’s in shape, he’s running well and he’s rarely dancing before he hits the hole. If he continues to run this way, he will remain a part of the mix. The second part of this equation is what Lewis has in those wheels. Two knee surgeries in less than a year is concerning. Screws in the patella is also a worry. To expect him to come back and be the same shooting star we saw last year might be a little greedy on our part. Of course, I’ve been wrong before…
what'd you get me for my birthday? #fridaybag— Todd Landry (@tjland99) October 26, 2016
MG: Chronic, you are officially old. And the proud papa of a 14-year old girl too. My advice to you is get a bigger dog and barb wire for the fence outside the house. The boys will be knocking soon. Meanwhile, I got you that terrific Titans/Jaguars game on Thursday night football and a Bruins defense/goaltender(s) that seems to not know that the idea of the game - in part - is to keep the puck out of your own net. You’re welcome??
Is it possible Pats are playing the D scheme they are so they don't put the real stuff on film? #FridayBag— Mr.Quindazzi (@MrQuindazzi) October 26, 2016
MG: Q, I’m sure there are a couple things up Patricia’s baggy sleeves, but for the most part, this is what the plan has called for to this point, love it or hate it.
dang Giardi! Where will the pass rush come from? At some point it will be needed. Does Collins spy Taylor? #fridaybag— Shimon Cohen, LCSW (@ShimonDCohen) October 26, 2016
MG: Simon, if you saw the questions from last week, you’d understand why I was agitated. Ideally, the pass rush needs to come from the edge guys who are getting all the damn snaps - Nink, Sheard, Long - but I think the Pats concerns about that issue prompted them to swing the deal for Kyle Van Noy. They thought he had a chance to be a solid edge rusher coming out of college. Detroit thought otherwise. He was miscast. Not sure how good he is, but Van Noy might get an opportunity when he picks up the scheme.
Thoughts on Eric Rowe? Was last week a size matchup game plan on Heyward-Bay? I just feel more comfortable with L. Ryan.— Kevin (@kmb_128711) October 26, 2016
MG: Kevin, Belichick thought Rowe handled himself pretty well out there for a second straight week. I was a little harder on him, but in his defense, no one gets from point A to point B as quickly as Hayward-Bey. His hands suck, but the dude can motor. As for Ryan, his playing time has taken a hit, but don’t shovel dirt on him just yet. He’ll get another chance.
Sebastian Vollmer? Any chance that he can provide protection at tackle this year? They seem vulnerable to injury there.— Dan Bolt (@DanBolt1) October 26, 2016
MG: Dan, Vollmer would be a great late season add, but my understanding is that it would essentially take a miracle for him to return to the field this season.
MG: Rex does what???? He’ll never live that down, will he? Oh well. To each his own. Pats played a lot of zone that day because they were concerned about Taylor’s feet and running ability. Also, because the plan on both sides of the ball sucked that afternoon. I expect a little more aggression, and life certainly could be a lot easier if McCoy is a no go (he didn’t practice Thursday)
will, as @GregABedard suggested, tom/Jimmy come down to how much $ Jimmy wants?— Mike (@mod3rd) October 26, 2016
MG: Jimmy wants to play. If Brady keeps slinging it like this, it would take am incredible amount of balls for Belichick to move Tom out and Garoppolo in. So no, I think Jimmy will be shopped, although me personally, I wouldn’t move him this offseason unless I got a 1st and another pick/player. Too many teams with QB needs to just give him away.
since you didn't butcher my name on #Patriots Monday. Depth at TE is a slight concern. If one goes down more 3 WR sets?— Mike Procopio (@mikeprocopio) October 26, 2016
MG: My man, Phil Perry, talked to the emergency tight end, a fella by the name of James Develin. If I knew how to link to the story, I’d put it RIGHT HERE. I’d also say there’s a chance the other Gronkowski might find himself activated for Sunday’s game. Won’t that blow Rex’s mind??