Patriots

Patriots Mailbag: Could Patriots pry Austin Hooper from Falcons via trade?

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Patriots Mailbag: Could Patriots pry Austin Hooper from Falcons via trade?

The Friday Bag is back, friends. Every week I'll be answering your questions be they Patriots-related, NFL-related or otherwise. This week, the focus for many of you was — no surprise — the Oct. 29 trade deadline. We'll start there...

I'd still be looking at tight ends. Wynn should be the addition the offensive line needs. And I like the idea of adding a veteran receiver for Tom Brady. But the Patriots might be able to kill two birds with one stone if they can figure out a way to pry Austin Hooper from Atlanta. He'd not only give them more of an every-down option at tight end, he'd also provide them a between-the-numbers receiving presence that they need right now. He's in the final year of his rookie contract. He's first among NFL tight ends in receptions at the moment. And he's on pace for a 1,300-yard season.

That may mean the Falcons don't want to part with him; he could be a candidate to be franchised for 2020 if he doesn't sign a long-term deal in Atlanta. But the Falcons have a lot of young players they're going to have to pay at some point, and perhaps they feel as though it's time to get something in return for their young tight end — particularly if it'd be more than the 2021 third-rounder they'd likely snag via the comp-pick formula.

If the Patriots like Hooper enough that they'd be willing to ink him to a long-term deal after trading for him, I'd say they should be willing to part with a first- or second-round pick for him. That's not typically the way they do business. Hooper and his reps would have all kinds of leverage in contract negotiations if the Patriots sent a high pick to Atlanta for someone who might only be a rental. But Bill Belichick and his staff are between a rock and a hard place at the tight end position, and Hooper could be the answer. If they want to go there, it'll cost 'em.

It's a good question, John, because what's seemingly held veteran acquisitions back from making significant contributions is their understanding of the offense. We know there's a long list of former Patriots who'd fall under that category. I think Emmanuel Sanders, though, would have the best shot at assimilating. He's spent time in a demanding offense with a demanding quarterback in Peyton Manning. He's played multiple receiver positions — outside, motion man off the line, slot — and would likely be asked to do the same here.

Would he be able to pick up every Patriots nuance in two months? Probably not. But he'd have the ability to pick up concepts, I think, which is really the key. If you can understand the idea behind a play, understand what others are supposed to do on the play, if you can read the defense in front of you, you'll have a shot. I'd trust he can do those things.

He's the quarterback of their defense. Is he the same caliber addition that Sam Darnold is for the offense? Probably not. But in terms of getting people organized, alerting teammates to what's coming, and being a playmaking presence in the middle of the field, Mosley would be a huge add for the Jets Monday night.

Factor in the fact that rookie first-rounder Quinnen Williams, maybe the most pro-ready prospect in the draft, will be back as well and the Jets will look much different defensively than they did in Week 3. The Patriots offense struggled in the second half against the Jets back then, and if they're without Josh Gordon (DNP in Thursday's practice), Phillip Dorsett (limited) or Rex Burkhead (limited), then it could be tough for them again down in Jersey. 

Injured reserve rules can be tough to follow, Jim. Once placed on IR, players have to sit out six weeks before they can practice and eight weeks before they can play. That's why N'Keal Harry is back at practice now and why he can't play in a game until Week 9. Isaiah Wynn went on IR after getting injured in Week 2.

That's not necessarily going to be his strength, Jacob, but he should be able to contribute in that regard. Even if he's more of a receiving option at the position, if the Patriots see a light defensive front with him on the field — perhaps with the defense expecting pass — then he should be able to take advantage of smaller defenders and clear space for ball-carriers. My assumption is Ryan Izzo will play the true "Y" tight end role. Eric Tomlinson could be more of a blocking specialist as well if he's in uniform on game days. He has experience both on the line and in the backfield, and if he's able to show he can move defenders consistently then it wouldn't surprise me if he took reps from Izzo in the running game.

Great question. It's not a huge group numbers-wise. They're loaded up at outside linebacker with guys like Kyle Van Noy, Chase Winovich, Silique Calhoun and John Simon. Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins play out there occasionally as well. They're all out of the mix as far as this discussion goes. Lawrence Guy is the leader of the group and has been a big-time player in the running game when he's not eating up double-teams. Danny Shelton has found a balance between making splash plays int he pass game — either with sacks or with plays like last week's when he tipped Daniel Jones' elbow to help force an interception. Deatrich Wise has probably been their most efficient defensive lineman on a per-snap basis, making a run stuff or a creating a quarterback pressure every few plays he's on the field.

But I'm going to go with Adam Butler here. It's still a passing league, and he's oftentimes the lone defensive lineman on the field in sub situations. He's their assist man when it comes to sacking the quarterback, often taking out multiple blockers to allow linebackers to loop off his back and into the backfield. It's a complicated dance up front. Something that Michael Bennett is finding out. But Butler has become so adept in that role, I think I'd make the argument that he's their most valuable defensive lineman at the moment. He's played 181 snaps this season, leading all defensive linemen in New England. 

I think so, David. The first half down in DC was a bit of an eye-opener in terms of how quickly things can get out of control against a front with some talent. Isaiah Wynn would've made a big impact in helping to calm things down that afternoon, in my opinion. Once he's back in the mix, the communication should be a little more seamless. Even though Marshall Newhouse has played more games with the Patriots than Wynn has at this point, Newhouse arrived at the start of the regular season and doesn't yet have two months in the system. He's also not the athlete Wynn is. It spoke volumes to me that in a recent interview with Jim Gray on Westwood One that Tom Brady went out of his way to say he can't wait to get Wynn back. 

There's no doubt that running behind a line that can at times have issues getting runners going, quicker players like James White and Rex Burkhead are better options. If you need to make someone miss at the line of scrimmage in order to get started, a bigger, harder-charging runner like Sony Michel is going to have a tougher time. That's how it's gone this season and why Michel has only cracked 4.0 yards per carry twice.

On the glass-half-full side, Michel has become a real factor in the passing game, which makes the offense less predictable when he's out there. That had to happen. On the glass-half-empty side, you can look at Michel's usage last week and wonder what the coaching staff thinks of their second-year back at the moment. I was surprised to see Brandon Bolden out there on the goal line and not Michel. That might be an indication that they felt as though Bolden was the more decisive runner, and the better option, in those spot. 

They'll continue to be on the lookout for fullbacks, Todd. But Tomlinson looks like he'll have the first crack at being able to fill that role. Unless it's something they feel Izzo can do consistently. Izzo played out of the backfield several times in the second half last week against the Giants, and though he might've looked a little less natural in that role compared to someone like Develin and Johnson, as long as he gets the assignment and does a good enough job getting in the way, that could be good enough for the Patriots. Those blocking responsibilities can get tricky, and one thing Izzo has going for him versus Tomlinson is experience in this offense.

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Patriots downgrade S Patrick Chung, RB Damien Harris to out for Eagles game

Patriots downgrade S Patrick Chung, RB Damien Harris to out for Eagles game

The Patriots have downgraded safety Patrick Chung and running back Damien Harris from questionable to out for the game Sunday against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Chung has had heel and chest injuries but did play in the Pats' last game before their bye week, the Nov. 3 loss to the Ravens. Harris appeared on the injury report for the first time on Friday with a hamstring issue. The rookie third-round pick from Alabama has only been active for two games this season.

The loss of Chung could impact the Patriots most in their coverage of Eagles tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Taking on tight ends is something Chung has excelled at. 

ESPN Mike Reiss reports that Patriots tight end Matt LaCosse, out with a knee injury since Oct. 10, did travel with the team to Philly so he will likely be active for the game.

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Ten years ago today, on fourth-and-2, Bill Belichick made one of his most controversial decisions

Ten years ago today, on fourth-and-2, Bill Belichick made one of his most controversial decisions

It was one of the most controversial calls in Patriots history...and it didn't come from an official.

It was Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 in the final minutes against the Indianapolis Colts. And it was 10 years ago today.

THE DECISION

It remains Belichick's most talked-about moves this side of Malcolm Butler. In a Week 10 matchup in Indianapolis, the 8-0 Colts faced the 6-2 Patriots in a high-scoring affair. Leading 34-28 but backed up at their own 28-yard-line and needing two yards for a first down, Belichick chose to go for it on fourth down and try and keep the ball out of quarterback Peyton Manning's hands.

THE PLAY

Tom Brady completed a pass to running back Kevin Faulk, who was driven backward by the Colts' Melvin Bullitt. After a measurement, Faulk was ruled short of the first down. Three Colts plays later, a Manning-to-Reggie Wayne TD pass and extra point with 13 seconds left a 35-34 victory.

THE AFTERMATH

There was plenty of second-guessing of Belichick's move. Had he outsmarted himself? Why didn't he punt and show more faith in his defense? 

“We thought we could win the game with that play,” he explained at the time. “That was a yard I was confident we could get.” Belichick had maintained it was more like fourth-and-long-1, rather than 2. Where the ball was spotted after the Faulk play is still the subject of debate.

Those Pats would go on to lose two of their next three, finish 10-6, still win the AFC East but get smoked by the Baltimore Ravens 33-14 in Foxboro in a wild-card playoff game. Manning's team won its first 14 games, then rested its regulars and lost twice before reaching its first Super Bowl as the Indy Colts and losing to the New Orleans Saints. 

TODAY

When Indianapolis reporter Kevin Bowen tweeted about the play's 10th anniversary on Saturday, it stirred up memories for former Colts linebacker Gary Brackens, who recalled the disrespect he felt from Belichick's decision to test the Indy defense. 

To this day, "Fourth-and-2" means only one thing to most NFL fans.

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