Friday Bag

#FridayBag: A boy named Suh?

NBC Sports Boston illustration

#FridayBag: A boy named Suh?

Each week, Phil Perry and Mike Giardi answer you Patriots questions in a joint mailbag, or FridayBag as they call it. Got a question? Tweet at them using the hashtag #FridayBag. Now on to this week's edition: 

MG: Pete, I’ve heard nothing but good things about him so far but have just started to roll up my sleeves and get heavier into the draft. Mentioned him earlier and was also told he is a good touch passer. He’s a ways away, but if Brady keeps rolling on, there’s no rush.

MG: Jacob, you think yes, I think yes, and most of my Twitter timeline is in agreence as well. Is Belichick? Man, you have to think he’s right there with us that an upgrade at that position is needed. Roberts is a guess guy capable of a play here or there but not nearly consistent enough nor - in my opinion - talented enough to be in the middle of that defense. I think the other issue here is 54 himself. I don’t know how you can count on Dont’a Hightower to be there at the end. His body has been battered dating back to college. It’s what scared other teams off in free agency. Yet it’s hard to manage him because he’s clearly one of your best players. I’d love to see that whole group get power washed.

MG: If Bill thinks a deal is what’s best for the team, he’ll do it, last year be damned. Every year is different. He tells us that all the time. As for Suh, I hope not. I know folks in Miami said he was better behaved this year but the year prior he was a pain in the ass who played when he felt like it. Plus, from an interior defensive line standpoint, the Pats are ok. Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy are nice players. Vincent Valentine will return next year. I’d worry more about the edge guys and the linebacker level.

MG: Let’s go case by case here, Joe. Belichick wanted to retain Hicks. Even called him right before Chicago scooped him up. But finances played a role as did - I suspect  the freedom Hicks was going to get with the Bears. Sheard did a terrific job in year one with the Pats. Year two started off poorly though to the player’s credit he rebounded after that benching for the San Fran game. I think that was a situation where the lack of an extension may have distracted the player, like it certainly did for Malcolm Butler this year. Finally, you’re lamenting Akeem Ayers? No. Just no.

As for Marsh and Harris, yep, those were two swings and misses though Harris was lauded for his professionalism. You don’t hit ‘em all out of the park but yes, there’s a greater need to get it right this offseason when you consider some of the depth issues they face.

PP: He does, Sugar Shane. Re-signing Solder, in my opinion, is the most important move the Patriots could make this offseason. Only finding the next quarterback comes close. Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater, Dion Lewis . . . they're all critical to the operation. But if the Patriots don't re-sign Solder, I'm not sure there is an answer to the void left behind at left tackle. We went over the other options in our Depth Chart series here, but none of them are all that encouraging. 

PP: None of the above, ML. He's left the NCAA, and he's in this year's draft. 

PP: Hey, Joe and William. I don't think the Patriots will be spending big money at corner in free agency this year. They have their No. 1 in Stephon Gilmore, and I believe they'll try to piece together the other spots with what they have in Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones. If they do go the free-agency route, I could see them going with an inexpensive outside-the-numbers option (maybe Vontae Davis) or a slot corner who won't break the bank. Callahan, who is a restricted free agent, would be a fascinating option in that regard. An undrafted rookie out of Rice in 2015, he dealt with an injury that forced him to miss more than a month, but he was one of the league's more effective slot corners when he was on the field, according to Pro Football Focus. The Patriots have shown in the past that they're not afraid to delve into the RFA market. As far as linebacker goes, this is another spot where spending big money doesn't make a ton of sense, in my opinion. Nigel Bradham, as Giardi has pointed out, would be a great fit as an athletic 'backer who can cover, but there will be competition for his services. Adding Navorro Bowman would allow Dont'a Hightower to kick down onto the edge, one would think. And Bowman is 29 with a long injury history so he probably won't demand huge dollars. Old friend Jon Bostic, who's only 26, could be a cost-effective option to play off the line as well. They'll have enough dough to spend on a couple of pieces, it's just a matter of figuring out which pieces.

PP: DQ! I think Curran would win the first 10 yards. He's explosive. Not sure his long speed is what it used to be, though. I'll give the edge to Brady in the 40-yard dash. Longer strides. 

PP: The Patriots have all kinds of respect for Landry's on-the-field ability. Not only is he fearless in the way he works out of the slot, but he provides special teams value, and defensive backs have referred to him as one of the toughest receivers in the league to bring down when he has the football in his hands. But because Landry is the most accomplished wideout on the market this offseason, his price tag is going to be through the roof. Belichick could try to find his next slot in the draft. There are a handful we'll touch on in our recevier installment of the Depth Chart series next week. Like you said, Matt, you never know. But I'd be very surprised if they made a play for Landry. 


What’s Patriots’ most glaring need? How do they address it?

What’s Patriots’ most glaring need? How do they address it?

Every Friday, Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry and Mike Giardi answer your Patriots questions in a joint mailbag, or FridayBag as they call it. After a Super Bowl loss, there’s plenty on the readers’ minds. Curran sits this one out but Perry and Giardi are here with the answers.

Got a question for the trio? Tweet them using the hashtag #FridayBag. Now, on to the Super postmortems:

From Twitter user @MikeParentLEAPWhat is the Pats most pressing needs and how will they be addressed? BBs bargain basement routine has left glaring holes in this team.

PP: The Patriots have plenty of needs, but I think their most pressing needs are offensive tackle, linebacker and...quarterback. Best way to address the tackle spot is to re-sign Solder. Linebacker could potentially be addressed in free agency. Would the Patriots be interested in Philly's Nigel Bradham, who can cover? Quarterback isn't a need for 2018, obviously, but it's probably time for the Patriots to start searching for the next guy. In what's expected to be one of the best quarterback classes in years, now may be the time to draft one. 

From Twitter user @RBeaginWho, in your eyes, is the most interesting free agent available for Pats and who is the most likely Pats target?

PP: I'd say before we start digging into this year's available free-agent crop, we all should be looking at New England's free-agents-to-be. The Patriots have a few potential holes that I'm not sure can be filled immediately by free-agent help. For instance, their best shot at having a good left tackle next year is, in my opinion, re-signing Nate Solder. With Malcolm Mitchell coming off of a knee injury that sapped his entire 2017 season, Danny Amendola still makes all kinds of sense as the team's No. 4 receiver. Those kinds of moves might be the most important ones they make. As far as free agents from around the league? Niners defensive end Aaron Lynch has great size and length and could fit as an end to mix into the rotation with Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise. Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry gets praised up and down by Bill Belichick twice a year every year, and he could be the team's slot of the future, but he'll be looking to break the bank. 

From Twitter user @TheHucklebuckDo you know anything about Sr. Kyle Lauletta, QB Richmond? Dad is former QB at Navy?

PP: Haven't had a chance yet to really watch a whole lot of any of the quarterback prospects just yet, but I know Lauletta impressed at the Senior Bowl. That'll help give his draft stock an early boost. The common knock on him right now is that he doesn't have much in the way of arm strength. That may not be a game-changer for the Patriots if they feel like he'll be helped by having some time to develop as a pro. But typically, in New England, where the most important games of the year are played in the cold, snow and wind, you want someone whose passes can cut through the conditions. On the plus side, he's thought to be a good decision-maker and accurate. He was 8-for-12 for 198 yards and three scores in the Senior Bowl.

From Twitter user @JoeNestor56Which current or former Patriot is most likely to join the XFL?

PP: Has to be Tim Tebow, right? He told that "2020 is a long way from now" and that he's focused on spring training with the Mets . . . But I'm pretty sure Vince McMahon would make it worth Tebow's while even if he doesn't throw a single football in the next two years. Dark horse: Jon Halapio. He was a sixth-round pick of the Patriots in 2014, and he's had two separate stints in the now-defunct Fall Experimental Football League, also known as the FXFL. And you know what? it worked out for him. He has a roster spot with the Giants. I think the XFL might actually be a spot where fringe guys like Halapio can keep their names circulating in the hopes of earning a shot in the league. 

From Twitter user @Badseedz187Will pats focus on size speed strength in drafting defensive guys this year or rely more on versatility?

PP: They'll continue to focus on both. The fact of the matter is, some of the biggest, strongest and most athletic guys are the most versatile. The Patriots have parameters that they look for when they're drafting so they won't stray from those. The character aspect is something that Bill Belichick has maybe emphasized a little more in recent years -- Urban Meyer's "I want to coach guys I like" quote from last spring is an indication of that -- and I don't see that stopping just because his defense let him down in the Super Bowl. The Patriots need NFL-caliber athletes but don't expect Belichick to suddenly devalue character or versatility as he approaches free agency and the draft. 

MG: Excellent question Andrew, and only Josh knows the answer. My thing here with Josh is there is no way he should have verbally agreed to be the Colts coach and get assistants in place and whatnot if he had even a shred of doubt. That concerns me. Can’t have a boss be that wishy-washy. Maybe he’s best served as a coordinator and nothing more. Certainly, that side of it is a huge benefit for the Pats. Not only Josh not leaving, but then Joe Judge and Jerry Schuplinski sticking around instead of going to Indy with McD. 

As for looking back on that loss as a good thing…man, they gotta find the next quarterback because even though TB12 is playing like he’s still in his prime, eventually Father Time wins. He always does. Get that guy and success will follow.

MG: Stephen, Bill loves all aspects of the job but I think when he’s done coaching, he’s done period. I think internally, the Pats would love to keep Nick Caserio and Josh McD together for the long term. They know each well, and no one knows more about the Pats operations than Nick. 

MG: You know and I know and everybody knows that he’s the greatest QB of all-time. Therefore Deflategate or no Deflategate, he’d be rolling in dough and headed for the Hall of Fame. Come on, Goose. You’re better than that.

MG: I’m not sure I’d be keen on trading for Sherman considering he blew out his Achilles. For a corner, that seems like a really crappy injury to suffer, especially now that he’s 30 or so. Plus, the idea of paying 10 million or more for Sherman and 15 or so for Gilmore seems like something the Pats wouldn’t do. A lot of people I talked to though Talib’s play slipped last year. What’s the cost in picks? Could you re-work his deal? 

MG: Hard to say because obviously salary demands and potential cap casualties/extensions haven’t become known yet but as I peruse the preliminary list, there are a few names that jump out. DE/OLB Trent Murphy of the Redskins could be a target and be budget friendly as he missed all of 2017 with a torn ACL. He’s on pace to be ready for camp and had 9 sacks in 2016. KC’s Dee Ford is also in that mold. He struggled with a back injury a year after recording double-digit sacks. A one-year prove your healthy deal? 

How about Eagles OLB Nigel Bradham? He’s a three-down backer who isn’t a liability in coverage. He might cost though.

Arizona’s Kareem Martin is another one of those edge guys (DE/OLB). Not spectacular. But considered a sound player in NFL scouting circles. 

There’s also the potential need for a corner because Butler is going, going, gone and Jon Jones and the injury he suffered at the end of the season. Jonathan Joseph is 34 but he can still play. One-year deal potential.

MG: Mike! It’s Solder to me because there is no succession plan in place. They drafted Tony Garcia but he was on the non-football injury list all year and by all accounts lost a considerable amount of weight during the course of the season (260 was a number I heard thrown away more than once). You don’t want to flip Marcus Cannon, in my opinion, and I’m not sure you can view LaAdrian Waddle as the next guy. When you draft late in the first round, that also doesn’t seem like the ideal spot to find a left tackle for now. 

As you well know, I might be the President of the Dion Lewis fan club. He is a game-changer. A stud. But I’m still not sure I’d ever give a running back a ton of guaranteed money. I might just be content to try and bring Burkhead back on short money, go with Gillislee for the final year of his deal and, of course, Jimmy White. 

I don’t foresee Alan Branch surviving after being a healthy scratch for the playoffs. Would think Dwayne Allen is a goner too.

MG: For starters, are we sure Jamarcus isn’t 350 pounds? And if he is, why not pair him with the Pillsbury Throwboy, Jared Lorenzen? Think of the buffet line. RG3 was walking around radio row at the Super Bowl politicking for a job. I believed in Manziel the player coming out of college (I didn’t know he had substance issues). I’d love to see him circle back.


Who's also responsible for building The Patriot Way?

NBC Sports Boston illustration

Who's also responsible for building The Patriot Way?

Each week, Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry and Mike Giardi answer your Patriots questions in 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: Tom, he will be selectively doubled because yes, he is capable of disrupting what the Patriots can do offensively on all fronts. However, the Pats can’t afford to consistently double him up because of the talent that surrounds Cox on the defensive line. Brandon Graham is a real nice player. Timmy Jernigan is a load and hard to move. Chris Long still has some giddy up coming off the edge. I love, love, love Derek Barnett. He made a big play in the NFC title game and has that potential to blow up Brady in a big way. Vinnie Curry’s very talented. See what I’m saying? A lot of guys. Can’t just eyeball one.

MG: Sarge . . . zero. His season is over in my book, though I do suspect he’ll be back next year when you consider the free agency status of both Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead.

MG: In general, the Pats aren’t a blitz-happy team. I’d be surprised if they dial up more than 8 or 10 in the entire game Sunday, although I do reserve the right to change my mind depending on score, etc. What the Pats do so well is pick those moments when they need to bring extra pressure. In the AFC title game, they drew up a couple of corner blitzes from Malcolm Butler that just so happened to be timed up to fly in Blake Bortles’ face. In both instance, Bortles had to hurry and missed his throws. That’s where Matt Patricia’s feel for the game and deep knowledge of tendencies really shine through.

MG: Mikey! Most definitely, to quote Malcolm Butler (tat’s his go-to phrase). Obviously, the main goal is to pick up first downs and score points but if you can do that by controlling the clock, imposing your will on the Pats front 7 and keep Brady on the sideline, that’s the ideal way to go. Hey, the Steelers did a hell of a job with it…right up until the end.

TC: Those pundits – including the Senator Phil Perry – are dead on. The reason being Philly is so active with its substitutions and attempts to match personnel, especially in the front seven. One of the Patriots’ great roster advantages is that they have versatile players who can be power players on one down and then formation into perimeter players on the next down. For instance, Gronk and Dwayne Allen can be lined up as in-line tight ends in 12 personnel with Dion Lewis or James White in the backfield. Philly has to match that with size. The next snap, the Patriots can formation into an empty backfield and split everyone out without substituting. And Philly will get stuck with a bad matchup. I’m not sure why they haven’t used it a lot. Maybe they’ve been seeing a lot of “do what we do” defenses as opposed to ones that try to match. Listen closely to Cris Collinsworth on this because he’ll be all over it. The gold standard for finding a matchup and exploiting it was Gronk on KJ Wright in SB49 split out wide to the right. Touchdown.

TC:That’s an interesting question. I think Scott Pioli and Nick Caserio both have to be in there. They are or were the point of the spear in player acquisition, and their ability to scout, pinpoint and then acquire players who’ll “fit” is everything. And they did it in myriad ways -- draft, street free agents, undrafted free agents, trades, waiver claims, practice squads. Obviously there are swings and misses on fit, character, talent level, etc. And when the Patriots do swing and miss, those mistakes are chronicled endlessly. But look at this year’s defense, for instance. At the back end, there are two Rutgers safeties people thought were overdrafted. They are both captains and leaders. Patrick Chung was re-acquired after a stint in Philly. Malcolm Butler was undrafted and Stephon Gilmore’s a big-ticket free agent. Creative. As for a couple more -- Anthony Pleasant, Kevin Faulk, Mike Vrabel, Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Julian Edelman, Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown are the epitome of guys who lead by word and deed.

TC:We all feel the same. Maybe it’s because the cult of personality surrounding the Patriots with Brady, Belichick and Gronk -- their mystique and place in history -- is the storyline as opposed to the football. We are much deeper into the “what does it meeaaaannnnn…” then what will happen. Further, I think this event is covered with the interest being in highlighting stories a broader audience will find digestible.  Nuts and bolts, X's and O's stories aren’t as sexy and don’t yield the same traffic as a story parsing what Tom Brady means when he asks “Why does everyone want me to retire?”

PP: Bold prediction, Dones? Dion Lewis will catch a screen pass for a touchdown of 20 yards or longer. The Patriots offensive plan will try to use Philadelphia's aggressiveness against it, and the screen game should be a go-to option on Josh McDaniels' play sheet. Don't be surprised if one gets called in a crucial situation. The Patriots have been a much better screen team late in the season than they were early.

PP: Lot of interest in the big man this week. The Eagles are a run-first team. They want to control the clock. Having Alan Branch on the field could help the Patriots deter Philly from keeping it on the ground . . . but here's the thing: The Patriots have already faced two run-heavy offenses in the postseason and Branch has been a non-factor. Unless he had a dominant week of practice, I'm finding it hard to believe he'll have much of a role in this game. He could be inactive. 

PP: Special teams are always underplayed, but the Patriots seem to hold a clear advantage in the kicking game. Rick Gosselin's widely-respected special-teams rankings -- Bill Belichick has referenced them in the past as an indicator of special teams efficiency -- have the Patriots listed as the third-best unit in football. The Eagles are 13th. One other storyline that's been relatively underplayed? The effectiveness of Brandin Cooks and his ability to fight for the football will be critical. Eagles corners like to play off-coverage and drive hard on shorter routes because they know their pass-rush will force the football to come out quickly. Cooks will have to be ready to make catches with corners bearing down on him. And if Cooks can get one of Philly's defensive backs to bite hard on a double-move, he'll have the opportunity to make a game-changing play. 

PP: Double-dipping! When it comes to Nelson Agholor, I think it will depend where he aligns. If he's in the slot, I'd expect it to be Eric Rowe. If he's outside, I'd expect it to be Malcolm Butler. Agholor's skill set matches best with Butler, but the Patriots like Rowe in the slot. Interesting game-within-the-game situation there. On question No. 2: Doors to the stadium open at 1 p.m.