“Yeah, there’s a lot to stop,” Bill Belichick said earlier this week. “We’re just going to have to play good team defense and there’s no one guy you can key on, there’s no one guy that’s going to stop this offense. We’re going to have to play well collectively as a team.”
The Patriots are quite familiar with the Chiefs, as this will be the two clubs’ fourth matchup in the last three years. Belichick himself said the feeling is “pretty close” to a division game. New England has had success against the Chiefs in these matchups, as they are the only team in the league to beat Mahomes’ Chiefs twice. The Patriots one loss against Mahomes came in Week 13 last season, the game highlighted by N’Keal Harry’s missed touchdown call. New England lost 23-16.
Besides the Chiefs being on the schedule, the Patriots are facing another opponent this year every day: Covid-19. As NFL teams have been doing a strong job following guidelines and limiting the coronavirus throughout the offseason and the start of the regular season, the Tennessee Titans were forced to shut their facility this week after several players and staff members tested positive. The Titans reportedly knew about one positive case before their matchup with Minnesota, who have also been forced to work remotely until their tests return from he lab, but played anyway.
As that is the big news of the week, we’ll touch on that first in this week’s mailbag. So let’s begin:
@BK Ellis Now that one game has been listed as TBA (Titans v. Steelers for Sunday), what is being speculated for the rest of the NFL not to mention the season?
With the league officially postponing the Titans vs. Steelers matchup on Sunday, it will be interesting to see where they go from here. They certainly could try to play an extra Monday night game, or even Tuesday, allowing the Titans two days of practice as they are not allowed back in their facility until Saturday.
Looking at schedules, another possible solution came to mind (try to keep up). The Titans currently have a Week 7 bye. That week, the Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 8 bye) matchup with their division rival Baltimore Ravens (also Week 8 bye). Perhaps the league could push that game back a week, move the Ravens bye up to Week 7 and hold the Titans vs. Steelers matchup in Week 7. The only pushback would be the Steelers bye week moving all the way up to Week 4, losing a prime Week 8 bye. It would seem like a punishment for Pittsburgh for doing nothing wrong, but that's just one scheduling maneuver that stuck out to me.
In my opinion, the NFL will try to go on with the current schedule as much as possible. The extra Monday night game is the best choice in my mind instead of shifting around bye weeks or even adding an 18th week to the season. If the Titans want more in person time in the facility before their game that's too bad! They should have followed guidelines and protocols better. I’m sure we can all trust Mr. Goodell and the league to make the smart choice here that will leave everyone happy.
@BostonEvan11 #PostPulpit What can they do to fix their run defense? Seems pretty bad so far this year
The Patriots run defense has been spotty this season and I'm surprised the Raiders abandoned running the ball in last week’s game. With that being said, they definitely could use another big body at the defensive tackle position to help in the run game. Through three weeks, they’ve addressed the position by elevating Xavier Williams (Week 1) and Nick Thurman (Weeks 2-3) from the practice squad.
Looking at free agents, Damon “Snacks” Harrison is the first name that comes to mind. However, Snacks was a free agent all offseason, so you would think Belichick and co. have already explored his situation. Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, who was released the past week by Jacksonville, was another name that came to mind, but the Denver Broncos signed him on Wednesday. ESPN’s Mike Reiss mentioned the idea of free agent Marcell Dareus, who is another big body that could help in the run game. New England also has free agent signing Beau Allen on the roster, who would be a candidate to pair with Lawerence Guy, but he remains on the injured reserve.
@TMurph207 @patspulpit Give me three WR you would trade for before the deadline and would you include Gilmore in any of those trades ? Should Brandon Bolden be in the Patriots Hall Of Fame ? Which of my Podcasts do you like most ? #PostPulpit
A lot to unpack here Murph! So question one, three receivers to acquire: (in no order) Marvin Jones Jr., Golden Tate, and Curtis Samuel. All three come from non-contending teams while Jones and Tate come from coaching staffs the Patriots are quite familiar with (Matt Patricia and Joe Judge). Jones’ name has floated around quite a bit recently, as he would provide reliability and experience at the position, as would Tate, who is more of a slot player than the big-bodied Jones. Jones’ is in the final year on his contract while Tate has two-more, but the Patriots could cut him in face minimal dead money. Samuel, who’s just 24 years of age, is also in the last year of his deal. He’d be an intriguing fit due to his familiarity with Newton.
As for including Stephon Gilmore in those trade, no. I highly, highly doubt Gilmore goes anywhere in an in-season trade. The Patriots plan on contending this year and they do not do that by dealing Gilmore. Now, looking ahead to next offseason it wouldn't shock me if they moved on from him in the last year of his deal. With J.C. Jackson and an assortment of others looking for contract extensions, Gilmore’s money might be better used spread elsewhere.
And duh, Bolden should be a Hall of Famer.
Favorite podcast? All of them, obviously. Everybody go give them a listen.
@djgaud #PostPulpit Any word on how Kristian Wilkerson is performing on the PS?
On the wide receiver topic, Wilkerson is a very intriguing name who is stashed on the practice squad. The 6-foot-1, 200 pound Wilkerson is lightning fast, posting a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, 1.45-second 10-yard split, 6.68-second 3-cone drill, 4.09-second short shuttle, 39.5-inch vertical leap and 10-feet, 8-inch broad jump. In four college FCS seasons’ he posted 219 passes for 3,540 yards with 33 touchdowns.
I haven't heard much from him on the practice squad, but he’s certainly a dynamic athlete who has proven he can play the position. He has a large catch radius who excelled at jump balls in college. Maybe he doesn't make an impact on the field this year, but Wilkerson could be a diamond in the rough.
@TeamCrazyMatt With several Patriots now becoming eligible for activation from IR, which players on the roster are most in danger of losing their roster spots, whether to practice squad demotion, outright release, or trade? #PostPulpit
Some roster shakeup certainly should be on the forecast, as players like Damien Harris, Gunner Olszewski, who both returned to practice Wednesday, and Beau Allen should be ready to come off the injured reserve soon. Looking at the first three inactive lists, quarterback Jarrett Stidham, tackle Korey Cunningham, and tight end Dalton Keene have been inactive for all three games. We knew Stidham battled a preseason injury, so perhaps he could be moved to the IR.
Cornerback Myles Bryant has also been inactive the last two weeks since getting promoted from the practice squad. Hjalte Froholdt has also been active all three weeks but has failed to play an offensive snap. New England does have one current roster spot open, but some moves should be coming as these players start getting healthy.
Note: Check out the Patriots current roster and snap counts here
@TheHorntail Pre-Season: WE NEED A QUARTERBACK! After week 1: WE NEED RECEIVERS! After week 2: WE NEED RUNNING BACKS! After week 3: WE NEED DEFENSE! Who’s next? Do we actually need anything? ... you know, besides a place kicker #PostPulpit
The only thing we need is to stop saying we need stuff. Obviously this team isn't perfect, no team is, and could use upgrades. And obviously if an upgrade is available for the right price at linebacker or wide receiver, or one of the defensive tackles we discussed earlier, the Patriots will upgrade. Remember this Patriots team has played just three (3!) games this season after having no preseason games, joint practices, or a normal training camp.
@ErictheBody What will be Damien Harris’ role when he is activated of the injured reserve?
Even with Sony Michel
rapidly running for 117 yards last Sunday, I still believe Harris will have a large role here when he returns from IR. It was a strong sign to see Michel run the way he did Sunday, even if some of the long runs were set-up beautifully by the offensive line. However, Harris reportedly looked better than Michel, and the other backs, throughout the summer. He hit holes decisively and even contributed in the passing game. We’ll have to see if that translates to live game action, but why would they not give him a shot?
@JuanCarr75500417 Do you see jj taylor as a dion lewis type back? Small, elusive, quick and strong. Or is it to early to tell?
That’s exactly how I see him. Taylor has run extremely hard when given the opportunity this season, something that Lewis did throughout his time in New England. He had a team-high 11 carries last week and some of his runs seemed to give life to a lackluster offense. One place I would like to see him be more like Lewis is in the pass game. Taylor has just two targets and one catch for four-yards. In Lewis’ 30 games as a Patriots, he hauled in 109 passes. Taylor is a dynamic player with the ball in his hands and I would love to see him out in space catching passes.
@UnfilteredPats What are your thoughts on the lack of production or targets towards the TE’s in the passing game? Also, can Donta Hightower be welcome back onto the roster this year or no? I miss Hightower
We all miss Boomtower, but sadly Covid-19 opt-outs cannot opt back into the season.
As for the tight ends, let’s look at their production:
The Patriots have been using their tight ends mainly as blockers through three weeks. Blocking has always been Izzo’s main strength, even though he’s made some plays in the pass game, but rookie Devin Asiasi has impressed as a blocker through three weeks. It was promising to see his snap totals take a big jump last week, logging 29 snaps after back-to-back weeks of just 10. The tight end position is arguably the hardest to learn in the Patriots offense, so it’s unfair to expect a rookie to be boasting huge stats (especially in a chaotic offseason).
The increase of snaps is encouraging though, as it shows growing trust from the coaching staff. He was the only tight end on the field for 25 offensive plays and played a full series in the red zone. Asiasi is trending in the right direction, now it’s time to start throwing him the ball.
It will also be exciting to see how they plan on using rookie Dalton Keene (neck) when he’s finally healthy.
@im_tryingman What you think cams mvp acceptance suit gonna look like
The answer to this question is we will never know. Just like last time he took home the award, he will be too busy game planning for the Super Bowl to claim his MVP award.
That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!