Patriots Mailbag: Looking at New England’s Depth at Safety, Key to Slowing Buffalo Offense

Patriots Mailbag: Looking at New England's Depth at Safety, Key to Slowing Buffalo Offense FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots have finished their preparation for the Bills and are getting ready for a quick trip to Buffalo. There are some injury concerns this weekend that will test their depth, and we'll get into some of that in this week's mailbag. Let's start it off with a look at New England's safeties.

Is the time now to get some help at safety? The Pats are pretty beat up at that position. Your thoughts?
–Brawn

The handling of the safety position has been strange. Not trying to rehash some old thoughts here, but I'm not sure I'll ever understand the reason for releasing James Sanders. And while the writing was on the wall for Brandon Meriweather, the timing of his release was questionable because it was only a few days after the Sanders transaction.

Anyway, if the Patriots felt like there were some better options out there, I think they would have targeted them at this point. I know Darren Sharper is a big name, but since the Patriots haven't signed him, I'm just going to believe they don't think he's got enough left in the tank — or at the very least, his marquee name would exceed his role, which could be a problem.

This weekend will say a lot about the safety depth if Patrick Chung can't play. Josh Barrett, Sergio Brown and James Ihedigbo have all shown some positive things, but they'll really be tested if Chung is on the sideline.

What are the keys for the Patriots' defense if we want to win this week against Buffalo, in your opinion?
–Dani

It all starts with running back Fred Jackson, who leads the NFL in rushing yards and has been their best offensive player through two weeks. This week will be a different test for the Patriots' defense in that regard because they'll shift their focus to the backfield instead of a slot receiver (Davone Bess) or tight end (Antonio Gates). I think this should give the Patriots the ability to offer more protection for the cornerbacks in the third level of the defense, and that, in turn, could help them generate more pressure on the quarterback. I'm definitely interested to see how their game plan transitions this week due to those dynamics.

Could the Patriots trade for a cornerback to help the backfield? Could they perhaps sign Lofa Tatupu?
–Tommy

The Patriots have four good cornerbacks, so I wouldn't worry about anything there. The numbers don't look great, but the Dolphins racked up a ton of yards on New England's prevent defense. There were some inconsistencies against the Chargers, but some of that was a price they were forced to pay to shut down Gates.

Based on my impressions of Tatupu's game, I think he'd be a good fit for the Patriots' new-look 4-3 scheme. On that notion alone, I think it shows that if they haven't signed him at this point, they probably aren't looking in that direction. It's also very bizarre that Tatupu is still a free agent. He's a talented player, and he hasn't really gotten much of a sniff of a new contract since the Seahawks released him. For that, I really wonder what has deterred the entire league from giving him a job. There's got to be something more to the story.

Seems the Pats can run the ball effectively as Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis do a nice job. My question is, why don't they employ this tactic more? I am just concerned that Brady will eventually take a cheap shot from some lineman and wind up down for the count as in 2008. Also, why doesn't Brady get fitted for a brace on his right knee, as he is a turtle anyway on his feet and it could keep him upright for the season?
–Winning Queensberry

All fair questions. The Patriots like to set up the run with the threat of the pass, which is a growing trend in the NFL, and one that was really started by the Colts. They can close out games on the ground, and they've got the talent in the backfield to run when they need to get it done.

However, I don't think fear of injury can be a motivating factor in an offense's philosophy. I understand where you're coming from, and Brady escaped serious injury last week after Antonio Garay's cheap shot at the quarterback's left knee. I think the Patriots' defense has some very promising potential this season, but until it really starts to click, the offense is going to have to post some numbers. New England's best chance of doing that lies on Brady's right arm.

As for the last question, Brady acknowledged the left knee brace kept him stable after the Garay hit, so he obviously trusts the equipment. Yet the right knee isn't usually as much of an issue for right-handed quarterbacks, and Brady might not want to throw off his comfort level with a second brace.

What is your formula for awesome?
–SkinlessJSn, via Twitter

A lot of run-on sentences, a decent understanding of the difference between their, there and they're, a sense of humor that very few find funny, a face that only my mother could love, an embarrassing amount of hair gel, an addiction to bad reality TV, a Twitter account so ridiculous that no one could outdo it with a fake one and a degree from UMass. Thank you for asking.

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