Patriots’ Biggest Needs in 2014 Draft Are at Defensive Tackle and Tight End, Shane Vereen Should Start at Running Back

Shane Vereen, Kawann ShortHappy Thanksgiving everyone!

We’ve got a special edition of the mailbag on this holiday that kicks off the most wonderful time of the year — the playoff season. OK, fine, it’s not really a special edition. It just has a couple of questions about Thanksgiving and Christmas. But we’ll pretend it’s a holiday edition.

There are a lot of reasons for the Patriots to be optimistic and thankful (see what I did there?). The team put together one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history on Sunday night and came one pass interference call away from beating one of the best teams in the NFC.

Tom Brady has found his groove, and any chemistry issues he appeared to have with his receivers — including the rookies — seem to have gone away. Sure, the defense doesn’t look as good as it once did and Stevan Ridley can’t seem to stop fumbling the ball, but — wait. Actually, that’s the first question in this week’s mailbag. Let’s just get right into it.

Don’t forget to save room for pie.

I think Shane Vereen should get the start this weekend and Brandon Bolden should be the first player off the bench. If the Patriots are going to bench Stevan Ridley for fumble issues, they’ll have to do the same to LeGarrette Blount. They should all play, though. There’s no reason to completely shut down Ridley, despite his fumblitis. They’ll likely need him for the playoffs. He’s still the best between-the-tackles runner on the team.

I think it’s unreasonable to think Vereen, Bolden, Blount or Bolden won’t fumble for the rest of the season, though. Fumbles happen. It’s part of the game. It just can’t get chronic, and it’s starting to get that way with Ridley.

As for the team’s run defense, I don’t think we’ll ever see it look as bad as it did on Sunday night. That’s because the Patriots didn’t adjust to stop the run — because they didn’t want to.

The goal, from these eyes, was to keep Peyton Manning from passing the ball. They accomplished that by allowing Denver to run free by continuing to put the nickel defense on the field without Isaac Sopoaga.

I don’t think the run defense will necessarily be a strength moving forward, but they have players like Brandon Spikes and Sopoaga, who are very good in stopping the run.

Given D.J. Williams‘ inability to contribute in Green Bay and Jacksonville, it would be fair not to expect much from the third-year tight end. But with Bill Belichick, you never know.

Williams was very good at Arkansas — so good, in fact, that he won the 2010 Mackey Award. Williams certainly has the athleticism to succeed in the NFL. He’s very small for his position, though. He’s smaller than his listed 245 pounds. So if he’s going to contribute, it likely won’t be in much of a blocking role.

Williams showed the potential to play that Aaron Hernandez role when he was at Arkansas. But he hasn’t shown that since coming to the pros as a fifth-rounder.

It will be nice for the Patriots to have another receiving threat at tight end, though. Michael Hoomanawanui, who’s hurt right now, isn’t the greatest receiver, and Matthew Mulligan is essentially used as a glorified blocker with the Patriots.

Oh, this one?

Yes, he’s too obsessed and yes, he needs an intervention. We may have to see how he reacts when we take away his stopwatch.

And honestly, it’s probably best to keep punters away from him until this is all figured out.

I think it’s a good matchup for Aqib Talib. Talib struggles when he has to go up against shorter, shiftier receivers, like Steve SmithAndre Johnson is as physical as they come, but Talib can match that.

Talib definitely has the speed to stay with Johnson. One of the things I’ve been most impressed with when it comes to Talib is his positioning and body control when the ball is coming his way. He rarely gets beat on a jump ball.

With another week to recover from his hip injury, Talib may be able to shut down Johnson like he did Julio Jones. Especially with Case Keenum throwing the ball.

Home Alone and it’s not really all that close. Christmas Vacation is probably No. 2, though.

The Macaulay Culkin classic has it all, though. Including a frustrating scene with macaroni and cheese.

For some reason, Home Alone became the most quoted movie in my high school. “You’re what the French call les incompétents.” “Kevin, I’m going to feed you to my tarantula.” “Wow, that’s real crystal. Put it in your purse.”

But really, Old Man Marley, Harry and Marv, Uncle Frank, Buzz’s girlfriend. Home Alone is the best.

Also, John Candy‘s scenes are incredible.

Obviously it depends how free agency goes (Talib, Julian Edelman and Brandon Spikes are all on the final year of their contracts). But in looking at the team right now, I think this team needs another tight end and a starting-caliber three-technique defensive tackle (traditionally the better pass-rushing defensive tackle).

Chris Jones and Joe Vellano have done a good job this year, but Vellano would probably be best used as a rotational player and Jones would be best utilized as a third-down sub rusher.

Obviously these type of players don’t exactly grow on trees, but the Patriots could really use a Gerald McCoy, Ndamukong Suh, Geno Atkins, Muhammad Wilkerson-type player. They have largely ignored the position next to Vince Wilfork since Ty Warren and Richard Seymour left.

The team was basically stuck with what it had after Hernandez got arrested. The Patriots obviously didn’t like what they saw in Daniel Fells or Jake Ballard (I still can’t figure out what went wrong with Fells). There are some good tight ends out there in this draft. A player like Austin Seferian-Jenkins would look good across from Rob Gronkowski, even if his skill set doesn’t necessarily mimic Hernandez’s.

That’s a controversial opinion. I’m not a big fan of things like squash and sweet potatoes. You know, adult foods.

I’m big on stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, crescent rolls and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving sandwiches too.

He obviously didn’t like the cut of your jib.

They couldn’t. Tiny Tim from the 2010 to 2012 productions has moved on to San Diego.

Belichick would probably have to be Scrooge, though. And Wilfork would make a good ghost of Christmas present.

I haven’t got a great gauge of Collins yet. He finally looked like he put it all together on Sunday. He showed nice instincts in coverage and he absolutely trucked Knowshon Moreno on a blitz that forced a Peyton Manning fumble.

So far, I’ve been most impressed with Collins the pass rusher. That’s not overly surprising. That’s the position I expected Collins to play. It could be tough to find Collins snaps in that role, though he could play right defensive end on third down, kicking Chandler Jones inside to defensive tackle next to Chris Jones.

Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyedNESN or send it here.

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