Patriots Mailbag: Difficult Cuts Coming When Reserve Players Return

We’ll find out how much Bill Belichick still respects Desean Jackson’s skill set Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

The Patriots have two options on the speedy Washington Redskins wide receiver: They can double team Jackson like they handled the New York Jets’ Brandon Marshall in Week 7, or they can shadow him with cornerback Malcolm Butler.

Jackson missed six games with a hamstring injury, but it would still be smart to take option A. The Patriots should go with a very similar game plan as they used against the Jets, clogging the line of scrimmage with defenders to top the run, taking away Jackson with cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Devin McCourty and trusting the other Patriots’ defensive backs to take away the Redskins’ other targets. Otherwise, Jackson is always a threat to take the top off of the defense.

Let’s get into this week’s mailbag:

If/when McDaniels leave, who would be the most logical replacement? BoB after he gets fired from Texans? 😀 Half-kidding. @DougKyed
— @koomakipo
I don’t necessarily expect McDaniels to leave any time soon, but tight ends coach Brian Daboll, who started with the organization in 2000, when Bill Belichick came in, would be the top candidate. He was an offensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs from 2009 to 2012 and obviously knows the Patriots’ system well. The Patriots are all about continuity, and Daboll represents that.

Chad O’Shea would be the potential next man up, if he didn’t get swept away by McDaniels. He’s been wide receivers coach since 2009.

I think Bill O’Brien lasts with the Houston Texans, however. They could potentially still win the AFC South.

@DougKyed Who are the 3 players you would cut to make room for Chris Jones, Stork, D Fletcher?
— @PaulM8712
I don’t speculate on potential cuts in-season, because I think it’s unfair to players, but the positions with the most current depth are safety and defensive tackle.

The Patriots have nine or 10 safeties between their active roster and practice squad, depending on whether you count Brandon King as a defensive back or linebacker, so that would be the easiest position to trim from the Patriots’ roster.

The Patriots currently have five defensive tackles, and they use defensive ends Geneo Grissom, Jabaal Sheard, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich inside on obvious passing downs. Activating Chris Jones from PUP to the 53-man roster would give them six defensive tackles, and I can’t imagine them carrying that many players at a position that usually has just two or three players on the field at a given time.

I also could see the Patriots trim a linebacker, since that’s the position Dane Fletcher plays, or a wide receiver. The Patriots have six wideouts, including Matthew Slater, on their 53-man roster and two on the practice squad. The Patriots usually only activate five wideouts on game day, including Slater.

I don’t necessarily think Fletcher and Jones will be activated this week. The Patriots have three weeks to move Fletcher and Jones to the 53-man roster, and they might use up that entire window. The Patriots have solid depth at defensive tackle and linebacker, so there’s no reason to rush them onto the field. In fact, I’m surprised they started practicing as early as they did. The Patriots still had three weeks to get them on the practice field, which would have further pushed back the clock to activate them to the 53-man roster.

@DougKyed With the teams OL depth depleted, do you see them activating Stork on Saturday?
— @michaelmcd8393
@DougKyed what do you expect from the battle to be Tom Brady’s center? Who pushes who out?
— @XLIX2K15
I do expect the Patriots to activate center Bryan Stork this weekend for their Week 9 matchup with the Washington Redskins, since he’s been practicing for two weeks. The Patriots are banged up on their interior line, and there is a lot of uncertainty along the entire unit right now.

Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon isn’t practicing because of a toe injury, so he’s likely out for Sunday’s game. Guard Tre’ Jackson has a knee injury keeping him out of practice, so he’s probably not playing either.

Guards Ryan Wendell and Shaq Mason are limited in practice this week with knee issues. Wendell’s only popped up Wednesday, while Mason’s kept him from playing in Week 8 against the Miami Dolphins.

Offensive tackles Sebastian Vollmer and Cameron Fleming, guard Josh Kline and center David Andrews are fully healthy, so you can expect Vollmer at left tackle, Fleming at right tackle, Kline in one of the guard spots and Andrews at center Sunday.

If Mason or Wendell can play, one of them likely would play the other guard spot. The Patriots also have the option of moving Stork to guard, though he hasn’t played the position in the NFL. Stork did have experience at guard at Florida State, however.

I don’t expect Stork to replace Andrews at center in his first week back, though I could see him rotating into some snaps at either center or guard.

@DougKyed if you had to pick any combination of Patriots OL (with Stork, w/out Solder) to have a regular front, who would it be and where?
— @PatriotsInform
That’s a really tough question. I’d go with Vollmer at left tackle and Cannon on the right side. I’d put Andrews at center, Mason at left guard and Kline at right guard. Andrews has been playing so well, I don’t think it’s worth taking him out at center right now.

We don’t know how Stork will hold up at guard if the Patriots want or have to move him, and Mason is playing better than Jackson at this point. Wendell was very good last season and in 2013, but he didn’t hold up very well in limited time Thursday night. Stork, Jackson and Wendell deserve snaps, however.

I think that’s why the Patriots will continue to rotate inside once players regain their health.

@DougKyed Do you think a hotdog should be considered a sandwich?
— @AirLarsen
No. A hot dog is a hot dog. Maybe it’s technically a sandwich because it’s meat in bread, but no one would ever refer to a hot dog as a sandwich without thinking way too much about the topic.

Guess what else isn’t a sandwich? A cheeseburger.

@DougKyed I hear you’re considered the G.R.O.A.T (greatest reporter of all time)? Is that true?
— @Cybulski_8
I am groat.

@DougKyed who takes the role of the 4th wr spot?
— @nogla_jim
When Keshawn Martin is healthy enough to play, I think he replaces Aaron Dobson as the fourth receiver. Martin has more versatility, and he had passed Dobson on the depth chart before tweaking his hamstring.

Martin can play all three of the Patriots’ wide receiver spots, while Dobson only can play outside. Versatility is key for a fourth receiver on the Patriots, because they need to be able to fill in at any spot.

@DougKyed So we didn’t add depth at the CB position before the deadline. God forbids one of our main DB’s get seriously hurt. What then?
— @Rudens23
It will be next man up, as always.

If Malcolm Butler or Logan Ryan suffer injuries, I would expect the Patriots to move Devin McCourty down to cornerback, which would force Duron Harmon and Jordan Richards, both of whom have been reliable, into even bigger roles. Harmon doesn’t have McCourty’s versatility, but he has great range at free safety in both a Cover-1 and Cover-3. I think Harmon and Richards could hold down the fort when the Patriots occasionally go to Cover-2, as well.

I think Justin Coleman would stay in the slot, and McCourty would play outside on the bigger receiver. He’s had success against tight ends, and he has good speed and quickness.

It’s not necessarily ideal, but the Patriots are 7-0 thanks to strong play from their safeties, linebackers and pass rushers. They’ve done a nice job masking any issues at cornerback, and I’d expect that to continue.

@DougKyed Who wins the tournament for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at #SurvivorSeries
— @JeffWIIM
I’m devastated by Seth Rollins’ knee injury, and WWE has to be, as well. I’m going to guess either Sheamus or Roman Reigns wins, but the former sounds terrible, and the latter likely would be a bad idea. If Reigns wins, they would need to turn him heel and insert him into Rollins’ role in The Authority. Then, when Rollins comes back, there’s an insta-feud.

I’m interested to see who will be in the tournament at all, and most notably whether Brock Lesner is involved. I’d love to see either Kevin Owens, Dean Ambrose or Finn Balor win it all, but I’m not holding my breath. The WWE’s best bet is probably to give it to someone like Kane to make it obvious the champion is just a hold over, then readjust the plans at TLC in December.

WWE almost has to make it someone uninteresting just so fans don’t revolt when Sheamus inevitably cashes in the Money in the Bank. What absolutely CANNOT happen is Sheamus headlining WrestleMania 32. I have plans to go. I would not go.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Oct 27, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones (94) during the fourth quarter of their 27-17 win over the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

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