Patriots Mailbag: Is Talent An Issue For New England’s Defense?

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Did you like the New England Patriots’ color rush jerseys last season? Well, whether you liked them or not, the Patriots are bringing them back Sunday night when they take on the Atlanta Falcons.

They were even present in the Patriots’ equipment room Thursday afternoon and looked much better than the color rush uniforms New England wore two weeks ago in Tampa Bay.

I have a theory on why the Patriots’ color rush uniforms aren’t red, by the way. I think the Patriots will change their uniforms to red once Tom Brady and Bill Belichick retire.

On that note, let’s get into this week’s mailbag.

What’s more to blame for the defense: lack of communication or lack of defensive roster talent?
— @AlexWhizzy
I think the last two weeks have shown the struggles are more due to miscommunication than an outright lack of talent. Some fans still are down on the Patriots’ defense after they allowed 14 and 17 points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets, respectively, but I think that’s the unit showing progress. And they let up 17 points to the Jets without their No. 1 and 3 cornerbacks.

The communication has improved in the last two weeks and so has the defense. A defense usually improves when they stop letting receivers wide open for touchdowns.

There will never be a consensus opinion on the Patriots’ defense because they allow so many yards, so it’s not always pretty to watch. Last year proved that. The Patriots ranked first in points allowed and some fans still thought the defense stunk. But if they’re not allowing points, then they’re doing their job. If the Patriots allowed 15.5 points per game all season, they’d rank second in the NFL. The Jets and Buccaneers, collectively, have averaged 20.9 points per game this season, by the way. So, don’t start.

This is a bit of a copout, but we’ll have a much better sense of where the defense stands after Sunday night when they play the Falcons in the Super Bowl LI rematch. If they let up a ton of points and yards, then let’s start pressing that panic button again while acknowledging their No. 2 cornerback, Johnson Bademosi, hadn’t played a defensive snap until last week.

Do you get the feeling that Gilmore is going to land on IR? Also, why hasn’t Langi gone to IR yet?
— @ChefdDds89
I do not get that feeling on Stephon Gilmore. He has been around Gillette Stadium, so I fully expect him to be back once he passes through concussion protocol.

Ultimately, Harvey Langi will almost certainly be placed on the non-football injury list after suffering serious injuries in a car accident, but the Patriots can be patient unless they feel the need to fill in depth through the practice squad or a signing.

My guess is the Patriots will wait to place Langi on NFI until after Week 8, when the corresponding move would be to activate Shea McClellin off of injured reserve. If the Patriots placed Langi on NFI and signed a player off of the practice squad, then New England either would have to expose that guy to waivers or release a different player.

If the Patriots plan to eventually release a player, like linebacker David Harris for example, then they could place Langi on NFI on Saturday and sign Ryan Lewis off of the practice squad to add cornerback depth.

If they want to keep the other 52 players on their roster, then their best bet is to wait to NFI Langi until McClellin can return.

Do you expect any moves to be made at the trade deadline?
— @BrycenTyler
It’s usually a safe bet that the Patriots will make a trade. They made four around roster cutdowns, after all.

I could see them trading for another pass rusher or linebacker.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported New Orleans Saints pass rusher Hau’oli Kikaha could be traded. I wouldn’t hate the idea of acquiring him, though that could be the University of Washington fan in me speaking. He’d be another situational, third-down pass rusher. The Patriots couldn’t give up much for Kikaha, since he’s coming off a third ACL tear, but he was a very good pass rusher in college and was solid as a rookie.

It’s tough to pinpoint other players the Patriots could acquire because we don’t know who else is available.

WhO hAs PaTrIoTs QuEsTiOnS?

Oh I do, awkward. Does Dion Lewis have a real stake at taking a big stake of carries away from Gillislee? #mAiLdOuG
— @JackLinnehan
He received more snaps and touches than Mike Gillislee in Week 6, so it’s certainly possible. Some of that was because of Gillislee’s fumble, however.

When he’s healthy and playing like he is right now, Lewis is the Patriots’ best running back. He has a combination of shiftiness and power other Patriots don’t possess. The Patriots seem hesitant to use Lewis as a bell-cow because of his injury history, and you can’t blame them for that. But if the offense is sputtering, then it’s worth bringing in Lewis to give them a jolt.

Why haven’t the Patriots been using David Harris? It seems as though they are using him as a coach rather than a player.
— @DANTEVD
Elandon Roberts has been out of practice with an ankle injury so far this week. If Roberts can’t play, and if Harris doesn’t play significant snaps, then we’re left wondering why he’s on the team.

Mid Season award winners?
MVP?
ROY?
Most Improved?
Least Improved?
— @rankjas
MVP: Can’t go wrong with the classics. Tom Brady.
ROY: Deatrich Wise
Most Improved: Malcom Brown
Least Improved: Alan Branch

Let’s go rapid fire.

Hey Doug, what underperforming player do you expect to turn it around the most before the end of the season?
— @TuckerOol
Branch is one. I think linebacker Dont’a Hightower could play more consistently, as well. Gilmore showed progress in Week 5, but he has to get healthy first.

#maildoug i’m getting a Boston terrier soon. I want to name it Gronk while my daughter likes Spike. Cast the winning vote!
— @wilroache
That’s easy. Name the dog Gronk Spike. Call him both until he recognizes both names, then you can call him Gronk, and your  can call him Spike.

A few teams have had success running against the Falcons. How’s your run game looking?
— @OliverBThomas
This is in reference to this tweet/question:

Hey Bill, haven’t had a chance to look at the stats or roster yet. How’s the team looking this year?

#maildoug What is with these stupid color rush uniforms? Is this just to sell jerseys? Cause who the heck buys a color rush jersey?
— @MrQuindazzi

Yes.

Where’s the defense?
— @ptsj_16
The Patriots might have left it in Houston. Can someone go check?

Over or under 400 yards of offence for Falcons? Patriots?
— @njjosselyn
Over for both.

over/under Falcons score 35 points on sunday.
— @r_lopes12
Under.

Is there any fan base more spoiled than the Patriots? Seems like the reaction after a win is always as if we lost. #mAiLdOuG
— @YoSoyFiestaaa
No, absolutely not.

Not complaining here, just stating a fact: It’s impossible to keep the entire fan base happy. Some fans are so pro-Patriots that the team can do no wrong. Some fans are so negative that they constantly think the team stinks when they never actually do. And the ones that are reasonable aren’t exactly the most vocal on Twitter.

How hurt is Hogan?
— @HotTaykz
Not hurt enough to keep him from finishing Sunday’s win over the Jets.

I miss Logan Ryan
— @Peace_Gerald
That’s not a question, but it seems like there are many folks out there like you. And many of them didn’t exist when Ryan actually was on the team.

Hahaha. I just started watching that music video. That dude’s voice is insane for a ballad.

I think I know every power ballad’s chorus from those old infomercials that always played on VH1.

Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images

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