Patriots Mailbag: Why New England Is Being Coy About Tom Brady’s Injury

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The New England Patriots will face the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday in the AFC Championship Game, and there’s no shortage of drama leading up to the showdown at Gillette Stadium.

Tom Brady’s hand injury is dominating the headlines, so let’s address that whole thing and some other stuff in this week’s Patriots mailbag.

Is Brady’s hand thing a charade that will allow for more deep throws vs. Jax?
— @Atomicosm
I do not subscribe to Malik Jackson’s theory that Tom Brady’s hand injury is fake. I think he really did hurt his hand. I’m not sure how badly he hurt his hand, though.

I think Brady will play through the injury Sunday. I was told he “should be OK” as of Wednesday night. Also, if the hand injury was so bad that he couldn’t play or it would severely limit him, would Patriots players really be making jokes about it? Yeah, probably not.

Doug why they can?t just say he?s either ok or not? Either way it?s a distraction
— @TommyG64010544
Brady is scheduled to talk Friday. I believe he’ll say he’s good to go, if he is, in that news conference.

Why aren’t they saying that earlier? Well, why give the Jaguars an extra day or two to know? The Patriots try to use every advantage they can possibly get. If they get the Jaguars to think for even a second that Brian Hoyer could play Sunday, then they might have gained the slightest of advantages by making them prepare for that. Maybe they’re even making the Jaguars hope Hoyer plays, setting them up for disappointment.

Regardless of the reason, if Brady talks Friday, I’m pretty sure we’ll find out if he’s playing.

Might as well just call it a handbag at this point
— @GriffinMorrow
Good one.

Are you concerned about Brad’s thumb, and if so, how much?
— @BerCohen
I am, but who’s Brad?

@maildoug do you see our defense possibly stealing the spotlight from the Jags defense in this game?
— @rickeyeasterjr
I can envision a possibility where Patriots players are in the locker room Sunday evening talking about how they were disrespected all season. The Patriots’ defense isn’t as good as the Jaguars’. They aren’t as dangerous pass rushing, they’re not as athletic and their cornerbacks aren’t as consistent. But I can’t really see the Jaguars’ offense putting up a ton of points on the Patriots this Sunday.

The Patriots have been great at limiting scoring, and they’re going to dare the Jaguars to pass by stacking the box against Leonard Fournette. If the Patriots can get out to an early lead, then it will be up to quarterback Blake Bortles to lead the Jaguars back.

That’s a winning strategy for the Patriots.

How do you expect the Jaguars to handle Gronk on Sunday? #MailDoug
— @Nikfraz14
I do not expect the Jaguars to use cornerback Jalen Ramsey on Rob Gronkowski, if that’s what you’re asking. The Jaguars’ best plan of attack is to have Ramsey and A.J. Bouye lock down the Patriots’ outside receivers then flood the middle of the field to try to take out Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and the Patriots’ running backs.

I think everything gets too jumbled if they use Ramsey on Gronkowski. The Jaguars use a lot of zone coverage, so then you’re essentially replacing a linebacker with Ramsey in the middle of the field when Gronkowski is lined up as a traditional tight end. The Patriots would just run the ball at that formation.

If the Jaguars are in man and use Ramsey on Gronkowski, then they’re either covering a receiver with a safety or they’re adding an additional cornerback to the field to replace a safety or linebacker, staying in nickel or dime coverage all game. And by using their fourth cornerback or a safety on a receiver, that creates an advantageous matchup for the Patriots.

The Jaguars have athletic linebackers in Telvin Smith and Myles Jack and a big safety in Barry Church. Those are the players who should be covering Gronkowski.

Any reason why the Pats haven?t used both Lewis and Burkhead at the same time?
— @TommyG64010544
Hey Doug, Posluszny is their weakest coverage LB, right? If so, what are some advantageous things that the Patriots can do to trap Posluszny in coverage with one of our RBs?
— @PAT_Terrific
I’ll combine these. The Patriots ran 54 plays this season in a two-running back set. That’s two traditional running backs, not a fullback and a running back. They ran 21 personnel sets with a fullback much more commonly.

The Patriots only ran one play all season with Lewis and Burkhead on the field together. James White was used on 53 of 54 of those snaps with either Lewis or Burkhead. I could see the Patriots utilizing a two-running back set much more frequently Sunday, and the idea of using Lewis and Burkhead at the same time certainly is intriguing.

The Patriots should test the waters to see what formation the Jaguars would choose to match up against two-running back sets. If the Jaguars match it with nickel, then the Patriots should run the ball. If they match it with their base defense, they should pass and try to target Posluszny.

Don’t expect the Patriots to use a two-running back set for 50 or 60 plays, but I’d also expect to see it more than the three snaps per game they averaged this season.

I don’t typically love three-running back sets. I think the way to match up against them is in nickel, because a defensive back can cover a running back better than a linebacker if the offense intends to pass. And if the offense intends to run, then an extra running back will be no better as a run blocker than another wide receiver.

But the Jaguars, who struggle to defend the run in their sub packages and to defend the pass in base (as Rich Hill from Pats Pulpit explained), are a special circumstance.

#MailDoug Is it my imagination is or Marquis Flowers performing at a very high level?
— @RealRobSheridan
It is not your imagination. And I think free agency will be interesting for Flowers.

I could see Flowers getting a contract similar to the one Jonathan Casillas received from the New York Giants after his half season with the Patriots (three years, $8 million). Flowers has played more defensive snaps at a higher level in New England than Casillas did with the Patriots in 2014. Casillas played more defensive snaps prior to being traded to the Patriots than Flowers did in his time with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Both players are athletic linebackers who can contribute on defense. I could see a team looking at Flowers this offseason and seeing untapped potential. He’s been very good as a pass rusher and in coverage.

That’s funny.

Marrone is a good coach, though. I just want to get that on the record.

Let’s go rapid fire.

If Brian Hoyer starts do I bet my mortgage on the Pats still or no?
— @JinxAverage
I don’t want you to bet your mortgage, regardless, Jinx. I don’t want you to be homeless.

#maildoug If the Patriots lose this game, how hot will the takes be and how long will they last?
— @MrQuindazzi
They will be scorching for a very long time. I don’t think the Patriots will lose. But if they do, everyone will act like the Patriots’ dynasty is crumbling to the ground because they made the AFC Championship Game but didn’t win.

IS TOM?S HAND GOING TO BE AMPUTATED?!?!? 🙂
— @GriffinMorrow
You’re assuming it hasn’t been already?!

Who wins an arm wrestling match between David Harris and James Harrison
— @8deepbb
Harrison.

Doug any idea on a new OC? I don’t see anyone on staff now that would move into that role.
— @Jeff4life56
I could definitely see wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea getting promoted if Josh McDaniels leaves.

Going into #AFCCG for the Pats..What similarities do you find between this Jags defense and the Falcons and Seahawks defense from the previous two super bowls? How do the Pats stack up? #MailDoug
— @RobFieldBox
I actually wrote about that this week! Check it out.

what are the odds we see a skill position player throw a pass vs JAX?
— @WordOfZac
Pretty good, probably. My money would be on wide receiver Chris Hogan.

I actually forgot he attempted a pass last season to Malcolm Mitchell. It was against the Jets and it garnered a defensive pass interference penalty. Hogan’s got a cannon for an arm. And he’s a southpaw.

Can Hoyer and this team beat the Jags?
— @mjthomas99
That’s a good question. I think it would be a close game.

@DougKyed why does Malcolm Mitchell post the same picture on his Instagram and his Instagram story
— @maddie_heaps
That’s another great question. I think I’ve done this before, but not regularly. Gotta keep the normal ‘gram and ‘gram story separate.

Can we get an official #DougBagTBH prediction for the AFC Championship Game this Sunday between the New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars? You can even throw in a pick for that other game too.
— @TheDTSB
Patriots win 24-14.

Vikings win close.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady
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