By Aaron Jackson
The New England Patriots are exactly where you thought they’d be, unless you’re a mad man like Mark Paulette who actually bought into the “undefeated season” hype. But how they got here is certainly not how many expected. At 6-2, there are still plenty of questions I have for this team. If I could hit Bill Belichick with some truth serum, here are the five questions that I would ask him.
- What’s your plan to keep Tom Brady healthy the rest of the season? The 40-year old is taking some massive hits this season, partially because of a mediocre defensive line, partially because of an offense that is looking downfield more, creating a need for more time in the pocket. Brady has proven his diet and physical regimen are otherworldly, but father time catches up with everyone. If he keeps taking these hits there’s a good chance he won’t last the entire season.
- Is David Harris really going to be enough to fill Dont’a Hightower’s shoes? The Patriots managed to squeak by the Los Angeles Chargers, but Melvin Gordon and company averaged 7.5 yards a rush in the loss. Part of that was the 89-yard run he had early in the game, but New England clearly is going to have its work cut out defensively against the run for the rest of the season. Will Harris be enough long term to hold them over? Or are there players out there that could help? (The NFL trade deadline is today!)
- Speaking of the defense, what’s going on with Stephon Gilmore? Gilmore was back at practice this week, so the injury excuse doesn’t hold as much water as it once did. The fact that he was inactive, and left the stadium before the game, leaves me a little concerned that the Patriots feel like he’s not able to perform for this team. Our own Sterling Pingree voiced a concern that this signing felt like the Adalius Thomas signing that never really worked out…I’m starting to wonder the same.
- While we’re talking about injuries, how about Malcolm Mitchell? Where’s he these days? The second year wide receiver figured to be a big part of the offense with Julian Edelman gone, but then he was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury before the season. Chris Hogan only has a couple of good body parts left, Danny Amendola has knee issues and is never healthy, and who knows when the next Gronkowski injury will come. It’s pretty clear this team has a bit of an issue with red zone situations, and a receiver like Mitchell could be a difference maker in that category. Is he close to being back? Injured reserve rules say that Mitchell was eligible to return week 8 from his knee injury and has been seen running recently. Could be good news? Could be nothing.
- What do you do to make opposing coaches and players make stupid choices when they play you? Week after week we see teams fall apart at your gaze. Recent examples include the last two Super Bowl wins, week 3 against the Texans, last Sunday night against Falcons, and Travis Benjamin’s safety this past Sunday. Throw Nick Folk’s field goal awfulness for the Buccaneers and when was the last time the Pats didn’t benefit in some major way by stupid mistakes by other teams? It’s insane that it keeps happening week after week.
Aaron Jackson (@AaronRJackson on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.