By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
Welcome to Week 8 of the Patriots Mailbag! With the team sitting at 2-4, things need to change, and quickly. Where are the fans looking for the team to improve? Let's get into the questions.
In 2018, the defense improved a lot during the season by making technique and scheme adjustments. Can this defense make those same kinds of adjustments to improve, or are they really just this bad against the run? (@mattstdream)
Yes and no. This defense has a an opportunity to improve, but it's more about personnel changes than scheme. Their struggles against the run will be helped by the returns of Beau Allen and Josh Uche. Increasing Chase Winovich's usage would be a major boost to the pass rush.
The best thing that could happen to this defense though, is the offense to find their footing. Too many times this season, the Patriots' defense has been handed early deficits and short fields. No unit is going to perform to their potential backed up against a wall like that. If and when the Patriots offense gets things going, the defense will reap the rewards.
Is this the week we see both Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene active? I believe it would help to have multiple blockers in the running game with the high winds expected vs the Bills (@ajclauss3)
Bill Belichick said last week that we likely won't see Asiasi and Keene active in the same game this year pending injuries. That's a bit of a surprise, but it answers the first part of your question.
When it comes to the extra blocker though, the Patriots will probably be better off using a tackle-eligible tight end in a game like this. If we know they're going to run a ton, the Bills know they're going to run a ton. There's no element of surprise here, just execution. Expect the Patriots to put their best blockers on the field, going with six or even seven offensive linemen, and force the Bills to stop it by just making plays.
When this was sent my way Wednesday I sort of laughed it off. But after Julian Edelman's injury, with N'Keal Harry still dealing with a concussion, I think it'd be tough to rule anything out at the receiver position right now. The only hesitation is that the Patriots could have signed Bryant to their practice squad all season, and didn't. Something was clearly keeping them away - can Bryant disprove whatever that is in a short time with the Ravens?
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) October 28, 2020
Since I’ve come to terms that this will be a lost season for the Pats and am pushing for sell-mode, who do you think will be the starting QB next year? (@MCleland)
Even for those who haven't given up on the season yet, this is still a valid question. It feels too early to give specific names (although Jim Murray's 'Pick the Bum' was outstanding yesterday) but here's how I've phrased the question to myself in recent days - is the Patriots' 2021 Week 1 starting quarterback currently on the roster? The way things are trending, I'd say no.
is this the week they unleash the Zuber ? does Josh realize that Tight Ends are still eligible receiver's ? are their boxes placed around @985TheSportsHub so people can talk eye to eye with @TheSylverFox? (@TMurph207)
If there was any game for Isaiah Zuber to break out, this is it. Bill Belichick basically said as much Friday morning. N'Keal Harry will likely be back by the Patriots next game, and if things really go south they'll likely bring in external help. But with no time to do so before heading to Buffalo, Zuber could be a big part of the Patriots plans. It will be up to him to capitalize.
Finally, one Q&A from Matt Dolloff
The five-year plan may already be in motion. I'd mentally prepare for Josh McDaniels, Jerod Mayo, and certainly the two Belichick sons to be the core of the next era of the Pats coaching staff. I wonder if Bill is still serious about not wanting to pull a Marv Levy and avoid coaching into his 70s. He doesn't turn 70 until 2022, so assuming he has at least one or two more years after this year, he still has time to do what I think he owes to the organization before bowing out: find the next franchise quarterback.
For more on this weekend's Patriots-Bills game and the team's future, check out the Patriots Preview Podcast below: