Tom E. Curran

Patriots' defensive plan this week: Keep everyone on point

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Patriots' defensive plan this week: Keep everyone on point

FOXBORO -- Every Friday Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi and Phil Perry will take your Patriots questions on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as they call it. 

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag. But for now, have at the first Bag of the 2017 season . . .

Excellent question, Swirls. Thought about this one quite a bit. The bad ones always jump out. The good ones? There are plenty, but what sticks out? This is an old school one. Goes back to me covering Boston College basketball when they were relevant. Uka Agbai. Great kid and he started making fun of the amount of gel I had in my hair. That was funny. Sebastian Vollmer was another. He’s a massive human. Started the interview off by noting that I hadn’t grown between that season and the one prior. Devin McCourty was another when he started making fun of Tom Curran’s wardrobe. Fish in a barrel, I know, but amusing nonetheless. As for more serious content, I’ve found Matt Patricia to be outstanding at each of the last two Super Bowls. Gone in there thinking I’ll ask a couple questions and the next thing you know, 10 minutes have passed. Ditto with Dante Scarnecchia. The amount of football he knows . . . 

Hello Q! 

We had a great talk with Jerod Mayo about this on the pod this week. First part, the Patriots defense will never be anything but complicated. They don't run one scheme, they change to suit the opponent. Last week, with speed everywhere -- including tight end -- the Patriots were in five- and six-DB sets most of the night to avoid mismatches on slower linebackers like Elandon Roberts and David Harris. A rocked-up safety like Richards is the antidote. And he didn't play terribly. But the newness of players in a complex system caused the breakdowns you saw. Everyone's not yet seeing the same thing after the snap and -- with a team like KC or the Saints -- they have the coach/quarterback combo to put the Pats in a position to need to talk and process things and hope for a breakdown. The Tyreek Hill TD was a plain example of that. Mayo said that D.C. Matt Patricia will have to figure a way to trim the fat from the game plan this week so everybody's on point. 

Hey, Chris. Kyle Van Noy was actually the linebacker with the play-calling responsibilities in Week 1. I'd expect him to continue to take on that role if Hightower misses time. Where the Patriots would miss Hightower would be as a sounding board for Van Noy. The former Lions linebacker is still relatively new to the Patriots defense, and he's been very open about how he still leans on Hightower for help whenever he has a question. The defensive communication looked like it had wrinkles to iron out last week against the Chiefs, but I'd expect those to get better with time. If the Patriots believe they need someone else to relay the signals from Matt Patricia, Devin McCourty is someone who's handled that job in the past. David Harris did it for years with the Jets, but he wasn't on the field nearly enough in Week 1 (two snaps) to make much of an impact as a communicator. Perhaps against a different offensive scheme, Harris will play more and be given more responsibilities as the defense's traffic cop.  

I’d prefer him in the middle, too. And I was one of those people who was saying that before the Rob Ninkovich retirement and Kony Ealy flameout. I know Bill Belichick loves his versatility and it certainly makes it more difficult to read the defense when Hightower is moving around as opposed to being static in the middle, but I think that versatility might weaken the Pats defense early, not help it. Kyle Van Noy was so reliant on Hightower during the course of the Chiefs game that when Hightower went down, it’s no wonder things got hectic on that side of the ball. This also leads back to the decision they made to sign David Harris. He is a duplicate for Elandon Roberts. He’s also not a three-down linebacker. Feel like the Pats are chewing up a roster spot there. Be surprised if that remains the case.

No excuses!! Except for that personnel thing the Chiefs were doing. Harry, your head would have popped off your shoulders if Harris was chasing Tyreek Hill or Kareem Hunt around. I do expect much more Harris this week, especially when Adrian Peterson is in the game. He's not a pass-catching threat like their other backs and the Saints -- who vowed during the offseason to be more stubborn about establishing a ground game -- figure to feature AP for a dozen or so carries. 

Miguel! The Patriots have had all kinds of back-end-of-the-roster types scooped up by other clubs since final training-camp cuts. Four players were claimed on waivers -- Kenny Moore (Colts), James O'Shaughnessy (Jaguars), Austin Carr (Saints) and Conor McDermott (Bills) -- and DJ Foster was signed off the p-squad and on to the Cardinals active roster this week. Clearly teams think pretty highly of certain players who have been discarded by the Patriots but spent some time in their system. One name I could see potentially being signed off the practice squad is a relatively new addition: offensive lineman Willie Beavers. He was a fourth-round pick a year ago, he has good size (6-foot-5, 322 pounds), and there is an absolute dearth of NFL quality linemen across the league. If someone gets desperate, they could be interested in the Beav. When it comes to p-squadders the Patriots may like, I'm looking at the teams they practiced with this summer. Houston's Riley McCarron (5-9, 185) is a slot receiver with some Patriots ties as he played at Iowa under Kirk Ferentz. Jacksonville practice squad end Hunter Dimick is someone who was incredibly productive in college at Utah (83 quarterback pressures), who had two hurries in the preseason opener at Gillette Stadium. The Jags also have former Patriots defensive tackle Darius Kilgo on their practice squad. 

Q, it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was. Twenty-seven points should win you most every game you play this year. Also, let’s not forget the two fourth-and-1 stops. They should have scored 40-plus. Should have, could have, would have . . . I know. Part of what happened fell on Tom Brady. He had checkdowns and some underneath stuff but lost his patience. If the Saints drop eight, he’ll need to utilize the short stuff more. That’s one of my biggest complaints about what transpired two Thursdays ago. Of course, the other is how they ran Danny Amendola into the ground and -- predictably -- into an injury. How many times have we talked about the need to manage his snaps? How many times did the Pats do just that? But on the opener, they exposed him and now they might have to play without him this weekend. Smooth.

Sup, A-bomb. Don't think it would be all that difficult for Cooks to pick up the concepts of another receiver spot in the Patriots offense. He's an intelligent player who has worked diligently to pick up the offense. The only barrier to him moving into more of a slot role, for instance, would be his physical skill set. He's very quick and has the ability to uncover in short spaces, but he's not much of a yards-after-contact type. His value on the outside will probably always trump whatever he would give the Patriots on the interior. 

Pete! My man! Assuming you and yours survived Irma. Nasty stuff. I think Chris Hogan will get another crack at it this week. He ended up with the most snaps out of the slot in Week 1 (29, as opposed to Amendola’s 15). It feels like they’re committed to that front. Get the sense the Pats didn’t anticipate Marcus Peters traveling with Hogan as much as he in the opener. The Saints don’t have a Marcus Peters -- at least not yet. (Rookie Marshon Lattimore may eventually be that guy.) So what I’m saying is, give Hogan another chance. As for the backs, I think the Pats have no choice but to utilize them more Sunday. They’re going in with three healthy receivers and oh, by the way, Hogan was limping after Thursday’s practice and had a compression sleeve on one of his legs (it’s been that kind of year so far). More two back sets, more unique deployments of those backs and more touches in general for all three -- White, Lewis and Burkhead -- is something offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would be wise to call upon.

Handing this one off to Tom . . .

Not close Rusty. It's Woofah Goofah and the boys. Now I'm gonna go fire up with Rage in the Cage.