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After a hiatus of about a year, the Patriots mailbag makes it return today. This posting is going up late due to my traveling home from South Florida and last night's game, but the plan going forward is to try and get the mailbag posted by 9 a.m. every Tuesday from here on out.
Of the questions that have been sent in over the last week, there wasn't really a prevailing theme, so for this one will be more free-form, which is fine. If you have a question for a future 'bag, you can send it along here. Few things are off limits, and I'll pick the best ones each week to answer. With all that said, let's get started, shall we?
Why don't the Patriots look for a trade to strengthen their defense? It looks as though Logan Mankins is done as a Patriot so why not get some value for him this season? It seems to me the Giants would be a perfect trade partner. They are loaded at the defensive end position and have an offensive line that is old and lacking depth. How about a trade of Mathias Kiwanuka and maybe another player for Mankins or Justin Tuck straight up.
Don, Guilford, Conn.
The Mankins situation is one I get asked about quite a bit, and right now it seems both sides have gone back underground on the issue. There is one big issue inhibiting a trade, I believe: any team that wants Mankins not only has to give up a substantial draft pick (likely second round), it would also have to commit a lot of money to him in the form of the long-term contract he's looking for. That's a prohibitive cost. Also -- and this isn't to say that it can't happen -- but we rarely see two players traded in the NFL. This question was sent before it became news, but Kiwanuka is also injured right now, out with a concerning neck injury.
Years ago the NFL instituted the bye week to give teams a respite during the long season. If they go to 18 games, why not institute a rule that says each team must deactivate each of its players for two games during the season. Strategy would be involved and picking which games to rest your stars would be like a chess match. Players could use the time to recover from bumps and bruises and it would alleviate them playing all 18 regular season games. Maybe 3 or 4 inactives max per week. Shoot some holes in it but what do you think?
Scott Bardier, North Sutton, N.H.
Scott - I think the first thing the players would ask is if they would still get paid for those two games even if they are inactive. Your idea is an interesting one, but I don't think any coach would like having to sit his best players unless he absolutely had to -- Bill Belichick wouldn't want to sit Tom Brady arbitrarily, just as John Harbaugh wouldn't want to do that with Ray Lewis. With the 18-game season (unfortunately) looking like an inevitability, the NFL will have to figure out a way to at least make it look like they're concerned for player safety. That could mean adding a second bye week, but that would mean adding three weeks to the regular season, pushing the Super Bowl almost into March (the league is apparently wedded to the idea of starting the regular season the Sunday after Labor Day). Cutting the offseason workouts down does not seem to be the answer either: for one thing, those are largely training sessions and non-contact work (or they are supposed to be) which can lay the foundation for the upcoming season, and they have become vital for many teams. One thing I personally think should happen is that the league should add another injury designation beyond injured reserve, something like baseball's disabled list. Make it a four-week designation, and teams can fill that roster spot while the injured player is rehabbing. Also, I believe game-day rosters should be expanded in an 18-game scenario.
Alex Perna, Orlando
How do you see the distribution of the carries/catches for the running backs going for the Pats? How hurt is Fred Taylor? Why do they seem so against using Sammy Morris more?
James Pounds, Suwanee Ga.
Going to tie these questions together, Alex and James. Green-Ellis is now the Patriots' top running back by default, with both Taylor and Kevin Faulk on the shelf. We know Faulk is out for the season, but despite a bit of digging, I honestly don't know how long Taylor will be out. Green-Ellis does not seem to be a home-run hitter, but he cerrtainly runs hard and looks better running between the tackles, which were frequent criticisms of Laurence Maroney. As for Morris, we have seen him in more of a fullback and short-yardage (third-and-1, fourth-and-1) role since last year. It may be because he is injury-prone, but I also think physically he is best suited for the role among the players New England has at the position right now. And don't forget Danny Woodhead, who had been solid in his first two games, though I think he's more of a change-of-pace back.
What happens to the 2011 NFL draft if there is a lockout in March of 2011?
Charlie Gaffney, Andover
There would still be a draft, Charlie. Teams would secure rights to players, but if there isn't a Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, none of the players would be signed to contracts until there is. One of the things the owners are looking for at the bargaining table is a rookie wage scale, and while that is most needed for the top eight to 10 picks, owners aren't going to enter into a contract if they don't know the parameters of the CBA -- they're not going to overpay a player if they don't have to or agree to a contract without knowing all of the rules.
The 2009 New Orleans Saints had the 21st ranked defense in the league and they gave up 21 points per game but their offensive prowess meant that they were able to outscore their opponents by almost 10 points a game ... is the 2010 New England Patriots team trying to do the same thing this year to make up for their defensive deficiencies?
PJ sent this along before last night's game, which may change some people's thinking on this team. However, I agree with the premise: until the defense can prove otherwise, this team will go as far as Tom Brady and the offense (and maybe now special teams?) can take them. One thing I remember from the Saints' defense is that while they may have allowed a lot of points, they also made timely plays. That is something we're starting to see with this Pats defense -- Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather's picks against Buffalo, Rob Ninkovich's interceptions last night -- and it is easier to look favorably on a unit that might give up more points than you'd like if it has a knack for getting sacks or interceptions or forced fumbles at crucial times. While I do not at all take anything away from the win in Miami, it should be pointed out that the Dolphins had 400 yards of offense and converted two-thirds (10 of 15) of their third-down opportunities, so there's still work to be done.
I've enjoyed yours and Albert Breer's reporting and insights into all things Patriots, but was disappointed to read in yesterday's Globe that he won't be writing any more Sunday Columns. Is he leaving? If so, where is he going? If so, I hope you keep up the good work.
Bert has moved on to the NFL Network, quite the platform as I'm sure many of you would agree. Last night was his last assignment for the Globe and he boarded a plane this morning for California and to start his time with NFLN. He did a tremendous job with the Sunday notes, and was very knowledgeable about the labor issues the league is dealing with now. Just before the Pats' Halloween game with the Vikings, we will welcome Massachusetts native and current Packers beat writer Greg Bedard to our team; in the meantime, Monique and I will be holding things down and yours truly will try to tackle the Sunday notes for a couple of weeks.