Perry's Mailbag: How will Andrews' return impact the offense? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The New England Patriots are fresh off the bye and back in action this Sunday vs. the New York Jets. It's a big matchup for both teams as they compete for a top spot in the tightly-contested AFC East standings.
Before the Week 11 fun begins, let's jump into your mailbag questions...
Getting David Andrews back on the field and healthy could do the Patriots a world of good. No. 1 he'll help secure the interior for Mac Jones, who as a pocket quarterback is more likely to step up to avoid edge pressure than he is elude a rusher cut free up the gut. If Jones is more comfortable behind center because of Andrews' presence, maybe that an effect on his overall performance.
But your point -- that Andrews could impact Cole Strange in a positive way -- is a good one. The Patriots need to settle on a top-five along the offensive line. Their first-round pick from the spring, based on the investment alone, should be a part of that five. And alongside Andrews, you'd expect the Patriots to be getting the most out of that investment.
There is a chance that the addition of Andrews isn't quite enough to solve their problems at left guard, though. Strange has had significant issues over the course of the last two weeks against power against the imposing fronts fielded by the Jets and Colts. Andrews can't keep Strange from getting bull rushed. But can he provide an added layer of trust for a rookie still getting accustomed to the pro game, and maybe that will lead to more confidence and better results from Strange.
Keep in mind, Strange is a player who has to work hard to keep his weight up. Between his nutrition and strength-training regimens, like a lot of naturally-light linemen, it can be difficult to maintain the pounds needed to hold up against behemoth defensive linemen. If that's part of the reason for his recent slide -- that it's hard to maintain his mass having already played a longer season than he ever experienced at UT-Chattanooga -- the Patriots will have to hope last week's bye allowed for him to get the rest he needs to hold up in the second half.
I wouldn't rule out that between the addition of Andrews and some time off, Strange looks like a better player in the coming weeks.
Why was there never an established succession plan for McDanielâs departure? Everyone saw it coming, it was just a matter of which year. I know there was a lot of coaching turnover, but this seems like a huge institutional failure.
— CC (@machriscollins) November 16, 2022
Chris, what I was told was that when Josh McDaniels was about to leave for the Colts before the 2018 season, the belief among the Patriots was that Joe Judge would be bumped to offensive play-caller. He'd obviously have a lot of input from Bill Belichick in terms of the structure of the offense, but moving Judge into a key position on the offensive side was of interest to Belichick.
At that point Matt Patricia was still on the staff as the defensive coordinator. But that gives you a little insight into how Belichick viewed replacing McDaniels. He wasn't going to be tied to someone with coordinator or play-calling experience. Trust. Experience within the wider Patriots machine. Those things seemed to carry more weight for Belichick when it came to filling that role.
If and when the Pats donât make the playoffs this year, what does Kraft do?
— Jordan (@JBoss_) November 16, 2022
I think he stands pat, Jordan. Would it stun me that he inquires about the offensive coaching plan? Nope. But I have a hard time seeing him forcing Belichick into a football decision he's uncomfortable with. I certainly don't see him moving on from Belichick altogether. If they'd finished this season with three wins, I would've said anything was on the table. But the likelihood is they finish with between seven and nine victories, and I'm not sure that's a bad enough outcome to push ownership to do something drastic.
Check out the latest Patriots Talk Pod if you haven't already, because we lay out a pretty cogent argument for Belichick to make to Kraft when it comes to the big-picture direction of the franchise and why it's gone the way it has.
After this season (cause I think BB will keep same personnel throughout year) do we go after Bill O Brian or even Frank Rich as a legit OC?
— Casey Durfee (@TheDurf23) November 16, 2022
I think a lot rides on the second half of this season. But it wouldn't shock me if Belichick wanted to give Patricia another crack, believing that Year 2 would lead to some improvement. Would that be my choice? No. But could I see it being Belichick's? Definitely.
Has Zach Wilson shown any improvement since we played him a few weeks back?
— LordSavageOfTheDark (@LordSavageODark) November 16, 2022
He was better at taking care of the football. If he gets that through his head -- that as long as he doesn't lose it for the Jets, they have a chance to win -- then this could be a much more challenging game.
It seems the Patriots have a glut of Rbâs on the roster now, any reason as to why? If Harris healthy, Taylor and Kevin Harris maybe not needed?
— Spenser Pafias (@ThePuffPuffy) November 16, 2022
I think they're already at the point where those two reserve backs you mention are kind of superfluous. But you don't know if you'll need insurance until you need it. And at that position, there's always a risk of going through a handful of injuries in a very short period of time.
They don't ever want to be where they were in 2015 with Steven Jackson trying to carry their running game because they got so banged up at the position. Depth everywhere is good. It's kind of necessary at running back -- especially if you want to be a run-first team -- because the injury rates are so high.
Not so much a Patriots question, but what is making everything go so sideways in Vegas with McDaniels? Is it a buy-in issue? (It seems hard to believe it's a personnel issue with that roster!)
— Jake Hamilton ð¦ð² (@_JakeTHamilton) November 16, 2022
Their defense can't stop a nose bleed. They're 15th in EPA per play offensively. Not great. But not bad. Certainly not 2-7 bad. Meanwhile, they're 30th in the league in EPA allowed per play, ahead of only the Browns and Lions. I'd start there.
OK Phil in your esteemed opinion what in the holy heck is going on with Jake Bailey?
— Peter (@PeterBDA1) November 16, 2022
Wish I knew, Peter. He has the physical ability to still hammer a punt occasionally, but for the Patriots to be last in the league in net punting this season is... unbelievable. Stood out to me that, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN, the team brought in a handful of long-snappers to work out. Do they believe there is an issue with the operation between those two?
What do you see as the most important thing to making the offense functional? O-line pass protecting? Mac seeing the field? Play calling/design?
— Alfred Borden (@TrueAlBorden) November 16, 2022
I think it starts with the offensive line. Get them healthy (add Andrews to the mix and maybe Marcus Cannon if and when he's off injured reserve). Get a full-time five up there. Get them reps together. Dante Scarnecchia continuously harped on the importance of continuity along the offensive line. Hard to do with pieces moving in and out at left guard and right tackle. Mike Onwenu won't be the right tackle answer, it seems, so whether it's Yodny Cajuste or Isaiah Wynn... they need an answer there.
After that, feel free to all but abandon zone runs. Run less on first down. Don't be afraid to diversify your RPO package, and give the no-huddle attack a go. Came across some eye-opening numbers on all those fronts earlier this week.
Last year we often saw line ups with an extra o lineman. Couldnt that help now?
— *Hawkeye*09 (@09Hawkeye09) November 16, 2022
They've used an extra lineman quite a bit this year, Hawkeye. Only the Browns (66 attempts) have run more running plays than the Patriots (47) with an extra lineman. The results have been mixed, checking in at 16th in the NFL in EPA per attempt with an extra lineman, per Sports Info Solutions.
Hi Phil, think the Pats have any regrets letting MasÃ³n go forcing the Cole Strange pick vs keeping him and drafting someone like Devin Lloyd?
— Robbððºð¦ (@rsmrob100_rob) November 16, 2022
Feels like an easy second guess, Robb. The Shaq Mason move was a financial one. They got out from under several million on their cap and got only a fifth-round pick in return. Mike Onwenu was really Mason's replacement at right guard, and he's been excellent. But with Strange's struggles in recent weeks, it's fair to wonder whether or not they should've held onto Mason and played Onwenu at left guard.
They also could've tried to keep Ted Karras if they knew they were going to try to part with Mason. He signed a deal with the Bengals this offseason that included a fully-guaranteed amount of $5 million.
Why canât italian restaurants just leave grated cheese at the table ? I donât want the âauthenticâ cheese grating. Itâs never enough.
— Jeff (@ChaneJ23) November 16, 2022
Jeff, I hate to say it, but this sounds like more of a you problem. Just ask for a little more. Politely. As long as you're not looking for an absolutely over-the-top mountain of parmesan on your plate, I think you're in the clear. If that is what you're looking for... be very open about it, make fun of yourself, promise a nice tip, and dive in. You can only control what you can control. But this feels like something that's within your control, Jeff. I believe in you. We all do. Remember that. Good luck.
Feels like a good time to end it. Thanks for the questions, everyone.