This week's mailbag features speculation on another coaching staff shakeup should Josh McDaniels depart, plenty of matchup questions for Saturday against the Bills and that unavoidable Tom Brady question about 2020 and beyond.
Got a question? Hit Phil Perry up on Twitter using the #FridayBag hashtag.
On to the queries...
Phil, this is me being helpful: what does a 2020 Patriots offensive staff look like if McDaniels moves along?
— Adam Hart (@adamhart) December 20, 2019
Great question, Adam. If Josh McDaniels were to leave, that'd mean more turnover for Bill Belichick to oversee, and it's anyone's guess as to how the team would rebound. My choice for the next offensive coordinator would be Joe Judge, who is one of the senior members of the coaching staff after McDaniels, and who has added receiver coach responsibilities to his plate this year.
Mick Lombardi has been valuable as assistant quarterbacks coach in his first year with the team, working alongside McDaniels, and he'd likely take on a larger role. Nick Caley, who has been tight ends coach since 2017, could stick in his role or make a move to help patch up a post-McDaniels staff wherever it needs patching.
What makes Judge a logical candidate as offensive coordinator is that a) he's coordinated special teams since 2015 and would be comfortable having a large number of players under his purview, and b) his special teams assistant Cam Achord and receiving coach assistant Troy Brown could conceivably take on larger roles with their respective position groups, giving the team some much-needed coaching consistency.
Belichick, I'm sure, would end up spending more time with the offense, leaving Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo more to handle on the defensive side.
Why wasn't Dwayne Allen brought back considering his strength as a blocker and the issues with depth?
— Tom Driscoll (@tdriscoll17) December 20, 2019
The Patriots could've re-signed him, Tom, but they opted to let him walk and sign with the Dolphins last offseason. He was worth more to Miami -- a team trying to establish a culture, looking for veteran role players to serve as an example for the rest of the locker room -- than he was to New England, which would've used him as a blocking tight end.
At least that's what we all thought at the time. Turns out he would've been incredibly valuable in the role he held for two seasons.
Not only would he have helped the running game as a tight end, which has struggled in large part due to the team's inability to set an edge, but he often played out of the backfield as a fullback and might've mitigated the impact of the loss of James Develin early in the season. He was waived-injured by the Dolphins and never caught on elsewhere.
Are you as convinced as Curran that Brady won't be there next year??
— Gigi McDonell (@GigiMcdonell) December 20, 2019
We're of the same mind there, Gigi. My belief, based on conversations I've had and looking logically at how Brady's latest contract negotiation played out, is that he'll be playing elsewhere in 2020. I don't know where that will be.
I've made the case for Miami before. But there's so much to play out between now and then that guessing his specific whereabouts is next to impossible. You always have to allow for things to change.
For a scenario to break in such a way that it makes sense for all parties involved to take this thing around for another spin. But as of this Bag's writing, I just don't see it.
Who do you see stepping up to fill in for 31 on defense? Will it be a team effort (scheme) or will it be passed off to an individual?
— Dave Sullivan (@THEREAL_DaveSul) December 20, 2019
I think the Patriots could end up playing a little more zone than they typically do, Dave, just because not having Jonathan Jones throws off the matchups.
They're a predominantly man-to-man team, but in man, who takes Cole Beasley in the slot? Jason McCourty. He's an option, if healthy. Patrick Chung has played plenty of slot in the past. I think Devin McCourty is physically capable of doing the work there and he certainly would have an understanding of the responsibilities in there.
Now...should a veteran slot receiver who works underneath completely dictate coverage from snap-to-snap? No. But the Patriots can't let him roam free for six-yard gains at will either.
Jones, who can play some safety, is a vitally important member to the Patriots secondary, and whether they're in man or zone, they'll have their work cut out for them as they try to compensate without him. Remember: Jones could've factored into the spying-Josh-Allen equation, too. His versatility will be missed.
This may be repetitive...why not have a split backfield with burkhead and white more often? I feel you could run/pass out of that grouping...way less predictable etc
— WVM (@wmurray817) December 20, 2019
WVM, I hear you. I thought that package was going to be the next big thing in Patriots' offensive innovation. Seriously.
They invested as much at running back as any other team before the season. They had quality depth. They had capable pass-catchers. And the Patriots went to it early. They used two backs and no tight ends on a whopping 31 percent of snaps in Week 1.
Since then, they've used it on three percent of snaps. Why? It hasn't worked. They average 3.8 yards per pass attempt out of 20 personnel and 3.1 yards per carry. On paper, it looks great. For whatever reason, it hasn't played out that way.
I'm expecting the Bills to run a lot of pistol formation in Saturday with Allen. Can the Pats stop it this time and how will they contain the run game?
— Ted Price (@PatriotPrice) December 20, 2019
Ted, it would not surprise me in the least if Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has noticed that those inverted wishbone looks -- the ones that the Ravens, Texans and Chiefs have all used with success against the Patriots this season -- might work for his team this weekend.
The Bills have the combination you need: a mobile quarterback and three tight ends who can clear space as run-blockers. I'd actually be surprised if we didn't see it.
On the flip side, I'm sure the Patriots have worked on it, and typically when they identify something to stop, they have success. That's one of the fascinating games within the game this week.
Provided Edelman plays this Saturday, is it possible he'll be utilized in a limited capacity such as 3rd downs, end of half or end of game situations? Also, what's the best Christmas dinner side dish? Happy Holidays, Phil!
— Jacob Moore (@jabo1331) December 20, 2019
Jacob, that plan makes some sense, but I'm not sure the Patriots can afford to limit Edelman that way. If he's out there, they're going to need him out there.
Otherwise, they become easier to defend and what's already a difficult matchup becomes even more so.
Best side dish? My aunt Sue makes a macaroni salad that is an absolute staple for our massive family get-togethers. That's my No. 1. Fairly certain she has to make 20 pounds of that stuff a few times a year just to keep everyone happy.
Happy holidays, all. Thanks as always for all your contributions to the Bag. We'll have more over the next few weeks, but you made 2019 the best year in Bag history. Appreciate you.
Patriots Mailbag: How would Patriots staff look if McDaniels landed elsewhere? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston