Patriots Mailbag ‘The Barth Bag’ Week 5

It's time to get going with Week 5 of the Barth Bag!


It’s time to get going with Week 5 of the Barth Bag! With a lopsided matchup expected this week between the Patriots and Redskins (more on that here and here), most of you had big-picture type questions this week. Let’s start with an important question related to something I tweeted about earlier this week that I think I lot of Patriots fans feel strongly about…

I do think so Kyle. I know a lot of Patriots fans are disappointed he’s not on a 15-20 sack pace this season, but that’s just not the role they have him in on the defense right now. Instead of using him as an every down edge guy, Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo have been using him selectively, picking the best spots and moving him all over the defensive line. He’s thrived in this role so far, and he’s been a huge part of the Patriots strong third down defense. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if, as we get later in the year, his snap counts start to rise, to the point where he has a much more prominent role come playoff time.

Before the Patriots can worry about getting Ben Watson involved in the offense, they have to activate him from the suspended list. They had until Saturday at 4PM to do so for him to be eligible to play on Sunday. By choosing not to do so (more on that in a second), they now have until Monday to activated him, or he will become a free agent. So, why not active Watson for this week? Well, do they need him? He’s a good player, but is far from the difference in the Patriots beating the Redskins. The extra week off physically could be a big help, especially with the short week coming up. Right now, he’s essentially on a free roster spot, why let that go? When he does come back, I do think they’ll be able to get him going relatively quickly. One of his biggest strengths throughout his career has been his football IQ. I wouldn’t expect much rust from Watson.

In 2017 (Patricia’s last season) the Patriots blitzed 21.2% of the time, ranking 21st in the NFL. The next season under Flores, that number rose to 28.2%, 9th in the league. This year the number is rising again. It’s important to remember that while Patricia, Flores, and now Mayo each give a lot of input on the defense, Bill Belichick has final say, rendering the changes at ‘defensive coordinator’ less relevant in this discussion. You hit it right on the head with the secondary personnel being the difference. Just take a look at how the Patriots back-end talent has improved over that three year stretch. Know he has players like Devin McCourty and Stephon Gilmore keeping tabs on things over the top, it frees up Bill Belichick to get his linebackers more involved in the pass rush.

I still expect (pending setbacks in their recoveries) N’Keal Harry and Isaiah Wynn to be the two Patriots returned off IR. Stephen Gostkowski is having hip surgery, so that takes him off the board. As for James Develin, it would be great to get him back but a pair of reasons leaves me skeptical about his return. The first and more pressing reason is neck injuries are tricky, especially somebody who plays in the trenches like Develin. It’s not like a broken leg that doctors can put in a cast and wait to heal. You’re risking permanent physical damage if everything isn’t healed properly. Secondly, the Patriots think very highly of Jakob Johnson. They can get by with him. The drop from Develin to him isn’t as severe as Wynn to his backup or Harry to his backup.

The best case scenario is Harry returns week 9 when he is eligible and becomes the intermediate threat opposite Josh Gordon that this offense is missing in the passing game. I said it at the draft, throughout the summer, and I’ll say it again, I think Harry was a key piece in the plan to replace Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots are having trouble/haven’t used a lot of those middle clearing routes Gronk used to run, in part because they don’t have a player to run them. If Harry can return on schedule and fill that role, it would be a huge boost to this offense. As for stats…If he returns on schedule he’d play 8 regular season games. Keeping that in mind, I’ll say 25 catches, 285 yards, 3 TDs. That’s based on nothing but a gut guess, but there you go.

I think the Patriots would love to make a move at the deadline. The top three positions they would target to me are tight end, left tackle, wide receiver, in that order. That being said, they just don’t have the cap room to make a move for anybody worth it right now (their cap space currently sits at $2.8M according to @PatsCap). I think they sit the deadline out this year, but keep in mind a lot can change between now and then.

Thank you all for the great questions this week! Keep sending them my way on Twitter (@RealAlexBarth) using the hashtag #BarthBag. Also make sure to follow @PatriotsCLNS…that’ll be your home for all of our coverage from Washington with Mike Petraglia and Evan Lazar.