Patriots Mailbag ‘The Barth Bag’ Week 8

Welcome to the Week 8 edition of The Barth Bag

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Welcome to the Week 8 edition of The Barth Bag. Now that the Patriots have made their move and we’re more or less past the NFL trading deadline, we can move on to more team-centric topics. You guys came through with a wide range of questions this week, so this should be a good one. Let’s get into it…

Ok, one trade question. As I mentioned a few times this week, I think Bennett’s situation was similar to what Demaryius Thomas went through with the Patriots, just slower developing. One of the main reasons Bennett was available this offseason was his unhappiness with his lack of playing time. That issue wasn’t private either, the Patriots had to have known that was the case when they traded for him. I do believe that when he was brought in in March, the plan was to make him a big part of the defense. However, just like Belichick said happened with Thomas, circumstances changed. They drafted Chase Winovich, Danny Shelton came back and earned a bigger role, and perhaps most importantly Jamie Collins showed up as an absolute stud. Ultimately, the Patriots shifted to a 3-4 base, outside of Bennett’s comfort zone. Out of scheme and with players performing better than him and passing him on the depth chart, Bennett couldn’t get playing time. That led to issues between him and the team, and ultimately the trade.

Good question. Brady and Harry worked with each other a good amount during OTAs and the early portion of training camp. It was clear from the jump that they planned on making Harry a key part of the offense. However, Harry didn’t see the field much after his injury in the preseason opener, so it had been almost two months since they’d worked together before he was activated off IR. So, there was a base for their chemistry from this summer, but his success over the next few weeks will have a lot to do with how much work they got in during this two-week practice only window. I wouldn’t expect much from him against Baltimore, but I think the bye week will be very helpful and we could see him take off in the second half of the season.

Edelman will stay as the primary slot receiver. I think you’ll see a number of formations with two ‘slot’ receivers, pairing Edelman and Sanu. That would represent a matchup nightmare. It is important to remember though, and the Patriots receivers tell us this all the time, that they expect their pass-catchers to be able to line up all over the formation. You’ll see Edelman on the outside at times, Harry in the slot, etc. Part of what makes their offense so dangerous (and very complicated) is they rarely limit a receiver to a single role. It’s all about versatility.

I know this is sort of a cop out answer, but I think the player he is lies somewhere between who he was at the end of the year last year and what he’s been this season. Last year, he had one of the best offensive lines in football, plus Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, and James Develin. This year, that’s all gone. Just be patient with him, he’ll be a weapon once they get the line right and it gets colder and wetter out. If you look at the last few seasons of Patriots football, their biggest weakness early in the season turns into one of their biggest strengths by the end (look at the defense last year). Self-scout and adjust, it’s what they do best. So while it hasn’t been pretty, I’m not ready to write Sony and the running game off just yet.

Most years his emergence would be a much bigger story, but like I mentioned above in the Bennett answer, there’s been so many edge guys developing and giving the Patriots quality snaps, his rise blends in with that group. He’s played 33.88% of the defensive snaps this season, the 5th most of the Patriots stand-up pass rushers (Collins, Van Noy, Hightower, and Simon are ahead of him). Perhaps more notably though, he’s played 62.31% of special teams snaps, second only to Matthew Slater. Between Brandon King being out for the season, and Nate Ebner missing a few games with injury, the Patriots have been thin on special teams at times, and he has stepped up and filled that role well.

I wouldn’t be shocked, but I don’t think so. I don’t know the full extent of his injury, but he was walking with a bit of a limp through the locker room the other day. This seems to be the case with him every year though, where he’s banged up the first three months of the season, then comes in and becomes a key contributor in December and then through the playoffs. That resume may be enough for the Patriots to keep him active and bank on him getting back into shape.

Pretty much what you’d expect. They’re all pulling for him, and feel bad he is in this situation. For more, you can check out our locker room clips on the CLNS Media YouTube page.

That’ll do it for this week’s Barth Bag. Great questions everybody, keep it rolling next week. But first, there’s a big football game on Sunday between the Patriots and the Browns, make sure to follow @PatriotsCLNS on Twitter for coverage. And of course, you can submit your questions to me on Twitter @RealAlexBarth.