Thursday's Patriots chat on ESPNBoston.com ended with several questions unanswered. The plan was to dip back into the chat and answer a few in the blog, so here goes...
Ryan (Baton Rouge): Is it possible that instead of trying to open up the intermediate passing game by stretching the field vertically (with a deep threat WR), that this draft indicates BB is trying to open up the intermediate routes with a stronger power run game that forces LBs closer to the line (and doesn't allow teams to cover our TEs with nickel defenders)?
Mike Reiss: Ryan, I could see the improved running game helping the passing game in different ways, although I don't think it's a one-or-the-other type of thing. I don't think a team can just overlook the vertical passing game. I think of the Patriots in 2006 and how opposing teams were bringing an eighth man into the box because the Patriots didn't have anyone to consistently threaten the outer edges and deep third of the field. So I view it as striking the right mix.
Zack (CT): Shane Vereen the best back in the draft? Just like Laurence Maroney was the steal of the draft with BB's genius pick? Since Maroney didn't make it, it seems we place the blame on him, not Belichick.
Mike Reiss: Zack, I don't think I'd go as far as to call Vereen the best running back in the draft, but I do think he was the best fit for the Patriots. I believe he was the most complete back in this draft, which accounts for blitz pickup, running the ball and catching it.
Marc Nunes (Middletown): Do you think that the Patriots are copying the Jets' method of having a great secondary that can shut down receivers so that eventually your pass rush will get there?
Mike Reiss: I don't see it as copying the Jets, Marc. I go back to that 45-3 game in December and I don't come away with the feeling that the Jets' secondary would be in the "great" category. They are solid, but I don't think it's necessarily something to copy. When assessing a team's pass rush, I think it's fair to say better coverage can help the front seven, especially given how quickly some quarterbacks can get rid of the ball. On the flip side, no corners can cover forever, so you still need some of that push up front. It's a balance.
Joe Strachan (Bedford): What do the Patriots need to change to start winning in the playoffs? We had one of the better teams going into the playoffs and we couldn't even win one game. Has it become a psychological thing losing three straight or are we not preparing enough?
Mike Reiss: Joe, I'd start at quarterback. While there is no other quarterback I could imagine the Patriots want than Tom Brady, his last three playoff performances haven't been up the high standard he's set. Another year of experience for some of the younger players on the roster should help as well.