Tom Brady's work in practice helps boost confidence he'll be OK

Exploring New England Patriots hot topics in a mailbag...

As of Wednesday night, hours after the right-hand injury occurred, Tom Brady's availability for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars was not in doubt. A source relayed that his hand "should be OK," and another said that while it might affect him "slightly" in the game, the belief was that Brady would be able to carry out his duties as the team's starting quarterback effectively. If anything, that belief only strengthened after Friday's practice, with Brady throwing the ball well in what was an important session for him after the initial scare. "He looked pretty good to me," cornerback Malcolm Butler said Friday of Brady. Meanwhile, receiver Danny Amendola added Friday, "He looked good ... they're always good throws [from him]."

Jared, Brandin Cooks finished with 65 catches for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season, so the tape has plenty of good stuff on it. And that doesn't include some of the penalties he drew that resulted in big yardage, or the fact he played 92.7 percent of the offensive snaps, which is an impressive total. As for areas that could improve, his hands were inconsistent at times with some drops, so that might be a good place to start. Sometimes there wasn't consistent separation, and other times, you see defenders (e.g., Miami's Xavien Howard) making a play where you simply tip the cap. But overall, Cooks is thought of very highly by those inside Gillette Stadium.

Eric, Stephon Gilmore is coming off one of his best games last week against the Titans. He has pretty much provided the Patriots what they needed when they signed him to the big five-year, $65 million contract in the offseason: a sturdy cornerback who is effective in run support and is a good program guy. It wasn't a Pro Bowl caliber season, which could lead some to question the big contract, and Gilmore missed three games with a concussion, but I'd say his overall play has been solid.

It's possible, Michael, but I could also envision a scenario where both receivers are inactive. If it's one or the other, my hunch would be that it's unlikely Kenny Britt gets the nod because Phillip Dorsett has more background in the system from being around all season, and thus is probably more equipped to back up multiple spots. So if I was projecting inactives, I'd go with Britt, Dorsett, offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle (knee), running back Mike Gillislee (knee), punt returner Bernard Reedy, defensive tackle Alan Branch and linebacker David Harris.

Nick, there is some Seahawks flavor to the Jaguars' scheme, but it's not a carbon copy. Brady was asked that question Friday and said, "A little bit different. I think they definitely do some different things schematically coveragewise, frontwise. The players are a little bit different. It is a very unique challenge. I think their front is great. Their linebackers are very instinctive, very fast. Great cover guys in the secondary. A ball-hawking defense. They strip it off of you. They sack you. They scored eight or nine touchdowns on defense. They are a great defense."

Doug, I do think Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is ready to be a head coach, and I don't think he could go wrong with either the Colts or Titans, as both have promising quarterbacks in Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) and Marcus Mariota (Tennessee). Because the Titans didn't make their coaching change until early this past week, I'm curious if that puts them out of the mix for McDaniels. It seems many already have McDaniels going to Indianapolis, and the city's big newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, had a reporter in town over the past couple of days in anticipation of that.

Marvin, the Patriots might have had interest in Brian Daboll possibly returning as offensive coordinator (in the event McDaniels departs for a head-coaching job), but once I saw he was going to the Bills, my first instinct was that family considerations were driving Daboll's decision. Daboll has roots in Western New York, and so even if the Patriots had him on their radar, I'm not sure it would have mattered.