FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Ten years is a good run in the NFL.
That was one thought that came to mind in putting together the Patriots mailbag this week. I first started answering questions in the mailbag in 2005 when at Boston.com, and it continued when I joined ESPNBoston.com in 2009. The goal was to have a mailbag every Tuesday, and there weren’t too many that were missed from '05 to today (I remember once filing a backup mailbag before going on vacation so we didn’t miss a Tuesday).
It has been one of my favorite things to do, in part because of the format/interaction with you, the reader.
Some of those mailbags over the years could top 4,000 words, and I took it to heart when some would email and say they looked forward to having their lunch each Tuesday while reading the mailbag. Then some would playfully rib when the ‘bag was too short and didn’t get them through their lunch.
Things look a lot different today than they did in 2005, and that’s primarily why you won’t be seeing the mailbag each Tuesday anymore. My hope is that we can find new ways to connect and have the same type of interaction about the Patriots.
Thanks for a great 10-year run, and for your loyalty and passion in the mailbag.
Q. Mike, with Marcus Cannon injuring his toe Sunday night, in terms of the offensive tackle position, do you see the relatively solid depth of the interior of the offensive line being tapped for emergency work, if not more? Thanks! -- Adam (Broomfield, Colorado)
Reiss: Adam, let’s start with what we know: Cannon was wearing a protective boot on his foot Tuesday at Gillette Stadium. While his toe injury isn’t considered a major deal, he might not be available in the short term and that leaves the Patriots thin with just Sebastian Vollmer and Cameron Fleming at offensive tackle. They’d need a third tackle for game day and I don’t see any of the interior players as a great fit. Maybe Josh Kline in a worst-case scenario? Kline played all five positions at Kent State. The Patriots also have rookie Blaine Clausell (Mississippi State) as a left tackle option on the practice squad, as well as Chris Barker. But that would require a roster move and I’m not sure they want to do that. Another scenario is tight end Michael Williams adding some tackle duties to his role (he played tackle in Detroit in 2014-15) on a just-in-case basis.
Q. Mike, with the loss of Tarell Brown and the lack of depth at corner, wouldn't it make sense for the Patriots to consider giving Bradley Fletcher or Robert McClain another look? At last check, neither one had signed on with another team and both went through camp and have experience in the system. Thoughts? -- Gregg (Scottsdale, Arizona)
Reiss: Gregg, if the Patriots had an injury situation, I could see them considering those scenarios. But their actions are telling; at this point, as they feel undrafted rookie Justin Coleman and recently claimed Rashaan Melvin are better options. I think Coleman has outplayed Fletcher, and with McClain, he’s really more of a slot option and they are OK in that area. What they really need, from this viewpoint, is more of an outside corner. I wrote about some trade possibilities on Saturday, as that might be the way to go.
Q. Hi Mike, the Patriots offense disappeared in the fourth quarter. Three consecutive three-and-outs allowed the Colts numerous opportunities to mount a potential comeback. I thought the play calling during those three series was way too conservative. Based on your film review, what is your opinion? -- Gary (East Hanover, New Jersey)
Reiss: Gary, I didn’t have an issue with the play calling as much as the execution. On the first drive, a third-and-1 isn’t a bad place to be. I’d like to think the yard could be picked up (failed quarterback sneak) and usually it is. On the second drive, they passed on second and third down, with a tipped ball by the Colts on second down (credit to them) and then a sack on a well-executed blitz (credit to them). Sometimes the other guys make plays too. On the third drive, the Patriots picked up 6 yards on a first-down run and then had an uncharacteristic delay-of-game penalty (after a Colts timeout and what appeared to be a late New England substitution from the sideline) to set them back. At that point, I didn’t have a problem running the ball and making the Colts drain their timeouts.
Q. Hi Mike, is Jerod Mayo hurt/not fully recovered from last year's injury, or just at the end of the road? I tried to watch him a little bit when he was on the field Sunday night, and he didn't really look like he belonged. Last year and the first five games of this season have been pretty special, and it's too bad he hasn't been able to be a bigger part of it. -- Tim (Wakefield, Massachusetts)
Reiss: Tim, one play stood out to me that reflected some of Mayo’s struggles: A Frank Gore 18-yard run at 8:11 of the second quarter. When you watch the play from the end zone angle, you see Mayo unable to get off a block as Gore races by him. I didn’t see that too often earlier in Mayo’s career and overall, I don’t see the same player we watched from 2008-12. It’s hard to know if that’s simply a result of him getting back to playing football again after two significant injuries that shortened his 2013 and 2014 seasons, or if there is something more there. He’s played only 96 snaps this year, so I’d like to see a bit more before making a definitive call there.
Q. Should we take anything from the fact that Matthew Slater broke the team down in the postgame locker room celebration? Would lead me to believe that he knee wasn't that messed up. -- Earl (Waltham, Massachusetts)
Reiss: Earl, I noticed that as well, and Slater’s injury status is a storyline I’m trying to learn more about. I think it’s dangerous to read too much into presence there as it relates to the severity of his knee injury, and I’d use Nate Solder as a comparison. The week before in Dallas, he answered questions from reporters, didn’t appear to be in any significant discomfort, and yet three days later he was on season-ending injured reserve with a torn biceps.