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Mike Gillislee excited for first game action since Oct. 29

Mike Gilislee scored four touchdowns in his first two games but has not played since Oct. 29. Stew Milne/USA Today Sports

Every Saturday, some hot topics around the New England Patriots are explored in the form of a mailbag.



I brought your question to Mike Gillislee in the locker room Friday and here is what he said: "With Rex being down, it's more likely I'm going to be out there, and I have to make the best of it." He added that he's ready for goal-line work, and when I followed up and asked Gillislee if he agrees with the idea that he will have fresh legs from having not played in a game since Oct. 29, he said, "I've been here. It's not like I haven't been getting my reps. I just wasn't able to go out and perform [ina game]. But my body feels great."

Doug, this was the first time that Tom Brady answered questions from reporters since the Boston Globe story came out about Alex Guerrero's sideline access being restricted. My feeling has been that development would take on a higher level of significance if it created a strain in the working relationship between Brady and Bill Belichick. Brady answered that it hasn't. I don't believe he had been asked that prior to Friday.

Daniel, after the way Sunday's win over the Steelers unfolded and also thinking back to the first Bills drive in the Dec. 3 game against the Patriots, the concern would be if the defense struggles to get off the field on third down. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor can extend plays, and if he avoids the critical mistake -- which he didn't do Dec. 3 when throwing an end-zone interception to thwart what had been an impressive drive that chewed up 7 minutes, 9 seconds -- that could be the formula for an upset. That's a good way to play the Patriots -- trying to keep the ball away from Tom Brady and Co. and sustain drives on offense.

Rick, this is a tough spot for Kenny Britt to have an expanded role because of the limited time he's been here. While it's always possible, I lean more toward a niche role for 2017 if everyone at the position is healthy. Perhaps the biggest determining factor will be how Chris Hogan's shoulder responds. If it doesn't, Britt might be thrust into a larger role than he would be otherwise.

Johnson Bademosi is No. 5 on the cornerback depth chart, which means he isn't necessarily out of the mix but would only come on to the field in the event of injury to someone ahead of him. A good example of that would be the end of the win over Oakland on Nov. 19 when he played in the second half. As for Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones at No. 3 cornerback, it looks like Rowe has that job right now, although the Patriots' game plan-specific approach could always have that changing in the coming weeks, depending on matchups.

EJ, Malcolm Brown is a solid player who fits multiple schemes, so I'd put him in the latter category of doing his job well. The hard part about evaluating his position is that run defense is really a function of all the players in the front 6 or front 7 doing their job well, so even though the run defense has been up and down this year, the struggles aren't always a result of Brown's individual performance. The Patriots' linebackers, I'd say, have had more issues in that area that the players on the line of scrimmage.

Shawn, it is technically possible that Martellus Bennett could return, but that won't be happening this year. He won't be healthy enough to be seriously considered for the team's final designated-to-return-from-IR spot. It the Patriots do have a player return, the top candidates are receiver Malcolm Mitchell and defensive tackle Vincent Valentine.