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Have the Patriots Solved All Their *ahem* 'Problems'?

NFL: AUG 22 Preseason - Panthers at Patriots

From the outset, let me just state I admit how patently ridiculous it is to talk about “problems” on an 8-0 team that is first in the league in Points Scored and first in the league in Points Allowed. I keep using the word “historic” to describe this 2019 Boogeyman defense, but here are the numbers to back it up, comparing them through eight games with the greatest defenses of the 16-game era:

Not to mention, they just picked up a DPOTM Award:

That just as easily could’ve gone to Jamie Collins or Devin McCourty. And at the moment, Jonathan Jones is Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 graded corner, while Jason McCourty is 7th.

So yeah, you could argue that things are going according to plan. That you can’t do much better than 8-0. Unless you could somehow have put your team into a TARDIS to 1985, 1991, 2000 and 2013 and beat all those teams, which I’m all but certain is a violation of the CBA. So they’ll have to settle for the Jets and Dolphins. But, as Bill Parcells was so often quoted as saying, “You are what your record says you are.”

Then again, as Bill Belichick is even more fond of saying, “We have to do it better.” Having a perfect record doesn’t make you perfect. Like Plato, Belichick is a believer in the Theory of Forms, which states that in thought there exists an ideal form of everything. A flawless representation of itself; and all other manifestations of that thing is just an imperfect shadow. And he strives to create a team in which all 11 players Do Their Job exactly as it’s drawn up for every snap of every game. Which has not been the case this year, obviously.

This team, for all its dominance, has had its flaws. Some were design flaws. Some have been technical glitches. Others were the malware that are injuries and guys being booted off the roster for being idiots. The major ones have been addressed. Sometimes the software patches have worked. Some are still works in progress. Here are the top four biggest concerns in this techie’s opinion and where they stand at the halfway point:

Kicker

If you’re one of those people who was fed up with Stephen Gostowski and wanted him gone, don’t some to me with your complaints about Mike Nugent. I warned you about the dangers of putting your faith in the World’s Most Reliable Unemployed Placekicker. You got your wish. And now you’ll get your Plan C, a 34-year-old Nick Folk, who was last seen by about 25 people kicking for a paycheck he probably never got in the AAF. Or as Belchick put it this week, “I don’t know. We worked him out. I’d say that’s probably more important than the World League, or whatever it is.” So enjoy that ringing vote of confidence. His claim to fame is that he kicked a 55 yarder in that other league, for what it’s worth. I promise you he won’t get that opportunity in New England. Just remember that you asked for this, I didn’t. I’m just prepared for this to be a problem all season and hope, this one time, I’m wrong.

Tight End

I’ve been as surprised as anyone that the Patriots didn’t address as key a position as tight end in the draft, free agency or trade. There was that brief window between the time they picked up Austin Seferian-Jenkins and is “personal issues,” which came up right around the time they signed Ben Watson. There was buzz around the trading deadline about OJ Howard and Tyler Eifert, but the price of poker was too high on both, apparently. So it’s a 38-year-old who was out of football, Ryan Izzo and possibly one of the droids from “The Mandalorian” trailer. On the demi-season, they’ve got the grand total of 14 Receptions and 214 Receiving Yards out of the tight end spot. So don’t worry about those incentive bonuses busting the team’s salary structure.

Receiver

In my unhumble opinion, there was nothing wrong with this receiver corps that couldn’t have been solved with Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, a solid veteran like Mohamed Sanu, a universally highly-regarded rookie like N’Keal Harry and a developmental/depth guy or two like Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Nothing. Give me them for the last half of the season and the playoffs and you’ve given Brady all the talent/versatility he needs to put up another banner. He’s done it with less. It’s stating the obvious that this depends upon Sanu’s and Harry’s ability to grasp the concepts, anticipate Brady’s thoughts and feel his feelings. And that this group stays relatively intact. Which I’d say about any WR depth chart. Sanu’s roster spot – that Gordon/Thomas/Brown X-receiver role – has been to this team what the drummer position was to Spinal Tap. But if this is what we’re looking at going forward, there is no objective reason to hate their chances.

Left Tackle

Tranquility Base, the Bulldog has landed. The offensive line last week was down 60% of its projected starters. David Andrews is not coming back this year, though Ted Karras has been serviceable. But Marshall Newhouse has not. It would be much worse if the Patriots offense wasn’t predicated on getting the ball out so quickly, exploiting opponents’ pass rush aggressiveness and Brady’s psychic pocket awareness. But still, Newhouse grades out as PFF’s 49th rated tackle. Given there are only 64 starters in the league … you do the math. So getting Wynn back is huge. No matter what the experts who’ve never seen the “broken down fat kid from Georgia” play think. Dante Scarnecchia admitted they need to protect better and run block better:

… and jumped on the grenade saying that was all on him. Which is noble. But the fact is they’ve been absent the key component to their draft strategy a year ago. And adding Wynn to what is already the best team in the NFL is the best news possible at this moment.

So kicker and tight end are still major concerns. But if there’s an 8-0 team that’s ever added two of their own recent 1st round picks plus a player of Sanu’s caliber all within a couple of weeks of each other, I can’t remember them. And so the most perfect team in football just got more perfecter.