Each week throughout the season we'll ask our Patriots correspondent and Boston Herald writer Ian Rapoport five questions about the Pats. This week, Ian discussed what the Patriots could have done better in the loss to the Jets and where their needs are heading into the postseason.
1. What did you make of the Wes Welker benching and the reaction to it since?
Rapoport: I think people made too big of a deal of it. I understand the symbolic sense — you don't have your best player on the field for the first series. They moved the ball fine without him on the field. (Tom) Brady threw a screen that wouldn't have involved Welker into the other team's hands, then (Welker) was back. It didn't matter much football-wise — the guy did something funny, he kind of stepped out of line. I had no problem with his comments or with (Bill) Belichick disciplining him.
2. In hindsight, what do you think the offense could have done differently?
Rapoport: The Jets dropped a lot of guys, they kind of flooded those shallow zones for crossing routes and whatever else the Patriots do. They basically beat up the receivers at the line and it's tough when you can't get into your pattern. The Patriots should have targeted tight ends more and run the ball a little more. Brady could have been a little more patient. It was almost like he felt he was going to get hit all the time even when there wasn't always pressure. With most quarterbacks, if you give him time it's a problem. With Brady if you give him time, it's not that great, he can get a little antsy. He likes to read, react, complete the throw and move on to the next throw.
3. Did the loss spotlight the need for help in pass rush?
Rapoport: It was magnified it a little bit. We knew all these things. They needed better individual players, that's not any surprise. They need a receiver who can catch the ball when he's not open and a pass rusher who can get to the quarterback when he's taking on one block and being chipped by another guy.
4. What do you see as some of the draft needs at this point?
Rapoport: Defensive end is number one. A guy like Richard Seymour: long, athletic, takes on two blocks and keeps contain, holds the edge, rushes the passer on third down, an every-play guy on the defensive line. It's like (Vince) Wilfork. He's a great player because he stuffs the run and makes the linebackers better. If there was an excellent, talented defensive end, he would make the edge rushers better. At receiver, you need a guy to catch it when he's not open. BenJarvus Green-Ellis did an excellent job after coming out of nowhere and is a great No. 2 back in my mind. They need a back who can stay on the field on third downs and play every play.
5. Which free agent is the top priority to re-sign?
Rapoport: Logan Mankins is the guy no doubt. He's a guy so familiar with your system, you don't let him walk away with nothing (in return) and start over.