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Ask a former NFL player: Is now the time to start panicking about the Patriots’ shaky offense?

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In this week’s mailbag, Geoff Schwartz checks in on the injuries that keep piling up in New England, the Richard Sherman-Baker Mayfield beef, and how fans can learn to watch football.

Patriots QB Tom Brady bows his head while gripping a football with both hands
Tom Brady and the Patriots keep winning, but there are problems on offense.

Folks, it’s already Week 6! Wild right? We have some excellent matchups this weekend, and I hope you enjoy the 13 other games on deck.

First, a reminder to get your questions to me at Twitter or Instagram. Now, on to the new mailbag:

Although the Patriots ended up winning Thursday night, how many alarm bells are going off in Foxborough regarding the lackluster performance from the offense? — @mattylo85

For the last few seasons, it feels we’ve had this discussion about the Patriots in some form or the other. They have a “poor” start to the season, or a few underwhelming games, and we start to doubt them. And of course, they keep winning.

However, I’m going to play along and do this exercise because there are some holes, even though the New England offense is ranked eighth, according to Football Outsiders.

Let’s start with the offensive line, which has had its moments of uneven play. Their center, David Andrews, is out for the season with a blood clot. Their left tackle, Isaiah Wynn, is out for at least half the season. Right tackle Marcus Cannon is playing beat up. Fullback James Develin, who’s a huge part of their rushing offense, is out for the season. Now his backup, Jakob Johnson, is hurt too. That, mixed with the offensive line injuries, has hurt the rushing game, which clocks in as just the 17th-best rushing unit in the NFL, per Football Outsiders.

The passing game, which has looked downright awful, is doing enough. Football Outsiders puts them as the sixth-best passing offense, and that’s with multiple injuries to receivers no Gronk-type tight end, and just one game with Antonio Brown before releasing them. Tom Brady hasn’t looked sharp at times, but they are moving the ball when it matters.

I also believe the Patriots will add a piece or two near the trade deadline to improve their offense.

In the end, I don’t worry about the Patriots’ offense because they’ve got Brady and nearly a 20-year run of proving people wrong. They’re 6-0, and as we saw Thursday night against the Giants, the Patriots’ elite defense can carry them even when the offense lags behind.

Do you think other NFL players are fed up with Baker Mayfield? — @cater123

Considering the Richard Sherman handshake mess after the Niners-Browns game, it can seem that way right? And I think there’s some truth to it. Sherman is a savvy veteran and he knew there would be cameras around for a Monday Night Football game. He also knew his comments would be taken like gospel. So, knowing all of that, he either embellished or misremembered this handshake story.

Baker Mayfield DID shake his hand before the toss and not afterwards, which isn’t an unprofessional move like Sherman implied it to be. So how does this fit into the question? I think it shows that veteran players dislike Mayfield’s attitude and will try however possible to “get” Mayfield. This isn’t entirely Mayfield’s fault. The media narrative in the offseason about the Browns success’ was overdone and their preseason hype wasn’t earned.

And I think with veteran players, right or wrong, they believe players should earn the hype. And Mayfield clearly hasn’t yet. So, that is why some players would be fed up with Mayfield.

I was just wondering how, as a fan who’s never played football, I and others like me could get a better understanding of the game just casually watching. For example, I was at the game Thursday night and saw the surface-level stuff of “Jones is running for his life and no one’s open,” but I don’t understand why well enough. Is it a lot of just listening to X’s and O’s from people like you who know what they’re talking about, or do I have to change how I watch the game? — @trevorjmchugh

Thanks for the question, Trevor. I played in the NFL and I’m still learning so much about the game. I’ll tell you my process, and it’s something I think others can follow.

First, if you can, get a subscription to NFL GamePass to watch the coaching tape. It’s reasonably priced and a must-have for a football junkie. Next, I’d focus on learning one part of the game first before moving on to the next part of the game. So you take a few months to learn about the passing game, and then watch the game with attention to that detail. Try to find time to watch the game film and start to piece things together. Then you go from there.

There are also some excellent follows on Twitter who can help teach you about the game. Chris Brown, aka @smartfootball, is fantastic! He’s put our literature as well, and he’s an outstanding resource. Other people I’d recommend to read to learn more about football:

Hopefully this helps you become a better film watcher!