Patriots' trade for Isaiah Ford highlights larger issue in team-building

Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. What Ford trade says about Patriots: On the surface, the Patriots' acquisition of wide receiver Isaiah Ford for a conditional 2022 sixth-round pick (that likely will be a seventh-rounder) didn't move the needle at Tuesday's NFL trade deadline.

But drill down a bit deeper and the move spoke volumes about a few hot-button issues.

First, the Patriots were buying at the deadline, an indication coach Bill Belichick isn't giving up on the 2020 season and is playing to win. Dealing cornerback Stephon Gilmore or offensive lineman Joe Thuney, which they never seemed aggressive about, would have sent a different message to the locker room.

Then there's the bigger picture. What does it say about the roster-building work of Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio at the wide receiver position that they had to turn to the rival Dolphins for a possible answer?

That hurts.

To call it a failure seems over the top given the team's win-loss record over the past decade, but Belichick and Caserio wouldn't be doing their jobs if there wasn't some serious soul-searching on why they continue to struggle developing capable wide receivers, and how they inadequately stocked the position this season. This coming off a 2020 draft that some believed was the deepest ever at wide receiver, with the Patriots not addressing the position at all.

That's probably my biggest takeaway. The Dolphins were willing to trade Ford in their own division because they have a handful of younger, promising options they want to take a closer look at.

When was the last time the Dolphins were showing the Patriots the way it's supposed to be done?

2. Did You Know: Patriots receivers have one touchdown this season (fewest in the NFL), and New England quarterbacks have eight interceptions throwing to receivers this season (one off the most in the NFL).

3. Michel's role: Running back Sony Michel practiced Thursday for the first time since he had been placed on injured reserve (quadriceps), but it's hard to imagine the Patriots are in any rush to activate him to the game-day roster unless there are concerns over Damien Harris' ankle injury. Harris, for his part, doesn't seem to have any. Harris has taken over as the lead back, and unless the injury knocks him off track, it seems unlikely Michel will reclaim his old top spot from him. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels described Harris this past week as the type of back where "there may or may not be a hole, but he's going to make one." And perhaps more important, McDaniels cited his growth in blitz pickup, which is Patriots code for saying he has earned the coaches' confidence.

4. Belichick's gesture to Gase: The question has been asked over the years if Belichick is actually like he is during news conferences all the time, and Jets coach Adam Gase shared a few thoughts this past week to highlight how he isn't. Gase said he has never laughed harder than when around Belichick and former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. He also shared a more empathetic side of Belichick, relaying that he had never had a long conversation with him until after he was fired as Miami's coach after the 2018 season. Gase said Belichick reached out to check on him at the time. "That was the starting point there," he said. "I was very appreciative."

5. Not adding up with Winovich: In what game plan would 2019 third-round pick Chase Winovich play only five snaps? That was one obvious question after the Patriots' loss to the Bills last week, with Winovich playing in obvious passing situations as a niche pass-rusher. His playing time has fallen off the map -- 42 snaps, 47, 32, 37, 22, 13, 5 -- a dramatic dip that comes about six weeks after Belichick said the following: "He's got good energy, he's in good condition, he's got good stamina, he's got speed, he's got power and he's a very instinctive player. So I would expect him to be out on the field a good part of the time in all games." Simply put, it doesn't add up for pure football reasons. My read: Coaches are sending him a message for some reason, and how he responds will determine if his playing time rises.

6. Harry's concussions: Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry's concussion suffered in the Oct. 25 blowout home loss to the 49ers served a reminder of his history with head trauma, and how he almost stepped away from the game altogether after his initial years suiting up as a youngster. CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson had relayed Harry's history during the broadcast that day, and Harry has already been ruled out Monday for the second game in a row. As a freshman at Arizona State, Harry said: "Having concussions, especially at that age, you learn that if your head is bothering you or you feel you might have a concussion, [you've] got to tell somebody."

7. Steve Belichick's patch: Outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick has been wearing a Jim Brown patch on his shirt during games, similar to Bill Belichick choosing to honor Fritz Pollard, which is part of the NFL campaign to use its platform to support ending racism and discrimination. I asked him why he picked Brown.

"Very proud to wear his patch and represent him," the 33-year-old Belichick answered. "I got to meet Jim back when my dad coached for the Browns, he was around the facility a lot, so our relationship goes way back. He had some tough times, struggled, back when he was at Syracuse. He played in the Cotton Bowl and wasn't allowed to stay in the team hotel because of restrictions during that time. He's been through a lot, he does a lot of community service work, and a lot of great things out in his community in California. Definitely someone I look up to and admire."

Steve Belichick added that Brown isn't just the best running back he's seen, but also the best lacrosse player.

8. Brooks salutes his wife: A season played in a pandemic has created life obstacles for players that they never could have imagined, such as being separated from their families. Such is the case for veteran Patriots safety Terrence Brooks, who became a bit emotional last week when discussing how he left his wife, Caitie, and their three children behind in Florida for the start of the season. Brooks said he felt it was better for the family to stay down South. "It was tough going through. I get a little choked up talking about my kids and my wife," he said, acknowledging that they are now together after three months. "My wife, she's the rock of our family. A tremendous person who holds it down for us."

9. Handling the Jets: The Patriots have won eight consecutive games against the Jets and 11 of the past 12. The most recent loss was a 26-20 overtime decision in the second-to-last game of the 2015 season, at the Meadowlands. The Patriots were 12-2 going into that game and were still playing for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, and made the unconventional decision to kick off at the start of overtime despite winning the coin toss. The Jets made them pay, with Eric Decker's 6-yard touchdown catch on the first drive of overtime.

10. Jackson eyes team record: Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson has recorded an interception in each of the past three games. If he records an interception Monday vs. the Jets (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN), he'll tie the team record for consecutive games with an interception, joining Devin McCourty (2019) and Mike Haynes (1976). That's solid company. Jackson would also become the first Patriots cornerback since Asante Samuel (2006-07) to record five or more interceptions in consecutive seasons. When asked after Sunday's loss to the Bills if he considers himself a No. 1 cornerback, he said simply, "Sure. Why not?" He's a restricted free agent after the season and the Patriots project to place a first-round tender on him.