The New England Patriots have run 22 plays inside the red zone this year and we can start figuring out how the Patriots change their personnel based on different scenarios.
We’ll ignore the offensive line because all five are always on the field, as is the quarterback. We’ll only highlight the interesting information.
TE Martellus Bennett is always on the field
Bennett has been on the field for 21 of the 22 red zone plays, with the lone exception being the failed end zone fade to TE Rob Gronkowski against the Texans. Bennett is used as a blocker, he’s spread out wide, he’s motioned across the formation, and everything in between. He’s arguably the most important part of the red zone offense, even if he’s only received one recorded target (two other targets were called back due to penalties on the defense).
The Patriots always have a running back on the field- and Blount means run
RB LeGarrette Blount has played 14 snaps inside the red zone, with RB James White seeing the other 8. Blount has received carries on 11 of his snaps, including 6 of the 7 times FB James Develin was on the field.
The Patriots have had 9 first down plays in the red zone and Blount has been called on to carry the ball every time. His other 2 carries came on 2nd and 6 and 2nd and 4. White has not recorded a red zone touch.
The Patriots are probably passing on second or third down
Of the 13 second or third down plays, the Patriots have thrown a pass on 10 of them and Jimmy Garoppolo scrambled off a broken play on another. Of the six third down plays, two passes have gone to WR Danny Amendola and WR Julian Edelman, apiece, and other went to Gronkowski; Garoppolo’s scramble was the sixth play.
White has been the running back on all 6 third down plays.
Edelman and Hogan are key starters, Amendola is the closer
Edelman (18 snaps) and Hogan (17 snaps) play pretty much every snap, other than goal line, but the Patriots call on Amendola (9 snaps) when they need a conversion. Amendola has played in 7 of the 10 third down or second and 6+ scenarios, and has been targeted on three of these plays.
The Patriots didn’t get to play short yardage until week 3
Develin didn’t play in the red zone until the Texans game and it was usually first down or short yardage. The Patriots short yardage power offense includes some added beef on the field.
OT Cameron Fleming played two red zone snaps against the Texans and the packages included Hogan and Edelman. The Patriots then switched it up and featured a short yardage package with Blount, Bennett, Develin, Rob Gronkowski, and Clay Harbor for three snaps.
The Patriots set up Bennett’s lone red zone target by faking a power run and this package will be worth monitoring moving forward.
Malcolm Mitchell is an anomaly
The rookie wide receiver has played 7 snaps in the red zone and is actually the reason why I started looking at the tape. I wanted to know if the Patriots took him off the field in favor of Amendola in the red zone (haven’t been able to disprove this).
The Patriots have 3 running plays and 4 passing plays with Mitchell. He’s played 2 first downs, 2 second downs, and 3 third downs. He’s played short- and long-yardage situations.
My only note is that the Patriots generally run their red zone plays to the opposite side of the field. They like to put Mitchell in isolation. Perhaps they’re just setting up an opportunity for Mitchell down the road.
Who knows? Regardless, the Patriots red zone offense has been pretty good so far this year, all things considered. The return of Gronkowski should add another element to the offense, as a Gronk, Bennett, Edelman, Hogan, running back offense would be the ideal combination to mess with the heads of defenses.
The best is yet to come.