The New England Patriots welcome in another first-round quarterback from last year’s draft today in Baker Mayfield, and look to finish off the first half of the season perfect. Bill Belichick, who got his first NFL win as a head coach against the Patriots as a member of the Cleveland Browns, has a chance to pick up his 300th in reverse roles. Even with the Browns being 2-4 and lacking consistency week to week, there’s some areas of focus for the Patriots in order for them to come out with a win on Sunday afternoon.
Let’s take a look at three of them.
Protecting Tom Brady
I know what you’re thinking, this is always the top priority going into each week (of course it is) but with former first overall pick Myles Garrett coming to town lining up across left tackle Marshall Newhouse, this could be New England’s toughest challenge all day. Right guard Shaq Mason is also questionable with a knee injury so the depleted offensive line will have to protect #12 while also playing a crucial role in establishing their running game.
Getting the run game going
I know a lot of you that follow my work, this has been the one thing that I keep reiterating so it may sound like I’m beating a dead horse here. However, even coming off a game where the Patriots scored three touchdowns on the ground, they lacked consistency and rank just 30th in the league in rushing yards per attempt (3.3) and 20th in efficiency on running plays (-6.8% DVOA).
With that in mind, the Browns are coming in allowing 5.05 yards per carry which ranks 31st in the league. Getting Sony Michel and company going on the ground can therefore easily help set Tom Brady and the passing game up.
Get Mohamed Sanu acclimated
Newly acquired Mohamed Sanu is likely to take his first snaps as a member of the New England Patriots today and getting him adjusted and acclimated to the complex Patriots playbook is crucial. Sanu, who has taken 77% of his snaps inside the formation this year, can help Julian Edelman expand his route tree and become harder to contain for opposing defenses by allowing them to stack the two or have Edelman take some routes outside.
Sanu is a smart and physical receiver that has the size and strength to beat press coverage while also having the smarts and awareness to beat zone concepts. If Tom Brady can establish a connection with him early, it will benefit the entire offense as well as make third downs a whole lot easier for this offense.