The New England Patriots have fallen to 1-1 after losing a Sunday Night thriller against the Seattle Seahawks. If there are such things as “good” losses, that was one of them. New England got behind and was forced to open up its offense, which was a concern after passing the ball just 19 times in Week 1. Cam Newton looked excellent, and healthy, throwing the football and showed strong connections with Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and others.
Down 12 points with four minutes remaining, the Patriots were able to put together two impressive drives and give themselves a chance to win the game at the end. The final play has been under scrutiny, but I believe it was the correct call. As Bill Belichick said after the game, they called their best play in order to win the game. Up until that point this year, that play had a *checks notes* 100 percent success rate, not bad. It was a good call that just wasn't executed all that well, largely part to the Seattle defense.
With that, we’ll dive into this week’s questions, where it seems many of you are looking for wide receiver and linebacker help in Foxboro:
@MichaelDiCo95 Who might get released when Damien Harris and Gunner come off IR??
I doubt they release someone, but a few cases of the infamous ‘Foxboro Flu’ wouldn't surprise me. Looking at the snap counts and inactive lists through two weeks, moving quarterback Jarrett Stidham to injured reserve to create a roster spot shouldn't come as a surprise. Stidham has been inactive both weeks after losing the backup job to veteran Brian Hoyer, and with the new IR rules, if Newton or Hoyer were to get injured, Stidham could come back in just three weeks.
Another positional group to watch is the offensive line. Tackle Korey Cunningham has been inactive both weeks while guard Hjalte Froholdt has been active but hasn't played a snap outside of special teams.
@patriotsfeeder What does this team need more a No 1 WR or an elite pass rusher?
In my mind, linebacker is more of a need than those two positions. It was worrisome seeing Ja’Whaun Bentley in space during the Seattle game. So what linebacker? Lets keep reading...
@BostonWest80111 WR or LB help on the way? If they’re going to rely on Bentley to drop into coverage vs. RB’s then they're in big trouble. This guy is slow with a capital ‘S’! #PostPulpit
A lot of questions this week to see if help is on the way, specifically at wide receiver and linebacker:
Should we be concerned by the LB corps?— Simon Alain (@simonalain) September 22, 2020
Are they going to do anything about their LB depth?— Christopher Landers (@armchairgminNH) September 21, 2020
You get the point. To answer the question, I believe the Patriots are going to do something to address their linebacker depth and the answer is already on their roster. New England picked linebacker Josh Uche in the second round of this year’s draft but he was a healthy scratch in Week 1 before an ankle injury forced him to sit out Week 2 as well.
Uche is a strong athlete at the linebacker position with tons of versatility. He’s quick enough to drop into coverage and explosive enough to win battles off the edge. He won't be an every down linebacker right out of the gate but he’ll be an interesting chess piece Belichick will soon be able to use to his disposal. He has a real chance to carve out a big role in New England’s defense once fully healthy and adapted to the system.
If New England is looking for just more pure speed at the position, rookie Cassh Maluia could be in line for more snaps. The sixth-round pick out of Wyoming ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at his pro day and was known for his speed and agility in college.
@MDunn_33 #PostPulpit Where is Josh Uche? After seeing Bentley struggle a little bit, wouldn't Uche’s speed be a much needed asset for our evolving defense?
Matt, I like the way your brain thinks. Hopefully, Uche’s ankle injury heals up quick here so he can get out on the field.
@UnfilteredPats Is it time to get Cam a true WR/TE? Asiasi is not getting snaps, Keene IR. Harry is coming along but Idk if they are choosing not to throw deep to him or don’t trust him yet, same for Byrd.
On to pass catchers. I thought the Patriots’ wide receivers played extremely well Sunday night. It was promising to see Newton connect over and over again with Edelman, as well as N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd. Newton threw for 397 yards, so the receivers had to be doing something right.
As Newton said on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show Tuesday, the answer at wide receiver is already in the locker room. He has confidence in the group that is here and his development with them through just two weeks is a strong sight. Now, if New England has a chance to upgrade its roster at the position the team certainly would at the right price. But perhaps what they have now is actually enough.
Also, the addition of Gunner Olszweski off the IR shortly could be the small piece this group needs. If he carries over his strong play from training camp into the season, Gunner could be a valuable piece just to help take some of the pressure off of guys like Edelman.
@iNascari Do you think Kyle Dugger will earn a bigger role on defense in the coming weeks? He played a good bit against Seattle and had some big moments, like when he bulldozed ‘Hawks guard Damien Lewis to get into the backfield. #PostPulpit
More Kyle Dugger you say?
Dugger saw his snaps increase from 11 to 34 (18 to 54 percent) from Week 1 to 2. In his 34 snaps Sunday night, he was the Patriots’ fourth best rated defender according to Pro Football Focus. He made a few really noticeable plays blowing up offensive lineman, showing off his physicality.
Kyle Dugger was a damn maniac last night. pic.twitter.com/75jcC2j8vD— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) September 21, 2020
I really like how they've been using Dugger, playing close to the line of scrimmage and even blitzing him a fair amount. He’s been strong in the run game and was matched up with Greg Olsen for a large part of Sunday Night’s game. With a tough stretch of matchups against tight ends going forward (Darren Waller, Travis Kelce, Noah Fant, George Kittle), Dugger could be, and should be, leaned on heavily here the next few weeks.
Also, he returned the first kickoff of his career on Sunday but that was it. Let the man return everything.
@_fega_ Who is going to be the face of the #Patriots D in the next 3-5 years? (My money is on Dugger and Winovich)
This was a question I debated with myself awhile over. I like Dugger and Winovich while also considered J.C. Jackson as he could soon be the No. 1 cornerback this defense is always built around. However, looking at pasts Patriot teams, specifically championship teams, it’s the linebackers who I would deem the “face” of the defense. Guys like Tedy Bruschi in the early years of the dynasty or Dont’a Hightower as of late. With that in mind, I’ll take a chance with the linebacker they drafted this year, Josh Uche.
Uche is a slightly different player than Bruschi and Hightower, but he easily could be the guy wearing the green dot and leading the defense in three to five years unless Bentley impresses the team enough to keep that role.
@doc110723 How’s Harris?
All has been quiet on Damien Harris since he landed on injured reserve with a finger injury that required surgery. I guess we’ll say no news is good news. He is eligible to come off IR after this week.
@TheHorntail Got 3 scat back types in White, Burkhead, and Taylor. That means we’re going to be relying on Michel/Harris to be bell cows. Michel does not look great. Is this what he is, or does he get better further removed from surgery? Any updates/thoughts on Harris? #PostPulpit
Unfortunately I think this is what Sony Michel is. I’ve held out as much hope as possible for him but I’m slowly losing it every week as I watch him run for three yards over and over again. Even though Rex Burkhead struggled running the ball against Seattle, he has been the Patriots’ best back on the ground. I’m all for giving him, James White, and J.J. Taylor the touches going forward as they can sort of “do it all.”
As for Harris, we’ll see his status after this week. If he runs as well as he apparently was over the summer, he’ll have a chance to contribute immediately and could quickly become the featured back on the ground. Running backs coach Ivan Fears said during training camp that he’s a “pretty exciting” player and I am ready to watch.
@sean_gphoto 1 player to trade away and 1 to acquire
I will trade away Sony Michel and acquire Zach Ertz. Heck, let’s just trade Sony Michel for Zach Ertz. I'll even sweeten the pot with a draft pick or swap if needed. The Eagles were apparently ready to take Michel the pick after the Patriots back in the 2018 draft and were rumored to be looking for a back to pair with Miles Sanders this offseason. Perhaps Michel, who is still just 25 years old, could rejuvenate his career in Philadelphia.
As for Ertz, he has made it clear he wants a new contract. He has also made it clear he wants to stay in Philadelphia but has voiced frustration as he doesn't know “for sure if the feeling is mutual.” With the Eagles sitting at 0-2 and looking below average offensively, perhaps a blowup is coming. New England can certainly pay Ertz his current contract (below) plus the raise he deserves. He would also provide a major boost/weapon to their offense.
@Jduham How many 1st round picks can the Pats trade Michel to SF for? 10?
10? I’d take one, or Zach Ertz, in a heartbeat and call it a robbery. Perhaps with an assortment of running backs going down last weekend teams will start calling for a young, cost-controlled back.
@GilletteLot15 Is cam Better than mahomes and Russel if he gets over the line?
No, Cam is not better than Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson. But Mahomes and Wilson are the best two quarterbacks in the league. Newton has been awesome so far this year and has blown away everyone’s expectations, but Mahomes and Wilson are still the cream of the crop.
@eghirarduzzi Through 2 games who's better off post divorce, Bill or Brady ?
A little drama to end this week’s mailbag. Through two weeks, I'd say Bill Belichick has been better off post-divorce. He was able to bring in a former MVP for the veteran minimum and redesign this offense to suit his strengths. And if the past two weeks are just a preview, this offense will be extremely fun, and competitive, going forward. Is it also fair to say Cam Newton has done a better job with basically the same group of receivers than Brady did?
As for Tompa Bay, the Buccaneers did not look ready in their Week 1 loss to New Orleans. They had a bunch of small mistakes and stupid turnovers that cost them the game, something a Belichick-coached team rarely does. Brady and the Bucs looked better in Week 2, but allowed the Carolina Panthers back into a game they were down 21-0. It’s just been two weeks, but I'd give the advantage to Belichick.
That is all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!