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#PostPulpit Mailbag: Should Josh McDaniels open up the Patriots’ offense?

Related: Patriots quarterback Mac Jones named PFF’s Rookie of the Week

NFL: SEP 12 Dolphins at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Despite a strong NFL debut from rookie quarterback Mac Jones, the New England Patriots dropped their Week 1 matchup 17-16 to the Miami Dolphins. Now the page turns to New England’s next AFC East foe in the New York Jets.

But before the Week 2 matchup, let’s jump into this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag.

@Ben9864 Why is McDaniels so a** at his job?

Josh McDaniels certainly had some head scratchers with his play-calling on Sunday. The dreadful crack toss for three yards has given me serious nightmares. With the way Jones was playing, it could be argued opening up the offense and letting him attack would have been the way to go. There’s no issues running the ball with Damien Harris — especially on his fourth quarter fumble — but while Miami consistently chose to match New England’s “12” personnel with their base defense, opening it up and attacking Miami’s linebackers with Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry could have been resulted in a better offensive performance.

The biggest offensive play-calling issue on Sunday came on second downs. According to @PatriotsStatsR, the Patriots had a minus-12 percent pass rate over expected on first down and a minus-25 percent on second down. A more aggressive approach on second down certainly could have resulted in more points.

What’s good news is that McDaniels was much more aggressive than he was in 2020. Compared to his tendencies last season, New England’s offensive coordinator focused much more on the passing game — 12 percent more aggressive in similar situations.

@TimEdmonds_ Will Damien Harris remain the feature back?

Damien Harris will certainly remain New England’s lead back, but a reduced role might be in store. Due to Rhamondre Stevenson not appearing after his fumble, the snaps were extremely lopsided in Harris’ favor (40 to five). Harris looked slightly fatigued down the stretch, specifically before his fumble, and Bill Belichick has a history of reducing a running back’s workload after they struggle with ball security. Surely Harris won't be phased out of the offense after he impressed before the fumble, running for 100 yards on 23 carries. Perhaps New England will activate J.J. Taylor in place of Stevenson to help bear the load.

@BrianCo84 Did Nick Folk Solidify himself as the Patriots kicker over Quinn?

Once Nick Folk signed with the Patriots’ practice squad after cutdown day, it appeared this is where the kicking situation was headed. New England is high on Nordin’s potential due to his powerful right leg, but Folk has been Mr. Consistent since arriving in Foxborough. Before going 3-for-3 on Sunday, Folk was a career 42-of-47 — without missing inside 40-yards — in his Patriots career. The team will likely use his final elevation for Week 2 before signing him to the 53-man roster. Nordin’s future with the team could then be determined on whether or not he clears waivers.

@PatsFanBen Off the field, how do you think Mac Jones handled himself? My wife pointed out how odd it was that Mac Jones didn’t want his first td ball.

In my opinion, Jones has handled himself perfectly off the field. He has not only received constant praise by his teammates about his work ethic and leadership, but he has said all the right things throughout his media appearances this year. Even after impressing in his rookie debut, he was the first to say that it “wasn’t good enough, starting with me.”

As for the touchdown ball, it did catch me off guard — I don't believe I've ever seen someone not take their first score. But as McDaniels said on Tuesday, “[Mac’s] not absorbed in selfish things or self-promotion. It’s about the team.”

@1A_S_B which week do you think the patriots will finaly be on their best gear ? Will Josh open a bit of the playbook after game 1 ? Can we fix the fumbles problems in one week ?

Even some of the best Patriots teams of years past have taken several weeks to find their groove. With all the new additions on the roster — highlighted by a rookie quarterback — it would not be a surprise for this team not to hit their best gear after they get a handful of games under their belt. Just for the fun of it, let's say they start rounding into their best form Week 7 at home against the Jets.

As for the playbook, it should be expected that McDaniels continues to open it up as Jones gets more and more experience. Jones proved he could handle everything that was thrown at him Week 1, so he should expand things for the rookie going forward — perhaps starting with a more aggressive approach on second downs.

It should be expected that ball security is a focus throughout the week at practice, so we’ll see if that makes a difference in Sunday’s contest.

@CheyenneSulli14 Why is Detrick wise playing so much ?

Deatrich Wise played 25 snaps (46 percent) for the Patriots’ defense on Sunday. Why? Because he is a good football player. Week 1 wasn't his best showing — especially the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the Dolphins touchdown — but Wise is still an important piece along the New England defensive line. He had a very productive camp and hopefully his Week 1 performance was an anomaly.

@MilkyD79 Why did the refs not rule Stevenson down prior to the ball coming out? What’s the status of Trent Brown?

To me, it did appear that Stevenson was down. However, the fact that the call on the field was a fumble, it worked in the Dolphins favor.

As for Brown, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported he has a minor calf strain and will be considered “day to day.”

@zttack317 Do you think Onwenu could make a pro bowl?

Michael Onwenu absolutely has Pro Bowl potential in the NFL. After a dominant rookie year appearing at right guard and both tackle positions, Onwenu is now starting at left guard in 2021. He got off to another strong start on Sunday, paving the way for several of New England’s big runs.

@kirb410 Do you actually think the Patriots have a shot at beating Brady

Anything is possible in the NFL. It will be a tough task for the Stephon Gilmore-less secondary, but a strong game from the front seven could create enough havoc to knock the powerful Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense slightly off their game. Either way, Jones and New England’s offense will have to be extremely sharp.

@CheyenneSulli14 What do you think pats mid season record will be?

Prediction time. By Week 9, New England should be in the five-to-six win range. Games against the high powered offenses of Tampa Bay and the Dallas Cowboys will be a challenge, while back-to-back road trips against the Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina Panthers could trip them up for a loss. New England would be feeling strong about themselves with a 6-3 record after nine weeks.

That’s 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!