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#PostPulpit Mailbag: How will New England defend Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle?

Related: How New England’s offense will find success in Week 1

Carolina Panthers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Folks, we have made it... Week 1. New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins.

It’s mailbag time.

@dnoonan222 What if…and hear me out on this…the Patriots offense turns out to actually be good?

They would have fooled us all, Dan.

You've heard all about New England’s summer struggles on offense by now. Whether you are pounding the panic button or playing the “it’s just the preseason” card, we’ll finally find out what the deal is with the offense on Sunday.

To me, the true surprise would come if they start churning out big gains in the zone-run game. Even though Miami struggled against that attack at times last season, the zone schemes is where New England consistently had the most troubles throughout the preseason. If they start breaking out consistent gains and striking long play-action completions off of them, that would truly be a turn of events.

What would not be a shock is if they look good in situations where they spread the field and let Mac Jones attack (two-minute, hurry up, etc.). That was the best they looked in the summer, often salvaging practices with their final two-minute drills. It would be no surprise if they continue to find success in that format on Sunday.

@kenfaretra How many times will we run 3 deep safeties vs Ty Hill and Waddle? Have to keep them in front of us not chasing them.

The Patriots will have their hands full defending the Dolphins on Sunday. As preparation for a first-year head coach is challenging, New England will likely bank on what Miami showed in the preseason and what Mike McDaniel ran in San Francisco under Kyle Shanahan.

The Patriots could deploy two deep safeties to try and contain speedsters Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. However, Miami could counter by gashing a lighter New England defense on the ground. The answer for the Patriots could be to rotate a safety such as Kyle Dugger into the box during the snap in that scenario.

As Miami can also move the ball successfully against opponents with run-pass option plays (RPOs), they should also expect a heavy dose of man coverage from New England — specifically Cover 1, something they used often to slow down Tyreek Hill in Kansas City.

Outside of the AFC West, there may not be a team that has faced Hill more than the Patriots the past few seasons. After the speedster burned New England in his first few matchups, the Patriots have adjusted well, surrendering just 93 total yards in their last four matchups.

After Hill’s early successes against the Patriots, they switched up their game-plan in the 2018 AFC Championship Game. With Jones in coverage, New England used Devin McCourty to double or shade towards Hill deep and on anything over the middle of the field.

Since that contest, Jones has since got his fair share of 1-on-1’s against Hill, keeping the burner in check for the most part. In that game plan, New England was able to use McCourty to cover different Kansas City concepts, not just focusing on Hill. That is likely what we can expect in Week 1, as it would be no surprise to see Belichick trust Jones 1-on-1 on Hill yet again.

From there, Jalen Mills will likely matchup against Jaylen Waddle, something he did a lot in Week 18 last season. If Waddle’s speed proves to be too much in what likely will be a new role from season, New England could turn to the explosive rookie Marcus Jones.

@Tallguyme I feel the offense will be top 12 but the defense will get exposed on the regular. Tell me I’m crazy.

That would certainly be the polar opposite of what everything training camp has told us, but everything seems to be on the table for this team. Offensively, the jump to top-12 status would mean they finally worked out the kinks in their new scheme. That starts with improved communication up front that opens up running lanes and keeps a clean pocket for Mac Jones.

Defensively, things could certainly fall apart rather quickly. While the early returns have been positive, the cornerback room still remains a major question mark. Jalen Mills could have been the training camp team MVP, but only time will tell how he’ll manage being the CB1 with a handful of young, inexperienced options behind him. With youth takeovers also at linebacker (Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson) and along the edge (Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings), there’s always a chance things just don't work out.

@David11tn How big of a gain do we give up once Tavai is asked to drop in coverage?

The fascination with Tavai has been an interesting one this summer and really since they added him before last season. He clearly has become a well-respected player in the locker room, but has significant coverage issues. With players like Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson Sr. on the roster, Tavai’s main contributions should be left to special teams.

@RocketsCulture How much longer till we get a coach who can coach offense and a good gm

I get looking at the coaching staff and finding it easy to complain about. But, I'm going to reserve criticism until it is due. Matt Patricia and Joe Judge have seen more football in their careers than we ever will and while their head coaching tenders did not go as planned, they've proven to be strong assistant coaches — especially working under Bill Belichick.

And if you don't want to hear it from me, hear it from Mac Jones:

“I think Matt, he’s done a great job,” Jones said after the Patriots’ first preseason game. “He’s one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever been around in terms of football knowledge.”

“I think Joe’s done a good job,” Jones told reporters several weeks ago regarding Judge. “He has a unique perspective, like I always talk about. He’s coached a lot of football. To be able to talk to him — we’re kind of finding that groove of what type of person I am. I’m competitive. Sometimes, you know, we just need a little break and then talk. From there, he’s very good at explaining calmly, ‘All right, hey, what did you see?’”

@byanruckley When does Nick Caley start calling plays

Caley was my play-calling preference if the team kept the duties in-house throughout the offseason. As the tight end coach, he has experience in both the pass and run game plans. However, it seems like Belichick is committed to the “process” that involves himself, Judge, and Patricia. Again, nothing seems out of the picture with this team, but it seems more likely that any of those three calls plays over Caley this season.

@antoniottwalter Why are so many people so down on BB?

Some people — specially those in the “hot take” world of sports — find it easy to point to his record without Tom Brady, and look at the coaching staff he assembled and the preseason struggles that followed this season, and be negative.

Don't be those people.

@indymayne Who has the better record at the end of the season, Colts or Pats?

Viewing Indianapolis from afar, I would lean them. They have a strong roster and made an upgrade at the quarterback position with Matt Ryan over Carson Wentz. The Week 9 matchup between them the Colts and Patriots should be a good test for both parties.

@MarcWilliamsUK Whos going to replace Wynn once he leaves? Onwenu at RT again? Andrew Stueber?

If Wynn is gone this season (which would be a surprise at this point), Yodny Cajuste would likely be first up with Justin Herron behind him. It will also be interesting to see where newly-signed tackle Marcus Cannon falls into that equation as time goes on. If those plans prove to not work, the team could look to bump Onwenu back out to tackle and try James Ferentz or Chasen Hines at right guard.

As for the future, my guess is his long-term replacement is not on the roster. Tackle should be a high priority for New England in next year’s draft.

@_JakeTHamilton What’s the deal with Ty Montgomery’s injury?

Luckily for New England, Montgomery’s ankle injury does not appear to be as serious as expected. He traveled with the club to Florida this week and was a limited participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday. If he suits up Sunday, he’ll likely do so in a limited fashion.

@QuinnArthur88 Pats lead back sunday and who leads team in targets on sunday

While Rhamondre Stevenson’s sophomore standards remain high, I'll still go with Damien Harris as the lead back in Week 1. As for targets, Jakobi Meyers would be my guess.

@Jermfree23 Are we finally going to Slay the Mighty Dolphins of Week 1 or are we heading towards another typical L to them

@_bhanana_ How much do you think the pats lose by?

The Patriots will look to end a three-game losing skid against Miami. While the weather has proved to be a challenge in the past, it may not make such a difference in September coming from a humid Foxborough. For what it is worth, New England is 5-1 in their last six road games against Miami in September and October.

Disregarding weather, with two teams still going through their acclimation projects, I’d expect this game to be close and fairly low scoring. While Miami may have more overall talent, New England has the advantage at the two most important spots. With that in mind, we’ll go Patriots 20, Dolphins 17.

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!