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#PostPulpit Mailbag: Will the Patriots use Malik Cunningham more against Buffalo?

This week’s Patriots mailbag answers questions about Malik Cunningham, Marte Mapu, and the trade deadline.

New England Patriots (17) Vs. Las Vegas Raiders (21) At Allegiant Stadium Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

If things couldn't get worse for the New England Patriots at 1-5, they now welcome the Buffalo Bills to Foxboro. It hasn't been a kind matchup for New England in recent years, as Josh Allen has tossed 18 touchdowns to just two interceptions en route to a 96 point differential and 6-1 record since 2020.

New England’s one win? The infamous win game at Orchard Park in which Mac Jones threw just three passes.

So as you’ll see below, cause some chaos and get creative because you have nothing else to lose. Let’s get into this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag.

Will we get to actually see more of Malik or will they throw that away after it didn't work? - David

My one word game plan for the Patriots this weekend is chaos. So, yes, that includes a stronger dose of Malik Cunningham on offense.

Looking at the Bills, New England should be able to find success running the football — even though they must keep the game in reach. In the Week 18 match in Buffalo last, the Patriots totaled 107 yards on the ground for a 4.7 average. Now, Buffalo is down starting linebacker Matt Milano for the season and lost his counterpart Tremaine Edmunds in free agency.

Beyond using some of the run game elements they've had success with in the past, New England can now throw Malik Cunningham at them. While the game seemed to be moving too fast at times for the UDFA last week, the hope is he’ll be more comfortable in his second game action.

According to Sports Info Solutions and pointed out by the Boston Herald’s Andrew Callahan, Buffalo is one of three teams that hasn't been forced to defend a designed QB run or zone read this season. They also surrendered a league worst 5.7 yards per attempt on run plays up the middle. So, use Malik Cunningham and attack their new linebackers.

And if we really want to embrace the chaos, let Malik throw. How about even on a double pass with him at wide receiver. What else do you have to lose?

Why isn't Marte Mapu playing? - Adam F.

It was a tad disappointing to see rookie third-round pick Marte Mapu not play a single defensive snap last week. While New England’s focus seemed to be on stacking the box to slow down Josh Jacobs, they still played five-plus defensive backs on nearly 60 percent of their plays.

As we saw against Dallas, there was still a mental lapse or two from the rookie which the coaching staff may also be seeing in practice. While we’d argue to just play the rookie through the growing pains, New England instead turned to veteran Jalen Mills - who wasn't great either in relief.

This week against Buffalo, the hope is Mapu has a big role in trying to slow down Josh Allen. This is the matchup the rangy 6-foot-3 versatile defender was drafted for. Let him spy Allen and try to stop the QB’s own chaos. It’s not like anything else you've done has slowed him down.

While there’s still concern from this point of view that they won't play a 230-pound backer consistently off the ball, the good news is they might not have a choice. With Josh Uche (foot) and Keion White (head) having not yet practiced this week, New England is down to just Anfernee Jennings and Jahlani Tavai off the edge. That could leave Mapu with a big role in the middle.

@ExtendBill If a contender offers a TJ Hockenson type trade for Hunter Henry, would you do it?

At 1-5, eyes understandably turn to the trade deadline and looking at the bigger picture of this football team. It may be smart for New England to sell off some of their veterans in contract years to acquire draft capital for this rebuild. Hunter Henry fits that bill, but I have a hard time seeing someone cough up a Hockenson-type package (second- and third-round pick).

Hockenson has been a more productive player throughout his career and was only 25 years old at the time of the trade. Henry seems more likely to fetch a fourth- or fifth-round selection, but his $5.8 million deadline salary could complicate things.

@ExtendBill If a contender offers a 2nd round pick (pick would likely be 60-64) for Kendrick Bourne and a 4th would you do it?

Kendrick Bourne is another in the long line of Patriots’ veterans in contract years who could be dealt in the coming weeks. Teams are always in need of pass catchers and worse players than Bourne have garnered significant returns near the deadline. While a second-round pick may be a tad too aggressive, it would not be a surprise to see Bourne net a third- or fourth-rounder.

While it’d be tough to see Bourne go, that potential return might be a significant piece for New England’s roster retooling this offseason.

@pettyashit if we end up with the 5-7 pick in the draft next year, should we trade up for the carolina/bears pick and draft drake maye or stay put and add to the mac/bob offense?

We did some trade talk so now we must do some early draft talk.

This would be an interesting scenario for the Patriots, as they would likely be out of the picture for Caleb Williams or Drake Maye at No. 6 overall. Maybe they really like a Michael Penix-type in that range, but my main choice would be to trade up and go get the QB if there’s one you really like.

If they don't like any of those QBs in that range or the trade values, then I would build your supporting cast out. Offensive tackles Olu Fashanu and Joe Alt are projected top-10 picks, while there are a plethora of wide receivers behind Marvin Harrison Jr. in Emeka Egbuka, Rome Oduze, and Keon Coleman.

While securing a potential franchise QB is always plan No. 1, adding talent to your roster and running it back with either Mac Jones (based off the finish of the season) on the last year of his rookie deal or a veteran quarterback (hello, Jacoby Brissett) isn't a bad alternative.

@Matthew91539463 Who’s your favorite head coaching and GM candidate if we move on from bill? #postpulpit

GM is an easy one for me if the Patriots look outside the organization: current San Francisco 49ers assistant general manager Adam Peters.

As for coach, that one is a tad more complicated.

Based off how the Krafts have spoken about Jerod Mayo, it would be surprising if he wasn't the choice. Mayo is an extremely strong candidate as a former player who the players respect but as well the people person duties outside of football.

The one concern with the hire from this perspective would be on the offensive side of the ball. As you saw with Josh McDaniels, any offensive coordinator that has success — especially with a rookie QB — will be offered head coaching jobs elsewhere. That leads to a similar situation Mac Jones is in with three offensive coordinator in three years. Not a great plan for a young quarterback.

But, if you go ahead and just hire an offensive minded head coach (hello, Ben Johnson), then he is not going anywhere and your quarterback/offense has stability.

With that in mind I still think Mayo would be a successful choice and maybe Bill O’Brien commits to staying around home for a few years — if that’s Mayo’s first choice for offensive coordinator. And, of course, if Belichick is not back in 2024.

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.