It was a disappointing finish to the New England Patriots Week 1 contest, as they followed an all too familiar script in the post Tom Brady era. With eyes now on an extremely important Week 2 divisional game against the Miami Dolphins, let’s jump right into this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag.
@SteveRosenheim1 Can we please win Sunday?
That’s the plan, Steve. But they will have their hands full doing so.
Offensively, it always starts with slowing down Tyreek Hill when talking about the Dolphins. Hill may be the best receiver in football due to his speed - which was on display in their Week 1 victory in which Hill posted over 200 yards and two scores. Miami head coach Mike McDaniel makes it even harder on opposing defenses with his motion package, which was highly successful for the Fins last weekend.
Luckily for New England, they have had plenty of past match ups against Hill to experiment different coverages. While the first response may just say “double him”, that's easier said than done especially with Jaylen Waddle on the opposite side. Plus, looking at New England’s past game plan against the receiver, doubling Hill hasn't been the game plan since the 2018 AFC Championship game when Devin McCourty played over the top of Jonathan Jones in coverage.
Exploring New England’s game plans in two games last year may give us a better understanding of how they'll approach Hill this week, which was primarily playing zone coverage (almost 80 percent of Miami’s drop backs). This limited the big plays down the field, or as Jabrill Peppers explained: “Make them beat you methodically.”
If that’s the game plan, New England must tackle well and limit yards after the catch - something they didn't do against Waddle last year in Week 1. There secondary was strong in such positions against A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith last week, so a repeat performance would lead to strong results.
Despite Tua Tagovailoa playing perhaps his best game in the NFL last week and shredding the Chargers’ zone defense, I’d expect New England to still play zone on early downs and man coverage on the money downs with the focus on taking away the middle of the field.
Being physical with Hill - which is something Jonathan Jones mentioned on Wednesday - should also be part of the game plan.
@DesForrester44 Where does Demario Douglas stand in the pecking order? Will he see more targets moving forward?
I am all the way in on Demario Douglas. After an awesome summer, he looked really good getting eased into action on Sunday.
One of his best plays came on New England’s first touchdown drive on a strong design by Bill O’Brien out of a bunch look. Douglas runs a real crisp route and is able to turn the corner around to get open.
Douglas is their most dynamic receiver and should be even better if they can get him open in space. They had one close opportunity on Sunday after they got him lined up against a linebacker, but quick pressure forced an incompletion. Against another Fangio defense this week, look for them to hit on this matchup if presented.
Going forward, Douglas would be my slot receiver in three receiver sets with DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne. He is the exact skillset they like in that role and it helped his cause that JuJu Smith-Schuster did not look very explosive in first game with New England - whether that’s a result of his knee injury or he’s working his way back into things will be another thing worth monitoring.
@BostonEvan11 Has Boutte got his second foot down yet
It’s easy to blame Boutte for the fourth-down play, especially as a similar situation happened earlier in the game where he failed to get his second foot down. Sure you’d like him to get his foot down, but after reviewing the play further Mac Jones made the situation harder on his young receiver.
The fourth-down throw is all about rhythm, and Jones can be seen below double clutching the ball before throwing (perhaps a part of dealing with a rookie receiver). It’s a small hesitation but it ruins the timing on the play. If Jones just lets it rip at the top of his drop, it could have given Boutte just the extra time and space he needed to get his second foot down.
The play also highlights the bigger picture with Mac Jones. He has to be perfect and on time with the little details to overcome his deficiencies with his physical talent. While Jones mostly played well on Sunday, there were a few instances of things similar to above that left some meat on the bone for New England’s offense.
@ReadNFLtweets We gonna take a stab at acquiring La’el Collins? Neccessary/worth it?
Based on the current status of New England’s offensive line, I would absolutely take a stab. It’s important to note though that Collins isn't the player he was in Dallas and hasn't practiced all summer after tearing his ACL against the Patriots last December. But, the Patriots just need bodies with upside up front at this point.
@VinnyGiambrocco With the team taking flyers on WR’s, and with Claypool seemingly on the outs in Chicago, do you see him as a potential fit for us? Big bodied WR and insurance for Parker… his cap number is low and he is on the final year of his deal.
The Patriots were rumored to have varying level of interests in Chase Claypool at the trade deadline last season. While New England could use another body at the “X” receiver behind Parker, I really don't see it in Claypool. He hasn't been overly impressive during his Chicago or Pittsburgh tenure either.
@nesportreview Will Jalen Reagor be activated soon?
I’d only imagine Reagor gets the call soon if the injuries to the wide receivers pile up. Kayshon Boutte joining DeVante Parker on the injury report could be a sign of that. While I wouldn't expect Reagor to have a major role if he is elevated, he could provide a field stretching role with his speed and also be a candidate for some simple designed touches/handoffs.
@BColtsfan What is the real story with Matt Corral?
It’s been all quiet on the Corral front since he left the team and was placed on the Reserve/Exempt list. He is someone who has been open about his mental health battles in the past, so the only hope is that he is OK.
@DesForrester44 Any news on Malik Cunningham at all?
Cunningham still resides on the practice squad, so not much news there at the moment. I’d guess we don't see him this season unless they plan to use some package with him at quarterback.
@zttack317 Player outside of Judon and Slater most likely to make the pro bowl?
I’d love to say Kendrick Bourne as I think he’ll have a really big year, but being a top four receiver in the AFC may be a stretch. Dido to Hunter Henry, who would have to beat out the likes of Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, etc.
So, I’ll go Christian Barmore on the defensive side of the ball who was dominate against Philadelphia on Sunday. Since he returned from injury last year, Barmore has been a monster up the middle. Josh Uche also deserves mention if he posts a high sack number, while Marcus Jones in the return game could also make a push.
@fraudgovernment What’s the plan if they go 0-2? Still “moral victories”?
No more moral victories for me. We are four years out from the Tom Brady era. It’s time to close out some of these close games with actual victories - starting Sunday.
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.