After a week hiatus as the team was on bye, the weekly mailbag is back! Let’s jump right into your Patriots questions!
With Dion Lewis reportedly back this weekend, how does he change the Patriots offense? And what do you expect him to do right out of the gate?
- Lewis adds a whole entire dimension to the team’s offense and how they scheme going into games. Lewis is both explosive as a pass-catcher behind the line of scrimmage and lined up in the slot along with being equally as dangerous in the run game when needed. He is easily an upgrade over James White as a pass-catching running back with his ability to make tacklers miss and being nearly impossible to stop in the open field. The Patriots have had solid play from both White and LeGarrette Blount this season, so Lewis makes them only that much better. He will likely allow the team to use more two running back sets and open up the playbook more. In regards to his workload, I’d expect him to see six to eight touches this weekend and progressively work back towards his normal 14-16 touch threshold over the next few weeks.
Jamie Collins was arguably the team’s best coverage linebacker. Now that he is gone, who do you expect to cover Jimmy Graham?
- I’d say Patrick Chung for the most part. He matches up well for the most part against opposing tight ends. Elandon Roberts will likely see more work on third down/pass plays and be asked to drop back into coverage and also rush the passer more. Graham has looked resurgent this season, much like how he was in New Orleans. It will be a tall order covering him and trying to limit him, but I’d imagine Chung and Roberts will likely be the players tasked with covering him. Barkevious Mingo could also be an option, but he is better suited as an edge rusher going after the quarterback on third downs. He could see more time hanging back in coverage as well with Collins gone.
Do you expect the Patriots to have a better pass rush in the second half of the season?
- The Patriots pass rush hasn’t produced the way many expected to, with only 13 sacks recorded through the first eight games of the season. A lot of it can be blamed on the more conservative play-calling by coordinator Matt Patricia, as he would only rush three or four players and have the rest hang back in coverage. This has led to some solid defense, keeping teams out of the end-zone recently and not allowing as many big plays to formulate. It is entirely possible that the team changes it up against a weak offensive line like the Seahawks this weekend and exploits that weakness with heavy blitz packages. The team has the personnel to do so with Hightower, Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard, Mingo and Malcom Brown to name a few along their front seven. This will really be up to Patricia and whether they continue to play more conservatively or try and have more pressure on the passer. It’ll be one of the keys to focus in the coming weeks against Seattle this Saturday and San Francisco next weekend.
Logan Ryan shined last season but has been a liability for the team so far this season. Any hope of a second half bounce-back?
- I’d definitely say that with this bye week and the fact that Ryan is very conscious of his poor play that we could be in for a bounce-back second half from him. He had been reduced to part-time duties with Eric Rowe getting more snaps on the outside but with Rowe struggling himself, Ryan could exploit this opportunity. He definitely has the talent and has shown he can hang with the best of them such as DeAndre Hopkins, so it’ll be entirely on Ryan and if he be tougher on one-on-one coverage and playing more physically. His toughness and aggressive style of play are his trademarks but they have been missing this season. So if Ryan can play closer to his assignment and not allow for as much of a pocket for the receiver to make the catch, he can definitely turn this around. I’d bet on him figuring it out and getting back to more of his 2015 self.
Any news on Tre’ Jackson? Is he expected to come off the PUP list?
- The other notable name on the PUP list not named Dion Lewis (that also has a shot of playing this season), Jackson has yet to return to practice after dealing with multiple knee issues. With the poor play from Shaq Mason, Jackson would be welcomed with open arms if he can come back. It sounds like he could definitely return at some point this season, but nothing seems to on the horizon as of this moment. Keep an eye out over the next one to two weeks as to whether he starts practicing again, as it is entirely possible he isn’t far off from getting back on the field.