A once daunting AFC East doesn’t look as intimidating after Aaron Rodgers’ unfortunate Achilles tear in Week 1.
The Patriots can take a major step in improving their chances within the division with wins in Weeks 2 and 3 against the Dolphins and Jets.
Miami proved that adept offenses can move the ball on them Week 1 against the Chargers. And the Jets now much start Zach Wilson for the foreseeable future at quarterback.
It’s terrible to see a player go down with a season-ending injury four plays into the season. But the Patriots’ playoff chances certainly improved despite losing to the Eagles in Week 1.
Let’s answer some questions in this week’s mailbag:
Gonna make this one short and sweet Doug:
La’el Collins. Patriot? #MailDoug
I wouldn’t rule it out.
La’el Collins is a big name who could be signed on a value deal. Sounds like the type of signing head coach Bill Belichick loves to make. The biggest question is whether or not he’s healthy.
Collins tore his ACL and MCL in Week 16 against the Patriots. He started training camp on the physically unable to perform list and was released Sept. 12. He’ll meet with a doctor on Monday, per NFL reporter Jordan Schultz.
Expectations also should be set relatively low for Collins at this point in his career. One source said he looked like he was on his way downhill last season and then had another serious injury. That can only facilitate his decline.
But the Patriots pretty desperately need offensive line help. While I’m writing this, left tackle Trent Brown has a concussion, left guard Cole Strange is still nursing a knee injury, center David Andrews has a hamstring injury, right guard Mike Onwenu missed Week 1 with an ankle injury, and prospective starting right tackle Riley Reiff — remember, he signed a bigger contract than Calvin Anderson in free agency — is on injured reserve.
Plus, Sidy Sow, who started Week 1 at right guard and played right tackle with the first-team unit this summer, also has a concussion.
That leaves Anderson, rookies Jake Andrews and Atonio Mafi, Vederian Lowe and Tyrone Wheatley as the only fully healthy offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. The Patriots also have James Ferentz, Kody Russey and Andrew Stueber on their practice squad.
It feels impossible to predict what a starting offensive line would look like in Week 2 if everyone who’s currently injured can’t play. But maybe it would be:
C Jake Andrews
The Patriots have to hope to get Andrews, Strange and/or Onwenu back.
I don’t want to make any excuses for Mac Jones, but if he struggles on Sunday night against the Dolphins, it seems fair to at least acknowledge what’s going on with the offensive line. All things considered, he played well last Sunday with two rookies at guard. We just might not have a great sense of what this offense looks like until Brown, Strange and Onwenu are healthy.
Will we see more Keion White this Sunday?
Is Rhamondre over his stomach bug?
Do the Pats have a snowballs chance in hell at slowing down Tyreek?
Let’s tackle these one at a time:
I don’t know if White will play more this Sunday, but he should. He was pushing around some of the NFL’s best offensive linemen in Week 1 against the Eagles. He’s just a force of nature. You need to find him snaps in the passing game.
Yes. Rhamondre Stevenson is over his stomach bug. He is not on the injury report.
And yes, the Patriots do have a snowball’s chance in hell of slowing down Tyreek Hill. They’ve done it before, and they can definitely do it again. Hill hasn’t had over 100 yards against the Patriots since 2018. He’s still productive against them, but he doesn’t dominate the Patriots like he does other teams (he’s averaging over 100 yards per game so far as a Dolphin).
The Patriots have a very smart, experienced, disciplined defense. And they take Hill very seriously.
Will there be a package offensively for Marcus Jones ?
Week 1 proved that the Patriots do still have a plan for Jones on offense. But he only got one snap. It came on running back Ezekiel Elliott’s fumble.
The Patriots have better playmakers on offense this year, though. So, putting Jones on the field means not playing JuJu Smith-Schuster, Demario Douglas, Mike Gesicki or Kayshon Boutte if you’re assuming that Stevenson would be at running back, Hunter Henry at tight end and DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne at the outside receiver spots.
Then you toss Tyquan Thornton into the mix when he gets healthy plus Elliott and Ty Montgomery. There are just a lot of mouths to feed before you put a defender on the field.
Jones also might need to play more cornerback while Jack Jones is out with his hamstring injury.
With the status of Juju up in the air, and Parker still battling injuries, will the patriots continue relying on Boutte/Douglas to step up or is veteran help (via trade/free agency) on the way?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that Smith-Schuster’s status is up in the air. He just wasn’t a full-time player in Week 1 for a number of different reasons.
I do believe the Patriots are comfortable putting Boutte out in the “X” role if Parker is out. And Douglas will share slot snaps with Smith-Schuster.
It’s kind of both too early and too late to talk about wide receiver additions. The Patriots like the guys they have more than anyone who’s a free agent. And teams aren’t ready to give up on their season with a trade in Week 2. Most early-season trades are made around cuts. A trade might not materialize until closer to the trade deadline.
Forget the Pats…. How is Hallie doing?
For those who are unaware, my 2-year-old daughter Hallie was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in April and has been in the hospital since. She had her bone marrow transplant on Tuesday and is recovering very well. Doctors and nurses continue to be amazed by her energy after chemotherapy, radiation, and the transplant. Any positive thoughts are always appreciated.