Mailbag: Can this Patriots offense carry them to the promised land?

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Welcome to the first ever installment of #PostPulpit, the weekly mailbag here at Pats Pulpit. The mailbag will be published every Wednesday, so make sure to get your questions or comments in on Twitter before that using the #PostPulpit. Any questions about the Patriots, NFL, music, movies, or just life are fair game. Or just say hi!

So enough of that, let’s jump into this week’s mailbag:

@BostonEvan11 Overall thoughts on Newton after yesterday’s game? #PostPulpit

I think like everybody else I was extremely impressed with Cam Newton on Sunday. He looked great running the ball and most importantly, healthy. The thing that stood out to me the most was how accurate he looked. He didn’t throw the ball much, just 19 times, but completed 15 of those attempts. His four incompletions consisted of a drop by Julian Edelman, two batted balls and what was essentially a throwaway. He was even more impressive on his play action passing, where he went 7 of 8 for 90 yards and a sack. The lone incompletion being the Edelman drop, which was a ball right on the money. Newton proved he still has more than enough to lead the Patriots to the playoffs.


@ReSportsFan #PostPulpit Do you honestly think this offense will be consistent enough to win against the titans of the NFL?

Honestly, no. While Cam looked sharp throwing the ball, I believe the Patriots threw just two passes beyond 10 yards on Sunday. Nothing matters in the NFL if you cannot consistently throw the football.

With that being said, it was encouraging to see they were able to get creative with their running game and Newton did look good when asked to throw. Remembering this was essentially the first preseason game so the offense could look entirely different going forward as everybody gets more comfortable. Just listen to what McDaniels had to say about the Week 1 offense on Tuesday:

“Really, it’s more of a function of what is best to do against a specific opponent that we were playing. I know we did some things that we really haven’t done much of around here for a long time, maybe ever. I think that’s just a function of using the players you have to the best of your ability against the opponent and scheme you’re playing. I would say we’re going to be in the same boat we always are, which is we try to adjust appropriately, change from week to week based on what we think gives us the best chance to have success.”


@mfholmes So #postpulpit can someone please explain this “crowd noise” we hear? Do the players hear it or is it just like a laugh track on a bad comedy? I think it would be much more interesting to hear the sounds of the game and the players.

The audio we are hearing at home is a collection of audio recordings that NFL Films have collected over the past four years. Each broadcast has the opportunity to create a unique sound palette for each team, which is controlled by an NFL-hired operator.

As for the players, they hear a completely different audio track during the game. The NFL sent a recorded track of artificial crowd noise to each team they can use throughout the game. This audio must stay around the 70-75 decibel range. For comparison, the Chiefs fans broke the decibel record with a 142.2 rating last year.


@CynicalManChild #PostPulpit Based of the Phins game and when he first started Tebow, did you see any improvements/similarities in NE’s offense that McDaniels ran in Denver with Tebow?

McDaniels developed a special system for Tim Tebow but never really got to put it to work. Tebow started just three games for Denver before McDaniels was let go, but they apparently kept the system in place for Tebow’s 2011 season.

According to ProFootballTalk, this system, “makes it hard to defend quarterback runs and it opens up the passing game. Also, with proper blocking, the quarterback isn’t put in harm’s way.” That is exactly what we saw on Sunday, as Newton ran all over the field and was extremely efficient throwing the ball.

So comparing this offense to what Tebow ran, it was similar. McDaniels featured lots of power reads, attacked downhill, and pulled lots of offensive lineman to force defensive backs to make tackles. They also featured some classic Patriot staples as well, leaning on the play-action passing game to attack the middle of the field and sprinkling in a heavy mix of crossing/pick routes. Newton’s second touchdown of the day was also the exact play they ran with Jacoby Brissett back in 2016:


@Patzfan5112 #PostPulpit it’s way to early to ask this but do you think Cam Newton will get a 3-4 year deal if he continues to play this way? If so what happens with Stidham, trade/cut?

It’s definitely too early to tell, but it was a good start. If the 31-year-old plays this well all year and stays healthy I’d imagine the Patriots pursue a contract extension. They also could place the franchise tag on Newton to test the experiment for one more season.

If they do extend Newton, I wouldn’t imagine it would affect Jarrett Stidham much. He is under contract for two more years after this year, with cap hits just over $1 million each season. I’d imagine they at least keep him as their backup going forward.


@Jugg_Que_Naut Granted the uncertainty of next year’s cap is a factor but any chance we trade for some WR/TE help, it’s eventually gonna come back and hurt us because Cam can’t run the ball 15 times a game.

Trading for wide receiver and tight end help should definitely be in the cards for New England, especially if they believe they can really contend this season. It could be a few weeks as they will probably want to see how the offense develops with what they have, but it appears some big names could be out there to really make this team a contender.

Chicago’s Allen Robinson was pulling some social media stunts, as he is unhappy about his contract with the Bears. Odell Beckham Jr. was rumored to potentially be available (again), and Eagles tight end Zach Ertz could be a name to watch as he has voiced his displeasure about his contract. Any three would immediately provide New England with a huge boost to their passing game.


@incredelman11 Which free agent wide receiver should the Patriots target in 2021?

If the Patriots choose to ride out this year with the current group of wide receivers, they could be eyeing the 2021 free agency to add to the position. With Keenan Allen and Cooper Kupp signing extensions before the season, Allen Robinson again is the name that jumps out to me. JuJu Smith-Schuster could also be a player to monitor.


@jacob_marrocco Do we think Damiere Byrd gets a little more involved in the offense?

On the topic of wide receivers, Damiere Byrd operated as the Patriots No. 1 on Sunday, playing 56 offensive snaps (88 percent). Although he led the team in snaps, Byrd wasn’t targeted all game long. Byrd brings an element of speed to the Patriots receiving corps and had a few noticeable blocks in the run game. But, going back a few questions, this is why acquiring receiver help has been/and still is a necessity for the Patriots. Damiere Byrd is a solid player, but should not be a team’s No. 1.

Going forward, I would like to see Byrd more involved in some sort. As I mentioned, his speed is something that no other receiver on the roster brings to the table. This offense is still developing as we go, so we imagine Byrd will get his looks here eventually.


@BrayallPatrick If the Patriots offered Talib $6m to guard tight ends, what did they do as a backup plan when he declined?

When Aqib Talib decided to hang up the cleats instead of coming back for one more year, New England turned to last year’s second round pick Joejuan Williams. After not playing much his rookie year, the 6-foot-3, 212-pound corner had a strong game against Miami, covering Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki for the majority of the game. According to PFF, Williams had 24 coverage snaps against Miami, allowing one reception for nine yards on three targets. He also had one pass breakup.


@allen_hitchens Do you think the Patriots were better off grabbing Newton after seeing Brady play? #PostPulpit

Oh boy. To start, Brady’s Tampa Bay debut didn’t go as planned, but besides from a few mistakes Brady looked solid against New Orleans. It’s tough to say the Patriots are better without Tom Brady, especially after just one week, but perhaps it was just time for both sides to move on. Brady’s attitude was obviously bad last year, and for good reason, while Cam looks to have brought a fresh wave of excitement to Foxboro. To say New England’s better off might be a stretch, but they found a damn good replacement who refreshed the environment in Newton.


@UnfilteredPats I feel as if Rex is a better RB than Michel when he’s healthy. Or at least it looks that way in games Rex plays when 100%. I also, like many are looking forward to see D Harris run. Could this be the year we see Sony PlayStation Michel pushed out of his role?

Sony Michel’s season will depend on his health. If he misses time, he might not get a chance to earn his job back. As for Rex Burkhead, he was their best back last season behind James White. I’d rather give snaps to guys who can do multiple things (Burkhead, J.J. Taylor, Damien Harris) than Michel. And while Michel may be slowly getting back into things, that was the case on Sunday: Michel, White, and Burkhead all saw 19 snaps. Taylor, who was the Patriots’ highest rated rusher according to PFF, saw nine snaps and was extremely impressive running the ball.


@arcalpha25 When Harris comes back from IR. What will happen to the RB room? Will JJ Taylor be back on the PS?

Harris is the final piece to the complicated running back room. After what sounded like a strong offseason, perhaps his return could force the Patriots’ hand to move Michel. Looking at the roster with Harris back, Michel just doesn’t seem to fit in. Burkhead is a productive runner who can contribute in the passing game, while Taylor and Harris projected to be the same. Pair those three with White and Newton, who is able to be a major contributor in short yardage situations, Michel just doesn’t have a role. Getting 3.7 yards a carry from Michel and no production in the passing game just doesn’t make sense when other players on the roster can do more. If Michel plans on earning playing time over the other backs, he needs to get going quickly or the writing will be on the wall sooner than later.


@MDunn_33 Onwenu had a surprisingly large role in the offense this week, has his long term outlook changed in your eyes at all? Will he be in the RT conversation going forward despite his interior experience?

I was a big fan of the Michael Onwenu selection back during the draft, so its extremely encouraging to see him getting snaps Week 1. Looking at the right tackle snaps from Sunday, Jermaine Eluemunor led the way with 48 (75 percent) while Onwenu played 22 offensive snaps (34 percent). As Onwenu played the interior throughout college, it was a little bit of a surprise so see him get snaps outside, even lining up next to Eluemunor in tackle eligible sets.

Diving into Bill Belichick’s thought process here, my best guess is that Onwenu is a better run blocker than Eluemunor, so they want him in the game when they are running the ball. This might tip off the defense that the Patriots are running, but remember we said this McDaniels offense is based largely off of execution. If all 11 players are executing their assignment, it should be tough for the defense to stop them even if they are tipped off. I would expect to continue to see Onwenu in tackle eligible sets with a sprinkle of right tackle as well.

Well that wraps up our first edition of the #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!





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