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Patriot Maven Mailbag (Part II): Collins Back? Uche Underachieving? Mac to the Max?

Patriot Maven tackles various issues, such as the expected return of Jamie Collins, and the prowess of Mac Jones in this weekend’s question-and-answer session with fans.

The New England Patriots have arrived in Western New York for a Monday night date with quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. Monday’s Week Thirteen matchup will take place at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York at 8:15pm ET. This pivotal contest between two divisional rivals has the potential to be a deciding factor in the race for not only the AFC East title, but also the top spot in the Conference.

This weekend, Patriot Maven opened up our mailbag to answer your Patriots questions. Here are some of the week’s best questions for #MavenMike:

Q: With Jamie Collins making the trip, do you believe he will be activated for Monday’s game against the Bills?

From: Starra (@ketojerseygirl)

Once again, thank you Starra for asking the question of the week. At his best, Collins is still one of the more dynamic talents in the league. He contributes to the team in numerous ways, including setting a good edge, playing off the ball, on the ball, playing in coverage, rushing the passer and on special teams. The Patriots undoubtedly hope that Collins’ familiarity with their system could help to provide additional stability to the Patriots defense.

Should New England activate Collins prior to their Monday night matchup with Buffalo, the team would undoubtedly welcome him into a role as an off-ball linebacker, helping to provide explosiveness at the position on third down. He may also provide some needed physicality and athleticism, in the expected absence of safety Kyle Dugger. As the Pats search for ways in which to keep Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen off balance on Sunday, Collins could see a significant increase of playing time in the middle and on the edge of the Pats defense, if active.

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Q: Is Josh Uche going to develop into more of a playmaker in the future? I had high hopes for him this offseason but he hasn’t quite developed as fast as I would like.

From: Bradyboy12 (@TuckerRossCon)

Great question, Tucker. Despite being one of the most highly-touted Patriots' rookies in 2020, Uche’s 2021 season has not eactly lived up to expectations. His placement on injured reserve in mid-November (resulting from an ankle injury) stalled a season in which he had been used sporadically. Uche had been listed on previous injury reports with both back and shoulder injuries. He also missed the team’s Week Five matchup with the Houston Texans. His last appearance for the Pats was in Week Ten where he played on 13 defensive snaps and seven snaps on special teams. In eight games this season, Uche recorded three sacks, four quarterback hits and ten tackles as a rotational edge rusher.

Still, Uche has the speed, athleticism and system savvy to be a factor in the Patriots defense as an edge rusher or an off-the-ball linebacker. While it remains to be seen whether he will be used as a pass rush specialist or a true every-down move linebacker, he has the skillset to play on the line in the Patriots’ 5-1 looks as well as their 4-2 and 4-3 alignments and also move back if they run a more traditional 3-4. While little information is known about his chances of returning this season, look for him to return to form when he does return, whether it be in 2021 or 2022.

Q: Should we really want Mac [Jones] to be toward the top in yards per attempt? Wouldn't it be better to be a quick release ‘dink & dunker’ if every defense is built to stop a scrambler who runs around while waiting for someone 30+ yards downfield to get open?

From: Lee Nunes (@Leenunes007)

Thank you for the great question, Lee. For all of the discussion surrounding the Patriots desire to change their passing game, they are still operating under a timing-based aerial attack, predicated on vertical routes and completions from quick, accurate throws. Jones is the ideal choice to run this type of offense. For what some of his detractors like to call ‘dink and dunk’ or ‘checkdown,’ is actually an efficient way to create plays by leading his receivers under the defense, releasing the ball quickly and delivering it accurately. This gives his playmakers the space they needed to catch and run with the football. Under the direction of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the Patriots have been at their best when operating under this same modus operandi. The quick-game still seems to be McDaniels’ preference, and Mac Jones has been the ideal choice to run it.

Over the past few weeks, however, Jones has shown his ability to sustain long drives, while also throwing deep and into tight coverage. As he tests his potential beyond his comfort zone, he continues to set the bar for his success higher with each passing moment. But, to your point, Lee, the most important statistic to Jones’ success continues to be completion percentage; and that is unlikely to change any time soon.