Patriots Mailbag: Jones and the Jets, Options at Right Tackle and More

Patriot Maven tackles various issues, such as the Pats’ options at running back and aligning in 22-personnel in this weekend’s question-and-answer session with fans.
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The New England Patriots travel to the ‘green side’ of the Meadowlands as they will take on the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey at 1:00pm ET on Sunday, September 19.

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: Do you think that the Patriots will loosen the leash a bit on Mac Jones and let him throw a bit more?

From: Stephanie, @smars319

Great question, Stephanie. Against the Dolphins, Jones immediately demonstrated a confidence and command that culminated in a solid NFL debut. Though it seemed like he did not get the chance to throw much, he did complete 29 of his 39 pass attempts, compiling 280 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Jones’ play last Sunday was his ability to withstand pressure. He was 14-18 for 129 yards against the blitz. 9-12 for 89 yards on third-down and 7-10 with a touchdown when under pressure. Those numbers are impressive for any quarterback. However, when taking into account that Jones was a rookie, making his first career start, the stat line begins to put defensive coaching staff throughout the league on notice. That being said, I would look for the Patriots to be a bit more aggressive in their play calling on Sunday. New England ran the ball more often than not against the Dolphins base defense because it was the most effective way to neutralize Miami’s sizable defensive front. However, the Pats also aligned in 31 of their 70 offensive plays in 12-man personnel (with two-tight ends). If Jonnu Smith is healthy, I would look for Jones to utilize his tight ends and his receivers both in and out of the red zone.

Q: Will the Pats use J.J. Taylor more this week, after Stevenson’s fumble last week?

From: Bruins Cup Quest 2021-22, @richg6567

Good question, Rich, and a timely one at that. Stevenson’s fumble has likely put him on the Belichickian equivalent of ‘double-secret probation.’ However, I would also not expect him to be removed from the game plan. The rookie’s ability to receive out of the backfield should provide some additional help for James White on third down attempts. That being said, I think the Pats look to Taylor this week as a notable option. When he is at his best, the former Arizona Wildcat has the shiftiness and the skill set to be the team’s ‘change-of-pace’ back. Taylor is quite effective between-the-tackles, and can contribute as a pass catcher out of the backfield. The Jets will be expecting the Pats to run the ball, and Taylor allows them to do that with more diversity and greater efficiency.

Q: [Yasir] Durant or [Justin] Herron at right tackle? Or, will they switch it up and send Big Mike [Onwenu] back to the right side?

From: Spencer, @llaydimes

This may end up being the question of the weekend, Spencer. Last week, Herron struggled in an every-down role. He was eventually benched in the third quarter, after being flagged for holding and allowing a tackle-for-loss on a running play. Each miscue stalled a promising offensive drive, which culminated in a Patriots field goal. As a result, Herron was New England’s lowest-graded offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus.

Should the Pats choose another option, the most likely candidate would be Yasir Durant. The newly-acquired lineman relieved Herron last Sunday, and performed well doing so. Durant allowed no pressures on 13 dropbacks in his 23 total snaps. At 6-foot-7, 330 pounds, Durant has the size and strength needed to fend-off more aggressive defensive linemen.

Although he has been limited in practice with a hamstring injury, Yodny Cajuste could be a very intriguing option; though he has seen more time at left tackle lately.

Of course, the Patriots could always turn to Onwenu. After all, he did start 10 games at the position in 2020, and was PFF’s eighth-highest-graded tackle. Still, Onwenu has yet to see any practice time at the position. He has more-than-adequately filled the shoes of Joe Thuney at left tackle. Of course, the Pats have made the decision to go with the ‘five best players at the position’ when it comes to the offensive line, in the past. Therefore, it cannot be ruled out. However, Onwenu’s prowess at his current position makes him an unlikely choice.

Q: True or False: The Patriots base should align in 22-personnel and big-bully-boy everyone to play the game they want?

From: Patriotsfeeder, @patriotsfeeder

This is a great point of discussion, and I am so glad that you made it. First, I like your line of thinking. However, 22-personnel (2 backs, 2 tight ends, 1 receiver) is typically seen at the goal-line. It is a great way for the offense to read numbers and attack a defense. The set creates a one-on-one matchup for the single receiver. With everyone in the box, the offense can max protect and throw outside isolation routes to the field. Still, there are drawbacks. The MIKE linebacker is often left without conflict, due to the lack of a vertical threat. The Jets employ a talented MIKE in C.J. Mosley and while the Pats have adequate players to run the 22 effectively, I think they will run it more on the goal line than in a base set. For the record, though, I’d love to see it more and I personally think you make an interesting point.

Q: Who will win the battle of New England’s secondary vs New York Jets’ receivers?

From: LJ @Show_1

Once again, great question, LJ. If Stephon Gilmore were in the lineup, my answer would probably be a lot different. It was clear that the Pats missed their top corner last week. J.C. Jackson played well in his absence. However, Jalen Mills gave up a few too many plays underneath, and Joejuan Williams was often a step behind his targets. As a result, Miami’s Devante Parker and Jaylen Waddle were given plenty of chances on the outside to utilize their speed.

For the Jets, Zach Wilson will look to get Corey Davis and Keelan Cole (if healthy) involved early and often. Jamison Crowder is likely to return after missing last week (COVID), providing solid play out of the slot. One player to watch on Sunday is Denzel Mims. The Jets did not use Mims much against Carolina, but he has the speed to make things difficult for the Pats secondary. Look for the Pats to win their battles up front, as getting into a track-meet-like scenario with the Jets passing game could lead to a long afternoon for New England.