The New England Patriots are at the threshold for starting the 2021 NFL Season. The Pats will open the regular season on Sunday, September 12 at 4:25pm against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
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: How do you think the Patriots receivers match up with the Dolphins defensive backs?
From: LJ @Show_1
This may be one of the most prominent keys to the game, LJ. For starters, the Pats receiving corps is a bit thin. However, there is a good deal of diverse talent. Jakobi Meyers will be the primary option at the position, with Nelson Agholor likely to align on the perimeter for vertical routes. Still, Agholor has been dealing with an ankle injury this week. If his game is compromised as a result, that will put some pressure on Kendrick Bourne and Gunner Olszewski. On the other hand, Miami features corners Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Noah Igbinoghene with a pair of former Patriots at safety in Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty. That group provides strong coverage, and should be able to make plays on the ball. Even with Agholor in the mix, I still give the edge to Miami’s secondary.
If Nelson Agholor can’t play Sunday, who takes his spot on the depth chart?
From: Kevin Tame, @Kevin_Tame
As always, great question, Kevin. Agholor brings a unique set of skills to the Pats receivers room. He was used most-often on vertical outside routes last season with the Raiders. So far, in camp, the Patriots have employed Agholor in the same fashion during organized team drills, taking advantage of his speed and ability to get open over the top. He has consistently found separation form his opponents, and has made quite the connection with quarterback Mac Jones. Drops are always a concern, but they no longer come as frequently. Should Agholor be unable to suit up on Sunday, newcomer Kendrick Bourne may be the most-likely candidate to start along with incumbent Jakobi Meyers. Throughout training camp, the fourth-year wideout has shown impressive versatility. Bourne has aligned in the slot, and on the outside. Though his technical prowess allows him to win from either alignment, the expectation is that Bourne would see significant snaps as the Pats' second option at wideout.
Who begins the season as more of a focal point on offense — J.J. Taylor or Rhamondre Stevenson?
From Brent Schwartz: @BrentSchwatrzz
This question has the potential of being a storyline throughout the season, Brent. Having Stevenson as a regular option would allow New England increased versatility when attempting to establish the run. The rookie’s ability to receive out of the backfield also provides some additional help for James White on third down attempts. That being said, I think the Pats look to Taylor more often; at least to begin the season. 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. His tireless work ethic has earned him the praise of his teammates and coaches, including running back coach Ivan Fears. Taylor may also be in line to secure a prominent role on special teams as the Pats’ primary kick returner.
Will the Patriots extend Stephon Gilmore before the season ends?
From: Bobby Thompson @BThomps81
Now that the quarterback competition has been settled, this may be the most notable question among Patriots fans, Bobby. I will admit that I was more optimistic about the two sides coming together on an extension prior to the 53-man roster being set. Gilmore will be sidelined for the first six weeks of the season on reserve/PUP. Some will speculate that his absence is more related to finance than fitness, but he clearly was not physically ready to start the season. In getting the opportunity to start the season as the Pats primary corner, J.C. Jackson has the chance to earn the job with a solid performance. Conversely, Jackson’s struggles could help to increase Gilmore’s value to New England. I still say it is possible. However, Gilmore’s age and contract situation make it more unlikely with each passing day.
Can Yodney Cajuste have a surprise impact this season at swing tackle?
From: Bradyboy12 @TuckerRossCon
Excellent question, Tucker. Cajuste earned his way on to the Pats 53-man roster with a solid training camp performance. During the preseason, he began to resemble the player that was a highly-touted prospect at West Virginia. So far, Cajuste has played mostly at the left tackle position, but the team will likely ask him to take on a more diverse role to be New England’s swing tackle. He spent time at both left and right tackle during the preseason, and also was used as a member of the Patriots’ field goal and extra point protection units on special teams. He did deal with a hamstring injury this week, so that is worth monitoring. Still, if healthy, Cajuste should see regular time along the Pats offensive line in 2021.