The New England Patriots will host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. While Dallas is primarily known for its high-powered and versatile offense, they also possess a more-than-formidable defense, capable of beating teams in various ways. If the Patriots are to be victorious on Sunday, they will need to exploit the Cowboys’ weaknesses
Though many Patriots players are expected to garner some attention during Sunday’s matchup, here are three players on defense that might raise an eyebrow when the Pats take the field against the Cowboys.
Though some may say that Smith has been off to a slow start in New England, the veteran tight end has factored into the Patriots offense; not only as an in-line blocker but a big-bodied receiver as well. Though he has played in 55 percent of New England’s offensive snaps, Smith has only compiled 115 receiving yards on 15 catches, with one touchdown. This Sunday, the 26-year-old may be an intriguing offensive option. In addition to his blocking skills, the Patriots should look to put Smith in as many favorable situations as possible. Look for the Patriots to move him around the formation to create favorable matchups in both the running and passing games. The Pats only deployed him on six routes last Sunday against the Texans. That will change in Week Six. He will align not just on the line of scrimmage, but split out wide or in the slot as well. Smith should be expected to see some looks as a carrier out of the backfield, as well.
After having spent his requisite time on the Belichickian-equivalent of ‘double-secret-probation,’ Stevenson was active for Sunday’s matchup with the Texans. In his first game action since Week One, the rookie carried the ball 11 times for 23 yards. Despite his costly fumble against the Miami Dolphins, Stevenson is still one of the more intriguing options for the Pats at running back. After all, he is coming off of an impressive preseason, compiling 217 rushing yards and five touchdowns in three preseason games. For Sunday’s matchup with the Cowboys, Stevenson possesses the necessary intangibles to be an effective option in both situational runs, or even receiving out of the backfield. He is a physical, powerful runner, yet athletic enough to make tacklers miss in short yardage. The former Oklahoma Sooner nicely blends power and athleticism into his running style. Whether it be power-sidestepping his way into the end zone, or showcasing his speed by breaking for a 91-year touchdown, Stevenson could be a productive offensive weapon on Sunday against a tough Dallas defensive front.
Agholor got off to a hot start in 2021. In Week One against the Miami Dolphins, the 28-year-old compiled 72 yards receiving, with one touchdown. However, Agholor’s production slowed a bit since. Despite being the second on the list of most targeted Patriots’ pass catchers, Agholor is fourth on the team in receptions. While some credit should be given to some of the aggressive defenses of their oppositions, New England will eventually need to dial up some looks in which Jones takes some shots deep down field. This is where Agholor could be most effective. Though he is effective when playing out of the slot, he is at his best when used on vertical outside routes. Thus far, the Patriots have employed Agholor in the same fashion; taking advantage of his speed and ability to get open over the top. On Sunday, the Pats should look to utilize that synergy as a way to test the Cowboys’ secondary, which has struggled a bit beyond the production of prolific cornerback Trevon Diggs. Dallas has surrendered 311 yards through the air, thus far in 2021. Jones may look to Agholor to increase that total in Week Six.