The New England Patriots will host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. While New Orleans 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 Saints’ weaknesses
Though many Patriots players are expected to garner some attention during Sunday’s matchup, here are three players on offense that might raise an eyebrow when the Pats take the field against the Saints.
Jonnu Smith/Hunter Henry
Listing two players in this spot might be seen as a bit of a cheat. However, the two newest faces on the tight end depth chart might just end up being the two most intriguing members of New England's offense on Sunday. Last season, the Pats lacked the presence of a tight end with the potential to be an effective target in the red zone. This season, they have two. However, the argument can be made that they have been underutilized. Henry and Smith were specifically brought to New England to bolster their production in the red zone. Thus far, the Pats are a combined 2-of-7 in the red zone in their first two games, with both Henry and Smith having been targeted only once last Sunday against the Jets.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels must begin to expand the repertoire of quarterback Mac Jones by testing the team's prowess near the goal line. As such, he must allow his two tight ends to create mismatches and win contested catches in the red area. Pairing a traditional ‘Y’ tight end likeHenry alongside a prototypical ‘move’ tight end like Smith, should allow the Patriots to run 12-man personnel, featuring two equally potent tight end options. Combined with the blocking contributions of a sizable offensive line, as well as a capable running game, the Patriots will be poised to succeed in several play action schemes, should they choose to employ them against New Orleans’ strong defensive front.
When healthy, Isaiah Wynn is one of the more fundamentally sound left tackles in the NFL. Though a bit undersized for a left tackle (listed at 6-foot-3) his technique is as solid as any of his peers. At his best, Wynn has the necessary quickness and strength to win battles when going one-on-one against edge rushers, or creating openings for the running game.
Still, Wynn has allowed a team-high seven quarterback pressures during the first two weeks of the 2021 season. While health does not appear to be a concern, the former Georgia bulldog has had his struggles with his initial push out of his stance. He has also surrendered his edge a bit more often. Wynn is seemingly still adjusting to playing alongside left guard Michael Onwenu. Normally an aggressive pass protector, he has been a bit slow when positioning himself on schemed pressures. Wynn is more than capable of righting the ship. However, he must return to his ‘strike first’ approach to protecting the run, as well as stopping pass rushers before they hit their stride. With the recent woes which the Pats have endured on the right side of the line, a strong showing by Wynn and Onwenu on Sunday would be a great help to Mac Jones.
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. As such, he will have the distinction of being the recipient of Mac Jones’ first NFL touchdown pass. However, Agholor’s production slowed a bit during week two against the New York Jets. While some credit should be given to the Jets’ aggressive defensive strategy, 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. He has consistently found separation form his opponents, and has made quite the connection with quarterback Mac Jones. On Sunday, the Pats should look to utilize that synergy as a way to test the Saints’ strong secondary.