The New England Patriots will host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. While Tennessee is primarily known for its aggressive defense, they also possess an offense that is capable of beating teams in various ways, despite some key absences due to injury.. If the Patriots are to be victorious on Sunday, they will need to exploit the Titans’ 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 Titans.
It is not a stretch to say that Smith’s tenure in New England has not been overly productive, to date. Through ten games played in 2021, Smith has compiled 210 yards receiving on 22 targets with one touchdown. He has also added four carries for 20 yards as a ball carrier. Surprisingly, the Florida International product has been used more prevalently in run protection schemes. However, in Week Twelve, the Patriots will be facing an aggressive Tennessee defensive front. As a result, the 6-foot-3 248-pound former Titan might be poised for a breakout performance as a ball carrier, or as the red zone target for quarterback Mac Jones. His knowledge of the Titans’ system, as well as the resolve of their head coach Mike Vrabel, gives Smith a pertinent viewpoint, which is likely to be given great attention in the Pats’ locker room this week. At his best, the 26-year-old is a prototypical move tight end, best utilized as an effective target in the red zone. In his final season with the Tennessee Titans in 2020, he totaled 41 receptions for 448 yards and eight touchdowns. All eight of those scores came in the red zone. Smith would love the chance to demonstrate that prowess against his former mates, and may get that chance on Sunday.
Despite injury and some early ball security issues, Harris has continued to climb the league’s running back ranks. For all of the injury woes plaguing them this week, the Titans still employ a tough and physical front. Tennessee ranks fourth in the league in run defense, allowing just 97.2 yards per game and seventh at 4.1 yards per play. New England would love the opportunity to showcase both Harris and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, as the duo has become quite the rushing tandem as of late. However, Stevenson has been limited in practice this week with a knee injury, and is officially questionable for Sunday’s matchup. Should the Pats allow Harris the space to maneuver, the Alabama product is capable of breaking for significant yardage. He can also be a factor when receiving out of the backfield, a trait which he exhibited during his days at Alabama. If the Titans find success against the Pats’ run protection, Harris may need to get a bit more creative with the ball.
With Stevenson’s status currently in question, will Kendrick order the ‘Code Run?’ The question may be a relevant one when it comes to New England’s offensive strategy against the Titans on Sunday. If Stevenson is limited (or in worst case scenario, out) for Week Twelve, the Pats may need as much help as possible in the run game. Bourne certainly made his presence felt on the ground during the Patriots Week Ten matchup with the Cleveland Browns. In just 29 offensive snaps, Bourne demonstrated an impressive ability to effectively carry the ball for significant yardage. He finished the game with 43 yards rushing on three carries. However, with Damien Harris likely to take the majority of the carries, Bourne may be more effective this week as a pass catcher in the ‘Z’ receiver role. The Titans secondary has struggled this season, ranking 24th in passing yards allowed with 253.3 yards per game. However, the Titans allow only 6.6 yards per pass play, ranking 10th, which could bode well for the visitors as they try to limit Jones to the underneath passing game. As a result, Bourne may find some success as a target in the Patriots short passing game. Still, as his Week Six, 75-yard touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys, showed, Bourne can break for big yardage if given the chance.