Off Day Mailbag: What to make of Patriots offense?

WEEI
November 07, 2019 - 1:22 pm
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Welcome to the Off Day Mailbag, the newest feature from Andy Hart and Ryan Hannable where they answer questions leftover from their podcast.

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In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for @OffDayPod seeking questions for the podcast and mailbag. Tweet your questions to that account and then look for them to appear in the podcast, mailbag, or even both. 

Do you guys think the Baltimore game could have been different defensively if Michael Bennett was never traded and Deatrich Wise played more to help with containment? (@KavanSingh72)

It’s possible it would have helped, but the fact of the matter was that Baltimore was able to have success on the ground no matter where it ran the ball. When the Patriots went small, the Ravens over-powered them up the middle. When the Patriots went bigger, the Ravens beat them with speed on the outside. Bennett and Wise aren’t exactly game-changers, so it’s hard to really say how much of a difference they would have made. New England allowed 210 yards on the ground, the most it had in over five years, so it’s hard to say two players would have helped.

— Ryan Hannable

Are people whistling past the graveyard with this offense? It has been propped up by short fields and defensive scores all season. Can it function well enough if the defense only breaks even? (@TomBish70310510)

There is no question the offense needs to be better and more consistent. It certainly should strive to find pay dirt more often in the red zone. To me, there are two issues: the offensive line and a lack of a go-to playmaker in the passing game. Without a running game and limited protection, Tom Brady’s short passing attack led by Julian Edelman and James White may only be able to take you so far. And leaning on those two targets – certainly Mohamed Sanu should help spread the load – could see those guys have diminishing production as the season wears on and the games grow more important. I don’t think this offense has the upside it had in the past when we used to assume it could roll out of bed and score 30 points when it wanted to. Could it run better when Isaiah Wynn slides back into the left tackle spot? Probably. Will Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels find a way to increase the consistency of the production in the passing game? Again, probably. But if the Patriots are going to end up in Miami and chase a record seventh Lombardi Trophy the New England defense is going to have to continue to play at a very high level. The reality is that the offense appears more limited than at times in the past and its margin for error has shrunk. Time will tell, though, if that is any sort of fatal flaw.

— Andy Hart

What is happening with Ja'Whaun Bentley? He seems invisible and I thought he had some upside. Is he still recovering from his injuries? (@TuckerRossCon)

Following his small sample last year and all the praise he received from Jerod Mayo over the summer, a lot was expected from Bentley in his second year. But, perhaps those were unfair expectations. Bentley has only played 34 percent of the defensive snaps and has 21 tackles. While he hasn’t stood out, a lot of that has to do with who is ahead of him at the position — Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts. If the linebacker position wasn’t so deep, perhaps Bentley would have a more prominent role and things would be different. Bentley still seems like a solid player and it is certainly way too early to give up on him. As for his injuries, he seems to be fully healthy.

— Ryan Hannable

Biggest stud and dud on offense. Biggest stud and dud on defense. (@ChriswithaTIAN)

The biggest stud on the Patriots offense this season is Julian Edelman. He leads the team and ranks third in the NFL with 63 catches. He’s on pace for career highs in both catches and yards. Oh, and he’s done much of the work while battling a chest/rib injury. Edelman has been the definition of a stud.

The biggest dud on the New England offense has been the Sony Michel-led running game. The second-year back is averaging 3.3 yards per carry. Some of it can be blamed on the offensive line that’s dealt with injuries and been forced to go with late-arriving journeyman Marshall Newhouse at left tackle. But Michel just hasn’t been explosive, maximized runs or made things happen on his own. A first-round pick should be able to do that sometimes.

The biggest stud on the Patriots defense is Stephon Gilmore, though Jamie Collins is in the conversation. Everything the Patriots’ dominant pass defense does is built around the fact that Gilmore is an elite No. 1 cornerback. He’s so consistent and smooth in his role. He makes plays and makes everyone else’s job easier.

The biggest dud on defense at the bye has to be Michael Bennett, even though he’s technically not around anymore and is now making plays in Dallas. I thought Bennett would have a key role on the defense. The Patriots clearly did, too, that’s why they traded for him and gave him a new contract. From his late arrival to training camp through his early departure to the Cowboys, Bennett just never seemed to fit in Foxborough. A huge disappointment, although it didn’t hurt the defense too much.

— Andy Hart

How do you think Damien Harris will do at running back? (@joelshapiro20)

Harris is a complete unknown right now. He got limited reps in the preseason and has been a non-factor in the regular season. I have been saying for a few weeks that I think it’s time for him to get a shot to show his stuff. Sony Michel has simply not been effective. Sure, some of it is the offensive line. But, I haven’t seen Michel break a lot of tackles or make extra yards on his own. Maybe Harris is capable of doing that. The offense could use an injection of life at this point. Harris had a productive career at a high level at Alabama. I can’t imagine he’d average less than the 3.3 yards per carry Michel has tallied through nine games. Time to find out what Harris can do.

— Andy Hart

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