Although a 25-6 victory over the New York Jets appears to be great on paper, there were a lot of holes beneath the scoreboard. The reality of this New England Patriots team is that they are a work in progress. Especially offensively, the Patriots are very new. Jakobi Meyers, Damien Harris, and four offensive lineman are the only returning offensive starters. A franchise molded by their history and culture, newcomers have a lot to learn when arriving in Foxboro.
The Patriots are still getting to know each other beyond the playbook. There has been a level of tightness on the field, players wanting to be in the right spot and make the right play. However, the Patriots will need loosen up quickly if they hope to contend this season. Last week’s essentials list featured the need for more James White, spreading the football around, and containing Corey Davis, all factors which led to a Week 2 victory. Not all of the essentials were necessarily met, but they were enough to secure the win. Here are the essentials for this weeks matchup vs the New Orleans Saints
More Josh Uche (If He Plays)
Josh Uche did pop up on the injury report, so he will need to be announced active come gametime.
It has been a constant theme regarding the Patriots defense: more Josh Uche. After a great summer, Josh Uche has made the sophomore leap already in 2021. He currently leads the Patriots in sacks (3) despite playing less than 50% of defensive snaps. Matt Judon and Uche currently lead the league in pressure % among edge rushers (30.3% and 26.9%). The two have become a monstrous duo in the pass rush.
Uche has yet to get the starting nod; perhaps due to run defensive schemes and not being an every down player. But it’s becoming harder and harder to keep Uche off the field. The run defense has suffered greatly in the first two weeks of the season with Josh Uche on the bench. This is not to say Uche would change New England’s holes in stopping the run, but he certainly should be on the field more frequently.
Move Michael Onwenu To Tackle
The Patriots have a large problem with Trent Brown sidelined. The offensive line was slated to be New England’s strengths heading into this season, but now it looks like a liability. Mac Jones has faced constant pressure from both Miami and New York’s pass rush. Although it has been a good test for the rookie, he needs more time to throw. There have been plays where Jones has had an open man deep or even a touchdown, but defensive pressure led to a checkdown or incompletion.
The tackle position-on both ends-has struggled. It’s time for Michael Onwenu to come back to his tackle days. Last season, no matter where he lined up, Onwenu constantly played at a high level. Even if Trent Brown returns this week, Onwenu should start at tackle as well. Perhaps it means Wynn gets kicked inside or Ted Karas plays guard, anything to avoid last weeks debacle at tackle.
Throw To The Tight Ends in The Red-Zone
One of the biggest reasons why New England spent all that money in the offseason was to improve their red-zone success. The Patriots are currently dead last in the NFL in red-zone scoring percentage, a number that has to change quickly. Going back to 12 Reasons Why The Patriots Will Win 12 Games in 2021, red-zone efficiency is vital. Jonnu Smith was 2nd among all tight ends in red-zone touchdowns in 2020 (8).
There were two clear plays last week where Hunter Henry was nearly wide open for a touchdown. Whether it was the pressure or a missed read, Henry has been open and Jones has missed him. If the Patriots want to put up big numbers, it’s gotta be through the tight ends in the red-zone.
The Patriots play the New Orleans Saints Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST.
(Photo by Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)