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FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 27: Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots kneels in a huddle during the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com

Welcome to the Week 4 Patriots Mailbag!

There’s a ton going on in Patriots world right now, from a huge upcoming matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, to a number of key players set to come off IR, to a (bogus) online rumor about a trade for a star receiver. We’ve got it all covered for you in this week’s mailbag, so let’s get started.

As I mentioned in this week’s Patriots Preview podcast, I think it’s crucial for the Patriots to throw the ball deep a few times early in this game to make Kansas City think twice about blitzing. If that happens, it’ll open up opportunities underneath, where Harry will have a chance to capitalize.

Running the ball to the outside should also be a big part of the Patriots game plan this week, so they’ll need him to contribute as a blocker, something he’s been great at through three weeks.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 13: N’Keal Harry #15 of the New England Patriots runs with the ball against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

With Harris coming back, who do you think the Pats will handle their even more crowded backfield? Will roles change? Start to go with the “hot hand”? Taylor being optioned to the practice squad with the COVID protection designation?

— Mark Cleland (@MCleland) October 1, 2020

When Damien Harris returns, expect him to enter the main rotation with James White and Rex Burkhead. A “hot hand” strategy could certainly be a factor within that group week-to-week, whether it’s performance based or based on who the ‘hot’ matchup is given the opponents personnel.

As well as Sony Michel ran last week, he could end up in a short-yardage and goal line role, displaced by Harris. Taylor, while he’s looked good, is still raw and the odd man out. So far, we haven’t seen the ball security issues he had in college that led to him going undrafted, and it’d be wise for the Patriots to not tempt fate. That’s not to say he can’t be a factor down the road, but more coaching can’t hurt.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 13: Sony Michel #26 of the New England Patriots carries the ball during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

As I mentioned last week, I think what you see is what you’re going to get from the Patriots this year in terms of personnel. I’m not holding my breath for any kind of major move.

In terms of the rookies – Keene is working his way back from a neck injury, which can obviously be tricky. It makes sense for the team to be cautious with him. As for Uche, clearly the team as big plans for him, or they likely would have IRed him right away instead of waiting three weeks. Once he’s healthy, I expect him to be a regular contributor on defense.

Here’s part of an answer Belichick gave on Friday morning to a question about rookies not playing:

“I think in general, this has been a challenging year for all rookies on every team, not just our team. With no preseason games, with no real, live snaps until the regular season starts, it’s hard for those guys, any rookie – again, not picking out anybody in particular but just in general – it’s hard for any rookie to be able to get into the flow of the game, to learn from the preseason games and the tempo and the contact part of the game that is minimized in a practice setting and so forth. That has to come with game experience, and as a coaching staff, you want to make sure that you don’t put guys in in situations that they’re really not ready for, and so there’s certainly a little bit of a build up that comes there.”

Dalton Keene running with the football at Patriots Training Camp. Photo courtesy of the New England Patriots.

Dalton Keene running with the football at Patriots Training Camp. Photo courtesy of the New England Patriots.

Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but to me this question implies the running game was not effective with David Andrews, which isn’t the case. If anything, I think after this week you could see Joe Thuney move back to left guard and James Ferentz start playing center.

As I mentioned in the Patriots Preview podcast (you can find it at the bottom of this post), Bill Belichick generally doesn’t like moving guys out of position to compensate for injuries because it leaves the team with “two backups instead of one.” In this scenario, Joe Thuney is a ‘backup’ center, and Onwenu is the backup left guard.

However, because of the challenge posed by Chris Jones, who dominated Ferentz last season, I think Belichick broke his own rule to have Thuney on his side of that matchup. The Vegas game was essentially a warm-up for Thuney, who had never played center before, so he could get comfortable before facing Jones and the Chiefs. With a banged up Broncos team next on the docket, I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out with a more traditional approach.

One more point on this – and it relates to the offseason. It was obviously just one week, but Michael Onwenu looked exceptionally comfortable at left guard. If that level of play continues, it would make Thuney expendable, meaning the Patriots wouldn’t have to pay him this offseason and could use that money elsewhere on the roster.

Sep 27, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) passes the ball to New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead (34) during the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 27, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) passes the ball to New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead (34) during the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The following Q&A’s are from Matt Dolloff:

I really think it could be. The Chiefs’ cornerbacks are beatable. There isn’t a shutdown player in that group. If they decide to match Harry up against a safety like Daniel Sorensen or Juan Thornhill he might have a tougher time, but Harry should be able to make plays against the likes of Antonio Hamilton or Charvarius Ward. And they’re probably going to need him.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 13: Jerome Baker #55 of the Miami Dolphins attempts to tackle N’Keal Harry #15 of the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

I’m just guessing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if neither Damien Harris nor Gunner Olszewski are activated this weekend. Bill Belichick spoke about this earlier in the week. He noted that even if a player is healthy and able to practice, he may not be in game shape until a week or two in. The Patriots have great depth at running back, so they can afford to ease Harris back in. It’ll be great to have Gunner back to have another option in the slot behind Julian Edelman, but even if he’s activated I doubt he has a big workload on Sunday.

New England Patriots wide receiver Gunner Olszewski (80) warms up during an NFL football training camp practice, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, Pool)

I know nothing about this. I would be stunned. I could be wrong but I think the days of the Patriots chasing premium receivers are over. I think the Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, Mohamed Sanu moves were a product of Tom Brady demanding veterans and/or stars at the position because he had lost his patience with the younger players. That has not been the case with Cam Newton. He’s made guys like N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, and Damiere Byrd better.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – SEPTEMBER 13: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up prior to facing the Seattle Seahawks at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

What inspired you to start making the F&M videos? They’ve become a staple in my friend circle, live them my man! Keep it the awesome content!

— Connor Powell (@ConnorPowell8) October 1, 2020

First of all it makes me very happy to know that my content is a “staple” in anyone’s life. Thank you for the kind words! It started during the 2018 World Series. The Red Sox won and looked great in the process, and I just thought as the game ended “How will Mike & Tony find a way to complain about this one?” And so I threw together a quick impression of the two of them. It took off from there. I never intended to do more than that first video, but it’s obviously grown to something much bigger. I guess I just fortuitously struck gold with that idea.

Oct 28, 2018; Los Angeles, CA: Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale (left) celebrates with teammates including catcher Christian Vazquez and pitcher David Price (right) after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Oct 28, 2018; Los Angeles, CA: Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale (left) celebrates with teammates including catcher Christian Vazquez and pitcher David Price (right) after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

I’ve thought of doing that myself. Even stuff from the 20th century like the Larry Bird Celtics, Bobby Orr, the Miracle on Ice. Maybe I’ll be inspired to drop something when a big sports anniversary hits.

For more on the Patriots-Chiefs matchup, check out the Patriots Preview podcast below.

Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.