Primary Menu

New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MA - OCTOBER 04: Sony Michel #26 of the New England Patriots runs with the ball during the first half against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on October 4, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com

Welcome to the Patriots Mailbag for Week 9. While the last few weeks you guys have asked more big-picture questions, this week there were actually some about the current roster, and even this week’s game. I’m glad to have those sorts of questions, but didn’t think Jets week was when they would start. It’s been that kind of year, I guess.

Anyways, let’s get into it, starting with the offensive skill positions before we move on to the offseason:

Good question Brian. Harris has certainly performed like a top back over the last four games, with 70 yards per game and 5.7 yards per carry. Don’t forget though that Sony Michel put together one of the best performances of his career last time we saw him. He had nine carries for 117 yards in Week 3.

If and when Michel is activated, expect him to get a fair shake at taking his job back. The Patriots have evenly split carries between their backs throughout the season. Things should stay that way at first, but if Michel or Harris proves to be the more effective option, they’ll be rewarded with more carries.

The passing game is also a wild card here. Harris has proven to be a capable pass protector, and based on his history at Alabama can contribute as a receiver. He could etch out a role in that phase of the offense, while Sony remains the primary downhill power back.

Keeping all that in mind, football is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ business. Results will dictate who gets the opportunity to be the lead back.

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 01: Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots rushes as Dean Marlowe #31 of the Buffalo Bills tries to tackle during a game at Bills Stadium on November 01, 2020 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 01: Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots rushes as Dean Marlowe #31 of the Buffalo Bills tries to tackle during a game at Bills Stadium on November 01, 2020 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

It depends how you define ‘big part.’ Will he be their leading receiver? No. Could he become a reliable secondary or tertiary option? I believe so.

Ford has size (6-foot-2), strong hands, and is a technically sound route runner. Those are all traits that usually lead to success in the Patriots offense. It’s what’s allowed Jakobi Meyers to shine, and Ford is cut from the same mold. He’s also excellent at high pointing jump balls, and could provide a red zone presence the team is missing.

Still, he has his limitations and will need to pick the offense up quickly. If N’Keal Harry is out for an extended period of time, he’ll have a chance to be a regular contributor. Even if and when Harry comes back, I still expect the team to find a niche for him.

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 30: Isaiah Ford #84 of the Miami Dolphins breaks a tackle by Chris Lammons #30 of the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 30, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

ATLANTA, GA – AUGUST 30: Isaiah Ford #84 of the Miami Dolphins breaks a tackle by Chris Lammons #30 of the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on August 30, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Sam Darnold is not expected to play, per a report from Rich Cimini. Joe Flacco will likely start for the Jets.

As for the second part of your question, yes they are. As I discussed with Adam Jones earlier this week, the Patriots second half of their schedule is much easier than their first. On top of that, there’s an extra playoff spot this year. In a relatively weak AFC, an 8-8 finish is still on the table for the Patriots, and such a record would likely sneak them in to the backdoor of the postseason.

Sam Darnold of the New York Jets attempts a pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Sam Darnold of the New York Jets attempts a pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

I do believe that the spring of 2021 has been on the top of Bill Belichick’s mind since Tom Brady left. This season seemed to be about being as competitive as possible without stretching themselves too thin, in order to be major players in the upcoming free agency.

As for what they’ll do at quarterback – assuming this season doesn’t end in total disaster, I could see Bill Belichick wanting to give it another go with Cam Newton supported by a fully-built roster and complete offseason of preparation, who things they didn’t have this year. If Newton continues to play like he did in Buffalo or above, it should be enough to earn him another chance.

Even if that happens, I’d expect the Patriots to draft a day-two quarterback to prepare behind him. A guy like Garoppolo could be enticing, but he’s going to want to go somewhere he can start, and if Newton is in New England he won’t have that opportunity.

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 01: Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown during a game against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium on November 01, 2020 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 01: Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown during a game against the Buffalo Bills at Bills Stadium on November 01, 2020 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

This is something I discussed this week with Matt Dolloff on the Patriots Preview Podcast. The Patriots aren’t going to have a shot at Trevor Lawrence, who is the only sure thing in this draft. If Belichick doesn’t like any of the other quarterbacks, he could move back and likely acquire multiple future first-round picks, as we’ve seen teams like the Titans, Browns, and Rams do in recent years.

Generally, the team trading for the basket of picks makes out better than the team giving up the farm. It would give Belichick more maneuverability for 2022, plus open up cap space for the 2021 season.

If the Patriots do take a quarterback early this year, there’s a handful of guys who feel like good and realistic options. That includes Kyle Trask (Florida) and Mac Jones (Alabama).

For more on the Patriots upcoming game and offseason, check out the Patriots Preview Podcast below:

Click here for 98.5 The Sports Hub’s complete coverage of the Patriots.

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.