This week, we are joined by Taylor Kyles of the Pats Pulpit to preview this weekend's game.
LH: Mac Jones has gotten off to a slow start this season and I’ve seen a lot of fans complain about him. Do you think he’s still the long-term answer at QB or do you think the Patriots will go another direction sometime soon?
TK: Mac Jones actually played some of the best football of his career through the first two weeks of the season, but his supporting cast let him down in big moments. Week 3 against the Jets was rough, but Jones got a bit of a pass because the weather conditions were pretty dreadful. All that said, the third-year quarterback’s performance in Dallas may have been the worst of his football career. Jones was prone to some bone-headed mistakes last year due to poor protection and unqualified coaching, but I’d never seen him compound mistakes the way he did last week.
If he’s ever that careless with the football again, the organization will have no choice but to seriously consider benching him. But right now, he’s their best option by a wide margin, and it’s fair to assume that the Cowboys game was just a really bad day. Either way, I think the Patriots should have a close eye on this quarterback class to bring in someone who can push Jones as he enters what could be the final year of his deal.
LH: Rhamondre Stevenson was a beast last year, but he’s also been off to a slow start to the season. What do the Patriots have to do to get him more involved in the offense?
TK: Rhamondre Stevenson’s been pretty heavily involved, but he isn’t making people miss like he has in the past. Part of that is due to blocking, as the offensive line has been in constant flux due to injury, while the tight ends have been significant liabilities at times. New England’s inside-heavy run scheme is also fairly predictable, with minimal misdirection and RPO attempts nearly always resulting in handoffs.
Still, great backs find a way, and even as a receiver, we haven’t seen the elusiveness from Stevenson that made him the offense’s bell cow in the running and passing game last season. He’s acknowledged these struggles himself while stating he thinks the issue will work itself out. Hopefully, that comes to fruition because he’s such an exciting player at his best, but the flashes have been minimal to this point.
LH: The Patriots just traded for JC Jackson. He was a stud in your system before signing a massive deal with the Chargers where he never was quite the same. Do you think he’ll play this weekend? And do you think he’ll be able to get back to his old self in New England’s system?
TK: I’d expect him to play, given how badly the Patriots need depth at cornerback. Defensive Rookie of the Month Christian Gonzalez is out for the season with a torn labrum, Jonathan Jones has missed the past three games with an ankle injury, and both Jack and Marcus Jones are on injured reserve. This has led to slot corner Myles Bryant spending more time outside, where he’s performed admirably but hasn’t exactly thrived, depth corner Shaun Wade becoming a starter, and safety Jalen Mill becoming the team’s primary slot, where I actually think he’s a great fit.
I wouldn’t expect Jackson to regain All-Pro form immediately after his tumultuous stint in LA. Not only is he still dealing with a knee injury that ended his 2022 season, but the veteran’s discipline and technique seemed to regress significantly while he was away. Hopefully, he can shake the rust off quickly, but I remain cautiously optimistic.
LH: If you had to pick one player from the Patriots to be the team MVP through four weeks, who would it be and why?
TK: I think an argument could be made that Christian Gonzalez was the Patriots’ best player on either side of the ball before his injury. He was putting up impressive numbers despite playing the boundary against A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, shadowing Tyreek Hill for most of Week 2, and seeing a healthy dose of Garrett Wilson in New York. The rookie understandably wasn’t perfect, but the good far outweighed any bad.
Among the team’s healthy players, I’d go with Jabrill Peppers. The veteran safety is the healthiest he’s been in years, and it’s shown in his pursuit and typical hard-hitting brand of football. Peppers has struggled with missed tackles at times but typically recovers quickly enough to get back into the play.
LH: Both of these teams have an offense that isn’t so great. DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the over/under set at 40 points. Do you think the offenses can manage enough points to cash the over or do you see this game being a defensive battle and go under?
TK: I think expecting the offense to turn things around significantly at this point is wishful thinking. Until they prove they can reduce mistakes and capitalize on opportunities, this is a defensive-led team whose offense is an active liability. Hammer that under!
Thank you again Taylor for joining us on this week's Interview with the enemy. You can check out the rest of Taylor’s work here.