New England Patriots fans have questions and Patriots Football Now will do our best to provide the answers. This week, in the first installment of PFN’s Mid-Week Mailbag the topics include Marte Mapu’s playing time, the Patriots offensive line and the NFL Trade Deadline
Do you see Marte Mapu playing any sort of role the rest of the season?
– Noah Johnson Jr. (@NoahJohnsonJr2)
Noah, I do think there is a great opportunity for Mapu to earn more playing time. He played started and played 48% of the defensive snaps in Week 2 against Miami, but then dipped down to 11% the following week. He got more time vs. Dallas (50%) and New Orleans (40%) but did not get a single defensive snap against the Raiders. Mapu got in for 10 defensive snaps last weekend against Buffalo.
It may feel like he has actually played less than he has because he has not done much with his opportunities to date. He has played a total of 120 defensive snaps this season and only has seven tackles (four solo) to show for it. No turnovers, sacks, or QB pressures. So he certainly should get more chances but he needs to take advantage of his chances.
One factor working in his favor (as mentioned in the latest New England Patriots Report Card) is the defense’s struggles to cover opposing tight ends. Jake Ferguson (Cowboys), Dalton Kincaid (Bills) and Michael Mayer (Raiders) have all had big games against New England in recent weeks. If Marte Mapu can prove himself capable of covering tight ends, he will get on the field more consistently. Increased playing time could lead to increased confidence and increased production from the rookie.
In your opinion, what is working very well that we are not doing enough of? (eg. you mention throwing to Henry more. What else?)
– Jon Spack (@JonSpack)
Jon, glad somebody has heard the screams to get Hunter Henry the ball more. That is still one of the areas the New England Patriots don’t take care of nearly enough (even if the tight end is too much of a pro to say so himself). Henry had at least five targets in each of the first four games. He was very productive. He’s been targeted a total of eight times over the past three games.
Rex Ryan on Mac Jones’ throw to Hunter Henry on third down during the final drive (via @GetUpESPN)
“That’s the best throw I’ve seen him make.” pic.twitter.com/R3cYDP8K4y
— Sophie Weller (@sophieewellerr) October 23, 2023
But this is why football is the ultimate team sport. For Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki to be active in the passing game, they need help. Bill O’Brien needs to draw up the right plays. Mac Jones needs to make quick decisions and accurate throws. Offensive linemen need to be able to handle blockers without tight end assistance. And the Patriots wide receivers need to be more of a threat themselves.
Two ways I would like to see this happen occurred in the Buffalo game: Demario Douglas and more pre-snap motion. Douglas is capable of making things happen by himself. This opens up the field for everyone else in the process. Clearly he is going to make some rookie mistakes, and look lost at times. At this point, he has shown enough to deserve a chance to play through those mistakes. As for the pre-snap motion, the Patriots used it very well on the opening drive against Buffalo. It helped them dictate pace and prevent Bills defenders from gearing up for what they knew was coming. The more unpredictable the better. Patriots defenses have always been applauded for how they hide what they are doing; the offense needs to do a better job following suit. Fortunately, Bill O’Brien is very capable of doing so.
Did (Malik) Cunningham get a signing bonus when he was added to the 53-man roster? Since he’s waived, what is the status of the contract?
– Bill Vaughn (@BillVaughn1)
Bill, there wasn’t technically a signing bonus but Malik Cunningham made out pretty well financially. When he was signed to the 53-man roster, his salary went up to the NFL minimum for the time he was on the roster. However, none of the money from his three-year contract was guaranteed. So Cunningham did earn a true NFL salary (as opposed to a his practice squad salary) for the time he was on the roster. Once he was waived, that money went back down to $0. With him back on the practice squad, he will resort back to a practice squad weekly paycheck while he’s there.
And if you don’t already, highly recommend that all New England Patriots fans are following Patriots salary cap guru Miguel Benzan (@PatsCap) on Twitter/X to help understand all of these roster moves better.
Any moves expected at the trade deadline? Will the result of the Miami game dictate the direction the team takes?
– CJ Golson (@CJGolson)
CJ, at this point it is expect the unexpected with Bill Belichick. In the past 10 years he’s traded away Jamie Collins, Jimmy Garoppolo and Stephon Gilmore from contending teams. The New England Patriots players who could be moved at the NFL Trade Deadline have previously been discussed here. LB Josh Uche would seem to be the most likely candidate, though he also needs to show he is healthy before having much trade value. Kyle Dugger and Trent Brown (both unrestricted free agents in 2024) are both potential trade options as well. But Brown has been playing so well, losing him could significantly hurt the development of Mac Jones. Bill Belichick is unlikely to throw in the towel on the season regardless, so a return for Trent Brown in particular would need to be worth it for New England.
The outcome of the Miami game could certainly help persuade the Patriots to “take what they can get” for pieces that have value. In addition to the players mentioned, Kendrick Bourne and Ezekiel Elliott are guys that could be attractive to a contending team.
It is unlikely the Patriots make any big additions at the deadline even if they beat the Dolphins. This is not necessarily a roster or a year New England will be pushing “all in” on. If they trade for somebody it could be a depth piece with higher potential in a draft pick swap (similar to when they originally obtained Kyle Van Noy). Trading away a veteran just to open up playing time for others (DeVante Parker, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jalen Mills) is also in play, though the Patriots would need to give up draft capital to make that attractive to a trade partner.
Do you see the Patriots keeping the same Brown-Strange-Andrews-Sow-Onwenu line this weekend?
– Boston Sports Fan (@NEPFan_)
Boston Sports Fan, as long as those five remain healthy and playing like they did last weekend, it would be foolish to switch it up at all. The Buffalo Bills game was easily the best the offensive line has looked all season. The strong offensive line play made everything so much easier for the offense in that game. At least in the immediate future, if all five are healthy that has got to be the group. If it ain’t broke…
Thank you to everyone that submitted New England Patriots questions this week. This will be a recurring feature on Patriots Football Now. If there is a question people want answered, make sure to be following Dan Kelley and Patriots Football Now on Twitter/X.