Patriots Mailbag: Would win over Dolphins change trade deadline approach?

Patriots Mailbag: Would win over Dolphins change trade deadline approach? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots will look to earn their second consecutive upset win over an AFC East rival this Sunday.

After stunning the Buffalo Bills at home, Bill Belichick’s group will head to Miami for a pivotal Week 8 showdown with the division-leading Dolphins. A victory would give the Patriots a 3-5 record and plenty to think about ahead of Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline.

Before we turn the page to Sunday’s matchup, let’s get to your mailbag questions…

Here’s what I would say, TBGM. I understand wanting to play Mike Onwenu at guard. No. 1, that’s the position he’s most accustomed to. (And I think his comments this week are indicative of which position he prefers.) No. 2, while he’s obviously capable at tackle, playing him at guard gave the Patriots a better chance of getting high-end performance out of him. And No. 3, it really is critical for the interior of the offensive line to be solid in front of a pocket passer.

Mac Jones isn’t going to be escaping to the edges consistently any time soon. But if he has space in front of him, and pressure leaks off the edge, then he can step up and keep a play alive.

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Additionally, the Patriots threw several options at the right-tackle wall and hoped one would stick. They were going to let Riley Reiff, Calvin Anderson, and even Vederian Lowe get a shot before it became obvious (or necessary, in Reiff’s case) that they shouldn’t.

But now that Onwenu has landed outside, and now that it looks like Sidy Sow is capable at right guard, they should do everything they can to keep some consistency up front. That means keeping Onwenu at tackle.

That would surprise me. Still. They currently have a four percent chance of making the postseason, according to Sumer Sports. If they were to give up a real draft pick for a player, that would be doing future teams a disservice. In my opinion.

But I acknowledge it could be a difficult call. Coming off of back-to-back division wins over playoff-caliber teams, in the scenario you describe, you could make the argument that another piece or two could get them sniffing the postseason.

Even then, would Bill Belichick be willing to give up a second or third-round pick for a player who would move the needle? Hard for me to envision.

I think it’s possible they lose and then sell. Or try to sell, at least. But it sounds like their most tradable assets aren’t worth all that much, if you listen to the general managers we spoke to this week.

Josh Uche seems to be the player who’d have the most value in a swap. If there’s a third-round pick out there for him, and the team is 2-6? That’s a move the Patriots should be willing to make. It just may not be out there for them.

I don’t believe they’ll be adding more resources to the running back position. They have two versatile players there. I agree, neither is a James White type. But they have what they have there. It’d be surprising if they spent real assets adding yet another player to that mix when they already have two guys who are healthy and would probably like to get a few more touches.

I think the fact that La’el Collins hasn’t landed with a team yet is telling, ZO. It’s hard to come back from a torn ACL, though players seem to be doing so more and more quickly every year.

He tore his in December of last year. The Patriots have done their due diligence on him. Looks like they’re — at least at the moment — reluctant to dive into the Collins sweepstakes head-first until they feel better about what he can do for them physically.

I don’t think the scheming would be all that difficult for him to learn. It would just be a matter of getting dialed in with his new teammates and coaches so that, if he was with the team, he’d see things the same way they do.

Great question, Tony. We hit on something similar in last week’s Bag. But here’s what I would say: It’d be hard for me to pass on a quarterback I believed was a franchise player — and there might only be two or three — if I was in position to draft him.

I would not reach on a player at that spot just because of the value of the position, simultaneously bypassing a legitimate receiver or tackle talent. That kind of move can be catastrophic for a franchise. And it’s why, if I’m the Patriots, I’m not bailing on Mac Jones before the draft. There’s a good chance the best path for them, if they can’t get one of the best quarterbacks, is to get someone who can complement what he brings to the table.

This will be fascinating. My guess is that Kayshon Boutte and JuJu Smith-Schuster are healthy scratches.

Here’s my reasoning: Demario “Pop” Douglas (primarily a slot receiver) and Kendrick Bourne should be locks to be key parts of the game plan in Miami; Jalen Reagor was recently brought up to the 53-man roster to play outside, and I’d anticipate he and DeVante Parker continue to share time along the boundary as they did a week ago; Tyquan Thornton only played three snaps against the Bills, but he brings speed to the table that no one else on the roster does.

Boutte, who has been a healthy scratch already this season, remains worthy of a roster spot as a developmental option. But it wouldn’t be difficult for the team to make him a scratch again.

Smith-Schuster, meanwhile, could be coming back off a concussion suffered two weeks ago. But he hasn’t done enough with his opportunities, in my opinion, to get snaps over Douglas in the slot or over Bourne as the versatile “Z.” Maybe the team would rather have Smith-Schuster as a versatile sub in uniform instead of Reagor. But perhaps an extended rest for Smith-Schuster’s surgically repaired knee would do him good down the stretch.

I would, Jason, but will they want to be extended by the Patriots? Takes two to tango, as they say. Trent Brown, in particular, is having a great season and could be the top tackle on the market. That means competition. That means… expensive. We’ll see if it plays out that way, but if the Patriots don’t get anything done with Brown (or Onwenu) mid-season, they’ll have to contend with 31 other teams in the spring.

Heady player, Dan, who reacts quickly to certain looks based on film study. Plenty of reasons they like Myles Bryant so much and he plays as much as he does.

Still don’t think they view him as a long-term tackle, Chris. And they just drafted three interior linemen. My working hypothesis is that Onwenu won’t be back. But that could always change depending on his performance, his market, and how the Patriots view the younger options coming up behind him.

Creative thinking, Mike! Just don’t see the Titans being willing to do that after giving Mike Vrabel all the power he’s been given in recent years. They aren’t thriving at the moment, obviously, but they view him there as the long-term option.

I understand those concerns, TGM. But at the same time, I think it’s so organizationally unhealthy to intentionally lose games, that I’m not sure you can actively fight against a mediocre finish. If they’re so bad that they deserve to be near the top of the draft, then you get your wish. If they’re not, and they end up in the middle, there are still ways to rebuild in that scenario.

You may have to make hard decisions. You may have to get very aggressive to get your guy in the draft if there’s a target you desperately covet — as the Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes back in 2017. But it’s not impossible.

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