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Can Patriots challenge with run first offense this year?


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Bill Belichick's coaching hallmark has always been game planning to identify an opponents' weakness and adjusting his offensive or defensive scheme week to week to exploit those weaknesses.  As offenses have transitioned to pass first philosophies across the league, defenses have begun to adapt by looking for defenders geared more towards stopping the pass.  LBs who have the mobility to cover in the flat seem to be overtaking the prototypical LBs of years past who were run stuffing thumpers.

 

I think Bill is going against the grain and is returning to smash mouth football and trying to build an offense that will take advantage of defenses built to stop the pass.  He doesn't have an elite QB on his roster and he knows he isn't going to win a shootout without Tom Brady under center.  I think he knows that low scoring games are going to give his team as its currently constituted the best chance to win. He wants to run the ball, chew clock, win time of possession, get turnovers on defense, and win games like they did 20 years ago.  He wants to win games 21-17.

 

The loss of Brady forced him to embrace this run first philosophy.  Last season the Patriots were second in the NFL in percentage of running plays at 51.28%.  That strategy can be successful, four of the top five teams in running percentage made the playoffs last year. 

 

1.  Baltimore  55.04%

2. New England  51.28%

3. Tennessee 50.28%

4. Cleveland 47.48%

5. New Orleans 46.95%

 

Bill always seems to have a great O-Line (one of the reasons Brady is still playing at age 64) and last year was no different.  According to PFF the Pats had the 4th ranked O-Line last year and Bill has tried to bolster the O-line even more heading into this season.  I linked below to a recent article about the Pats' 2021 O-line and the PFF O-line rankings from last year.  They will have Wynn and Andrews back for 2021 and they traded for Trent Brown who is a monster during the off season.  As it stands now, the starting O-line in New England is projected to be;

 

LT: Isaiah Wynn
LG: Michael Onwenu
Center:  David Andrews
RG: Shaq Mason
RT: Trent Brown

 

https://boston.cbslocal.com/2021/03/19/andrews-brown-onwenu-wynn-patriots-offensive-line-depth-karras-mason-nfl-free-agency-cam-newton-belichick/

https://www.pff.com/news/nfl-final-2020-offensive-line-rankings

 

The O-Line will also be augmented by frequent two TE sets that put more beef on the line and enable the running game.  I expect the majority of their offensive snaps come out of two TE sets this season with their free agent signings of Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.

 

The Pats used their 4th round pick to add RB Rhamondre Stevenson that Mike Reiss at ESPN described as "A big, physical back whose style sparks thoughts of LeGarrette Blount, the 5-foot-11, 227-pound Stevenson is an intimidating runner."   Stevenson will be joining James White their fantastic receiving back and Damien Harris who had an injury plagued but solid season, ending the season ranked 11th among RBs with an average of 69 yards a game.  There is talk that Stevenson will allow the Pats to move on from Sony Michel who has had trouble staying healthy.  They also have a young back in J.J. Taylor who was injured most of last season who will be back and add depth.  On the whole, it's not a very scary stable of RBs.   I think there is a widely held expectation that the Pats will add a veteran RB sometime this off season as teams cut RBs due to cap and roster concerns.  I was surprised Kerryon Johnson didn't end up in New England.  I'd be curious to know if they made a run at him.

 

Cam is a obviously a solid running QB and adds a real element to their run game.  Even if Cam gives way to Mac Jones at some point in the season, Jones is likely going to be given game plans like Bill gave the young Tom Brady, more of a game control passing strategy, making short high percentage passes just often enough to keep defenses honest and stop them from stacking the box.  It sounds like that type of offense would play to Jones' strength, whose two main attributes are said to be his accuracy and his ability to read a defense at the line of scrimmage and find the weak spot and put the ball there.

 

The two big questions are how successful can this run first strategy be across a 17 game season in today's NFL for New England?  Can they win enough games this way to challenge for the AFCE title and make a deep playoff run?  The other question as Bills' fans is, how will our defense stack up against this run first philosophy?   Run defense has been a weakness at times for McDermott and Frazier's defenses.  Bill knows the best way to beat QBs like Mahomes and Allen is to keep them sitting on the bench.  It will be interesting to see how Belichick's run first gambit plays out this year.

 

 

 

Edited by Inigo Montoya
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21 minutes ago, Inigo Montoya said:

Bill Belichick's coaching hallmark has always been game planning to identify an opponents' weakness and adjusting his offensive or defensive scheme week to week to exploit those weaknesses.  As offenses have transitioned to pass first philosophies across the league, defenses have begun to adapt by looking for defenders geared more towards stopping the pass.  LBs who have the mobility to cover in the flat seem to be overtaking the prototypical LBs of years past who were run stuffing thumpers.

 

I think Bill is going against the grain and is returning to smash mouth football and trying to build an offense that will take advantage of defenses built to stop the pass.  He doesn't have an elite QB on his roster and he knows he isn't going to win a shootout without Tom Brady under center.  I think he knows that low scoring games are going to give his team as its currently constituted the best chance to win. He wants to run the ball, chew clock, win time of possession, get turnovers on defense, and win games like they did 20 years ago.  He wants to win games 21-17.

 

The loss of Brady forced him to embrace this run first philosophy.  Last season the Patriots were second in the NFL in percentage of running plays at 51.28%.  That strategy can be successful, four of the top five teams in running percentage made the playoffs last year. The top five were;

 

1.  Baltimore  55.04%

2. New England  51.28%

3. Tennessee 50.28%

4. Cleveland 47.48%

5. New Orleans 46.95%

 

Bill always seems to have a great O-Line (one of the reasons Brady is still playing at age 64) and last year was no different.  According to PFF the Pats had the 4th ranked O-Line last year and Bill has tried to bolster the O-line even more heading into this season.  I linked below to a recent article about the Pats' 2021 O-line and the PFF O-line rankings from last year.  They will have Wynn and Andrews back for 2021 and they traded for Trent Brown who is a monster during the off season.  As it stands now, the starting O-line in New England is projected to be;

 

LT: Isaiah Wynn
LG: Michael Onwenu
😄 David Andrews
RG: Shaq Mason
RT: Trent Brown

 

https://boston.cbslocal.com/2021/03/19/andrews-brown-onwenu-wynn-patriots-offensive-line-depth-karras-mason-nfl-free-agency-cam-newton-belichick/

https://www.pff.com/news/nfl-final-2020-offensive-line-rankings

 

The Pats used their 4th round pick to add RB Rhamondre Stevenson that Mike Reiss at ESPN described as "A big, physical back whose style sparks thoughts of LeGarrette Blount, the 5-foot-11, 227-pound Stevenson is an intimidating runner."   Stevenson will be joining James White their fantastic receiving back and Damien Harris who had an injury plagued but solid season, ending the season ranked 11th among RBs with an average of 69 yards a game.  There is talk that Stevenson will allow the Pats to move on from Sony Michel who has had trouble staying healthy.  They also have a young back in J.J. Taylor who was injured most of last season who will be back and add depth.  On the whole, it's not a very scary stable of RBs.   I think there is a widely held expectation that the Pats will add a veteran RB sometime this off season as teams cut RBs due to cap and roster concerns.  I was surprised Kerryon Johnson didn't end up in New England.  I'd be curious to know if they made a run at him.

 

Cam is a obviously a solid running QB and adds a real element to their run game.  Even if Cam gives way to Mac Jones at some point in the season, Jones is likely going to be given game plans like Bill gave the young Tom Brady, more of a game control passing strategy, making short high percentage passes just often enough to keep defenses honest and stop them from stacking the box.  It sounds like that type of offense would play to Jones' strength, whose two main attributes are said to be his accuracy and his ability to read a defense at the line of scrimmage and find the weak spot and put the ball there.

 

The two big questions are how successful can this run first strategy be across a 17 game season in today's NFL for New England?  Can they win enough games this way to challenge for the AFCE title and make a deep playoff run?  The other question as Bills' fans is, how will our defense stack up against this run first philosophy?   Running defense has been a weakness at times for McDermott and Frazier's defenses.  Bill knows the best way to beat QBs like Mahomes and Allen is to keep them sitting on the bench.  It will be interesting to see how Belichick's run first gambit plays out this year.

 

 

I could easily see Belichick adopt a more read option look considering what Cam can and can't do.

 

I also remember a certain play-action pass where we completely blew the coverage that Cam dropped right in the bucket and his receiver flat-out dropped it. So he can still hit those when they are there.

 

I am more curious if his defense moves to do less man and blitz and rather more 2-3 deep zones teams used to bottle and confuse Allen for most of the second half of the year.

 

It has got to stick in his craw that he has owned this division for 20 years, the Bills win it once and all he hears is "the torch has been passed".

 

There was a element of desperation in some of his spending this offseason. It was refreshing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One point I’ll call out- playoff teams often have higher percentage of run plays because once you have a solid lead you end up bleeding clock. A team playing from behind most weeks will air it out more than planned on the opposite end. 

 

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2 minutes ago, NoSaint said:

One point I’ll call out- playoff teams often have higher percentage of run plays because once you have a solid lead you end up bleeding clock. A team playing from behind most weeks will air it out more than planned on the opposite end. 

 

 

Definitely a fair point NoSaint.

 

I think that looking at the top five from last season, Baltimore, New England, Tennessee, and Cleveland really were run first offenses and weren't just salting away games with the lead in hand.  Admittedly I don't watch a lot of NFC football to know how the Saints offense looked week to week.

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  • Inigo Montoya changed the title to Can Patriots challenge with run first offense this year?

You can make the playoffs but can't win the Super Bowl with a run first or smashmouth offense.  It's a relic of a dead era, the rules advantage passing offenses, and if that cheating ***** wants to go 9 and 7 for the rest of eternity he's on the right track, ***** him, ***** his cheating ass, ***** the pats, the end, god bless.

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Likely will be able to challenge about the same as last season I would guess. Unless their rookie QB at some point plays well enough to be the starter. Even then they will still be a run 1st team. IMO I see them about in the .500 range record wise.

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20 minutes ago, Inigo Montoya said:

 

Definitely a fair point NoSaint.

 

I think that looking at the top five from last season, Baltimore, New England, Tennessee, and Cleveland really were run first offenses and weren't just salting away games with the lead in hand.  Admittedly I don't watch a lot of NFC football to know how the Saints offense looked week to week.

 

Agree.

 

Cleveland stayed committed to running throughout the season.

 

Tennessee you know your going to get a steady dose of Henry.

 

And Baltimore is a predominantly read option run team.

 

Running the ball effectively still works to milk the clock, keep a good defense fresh, and keep opposing offenses off the field...

 

The rules have progressively made passing easier, but a commitment to running is not just about milking a lead at the end. 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, NoSaint said:

One point I’ll call out- playoff teams often have higher percentage of run plays because once you have a solid lead you end up bleeding clock. A team playing from behind most weeks will air it out more than planned on the opposite end. 

 

Where can I buy a bleeding Clock ?

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I don’t think the Pats are that good. Still shaky at WR, no proven QB makes them one dimensional. The Bills can also play smash mouth, and open it up and play spread. Our defense will be improved & our size gains should be more than enough to stop them. 

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Challenge for the final wild card spot? Sure. They went 7-9 with a siginifanctly weaker roster in 2020, not at all inconceivable that they add a couple of wins playing a third placed schedule, against easier out of conference opposition than 2020. Challenge to make a Superbowl run? Nah. They are still not good enough.

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Inigo, I don’t know if it’s a matter that he wants to run first, or he has tools/players suited for this style.  He knows he doesn’t have a Josh Allen, but he also knows he has players who can run so he’s going with what’s been dealt to him.  Conversely, we know we have a strength in the pass and players to make it work with weak TE’s so shocker we ran more 11 and 10 personnel than anyone else in the league.  We also didn’t have the players for a base defense so we ran more nickel defenses (I think 91%) than anyone else in the league.

 

we’ll still beat them this year.  Good post though and well thought out as always my six fingered friend.

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There is really only one formula that has ever worked to win a super bowl when a team doesn't have a premier QB; 

 

And that was to have a game manager who didn't turn the ball over-could distribute the ball to playmakers -has that or at least some of that 'clutchiness'/'poise' to complete a couple 3rd and longish when necessary(5-15yards) in the second half/when teams load the box. 

 

And to protect said QB the team had to have a dominant OLine which in turn led to a generally clean pocket and a solid if not punishing running game.(The Pats current OLine looks like who'd you'd gather up if you needed to create a human battering ram). 

 

And said team of course also had to have a dominant defense/special teams, already have a solid core with Gilmore, Guy, Winovich, Hightower, Jackson, Jones,McCourty, Duggar Then they went and added Van Noy, Judon, Mills, Godchaux, plus they have or added a couple guys who are solid/improving or are just good depth. 

 

They will have a top 5-10 defense especially with Billy being all pissed off.  (Oh and nabbed one of the best DT's in Barmore and got a good one in Perkins too, and I liked McGrone coming out this year too, dont much about Bledsoe)

 

And said team also generally had a very good coaching staff from top to bottom, which of course the Pats have had since Billy first arrived as he has always known the importance of getting the best of the best at every coaching position(most underrated imo was Dante Scarnecchia(thankfully retired, unfort they did bring back Patricia who will always be a better coordinator than head coach)).

 

They have pretty much all the elements and really their offense is setup very nicely for any QB but in particular Cam and anybody coming out of college.   For Cam they can use designed runs and rpo's and of course play action and with their personnel alone they can allow their QBs to have better options throwing in the middle of the field.(The last 2 being positive for any QB obviously but also more so for rookies or game managers). 

With Mac Jones they lose the running ability but they gain the ability to attack the entire field through the air and in time I believe a better understanding of the defense and how to use the offense to manipulate each defense.

 

In my opinion its gonna be a hotly contested AFC east especially if Tua starts to play in any way how many people thought he could coming out the Fins have a solid team too.  And I think the Jets finally have a coaching staff now they'll have to find out if they have their QB.

 

 

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Bottom line, for all of our AFC East opponents, it will come down to QB play. Having Josh Allen, I like our chances. Regardless of the excuses they make for Cam, the pattern of deterioration in his game has been ongoing for 3 years or so now. I don't know if Mac Jones can put them back over the top, but I believe he can be a game manager for them as was Cassell. Is that enough? We'll have to wait and see. 

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Rule changes have made it easier (and better) to pass.   So offenses are built around quarterbacks and defenses are built to stop the pass.   There are more DBs and fewer LBs on the field than ever before.   And defenders aren't run-stuffers any more.   Lineman have to be able to crash the QB and LBs have to be able to cover.  Today's defensive players have different bodies and skill sets compared to the defenders who played when I was a kid.

 

Which makes me wonder if the OP has a point.   Could a run-first team, built right, succeed against defenses constructed to stop the pass?

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Mr. Inigo Montoya, your theory is solid and they will be better, maybe 9-10 wins if all goes well; but they still have holes--mainly their Defense. I don't think they'll challenge for the Division.

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