Well, there goes the perfect season.
The Patriots suffered their first loss of the season to the Jaguars last Sunday, but to be honest it isn’t a big deal. The Patriots routinely take all of September and some of October to adjust their scheme and personnel to best fit. As with every year, there are defections and additions and it takes time for those to be ready. I mean would anyone say that loss was worse than either loss to the Chiefs from past years? No. Not close.
Moving on to Sunday night the Patriots get a chance to get back to their winning ways when they face old friend Matt Patricia’s Lions. After struggling with their offense that shouldn’t be an issue in Detroit with Patricia’s crew surrendering 78 points in their first two games to the Jets and 49ers. Although there is no potential Jalen Ramsey versus Rob Gronkowski matchup there are some things to watch for in regards to the Patriots.
1.) Josh Gordon: Active or Inactive?
I won’t keep you waiting because I am sure everyone’s first question is: will Josh Gordon suit up? And if he does, how much will he play? The guess here is he is active but has only a handful of plays. Gordon appeared on the injury report in his first practice with the Patriots, showing up as limited with the hamstring injury that reportedly occurred during a photo shoot in his final days in Cleveland.
The positive is that the offensive coordinator in Cleveland, Todd Haley, runs the same offense as the Patriots do (Erhardt-Perkins system) which is heavy on terminology and option routes, giving Gordon a tiny leg up on others in the past, but still giving him a lot to learn. Nonetheless, Brady and McDaniels have to be happy they finally have an outside threat that could at least threaten the defense and could command a double team. If Gordon simply lines up, there is a threat to the defense they could not ignore the same way they could if it was one of the many other receivers they have brought in during their long list of transactions.
2.) Will Eric Rowe still be the second corner?
Between Rowe’s performance in last year’s Super Bowl and his performance against Keelan Cole, I think most Patriot fans probably don’t want to see him on the field any time soon, but he isn’t that bad and although he didn’t play his best game he also didn’t play poorly. The real question is why Gilmore was covering Moncrief, who is the Jaguars second receiver and is a better matchup for Rowe.
Nonetheless, I am curious to see if Belichick and Flores opt for a different starting corner and if we could see J.C. Jackson active for the first time, or if Jason McCourty gets the nod. Personally, I think Rowe should be the starter and as we know from past year Belichick has a quick hook for corners at times so either way whoever suits up and mans the second perimeter corner spot will have to be on his game.
3.) Patriots offense back on track?
Last week the Patriots struggled to move the ball against an extremely fast, athletic, and strong defensive unit. This week the Lions are on the other end of the spectrum as the Lions are tied for the most points allowed per game at 39 with the Buffalo Bills. Furthering that thought, the Lions could be without their stud corner Darius Slay who missed practice on Wednesday with a concussion, as well as having defensive end Ezekiel Ansahbanged up with a shoulder problem.
This should be a week Brady and McDaniels can really build some more confidence with Dorsett, Hollister, Michel and potentially Gordon against a weak Detroit defense that hasn’t found its footing under Matt Patricia. Dorsett has clearly earned Brady’s trust and it appears Hollister has with his work over the past year. Hollister is a wild card for this offense and he could eventually break out in a big way as a move tight end, something this offense hasn’t had for a while.
4.) Who is Patriots lead back?
Now that Sony Michel is back in the fold, what is the pecking order for the Patriots at running back? Obviously, it may differ from game plan to game plan and based on the situation, but will we see Burkhead at receiver some? That is something that was thrown around this offseason and Burkhead didn’t really have much of a role in Jacksonville. White is cemented as the third-down back along with some other plays due to his ability to seemingly turn nothing into something, but who will do what?
A likely possibility is they ride the hot hand between Burkhead and Michel for between the tackles runners, something they have employed in the past. It is a solid solution considering it works twofold with them both staying fresh and keeping them involved in the game. Either way, this game may offer a glimpse of that strategy. No matter what the solution is and what they get from Josh Gordon, Burkhead, Michel, and White are vital to this passing game’s success and especially in the upcoming game as the Lions struggles have been emphatic in one area that Patriot fans are familiar with: the ability to cover backs out of the backfield.
-David Albiani is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @david_albiani