New England Patriots: Notes & headlines as Week 1 arrives

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots talks to Mac Jones #10 (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots talks to Mac Jones #10 (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots will begin their 2021 regular season this Sunday at Gillette Stadium versus the Miami Dolphins.

With so many headlines leading up to the game, it will be interesting to see how they all translate onto the field. With a huge roster shakeup and a change at quarterback, the Patriots will have a new look compared to last season. Here are some game notes worth taking a look at prior to the game on Sunday:

Mac Jones and the New England Patriots offense versus the Miami Dolphins blitz 

During the preseason, Mac Jones faced just one ‘zero-blitz.’ A more simple term for this is an all-out blitz with no high safety protecting any down-field passes. However, this will change Sunday, as the Dolphins had the second highest blitz percentage in the league last season, and will be sure to send some pressure Jones way in this one.

The Dolphins blitzed on just over 40 percent of their plays over the course of last season, which ranked them just under the Detroit Lions, who led the way at 44 percent. Jones generally didn’t face much pressure in the preseason action, and had a lot of time to throw the ball. With Jones set to see more blitzes in this one, it remains to be seen how he will handle the added pressure from Miami.

New England Patriots improved front seven

The Patriots made a number of moves over the offseason to improve their roster. One of the biggest areas addressed was to the front seven on defense. Heading into Week 1, the Patriots will have almost a completely new set of faces at these positions from last season.

Most notably, Dont’a Hightower, who missed last year as a sit-out due to COVID, will be returning to the heart of New England’s defense. Other players such as Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, and Christian Barmore will tremendously improve this area of the defense as well. With the uncertainty surrounding Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, maybe a greatly improved pass-rush is all the Patriots will need in order to stop him.

Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith

When asked if he would give insight on what roles he would fit under in the Patriots’ offense, new tight end Jonnu Smith declined to answer.

During his time with the Tennessee Titans, he was lined up in a number of different roles and positions. He even lined up as a running back from time to time. Despite his versatility, it remains to be seen how Bill Belichick will utilize him come game time. It will be very interesting what his final stat line looks like.

Patriots coverage plans vs Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins took the explosive and dynamic wide receiver, Jaylen Waddle, with the 6th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He has done nothing but impress the team throughout training camp and preseason.

He will be joined by veterans DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson. The Dolphins will however be without WR Will Fuller as he serves his 1 game suspension to start the season.

This trio of receivers brings the question of who the New England Patriots will match them with.  Will J.C. Jackson follow a guy like Waddle throughout the game, or will they opt to use guys like Jonathan Jones and/or a safety over the top to try and match his game-breaking speed? Only time will tell, but there’s certainly a lot of intrigue heading into Sunday’s Week 1 matchup.