Off Day Mailbag: How will Patriots defend Lamar Jackson?

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Welcome to another Off Day Mailbag where Andy Hart and Ryan Hannable answer questions leftover from their weekly podcast.

Look for @OffDayPod seeking questions for the podcast and mailbag. Tweet your questions to that account and then look for them to appear in the podcast, mailbag, or even both. 

Let’s get right to it.

Should NE take a page out of the LA chargers playoff match up game plan vs Lamar? 7 DB's? (@YouKnowWatiSaid)

No. One of the things that makes dealing with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens difficult, is that they also have a solid traditional power running game with Mark Ingram. If the Patriots were to go with extra defensive backs to deal with Jackson, I think it would end poorly just as it did when New England ran it down the Chargers’ throat last January. There is a balance between having enough big bodies on the field to deal with a regular running game and having enough speedy athletes to deal with Jackson as a playmaker with both his arm and his legs. Then you also have questions about New England being able to run its preferred man coverages this week, which can open up more running room for a quarterback like Jackson. Those are the game planning challenges that Bill Belichick, Jerod Mayo, Steve Belichick and the rest of the coaches must face this Sunday night. It will be interesting to see what they come up with, but I don’t think seven DBs is the answer.

-- Andy Hart

What’s up with Bentley this season? I thought he might have a break out year but he has seemed invisible. Is it just the sheer amount of people on defense. Or is he still recovering from the injuries. He doesn’t seem as fast. (@TuckerRossCon)

There is no question that even with all the success on defense, Ja’Whaun Bentley has been a bit of a minor disappointment this season. Actually, he’s probably a disappointment because of all the success on defense. Jamie Collins’ return, joining forces with Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, has likely cut into what could have been Bentley’s playing time. The second-year linebacker is playing only about a third of the snaps (34-percent), while Collins (79.5 percent), (73.8 percent) and Hightower (56 percent) are on the field more often. While speed was a perceived issue for Bentley coming out of Purdue, he missed his rookie season with a biceps injury, so that certainly shouldn’t have slowed him down at all. Right now I think it’s mostly about being buried behind an impressive group of more experienced, versatile, talented veterans. That said, I still think Bentley has a bright future in the NFL, although he may never be the kind of versatile playmaking linebacker that he’s sitting behind on the depth chart these days in New England’s impressive Boogeymen defense.

-- Andy Hart

Will Brady last the season with the protection he has NOT been getting? (@SteveSzydlik)

Yes, Brady will last the season. The 42-year-old is one of the toughest quarterbacks in the history of the game, as the only games he’s missed in his 20-year career were when he tore his ACL in 2008 and then when he was suspended four games for Deflategate. It is worth pointing out he’s on the injury report with a right shoulder injury he appeared to suffer in the second quarterback against the Browns, and Cody Kessler is back so the team has three quarterbacks again. This likely is so Jarrett Stidham doesn’t have to run the scout team and first-team offense in practice. The line should get better in a few weeks with the return of Isaiah Wynn, but the point is valid — Brady has not been protected well this year, and Dante Scarnecchia acknowledged it as much on Monday.

— Ryan Hannable

What are you expecting from Harry now he has been activated to the roster? (@wladd73)

Honestly, not much. There are a lot of factors probably working against N’Keal Harry these days. Certainly missing the first half of the season, including both practice time and game reps, is a lot to make up in a Patriots offense that can be difficult to get acclimated to for anyone, especially a rookie. I also have to be honest, I didn’t love much of what I saw from Harry for most of the summer. He seemed to battle little bumps and nicks throughout many practices. He showed pretty slow feet in and out of his breaks. He had too many drops. I think his head was spinning a bit learning the offense in August and actually think mentally it may have been a good thing to kind of sit back on IR and reset things. But, now he needs to prove he is healthy and can stay healthy. He must prove he can get open and catch the football in an NFL game. He must prove he knows his routes and responsibilities at a high enough level to satisfy not only the coaches but Tom Brady, who can be famously tough to please. That’s a lot to expect from a young target who’ll also be battling for reps with Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers. I do think there are two factors on his side. First, as a first-round pick the team has every reason to expect him to contribute and invest in making that happen. Second, with Josh Gordon gone Harry is really the only true outside, physical target on the depth chart. Harry has a lot to prove, much time to make up and relatively little time to make it happen. It’s quite a challenge and a wish him luck.

-- Andy Hart

What is the best way to attack the ravens defense? Will it be using White, bolden, and Burkhead as pass catchers vs their LBs? (@KavanSingh72)

That will be on option, and the offense can look to last week’s long screen pass to James White for some confidence, but also look for Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu to be heavy focuses in the passing game. Their strength — short, quick passes — is what the Patriots offense will likely be for the remainder of the season. It’s hard to have too much confidence in the running game not only overall, but this week especially, considering Baltimore is allowing the third-fewest yards in the league. Like every week so far, expect Tom Brady to lean heavily on Edelman and White, who have combined for 41 percent of the Patriots’ receiving yards so far this season.

— Ryan Hannable