Patriots Mailbag: What’s Phillip Dorsett’s Upside, Role In Offense?

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The New England Patriots have played the Houston Texans roughly 25 bazillion times over the past six seasons, so you probably don’t need to read much more about Bill O’Brien’s squad.

So let’s just get straight into this week’s mailbag instead.

Will the NE D feast this week?
— @Scott2345
At Vince Wilfork’s pregame tailgate party? I’m not sure if Bill Belichick will let them.

In all seriousness, they certainly should, right?

The Houston Texans are 31st in the NFL with 234.5 yards per game, and they’re 29th with just 10 points per game. The Patriots, meanwhile, are allowing 483 yards and 31 points per game. So, something has to give in this game.

This should be the week New Englanders regain faith in their defense. If they can shut down the Texans, then that’s another step in proving they’re not atrocious. Allowing just 20 points to the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 was the first step after putting Patriots fans in a panic by letting up 42 points to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1.

The Texans’ defense is considered one of the NFL’s best, so the Patriots’ offense also can prove smoking the Saints’ garbage defense wasn’t a fluke.

This game will be a good test for both sides of the ball.

#maildoug Did Bill O’Brien used to work for the Patriots or something?I keep hearing rumors.Also,that name Vrabel sounds familiar; how come?
— @MrQuindazzi
I tweeted this earlier in the week, but oh man, am I tired of writing about the Texans and all their connections with the Patriots. I know I shouldn’t complain about my job, because it’s just watching and writing about football, but the Patriots and Texans have played each other way too much in recent memory.

I covered games between the two teams in the 2012 playoffs, 2013 regular season, 2015 regular season, 2016 regular season, 2016 playoffs, 2017 preseason and now the 2017 regular season.

I just can’t listen to anymore Tom Brady-Bill O’Brien stories or whether Bill Belichick always knew that Mike Vrabel would become a coach one day.

Sorry, guys. I just had to get that off my chest.

@DougKyed What is Dorsett’s ceiling in the pats offense? And what’s up with Cooks’ targets being so low?
— @jakescearbo
It’s higher now than I thought it was when the Patriots first acquired him. I’ve been really impressed with Dorsett through two games. He seems to be progressing quickly. His role will decrease with Danny Amendola likely on his way back from multiple injuries, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dorsett still play a role, spelling Amendola and adding some more speed to the offense. And he’s one more injury away from being the team’s No. 3 receiver again.

It helps that Dorsett is around next season, too. Depending on how Dorsett looks before Malcolm Mitchell returns, there could be some competition for the Patriots’ No. 3 receiver role next summer.

And are Cooks’ targets low? He’s third on the team with 11 targets. I don’t think there’s a more overblown storyline right now than, “WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH BRANDIN COOKS?”

He had an 88-yard game and a 37-yard game. He’s on pace for 1,000 yards. Let’s chill.

Do you think the Texans D will give the Pats fits, like in the playoffs last year? Thanks, #maildoug
— @StephenMWarren
I think they’re a tough matchup, but I think everyone’s giving them a little bit too much credit.

I don’t expect the Patriots to have a ton of trouble moving the football. The fact that one Texans starting cornerback is out and another is banged up should help the Patriots considerably. This is the same unit that allowed the Jaguars’ offense to score 22 points in Week 1, right?

Will Wise’s emergence as an good DE (IF it continues) allow Hightower to go back to LB, and so strengthen that unit?
— @carlmarcuslewin
It’s definitely possible. I think the Patriots’ best defensive front on early downs is Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Dont’a Hightower, Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy. Perhaps Adam Butler or Deatrich Wise could replace Roberts or Van Noy at some point this season, moving Hightower to linebacker. But I think they’re better as pass rushers than run defenders at this point.

The Patriots’ best defensive front on passing downs is Flowers, Hightower, Butler, Wise and Van Noy. I can’t see that changing much unless Hightower moves to linebacker and Cassius Marsh rushes the passer.

Bill has been quick to bench underperforming players this season. How many more terrible performances till Solder gets benched?
— @ChefdDds89
A lot. I can’t see Cameron Fleming or LaAdrian Waddle replacing him as a starter this season.

I think the better question is who’s the Patriots’ starting left tackle next season? There are a few options since Solder is a free agent after the season. It could be Solder or third-round pick Antonio Garcia. A longer shot would be Cole Croston or Andrew Jelks, who’s currently on the non-football injury list. The Patriots liked Jelks enough for him to take up a spot on their 90-man roster all summer.

How do you see BB utilizing his deepest 5 DT rotation in awhile when Valentine is healthy & Branch is back in shape? Possible trade?
— @PrylesAP
It seems someone will have to be inactive unless there are seven major injuries on the roster. There’s no real use in keeping four 300-pound defensive tackles on your 46-man active roster when Butler could potentially fill in that base-interior spot in a bind.

Right now, the best bets to be inactive would be Branch or Valentine. It seems Valentine will be inactive due to injury this week.

What’s the bigger need? DE depth or WR depth? Or is it elsewhere? #maildoug
— @PatrickS1591
Who’s going to be this year’s 6th round trade, ala Hicks, Ayers, Van Noy?
— @koomakipo
Well, the Patriots addressed both needs during cutdowns by acquiring Marsh and Dorsett. I think they wouldn’t mind having a linebacker/safety hybrid like how they used Jordan Richards in Week 1.

I have no idea who would be available. He’s probably not up for grabs, but Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson is only playing about 50 percent of snaps behind Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis on the Carolina Panthers. What would it take to get the 2015 first-round pick?

Do you think weather will play a role in the matchup between the Texans vs Patriots
— @bobburgundy
It’s going to be hot and humid, so maybe.

I have an unsubstantiated theory that practicing in hot and humid weather during training camp is actually not great for football players. It stems from the fact that New England has mild summers compared to southern teams, and the lack of torturous conditions never really seems to hurt them during the season.

I dunno, though. I’m not a meteorologist.

Let’s go rapid fire.

In your expert opinion, does Butler get dealt, to whom and for what? #MailDoug
— @TheDTSB
It’s looking that way. I’d guess for a third-round pick.

#maildoug hey Doug.Boss is a Browns fan, our CEO is a Bills fan. Any chance you can say that they are losers so I can show them?
— @wilroache
Are you trying to get fired, Wil?

@DougKyed if the roster is 53 why can only 45 be active on gameday? is it money? be safer for players if all 53 were active
— @davesavard32
It’s actually 46, and I believe it’s to keep an even playing field if one team has a bunch of injuries.

@DougKyed Okay silly one now, what’s your NFL all-name team for 2017? #MailDoug
— @StephenPorier
Oh jeez. That’s a lot of work.

All I know is Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is my safety.

what’s your favorite game show? past or present. #maildoug
— @JeffWIIM
Probably “Jeopardy” because I’m really smart.

Maybe one of the old Nickelodeon game shows like “Guts” or “Figure It Out.”

Do you have a literal bag that u print off the questions and pull them out one at a time or it it more a metaphorical bag?
— @DrMocarl
No, that would be a waste of paper and really weird behavior by me.

Maybe if we start doing video mailbags again. Maybe I’ll do a special Christmas edition.

How many WRs wil the Pats suit up this week and who?
— @jpp_008
I think all four will play.

I’ll bite again. If David Harris can’t get on the field with Hightower out, then what exactly is he here for?
— @PatskriegDotCom
Good question.

If you had to dress up as a famous Doug for Halloween who would it be – Doug Flutie, Doug MacRay or Doug Funnie? #maildoug
— @garylanglais
Funnie.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images

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