3 Players Patriots Should Target to Get Back in the Playoff Race

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2021

3 Players Patriots Should Target to Get Back in the Playoff Race

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    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots' 1-3 start is far from ideal, but all is not lost yet. 

    The Patriots came up just short against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the spotlight, going down 19-17. But if there is such thing as a moral victory, then perhaps this was it as they were a missed field goal away from handling the defending Super Bowl champions. 

    The Patriots are one of only two 1-3 teams with a positive point differential (the Minnesota Vikings are the other) so there's still a chance for the team to turn things around and get back into the playoff hunt. 

    The time is now, though. The schedule sets up to get close to .500 over the next few weeks. Games against the Houston Texans and the New York Jets are sandwiched between a matchup with the Dallas Cowboys

    Of course, it wouldn't hurt to bring in some reinforcements. ESPN's Field Yates reported the Patriots are close to a deal that will bring Jamie Collins on to the roster for the third time. But there are still some other players the Pats could acquire through free agency or trade who could help them regain some momentum.

LB Jaylon Smith, Free Agent

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    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    The Patriots may want to pump the brakes on those Jamie Collins contract negotiations. After the report came out that the now-former Detroit Lions linebacker was working towards a reunion with Bill Belichick, the news hit that the Dallas Cowboys were releasing Jaylon Smith

    Smith's departure isn't a surprise. The fact that he was released is. The Cowboys will now have to pay the linebacker $7.2 million this season to not be on their roster and won't be given any compensation in return. 

    It also makes it much easier for any team to bring him in now that they don't have to worry about taking on his Cowboys contract or giving up anything. 

    That's good news for the Patriots, who obviously see the need to improve their linebacking corps. Smith was a Pro Bowler in 2019 and made 154 tackles last season. This year, he's the 11th-highest-graded linebacker by PFF, albeit in a reduced role. 

    Even with Collins coming in, the Patriots have use for an athletic linebacker who could compete for snaps with Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. 

OT Andre Dillard, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    If the Patriots are going to get into the playoff picture and get the most from Mac Jones in his rookie season, they are going to have to improve their depth along the offensive line. 

    Trent Brown has missed three consecutive games with a calf injury. Against the Buccaneers, only three offensive linemen played the whole game: Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews and Shaq Mason. 

    To make matters worse, the Patriots were forced to put Wynn and Michael Owenwu on the reserve/COVID-19 list. 

    While that doesn't necessarily mean they won't be able to go Sunday against the Texans, it is emblematic of the likelihood that the Patriots will continue to have to rely on their backup tackles. The combination of Justin Herron and Yasir Durant played right tackle against Tampa. 

    Neither looked spectacular as they lost a combined seven pass-blocking reps and gave up a sack, per Pro Football Focus

    Knowing they are going to have to turn to younger options at the tackle position throughout the season, Andre Dillard should be on their radar. 

    Dillard was a first-round pick in the 2019 draft. However, he doesn't appear to be a part of the long-term plan in Philadelphia as they gave starting left tackle Jordan Mailata a four-year, $64 million contract. 

    Dillard is still a relative unknown, but he's posted a strong grade with PFF in 134 snaps this season. That combined with his upside as a former first-round pick should pique the Pats' curiosity. 

RB Phillip Lindsay, Houston Texans

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    Bill Belichick is definitely familiar with Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio. The 69-year-old could call his former colleague to inquire about a running back they aren't getting much use out of right now. 

    The Texans were active in addressing the running back position this offseason, bringing veterans Mark Ingram II, Phillip Lindsay and former Patriot Rex Burkhead into the fold. The trio competed with David Johnson in the preseason, and now it appears the Texans are pretty set on Ingram as the primary back. 

    To date, Ingram has 54 carries while Lindsay has just 24. In the passing game, it's been David Johnson leading the way with 10 targets out of the backfield. Lindsay has just two. 

    With the former Bronco stuck between the two, the Texans might be willing to flip him for a late pick. 

    The Pats are going to be without James White for the rest of the season and thus have a need for a receiving running back. Damien Harris can carry the load between the tackles, but both backs were utilized before White's injury. 

    In each of Lindsay's first two seasons with the Broncos, he caught 35 passes while eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing. His versatility would be a welcome addition to a backfield that is short on proven talent. 

           

    All advanced statistics and snap counts via Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted. 

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