Breaking Down 3 Surprise Formations the Patriots Could Use for the Playoffs

One year ago this past week. The New England Patriots had just lost on the Miami Miracle play when Kenyan Drake took a lateral from DeVante Parker and ran past a plethora of Patriots defenders as time expired for the game-winning touchdown. The 70-yard touchdown, which featured a completion and two laterals surely, had to be the low point of the 2018 season … until a week later, when the Patriots lost 17-10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their offense looked weak and not nearly good enough to make another Super Bowl run.

Then, something changed.

That change ended up being the switch to a run-based offense in which Sony Michel ran behind the interior of the offensive line all the way to the Super Bowl. New England identified their best offensive weapons (their interior line) and quite literally ran with it. It may sound strange to refer to a center and two guards as their best offensive weapons, but last year, that was the case, and that is no disrespect to anyone else on the offense.

Shaq Mason may have been the best guard in football last year. Joe Thuney was not far behind him, and during the playoff run, David Andrews could have made a push for All-Pro center. Not to mention, fullback James Develin could easily qualify as the best blocking fullback in the league. Stick a running back in there with great vision such as Sony Michel, and it was a recipe for success. This year, however, New England has lost two of four of those weapons in Andrews and Develin. The other two, Mason and Thuney, haven’t looked the same. If the Patriots want to make a run this year, they will need to get creative. Here is how they can do it.

3 RB, 1 WR, 1 TE

One current problem with the offense is how predictable it has become. If Michel is in the game, it’s a run. If White is in the game, it’s a pass. It really has been that simple for the most part. Rex Burkhead has been the one back who has been able to show value in both aspects. The solution? Put all three on the field. Brady in the shotgun, a back to each side, and one in the slot. Tight end on the strong side and Edelman out wide. This opens up a plethora of different run schemes.

In this case of White in the slot, Burkhead and Michel will be on the sides of Brady. This opens up the option for not only man run schemes, but screens as well, something New England has always had a knack for. With White acting as a receiver, putting him in the slot could be something New England could work with. Being a running back in New England requires more blocking than most teams, so if there is any team than can use two running backs as blockers during any given play, it’s the Patriots.

The run game will open up with the option of giving the ball to Michel or Burkhead on either side, or even a possible sweep play with James White. Having Edelman also in the game as a sweep option is also intriguing. While the running game will open up, the passing game is where it really gets intriguing. With Michel being your best runner, all types of possibilities come with hard play action. A Burkhead screen on the other side, a White slot screen, or maybe a one-on-one matchup for Edelman. The tight end adds an extra blocker regardless of what play may be called. A three running back formation is something that is rarely seen in the NFL. Maybe this is something Josh McDaniels has up his sleeve for a possible AFC Divisional Round playoff game. 

2 RB, 3 WR 

This formation is simple when it comes down to it. Scrap the tight end. Get your five best playmakers on the field and roll with it. Matt Lacosse seems to provide no value at the tight end position in regards to an offensive spark, so just bench him altogether. From this formation, you’re most likely looking at Michel/Burkhead, White, Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry and Julian Edelman. Those are your five best play-makers. Whether you are putting a back on each side of Brady or putting a running back out wide, this formation will open up the currently-narrowed-down New England playbook. 

Since coming to New England, Sanu has been asked to be the No. 2 option behind Edelman and in front of all the other disappointing receivers. In this scenario, you may have to go back to where he was most comfortable in Atlanta: as a No. 4 receiver who can move around and play all over the field. With Edelman being the main focus since his arrival, Sanu was forced to play wherever the Patriots needed him, not where he could succeed. This would open up the field and putting Harry as the No. 2 could open up Sanu both in the slot, or out wide if you have Edelman or White to fill the slot. 

4 RBs, 1 WR

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Brandon Bolden. Now, this is really a stretch, but it does make for an interesting formation. Besides Edelman, the running backs have been your best weapons. Continue to implement them here with a two in the backfield, one in the slot, one on the outside formation. Obviously, this won’t be a formation used consistently, but it may be interesting to see what defenses throw out there when it is used. Maybe on a struggling drive, the Patriots can put this formation out and confuse the defense for 30 yards. At this point, anything is possible.

The Patriots need to figure something out, whether it is from surprise formations or just getting back into the rhythm of things. If the Patriots want to have another run at a Super Bowl, something needs to change within the offense.

Check us out on our socials:   
Twitter: @PTSTNews and @TalkPrimeTime
Facebook Page: Prime Time Sports Talk
Join our Facebook Group: Prime Time Sports Talk 
Instagram: @primetimesportstalk

Share this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *