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Hannable: 2 Patriots offensive players who need to step up in second half so team can make run at Super Bowl

Ryan Hannable
November 07, 2017 - 11:53 am

Although the Patriots are 6-2 at the midway point and tied for first place in the AFC, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

The offense is ranked first in yards per game (411.1), but seventh in points per game, averaging 27 points a contest. A major reason for this drop off is the struggles in the red zone, as the Patriots are scoring touchdowns on 50 percent of their red zone trips, which is tied for 19th in the league.

This brings us to one of two offensive players who the Patriots need to step up in the second half -- Dwayne Allen.

In his first eight games as a Patriot, Allen has zero catches on six targets. Not only has he not made an impact in the passing game, his blocking game has been suspect at times. His playing time has also decreased of late. In the last three games, he’s played 20, 20 and six offensive snaps respectively.

Speaking on a conference call Monday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels praised Allen and seemed to indicate he believes he has the potential to make an impact in the second half of the season.

“Dwayne continues to work hard,” he said. “Again, there’s a lot of ways to be productive. It’s not just statistically in terms of catches or rushing yardage or what have you. There’s a lot of things that happen during the course of plays that allow others to have success. Dwayne’s certainly embraced his role and continues to work hard and give us everything he has in all the different areas that we ask him to do it in. Those things will come over time, I’m sure. 

“Again, we have a lot of guys that are out there on every play, and there’s only one guy that’s going to get it on each snap. Like I said, he’s doing a good job in terms of embracing his role and factors into the running game, pass protection, does some other things to help others get the ball and move the football offensively. He’s been unselfish since he’s been here, he’s got a good attitude and we’re glad Dwayne’s here.”

So, why do the Patriots need Allen to be more productive? Simply put, Rob Gronkowski cannot do everything at the tight end position. 

Gronkowski’s comments following the game before the bye against the Chargers seemed to indicate he was tired on some plays, as he played 100 percent of the snaps. If Allen can get better in the blocking game, he can give Gronkowski a few plays off like the team has done in the past to ensure they are getting the most out of him each week.

Also, having two productive tight ends in the red zone is a great thing and something the Patriots have been seeking for a few years now. With all the attention devoted to Gronkowski, Allen has a good opportunity to be open. He just needs to get the trust to be on the field for these situations.

Allen showed he can be a contributor in Indianapolis, so the talent is there, he just needs to put it all together in New England.

The other player is receiver Phillip Dorsett. 

After being traded to the Patriots for Jacoby Brissett the week before the season, the former first-round pick has played in all eight games, but has just four receptions on eight targets for 85 yards. His last catch came in Week 4 against the Panthers.

Dorsett is most known for his speed, but hasn’t been able to connect with Brady on some deep plays, including two leading to interceptions.

With Chris Hogan dealing with a shoulder injury and possibly not playing against the Broncos this Sunday night, the Patriots offense needs Dorsett to get more involved. If Hogan doesn’t play, the team will have just Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and Dorsett as healthy receivers, while Matthew Slater could also be used in an emergency.

Speaking on a conference call Tuesday, Bill Belichick acknowledged Dorsett is getting better each week.

“Phil's gotten better every week,” he said. “We've expanded his role and scope, things that he's learning and areas that he's responsible for every week. He's a smart kid. He works hard. He's making progress.”

If Hogan is forced to miss more than a game, that makes Dorsett even more important. 

Even with what the numbers say, the Patriots offense hasn’t been close to as efficient as it has been in the past and in order to re-gain the form we’ve seen in the past deep playoff runs, the unit needs Allen and Dorsett to be better and it starts this Sunday in Denver.

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