LeGarrette Blount is back this week, and will probably see a lot of work. Dion Lewis will still be involved as the passing-game back, I'm assuming, correct?
Hill: Yes! The Patriots have a running back on the field pretty much 100% of the time, and divvy up their running back snaps by opponent. Teams with great defensive lines will see more of the Patriots receiving backs (Lewis or, if his red zone fumble at the Steelers earned him the Jonas Gray treatment, James White). The Bills certainly count as a great defensive line, and the addition of Rex Ryan just makes it even more of a strength. Based on prior games, and assuming that the game isn't a blow out in either direction, look for the receiving back to see between 60-70% of the offensive snaps.
We know that Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman dominate the Patriots' passing attack. Who else should we be cognizant of, aside from Scott Chandler?
Hill: Well, we covered the running backs, so you should take note of them. Blount had some success against the Bills in the 2013 season finale, while Lewis picked up 120 yards from scrimmage in his first game in two season. Danny Amendola is the team's #3 wide receiver so he's really the only other player to be concerned about. He picked up 104 yards against the Bills in the season opener of 2013, but tore his groin early on; Julian Edelman took over in that role while Amendola recovered, and Edelman hasn't looked back. Amendola also picked up 63 yards against Rex Ryan's defense in Week 16 last season, so he has some prior success.
How much of a concern are the two rookies starting on the interior in a matchup with, arguably, the best defensive line in the NFL, and against a complicated rush scheme like Rex Ryan's?
Hill: Well they kind of played three rookies in the interior, so that doesn't help much at all. While Josh Kline received the start at left guard, the Patriots rotated in rookie Shaq Mason at left guard, and flipped Kline to right guard to give rookie Tre Jackson a breather. Rookie David Andrews played the entire game at center. If that sort of rotation happens against the Bills, I'm expecting Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams to feast- and for the linebackers to pick up a sack or two.
Surprisingly, the rookies didn't fare too poorly against the Steelers. Tom Brady gets the ball out faster than almost every quarterback in the league, which helps to negate the pass rush. Rex Ryan does a good job of disguising the pre-snap looks, but expect Brady to get rid of the ball quickly to help out the rookies.
Malcolm Butler drew Antonio Brown in Week 1, and while he gave up a few plays, he also seemed (at least to me) to play fairly well. Is the expectation that he'll shadow Sammy Watkins this week?
Hill: Yes, the thought is that Butler will cover Watkins on an island. Of course, that probably means that the Patriots are going to play zone against Tyrod Taylor to try and lure him into making a mistake down the field. Butler did pretty well against Brown on all but two snaps, and those went for roughly 70 yards, so he paid big for the miscues.
I'm personally more concerned about the match-up against Robert Woods, who averaged 5.5 catches, 60 yards, and a touchdown in his two games against the Patriots in 2014. He'll likely match up against Bradley Fletcher, who allowed the most yardage for a cornerback in Pro Football Focus' history while he was with the Eagles last season.
How, so far, has the Patriots' coaching staff gone about adjusting their defense to compensate for the loss of stalwarts like Vince Wilfork and Darrelle Revis?
Hill: Starting with Revis, the Patriots pretty much threw Butler into his old role. It definitely wasn't the same level of success, but Butler shadowed Brown and he didn't really stop the Patriots from using a mix of Cover One and Cover Two. I do think that removing Revis means that the Patriots won't be in man coverage the entire season; with Revis, using anything other than shadow coverage is a waste of his talent.
Wilfork was on his last legs in 2014 and it seems like the Patriots are moving away from his type of role entirely. While some will point to first round pick Malcom Brown as his heir, he has an entirely different function. Wilfork could eat up two or three blockers at a time to free up the linebackers. The current defensive line is now expected to attack a little more, which allows the linebackers some more versatility in whether they attack the line, or drop into coverage.