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New England Patriots News 8-19, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
5 years ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

New England Patriots News 8-19, AFC East NotesSteve Balestrieri -

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 8-19, & AFC East Notes.

The Patriots have to be pleased with much of what they saw on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. They got off to a much quicker start and seemed ready to play this week at the kickoff, something that was missing in the preseason opener.

The pass rush by the defensive linemen was certainly better as, with no game planning, the players were winning their one-on-one battles. And Tom Brady looked sharp and ready for the season after his first game action of 2018.

There was also plenty to work on as the backup corners did not have a strong game and wide receivers Eric Decker and Phillip Dorsett were total non-factors in the passing game.

Quick Hitters:  
Cordarrelle Patterson had a big night on Thursday, catching four passes for 51 yards and a touchdown where he just put a filthy move on an Eagles corner for a score off a bubble screen from Brian Hoyer. Patterson nearly had another 40 yards and another score when he juuuuuust stepped out of bounds while racing down the sideline on a pass from Tom Brady. He’s been a very exciting player to watch thus far and he hasn’t even returned a kick in a game yet. While he probably will not be a big part of the offense in 2018, I do believe he’ll be a productive one.

It never fails to amaze how some people use the same tired schtick year after year and continue to spew on Tom Brady and the Patriots. Every year, Max Kellerman dusts off his passe “cliff” speech and Rob Parker (how does he even have a job?) with his latest “sound the alarm” drivel. Parker, it should be recalled, after the 2011 Super Bowl said that Brady would never be in another one and keeps repeating it year after year. We always hear, “the league is in a down year”, I guess sports talk has been in a funk for several if you use these yahoos as a measuring stick.

Bret Bielema is on the Patriots staff this season as a consultant to the head coach. Bill Belichick was asked about his role and it seems he does a bit of everything. The former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach is primarily known as a defensive coach and Belichick told the media on Thursday night, “He’s dealt with a lot of different players, situations, and he’s primarily worked on defense as an assistant coach, so he’s given us some help there between the defensive ends and tackles.”

“He’s also been somebody that I’ve used and has helped me with some overall head-coaching-type responsibilities — planning and team management and things like that.” During minicamp we watched him help out with the special teams’ players and coordinator Joe Judge a bit as well. So it is safe to say, Belichick trusts him to help out wherever it is needed.

Keionta Davis was signed by the Patriots as a UDFA last spring after a bulging disc in his neck was discovered right before the NFL Draft. Davis, who had 31 sacks at Chattanooga, was never bothered by the issue and was unaware of it. So, instead of being drafted in the middle rounds he went undrafted. The team stashed him last season but now, healthy and raring to go, he’s quietly having a very good summer. Davis is a bigger edge guy (6’4, 280) who has been kicked inside as an interior rusher quite a bit this summer and has looked strong. Will he make the 53-man roster? Time will tell but the move to stash him away for a year seems like a smart one. He had a sack and a half and had about 5 QB hits on Thursday. That is pretty good work.

Tom Brady has been sporting a new different helmet the past week and the QB, unlike other experiments with different helmets, likes it. While he looks pretty different in it, the new helmet certainly didn’t adversely affect his performance on Thursday night. “I kind of like it, man,” Brady said. “I gotta get the mask right but I do like it. It’s very comfortable. Much better than my old one.”

“I think it’s a little heavier but I’d say if the old one was like a Chuck Taylor, this is like one of those Under Armour HOVRs,” Brady said, putting in a plug for a company he and his wife own a piece of. “So comfortable. Trying to make the switch, man. Get ahead.”

Pats Offense Revolves Around #12 Once Again:
What a difference a week makes. Last week, the Patriots offense looked moribund and slow with Brian Hoyer at the helm in the first half. They didn’t get anything going until just before the half and moved for a field goal. Against Washington’s backups, they ran the ball well and dominated. This week was a different story.

Tom Brady came out and started the game this week and the offense looked quite different. Brady processes things and gets the ball out much quicker than Hoyer, which isn’t necessarily a slam on him, he does it better than anybody. The result was a Patriots drive where he quickly moved them down the field and then, 41-years old and all and could sense the pressure in the pocket and expertly slid to his right, buying time and keeping his eyes downfield, found Chris Hogan for an easy touchdown.

One of the best parts of football season is having Brian Baldinger back doing his breakdowns of plays and for any team and any game, his analysis is absolutely top notch.

Ja’Whaun Bentley Continues to Impress In Preseason Action:
Bentley, the Patriots rookie LB from Purdue, has had a pretty impressive summer. He’s gotten plenty of reps in training camp and has been learning quickly, something Dont’a Hightower mentioned early in the sessions in July.

The big, (6’2, 260-pound) rookie linebacker was projected to be too slow to be a three-down player. The scouting reports said he was a two-down run stuffer, in the makeup of former Patriot Brandon Spikes.

Well, despite those perceived limitations of playing in space, he seems to be handling it very well thus far. After a strong showing against the Redskins, he got the start, with Hightower getting the night off against the Eagles. Nick Foles quickly recognized this and split running back Wendell Smallwood out wide on the first snap of the game and they tested the rookie deep. Bentley ran stride for stride with the smaller, faster Smallwood and the pass was incomplete.

Bentley had another strong game overall and is building momentum heading to the regular season. He’s also handled wearing the green dot communication device and calling the plays for the defense. This was something that wasn’t lost on the Patriots coaches including Bill Belichick who said, “He does a good job of handling the communication and some of the adjustments that have to be made from the center of the field,” which is important for the Mike linebacker. “… He’s been able to do that pretty well since he’s come here. He’s still got a lot to learn. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s handled those things well.”

Bentley was turning heads in the broadcast booth as well, former Patriots QB Scott Zolak was impressed with the rookie and remarked during the game that, “he doesn’t know that as a late-round draft pick, he’s not supposed to be doing these things.”

We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do in the 3rd preseason game next week in Carolina where it is considered the prep game for the regular season.

Depth for the Patriots Offensive Line Getting Thin With Wynn Injury:
The decision to double dip at offensive tackle this spring is looking like a very smart one now for the Patriots. Less than 24-hours after the drafted Isaiah Wynn, they brought in LT Trent Brown from the 49ers. It was originally thought that Brown would be the placeholder for Wynn to get acclimated to the NFL after a year or perhaps less.

But Brown has been very solid thru the spring and summer and after Marcus Cannon went down with an injury during camp, Wynn moved over to right tackle. On Thursday night during his second series, Wynn pulled up and it was announced he tore his Achilles, ending his season. The depth at tackle now is dwindling. So what’s up with the position now?

The decision to resign swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle must now be seen as a very positive one. He’s now the starting right tackle until the time when Cannon is ready to return. Waddle is at his best at RT and filled in there ably last season. But now who backs them up?

Matt Tobin and Ulrick John have both played pretty well in backup roles as LT and RT respectively. Cole Croston is still in the mix as he can fill in at both guard and tackle. Wynn’s injury has opened the door for one of these players to step into a roster spot and possibly get called upon to play during the season. John left Thursday’s game due to an unspecified injury so that too will need to be monitored. Getting Cannon back and healthy will be key, but we don’t know when that will be.

People are questioning Belichick’s recent draft decisions. (USA TODAY Images)

GM Bill Takes A Hit …For What? It didn’t take long for the legion of people who constantly criticize the GM Bill Belichick who in their opinion constantly undermines the coach Bill to jump all over the decision to draft Isaiah Wynn after the top draft pick this season tore his Achilles in a play on Thursday night.

The Patriots have had tough luck with their top picks lately, Wynn is done for the year, last year’s top picks Derek Rivers tore his ACL last summer against the Jaguars and OL Tony Garcia suffered blood clots in his lung which lost him for the season as well. Should we expect Nostradamus to predict injuries before they happen?

While the cesspool on Twitter was full of chuckleheads already lamenting the drafting of Wynn when they could’ve had Player A or B, exactly how is Belichick to blame for this injury, or for that matter Rivers ACL last year or Garcia’s blood clots, which is about as rare as they get?

Belichick certainly has taken risks and can be called out for taking risks on players with injury histories. Case in point, this year’s later first round pick Sony Michel, the very talented running back but who came with concerns during the draft process about his knee woes. Belichick has always taken risks with some of those types of players in the early rounds of the draft. Michel has already had fluid drained from the said knee. Ditto for Dominique Easley and farther back for Ras-I Dowling.

Those are definitely picks that can be debated on whether the risk justifies the reward. For Easley and Dowling the answer was a definite no. It is still way too early to put the bust label on Michel. Time will tell with him. Those players are entirely fair game to question the GM Bill on whether he should have ever drafted them.

But trying to put that on the selections of Wynn, Rivers, and Garcia, nope. That is using the events that unfolded as a Monday morning QB.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills McCarron and Williams Hurt in Preseason Win Over Cleveland:
The Buffalo Bills suffered a pair of potentially significant injuries in the win over the Browns on Friday night as QB A.J. McCarron and DL Kyle Williams both went down with injuries.

McCarron has a hairline fracture of his collarbone and will miss several weeks. Williams, the long-time outstanding cog in the middle of the Buffalo defensive line, hurt his knee but early indications so far reflect that his ACL is intact.

So both may return this season, a broken collarbone normally takes about two months to heal. But a hairline crack may take just a few weeks, so McCarron will probably stick on the roster. The team brought him in to compete with Nathan Peterman to be the placeholder until top draft pick Josh Allen is ready to assume the mantle of leadership for the team. McCarron’s absence is expected to take several weeks which now elevates Peterman to the starting status.

Williams left the Bills locker room following the game in a large leg brace and is expected to be re-evaluated further once the team arrives back in Buffalo. For the time being, he will likely be replaced by rookie defensive tackle Harrison Phillips or Adolphus Washington in the lineup.

Dolphins Sputter in Preseason Loss to Carolina:
The Miami Dolphins fell to 0-2 on the preseason as they dropped their Friday night game to the Carolina Panthers who the Patriots play next week. Our friend Antwan Staley, who is a beat writer for the Dolphins for USA Today, says while it isn’t panic time, the team has to get better.

On a night where the Dolphins defense was gashed for 226 yards on the ground, including a 71-yard touchdown by Christian McCaffrey and gave up big plays all night, the offense was sputtering, only getting field goals until a late garbage-time touchdown from Bryce Petty.

Staley wrote, “the good news is (Ryan) Tannehill completed 14 of his 17 passes as he threw for 100 yards. The bad news is he averaged 5.9 yards per passing attempt as the Dolphins first-team offense did not find the end zone for the second consecutive week.”

They were also 0-5 on third down in the first half where Tannehill and the starting unit played nearly the entire half. The Dolphins offense, like it was for much of 2017, threw a lot of short passes and was victimized by frequent penalties in the red zone. They completed only one pass for more than 15 yards.

Bowles Already Hearing He Should Start Darnold for the Jets:
The New York Jets invested heavily into the QB position this spring and have USC standout Sam Darnold, who they drafted in the first round with the #3 overall pick. The Jets coaching staff, notably head coach Todd Bowles has repeatedly said that they’re going to give the rookie time to develop and he’ll be patient.

Well, after two impressive performances, the pressure is already building for Bowles to put the rookie out there to show the world that Gang Green is back and has a true franchise QB. That would be a big mistake. You’re thinking about your future here and the last thing you want or need is to shake a young, talented quarterback’s confidence. They also have the talented Teddy Bridgewater, who is still just 25 but has a lot more experience.

Bridgewater gives the Jets a better chance to win now, and not to trade him away, as many are calling the team to do this summer. Darnold has the opportunity to be the franchise QB for a very long time. And to rush him into action before he’s completely ready is as wrong as rain. Especially considering the state of the Jets offensive line.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

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