It’s the start of a new week and with the final preseason game of 2018 just days away, here’s a look at this morning’s top stories.
Decker Calls it a Career – After a preseason that hasn’t quite gone to plan, it appears Eric Decker’s days in New England are over after the veteran receiver announced his retirement on Instagram on Sunday.
“It has been my childhood dream and my passion to play the game of football,” wrote Decker. “I was very fortunate and blessed to have had the opportunity to have those dreams fulfilled and to have played with such extremely talented and hard-working teammates, coaches and staff. This has been a passion inside of me since I was a little boy but I know now it is time to hang my helmet up and start a new chapter in my life.”
“I love football and always will. It will continue to be a part of my life. I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wife and kids. I want to give a special thank you to my family, friends and fans for all your support on this incredible journey. It’s been an amazing chapter in my life. I look forward to the future and the many adventures ahead!”
Decker has had a rough run since joining the team, enduring a fair number of drops and hasn’t quite been able to seemingly get comfortable in the offense. He hasn’t seen any real time with the first offense and has been targeted seven times, all by Brian Hoyer, with just two receptions for 12 yards. Four of those targets came on third down, with Decker catching just one pass for 1-yard and failing to move the chains.
His decision further thins out a receiving group that is already in tough shape heading into the regular season. With Julian Edleman set to be sidelined for the first four games, the team is currently left with Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett at the top of the depth chart, but from there it gets a little foggy. Cordarrelle Patterson appears poised to be third option, with Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios or Devin Lucien potentially being in the running for the final spot. Lucien is an interesting prospect as he’s had another good preseason, catching 4 passes, 3 of which have gone for first downs after totaling 71-yards and a team-best 17.8 yards per reception.
As for Decker, he finishes his NFL career with 439 receptions for 5816 yards and 53 touchdowns.
Patterson Leads All Receivers By a Wide Margin So Far in First Downs – After three preseason games, it was interesting to look at the totals after updating our stats database and looking at the receiving totals through three games, there was one number that stood out.
Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson currently leads all receivers in first downs by a wide margin, with Patterson totaling 7-first downs, more than double the next closest receiver in that category.
STATS UPDATE: Patriots Preseason Receiving Totals Through Week 3: pic.twitter.com/QDQjFE3JTv
— PatsFans.com (@PatsFans) August 27, 2018
The majority of receptions for Patterson have come with Brian Hoyer (9 receptions, 5 first downs and a touchdown), while Brady has connected with him twice, both of which were first downs.
The team so far has spent time moving him around and he’s done well when he’s been able to use his athleticism and move the chains and is currently second on the team behind Devin Lucien in yards per reception with 11.5.
He remains an interesting player to watch and so far he’s doing the right things. Whether that success can translate into the regular season remains to be seen but if it does, the team’s success offensively will definitely benefit from it.
Ninkovich Makes Plea For Natural Grass – During Sunday’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich expressed his frustrations on Twitter after seeing Bills quarterback Josh Allen suffer a head injury after his helmet struck the turf in Sunday’s game.
Rookie Josh Allen suffered a scare in the first half after he was slammed to the turf and his head bounced, with the quarterback lasting one more play before spotters alerted officials to take him out for evaluation.
Ninkovich was watching the game and later pointed out that with the league trying to focus on player safety while reducing head injuries, one big step that would make sense would be for them to strongly consider going back to natural grass.
— Rob Ninkovich (@ninko50) August 26, 2018
Our own Robert Alvarez pointed out an article from November 16, 2016 by Dave Brown of The Concord Monitor that looked at the Patriots’ own transition away from grass, which happened in 2006 after the team suffered an ugly loss to the Jets where the field was in bad shape, with players sliding around after the field was reduced to mostly mud.
That loss stung even more since it came against then Jets coach Eric Mangini, with Bill Belichick then reportedly asking Robert Kraft to swap out the field. Belichick reflected on the decision two years ago, which he felt at the time was necessary.
“If you have a competitive team, you want to give them a chance to play,” Belichick said in November of 2016, recalling the decision to change to FieldTurf. “You don’t want to go out there and slop around every week and play in a mud bowl. … Those are hard conditions for players to play on because it’s not consistent within the play, or it’s frozen on part of the field and it’s not frozen on the other part of the field. It’s tough to put the players in those situations. At that time, that’s what we thought. I talked to Robert about it. At that time, we felt like it was the best thing to do and we did it.”
But players like Ninkovich seem to disagree and Brady appeared to echo that sentiment when asked about it two years ago.
“We practice on grass every day,” Brady said at the time. “I think we as players go out there on grass practice fields every day, so you get used to the grass. Growing up, I played on all grass. I think it’s easier to land on the grass than landing on the (turf).”
Brady even went so far as to indirectly express some frustration about the fact that when the team has held major soccer events at the stadium, the turf is taken out and replaced with grass, which he appeared to feel didn’t seem quite right.
“All of those (international) soccer teams get all the grass when they come to this stadium,” Brady said, and then paused to make sure everyone had recognized the weight of his argument. “That’s a good point, right?”
One of the challenges that prompted the change was the fact that Jonathan Kraft cited the lack of sunlight reaching the field in the later months thanks to the high walls of the stadium made it tough for the field to properly recover after each game. According to the newspaper, the team had also installed a better drainage system and underground heating system, but it didn’t change the fact that mother nature couldn’t do the rest of the job.
Belichick did go on to point out two years ago that after seeing other teams in cold weather cities have success maintaining grass fields in recent years that it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the team could re-examine things at some point.
“Look, the reality of it is it’s just hard to grow grass,” Belichick said. “The technology’s changed in the last 10 years relative to grass growing. Not that I’m a big expert on that but that’s what’s been represented to me and I think that’s true. … I think there are more of those in this northern area and they all seem to be doing pretty well from our experience in the past two to three years on them. … Maybe there will be another point where we’ll make a different decision.”
Given the sentiments of former players like Ninkovich and current players who prefer a natural surface, coupled with the league trying to reduce head injuries, it will be interesting if we’ll see a shift back to natural grass league-wide at some point. Between head injuries and the number of ACL injuries, it’s becoming more obvious that shifting away from turf may be a point of emphasis at some point and clearly Ninkovich believes if it happened, it would certainly be a benefit for the players.
Posted Under: Daily Patriots Notebook