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New England Patriots News 9-30, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
September 30, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

New England Patriots News 9-30, AFC East Notes(PHOTO: Greg M Cooper - USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 8 minutes

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 9-30, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here and our players to watch for today’s game can also be found here:  

Dont’a Hightower said this week, that the defense has spent extra time in the meeting rooms trying to improve communication and to be sure that t “all 11 guys can be on the same page” when they hit the field today against Miami.

“We put it upon ourselves to kind of split up and spend more time on it — and it kind of went on a little longer than we wanted to — but it’s really just trying to get everything down pat. When everybody knows exactly what everybody else is doing, we’re able to play faster,” Hightower added. We’ll see today how effective that was.

Shea McClellan has filed for injury protection with the NFL over his concussion issues which forced him out of the league. That move prompted the league to guarantee half of what McClellan salary would have been, which lowers the Pats salary cap down by over $1 million. That would leave the team with just $1.7 million dollars in salary cap space.

For those clamoring for a LaVeon Bell trade? Not that the Steelers would trade him to New England anyway, but he isn’t signing for a million bucks.

If Tom Brady was doing a demo for “Dancing With the Stars” on Friday, he may have some more work to do. Brady was imitating James White’s TD dance move and both he and White laughed about it and said he has a long way to go.

Patriots Hoping Gordon and Edelman Can Revive Passing Game:

Although we’ve seen the stats, we don’t really need to as the eye test will tell the same thing. The Patriots passing game has been terrible so far this season. The wide receivers have underperformed and struggled and it has put far too much pressure on Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to get things done.

The hope is that the additions of Josh Gordon, possibly today and Julian Edelman on Thursday against the Colts will reinvigorate and energize the passing game, especially with the wide receivers. Edelman would give Brady that built-in safety valve, chains moving piece of the puzzle that can pick up those key first downs. Gordon gives them, if healthy, the big-bodied WR that has game-breaking potential for big plays and can stretch the field, opening up some room underneath for Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson.

The latter three are the more complementary type of receivers and not the #1 go-to guys and would benefit greatly by the addition of both Edelman and Gordon.

But today, whether Gordon makes his much-anticipated debut or not, the wide receivers need to step up and play a lot better period. Miami has very good corners and they’ll be playing a lot of press man coverage. They need to start winning the 1-on-1 matchups and getting open.

The coaches can help by ditching the conservative play calling and putting the ball back in Brady’s hands and allowing him to be more proactive in the offense rather than reactive and throwing in obvious situations.

Injuries Have Hit Epidemic Proportions For the Pats:

In the aftermath of the ugly loss in Detroit was the added bad news that both Rex Burkhead and rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley were being placed on IR. After just three weeks of the NFL season, the Patriots roster has already been decimated by injuries this summer.

Of course, there are some revisionist history types that want to take Belichick to task for trading Brandin Cooks this spring. To a degree, there is some definite room for argument there that the Patriots should have kept Cooks given how thin the WR core is on the team right now. We won’t even mention the tin foil hat types who claim that Belichick is sabotaging Brady in the final years of his career to … make Brady (and himself?) look bad.

“Bill is definitely trying to sabotage Brady, it is all so clear,”

But we digress. Cooks was gone after 2018 and the Patriots could have gotten a 3rd round compensatory pick for him. He was set to make $8 million which they could have afforded at the time.  Or they make the deal then and get a first-round draft pick for him (#23) which they did, and which was higher than what they paid for him (#32). But the Patriots weren’t going to pay Cooks anything close to what the Rams did and he went there and promptly got paid.

So, in retrospect, the Patriots surely could have kept Brandin Cooks this season and the passing numbers of the offense would have no doubt looked better than they are. And remember, they needed a Left Tackle because Nate Solder left to go to the Giants.

But, let’s look at the Patriots offense this year when training camp started and who’s there now, starting with the wide receivers.

WR Malcolm Mitchell – Injury, released
WR Kenny Britt – Injury, released
WR Jordan Matthews – Injury released
WR Julian Edelman – Suspended first four weeks of the season

How different would the offense have looked at those four players stayed healthy/clean? When added to Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson, they wouldn’t have looked so thin right? But hindsight is 20/20. Honestly, I had no issue with the Cooks trade, it made sense then, considering the loss at left tackle. But I wish they’d spent the money on Danny Amendola that they are paying a certain blocking tight end who is invisible in the passing game and who isn’t blocking anyone exceptionally well right now. 

The 2018 NFL Draft? The Patriots selections have been snake bit by the injury bug

Round 1 – LT Isaiah Wynn, Tackle – IR
Round 1 – RB Sony Michel – Injury, missed a month and is just rounding into shape.
Round 2 – CB Duke Dawson – IR
Round 5 – LB Ja’Whaun Bentley – IR
Round 6 – LB Christian Sam – IR
Round 6 – WR Braxton Berrios – IR
Round 7 – QB Danny Etling – Practice Squad
Round 7 – CB Keion Crossen – has missed time with hamstring, back injuries

Compound this with losing to two of the running backs to injury and IR that they were really counting on in Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead, and the time missed by TE Jacob Hollister who is supposed to take some heat off of Rob Gronkowski. Yes, the offense and the team as a whole has been snakebit.  We were actually pretty confident with those players, and adding in Michel, Burkhead, White, and Hill from the backfield that the offense was going to be fine. But injuries ravaged the offense this summer and to quote Belichick, it is what it is.

Of course, it is easy to be critical of Belichick after the fact. But a show of hands, who saw all of these players would have their injuries, thus far? Anyone?

Who You Have This Week, NFL Week 2 Predictions:

Last week: 8-8 Season 26-20-2 Bye Week: Washington, Caroline

Thursday night’s pick Rams over the Vikings 1-0

New York Jets at Jacksonville:  Jaguars
Miami at New England: Patriots
Philadelphia at Tennessee: Eagles
Houston at Indy: Texans
Buffalo at Green Bay: Packers
Detroit at Dallas: Cowboys
Tampa Bay at Chicago: Bears
Cincinnati at Atlanta: Falcons
Seattle at Arizona: Seattle
Cleveland at Oakland: Raiders
New Orleans at New York Giants: Saints
SF at LA Chargers:  Chargers
Baltimore at Pittsburgh: Steelers
KC at Denver: Chiefs

Early Thursday Night Prediction: New England over Indy

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Look For Second Straight Big Win Over NFC North:

The Buffalo Bills shocked the Minnesota Vikings last week and cruised to an easy 27-6 win. No one gave them a chance to win and they totally out-physically dominated a  Vikings team that prides itself on that.

Things don’t get much easier this week, The Bills move on to Lambeau Field and play the Green Bay Packers and again, most of the national pundits are picking Green Bay who has scuffled along at 1-1-1.

Good news for Buffalo is that Aaron Rodgers continues to be limited in his mobility from his knee injury and that will put a lid on how much he can scramble on the busted, sandlot plays that the Pack typically feast on. Jerry Hughes who had a pair of sacks, two QB hits, and a forced fumble last week will be looked to for another big game.

Josh Allen will need a big game this week, although Green Bay’s defense is far from a shutdown unit, they are opportunistic and Rodgers is usually top notch at home. Green Bay is favored by 12.5 today.

Amendola Has Been the Same Guy for the Dolphins:

The Miami Dolphins signed WR Danny Amendola this offseason for his toughness, clutch ability, and his veteran leadership. And so far this season, they’re getting all three. Amendola has the most receptions for Miami with 11 and it has been much like New England, with the bulk of his catches coming in the dangerous places over the middle where the chains continue to move and keep the offense on the field.

Amendola has plenty of close friends in the opposing locker room at Foxboro today. He was not only one of Brady’s closest friends on the team, but a very valuable trusted presence by his teammates as well.

Amendola has hardly ever been a quote machine, he totally bought into the Belichickian way of speaking and saying very little, preferring to letting his play do his talking for him. And despite what Jalen Ramsey thinks, Amendola has continued to produce without Tom Brady and will be looked to this afternoon to give Miami a big spark. No one on the Miami sideline knows the Patriots defense as well as he does. He practiced against them for years.  

Don’t be surprised if Ryan Tannehill tries to get Amendola going early and often in the matchup this afternoon. And while Amendola will never say it, either before or after the game, he, I’m sure would love to have a big, big game against his former teammates. But more than anything, he wants to come away with a win. That is the kind of thing he learned here that is most important.

Darnold Going Thru Growing Pains With the Jets:

The New York Jets Sam  Darnold burst onto the scene in Week 1 in the Jets thrashing of the Lions on national television. Since then, however, Darnold has for much of the time resembled the rookie that he is. Saddled with a leaky offensive line, which we pointed out here quite a few times, and very conservative play-calling, it is no wonder his learning curve has flattened out a bit.

This is normal for many young QBs and the Jets Offensive Coordinator Jeremy Bates is trying to simplify things for Darnold which will make it easier to for him to call the plays and play within himself as he learns the pro game.

This is the risk with playing a QB so young (Darnold is just 21) right out of the chute in the NFL. His confidence can be shaken especially with a seasoned and solid veteran in Josh McCown on the roster. Today, Darnold will be facing the Jaguars defense and he’ll have his work cut out for him.

And Bates should be worried more about Jacksonville than New England but he pointed out that failed headsets in every game this season has hurt the offense. And despite the league being in charge of the headsets, Bates had to take a dig at New England.

“It happened in all three games,” Bates said. “There’s sometimes interference, radio interference. It’s amazing. I don’t know how to do it, but I guess you can FaceTime people in China, but our headsets go out.”

I’m not throwing anyone under the bus, but the button stopped working,” Bates said. “We’ve tried to correct it, and understand that that can happen at any time, especially in New England.” Oh yes, he did…he went there.

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

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

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Patriots Restore Order, Crush Dolphins

About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at, as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Tags: 2018 NFL Season 2018 Patriots season Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Dont'a Hightower James White Julian Edelman Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady Trey Flowers

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