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New England Patriots News 9-15, AFC East Notes

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

New England Patriots News 9-15, AFC East NotesGreg M. Cooper - USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 09-15 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, and a return to football… hopefully, this afternoon. This past week has been a ridiculously, needless testament to what the news has become in this country. The Antonio Brown saga has been in full-blown TMZ mode all week to where the Patriots opening season big win over the Steelers and the upcoming game at Miami were swept aside like unnecessary backdrops. 

“Should Belichick Release Him?”, “When did the Patriots know?” “Why Didn’t the Patriots Know?” “What Number/Helmet/cleats is AB wearing?” Non-stop since Tuesday.

You know it has gotten ridiculous when CNN fixes a GPS map finder to someone’s car so that he can find Gillette Stadium and then attempt to harangue Bill Belichick with the same question three times like they would third rate politicians as if that is really going to make him answer. 

*Hint for today* – When the team releases a statement stating they are aware of an investigation and will not comment further until there is a resolution…and you ask once, you are doing your job. Ask the same thing twice and you’re getting into rude territory. Push it a third time by talking over the coach saying “you didn’t answer it”, then you’re just a jerk who is making this about yourself…but they have a penchant for that. 

The only thing missing was for Harvey Levin to have one of his dweebs outside the stadium with a video camera. “We got Belichick coming out at 2 a.m. after meetings and film study. ‘So Bill, do you really like football?’” 

So, for a few hours, we can watch the game(s) and not have to be subjected to the same “All Antonio, All the Time” drivel non-stop. Unless Brown does play and has a big game…

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Malcolm Mitchell – opened up to NBC in an interview on how difficult it is to move on to life after football. His career ended prematurely due to numerous injuries and it was derailed just as it should have been taking off. 

“I guess I knew I would have this breakup with football, someday. I just didn’t know how bad it would be on my mental health. It’s like I’ve been reincarnated, as somebody else. And I don’t want to be anybody else,” Mitchell said. 

“I have to move on,” he added. “I know that. I have to come out of this grieving phase, and I’m working on that. I can’t stay here, because if I do, I’m as good as dead.”

Patriots Baby Boom  – Last week Kyle Van Noy was inactive for the Steelers game due to his wife going into labor and then welcoming his son into the world. On Friday it was reported that James White wouldn’t travel as his wife was giving birth as well. But on Saturday it was reported that he indeed did travel to Miami. However, it seems like there may have been a slight boom during the post-regular season time frame. Perhaps, it was across the region as well. 

Rob Gronkowski – The big man remains in the news as he’s been doing interviews and promoting his new business [CBD Oil] which he claims has healed him. Gronk told an interviewer this week, that despite nine surgeries, he had at least 20 concussions of which five were “total blackouts”. He did add that although not yet a father, he would allow his son to play football as long as he was made aware of the risks involved.

Obi Melifonwu – After being let go with the addition of Antonio Brown, the big safety from Grafton cleared waivers and the Patriots brought him back onto the practice squad. And the team did him a big solid. While the bottom line for pay for practice squad players is $8000 a week, the Patriots frequently pay more and in Melifonwu’s case, much more. The team brought him back at his regular salary of $645,000 or in this case $37,941 a week. When people talk about “how cheap” the Patriots are…remind them of this little tidbit. Melifonwu may still fit in the team’s long-term plans with Pat Chung and Devin McCourty possibly retiring soon. 

Week 1 Overreaction? Say it ain’t so – After the Patriots dismantled the Steelers on opening night, optimism was running very high in New England, and why not? Despite some uneven play at times, they dominated from start to finish, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. First, it is one game, and we all remember the horrific opener against the Chiefs a few years ago, right? And second, despite the optimism emanating from Western PA, the Patriots have owned the Steelers in Foxboro. 

That said, the defense played as advertised and the offense despite going 0-3 in the red zone looked much better than advertised. It is a good, no, very good start. But remember, today is another day and let’s wait to see how they play in Miami, where they traditionally lay an egg. FWIW, I still believe Pittsburgh wins their division.

The Patriots Passing Game Now a Position of Strength? You Bet:

The strong showing by Tom Brady and company on Sunday night, plus the addition of the aforementioned Antonio Brown definitely played a hand in the trade of WR Demaryius Thomas to the Jets. We’ll get to more of that below. But as of right now, the passing attack is, at least for one week, much farther along than we would have believed just a few short weeks ago.

With Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers at wide receiver and James White along with Rex Burkhead out of the backfield, the offense has plenty of weapons for Brady to utilize. This is before even adding Brown, running back Damien Harris, rookie WR N’Keal Harry (IR) and veteran WR Cameron Meredith (PUP) to the mix for depth purposes later in the year. Now the possibilities are very optimistic. 

So even though the situation at tight end is far from perfect with Matt LaCosse banged up and Ryan Izzo more of a blocker, there are still plenty of options for Brady to target. Ben Watson can return after the Bills game and he should help there. 

But in Thomas’ case, I received a DM on Twitter asking, “if the Patriots had known about the AB claims, would they still have traded Thomas?” It is a good question, but my answer is yes. The passing game was clicking and even without considering Brown, they still have Harris, Harry, and Meredith. So, they really didn’t need him, and were able to unload his contract so there is no dead money involved. 

But their choice of trading partners was really intriguing. I was also asked what I thought of the choice of the Jets for his landing spot. Bill Belichick has traded with 30 other NFL teams since taking over the Patriots. Until this week, the only team he hadn’t traded with was the Jets. 

My feeling is, and this is strictly just an opinion, that they didn’t feel that Thomas was ever going to recapture enough of his game to be a viable receiver once again. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have traded him to the Jets…we’ll see next week. 

Time to Get Michel More Involved in the Passing Game:

The Patriots will be looking to get Sony Michel more involved in the running game today and get him untracked but they can help in that regard by getting him more involved in the passing game. Last week the Steelers keyed off of Michel’s being on the field by crowding the box and playing the run. And in that, they were very successful as Michel had only 14 yards on 15 carries.

According to my feeble math skills, with Michel on the field, the Patriots ran the ball nearly 75 percent of the time. Pittsburgh, having watched the postseason tape of the Patriots played run-heavy and was able to stuff it time and again. After rewatching the game tape, when the Patriots passed with Michel on the field, they were very successful. Now I get it, it is a minuscule sample size, but they averaged about 15 yards per play. 

Getting Michel more involved in the passing game just removes some of the predictability that other teams will have noticed and make this offense that much harder to stop. Today would be a perfect time to start giving opposing defensive coordinators even more to consider. 

Bulked Up Josh Gordon “In the Best Shape of My Career”:

Josh Gordon is playing at nearly 240 pounds this season as he may be in line for some of Rob Gronkowski’s work in the slot. Gordon’s bulked up presence may have been by design to take on the extra workload of Gronk’s absence. He played only about 10 percent out of the slot in 2018. On Sunday it was around 35 percent.

Gordon spoke about his workload and how he feels physically this week and he’s very optimistic of his long-term outlook. NFL Network’s Mike Giardi asked him if he’s in the best shape of his career and Gordon was quick to agree.

“Oh yeah, by far. By far,” Gordon told Giardi. “I don’t have any injuries this year, fortunately. Me and [strength and conditioning coach] Moses Cabrera have been in the training room every morning getting after it and continue to grow. It’s only Week 2. I’m excited, we’re all excited to see what happens halfways toward the end of the season. I think it’s going to be a huge upside at that point.”

Gordon’s upbeat attitude is definitely a plus and we can expect him to get even more looks in the passing game as the season winds on today.

NFL Schedule Week 2, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 11-4-1

TNF Carolina over Tampa Bay 0-1 

Dallas over Washington
Tennessee over Indy
Pittsburgh over Seattle
Buffalo over NY Giants
Patriots over Miami
Houston over Jacksonville
Green Bay over Minnesota
LA Chargers over Detroit
Cincinnati over San Francisco
Baltimore over Arizona
Kansas City over Oakland
Chicago over Denver
LA Rams over New Orleans – Rematch of the NFC Championship
SNF Philly over Atlanta
MNF Cleveland over NY Jets

Early Thursday Night Football pick Tennessee over Jacksonville

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Need to Slow Down Saquon Barkley Today:

The Buffalo Bills can go to 2-0 by winning in the same stadium on the road, two weeks in a row. The Bills scored 17 straight points by beating the Jets in MetLife Stadium last week and take on the Giants today. But they face a very talented back in Saquon Barkley and he’ll be a big difference in who wins or loses.

The Bills pass defense is the strength of their team and they’ve allowed 217 yards or less for nine straight weeks, heading back to last season. And the Giants are banged up at WR. So, it stands to reason that the Giants may opt to feed one of the best RBs in the business in Barkley.

Barkley averaged 10.9 yards per rushing attempt last week in Dallas garnering 120 yards on just 11 carries. Which begs the question, why didn’t they use him more? On the flip side, watch for Bills rookie Devin Singletary to get more work today. The rookie RB had 70 yards on just four carries and added 28 more on five receptions. He was fun to watch. 

Dolphins Minkah Fitzpatrick Possibly Going to Dallas:

The Miami Dolphins agreed this week to allow safety/cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick to seek a trade partner.  And while there will no doubt be several teams interested, one team, the Dallas Cowboys have already publicly expressed interest. 

Fitzpatrick was a first-round draft pick just a year ago, but he’s unhappy with the way he’s being used by the new coaching staff and wants out. Dallas has been trying to upgrade the safety position all year. They courted the idea of bringing in Earl Thomas and Eric Berry but signed neither. They signed George Iloka. But the veteran was released, beaten out by veteran Jeff Heath and rookie Donovan Wilson. Fitzpatrick is a big upgrade over either of those two. So, this will bear watching.

What would be the asking price? Some circles are pointing to DL Taco Charlton who isn’t playing much because of a deep Dallas front seven. This development may have some bearing on how much Fitzpatrick plays today.

Jets Are Banged Up and Now Lose Darnold to Mono:

The New York Jets have already suffered a rash of injuries this season, Quincy Enunwa is out for the year with a neck injury. C.J. Moseley was forced to leave last week’s opener with a groin injury. RB Le’Veon Bell hurt his shoulder and had an MRI on it. But now they’ve lost QB Sam Darnold to mononucleosis, which is expected to keep him shelved indefinitely. And the schedule isn’t doing them any favors.

Trevor Siemian takes over for Darnold and faces a daunting schedule. The Jets play a Cleveland Browns team that was embarrassed last week on Monday Night Football, then head to Foxboro to take on the Patriots, followed by games against the Eagles, Cowboys, and then the Patriots again. That is a tough five-game stretch even if Darnold was in the lineup.

The Jets offensive line will also have to deal with a very less mobile QB than Darnold as Siemian can’t make plays outside the pocket as Darnold can. 

________________

“Yeah, Troy’s done a good job. You know, we have three rookie receivers, and Troy was in the same type of situation when he came. Obviously, that was in a different system, but he’s seen a lot of guys come through that. He did it himself, and I think he can help everybody – from the rookies, the guys who have never played before, to new players, to players who have played here a long time like Julian.” – Bill Belichick on the difference former Patriot Troy Brown has made helping coach the WRs.

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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 PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Antonio Brown Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills James White josh gordon Kyle Van Noy Miami Dolphins Minkah Fitzpatrick New England Patriots New York Giants New York Jets Rex Burkhead Sony Michel Tom Brady


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