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New EnglandPatriots News August 29, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
3 weeks ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

New EnglandPatriots News August 29, AFC East NotesBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 8-29, and AFC East Notes.

Game Day! It is soooo nice to say that on a Sunday as the Patriots play a rare Sunday preseason game against the traditional preseason final tune-up against the New York Giants. 

The kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. tonight at Met Life Stadium…I keep wanting to say the Meadowlands. 

Have you checked out our team news feature for all 32 teams yet? It is a great resource to keep up with what is going on all across the NFL. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL: 

Shaun Wade: The Patriots made a move to acquire Wade who was having a very good camp in Baltimore this year but was facing a tough situation with a position that is loaded with depth. The Patriots gave up a 7th round draft pick next spring and a 5th round pick in 2023.

Wade can play on the outside or in the slot and with Stephon Gilmore still on PUP, the Patriots need the depth on the boundary. Baltimore wasn’t expecting to be able to bring back the rookie 5th rounder to their practice squad, so they dealt him and thereby got something in return. So, it was a win-win for both teams.

One has to wonder if this trade is an indictment of Joejuan Williams or was it just that the team found a way to build up some solid depth. If Gilmore returns soon, he and J.C. Jackson would be the starting duo with Wade backing them up. That would free Jalen Mills to move inside or to safety where he is better suited. 

Sony Michel: The same thing was at work here for the Patriots. Michel was in the midst of his best summer as a member of the team, but in the final year of his contract, it was obvious the Patriots were going to bring him back. So, they got what they could (which should turn out to be a 4th round draft for him). 

The Rams got a desperately-needed running back. A win-win for both teams. Michel always got a raw deal here because of his 1st round pedigree, but there is a vast difference between a top 15 pick and the 31st. 

Regardless, Michel’s rookie season including the playoffs was one we’ll always remember. 280 carries, 1267 yards, and 12 TDs (209-931-6TDs regular season, 71-336-6TDs in three playoff games). Michel scored the only TD in the Super Bowl against the Rams, sealing the victory for the Patriots. 

Kahale Warring: The Patriots waived the former Houston Texan tight end on Friday just three days after claiming him. One way of looking at it could be that this is a positive sign that Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Devin Asiasi, and Matt LaCosse all look to be healthy heading into the opener against Miami. 

4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. We recorded one on Friday and gave our thoughts on the game in Philly.

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Cam Newton

Cam Newton changes the play at the line against the Eagles. )Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Jones, Newton Debate Resembling Political Theater:

How the QB battle goes between Cam Newton and Mac Jones is anyone’s guess. The rookie’s poise and coolness in the pocket have impressed teammates both the younger ones and the veterans. The coaching staff has thrown all kinds of curves at him to begin to prepare him to take over the team and he has responded to every challenge. But is the time now, or down the road?  

Cam Newton has been a polarizing figure since signing with the team late last June. Fans and media either were behind Cam behind him because of the woeful supporting cast around him or were bashing him incessantly for the truly awful year he did have, and no one would admit that faster than Newton himself. 

There is truly no middle ground when it comes to Newton with the Patriots fans and much of the media. Much like everything else in this country today, it gets increasingly hard to discuss this or any other issue, because too many people just dig in their heels. 

But there has clearly been an agenda on some of the media who are no longer just reporting analysis of the facts, but seem like they are running a political campaign for their candidate (Jones), it almost (almost)…reminds one of a recent election. This is the “anyone but Cam” era.

But after the fiasco of the COVID-19 loss of five days of practice time this week, where Jones was very impressive, it opened the door for the rookie to showcase his talent taking the snaps with the first-teamers. And he did. This was after Newton pretty much had put a stamp on his starting Week 1 after his performance against Philly. When Newton returned on Thursday, he got the first reps again. Much to the consternation of many on social media. 

“Why does Bill want to mess around with Newton…start the rookie,” demanded many fans. Many others questioned Belichick’s motivation, wondering if he has an agenda of his own. And yes he does. Every year we make a big deal out of Belichick’s record against rookie QBs. And he knows that there are other defensive coordinators who feast on rookie QBs. 

The big question will come down to who is better served to run the Patriots offense on September 12. Belichick will get second-guessed regardless of which way he goes with the decision. Which is a conversation that could take an entire weekend on its own. But he doesn’t care if the fans or the media are upset with his decisions. So, he won’t be swayed by political grandstanding. 

For the record, I believe Jones is destined for big things in the NFL, but I’m not sure it will begin (or should in 2021).

“Hey Bill, you know the storyline this weekend is…”

Rhamondre Stevenson

Rhamondre Stevenson is quickly catching on with the offense and is primed to work his way into earning more reps. (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

Trade of Sony Michel Opens the Door for Stevenson and Taylor:

The Patriots trade of Sony Michel to the Rams has opened the door for players to get a healthy increase in snaps behind RB Damien Harris. With Michel in the fold, Harris was the 1A back and Michel the 1B. But with the trade, it shows that they are comfortable with rookie RB Rhamondre Stevenson and J.J. Taylor seeing a bigger role. 

Stevenson has made tremendous progress this summer. The 4th round draft pick started camp on the wrong foot after failing his conditioning test. But since getting on the field he has constantly improved. Running backs coach Ivan Fears was asked about Stevenson earlier in camp and stated he needed to improve in everything. 

But the play of the rookie, and Taylor made the trade of Michel happen as they have convinced the coaching staff that they can handle the work. Stevenson has led all NFL rushers during the preseason with 25 rushing attempts for 194 yards, a 7.7-yard average, and 4 TDs. Although he’s built like a short-yardage back,  he’s shown nice footwork and good speed, having the burst to go 91 yards against Washington. 

His work caught the eyes of veteran James White who is impressed with how quickly he’s progressed. 

“He’s continuing to learn more and more,” White said. “Not just about running the football, but the pass protection, catching the ball, all that good stuff. He’s continuing to get better each and every week and I am sure his number will get called on a little bit more.”

Taylor has had a good summer as well with 14 carries for 103 yards and a TD and has added 8 catches for 49 yards out of the backfield. Taylor could eventually become the successor to James White as the Patriots’ 3rd down back. 

Fears said that Taylor has been impressive this summer. “He’s a guy that was a hell of a runner in college, and his strong suit is as a runner. He’s a hell of a runner, got great vision, great feet, balance. The kid is a tough kid for a little guy, but he plays big. He plays big, so you love the stuff like that.”

We’ll be watching the development of these two young players and see how the team decides to utilize them. But one thing is certain, it was their play that convinced the team that they could trade Michel and receive some compensation for him before becoming an unrestricted free agent next spring. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie Fined for Failing to Wear Mask:

“They got me, NFL, You Win,” said Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie who posted an image of a letter on Twitter that he received from the NFL on Thursday morning. The disciplinary letter from the league outlined the specific times he’d recently broken the rules by not wearing a mask while being unvaccinated against COVID-19.

McKenzie will probably be fined $14,650 for his refusal to wear a mask. But he didn’t say whether his “you win” statement was an admission that he’d get a COVID vaccine or just that the NFL won by catching him not wearing a mask multiple times. 

The Bills’ young pass rushers, rookie Gregory Rousseau and 2nd-year player A.J. Epenesa have shined this summer and preseason. Coupled with Jerry Hughes,  Efe Obada, and 2021 second-rounder Carlos Basham, the pass rush looks to be very good in 2021.

Miami Has Difficult Decisions to Make at WR, Jakeem Grant Out?

The Miami Dolphins have a slew of talent at wide receiver and have size, speed, and athleticism.  With DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson, Jaylen Waddle, Lynn Bowden Jr., Preston Williams, Malcolm Perry, Will Fuller, Mack Hollins, Isaiah Ford, Robert Foster, Kirk Merritt, and Kai Locksley, they can’t keep them all. 

All of their receivers can play in the NFL, but they’ll have to decide which ones to keep. One player who could be cut loose is WR/KR Jakeem Grant. Grant has a contract to be paid $3.6 million in 2021, of which none of it is guaranteed, and he could be the subject of a trade scenario for a team looking for a kick and punt returner.

Grant caught 36 passes for 373 yards and a TD a year ago while adding 29 punt returns for 330 yards and a TD as well as a few kickoff returns as well. He’ll be a guy to keep an eye on as Miami may try to find a way to hold on to him.

Jets Tyler Kroft Working Into the Starting Role at TE:

The New York Jets may have a new starting tight end (Clare take note), with Tyler Kroft. When the Jets signed Kroft to a one-year, $2 million contract this spring, the idea was that he would serve as the backup to Chris Herndon. But things haven’t worked out that way. 

Kroft has been impressing the coaching staff, not only with his blocking but by becoming a go-to target for rookie QB Zach Wilson. Herndon has struggled with a bad case of the drops this summer and Ryan Griffin has had trouble staying on the field. 

Last week Wilson and Kroft hooked up two times for 36 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers. While he may not set the world (or the stat sheet) on fire, a reliable tight end is a rookie QB’s best friend.

_______________

“They’re both smart football players, and they both have a good level of experience and can do multiple things. Can think quickly, communicate well and have good instincts and a good feel for the game. Along with many other members of that group as well. Certainly [Dont’a] Hightower is in there. Kyle [Van Noy]. All those guys have played a lot of football and are very instinctive and have worked well together. There’s a lot of playing off each other at those positions as there is at safety where there are a lot of things going on in a pretty small area and who fits where, who’s got who, what happens when they come at us from different positions, different leverage, different angles. 

“Does that change the way we, well it does change it, but how it changes the way that we fit in the running game or cover the receivers and things like that. But yeah, those two guys are good. It’s really a good group. They work well together. They can handle a lot. They can handle a lot pretty quickly, and a lot of times they can make an adjustment before a coach can. There’s a lot of this is what we’re doing, and hey, we got this. Let’s do it this way, and before you could even tell them that. Hey, let’s do it this way. They already have solved the problem and figured out a better way because they can all kind of see the same thing. As long as they all see the same thing, then that really makes it much easier to make adjustments and make subtle changes that help us perform better.”

“They definitely are helping us. I’m glad we have them. They help our football team in a number of ways. I’m glad we have them. Judon’s been a pleasure to coach. Hardworking guy. Really instinctive as is Kyle. I have more background with Kyle, but Kyle’s a very instinctive player that can play multiple positions, and he can handle a lot of volume or responsibilities without an inordinate amount of repetitions or teaching or that kind of thing. Like every player, he needs to rep the things that he does, but his experience and just overall understanding of what the purpose of a technique is or a call and how to get it done is very good, and [Dont’a] Hightower and [Ja’Whaun] Bentley, I mean, those guys are really smart football players that understand a lot more than what their position is. Sometimes it might be a little harder for them, but they can all understand how it makes it a little bit easier for somebody else, and that’s a really good working relationship in that group.

Bill Belichick’s comments when asked about the play of the linebackers, especially Matthew Judon, JaWhaun Bentley, and Kyle Van Noy. . 

_______________

“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 Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 


Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Cam Newton James White Kyle Van Noy Mac Jones Matthew Judon Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots edge rushers


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