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Patriots News September 12, Players to Watch, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
19 seconds ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

Patriots News September 12, Players to Watch, AFC East NotesBrian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 9-12, and AFC East Notes.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the NFL had canceled games that first week after the attacks. ESPN did an interview with Vinnie Testaverde who was then the starting QB of the Jets. Growing up in Lower Manhattan, the event was deeply personal to him… Check out his remembrances here: 

Game Day! Finally, we are back to watching the NFL’s regular season, and this year promises to be an exciting one. The Patriots drafted who they believe is their QB of the future in Mac Jones and they’ll be throwing his feet right into the fire against Miami. 

So, we’ll get to watch Jones’ development right before our eyes. He’ll have a tough task right off the bat as the Dolphins defense was the top 3rd down unit in the NFL a year ago. Naturally, he will be compared, right or wrong against Tom Brady, but those comparisons come with the territory. He’s the future…actually he’s the QB now. But his success will no doubt take time. 

Much like when the Boston Red Sox had a to go from Ted Williams to Yaz, the Bruins from Bobby Orr to Ray Bourque, now Jones will have to deal with the comparisons. It all starts this afternoon and will be both intriguing and exciting to see. 

Newcomer and former Navy QB Malcolm Perry has already been ruled out for this game and at the time of this (late Friday night) it would seem four others who haven’t practiced or have been very limited, WR Nelson Agholor, Ankle, T Yodny Cajuste, Hamstring, LB Ronnie Perkins, Shoulder, and S Jalen Mills, Ankle may not be available either. That isn’t a good sign. 

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: 

Tom Brady: The Bucs QB (it still feels odd saying that) got into a QB duel with Dak Prescott during the NFL season opener on Thursday night to kick off the season. It was a game that had a perfect start with an exciting game where Prescott looked like he never missed a day and had a terrific game completing 42-58 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns. He led the go-ahead drive as Dallas kicked a field goal with 1:24 left to give the Cowboys a 29-28 lead. 

But as we’ve seen countless times before, that was plenty of time for Brady, who moved them into field goal position for Ryan Succop to boot a game-winning field goal with just two seconds left in the game. Brady, who continues to defy father time completed 32-50 passes for 379 yards and four touchdowns. 

An interesting stat from the game is that when attempting 50+ passes, the winning percentage for most QBs is dismal, yet when Brady attempts 50 or more passes, his record is 20-9, including 6-2 in the playoffs. Look at the combined records of many Hall of Famers (Montana, Marino, Manning, Brees, Elway, Favre, Rodgers, Young, Tarkenton) is 23-58. And the playoff record for those QBs is 3-30. 

Cam Newton

Cam Newton said he believes the Patriots thought he’d be a distraction towards Mac Jones. Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Newton: The Patriots former QB recorded a video interview with his father at his former high school and had some interesting comments about Mac Jones, his release, and the COVID “misunderstanding.”

Newton said, that with the additions the team made in the spring if the team had gone 4-1 or 5-0 with him under center it would have slowed Jones’ progress and development. And then he said, that had he been asked to back up Jones, he would have accepted that but he believes the team thought having him there would have been a distraction for Jones. 

“I prided myself and still pride myself on being the ultimate professional,” Newton said. “ … If they would have asked me, ‘Cam, we are going to give the team to Mac. You’re going to be the second string. We expect you to be everything and then some to guide through this team.’ I would’ve said, ‘Absolutely.’

“The truth of the matter is this, he would have been uncomfortable. And they knew.”

With the fiasco of him sitting out five days of practice including time in joint practice with the Giants, Newton felt “bamboozled” by it all. 

“They gave me clearance to go,” he said. “This was the last time I felt that I had an opportunity to get a second opinion … To find out I had to sit out, that’s when I kinda felt bamboozled because y’all told me to go. It wasn’t like, ‘Cam if you go, you’re taking up all the risk.’”

Newton bristled at the suggestion by former Patriot Rob Ninkovich that Jones was helping Newton learn the playbook this summer.

“What can he teach me when it’s coming at him faster than it was coming at me? You know what I mean? I would always ask Mac, and we was helping each other. Where it was like, ‘You straight, bro?’ And I would go to [Brian Hoyer] and be like, ‘Bro, you seeing something that I ain’t seeing? Or what was the Mike, or X, Y, Z?’ And then me and Josh had a great dialogue after practice or during practice that, you know, he would tell me. But I felt heads and toes above where I was understanding it (from a year before).

But he harbors no ill-will toward Jones. “They are going to win football games with Mac Jones,” Cam said.

Matthew Judon: The Patriots signed the edge player this spring to a big contract but the big money hasn’t changed Judon a bit. He’s still and always will be himself. His work on the field during training camp and in the preseason speaks for itself. He was dominating when on the field, albeit in limited snaps. But he’s rapidly taking on a leadership role off the field as well. 

“I really haven’t changed anything I’ve done since I’ve been in the league. I come in, play music, talk trash. I’m loud. I believe they all just accept it. They’re all just like all right, this is who this guy is.”

Judon has an infectious brashness and edge that should really help the defense, much like when the team brought in Brandon Browner a few years ago. While leaders such as Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower are quieter and lead by example, Judon lights a fire under the players around him. 

During the summer, he ran the hills against the skill position players because he thought the linebackers were too slow, talked smack to rookie QB Mac Jones, and now is blasting music around the locker room, taking requests from the other players. 

Although he’s only been on the team for a short time, he’s rapidly becoming one of the leaders of the defense. 

“Judy’s a character, man,” Hightower said. “He definitely sets the whole mood for the defense… He works hard and he has fun doing it. I think overall that’s the one thing that guys really respect and appreciate from Judon.”

4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Derek, Russ, and I spoke with Clare Cooper about the upcoming season.

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.

Patriots Players to Watch Today:

The game is going to be intriguing to watch and Week 1 games are always full of surprises. But Mac Jones making his first start will be facing his former Alabama teammate in Tua Tagovailoa who was a rookie a year ago. 

Rebuilding Mode Underway – The Patriots have 24 players on the Week 1 roster who weren’t on the team a year ago…that is more than 45 percent. Do you think that is evidence of the team is a big rebuild? However…it is time for our weekly Patriots players to watch this week against the Dolphins. 

Mac Jones – Well, here’s a no-brainer…As we mentioned above, the Patriots drafted him in the 1st round (15th overall) for a reason. They believe he is the future and their QB for the next decade. We believe his future is bright, his skill set matches what the Patriots like to do on offense, and thus far, he’s been very impressive this summer. 

While we expect the Dolphins to blitz a lot in this one, I believe that Brian Flores will show a variety of coverages at Jones pre-snap and then switch to others post-snap trying to confuse Jones causing him to hold the ball too long and forcing him into sacks or turnovers. 

Also, look for Josh McDaniels to simplify things early and call some short easy throws to get Jones into a comfort level and rhythm right away. So, today we get a first glimpse of the future at QB for the Patriots…remember it is a marathon, not a sprint.

Damien Harris – The Patriots running back showed a glimpse of what he is capable of last season. This year, the position is his and his development, and that of Rhamondre Stevenson and J.J. Taylor made Sony Michel expendable. 

Now the lead back for the team, running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, he should have a lot of opportunities to become a big part of the offense. 

Jonnu Smith – The Patriots signed two tight ends during free agency, Smith and Hunter Henry, but Smith seems like a big chess piece for the offense this year. He has tremendous YAC (yards after catch) and red zone potential and after two years with zero production from the position, Smith looks to be hitting his stride after a slow start this summer. 

Look for Josh McDaniels to move Smith around the formation creating favorable matchups and even getting him some carries. With a young QB, his best friends can be a solid running game and a reliable tight end. Check, check.

Matt Judon

Matthew Judon is making his presence felt, on and off the field. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Judon/Josh Uche – We mentioned Judon above, the feeling here is that he’s going to be the chess piece on defense that Smith will be offensively. Look for the coaches to move him around and use him in a variety of roles that will either allow him to rush the QB or free up someone else to do so. 

Uche has made tremendous strides in Year 2 and at times this summer, both in training camp, joint practices, and in preseason games to seem completely unblockable. Going against a Miami offensive line that has plenty of question marks, this will be a big matchup to watch. If the bookend edge players can generate pressure, it will go a long way in helping the team start the season with a win.

J.C. Jackson – With Stephon Gilmore beginning the season on PUP, the depth at the cornerback position is depleted…even more so with Jalen Mills questionable with an ankle injury. Jackson will have to step into being the #1 CB on the team and will face Devante Parker today. He’ll be tested every week and it is important to get off to a good start by shadowing the Dolphins’ best WR. 

Jackson is looking for a big payday in 2022 and he can get off to a terrific start to that end by playing like a true #1 corner starting against Miami today. 

Week 1 Predictions:

The slate of games for Week 1 and my predictions for this week

Thursday Night Football-
Tampa Bay over Dallas 1-0 

Sunday Day Games –
Atlanta over Philadelphia
Buffalo over Pittsburgh
Minnesota over Cincinnati
San Francisco over Detroit
Tennessee over Arizona
Seattle over Indianapolis
Washington over LA Chargers
Carolina over NY Jets
Jacksonville over Houston
Kansas City over Cleveland
New England over Miami
Green Bay over New Orleans
Denver over NY Giants
Sunday Night Football
LA Rams over Chicago
Monday Night Football
Baltimore over Las Vegas

Season:               1-0

Last Season:   169-86-1

2019 Season:   162-93-1

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills, Allen Expect a Boxing Match Against Pittsburgh:

The Buffalo Bills’ QB Josh Allen is expecting a tough physical game against the Steelers today in Buffalo and that it will go down to the wire and who wants it more.

 “We know that it’s gonna be a tight game,” Allen said, to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “Last couple of years, obviously, they’ve been kind of boxing matches, taking a couple hits here and there, giving them out. They’re extremely well-coached, they’re a very talented group on defense, they got a Hall of Fame quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) over there so we got to be on top of our game and go out there and try to execute to the best of our abilities.”

“We know they’re going to bring it,” he added. “Game one and they were extremely good last year, and they’re gonna be extremely good this year — and we know that. Again we gotta go out there and execute.”

Miami Name Five Captains, But Tua Not One: 

The Miami Dolphins named five captains for the 2021 season. Included in the list are offensive lineman Jesse Davis, linebacker Elandon Roberts, defensive back Jason McCourty, reserve wide receiver Mack Hollins, and safety Clayton Fejedelem.

Hollins was quoted by the Palm Beach Post on why he asked to be considered. 

“I went up there. My platform was, ‘I want to win games and I want to keep you guys at a high standard and I want you guys to do the same for me, but it would be a pleasure and an honor to lead you all and have, I guess, the patch on my jersey.’

“But I also said, ‘Everybody’s a leader on this team. It doesn’t matter if it’s me. It’s whoever’s out there.’” Somewhat curiously, QB Tua Tagovailoa was not named a captain by his teammates. 

Jets Open 2021 as the Youngest Team in the NFL:

The New York Jets are in the middle of another rebuild, with a new coach Robert Saleh, QB Zach Wilson and a slew of young players.

Zach Wilson starts at QB but behind him? The Jets don’t have a QB on their roster with one game of starting experience. Their cornerbacks have combined nine starts between them. Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas have broken it all down and building the roster up from scratch. 

There will be growing pains along the way but if there is a coach that can build it back up, it seems to be Saleh. Today, they face the QB they jettisoned, Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers. 

_______________

“Well we’ve had quite a good opportunity to take a look at Miami here and over the last few days as we’ve dealt with some roster moves and things like that. Just looking back over the last season, they obviously made a lot of progress. Improved their team and took some more steps this year to do that. Some of the players they’ve acquired. They’re young. It’s a talented team. Obviously well-coached. Disciplined. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. Take advantage of opportunities. We’re going to have to do a really good job of playing a good, sound football game and obviously coach and play a lot better than we did down there in the second game. Got a little head start on Monday, but really this is the week that we’re in now. Early game preparation week, so trying to get the most we can out of it and be ready to go on Sunday.”

Bill Belichick’s comments when speaking about playing Miami today.

_______________

“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: 2021 Patriots Season
Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Cam Newton Dont'a Hightower Josh Uche Mac Jones Matthew Judon Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Tom Brady


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