Good morning, and Happy Halloween. Here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-31, and AFC East Notes.
Many thanks to Ian Logue for taking over the column last week as I was very sick and in the hospital for a week. But I’m still amongst us and happy to be back (if not close to 100 percent, but who is this time of year?)
Gameday, the Patriots have another big game today against the Chargers in LA where a year ago, the Patriots buried them 45-0, winning in all three phases of the game. The Chargers certainly haven’t forgotten and QB Justin Herbert who was confused and off his game last year is now one of the league’s better signal-callers.
Have you checked out our PatsFans.com sortable stats for the Patriots? It is a great resource for all of the players on the offensive side of the roster.
J.C. Jackson: The Patriots corner broke the first cardinal rule of the Patriots and Bill Belichick and that is to never, ever, give the opposing team any bulletin board material. Jackson speaking to the media this Thursday, he was asked how difficult the Bolts passing game will be to slow down this Sunday.
Remember that the Chargers have Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, running back Austin Ekeler, and tight end Jared Cook with Herbert, one of the best young QBs in the game. But Jackson just gave the Bolts all the motivation they need.
So, after Jackson responded to the question with, “I mean, it’s not really a big challenge,” he said. “I mean, we just have to do what we do best: play our football and trust each other, trust our teammates,” Belichick must have been livid.
Trade Deadline Corners: Speaking of cornerbacks, after the Patriots traded Stephon Gilmore (who may not suit up for the Panthers this week), and lost Jonathan Jones to IR with a shoulder injury, their depth has taken a massive hit. Jalen Mills was signed to be a movable chess piece and not the #2 boundary corner but has been forced into the role because JoeJuan Williams has shown that he can’t be relied upon consistently. Myles Bryant has been thrust into Jones’ role in the slot.
For those looking for a deadline trade, the Patriots cap situation may preclude them from seeking any of the names that many are mentioning, including Kyle Fuller from Denver, and it is difficult to see them eating any of that in a trade scenario.
One option that seems like it could work is the one that Phil Perry from NBC Sports Boston floated about and that is the Patriots trading with Philly for CB Avonte Maddox. In return, the Eagles would get Edge/OLB Chase Winovich.
Maddox is having a very solid season in the slot for the Eagles and is in a contract year. Winovich has shown the ability to get after the QB, something the Eagles covet moving forward. He’s been a valuable member of the Patriots’ STs as well.
Winovich has a year left on his contract (currently he’s on IR), and is buried on a depth chart behind Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, Deatrich Wise as long-term pass rushers and Hightower, Van Noy, and Jamie Collins in the short term. They’ve also added rookie Ronnie Perkins this spring, so the handwriting was already on the wall.
4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Derek and Russ spoke about the big win over the Jets and the preview for the Chargers.
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.
Tailgate Food: What’s everyone eating for their pre or post-game tailgate/home feast today? Today seems like a reverse-seared steak and hobo potatoes on the grill type of day…
The Athletic published a great piece on the quite underrated and dry sense of humor from Bill Belichick. For those of you who are subscribers, it can be found on their Patriots page. But if you’re not… here are a couple of excerpts that are classic Belichick-isms.
Former linebacker Dane Fletcher recalled one hilarious off-season interaction with Bill.
“He called me one year and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was shooting prairie dogs out on the farm. And he’s like, “Well, why are you doing that right now?” I was like, “Well, it’s the offseason, Coach. I’m trying to get my mind off something.” I go, “What would you like me to do right now?” He goes, “Well, something called fucking yoga. ‘Cause you’re as stiff as they fucking come.”
But perhaps the funniest episode of the entire piece was the time that Belichick awarded a Game Ball to STs standout, Larry Izzo, for dropping a deuce on the sideline during a game. This story was relayed by former Linebacker Chad Brown and TEs Christian Fauria and Jed Weaver to members of the Athletic.
Brown: That’s how I heard the story: from Larry at breakfast. During a game, his stomach was really upset. … Larry is a special-teams captain, so for him to miss a special-teams play would be significant because he’s only going to play about 20 plays and they’re all important for him.
Fauria: Larry Izzo was so uptight and would never miss a play. There was no way he was going to chance running to a bathroom. He just said, “Screw it, I’m shitting in a bucket.”
Brown: I don’t know if it was one of the equipment guys or there was already a bucket on the sideline, but they got Larry a bucket, surrounded him with some guys and he took care of his business, right there on the sideline.
Weaver: There’s always a million Gatorade towels on the sideline …
Brown: Larry’s got a funny way of telling the story. He said, “Of course Bill heard about it and at the Monday meeting Bill gave me a game ball for my ‘heroic effort.’”
Weaver: Bill’s giving out the offense, defense, special teams game balls. I think he just said:
“Something I’ve never been a part of, but Larry Izzo, the first successful shit in a bucket on the sideline.”
Brown: So for those folks who don’t think Bill has a sense of humor, you are wrong.
Weaver: I think it says on the game ball: “Shit in a bucket.”
On the show “Highly Questionable” Wes Welker confirmed the story, which begins at the 3:30 mark. It can be seen here:
Kudos to The Athletic, that piece was fantastic…
Every week we look at the game within a game. Here are our players to watch from a Patriots perspective today.
Mac Jones — The Patriots’ rookie QB continues to impress, nearly halfway through the season, he’s still completing more than 70 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 92.8. He’s coming off a fantastic game where the Patriots generated 54 points and 545 yards of offense.
This week against a very good Chargers team, the offense is going to have to score 25-35 points to defeat Los Angeles. And that begins with the QB, the player who leads the team. And make no mistake, Jones is already the leader of the unit.
Jalen Mills — The Patriots signed Mills to play a hybrid role but he’s been forced to play the boundary #2 corner and he’ll have his hands full with the Chargers’ Mike Williams, a player who’ve we’ve been very impressed with in the past.
Mills has been hobbled with a balky hamstring, but is seemingly healthy and has been taken off the injury report. This is a big game for him.
Michael Onwenu — The Patriots’ offensive lineman will be lined up against Joey Bosa for much of the game today. It will be up to Onwenu to give Jones time to find receivers down the field and go through his progressions.
After rewatching the tape of last year’s game, Onwenu had an outstanding game and allowed no sacks, hits, or pressures, many of which were against Bosa.
Matthew Judon — The Patriots’ edge rusher has been held sackless the past two games and now the team is facing a Chargers OL that just doesn’t allow any. But if they are going to disrupt the Chargers’ very good passing game, they’ll need pressure on Justin Herbert and Judon is the guy to get it done.
Hunter Henry — Henry is rapidly becoming a favorite target of Mac Jones in the red zone and has caught four touchdown passes (leading the team) all in the past four games. Despite this, his number of catches is still low and can improve.
Playing against a Chargers team that struggles in covering tight ends (29th in DVOA), Henry (and his partner Jonnu Smith) could be primed for big afternoons against the Chargers later today.
The slate of games for Week 8 and my predictions for this week.
Thursday Night Football —
Green Bay over Arizona 1-0
Atlanta over Carolina
Buffalo over Miami
San Francisco over Chicago
Pittsburgh over Cleveland
Philadelphia over Detroit
Tennessee over Indianapolis
Cincinnati over NY Jets
LA Rams over Houston
LA Chargers over New England
Seattle over Jacksonville
Denver over Washington
Tampa Bay over New Orleans
Sunday Night Football
Dallas over Minnesota
Monday Night Football
Kansas City over NY Giants
Last Week: 12-2
Last Season: 169-86-1
2019 Season: 162-93-1
The Buffalo Bills trail only the Dallas Cowboys as the #2 scoring offense in the NFL. And talk about balance? The Bills are 8th in passing, 7th in rushing, and 6th overall in terms of yards gained per game while averaging 33.8 points per game.
Two weeks ago, the Titans were able to stop the Bills three out of five times in the red zone and held on for a 34-31 win, but this team is going to be hard to slow down on a weekly basis.
The onus, during their recent bye week, was no doubt their red zone efficiency where the team is currently converting 53.8 percent of RZ opportunities. But no one has gotten in the RZ more than Buffalo. Despite already having a bye week, they still lead the league in RZ trips with 29.
The Miami Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa a year ago and he still hasn’t even started 16 games yet, but since last year, fans, media, (and the owner), still want the shiny ornament in the store window. That would be Texans’ QB, Deshaun Watson. While there is no doubt that Watson is a far better QB than Tua, there is a great big caveat here.
Actually, there are 22 and those are the sexual allegations facing Watson in Houston. And despite this, longtime outstanding Houston sportswriter John McLain has reported that the two teams have worked out a deal, but they’re waiting on the league office and Roger Goodell to state how many games he’ll be suspended for under the league’s personal conduct policy.
Fins’ owner Ross is playing with a hot potato, and regardless of how talented he is, Watson’s 22 accusers didn’t just appear out of air. And regardless if Park Avenue decides to slap him on the wrist, this issue won’t just go away.
The Jets’ nightmare season continues. Already without QB Zach Wilson, now WR Corey Davis suffered an injury on Thursday (hip flexor) and is expected to miss today’s game with the Bengals.
“It’s not looking good,” coach Robert Saleh said Friday when speaking about Davis. “We’re still holding out for hope, but it’s trending in that direction.”
“Pass rush and pass coverage are very closely related. Without one, the other won’t be effective if you don’t have both of them. That’s our goal, defensively, as it always is, is to make the quarterback get the ball out on time or have the coverage to make him hold it for a split-second longer than he wants to. That’s based on disguise or tight coverage or whatever it is, then that gives the pass rush that extra split-second to get there, and if the pass rush is good, then it allows the coverage to move a little quicker to get on the matches they have, whether it be man or zone. Good pass rush with open receivers isn’t really good. You can’t cover these receivers in this league all day, so even if you have them covered for a little while, if the quarterback extends the play and you don’t have any pass rush, they’re eventually going to get open. You need to do both and have good team defense.”
Bill Belichick’s comments when asked about how the team may try to contain QB Justin Herbert’s scrambling
“So, how was your week?”
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]
More Patriots News Headlines: