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Five Final Patriots Thoughts Ahead of Sunday’s Game Against the Eagles

Ian Logue
Ian Logue on Twitter
2 days ago at 1:35 pm ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

Five Final Patriots Thoughts Ahead of Sunday’s Game Against the EaglesBrian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Some final thoughts ahead of Sunday’s game against the Eagles:

1) Sunday’s showdown against Philadelphia is definitely a critical one for New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who is essentially beginning 2023 with a clean slate coming off of a frustrating 2022 campaign.

However, how he starts will likely set the tone for this season, and he needs to make sure he puts together a solid performance against what should be a tough Eagles defense.

Last year was difficult for Jones.  He opened the season against the Dolphins completing 21-of-30 (70%) for 213-yards along with a touchdown, but he had two key turnovers that played a role in the loss.

The first came on the opening drive where he attempted a deep throw to DeVante Parker after they had worked their way down to the Dolphins’ 22-yard line.  The pass ended up being just short enough where it was picked off, with Parker losing the 50/50 ball to Dolphins safety Jevon Holland for the turnover.

The second came on a strip sack early in the second quarter.  On a 2nd-and-10 from their own 15, Brandon Jones came free on a safety blitz for Miami and drilled Jones, with the quarterback losing the football as Miami picked it up at the 2-yard line and took it in for the touchdown.

Just like that, the Dolphins were up 10-0.  That sequence ended up being just a taste of what we’d, unfortunately, see more of for much of last season.

Turnovers were the story of the early part of last season, with Jones throwing five interceptions over the first three games, most of which came on attempts to Parker as the two struggled to get on the same page.

Following his ankle injury, Jones improved significantly coming off his shaky outing against Chicago. He threw just two picks over the final nine contests leading up the Buffalo game, with the Patriots going 5-4 over that span while losing three of those games by less than a touchdown.

With Bill O’Brien at the helm, things should be much sharper overall, and we saw some of that during Jones’ brief stint in his lone preseason appearance in Green Bay.  Even despite their offensive line struggles, Jones seemingly had outlets in place and the confidence to stand in and make the throws as the Packers brought pressure.

That seemed to be lacking for much of last season.  Players talked previously about not having contingencies in place for various situations with Matt Patricia running the offense, but the overall feel so far under O’Brien has already been much better in 2023 compared to last year.

Jones now has a quality person back in his ear and in his corner, with some really good players around him that should absolutely allow him to be successful if they can all stay healthy.

What he does on Sunday with all of it will set the narrative, and with so much at stake, let’s hope it’s the right one.

2) One area that should be fun to watch will be whether or not the Patriots can flip the script on the Eagles and instead make quarterback Jalen Hurts miserable.

We’ve heard all week about Philadelphia’s pass rush and the fact they racked up 70 sacks in 2022.  But also lost is the fact New England was right there in 3rd place with 54, with their pass rush being one of the reasons why they were as good as they were last season.

The Patriots did a great job all year of pressuring opposing quarterbacks, which allowed their secondary to come up with 19 interceptions, the second-best total in the NFL behind both San Francisco and Pittsburgh, who each led the league with 20 in 2022.

Hurts isn’t one to turn the football over (he threw just six interceptions in 2022), but forcing him to hold the football and limit the damage should allow the Patriots to keep this one close. 

If that happens, their chances of coming out of week one should be pretty good.

Douglas could be a key player for the Patriots this season. (PHOTO: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)

3) Another thing that should be fun to see is who potentially surprises us down the receiving depth chart.  Both Damario Douglas and Kayshon Boutte impressed during the preseason, and it will be interesting to see if either player makes any noise tomorrow.

This is a pretty solid receiving corps with a decent amount of talent from an individual standpoint, and certainly one of the more complete groups we’ve seen in quite some time.

Guys like Boutte and Douglas will likely be matching up against third and fourth defensive backs, which is essentially the match-up you hope for, especially with players as athletic as they are.

While guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kendrick Bourne will draw a fair amount of attention, having two other dangerous players rounding out the bottom of their depth chart is an advantage that hasn’t been there in recent years, which is certainly a nice change.

Needless to say, it could end up being an underrated storyline if either – or both – can come up with a big play on Sunday.

4) Bryce Baringer’s performance during the preseason was impressive, and his services may potentially play a key role depending on how this one unfolds.

If this ends up being a low-scoring affair where both teams keep trading punts, Baringer’s ability to flip the field is definitely going to be important.  He hit some unbelievable punts during the preseason, with a couple coming as the Patriots were pinned deep in their own end.

We’ve certainly heard Bill Belichick talk about how important that position is, and it’s clear that they made it a priority after the Patriots took Baringer in the sixth-round of this year’s draft.

If he can prevent the Eagles from getting good field position and get the offense out of trouble should they find themselves in a tough spot, the rookie could absolutely end up playing a key role in Sunday’s outcome.

5) The Patriots took a big gamble by shipping Nick Folk out of town, and now it’s up to Chad Ryland to prove he can handle the kicking duties this season.

Ryland had a solid preseason but was reportedly a little shaky down the stretch, leaving him as a giant question mark ahead of Sunday’s game.

But obviously, where he provides an upgrade should be on kickoffs and longer field goals, with the former kicker out of Maryland having a much stronger leg than Folk from that standpoint.

However, Folk’s consistency was what made him so great here in New England, which leaves Ryland with some relatively big shoes to fill.  Granted, the hope this season is that the offense finds the end zone more than it did in 2022.

But, if Jones and the offense struggles, the Patriots will obviously need Ryland to make sure they come away with points. The good news is, Ryland was no stranger to coming up with a big kick in key situations, having hit multiple game-winners over the course of his career.

Whether or not he’ll be called on to attempt one tomorrow remains to be seen, but how he performs overall will be something that everyone will definitely be watching. Especially in what reports are indicating may potentially be difficult conditions by game time at Gillette Stadium.

Posted Under: Patriots News

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