Some news and notes for this morning:
With offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien now in the fold, one thing is certainly clear heading into Sunday’s game.
An anemic offensive performance can’t happen, and this needs to be the game Mac Jones and the offense take a giant step forward.
Looking back to the 2021 season, that year is certainly the benchmark this team will need to try and achieve when the two teams face off this weekend. Jones and the offense took control and beat New York 25-6 at MetLife Stadium in the first meeting, and then followed that up with a 54-13 drubbing at Gillette Stadium less than a month later.
In the first meeting, the Patriots took an early 10-0 lead thanks to an interception by Zach Wilson to J.C. Jackson, which helped set up a 46-yard field goal by Nick Folk. They then picked him off on the next drive after Adrian Phillips came up with the turnover, which led to a 6-play, 72-yard drive by the offense and ended with a touchdown by James White.
Folk would go on to hit three more field goals, and Damien Harris would add another touchdown as the defense kept Wilson in check after a three-turnover performance.
But the key to that meeting was a mistake-free performance by Jones, who completed 17-of-21 (81%) for 142-yards in that first half, while finishing the afternoon 22-of-30 (73.3%) for 186 yards. The only frustrating part of the game was the fact the Jets held the ball for a staggering 22 of the final 30 minutes of play (10:38 in the 3rd QTR, 9:56 in the 4th QTR) but thankfully managed just 3 points.
New England played somewhat conservatively in the second half, which, had the Jets been able to put anything together, could have changed things. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.
The second meeting went much differently, and the Patriots were clicking on all cylinders at that point.
The first drive started with Jones and the offense overcoming a holding penalty by Shaq Mason near midfield, with Jones hitting Jonnu Smith for a 28-yard pass play which moved the chains and put them in Jets territory. From there, Kendrick Bourne threw the first touchdown pass of the game on a double-pass to Nelson Agholor for a 25-yard scoring play.
They then drove down again on their next possession, with the offense picking up 53 yards on 7 plays, largely thanks to a 32-yard run by Damien Harris that helped set up a 1-yard run to put New England up 14-0.
The Patriots finished up the half with a field goal, followed by back-to-back touchdown drives, and built a 31-7 lead and never looked back from there.
While this Sunday likely won’t resemble the latter match-up, it needs to at least be closer to what the first meeting looked like. This needs to be a mistake-free outing with similar precision, with New England hopefully forcing mistakes by Wilson and capitalizing off of whatever miscues they’re able to create.
Bill Belichick was obviously asked about the fact they’ve managed to win 7-straight at MetLife on Wednesday, along with the fact they’ve won 14-straight dating back to 2015.
“Yeah, I don’t think any of those games in the past matter,” said Belichick. “We’re worried about this week’s game.”
Much of the Patriots’ success in those recent match-ups centered around their ground game, which will likely be needed again this weekend. We haven’t seen much play-action in this offense so far, although they’ve also been somewhat inconsistent to this point running the football. Patriots.com’s Evan Lazar pointed out that the club has attempted just one pass from under center on 96 dropbacks, noting that some issues up front due to injuries on the offensive line have likely contributed to that.
However, Sunday could be the game where we begin to see more of it, especially since it’s likely going to be key in trying to keep New York’s defense off-balance. The one thing we’ve seen through two weeks is a significant amount of inside pressure, and the only way to stop that is to try and create some confusion, with Sunday hopefully being a game where we see some changes.
Trent Brown (concussion), Mike Onwenu (ankle), and Cole Strange (knee) were all limited again on Thursday, while Sidy Sow (concussion) didn’t participate. That unit continues to be the biggest question mark, as everything obviously revolves around that group and Jones will need continuity there if/when they can all ever get healthy.
For now, for a team that needs to avoid starting out 0-3, this is a contest where the mistakes and miscues definitely can’t continue. This needs to be a game where they at least get it together from that standpoint, especially since a loss against this team would dig Belichick’s club a hole that would be really tough to dig itself out of given the tough schedule still ahead of them.
Some disappointing news on this week after the Patriots placed Marcus Jones on injured reserve, which will now see him miss an extended period.
His loss is significant as he joins fellow 2022 draft pick Jack Jones on injured reserve, leaving another hole in the secondary. It also creates additional voids both with his spot role on offense as well as in the return game.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Marcus Jones’ injury is said to be a torn labrum, which will likely see him miss time well beyond the minimum four weeks he’s slated to be out. He suffered that injury early in Sunday night’s loss to Miami, and now further depletes an already thin Patriots secondary.
Jonathan Jones has been back at practice this week on a limited basis, albeit reports seem to point to him returning to action on Sunday.
The Patriots also signed defensive backs Azizi Hearn and Breon Borders to their practice squad on Thursday, adding additional depth as they continue trying to weather this recent rash of injuries.
With the saga with Matt Corral coming to an end and the club parting ways with Ian Book, the Patriots added another quarterback on Thursday.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the club added quarterback Will Grier off of Cincinnati’s practice squad, with Grier becoming the second former Panthers quarterback to join the club so far in 2023.
Grier spent his first two years in Carolina before moving on to Dallas, with the veteran joining the Bengals last month following the Cowboys’ surprising trade for Trey Lance.
He’s started two games in his NFL career, both with the Panthers in 2019. He completed 28-of-52 for 228-yards with 0 touchdowns and 4 interceptions and was sacked 6 times.
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