Good morning, and Happy Gameday. Here are our Sunday 10-29 Patriots news and notes. Bill Belichick started his Friday press conference with a mention to the people of Maine following the deadly attack by a mentally unhinged man on a bowling alley and a restaurant/pool hall.
“Good morning. Just start by sending our – from the team, players have talked about this, captains yesterday, too – sending our thoughts and prayers to the people in Maine. It’s obviously a tragic situation.
“They’re great fans of ours, great friends up there, and Maine is a great place. I feel bad for the pain and situation that they’re going through. You know, Lewiston and Bowden, a lot of connections and a lot of my friends went there. I know the area pretty well. It’s very sad and difficult. So, we’re thinking about you down here at the Patriots.”
Patriots owner and CEO Robert Kraft also released a statement from the team on Friday in the wake of the tragedy.
“The senseless act of violence that unfolded last night in Lewiston, Maine, has left all of us across New England in shock and mourning. My heart goes out to the families, friends, and loved ones of the victims who are dealing with unimaginable pain and loss. Let us remember the victims, honor their lives, and continue to fight hate and violence in order to prevent these horrific tragedies.”
Amen; we’re glad the situation has been resolved without further bloodshed, and a special prayer to the families suffering from this tragedy.
Back to the Patriots this week. Although the Patriots are 2-5, the Miami Dolphins are not chalking up today’s game as an automatic win.
Head coach Mike McDaniel was asked about the Patriots on Wednesday, as 9.5 points favored the Dolphins. And McDaniel was very blunt in his assessment.
“It’s so funny; I feel like everyone invests so much emotion and attention. It’s all so important to everybody: NFL football in general, fan bases, coaches, players.
“But it almost makes me feel like the human population is senile because it’s like every single year, every single year … they get better during the course of the season.
“… Coach Belichick has been there since — I think he got his start when I was going to prom, right? And like, how many of the scenarios have been like, ‘What’s happening here with the team after four weeks?’ or whatever, and it’s like a created adversity. And sure enough, they get better as the season progresses.
“They focus on fundamentals. They do a good job tuning out the noise. I see a team that just last week was an example. I’m sure some people lost money, but not anybody within the team,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve learned not to be surprised at their team development and growth during the course of the season.”
McDaniel’s message was getting through as Dolphins’ WR Tyreek Hill reiterated his coach’s message, stating that the Patriots have Miami’s respect.
“Are we concerned?” Hill asked. “Yes, we are. The Patriots are a real good team. They got a real good coach. And that defense is very… that defense is stifling. A lot of playmakers on that team; they added J.C. Jackson. It’s gonna be a good game.”
Miami won the first game of the series 24-17 in Foxboro and can sweep the season series today. The Patriots easily played their best game of the season, however, with a last-minute 29-25 win over Buffalo last week.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News:
Malik Cunningham: The Patriots waived the backup WR/QB this week but quickly re-signed him to the practice squad after he cleared waivers.
Surprisingly enough, just ten days before that, Cunningham was signed to the 53-man roster and promoted to the backup QB role. But now, the backup role now belongs to either Bailey Zappe or Will Grier.
Kayshon Boutte: The Patriots’ rookie WR hasn’t been active since Week 1, when he couldn’t get his second foot inbounds on the Patriots’ final drive. Many have questioned why he hasn’t played since, including us here. But Bill Belichick was blunt in his assessment of Boutte’s situation.
“It’s a very competitive situation,” Belichick said. “I feel like we have a lot of competition at that position. Everybody’s in it. The guys who perform the best play the most, the guys who don’t need to perform better.”
“They’re all competing. We have a number of players that I think are all — again, it’s very competitive. We’ll see how that goes,” he added.
Sellers or Buyers? This Week May Decide: Rumors persist about the NFL Trade Deadline and whether the Patriots will be sellers, standing pat, or buyers. Many expect, because of the team’s 2-5 record, that they’ll be selling off their impending free agents.
While they’ll listen to offers, I don’t see a wholesale sale of upcoming free agents. That would signal that Belichick has given up on the 2023 season, and with nine games to go after today, that goes against everything he preaches.
Two players frequently mentioned are Josh Uche and Kendrick Bourne. Both are vital players for the team and play positions among the most commonly sought at the trade deadline.
The bottom line is that no one knows what Belichick will do. But if they make a trade or two, it will be unloading a player that doesn’t fit into their 2024 plans. And don’t be shocked if they add to the roster. The Patriots, due to Belichick, are the wildcard at the deadline.
Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t listened to our PatsFans.com podcast, Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Patriots 4th & 2 has expanded.
Derek Havens and I spoke about the win over the Bills, where Russ Goldman joined us, and a brief look at the Dolphins game.
Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that Francis isn’t in is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens. Casper is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Francis’ numbers stand up well against Casper’s, yet he isn’t in the team’s.
Patriot Players to Watch Against the Dolphins —
The Patriots are facing a situation much like last week. Josh Allen was 7-1 against the Patriots since Tom Brady left, and Tua Tagovailoa is 5-0 against the Patriots since he became the starting QB of Miami. The Patriots win last season was a game Tua missed because of an injury.
So here are our players from a Patriots perspective to watch today.
Jonathan Jones: Jones has always been used opposite Tyreek Hill with safety help over the top. Earlier this season, the Patriots mixed it up using Jones along with Christian Gonzalez and held Hill to his lowest output of the season, just 40 yards.
This week, the onus will again fall mostly to Jones, although Jack Jones and/or J.C. Jackson may also see some snaps against Hill. Hill reportedly suffered a hip injury and may not be 100 percent, but we’ll wait and see.
Jabrill Peppers: Peppers has been terrific for the Patriots this season and is even becoming more of a leader, both on the field and in the locker room. Because of Miami’s plethora of speed and production out of their receivers, most teams play a lighter front seven group in the box to defend the pass. This has allowed Miami to chew up other team’s lighter box groups with the ground game. Miami has the league’s best running and passing offenses.
Peppers will have to have another outstanding game this week. He’ll be looked to in slowing down Raheem Mostert this week and making the Dolphins more one-dimensional, especially on third down.
Mac Jones: Jones was outstanding against the Bills last week, especially in the fourth quarter. He completed 25-30 passes (83.3%) for 272 yards and 2 TDs against a very good Buffalo pass defense.
One of the critical factors in his huge turnaround a week ago was the play of the offensive line, which gave Jones time to go through his progressions and step into his throws. Another performance like that by the OL would give Jones and the offense a huge boost and the opportunity to compete in the game.
The Patriots can’t win a shootout with Miami’s offense, so it will be critical for the defense to keep Jones and the offense close enough. But it also means Jones has to play a clean game.
Christian Barmore: The Patriots’ young defensive lineman has had arguably the best two games of his career the past two games. He’s been disruptive and has brought pressure on the QB. As we mentioned above, playing with lighter boxes, the Patriots will have to do a much better job this time of stopping the run and getting after Tua.
Tua gets the ball out extremely quickly, which is why, in the first meeting, the Patriots only pressured him on 18 percent of his throws, he was getting the ball out in just over 2 seconds, taking the easy throws underneath against very soft zone coverages.
This is a two-fold need: the secondary has to disrupt the timing at the LOS, and the front seven needs to bring better pressure on Tua. Barmore is the key play to disrupt the running game and bring pressure up the middle.
Miami’s OL is banged up right now. With former Patriot Isaiah Wynn out, Barmore will face backup guard Lester Cotton. This is a matchup he should win.
Demario Douglas: The Patriots’ small but speedy slot receiver could be the “X-Factor” for this week’s offense. In the first meeting, the Dolphins blitzed Mac Jones 15 times, not fearing the Patriots downfield targets.
But if Douglas is the safety valve for Jones when they blitz, it could allow him to get some open field to make some YAC for Mac. That would be one way to make them pay for blitzing.
Week 8 Predictions —
Thursday Night Football:
Buffalo over Tampa Bay 1-0
Sunday Day Games:
Dallas over LA Rams
Minnesota over Green Bay
Atlanta over Tennessee
New Orleans over Indianapolis
Miami over New England
Detroit over Baltimore
NYJ over NYG
Philadelphia over Washington
Houston over Carolina
Kansas City over Denver
Baltimore over Arizona
San Francisco over Cincinnati
(No bye weeks, Week 8)
Sunday Night Football:
Philadelphia over Miami
Monday Night Football:
San Francisco over Minnesota
Last Week 6—7
2023 Season 63—43
2022 Season: 178—92—2
2021 Season: 183—88—1
2020 Season: 169—86—1
2019 Season: 162—93—1
“I think it’s about the same. If you keep more players on the roster, then you probably have fewer players on the practice squad at that position, and vice versa. I wouldn’t say that’s absolute, but generally speaking, that’s the way it is.
“If you carry fewer guys on the roster, then you probably have a couple more on the practice squad at that position, just to facilitate practice numbers. If you have more players on your roster, then you probably have fewer players because you have to balance it out somewhere else.
“When you add up all the practice squad players with all the active players, you’ll probably get a pretty consistent number on that. It might be team-to-team. It might be league-wide. Some teams might be heavier on a certain position than another position relative to another team, but I’ll just say overall, that’s probably the way it balances out.
“I’ve talked to a lot of coaches about it, and I think everybody kind of sees it the same way. You just decide where you keep your depth, and if you can’t get the player on the practice squad, somebody else is going to take them, then you might have to carry them on your roster.”
Bill Belichick asked about keeping seven WRs on the active roster relative to the new practice squad rules.
“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Christian Barmore Demario Douglas Jack Jones Jonathan Jones Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon Miami Dolphins New England Patriots Raheem Mostert Tua Tagovailoa Tyreek Hill