Good morning. I’ll be filling in for Steve Balestrieri this morning ahead of this morning’s battle against Indianapolis in Frankfurt, Germany.
Obviously, today’s game is certainly a big one for the New England Patriots, especially given all the discussion surrounding Bill Belichick’s future. Despite the reports and the rumors that continue to fly, Belichick seemed fairly upbeat on Friday, with the Patriots coach appearing to be approaching it as “business as usual,” saying that he’s still enjoying what he’s doing.
“I enjoy it. I enjoy all aspects of it,” said Belichick when asked how he continues motivating himself after over 20-years here in New England. “The preparation, the team building, the competitiveness on Sundays, the guys that I work with, you know, the staff, the players, it’s a great environment, the ownership. Everybody works together to try to work towards a common goal. Honestly, it beats working. I enjoy it. ”
Whether or not that continues beyond today is the question everyone is wondering, especially with the bye week approaching.
If ever there would be a time when a change might be made, given the history of what we’ve seen around the league, this is generally it.
That’s also what’s going to make what happens later this morning that much more interesting as the Patriots try and end their third multi-game losing streak of 2023 and get back on track.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News:
Trent Brown, DeVante Parker OUT: Both Brown and Parker are dealing with injuries, with Brown also said to be dealing with a personal matter in addition to his ankle injury. Meanwhile, Parker is still recovering from a concussion he sustained two weeks ago, which depletes an already thin wide receiving group after the team lost Kendrick Bourne for the season against Miami.
J.C. Jackson: After reportedly missing curfew last week, Jackson missed the early part of last week’s game, although, things appeared to proceed relatively as usual from there for the remainder of the contest. However, behind the scenes, he and the coaching staff appear to be at odds, and he was left behind in Foxboro this week as a “mental reset,” according to Mike Garafolo. Belichick said on Friday “I think he’ll be available,” after the bye, but wouldn’t elaborate. “That was the decision,” he added. “I won’t get into it.”
That leaves New England down a player who has been serviceable in their secondary, with the Patriots having acquired him from Los Angeles to shore up what – at the time – was a banged-up group. That will be something to watch against what’s been a pretty good Colts team, which likely will see Shaun Wade step in again after he started last week against Washington.
Kayshon Boutte: After not being elevated last week, it will be interesting to see if this might be the game we finally see Boutte active.
The rookie out of LSU last played back in Week 1 and he hasn’t seen the field since, with Jalen Reagor being the one who saw the lion’s share of the snaps Sunday in place of Parker. Reagor was in on 77% of the snaps but caught just 1-of-6 targets, including a drop on a deep play late in the contest.
Belichick said on Friday, “We’ll see how all that goes,” regarding Boutte, adding, “Kayshon has had a good couple of weeks here. It’s definitely trending in the right direction, so that’s been good.” Boutte was spotted working with the starters during 7-on-7s, so it’s possible today might be the day we finally see him out there.
Mac Jones: Jones said this week that he and his teammates have a plan to deal with whatever jet lag they might be feeling ahead of Sunday’s game. “I have a game plan, and already in effect,” said Jones. “They’ve talked to us about it a little bit, and all that stuff. At the end of the day, stick to your routine and maybe move it up or move it back depending on how that fits for you. So, I’ve definitely done that.” This is a big week for Jones, who has still not yet gone out and played his best game of the season to this point in 2023. More on him in a bit.
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.
Tyquan Thornton: It was another rough performance last week for the second-year receiver. Thornton caught just one of his four targets last week, including having one ugly play where he didn’t get his head around on a key third down. The former Baylor wideout did manage to get some support from Bill O’Brien this week. O’Brien praised Thornton while noting his injury issues have been what’s held him back. “He’s a great guy, he works very, very, hard and he just hasn’t had a lot of opportunities,” said O.Brien. “I’m not making an excuse for him, I’m just telling you, he hasn’t been out on the field a lot.”
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 is now available on our channel on YouTube, with Steve and Derek Havens both taking a look at what happened last Sunday, along with previewing today’s game in Germany.
(PHOTO: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)
Coaches “Baffled” with Jones:
Mac Jones has obviously had a tough year, which has his future with the football team in doubt beyond his rookie contract, and potentially sooner depending on how these final eight weeks play out.
Based on how he’s played so far, Jones hasn’t been able to improve on what had been a difficult 2022, with some of his past issues carrying over into this season.
The biggest problems plaguing Jones have been obvious. He’s been inconsistent and turnover prone, with his mechanics continuing to be a work in progress. Jones’ footwork has been something that’s been mentioned quite a bit, with the former Alabama QB often not planting and instead falling off his back foot and he certainly doesn’t have the arm to make those types of throws.
Looking back at film of his rookie season, that wasn’t the case. Jones was much more poised and mechanically sound, getting a lot more on the football and looking far less hesitant than he has this season.
The latter has been a notable issue. He’s been late getting the ball out on quite a few occasions, and it sounds like it’s become something that’s frustrating the coaching staff.
Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated spoke about it this week on NBC Sports Boston, with coaches frustrated about some of his decision-making. That includes plays where they’re seeing things open up, yet the ball just isn’t coming out of his hands.
“So one thing that’s really infuriated people in the building is the decision-making,” said Breer during an appearance on NBC Sports Boston Wednesday. “They’ve been sold this efficient game-managing quarterback, and they’re not getting it. The decision-making hasn’t been good. They see him passing up open receivers. They see things, quite frankly, that you wouldn’t see from a quarterback who has those sorts of qualities.”
“So it’s not just the physical limitations now, it’s also that it doesn’t feel like he’s really taking the coaching, and that creates a much bigger problem. Because if this is who Mac Jones is, and we’ve seen some of the defiance bubble over in the press conferences, if he’s not running the offense as it’s prescribed, well then, what do you have? Because it’s not like he can put the cape on and be Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, you know what I mean? If you don’t have that one part of it, then what do you have?”
Breer cited an example in the third quarter of Sunday’s game where Jones actually checked into a play that, after review, was a good call because it set up a potential touchdown pass to Mike Gesicki.
However, Jones didn’t pull the trigger as Gesicki slipped past the secondary and appeared to be off to the races. He instead hesitated, and as his protection finally broke down he scrambled and picked up three yards.
The play was there to be had, and it apparently left coaches “baffled” while trying to figure out why he didn’t make the throw.
“There was a point in the game in the third quarter, it’s right here, where Mac Jones checked to a throw to Mike Gesicki. Mike Gesicki came wide open down the seam, you can see him down there,” explained Breer. “Mac Jones, as you can see there, tucked the ball and ran with it. The coaches, I know, were baffled because he checked to that play, that play’s designed to go to Gesicki, Gesicki comes wide open down the seam, that thing might be a touchdown. He pats the ball, tucks it, and runs around the corner, scrambles for three yards.”
“I think there’s some self-doubt, too, because there are other examples of plays I’m told there where he’s checked to screens and they’ve gotten blown up. It’s like the wiring’s off right now. So it’s beyond everything else, like, the wiring’s off. When you check to a certain play because you see something and the play works, and the receiver is open, and all you have to do is pull the trigger and make the throw, and you’re tucking the ball and running around the corner for three yards, something’s not right.”
Bill O’Brien sort of alluded to some of this on Tuesday as he spoke to reporters. Evan Lazar of Patriots.com asked O’Brien about Jones’ decision-making, noting that the quarterback appeared to be rushing through his reads.
O’Brien agreed, and said that’s among the things both Jones and the offense need to improve on in order to become more consistent.
“I think there’s some truth to that,” said O’Brien. “I think that it kind of goes under the umbrella of what it’s been for most of the year for us is inconsistency. So it’s not just about one guy. You can really say that about, obviously, the whole offense, and so we just need to be more consistent, whether it’s coaching it better, or executing it better.”
“Really, it’s not just Mac, it’s every position. I think that we’re striving for that consistency, we still haven’t really found it, and we’re still working hard to get it. There’s a lot of football left, and hopefully, we can find it, starting this weekend.”
“But that’s really what it falls under. There were times on Sunday where, Mac, like, the touchdown pass to Hunter was just a beautiful play, and then other times where, yeah, maybe he was a little bit sped up, and we’ve got to do a better job of coaching it up and working with him. But at the end of the day, we all just have to strive for more consistency.”
(PHOTO: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
4th-and-3 Was a Misfire, Not a Bad Route
Earlier this week, one play that was discussed by O’Brien was the 4th-and-3 play on Sunday, which came on the Patriots’ first possession after they came up short following a 7-yard reception by Thornton on a 3rd-and-10.
After driving into Washington territory at the Commanders’ 39-yard line, Belichick decided to keep the offense out on the field, and it appeared they had the right call set up on that 4th-and-3.
On the play, Jones saw Thornton come open as the second-year wideout came free coming back across the field, but Jones badly overshot him.
Looking at it further, Jones threw the football as Thornton was about to come out of his break, with the ball leaving his hands before Thornton turned his head back as he broke to the outside.
The ball ended up being farther downfield and to his left, as Thornton and Jones were simply not on the same page.
Some had wondered whether or not Thornton ran the wrong route, but O’Brien confirmed that wasn’t the case.
“Look, Tyquan … the 4th and 3, he was open, he ran a good route the beginning of the game,” said O’Brien. “There was a third down later in the game where he didn’t win on the route. He has not played a lot of football because of injury. So when you don’t play a lot of football, it’s hard, and he’s got to continue to work, and he will.”
As O’Brien said, health has been an issue for Thornton, with he and Jones clearly not getting enough time to work out the kinks.
At the same time, progress needs to be made, especially when the Patriots will likely be making some big decisions this offseason on that side of the football.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Reiss Concerned For Belichick’s Future
ESPN’s Mike Reiss appeared on 98.5 The Sports Hub Monday and admitted despite the team being on a bye next week, he’s not staying in Germany following Sunday’s game because he’s not sure what might happen beyond this weekend.
Given Belichick’s situation, Reiss admitted that he’s not willing to take any chances and plans on returning in case the unthinkable happens.
“I’ve got to be honest with you. I mean, I’ve thought about it, but I feel like I can’t be away from the team enjoying myself in the event that … I’m not saying any news is going to happen, but you have to be responsible to the possibility, you know?” said Reiss.
When pressed for his opinion by co-host Rich Shertenlieb, Reiss cited history as to why he hasn’t completely ruled out the possibility depending on how things play out.
“Well, Rich, I mean, I will say I don’t think it’s going to happen, but I think if we look at history, there have been times where sometimes, these international games, I don’t think the coach makes it back with the team,” said Reiss. “And I’m not saying that’s going to happen, so I want to be 100% clear, but I just think when you’re a reporter covering a team, it’s hard to detach yourself from the team during the season because you’re wired to always just be on call. Regardless of anything.”
One other reason Reiss believes Belichick will survive this weekend is because, at least to this point, the team is still playing at a level where there doesn’t appear to be any quit. As long as that continues, he believes that Belichick will remain the head coach.
“I don’t, personally, and I think I go back to our conversation after one of the blowout losses maybe that we had Monday morning after one of those games, and I think I had said after the season would be the time,” said Reiss. “I would be personally surprised if they went during the season. Especially because I look at it … so like the Raiders as an example … like, that team, you could argue, they stopped playing on Monday night when they lost that game.”
“Like, it just, you could tell … this team, they haven’t stopped playing. I mean, they had the ball with a chance to tie or win yesterday, you know what I mean? If we saw more games like the Cowboys and Saints back-to-back-to-back, then I think the conversation picks up steam. But that’s just sort of my sense of it, guys, not based on any concrete information.”
(PHOTO: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)
Wilfork on the Patriots: ‘We Don’t Have Enough’
WBZ’s Steve Burton caught up with former defensive lineman Vince Wilfork this week in Germany, with Wilfork talking about the current state of the team.
Wilfork noted that the Patriots just don’t have enough guys who are playmakers, and it’s obviously affecting the team’s success, along with the issues they’ve had in the locker room.
“I know what the ‘Patriots Way’ stands for and the type of product we want to put on the field, and I know what it takes,” said Wilfork. “We have the players, but we don’t have enough. We don’t have enough players making plays. That’s the problem.”
As for how they’ll fix it, Wilfork said that’s obviously the hard part. He believes there’s no easy solution, but it starts with guys focusing on their own jobs while trying to remain united.
“Everybody wants this magic wand, but it’s not that. Each individual has to take it amongst themselves to take care of their responsibilities, and be the best they can, and hold each other accountable,” said Wilfork. “That’s what football is about, holding each other accountable. But you have to be able to play together.”
Wilfork said it looks like some of that accountability is what’s lacking right now, and it’s something that he hopes they’ll figure out.
“It looks like there is just a lot of mix-ups,” he said. “Just stuff that this organization was built on is missing. The camaraderie is missing,” he noted. “The commitment is missing. That is the missing piece. Hopefully, they understand that and understand that they have to be held accountable.”
As for Belichick’s future, Wilfork said, “all good things come to an end, and I get that,” but he still believes Belichick knows how to coach and that should he move on, his coaching days are certainly not over.
“He’ll go somewhere else and coach,” said Wilfork.
Hopefully, Sunday sees Belichick live to fight on for another week as the Patriots try and keep from losing their third-straight game for the second time this season.
Posted Under: Patriots News