Good morning, and Happy Gameday. Here are our Sunday 11-26 Patriots news and notes. And we all here hope that everyone had a very Happy Thanksgiving.
The Patriots and Giants meet up today with nothing on the line for 2023 but possible 2024 NFL Draft ramifications. With seven games to go, it is far too early to be doing the countdown to the NFL draft order. A month from now, we’ll know a lot more about which teams are closing in on top picks.
There is still a lot of football left in the season. And we all look forward to seeing how the games play out; I don’t want to overlook the rest of the games. Let it play out, and then we’ll track the draft order at the proper time.
So, who starts at QB today as the Patriots and Giants renew their rivalry? Well, Bill Belichick remained totally non-committal during his Friday press conference. When asked the question about who would start, Belichick remained mum on the subject, stating that he told all of the QBs to “be ready.”
“I’ve told everybody to be ready to go,” Belichick said to the media. “Hopefully, that’s what they’re all doing. I’m not going to announce starters at every position. Everybody will be ready to go.”
Mac Jones was asked on Wednesday if he was starting and didn’t give a definitive answer. “I hope so,” Jones said. “That’s the plan, I think.”
By that’s the plan, that could mean the team’s plan or his own. Bailey Zappe stated that none of the QBs know who is going to start but hoped that he’d get the nod. “That’s Coach Belichick’s decision,” Zappe said after Friday’s practice. “He’s the head coach for a reason. He makes those decisions, and we just play football.”
What a mess. This not naming a starter is, IMO, a bad look. Of course, they all should be ready to go. They are professionals and are being paid to step in and produce when their number is called.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News:
Adrian Klemm: The Patriots OL coach has been missing due to a medical issue that hasn’t been released. However, Offensive Coordinator Bill O’Brien said earlier this past week that Klemm is doing better.
“I know Adrian’s doing better,” O’Brien said on Monday. “We’ve all been in text communication with him, and he’s doing a lot better.”
“Any time you lose a guy off your staff, it’s hard,” O’Brien said. “We have Billy Yates here, who’s played in this system and does a really good job, and we have Will Lawing, who coaches the tight ends, who has a lot of background with tight ends, offensive line. And then, obviously, we have Bill Belichick, who has a lot of background with that position — tight end and offensive line.
“So, we have enough hands on deck. But it’s not ideal, that’s for sure.”
Dan Orlovsky: The former QB turned ESPN analyst chimed in on Mac Jones and the nosedive that he and the Patriots offense have suffered in 2023. And Orlovsky isn’t putting the onus of blame on Jones.
“By the numbers, Patriots pass protection: worst of any team in the last 4 seasons, Patriots target separation: worst of any team in last 3 seasons. Not hyperbole—One of the worst QB situations in the past decade. Player development is impossible in this situation.”
Rob Gronkowski: Gronk is loving his media gig working for FOX Sports alongside Terry Bradshaw, Michael Strahan, and Jimmy Johnson. He told Kay Adams on her show that he’d unretire if… Flag football is allowed at the Olympics.
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 where the team is at after the bye week and how they could look moving forward in 2023.
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.
Players To Watch Against the Giants —
The Patriots are coming off of a bye week at 2-8 and mired in a three-game losing streak. And while some questioned whether Will Grier would be the starter today against the Giants, the Patriots squashed that rumor as they released Grier on Saturday and signed T Connor McDermott to the 53-man roster.
So, it appears that either Jones or Zappe will get the start. And they’ll wait for the last minute to let us know who is getting the nod. But the key to winning the game rests in the running game.
Stevenson/Elliott: With all the questions at QB, the Patriots are going to need a big day from the running backs. And the Patriots must stick with the running game to get them into and score in the red zone.
Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott are a good 1-2 punch but need the OL to step up and run block the Giants’ front seven. Stevenson is looking more and more like the 2022 version and is piling up yardage after contact.
If Bill O’Brien can scheme up the running game, it will also open up play-action passing for the QB to take advantage of. In the last game, the Patriots piled up 167 yards on the ground. Now, after the bye week, they need to turn those yards into points on the scoreboard.
Tyquan Thornton: The clock is ticking on the 2nd-year WR. After missing the first four weeks of his rookie season, he didn’t get to show much, but the same thing happened again this season. He’s playing for his Patriots career right now, because unless he starts to show some promise, then he could very well be playing elsewhere in 2024.
And with the WRs not producing, with the exception of Demario Douglas, he should get another opportunity to prove he belongs. And with his speed, he needs to make the most of what may be his final chance in New England.
Jabrill Peppers: The Patriot safety has been an excellent addition to the defense in 2023 and has developed into one of the leaders in the locker room. He’s been an excellent run defender, and facing the Giants’ Saquon Barkley this week is a tall task.
Barkley will be the main focus of the Patriot defense this week, but Peppers’ coverage skills and physicality should be a focus against the talented Giants running back. While Barkley’s running prowess is well-documented, his ability to make plays out of the backfield, where he has 27 receptions and four TDs, is a key part of the game this week.
Pass Protectors: The Giants have a big, fast, impressive man in the middle of the DL (Dexter Lawrence) and on the edge with Kayvon Thibodeaux. And protecting the QB, be it Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe, is a huge priority this week.
Those players will make it tough enough as it is. However, the Giants love to bring pressure and overload one side of the OL. The Patriots OL will have to react and adjust accordingly.
The OL has to begin playing much better regardless of whether Jones or Zappe is under center. And the pass protection has been woefully inadequate.
Christian Barmore: The big man is putting it all together this season and has been dominant at times in the interior of the DL. But the issue with the defense has been a lack of finish. The front seven can get opponents into key third-down situations but lacks the finish to get sacks.
Ever since Matthew Judon went on IR, the pass rush has gotten consistent pressure but very little in the sack department. Barmore has to be the guy that gets the sack parade going this week and bring pressure on Tommy DeVito.
The Giants have allowed an incredible 63 sacks this season of DeVito, Daniel Jones, and Tyrod Taylor. Both of the latter two are on IR. If they are going to have a sack-filled game on defense, this is the week to get it done.
Detroit over Green Bay 0-1
Dallas over Washington 1-1
San Francisco over Seattle 2-1
Miami over NYJ 3-1
Sunday Day Games:
New Orleans over Atlanta
Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
Tennesse over Carolina
Tampa Bay over Indianapolis
NYG over New England
Denver over Cleveland
Jacksonville over Houston
Arizona over LA Rams
Kansas City over Las Vegas
Philadelphia over Buffalo
Sunday Night Football:
Baltimore over LA Chargers
Monday Night Football:
Minnesota over Chicago
Last Week 10—4
2023 Season 104—60
2022 Season: 178—92—2
2021 Season: 183—88—1
2020 Season: 169—86—1
2019 Season: 162—93—1
“He’s (Dexter Lawrence) a really good player. He’s a major force, a hard guy to block, big, athletic, and blocks kicks. It’s hard to move him off the line of scrimmage, and when he penetrates, he can penetrate as well as any player in the league. He’s big and powerful and long. It’s pretty unique. I mean, we’ve faced a lot of good inside players, going back even to preseason – [Quay] Walker in Green Bay, you can go right down the line. Guys that we’ve seen or worked against, or whatever. This guy’s a major force.”
Bill Belichick on the Giants DL Dexter Lawrence, who is having a terrific season.
“He’s a speed guy on the edge, and Lawrence is a vertical penetration guy inside, so those two guys complement each other. It’s hard to step up in the pocket because of Lawrence, and you can’t get back there too far, or you’ll have to deal with the edge from Thibodeaux.
“They both help each other, but he’s very athletic. He makes good plays in pursuit chase, an athletic guy on the edge. Two good players that really complement each other.”
Bill Belichick, when asked about the Giants edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux.
“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick
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