Tag Archives: Ben Watson

Best Of Social Media: Week 12 Cowboys vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
November 26, 2019 at 9:25 am ET

For the first time in almost a month, the New England Patriots returned home to play football against the Dallas Cowboys.

Check out all the best sights and sounds from social media before, during, and after the game.

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Allow me to reintroduce myself… #LFG

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In the first quarter, the Patriots special teams unit continued their dominating season, exploiting the wet conditions of Foxboro.

The Patriots got on the board first when N’Keal Harry hauled in his first career NFL touchdown.

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You’re a wizard, Harry

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7-0 Patriots after one quarter of play.

In the second, the NFL’s best cornerback continued to dominate, hauling in his fourth interception of the season.

The turnover turned into a Nick Folk 44 yard field goal extending the lead to ten.

The Cowboys scored six unanswered just before the half courtesy of two Brett Maher field goals.

10-6 Patriots at the half.

The second half saw both teams struggle on offense, with neither finding the end zone.

Dallas tacked on two field goals but the Patriots would walk away with their tenth win of the season in a 13-9 victory.

FINAL – 13-9 NE

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W.

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Big Dubs‼️#LFG

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🗣Chasin’

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5 Thoughts Following the Patriots Win Over the Eagles

Ian Logue
November 18, 2019 at 8:34 am ET

After two weeks away from the football field, the Patriots were back in action on Sunday looking for a big win out in Philadelphia as they began their second-half push toward another postseason run.

Much like their game against the Ravens, Sunday’s contest against the Eagles was a difficult battle, but this time New England managed to come away with a 17-10 win to improve to 9-1 on the season.

Here are some thoughts on the win:

1) Many will talk about the defense’s difficulties on Sunday as the Eagles had success early in the first half moving the football, but it’s hard not to appreciate what they managed to do down the stretch. With Tom Brady and the offense struggling, it left them responsible for closing out the game and they stepped up and did just that.

Their second-half performance was outstanding, with this group coming through in big moments against Carson Wentz and his receivers. After allowing Wentz to complete 11-of-16 for 87-yards and a touchdown in the first half as Philadelphia built a 10-9 lead, they were absolutely relentless and made him miserable over the final two quarters.

Belichick was spotted late in the first half holding court with the entire defense on the sideline, clearly settling them down after the Eagles scored their lone touchdown of the afternoon after a 16-play, 95-yard march down the field against them, the longest drive allowed by a Patriots team in the regular season in the last eight years.

Whatever he said obviously worked, as things changed from there and even more so when they came out of the locker room after halftime.

How good were they? They held Wentz to just 9-of-24 (38%) for 127-yards in the second half, including zero points.

That was key because New England’s offense came out in the second half and marched right down the field on their opening drive, with Brady going no-huddle and taking them 84-yards on 10 plays, which saw a trick play where Brady threw out to the right to Julian Edelman, who then fired a 15-yard strike to Phillip Dorsett in the end zone for the touchdown. James White would take it in for the 2-point conversion, giving New England a 17-10 to begin the second half.

Dorsett would be knocked out of the game on that play, leaving the Patriots short-handed against an Eagles team that was pretty tough all afternoon. As it would turn out, this would be a game where the defense would be the group responsible for carrying them to a victory.

It didn’t start off perfectly, as Jason McCourty was called for a 49-yard pass interference penalty on the first play of the game, leading to a 42-yard field goal as the Eagles took an early lead. Two possessions later, they allowed the aforementioned 95-yard drive that resulted in their first and only touchdown of the afternoon, giving them a 10-0 advantage.

But that would be it as New England held them scoreless the rest of the way, with the team getting back in the win column as they maintained their edge over the Ravens in the AFC for the top seed.

While it wasn’t pretty, it was enough and Belichick’s group now heads back to New England with their ninth victory of the season.


Brady was under pressure all afternoon down in Philadelphia.

2) Prepare for the pundits to be all over Brady this week, with the veteran finally showing cracks in his Hall-of-Fame armor for the first time on Sunday.

Brady is no stranger to making the occasional mistake, but he made several uncharacteristic decisions on Sunday, including a few questionable throws that he was very lucky didn’t lead to turnovers in key moments.

The Eagles brought pressure all game long, giving him little time to find anyone and he had to work for every single throw. But the biggest thing that stood out was that for the first time in recent memory, instead of showing frustration, he actually looked panicked on several occasions. That’s unusual for a player who is normally so poised, but he had moments where he didn’t look like himself at all on Sunday, which saw him get sacked once and hit 6 times.

Philadelphia did a good job making him uncomfortable, not allowing him to get set and throwing off the timing on quite a few plays and New England’s offensive line certainly didn’t do him any favors.

But Brady’s demeanor will likely be the story this week as he finished with a career-high 14 incompletions in the first-half, a stat that will probably be repeated by the talking heads and critics who will start pointing to the beginning of the end for the quarterback. Now, it was obvious that there are problems personnel-wise which are clearly contributing to these issues, but it’s unusual to not see Brady overcome them and falter in the uncharacteristic panicked moments he had on Sunday. He also nearly threw another red zone interception after almost getting picked off on a bad throw to Mohamed Sanu during their second scoring drive.

Following the game, it was clear there was a lot of frustration as Brady looked very sullen during his post-game press conference. He offered little in terms of any encouragement and looked like a player without any answers as to why they haven’t quite been able to get things going through 11 games.

Unfortunately, despite the fact there were moments where receivers weren’t in the right spot (one route by Jakobi Meyers where he broke off his route obviously come to mind), Brady wasn’t exactly his normally sharp self. There were a few plays that will likely be the topic of discussion all week, a couple of which could have resulted in turnovers. Brady was lucky he escaped unscathed after getting away with a few that could have been disastrous.

The good news is, history has shown that this should hopefully be an anomaly for the 6-time Super Bowl Champion. However, seeing him even have these moments was certainly unsettling for a player who is normally much more poised than he was on Sunday.

3) Jake Bailey walks away as the player of the game in this one, spending much of the afternoon flipping field position and forcing the Eagles to have to work with a long field all game long.

He was unbelievable, finishing with 8 punts, including six where he pinned the Eagles inside their 20-yard line. In fact, 3 of those drives started inside their own 10-yard line, with two more starting from their own 12.

That was huge because not only did it force the Eagles to start with bad field position, it gave the offense some terrific field position after Philadelphia was forced to punt quite a bit inside their own territory.

The bad news is, the Patriots obviously struggled to get anything going offensively and they weren’t really able to take advantage of it.

The other thing that stood out was the fact that Bailey’s high, booming kicks were a reminder that the swirling winds teams will be dealing with over these final months will likely cause some problems, with the Eagles punt returners looking a little shaky on a couple of his kicks. After seeing Cyrus Jones muff one two weeks ago in Baltimore, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Bailey get someone else to misjudge one at some point. The only thing that would have made his afternoon complete would have been if Bailey would have been able to recover a fumble on a kickoff in the second quarter after their field goal. On the play, Boston Scott was returning Bailey’s kickoff but Brandon Bolden came in behind Scott and punched out the ball, leaving Bailey as the player who was in position to recover it. Bailey dove and appeared to nearly have it, but couldn’t quite hang on to it and it went out of bounds.

Other than that, he was terrific and ended up being a big factor in the victory. He’s been outstanding all season but Sunday was definitely one of his best performances yet.

4) It was good to finally see N’Keal Harry in the line-up, with the rookie entering the game on just the second play. He spent most of the game blocking the running game, but did haul in three passes for 18-yards.

His first came on a 2nd-and-10 from their own 36-yard line, with Harry making a nice grab for an 11-yard pick up early in the second quarter on their first scoring drive. That helped keep things moving as the offense marched 59-yards on 13 plays, with Nick Folk hitting a 35-yard field goal to get them on the board after they trailed 10-0.

Harry’s addition seemingly comes at a good time as the Patriots lost Dorsett on his touchdown reception after he took a hard shot to the head on the play but somehow managed to hold on after the throw from Edelman. Dorsett left the field and appeared to be O.K., but was later looked at on the sideline and he didn’t return.

While it was a relatively quiet game, it was a good start for the rookie first round pick. With a home game up next, it should be interesting to see if his role expands this weekend.


New England’s defense was terrific Sunday.

5) It was also good to see Ben Watson get more involved again for the second straight week, with the veteran making several key receptions on Sunday.

Watson finished the afternoon with 3 receptions for 52-yards, including a 22-yard grab on a 3rd-and-10 from their own 47-yard line on the same drive Harry had his catch, with the team finishing it off with their first field goal of the game.

The veteran tight end also hauled in a 19-yard pass on the ensuing drive, which helped set up their second set of points after that one ended with a 22-yard field goal by Folk.

That’s a positive sign as Watson appears to be getting more comfortable in the offense and it’s certainly coming at the right time. With Dallas up next, followed by key AFC battles against Houston and Kansas City, the road doesn’t get any easier. Hopefully his contributions are a sign of things to come, which will if all goes well will also see Brady settle back in heading into their final six games.

The Patriots will face Dallas at Gillette Stadium next Sunday at 4:25pm.

Sorting out the Patriots Issues During the Bye Week

Steve Balestrieri
November 8, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots only held one practice during the bye week, on Wednesday, and then the players were given some needed time off to rest and recuperate. If you bet that after the loss to the Ravens on Sunday night that the coaches would keep them here all week in pads, you’d have been wrong. 

This is telling in that it says that the issues facing the team aren’t physical and Bill Belichick doesn’t feel that they need to practice doing things that they aren’t doing well so that practice makes perfect. No, this means that the coaches have done, and are still doing no doubt a healthy dose of self-scouting. The issues that the team is facing are more scheme-related than physical. Which includes the defense, and we’ll get to those. 

But first, let’s take a quick look at what we feel are two of the biggest issues facing the team after deciphering the first nine games of game film have been watched, watched again and analyzed. 

The Team Needs to Fix Their Red Zone Production:

Despite being one of the top-scoring teams (1st in points, 2nd in Points per Game) in the NFL, the Patriots have not been anywhere near as efficient as they have in years past. In fact, in the red zone, the Patriots currently rank 21st in red-zone production tied with the (gasp!) New York Jets at 50 percent. That is down from 62.18 percent from a year ago. 

Part of the reason they have struggled in the red zone is three-fold. They have struggled to run the football. Their tight end production is way down, and so is the production from their outside or “X” wide receiver.  Missing their left tackle, center, fullback James Develin and having both starting tight ends being dinged up for most of this season doesn’t help with the running game. 

Not that anyone really expected Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo to block as much as well as Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen did a year ago. Having these issues compounds the entire picture. While some will point to Sony Michel as being the issue, that is too simplistic and ignores the fact that there is often nowhere to run and he’s getting hit in the backfield.

Gronkowski was a tremendous red-zone threat in the passing game. Izzo and LaCosse? Not so much. Missing Gronkowski in the passing game was known to be a given. But their lack of production in the red area combined by their big “X” WR and TE are both show stoppers. Much more was expected out of both positions. LaCosse has three catches for 55 yards on the season and has been hurt more than anyone on the offense. Izzo, a blocking specialist, has six catches for 114 yards and a score. Ben Watson has played in the last three games and has 8 catches for 72. Put together, the tight end production is not going to cut it. 

Josh Gordon was placed on IR and then released, being picked up by the Seahawks. But in six games, he only had 20 receptions for 287 yards and just one touchdown this season. Added together, it is a weakness that opponents have taken advantage of and needs fixing. 

The problems along the offensive line have been well documented at this point and the lion’s share of the blame has been heaped on backup left tackle Marshall Newhouse. Is it correct? Look he hasn’t been great, but putting all of the blame on him is unfair and untrue. Neither Shaq Mason nor Marcus Cannon has played anything close to their level that we’ve come to expect. Although Cannon was better on Sunday night against the Ravens. 

Getting Isaiah Wynn back against Dallas will certainly help but will be no panacea for the OL as a whole. Wynn should immediately help in the running game and we’ll have to see how well he holds up in the passing game. But the offensive line as a whole needs to get healthy and perform better. Wynn will help. But Newhouse has been the convenient whipping boy but in truth, it is the group that needs to improve overall. 

At tight end, Watson will continue to see more targets as he finds a comfort level in the offense and his timing gets better with Tom Brady. What the team really needs is for either Izzo or LaCosse to step up, preferably both. But at this point, they are what they are and I’d be surprised if they got anything different than what they’ve gotten up to this point. 

They’re going to have to live with what they have for the rest of this season. Watson, although 38-years old, is much more viable than the others in the passing game. The fades and crosses that we saw him practice with Brady during side sessions in training camp need to get dusted off and used again. This is a position that the team will need to address, and address in a big way next year, either through free agency or the draft, possibly both. 

At the WR position, it seems obvious that N’Keal Harry “should” provide a big part of the answer. The Patriots invested a 1st-round draft pick in Harry and despite some of the bobos who are already asking if he’s a bust, he was supposed to be one of the best WRs coming out of the draft at getting his hands on contested passes. 

He has the frame (6’4, 225) that is ready-made for working the same part of the field that Gordon was working earlier this season. He’s big, athletic and physical. He’s not going to stretch the field vertically but those side sessions with Brady during the summer had him working fades, back-shoulder throws, and quick outs and slants. 

But he’s not going to be the focus on the red zone production. It is a lot, too much to ask of a rookie who’s been hurt and hasn’t played a down yet. He should see plenty of reps but then who will the offense lean on more in the red area? Mohamed Sanu. 

Sanu has good size (6’2, 210) and should easily fulfill the Brandon Lafell role in the Super Bowl year. Sanu had 10 catches in just his second week with the team and caught a what? Yes, a red-zone touchdown last week. He and Julian Edelman will continue to work in and out of the slot and create some mismatches. 

So getting Wynn back, adding Harry and putting more on Sanu and Watson’s plates should help to get the passing game going. In the running game, look for Rex Burkhead (if he can stay on the field) and James White to get more play in the running game in the red zone. That’s not blaming Sony Michel for the lack of production, but if they use the other two more, it gives them a more versatile look with the run/pass option where Sony is more run focused.  

Is the Run Defense Vulnerable? Don’t Sweat It Too Much: 

Oh my, after Sunday, social media had the “blueprint” to beat New England. The run defense was the Achilles Heel and the sky was definitely falling. “Can they win any of the next four games?” Take a deep breath folks and relax. 

What we saw against Cleveland and then against Baltimore was scheme-related and is easily fixable. The Patriots against the Browns were protecting the pass playing a lighter front in an attempt to take away the pass and weren’t overly worried about giving up some yardage in the running game. Obviously, the long run that was fumbled by Nick Chubb was something that they accept, but that was more of a missed tackle(s) thing than anything. 

Against the Ravens, the OL of Baltimore did and should get a ton of credit for being the more physical and dominant unit. But the coaching staff, something Bill Belichick said in his postgame comments didn’t put the defense in a good position to succeed. 

The Patriots went to their 3-4 base and their interior players mainly Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy who have both been outstanding this season were asked to two-gap against the Ravens running schemes. 

Instead of zone running schemes that they normally employ, the Ravens attacked the gaps and the passive nature of the two-gap system was a poor choice and put their big men in a difficult position to win. 

After the first couple of possessions, they switched things up and went to a four-man front and were attempting to penetrate and disrupt the running game by attacking it. That is the correct way to try to counter the powerful Ravens running game. Does it guarantee success? Of course not, but it offered a better way. 

Instead of having Jamie Collins as an outside linebacker, where he got overplaying the running game early, he was moved inside with Dont’a Hightower and was asked to be a penetrator. 

We know the NFL is a copy-cat league, the Eagles will try some of what we saw from Baltimore, and the Cowboys and Texans can definitely attempt more of the same. Something tells me that the coaches will have this figured out by next week in Philadelphia. The Eagles are running the ball a lot more lately as they take advantage of a heavier running package…we’ll have more of that next week when we do our pregame look at the matchups. 

As it appears here, the issues they had were more scheme-related than a personnel weakness. And those are easily fixable. If there is anyone who can make changes on the fly and in mid-season better than Bill Belichick, we haven’t seen him. 

That’s why they play the games…  

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

 

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots Week 7 Report Card, 33-0 Shutout Win Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
October 23, 2019 at 7:32 am ET

 Patriots Improve to 7-0 In Impressive Defensive Showing

The Patriots put this one away early, jumping out to an early 17-0 lead in the first quarter and then never looked back as they cruised to a 33-0 blanking of the Jets. The defense was outstanding, allowing zero points, holding the Jets to just 154 yards total and just 2 of 11 on third down. 

The shorthanded offense was clicking early but had their issues later in the game, although it is hard to find fault after they put up 33 points. Most everyone, including the Jets, had this one as being much closer than the first meeting. It wasn’t. 

So, while it wasn’t perfect, it was plenty good enough. Check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s blowout win.

Quarterback: B

Tom Brady once again had so-so numbers, 31-45, 249 yards one TD, one INT. But his TD numbers could have been inflated if not for two near scores with James White and an obvious DPI on Trumaine Johnson when got beaten by Jakobi Meyers on a double move as well as a Michel drop where it looked like a score. Regardless, Brady ran the offense very smoothly, especially early, scoring on three of their first four possessions which put the game into the win column. 

He had a pick where he was hit as he threw and that was partially on him for holding the ball too long and an intentional grounding call. The microphones on ESPN picked him up yelling “He was right there!” Ah, no Tom he wasn’t. But he was also victimized by some drops. Overall, with a short-handed offense, he ran it very well. 

Running Backs: C

The running game remains an issue, and while we can point at the running backs, in reality, there is far too frequently nowhere for them to go. As a group, the backs averaged only 2.2 yards per carry. Sony Michel had only 42 yards on 19 carries but did have three touchdown runs. 

Damien Harris got his first carries as a Patriot and finally got some work in, which is a positive sign. Brandon Bolden and James White had very little production in the running game this week. With no fullback, LB Elandon Roberts filled in as a goalline blocker and used his downhill, thumping style to good use. 

Wide Receivers: B

Julian Edelman and James White (as we pointed out in our keys to the game) were the biggest pass receivers, each hauling in seven passes and filled in their roles well. White just missed a pair of TD receptions, getting knocked out of bounds at the one-yard line and scampering down the right sideline and just being taken down around the ankles. 

Jakobi Meyers is gaining the all-important trust factor with Brady, he had five catches for 47 yards including some nice grabs in traffic. While his snaps may see a downtick with the addition of Mohamed Sanu and the return of Josh Gordon and N’Keal Harry, he’s building his rapport with #12 and that will come in hand down the stretch.

Phillip Dorsett returned from his hamstring injury and had a really nice 23-yard TD where he dusted Johnson down the seam. Brandon Bolden had a beauty of a catch along the sideline. A pretty back-shoulder catch for 28-yards where he got his feet in like a top-flight wide receiver. Next week, maybe they’ll try him as a kicker…

Tight Ends: B

Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson combined for 100 snaps (Watson 62, Tomlinson 38) after not being on the team a week ago. Considering Tomlinson had to jet to Texas for the birth of his child and then zip back this week, was a testament to hard work. The Patriots early in the game went with the heavier two-TE look and it worked pretty well. 

Watson’s timing was off a bit early, he turned too late for the first pass from Brady and it bounced off his face mask but after that, he contributed in the passing game with three catches including a key fourth-down conversion (Trust factor). Tomlinson had a catch but provided decent in-line blocking but did have a holding penalty. 

Offensive Line: C

The offensive line did a good job of pass protection overall, Brady wasn’t sacked and hit just two or three times. But of course, much of that has to do with Brady himself. He was getting the ball out incredibly fast which has to frustrate the pass rushers who have no chance of getting home. Marshall Newhouse continues to struggle against pressure from the outside, however. 

The run blocking remains a hit or miss operation, mainly miss. We can all point the finger at Sony Michel and say he isn’t hitting the hole fast enough, but there frequently isn’t a hole to hit and he’s getting met in the backfield. 

With the game salted away in the fourth quarter, the Patriots attempted eight rushes. This is where they traditionally eat the clock up and go home happy. Those eight rushes netted 10 yards. That isn’t going to get it done. 

 Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line once again was outstanding. Le’Veon Bell had a decent game numbers-wise but was a total non-factor. He got most of them on his own. Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler were stuffing everything at the point of attack. And they created lanes for the pass rush to get home. 

On a day where the Patriots had just one sack, the pass rush was the difference here. As was picked up by ESPN microphones, Sam Darnold was “seeing ghosts” 

Linebackers: A

The Patriots linebackers are having an outstanding season, the depth and versatility in this group are the strength of the defense. Utilizing the “0-blitz” early in the game, they were rushing free and caused Darnold to throw interceptions and sail his throws off his back foot. 

John Simon came free on one and knocked the ball out of Darnold’s hands, which was scooped up by Kyle Van Noy who jumped up and rushed into the end zone. It was eventually blown dead as a Jet TE had bumped legs with Van Noy on the ground. 

Dont’a Hightower rocked Bell on one of the few screens the Jets attempted on a bone-jarring hit that put a bow on the evening. 

Secondary: A

The secondary continued their stellar play, no touchdowns, no points, only 86 yards passing and four interceptions. Robby Anderson who had a huge game against Dallas was rendered to a milk carton by Stephon Gilmore. Slot receiver Jamison Crowder had just four catches for 26 yards, blanketed by Jonathan Jones. The Jets only had four first downs passing. 

Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo utilized the “Cover 0” technique for much of the game, telling the Jets that they weren’t afraid of getting beaten deep. They weren’t. Before the game, Darnold told the NY media, that Jets offense was going to become unstoppable. Maybe soon but not on Monday Night. 

The only downside was the play of J.C. Jackson who was too grabby on Demaryius Thomas and was flagged three times. 

Special Teams: A

Mike Nugent had a clean game, one field goal and four extra points with no misses. A look at Jake Bailey’s 37.3 net average on Monday and you’d think he had a bad game. That would be wrong. He did have a shank early in the game, but his plus-50 punting was outstanding dropping four inside the 20-yard line including a beauty he dropped on the one which bounced out of bounds at the three. He skied a 59-yarder that should have been put in orbit, with over a five-second hang time.

The return game was good and they recovered a muffed punt by former Patriot Braxton Berrios. A great night for the STs

Coaches: A+

The Patriots coaching staff had extra time to prepare and it showed. The first quarter was complete domination for the Patriots in a game the Jets were hoping to show that they were on their way. They were, but not where they expected. Bill Belichick took Adam Gase to school and Josh McDaniels deserves high marks for scheming up an impressive start with a very banged up offense missing several key pieces.

The defensive coaches knew what they needed to do against Darnold and their players produced much better than anyone could have hoped for, and certainly better than most expected.   

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

 

Patriots Boogeymen Bedevil, Whitewash the Jets 33-0

Steve Balestrieri
October 22, 2019 at 7:32 am ET

In the end, it wasn’t any more contested or closer than the first meeting. The Patriots’  defense flummoxed, frustrated, and dominated the Jets from the opening bell. They throttled the Jets in a 33-0 embarrassment in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football.    

Just a week after Sam Darnold made a triumphant return from an illness and was the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week, the Patriots had him literally “seeing ghosts” in the first half, forcing him into 5 turnovers. Darnold, who is one of the up and coming young quarterbacks in the NFL was left tonight looking silly and quite unprepared. 

But if Darnold was left seeing ghosts or Boogeymen in his sleep tonight, he didn’t have the worst game on the New York side. Head Coach Adam Gase was taken to the woodshed by Bill Belichick, his team looked completely unprepared and Gase made no adjustments that could be seen and left his young quarterback in far too long in a game that was decided in the first 30 minutes. 

The Patriots put a stamp on this one early. After receiving the opening kickoff, Tom Brady led a methodical, perfectly executed, time-consuming, soul-sucking drive that covered 14 plays and ate up nearly nine minutes of the first quarter. The much-ballyhooed return of MLB C.J. Mosley was nonexistent as Brady and the offense converted 3rd downs of 7, 10 and 5 yards before Sony Michel finished it off with a 3-yard touchdown on 3rd and 2. 

The Jets’ first possession took just two plays for the defense to force its first turnover of the night, one of six in total, five of which belonged to Darnold (four interceptions and a fumble). On 2nd and 8 from the 10-yard line, the Patriots overloaded a blitz on the right side and Darnold, under pressure lobbed the pass too high and it was easily picked off by Devin McCourty. 

What a difference a week makes. After Darnold picked apart the Cowboys, the confidence level was running high in New York. Darnold was talking about finding the weaknesses in the Patriots’ defense and exploiting them. He even added that once  TE Chris Herndon returns the Jets offense would be “unstoppable.” Not exactly bulletin board material, or overly cocky, but he and the Jets offense had no answers to what was to come. 

Gase, in another move that will be dissected for a long time to come, allowed his young quarterback to be mic’d up before the game, perhaps allowing himself the fleeting thought that after last week, this was to be the changing of the guard in the AFC East. Late in the first half, ESPN ran a clip of Darnold on the bench where he looked lost and admitted he was “seeing ghosts out there”. That clip, unfortunately, will follow him for a long time to come. 

What the Patriots did on defense was simple in its plan and yet brilliant in its execution. They blitzed the woeful Jets offensive line with the linebackers (Boogeymen) running free and forcing Darnold to throw off his back foot all game long. Or they would show the blitz and drop seven into coverage and give him nowhere to throw the ball. 

The Jets never adjusted, and never found an answer. While the Patriots only had one sack for 13-yards last night, the pass rush was the biggest factor for the defense. They had Darnold throwing off his back foot where the ball was continuously sailing on him. Darnold finished the game just 11 of 32 for 86 yards with four interceptions and a fumble. His passer rating for the game was just 3.6. He threw as many interceptions as the Jets were able to pass for first downs. They averaged just 2.7 yards per game.

Le’Veon Bell had a nice game with 15 carries for 70 yards including a couple of really nice runs where his patented patience allowed him to bust a few where it appeared he had nowhere to go. But in truth, he was a total non-factor. 

Robby Anderson, fresh off his big game against Dallas was once again relegated to a milk carton by Stephon Gilmore. Anderson had one catch for 10 yards while being targeted eight times. Gilmore had one of the Patriots’ interceptions. Demaryius Thomas who was chirping at the Patriots and Bill Belichick last week, made it sound like a big revenge game fell flat on his face. Targeted nine times, he had just three catches for 42 yards. 

If there was one downer on the defense, it had to be that cornerback J.C. Jackson was being singled out by the referees for flags. He was whistled for three penalties on the night.

But back to the offense. For all the hand-wringing the fans and much of the media are doing, they scored 31 points, (the defense scored two on a safety), and when the game was still in doubt, put 17 points on the board in the first quarter.

Was it a well-oiled machine? Hardly. But missing two key offensive linemen including the left tackle, two fullbacks who are key to the running game, both tight ends, their “X” wide receiver (Josh Gordon) and their most productive running back (Rex Burkhead), they did what they had to do. 

The Patriots’ two tight ends hadn’t played a snap this year but despite the lack of playing time and timing, both Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson played a significant amount of snaps. Jakobi Meyers is building his trust factor with Brady more every day and was targeted five times and had five catches for 47 yards. He also drew a pass interference penalty on Trumaine Johnson that would’ve been a touchdown. Johnson bit on a double move and had to grab him or get burned. The usual suspects, Julian Edelman and James White each had seven receptions. 

Tom Brady had a so-so night number wise but ran the offense efficiently and utilized everyone at his disposal, completing passes to eight different receivers. His two best throws were a nice 28-yard back-shoulder throw to supersub Brandon Bolden and a beautiful 26-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett who dusted Johnson in coverage.

Sony Michel had little running room, finishing with just 42 yards on 19 carries, but added three short touchdown runs. Edelman chipped in with a few jet sweeps. And linebacker Elandon Roberts, known for his downhill run-thumping style, was pressed into service as a blocking fullback for goalline and short-yardage. He did very well. 

So while the pundits will continue to decry about the Patriots opponents or lack thereof, they don’t care. They’ve enjoyed this one for a moment and are already moving on the Browns.  After that they will face the Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and the Chiefs. One at a time. Those games will ultimately define their season. But they are 4-0 in the division, including 3-0 in the division on the road, 4-0 on the road overall where they were just 3-5 last year. 

Sleep well Patriots fans, and even though Halloween is still 10 days away (nine since it is officially after midnight), but remember Boogeymen do exist. I think they’ll be haunting the dreams of Mr. Darnold for many nights to come.  

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Patriots Players To Watch, Week 7 MNF  Against the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
October 21, 2019 at 7:41 am ET

The Patriots are on the road again and are taking on the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. They’ve had some extra time off since their Thursday Night Football game but will the time off help them to prepare or will they lose a bit of their edge? They will be missing several members of the offense this week.

Here are our Patriots players to watch this week as they try to improve to 7-0 on the season against the Jets. 

Tom Brady: 

The Patriots, despite having the extra time off since last Thursday’s game are entering this game shorthanded and banged up on offense. That means more pressure on the QB to get it done with less. WR Josh Gordon, TEs Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, and RB Rex Burkhead are out, while WRs Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, and Gunner Olszewski are all questionable. 

Brady will be operating with one healthy receiver (Jakobi Meyers) and two tight ends that have been on the team for a week (Eric Tomlinson and Ben Watson), although Watson spent all of the training camp here with New England.

Couple that with an offensive line that has been missing two players all season and things won’t be easy for the Patriots QB. He and Josh McDaniels are going to have to get creative this week. 

Jamie Collins:

The Patriots linebacker is enjoying arguably his finest season with the Patriots and is turning back the clock with the way he’s been playing. With the Jets getting Sam Darnold back last week, they got much more aggressive offensively, throwing on first down more and with Darnold’s mobility he can move in the pocket and make plays with his legs. 

Collins will be one of the players who will be very important for the Patriots to ensure that Darnold doesn’t get out of the pocket. With LT Kelvin Beachum out this week, Brandon Shell will be getting his first NFL start. The Patriots will no doubt want to test Shell and Collins, as well as Kyle Van Noy, will be line up on the right side of the defense to try to bring pressure on Darnold.

Collins had a monster game against the Jets a month ago, with 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 QB hits, and a pass defensed. The defense will be looking for him to have another big game this week against a much different offensive team.

Julian Edelman/James White:

We’re lumping these two together this week since they will no doubt be the two players that Brady will target the most and the Jets will put the onus on stopping. Edelman against Brian Poole is a mismatch and one that he’d win easily, but expect Poole to have some help this time around. I’d expect the Jets to use a linebacker or safety on occasion to double up Edelman and force Brady to beat them elsewhere. 

James White missed the first game due to the birth of his son, and Rex Burkhead had 17 touches (11 carries, six receptions) in his absence. I’d expect that White will have a similar workload this week. In the passing game, Sony Michel may see a few touches as well as Brandon Bolden but maybe it would a nice time to let 3rd-round pick Damien Harris get his feet wet. UDFA Jakobi Meyers is the only WR not on the injury report.

The Patriots are going to have to ride Edelman and White heavily, something the Jets coaches are well aware of. The adjustments made in-game will ultimately tell the tale here. 

Adam Butler:

Butler is playing more snaps than any Patriots defensive lineman thus far this season. That speaks volumes to his progression in Year 3, and his versatility in being able to adapt to different situations. It is his play, which is the reason that Michael Bennett’s snaps have decreased so rapidly, more than anything else. 

With Bennett suspended this week, more will be thrust on Butler’s plate. With the ever-dangerous Le’Veon Bell in the Jets backfield, the Patriots defensive linemen have to stop Bell from penetrating and allow the linebackers to clean up. They also have to push the pocket on Sam Darnold and create pressure from the inside. 

Butler has been very good at being a disruptive penetrator inside and this will be a big opportunity to shine. The Bennett news will have him thrust more into the spotlight. And with a national audience tonight, Butler has a chance to create even more playing time for himself with a big game against the Jets.  

Ben Watson: 

Watson will be playing in his first game with the Patriots since the 2009 playoff loss to the Ravens at Gillette Stadium. He spent all of training camp with the team and was a frequent side session participant with Tom Brady getting some 1-on-1 work. But with just a week of practice, his first since the end of camp, it isn’t known how much he’ll play. 

The Patriots need some production from the tight end position, something they’ve gotten very little from Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse who has been hurt most of the season. Especially, this week with the situation involving the injuries to the wide receivers, they need someone to step up.

Watson, despite being 38-years old, still runs well and looks like someone much younger. If he can stretch the seams of the defense, just a little bit and give them some production in the middle of the field, it will open things up for Edelman and White.     

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Check back with PatsFans.com for all of our pregame and post-game analysis. And if you’re a wiz at predicting the NFL slate straight up, register for our message board and then post your picks every week. We’ll see who is the top dog at the end of the season. That page can be found here: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

 

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Patriots – Jets Week 7 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 18, 2019 at 7:03 am ET

The Patriots head out to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Jets on Monday Night Football. The Patriots are off their fourth 6-0 start in their history and are on pace for a record league-low in points allowed. With a win, they’ll improve to 7-0 for only the third time in team history.

This week’s game will be broadcast by ESPN and can be seen locally on WCVB Channel 5 on Monday, October 21 at 8:20 p.m.. Joe Tessitore will handle play-by-play duties with Booger McFarland as the color analyst. Lisa Salters will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (6-0) beat the New York Giants 35-14 on Thursday Night Football where the STs and defense each scored in the victory. Tom Brady rushed for two touchdowns.

The Jets (1-4) came off of their bye week and beat the Dallas Cowboys 24-22. Sam Darnold returned after missing the past three games and threw for 338 yards.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Jets have been rivals since the earliest days of the old AFL. The Patriots lead the all-time series 66-54-1 including a 36-25-1 record at home and 30-29 on the road against the Jets. The two teams have met three times in the postseason with the Patriots holding a 2-1 edge there. 

The Patriots have swept the season series the past three years. The Patriots beat the Jets 30-14 a month ago in Foxboro, but that was with 3rd string QB (since released) Luke Falk at quarterback.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Jets Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New York Jets

The Patriots running game remains an iffy proposition, last week against the Giants they struggled to run the ball, especially in short yardage situations. Sony Michel has been mostly ineffective, where the play of the offensive line and the tight ends hasn’t been good enough. But Michel has been a tad slow at hitting the holes. Brandon Bolden was brought in for some short yardage situations and Brady had two QB sneaks on the goal line scoring a pair of touchdowns. 

The Jets run defense has been solid but not great. They are allowing 95.8 yards per game which is 13th in the league. Last week they kept Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott mainly in check until the very late stages of the game. If they get MLB C.J. Mosley back this week it willl be a huge boost to both the run and pass defenses. Rookie Quinnen Williams is living up to his 1st-round draft pedigree and has been very good against the run.  Rookie UDFA Kyle Phillips has been a steal and was outstanding against Dallas.

With the addition of former Jets TE Eric Tomlinson, he should help somewhat in the blocking game, if he’s active on Monday night. If Rex Burkhead is ready to go, he’ll provide a boost to the running game as well. Look for Josh McDaniels to try to scheme up some running plays for the offense. Those outside zone runs aren’t working.  Look for some inside running plays to see if they can get some needed yardage and open up play action.                     

Patriots WRs vs Jets Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game is dealing with injuries to Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett as well as Rex Burkhead have been missing time. Rex Burkhead has missed the past two games.also. That leaves them painfully thin. Julian Edelman has been dealing with sore ribs he got in the Jets game last month. The Patriots are hoping to get Dorsett and Burkhead back for Monday night. That will go a long way in helping the offense get untracked. And with Ben Watson back in the fold, the Patriots have a TE that can threaten the seams and help open things up underneath. 

The Jets have a very good front seven, and with Mosley they are even better. But although they have a pair of outstanding safeties in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, their cornerbacks are a definite weakness. Former Patriot Darryl Roberts, Trumaine Johnson, and Brian Poole are the weak links of the Jets defense. They’ve allowed 262.0 yards per game, 21st in the league. Gregg Williams’ blitzing defense brings good pressure but they only have 7 sacks as a team. If the blitz is picked up then the corners won’t hold up.

Brady and the offense will have to attack the Jets’ pedestrian corners, notably Poole with Edelman in the slot. Edelman had seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown when he was injured in the second quarter of the game a month ago. Look for the Patriots to use the 2 RB set (James White, Rex Burkhead) in the passing game. With no Gordon, the backs will have to take up some of the slack. Ben Watson too.

Next up the Jets offense:

Jets RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

It’s impossible to judge anything regarding the Jets offense from the first meeting when they were missing both Sam Darnold and Trevor Siemian when they arrived in Foxboro. But the running game of the Jets has struggled to run all season, even when Darnold was in the lineup. Le’Veon Bell is averaging just 3 yards per carry. With Darnold back, the Jets passing game figures to be much better, but they also need the running game and Bell to keep the offense from being one-dimensional. The Jets offensive line also (like New England) needs to do a better job.

The Patriots run defense has been solid this season and is allowing just 73.7 yards per game, good for third best in the league. The average allowed per carry of 4.1 yards is misleading. The one 65-yard run by Frank Gore raised the average per game by 10 yards. Without that run, the average would be 62.8 yards per game and 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, and Adam Butler have been excellent at stopping the runs at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up and make plays. 

Having Darnold back in the fold will definitely help as he’ll force the defense to play it straight up and not allowing opponents to stack the box. This matchup will go a long way in deciding this game. If the Jets become one-dimensional and constantly are in 3rd and long situations, the Patriots defense will make life tough for them to move and score points. Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are key here for the Pats.  

Jets WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Jets finally got their passing game untracked on Sunday as Sam Darnold threw for 338 yards while completing 23-32 passes with two TDs and an interception. He has Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder in the slot and Demaryius Thomas at wide receiver. They’re hoping to get TE Chris Herndon back for this one which will definitely open things up for them down the seam. Bell is always a threat out of the backfield. 

The Patriots pass defense has been simply outstanding in 2019, allowing just 161.0 yards per game, good for #2 in the NFL. They’ve already intercepted 14 passes and made 25 sacks. They made 30 all of 2018 and have nearly matched that less than halfway into the season. The secondary has been like glue while the linebackers have been tremendous in helping with the pass rush. One of the most impressive things has been the communication, they way they pass off responsibilities when recognizing a blitzing opportunity. 

Anderson will be going against Stephon Gilmore who held him to just 3 catches for 11 yards in the last meeting. But Anderson lit up the Cowboys, including a 92-yard touchdown, so his confidence is high with his starting QB back. Crowder should be matched up with Jonathan Jones in the slot while Thomas will draw either Jason McCourty or J.C. Jackson. All three should be great matchups to monitor. 

In the first meeting, the Patriots got five sacks and with the Jets, they’ll be minus their starting LT Kelvin Beachum, Brandon Shell will be getting his first NFL start. Look for the Patriots to test him early in this one. With Darnold back, the Jets threw on first down more than ran (17-9) and he used play-action very effectively  Overall, on first down, he was 13-15 for 202 yards and a TD. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots Mike Nugent seems to have the coaches’ confidence, last week he doinked a kick off the upright but the high winds were a huge factor in the kicking game. Jake Bailey has come on extremely well and his strong leg has been on display numerous times already The return game has been so-so at best with Gunner Olszewski but the coverage units and punt blocking teams have been outstanding.

The Jets Sam Ficken has settled down the kicking game. Lachlan Edwards has done a solid job of punting, and the Jets coverage units have been solid. However, Braxton Berrios hasn’t provided much in the return game.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots are looking for a sweep of the Jets and of their divisional opponents on the road enroute to a 7-0 start. The Jets started off nightmarishly but confidence is high in the Meadowlands as they get their injured players back and their schedule does get markedly lighter after this week. They feel like they can with a second upset in a row go on a winning streak. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Defense Sets the Tone – Look for the Patriots defense to remain aggressive and challenge the Jets receivers. The secondary is playing tremendous and they’ll try to show different looks in trying to get Darnold to make a mistake. The key for the Patriots defense is to take away Le’Veon Bell, in both the running and passing game. If they can neutralize him, they have the secondary players to match up well. 

The pass rush will be an area to watch. Darnold has the ability to move in the pocket and throw on the move, unlike the previous matchup. They’ll attempt to test Shell on the left side and they’ll show him different looks as well. 

Edelman and the Running Backs in the Passing Game: Tom Brady passed for 306 yards on 28 of 42 passing in the first matchup with two touchdowns. Julian Edelman was giving the Jets fits until he was injured. With C.J. Mosley stating he’ll play on Monday, that should help the middle of the field immensely. But Poole is at a disadvantage against Edelman, it will be interesting to see if they give him help. 

James White, who missed the first matchup due to the birth of his son and Burkhead, if he’s able to go will see lots of reps. Expect to see a lot of the two-back “Pony” set where Brady will move them around to create mismatches. It will also help in keeping the Jets from blitzing at times. 

Play-action will be key here. If they can freeze the Jets linebackers ever so slightly, it will open up things more for Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and TE Ben Watson.

Get the Running Game Going: Easier said than done. The Patriots running game has been stuck in neutral for much of this season. But they need to scheme some things up to get it going with Sony Michel and Burkhead with a bit of James White and Brandon Bolden mixed in. 

The Jets run defense is solid and they’ll need an A-game from the offensive line. Michel is the key to get everything else going. If they are constantly in 3rd and long, it will be a long evening for the offense. 

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This should be a typical Patriots-Jets game in the Meadowlands, with the game tight right down to the very end. Points will be at a premium here for both teams but in the end the Patriots should be able to pull away thanks to the defense generating a turnover or two. The last thing the coaches want is to see the Jets get off to another start like they had last week. They’ll want to come out strong.  Patriots 23-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour heads back home next Sunday with a 4:25 p.m. game against the Cleveland Browns.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and breakdown game analysis

 

Patriots Addressing Tight End With Tomlinson, Watson

Steve Balestrieri
October 15, 2019 at 7:07 am ET

 Ch-ch-changes, There’s gonna have to be a different man

The Patriots are looking to make some needed additions at tight end this week as they prepare for the Jets on Monday Night Football next week.  NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport has reported that the Patriots are signing former Jets and Giants tight end Eric Tomlinson to the 53-man roster. 

Yesterday, Field Yates of ESPN reported that the team was bringing back veteran Ben Watson. Watson was signed this spring but was suspended through the first four games by the league. The team then balked at adding him to the roster, releasing him. Bill Belichick said at the time that there just wasn’t a roster spot for Watson at this time. Apparently, now there is room. 

Matt LaCosse was injured early in the Giants game and reportedly has an injured MCL that will require him to miss several weeks. He’s been dealing with nagging injuries all year. A roster spot was opened up when the Patriots placed fullback Jakob Johnson on IR with a shoulder injury. 

If the Patriots are to add both Tomlinson and Watson, another corresponding roster move must be made and perhaps it is moving LaCosse to IR. But that isn’t official, just speculation at this point. 

The tight end position has been a weak spot for the team through the first six games of the season. LaCosse has only 3 catches for 55 yards while Izzo has made 6 receptions for 114. But neither has done a consistent job in the blocking department. Which is something that has really hurt the Patriots running game. 

The Patriots were starting from scratch this year, with all three TEs from the 2018 roster gone. Rob Gronkowski retired and Dwayne Allen signed with Miami and is now a free agent, while Jacob Hollister is with Seattle and was just added to their 53-man roster. 

If there is one area that the Patriots front office neglected this spring, it is the tight end position. After losing all three including a Hall of Famer in Gronkowski, the team opted to bypass several viable tight ends in the draft and instead, signed veterans Watson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Seferian-Jenkins was given his release to attend to personal problems and Watson, to date, has yet to suit up in a game. Izzo returned from IR and later the team added LaCosse.

Watson is an experienced pass catcher and should immediately help in attacking the seams of the defenses. Tomlinson who has good size at 6’6, 253 has caught only 16 passes, for 193 yards and one touchdown in his NFL career but is known more as a blocker, (something Izzo has struggled with) and STs contributor. 

With injuries at WRs Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett as well, 1st-round draft pick N’Keal Harry is expected to be back at practice tomorrow.  While he has been active in the meeting room with the offense and wide receivers as is allowed by the NFL rules while on IR, he hasn’t practiced with the team since training camp. Bill Belichick said yesterday, he’ll have to show he can out and physically compete at practice. 

He is eligible to return to the active roster in two weeks after the Wednesday date and, if healthy enough, play against the Ravens on November 3.  

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Ben Watson Releases Statement Thanking Patriots Following Release

Robert Alvarez
October 7, 2019 at 4:54 pm ET

A second stint of catching passes for the New England Patriots appears to be over before it even begins for tight end Benjamin Watson.

On Monday, the 4pm deadline to activate Watson from his roster exemption expired, formally making him a free agent. The decision was first reported by ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss.

Watson missed the first four games of 2019 due to a suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy and was inactive for the Patriots week five victory over the Washington Redskins.

On Monday, during an interview with WEEI’s Ordaway, Merloni and Fauria program, head coach Bill Belichick was asked what factored into the decision to move on from Watson.

“Just don’t have a roster spot,” Belichick told WEEI. “We only have so many roster spots. If we put somebody on, we have to take somebody off. Right now, there wasn’t a roster spot. We didn’t feel like there was somebody we could create a roster spot with. Everybody came out of the game healthy. We have a decent team. So I think that’s where we’re at.”

Watson acknowledged the Patriots decision over Twitter and thanked the organization for the opportunity.

A few teammates shared their disappointment over the news, quarterback Tom Brady shared his reaction during his Tuesday morning press conference. 

“A lot of guys I have played with, I have played with a lot of guys over the years and Ben is a great player. He has been a great player for this team, other teams. He has had an incredible career. Hopefully he can keep playing. I know he was looking forward to playing.

“I’ll miss him. He was right next to me. For as great of a player he was, he was 10 times a better person. Just the highest integrity. I can’t say enough good things about Ben and what he’s meant to me and my family, our team. We’re going to miss him.”

“Ben is just a great person to be around,” veteran cornerback Jason McCourty said Monday. “Football aside, a guy who is strong in his faith, mature, a father of seven, so a lot to learn from him from that standpoint.”

Watson’s departure leaves Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo as the only tight ends on the Patriots roster.

Izzo hauled in his first career touchdown pass on Sunday.

By not activating Watson, the Patriots created roughly $2 million in cap space ahead of the October 29th trade deadline.

Now a free agent, Watson intends to continue his NFL career and forgo any retirement plans for the immediate future.

As More Patriots WRs Go Down, It is Opportunity Time for the Remainder

Steve Balestrieri
August 15, 2019 at 7:33 am ET

At the conclusion of the first joint practice with the Titans on Tuesday, the state of the Patriots receiver corps was more notable on who wasn’t in attendance rather than who was. Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas, Cameron Meredith, Josh Gordon [still suspended] tight end Matt LaCosse and N’Keal Harry were not there for the beginning of practice, although Harry was in uniform, he didn’t take part in any activities and quickly moved off to work with members of the training staff. 

Then during the session, both Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris each left with various ailments. That left a thin wide receiver grouping even thinner. Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham were left with Jakobi Meyers, Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, Gunner Olszewski, Damoun Patterson, and Ryan Davis. 

It isn’t known if the dings that Dorsett and Harris took were heat-related or more serious. Dorsett was reported to have returned and rode a stationary bike at the end of the practice session. This is in addition to reports that running back Damien Harris is dealing with a wrist injury, which has limited his pass=catching ability.

But rather than looking at this as a red flag [as it would be during the regular season], this is a time of opportunity, a chance to earn more reps with the starting unit and carve out a role for themselves for the players on the field.

Meyers has been a very pleasant surprise as to how fast he’s caught on to the Patriots system as well as his versatility and production in the passing game. If there is an area where he could improve it would be in special teams. The coaches have been getting him some reps in the punt return game, which to date haven’t been all smooth. 

Berrios has thrived during joint sessions and the preseason game with the Lions and is carrying that momentum into this week in Tennessee. Berrios looked very good in the return game last week in Detroit and that alone may win him a spot among the final 53-man roster. Away from the smothering Jonathan Jones in team practices, Berrios has found room to move and made some nice plays in the passing game. 

Dontrelle Inman may be the biggest benefactor from the recent spate of injuries to the wide receivers. After a very forgettable spring, Inman found himself deep in the bowels of the depth chart at the beginning of training camp. He helped himself with some good work against the Detroit third teamers last week. 

Now he’ll get more reps with Brady and the first team unit today. If that means more playing time on Saturday night, then it is a chance to move up in the pecking order. If he can find the comfort level and chemistry with Brady that he showed late last season with Andrew Luck, he could force himself into a much better situation. Maurice Harris had a tremendous start to camp. But he had a couple of big drops in Detroit, [granted one was a clear defensive pass interference] and with him now possibly on the shelf, this allows Inman a chance to push him a bit. 

LaCosse’s ankle injury last week opened the door for the team to bring in the third-year tight end Eric Sauber that they picked up from the Falcons for a conditional 7th round draft pick. Sauber has the size, 6’5, 255 pounds and the athleticism to play special teams and to attack the seams of the defense. But the knock on him is his hands, “manos de piedra” which have precluded him from having any impact in the league.

Sauber should get more and more work in the passing game as the team tries to lighten the load on 38-year old Ben Watson. Ryan Izzo is known more as a blocker. Rookie Andrew Beck is being used more as a fullback/H-back and Stephen Anderson has seemingly become an afterthought in the passing game. 

But like anything else, opportunities arise and players have to take advantage of them. 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.