Tag Archives: Brian Flores

 Patriots Week 17 Report Card, Crushing Loss to Miami, Bye-Bye Bye Week

Steve Balestrieri
January 1, 2020 at 8:05 am ET

Patriots Come Out Flat And Lose #2 Seed

Happy New Year, from all of us here, we hope that you all had a happy, safe and fun New Year’s Eve and an even better 2020.

The Patriots lost out on a big…and needed opportunity to earn themselves a bye week by losing to the Miami Dolphins at home 27-24 in the final regular-season game of  2019. Entering Sunday’s game Tom Brady had a 15-1 record at home against Miami but like last year, they lost a game to the Dolphins in the final seconds. 

So, check out our grades and we’ll take one more look at the game film before putting the regular season behind us this week.

Quarterback: D

Tom Brady after one of his best performances against the Bills had one he’d rather forget. Brady was sailing the ball high on many of his incompletions and was wearing different cleats (looked like hightops) which may speak to having an ankle issue which would explain part of it. But both he and the team started slowly against a team that was 28th in pass defense. Brady was 2-4 for 10 yards in the first quarter.

His protection overall was outstanding, he had plenty of time to throw for the vast majority of the game. The accuracy and timing just weren’t there. Brady finished 16-29 for 221 yards with 2 TDs and a horrible pick-six to Eric Rowe. 

Running Backs: B

The Patriots running game once again had a pretty solid night rushing for 135 yards with some solid work by Sony Michel (74 yards on 18 carries) and Rex Burkhead (48 yards on six carries). Despite Miami cheating their linebackers up in the box and blitzing on running plays, they consistently gained yardage after contact and have turned it up a notch down the stretch. 

Elandon Roberts once again provided good blocking in the running game, opening the hole for Michel’s touchdown run. And he caught his first NFL pass, which just happened to go for a 38-yard TD.

Wide Receivers: C-

The Dolphins bracketed Julian Edelman all game long and dared the Patriots to beat them elsewhere. Edelman, hobbled by shoulder and knee issues, hasn’t been 100 percent for quite some time. On Sunday he was held to just three catches for 26 yards.

Phillip Dorsett and Mohamad Sanu once again failed to pickup the slack. Sanu had just three catches for 35 yards, that 2nd round draft pick trade is looking worse and worse. Dorsett meanwhile had just one catch a 50-yard bomb from Brady where he did do a nice job of tracking the ball and kept going for some yards after the catch. But that was it, and it isn’t enough. 

N’Keal Harry had three catches for 29 yards on seven targets. Brady’s two touchdowns came on passes to Roberts (38 yards) and to James White on a nicely designed screen pass for 11 yards with a great block by Shaq Mason. 

Tight Ends: C-

Are we seeing a trend here on the Patriots skill position players? Matt LaCosse has been much, much better in the run blocking department lately, helping to open some holes for the backs to get to the second level. But with Miami’s linebackers cheating up and blitzing inside in the running game, we kept waiting for the Patriots to attack the seams and make them pay… nothing materialized and LaCosse didn’t have a catch 

But he wasn’t alone. Ben Watson had just one catch for four yards. This was a disappointing end to what was a disappointing regular season for the tight ends. 

Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line play was not the reason for the team losing on Sunday, they opened holes for the running backs to run for 135 yards and if the defense had played their normally stellar game, then they’d have run for a lot more. Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney were both excellent.

The pass protection for nearly the entire game was terrific, giving Brady oodles of time to throw and look downfield. The only sack given up was by Marcus Cannon on a nice speed rush move by Trent “Toolbox” Harris who may look familiar to Patriots fans. He spent the last two training camps here and was a member of the practice squad in 2018.                  

 Defensive Line: B

The defensive line once again played very solidly against the run, which wasn’t a big surprise as the Dolphins entered the game as the worst running team in the league averaging just 72.9 yards per game. They only managed 63 here, but their running backs had a combined 37 yards on 16 carries. Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton were solid as usual. 

The defensive ends set the edge well but didn’t generate a lot of pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Linebackers: B-

The linebackers had some issues with wrapping up and missing tackles which was a small issue but in what has become a concerning trend, the pass rush, while getting pressure has been just short of getting home. Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Dont’a Hightower was getting plenty of pressure on Fitzpatrick, but those big drive ending sacks or QB hits resulting in turnovers haven’t been there. 

Collins had one of their only two sacks and a QB hit, where they generated only four. They are going to need those players to step un next week.  

Secondary: D

The Patriots secondary had, by far, their worst game of the season. Stephon Gilmore had his worst game as a Patriot since perhaps his first month here. DeVante Parker clearly won the matchup against the Patriots top corner as no one has done yet. Parker had eight catches for 137 yards with the vast majority coming against Gilmore.

But Gilmore wasn’t alone, J.C. Jackson allowed six receptions while Jonathan Jones still hobbled by a bad groin allowed five catches on five targets. Mike Gesicki got the better of Pat Chung most of the game and beat him for the game-winning touchdown. 

Special Teams: B

The Special Teams had a solid game on Sunday. Brandon Bolden ripped off his longest return of the season for 38 yards which set the team up with excellent field position for a change. Nate Ebner had a couple of good tackles in coverage while Matthew Slater remains the gold standard for gunners in the league. Nick Folk converted all three extra points and his only field goal attempt. A good day for Joe Judge’s troops 

Coaches: C-

The Patriots coaching staff, and it begins with Bill Belichick had some head-scratching moments this week. After preaching like they were treating this as a playoff game, the Patriots came out flat and it was Miami who looked like it was playing for a playoff bye. And the end of the first half time management looked like the team was playing not to lose (Marty ball?) which isn’t the way the Patriots have performed under Belichick.

Defensively, the Belichicks (plural) were taken to school to Chad O’Shea, who, interestingly enough was fired after the game. They never found a way to counter what Miami was doing or to stop them…And that isn’t a great offense at all. 

Offensively, despite all the hand-wringing over Josh McDaniels play calling, this offense is very flawed, especially at wide receiver and while he may have waited a bit too long to adjust the power running game, he’s working with a short deck. 

We’re on to Tennessee and the Wild Card game… 

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-Dolphins Week 17, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 27, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots can wrap up the 2nd seed of the 2019 AFC Playoffs with a win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. A win or a loss or tie by the Kansas City Chiefs will mean the Patriots are the #2 seed and earn an all-important bye during Wild Card Weekend next weekend.    

Miami is just playing out the season and is in full rebuilding mode. However, they’ve played much better in the second half of the season.  After starting 0-7, the Dolphins are 4-3 in their last seven games. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Melanie Collins 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 (12-3) beat the Buffalo Bills 24-17 to clinch their 11th division title in a row. Tom Brady had his best game in several weeks, while the running game got 143 yards keeping the offense balanced.

The Dolphins (4-11) beat the Cincinnati Bengals 38-35 in overtime. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 419 yards and four touchdowns.

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 Dolphins have been playing each other twice a year since 1966 when Miami entered the league. The Dolphins lead the all-time series 55-53 which includes 3 games in the postseason, where the Patriots lead 2-1. This series has been dominated by the home team. Miami is 38-17 at home while the Patriots are 35-17 in Foxboro. 

The teams split the series last season. In Week 2 in Miami, the Patriots shut them out 43-0, which happened to be the only game that Antonio Brown suited up for the Patriots this season.  

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 Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game shined for the second week in a row, and against a much tougher defense in Buffalo running for 143 yards. Sony Michel had the most productive game of his own going for 96 yards on 21 carries. Rex Burkhead scored the game-winning touchdown, breaking two tackles on his way to the end zone.

Miami’s run defense is not good this season. The Dolphins have had equal difficulties stopping the run or the pass. Currently, the Dolphins are 27th against the run, allowing 135.4 yards per game. 

Look for the Patriots to continue to accentuate the run with Michel this week. The Dolphins linebackers have been hit hard by injury this year. Michel and Burkhead should both see a lot of work in this game. With the offensive line play improving, the Patriots should be able to dictate the pace here and open up play-action passing.          

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

The Patriots passing game looked better than they have in months against the Bills. Tom Brady completed nearly 80 percent of his passes and threw for 271 yards. He spread the ball around to nine different players. WIth better pass protection, he looked laser-sharp and just what they need heading into the playoffs.

Miami’s pass defense is 28th in the league this season, allowing over 265 yards per game. They’re missing their best corner, Xavien Howard and have a former Patriots (Jomal Wiltz, Eric Rowe) and a rookie Nik Needham in the secondary. Miami has only generated 22 sacks this season.

Look for Brady to have another solid game and continue to spread the ball around. Julian Edelman is banged up but will no doubt play. Mohamad Sanu has been disappointing but has made noise this week that says he’s feeling better and is ready to be more of a factor. James White and Burkhead out of the backfield should both factor in the passing game. 

Next up the Dolphins offense:

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

The Patriots run defense with Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton have continued to trend upward and they both have been playing excellent football this season. The linebackers are very good at shooting the gaps and stuffing the opponent’s running game, and putting them in must-pass situations. 

Miami’s running game is dead last in the NFL averaging just 72.9 yards per game. The leading rusher for the Dolphins is their journeyman 37-year old QB Fitzpatrick. Nuff said.

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

The Miami passing game with Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a fairly good bright spot this year. As always, Fitzpatrick can get hot and absolutely tear up opposing defenses. But just as fast he can begin turning the ball over as well. He’s thrown 19 touchdowns but 13 interceptions as well. 

Turnovers are what hurts the offense. Fitzpatrick has good weapons to work with DeVante Parker is having an excellent year with 64 catches, 1065 yards, and 9 TDs. Tight end Mike Gesicki has 47 catches and is improving every week. Alan Hurns and Albert Wilson round out the receiver core. 

Stephon Gilmore should be matched up with Parker and that battle should be a good one to watch. I’m looking for the Patriots to get after Fitzpatrick, Miami has allowed 56 sacks this season to force him into being the latter of the two scenarios this week. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams give them a whitewash of the key matchups this week. The coverage units have been outstanding and they’ve blocked four punts this season. Jake Bailey is having a terrific rookie season and Nick Folk has solidified the kicking with extra points and field goals. 

Miami has Jason Sanders who has done a good job in the kicking department. Matt Hauck is the punter. Their return game should be held in check this week. Look for the Patriots to go after another punt this week.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots and Tom Brady have enjoyed excellent success against Miami at home (In Miami is another story) and are looking to continue that trend. Bill Belichick has stated that last week and this week are essentially playoff games. They need this win to get a playoff bye. Miami has played hard all season for Brian Flores but they’re playing only for pride …and jobs next season.  

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Keep the Running Game Going – The Patriots will attempt to run the ball against a Dolphins defense that has struggled to stop it all season long. The offensive line has played much better the past two weeks and will be looking to make that trend continue. 

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White should all see some snaps in the running game. Also, look for N’Keal Harry to get another shot at a Jet Sweep this week. 

Brady to Spread the Ball Around – With the running game gaining momentum, this opens up play-action passing and look for them to work the middle of the field as well as the perimeters this week. Last week Brady used nine receivers in the passing game and it kept a very good Bills defense off-balance. Look for him to get everyone involved again and spread the wealth. 

Get After Fitzy And Force Some Turnovers – The defense didn’t get any turnovers against the Bills, but as we stated above, that is the big problem with Miami’s offense. On the season the Dolphins are -12 in the turnover department while the Patriots are +25. If the pass rush can get home, they can force Fitzpatrick into making a few errant throws that have been the bane of his career. 

__________

This is a game the Patriots should win easily. They are playing for a bye week while Miami is just playing out the string. While Flores has had the Dolphins playing hard for him all season, a fast start by the Patriots should put them in good position. I look for Brady and the offense to have another big day as New England ends up 13-3 in 2019.  Patriots 31-10

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour gets a week off as the Patriots get a bye week and watch the Wild Card Round resting up before a home game for the Divisional Game.

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

 

New England Patriots News 10-27, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 27, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-27 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, as the Patriots take on the Browns in the later game this afternoon.   

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

“We’re Not in Kansas anymore Toto” – If I told you… say three or four years ago that the Patriots would have Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Josh Gordon and Michael Bennett on the roster in the same season, and then either cut or trade every one of them? I’d have been locked up. It just goes to show what a crazy season it has been.

Behind the Scenes – The Patriots video department was the subject of a very cool behind the scenes clip for the Patriots All-Access crew. Ever wonder what it takes for the video crew to break down the coaches’ film from games and how fast it gets to the coaching staff? Check it out here:

Mohamad Sanu – has been made to feel right at home this week. Sanu spoke about Tom Brady who spoke highly of the Patriots’ new acquisition. Sanu jokingly said that Brady even offered him the #12 jersey that Sanu wore with the Falcons. Sanu’s answer? “Nah, you got that. I’ll change to 14.” Asked as a follow-up if he offered anything to Brady for the jersey, Sanu laughed it off and said, “No, I’ll just go out there and do my job and let him be great.”

Bill Belichick, Not a fan of the Weathermen- The Patriots coach has never been a fan of the weathermen who are predicting heavy rains for the Browns game this afternoon. Asked during a press conference if the team was preparing for the deluge, Belichick scoffed at the notion.

“In the Giant game, it was supposed to be a monsoon and everything and, like usual, there was not one drop of rain and let’s say minimal wind. Although there was some wind. It was across the field, so it didn’t affect the game that much.

“We went down to Miami. We thought it was going to be hot… So predicting heat in Miami in September … maybe you and I can figure that out.

“I’ve seen the forecast. This is the exact same forecast we had for the Giants. Not one drop of rain. So we’ll see. I don’t know. I’m sure it’s hard to get it right, especially specific locations like this. Where it is 10 miles from here and where it is here makes all the difference in the world to us. That’s the world we’re in. So we’ll see.” If there is one person who Belichick believes is wrong more than the weatherman? Charley Casserly.

Trade Deadline Approaching, But Will Anyone Trade With Bill? 

After the Patriots traded for Mohamed Sanu, their cap space was down to $10K according to Miguel, aka @Patscap. Not $10 million but 10 thousand.. Yikes.  That number was increased to a little over $2.8 million with the trade of Michael Bennett to the Dallas Cowboys but still leaves the team with precious little room to maneuver.  With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, do they have enough cap space to make another deal? And will anyone make a trade with New England? 

There are still some players out there who the Patriots have been linked to but how much they are actually interested at this point remains to be seen. Or was their interest simply doing their own due diligence? Among those players are:

TE O.J. Howard: Howard is a big, athletic tight end in the Gronk mold. We’re not comparing him to Gronkowski, but he could be that kind of complete tight end. He’s 6’6, 255 and he can run. But he’s woefully underutilized in Bruce Arians’ offense in TB and has just 13 catches so far this season. The Patriots reportedly inquired and were told no…He’s not playing today, I’d try one more time.

TE Austin Hooper: The Falcons trade of Sanu made sense, their season is shot and they still have Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. The got a 2nd round pick for Sanu which will help with the retooling process there. But trading Hooper? That would be folly for Thomas Dimitroff.  He’s only 24 years old and is on pace for a 100 catch 1100-1200 yard season. Several teams have supposedly asked about Hooper but have been told that he’s staying. 

TE Tyler Eifert: The Cincinnati Bengals tight end has been another name that has frequently been rumored to be on the Patriots radar. Eifert is a very good tight end when he’s on the field which is very rare in the past three years. Eifert appeared in a total of 14 games in the three seasons of 2016-2018. He has appeared in all seven games this season and has 17 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Picture a more fragile Rex Burkhead…

Rumors persist about WRs A.J. Green of the Bengals and Danny Amendola returning to New England. But unless the Patriots decide that they are not going to activate rookie WR N’Keal Harry, bringing in another wide receiver just doesn’t make sense at this point.

Redskins LT Trent Williams name continues to be tossed about to the Patriots, who were reported to have offered Washington their 1st round draft pick for the veteran tackle who hasn’t played a down this year. How they could afford him now under the cap is a major mystery. 

Patriots Players to Watch Today :

With the short week due to Monday Night Football, we didn’t get to post our normal players to watch that we usually do on Friday. So, with the game in just a few hours, we still have time to share our players who we feel need to step up for a Patriots victory today. So, (Jim Lang voice) Heeeerrrree they are.

Stephon Gilmore: The best cornerback in the league is facing the most explosive, dynamic playmaker for the Browns in Odell Beckham Jr. today. This is the kind of matchup that is tailor-made for the national television audience. 

Baker Mayfield has been trying to force things to Beckham in the early going of the season. Will he do it again today in Gillette? Seeing two players of this magnitude competing against one another is always must-watch territory. 

Mohamed Sanu: The newest Patriots wide receiver has only been on the ground for a few days. We expect that he and Tom Brady will eventually forge a nice chemistry on the field. But how much can we reasonably expect this week? 

Wouldn’t it be a great storyline if Sanu can turn in a big game this afternoon? But we’ll temper expectations a bit this week …and next. After the bye week, he should be fully involved in the offense. 

Dont’a Hightower: The Patriots linebacker is off of the injury report and he’ll be needed against the Browns top running back Nick Chubb this week. Cleveland needs to move the ball on the ground and control the clock against the Patriots defense. They can’t get into 3rd and long situations. Chubb is the man who can do this. Hightower is the player the Patriots need to step up against the Browns today. 

Hightower is always at his best in big games. Against an opponent who was considered the up and coming team of the year and on national television, this is a big game. How well the Patriots defend or don’t defend Chubb will go a long way in determining this game today. 

Marshall Newhouse: The Patriots left tackle hasn’t been great thus far this season. He hasn’t been terrible, just not great. He’s facing the Browns’ best defender in Myles Garrett who leads the Browns with nine sacks. 

We don’t expect Dante Scarnecchia to put Newhouse out there all alone. I would expect the Patriots to chip Garrett with a tight end or have help with running backs to stay in and block. However, Newhouse will also be under a microscope this afternoon. 

James White: It seems like the Patriots Swiss Army Knife at running back is on here every week. With the running game sputtering for the most part and Rex Burkhead hurt again, the team has come to rely heavily on White, who is as reliable as they come. 

Look for Tom Brady to target White heavily again this week. The pass rush of the Browns is a concern, one way to minimize it is to get White involved in the short, quick passing game where he’s outstanding. 

NFL Schedule Week 8, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 11-3
Season: 65-40-1

TNF Minnesota over Washington 1-0

Seattle over Atlanta
Indy over Denver
Tennessee over Tampa Bay
New Orleans over Arizona
LA Rams over Cincinnati
Philadelphia over Buffalo
Chicago over LA Chargers
Detroit over NY Giants
Jacksonville over NY Jets
San Francisco over Carolina
Houston over Oakland
New England over Cleveland
SNF Green Bay over Kansas City
MNF Pittsburgh over Miami

Bye week: Dallas, Baltimore

Week 9 Thursday Night Football San Francisco over Arizona 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Still in the Market For a WR After Losing Out on Sanders:

The Buffalo Bills tried to bring in Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos to help out their passing offense but lost out on the bidding war with the San Francisco 49ers. Today the Bills are facing the suddenly desperate Philadelphia Eagles in what is a big barometer test for both teams. The Eagles were considered one of the top teams in the NFC but dropped two in a row to fall to 3-4. The Bills are 5-1, but are hearing the same lament as their neighbors in the AFC East, “They haven’t played anybody.”

Besides Sanders, who would have made the division race even better this season, the Bills are also rumored to be looking at the Jets Robby Anderson, Eagles WR Nelson Agholor, Taylor Gabriel of the Bears, as well as Miami’s DeVante Parker and A.J. Green of the Bengals.

It will be interesting to see if the Bills can land a quality WR by the trade deadline and improve the passing game. With a good running game and a very good defense, an improved passing game would put the Bills in great position down the stretch.

Dolphins Could Get Two Important Players on IR:

The Miami Dolphins season is one of rebuilding and evaluation of the players on the roster to decide whether they will remain when the team begins it long retooling in 2020. But two Dolphins players that are eligible to soon return of the PUP list are DL Robert Nkemdiche and CB Cordrea Tankersley. 

It will be interesting to see what these players can bring to the table for head coach Brian Flores who has the unenviable job of starting from scratch. Nkemdiche was a highly touted prospect who spent three forgettable years in Arizona. 

In other news, many teams have contacted Miami about RB Kenyon Drake but the Dolphins request of a 4th round pick is deemed too high. Current indications are that most teams aren’t willing to part with any more than a 6th rounder.

NY Media Turning on Jets Adam Gase Already:

This didn’t take long. A week after hyping the game with the Patriots, the media has already grown tired of New York Jets head coach Adam Gase. After being forced to play his third-string QB for about a month, Gase finally got his starter, Sam Darnold, back two weeks ago. And after an impressive win over Dallas, Darnold …and Gase were overmatched and overwhelmed at home against New England. 

But according to the NY Daily Post and noted flip-flopper, Manish Mehta, Gase is redefining  “non-competitive” one blowout loss at a time. Well, with their starter, it IS one blowout loss. Amazed? You shouldn’t be.

It seemed like yesterday, Mehta was guffawing over the Jets’ weak slate upcoming. Now the sky is falling. 

________________

“Smart kid picks things up well. We’ll see what we can do here. Sometimes as it accumulates – early downs, third down, red area, situational stuff. We’ll see what the load looks like, but he’s made good progress both days. Works hard. Good kid. Is really in-tune and trying very hard to pick up things quickly and get on the same page as everybody else. That’s obviously a long way to go, a lot of work to do, but he’s working hard at it, so we appreciate that.” – Bill Belichick being asked about new Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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.

 

New England Patriots News 10-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 20, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-20 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, but not for the Patriots who play the Jets on Monday Night Football tomorrow night.   

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Patrick Mahomes – it seems dodged a serious injury on Thursday night in Denver. And that is a good thing not just for Mahomes and the Chiefs but for the league as a whole. Mahomes’ star is rising and he’s quickly becoming one of the new faces of the league. No one wants to see any player, let alone a star suffer a serious injury. Anyone who would do so, needs to seriously reevaluate the lives. 

However, what the heck is wrong with some media types who before Mahomes is even off the deck, turn his injury into some kind of an anti-Patriots diatribe. It was a disgusting lack of empathy. We know you can’t help the slant against the Patriots but for cryin’ out loud, have a little humanity.  His injury at the time had zero to do with NE, a horrible lack of timing there, but it has become par for the course in some places.

Andy Reid – He knows he dodged a bullet with Mahomes’ injury and he’ll return at some point this season. Hopefully, he won’t rush his QB back too soon and risk further injury. Despite the game on Thursday, they have a woeful defense, but they still have plenty enough playmakers on offense to remain competitive in Mahomes’ absence. They’ll still be in a position to carry their division with Matt Moore. They’ll get their QB back for the stretch run and go from there. 

Eric Tomlinson – had a crazy week. According to NESN, the Patriots new tight end signed and practiced with the team on Tuesday, and then jetted off to Texas for the birth of his son who was delivered by Caesarian section on Wednesday morning. He’s back in Foxboro and preparing for his former team the Jets and may see reps at both tight end and fullback.  

Two-Point for Tua? Seemed So- The Miami Dolphins scored a late touchdown last week against the Washington Redskins in the closing moments of the game and trailed 17-16.  Rather than attempt an extra point to tie the game and send it into overtime, Miami, winless like the Redskins, decided to go for the win. But their attempt seemed like they were determined to fail rather than succeed. The Redskins snuffed it out in the backfield and came away with a victory in the debut of interim coach Bill Callahan.

Trent Brown – In case anyone was wondering is a member of the Oakland Raiders. In fact, Oakland signed Brown to the highest contract for an offensive lineman in NFL history this spring. But once Brown was charged with domestic assault, Brown wasn’t a Raider at all. Several media outlets including those here in Boston led off with “Former Patriots OL Trent Brown…” Funny thing is when all of the sexual assault allegations came against Antonio Brown, I didn’t see a single headline stating “Former Pittsburgh Steeler Antonio Brown…” and yet every allegation against him occurred when he was a member of the Steelers. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Brady Rightfully Pi$$ed At Supposed Kraft Dig:

Tom Brady is livid that people who saw a clip of a new Paul Rudd Netflix film, took it to mean that it was a dig against Robert Kraft. And unless everything we’ve ever believed about Brady and his relationship with Kraft is wrong, then yes, people jumped to conclusions before bothering to research the clip and the meaning.

“That’s not what that was about,” Brady said. “I think that was taken out of context, just like you’re taking it out of context and trying to make it a story for yourself, which has a negative connotation to it, which I don’t appreciate. It was meant to be something different than that. The fact it’s a distraction or you’re bringing it up is not something I want to be talking about.”

“It was shot on a green screen,” he said, remarking it was not filmed at a strip mall. “It was agreed to a year ago. It was written four years ago. Again, it’s unfortunate that people would choose to think I would ever do something like that about Mr. Kraft. I think that’s a very bad assessment of my relationship with him. I would never do that.”

Timothy Greenberg, a fan of the New York Jets, said that he wrote the scene as a “subtle dig” at Brady, who at the time was coming off his “Deflategate” suspension. Brady, while exiting the spa is supposed to be a clone of himself, not receiving a “happy ending” at a massage parlor.

“There was this implication that maybe he’s a clone and he’s cheating,” Greenberg said in an interview. “When I wrote it, he was 37 and had won four Super Bowls. And then by the time I actually make the thing, he’s now 41 and he’s just coming off his sixth Super Bowl win. So he became even more perfect. He was our number one choice for that.”

The media ran with the clip without bothering to do due diligence in an attempt to get it out there first and tried to paint it as Brady slamming his boss when the fact of the matter is that it had nothing to do with Kraft or his situation. I’d say we’re shocked, but no…we’re not here. He’s been raked over the coals for nothing for the past several years and one has to wonder when he’ll decide it isn’t worth it anymore.

The filmmakers knew what they were doing, they filmed Brady on a green screen and then after the Kraft situation, superimposed the strip mall to make it look like the Florida spa. They did him dirty, but no worse than all of the sites who ran with the false narrative. The total a$$-covering by the rest is… not surprising.

Will Michael Bennett’s Situation Play Out? Probably Not Well:

After the Patriots suspended DL Michael Bennett for “conduct detrimental to the team”,  it naturally opened up conversations if Bennett is on his way out of Foxboro. It certainly would appear so, his snaps have been steadily decreasing and last Thursday he played in only a handful of snaps against the Giants, most of which at garbage time. That led to what Bennett described as a “philosophical disagreement” with positional coach Bret Bielema. 

Bennett was brought in to help replace Trey Flowers after he bolted in free agency. Bennett thrives in a 4-3 system as a defensive end, which is what the Patriots played in 2018. But the defense morphed into more of a 3-4 defense this season and that hasn’t played into Bennett’s strengths. Because the down linemen in the Patriots 3-4 still have the same two-gap responsibility that they’ve always had. 

Bennett has always been an attacking 4-3 end and a 3-4 defensive end is more of an interior lineman. It hasn’t been a great fit, scheme-wise. When he’s able to pin his ears back and rush the QB, he’s been pretty successful. But with the depth and the production of the linebackers, he’s been relegated to a subpackage interior pass rusher. So, now the question arises, where do they go from here?

The trade market would be very limited, given Bennett’s age and the state of the league. Few of the teams still in the hunt for a playoff spot would be willing to take on or need a player with his strengths. The Lions or the Raiders would possibly make sense or maybe the Rams who are looking for a spark defensively. If the Patriots were to trade Bennett it would free up about $2 million in salary-cap space where they’re right up against the cap.

Releasing Bennett is, of course, an option, if those philosophical disagreements get any worse or continue for that matter. That would free up the cap space and possibly rid the team of any distractions in the locker room. But then you run the risk of another rival picking him up for nothing and adding him to the mix against you down the road in the postseason. And if the team suffered an injury on the defensive front, it would leave the team thinner with their depth. 

Or they could choose to ride things out and hope that they can get Bennett to buy-in for the duration of the season. With several tougher games on the slate, a player like Bennett, especially in the postseason has the experience and pedigree to give the team some outstanding production in those game-changing moments. 

But Bennett is a proud player and in reality, not a great fit for what the Patriots are running defensively right now. And I will be surprised if he’s still with the team by the end of the season. 

Demaryius Thomas’ Tenure With NE as “A Waste of Time” :

The Patriots traded WR Demaryius Thomas to the Jets in the fallout of the signing of Antonio Brown and hindsight being 20/20 it shows that now it was a mistake. Both in trading Thomas and of course signing Brown.

Thomas on Wednesday didn’t mince any words over how things played out and characterized the Patriots and Bill Belichick’s actions as “disrespectful”. 

“Like, you know, you could trust me and I could trust you,” Thomas said. “You told me when you cut me at the [final] cut, sit around you’ll bring me back. And I stayed. I could have easily become a Jet once I got cut.… I could have been here the next day after I got released. But I chose to stay.”

“Bill Belichick came up to me and was like, ‘Uh, we got too many guys. We can’t get the ball around enough and we’re going to trade you to the Jets,’” Thomas added. “And that was that…. Ain’t no reason to yell. They’ve won championships without me. I was only trying to be a part of something that was going to be good when I was there… They’re doing a hell of a job.”

Thomas’ frustration is certainly understandable but he must remember that he told the media that the Patriots were the only team who contacted him after his Achilles injury with the Texans. They worked with him all spring and summer, and in retrospect should have stuck with him. But from a pure football standpoint, the decision between Thomas at this point in his career and Brown is truly a no-brainer.

NFL Schedule Week 7, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 7-7
Season: 54-37-1

TNF Kansas City over Denver 1-0 

Buffalo over Miami
Jacksonville over Cincinnati
Minnesota over Detroit
Green Bay over Oakland
LA Rams over Atlanta
Indy over Houston
49ers over Washington
NY Giants over Arizona
Tennessee over LA Chargers
Saints over Bears
Seahawks over Ravens
SNF Philadelphia over Dallas
MNF Patriots over NY Jets

Bye Week – Panthers, Browns, Steelers, Bucs

Early Thursday Night Football pick Minnesota over Washington

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Looking to Be Buyers at the Trade Deadline:

The Buffalo Bills currently have the second-best record in the AFC behind the Patriots and will almost certainly improve that today with a home tilt against the Dolphins. With the trade deadline approaching in less than 10 days, the Bills aren’t looking to unload talent, but bring some in to help for a postseason push where they are still very much alive in the AFC East. 

Buffalo’s defense is stacked although if they were to add a piece there, they may want a defensive end who can get after the QB. The Bills have plenty of depth there but not a ton of production. But overall, their defense is solid and the strength of the team. 

If they can use some help, it would probably be at wide receiver. A.J. Green has been mentioned as a possible Buffalo target (including here), he’d give the Bills a big, physical target who has had plenty of production in his career but has had issues with staying healthy and on the field. 

Other names that have been supposedly tied to Buffalo include the Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, Giants wideout Golden Tate, and TE O.J. Howard. Sanu has played mainly in the slot for the Falcons but can slide inside or outside and has made an average of 64 catches for over 700 yards in his time in Atlanta. 

Tate is a talented receiver but the Giants, who aren’t going anywhere this season have two young talented WRs in Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard and may decide to dangle Tate as a search for draft capital. 

Howard is a very talented tight end who is not being utilized in the Tampa Bay offense. Coupled with the young and talented Dawson Knox, he could give the Bills a huge and athletic target in the passing game. He’s also an excellent blocker.  

Dolphins Drake on the Trading Block:

The Miami Dolphins in the midst of an awful rebuilding program where the fans are either on the “Tanking for Tua” or “Bailing for Burrow” storylines won’t be surprised to see that several teams are contacting the Dolphins about the availability of running back Kenyan Drake for a possible deadline trade. 

The former 3rd-round draft pick has always somewhat under-utilized in Miami’s system under both Adam Gase and now Brian Flores. With the bad offensive line play, Drake is on par for his worst statistical season of his career. 

Drake is in the final year of his rookie deal and would be a really nice pickup for any playoff teams looking for a reliable, versatile player. 

Jets/Docs Dispute Extent of G Kelechi Osemele’s Shoulder Injury:

The New York Jets are facing some backlash over the shoulder injury suffered by guard Kelechi Osemele. He’s been out for four weeks with his injury and the Jets team doctor and an independent doctor have cleared him for play. And if he doesn’t return to practice by Saturday, Osemele is subject to fines and/or suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team.” 

The rub is Osemele is saying he needs surgery to repair his shoulder. The Jets counter that the injury is a pre-existing one that can wait until the season is over. 

“It’s been killing me,” Osemele said to the media on Friday. “I’m just trying to get this done. I’ve done everything I can. I’ve been at work every day, waking up at 5 in the morning, doing all the rehab and the treatments and stuff like that. I’m like the last dude out of here at night. I’m doing everything I can.

“I’m working with my agent. We’re communicating with the team. There’s just no communication between the team and my doctor and my agent. It’s just been butting heads for whatever reason. Hopefully, it gets resolved soon.”

There is a source who reported to the Jets media that Osemele wasn’t cleared by the two doctors and that surgery was recommended, due to a torn labrum. The same source also said Osemele was told to take the painkiller Toradol, prescribed by the Jets’ doctor, so he could play. He did and aggravated it against the Patriots a month ago. He’s making $11.7 million dollars this season (non-guaranteed) but if he’s injured, the Jets can’t cut him loose without forking over the rest of his money.

________________

“Demaryius is a great kid. I have a ton of respect for him. He’s very professional and did everything we asked him to do. Our circumstances changed a couple times in that period leading up to when he was traded, and so I felt like I was always truthful with him, but things changed, and therefore what I said was not the same as what it was – what I had said previously. So, it is what it is..” – Bill Belichick being asked about the comments by Demaryius Thomas on the “insulting and disrespectful” trade by the Patriots with the Jets.

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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.

 

Patriots Week 2 Report Card, Filet-o-Dolphin, 43-0 Shutout

Steve Balestrieri
September 17, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

 The Patriots traditionally save some of their worst football for South Beach and have been embarrassed by their performances when on the road against the Dolphins. But if their performance on Sunday was among their worst of 2019, then the future looks mighty bright. The Patriots rolled easily over former coach Brian Flores charges 43-0 on Sunday that, while didn’t erase the sting of the 2018 Miami Miracle, but it certainly helped.

The Patriots completely dominated this one defensively holding Miami to just a total of 184 yards total, most of it, like Week 1 in garbage time. The Dolphins were just 2-15 on third down while the Patriots defense rolled up seven sacks, seven passes broken up, 4 interceptions of which two were returned for touchdowns. 

The offense was workman-like and efficient, wearing down a tired Dolphin defense with a mixture of the pass and run, despite the absence of both starting tackles. The coaching staff had the team well prepared for the Dolphins as well as the heat and a steady stream of rotating players kept everyone fresh.  

So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s close win.

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady finished the day 20-28 for 264 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 124.7 against the Dolphins. He was his normal, very efficient self, completing his first eight passes on the day, several of which went in the direction of Antonio Brown who was the recipient of Brady’s first three throws. 

The plan obviously was to get Brown as acclimated and as comfortable in the Patriots as he could be after being only in the building for three practices. There was some lack of timing which is understandable. The pair connected on a beautiful 20-yard back-shoulder touchdown throw in the second quarter. They narrowly missed another as Brady’s throw was short.

TB ➡️ AB ➡️ TD@TomBrady | @ab84 pic.twitter.com/bpq30cgofW— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 15, 2019

But despite Miami not being the most hospitable place for Brady thru the years, he was efficient, cool and accurate. 

Running Backs: A-

The Patriots also wanted to get Sony Michel more involved in the running game after his subpar performance against the Steelers. Michel answered the bell rushing 21 times for 85 yards in a solid performance. Rex Burkhead was once again very impressive totaling 68 yards [21 rushing, 47 receiving] and was quick with his decisions and cuts.

James White added in 10 yards rushing and 19 more receiving including a 10-yard touchdown on a screen pass with three blockers in front of him and seemingly no Miami players. James Develin had a couple of carries in the red zone and short yardage. 

Wide Receivers: A-

Antonio Brown did indeed play on Sunday and he made his presence known right off the bat. On the Patriots second play from scrimmage, Miami blitzed their two inside linebackers, Brown ran a slant across the vacated middle for an easy 18-yard gain. He later added the touchdown mentioned above. He made a nice adjustment on the ball in the air as Brady put it perfectly for him to catch it. 

Julian Edelman had four catches for 51 yards while Phillip Dorsett had three for 39. But Dorsett’s grab on a third and 17 was a beauty. He knew the distance went just past the sticks and dove for a Brady pass that he cradled as he went to the ground. 

Josh Gordon had just two catches for 19 yards as he drew tight coverage most of the game. Brady and Brown, if they continue to work together will find their comfort level and chemistry in short order. The nice part is that the Patriots don’t have to change anything with their offense to accommodate Brown. His skill set fits what they do perfectly. The only question is if [and a big if] will be here for the season without being suspended.  

Tight Ends: B

Matt LaCosse made his first appearance and made two really nice plays in the passing game, netting 33 yards. The first was a throw that was low and behind him from Brady but he made a nice adjustment by going down and getting it and getting the first down. He had another for 22 yards later on a nice catch.

Ryan Izzo was flagged for what Michael Hurley calls the “ode to Rob Gronkowski” for his weekly offensive pass interference penalty. 

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line played really short-handed on Sunday. David Andrews has been on IR with Ted Karras taking over at center. Right tackle Marcus Cannon missed this week with a shoulder injury and then left tackle Isaiah Wynn went down at the end of the first quarter with a toe injury. That involved bringing in Marshall Newhouse [LT] who’d been on the team for about three days and Korey Cunningham [RT], who has been here about two weeks. 

And the line held up fairly well, partly by design. The coaches knew that with all of the new parts in there, they didn’t want to push the envelope, so they called plays that would get the ball out of Brady’s hands quickly. 

Brady was sacked twice, one of them was a fantastic play by Miami rookie Christian Wilkins who shoved Shaq Mason back into Brady, knocking both of them to the turf. It isn’t often we see Mason knocked back like that. 

But the line also hung tough and opened up enough holes in the running game to help the team rush for 126 yards. Not flashy or great but considering the circumstances and the heat, they had a credible, solid afternoon.

Defensive Line: A

The defensive line was outstanding and completely dominated while they were in the game. The Dolphins rushing game had just 42 yards on 15 carries [2.8-yard average] while the passing game could only muster 142 yards net passing. Dolphin QBs completed 18-39 passes with 0 TDs and 4 Interceptions. The defensive front seven had seven sacks split between the D-Line and the linebackers.

Danny Shelton has found his second season here to be a charm. He’s been outstanding in run support and garnered a sack. Lawrence Guy and Michael Bennett were immovable inside with Bennett getting a sack. Situational pass rusher Adam Butler had a pair of sacks.

Linebackers: A++

The Patriots linebackers were off the charts good on Sunday. They are so deep and so versatile that nobody played a lion’s share of the snaps. Everyone was getting into the act and after rewatching the tape today, there were only about a dozen snaps that they didn’t have four linebackers on the field. On a few plays, they had five.   

Jamie Collins was simply outstanding. He had five tackles, including one tackle for a loss, .5 sack, a QB hit, two passes defensed and two interceptions, the first of which he returned 69 yards for a touchdown. His second pick, from Josh Rosen, was the final play of the game. But he set the tone, on the Dolphins second play from scrimmage, he recognized a jet sweep and shot the gap between the tackle and tight end and buried Jakeem Grant for a four-yard loss.

.@j_collins91 takes the ball then takes it to the house! #GoPats | #NEvsMIA pic.twitter.com/qqhKoVUYiU— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 15, 2019

Edge players John Simon and rookie Chase Winovich were excellent. Simon had a sack, a QB hit and a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. Winovich had a pair of tackles, a tackle for a loss, two QB hits and 1.5 sacks. 

Kyle Van Noy returned to the field after missing last week’s game due to the birth of his son. He, Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Elandon Roberts were stout in the running game, allowing none of the Dolphins backs to find cracks in the line. And they too supported the pass rush by applying pressure on Fitzpatrick and Rosen. Another fantastic effort.  

Secondary: A

The secondary continued its stellar play led by the All-Pro Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore was matched up mostly with DeVante Parker on the afternoon. Parker was targeted seven times in the game and had zero catches. Gilmore created the Patriots first interception with a leaping tip of a deep ball by Fitzpatrick that bounced straight into the arms of Devin McCourty. Later in the second half, Fitzpatrick was flushed out of the pocket and tried to force a quick pass into Parker. Gilmore stepped in front of it, picked it off and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown. 

INTERCEPTED AND GOODBYE! @BumpNrunGilm0re | #GoPats pic.twitter.com/AxRA4l44Lz— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 15, 2019

J.C. Jackson had a nice pass breakup, this one on another deep ball to Preston Williams. Jonathan Jones continues his stellar play and will likely garner some Pro Bowl mention this fall. Jason McCourty was solid. D-Mac and Chung were their normally solid performers as the secondary gave the Dolphins’ QBs nowhere to go with the ball.

Special Teams: B-

Stephen Gostkowski had a truly rough day in Miami, missing two extra points as well as a field goal. Was it Gostkowski or the holding of Jake Bailey? We don’t know but rest assured they will be working overtime this week, trying to get it sorted out. To the legion of fans who want Gostkowski cut, who would you bring in? Nobody out there that is available is even close to Gostkowski’s skill level. While it is a concern, they’ll attempt to work thru it…as they should. 

Bailey punted three times and put all three inside the 20-yard line. He averaged 48 yards per punt with a 46.3-yard net average. The coverage units led by Matthew Slater were outstanding. Returner Gunner Olszewski didn’t have a lot of room in the return game and wasn’t a factor. 

Coaches: A

The Patriots coaching staff once again outclassed their competition, this time former assistant Brian Flores who had a lot of ex-Patriots on his staff. Many believed that their familiarity with the Patriots system would give them an advantage, but Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels on offense with Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick calling the defense kept the Dolphins staff a step behind all day long

Belichick has the team ready to go every week and thoroughly prepared for their opponent. It makes them awfully tough to beat. But it is a long season and they are taking it one game at a time. We’re on to the Jets.

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

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Patriots-Dolphins Week 2 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 12, 2019 at 7:50 am ET

The Patriots head out on the road for the first time in 2019 as they travel to South Florida, to take on the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots are looking to get off to a 2-0 start and put behind them the slow starts that have earmarked earlier seasons.

Miami has a new coaching staff in place with Brian Flores, the former de facto Defensive Coordinator for New England serving as their new head coach. He has taken several former New England assistants with him, including Chad O’Shea who is the Dolphins Offensive Coordinator. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 15 at 1:00 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn 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 (1-0) are coming off a convincing 33-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns.

The Dolphins (0-1) were shellacked 59-10 by the Baltimore Ravens where Miami’s defense was gashed for 623 yards [265 on the ground, 378 in the air]. 

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 Dolphins have been playing each other since 1966. Miami holds the overall edge 55-52 with each team holding a huge edge in home games. Miami is 38-16 at home against New England while the Patriots are 36-17 all-time at home against the Dolphins. Bill Belichick’s record versus Miami with the Patriots is 24-14. In games in Miami, Tom Brady is 7-10, and the team is just 1-5 in their last six games there. 

The teams split last year’s contests with the Patriots blowing out Miami 38-7 at home and then losing 34-33 in December in the “Miracle in Miami” game.

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 Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game didn’t have a great game last week, but it wasn’t all bad either. The team ended up with 99 yards on the ground against a very good Pittsburgh front seven. They’ll be looking to get Sony Michel untracked this week as he was bottled up against the Steelers last week. 

Miami was gashed badly by the Ravens in the opener to the tune of 265 yards and 5.8 yards per rushing attempt. They were overwhelmed at the point of attack and will be looking to do a much better job. They’ll need their big men up front, nose tackle Davon Godchaux, and ends John Jenkins and Christian Wilkins to be much better. If the Patriots big men in the middle, Ted Karras, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason can get a push to the second level, the ground game will be successful. 

Look for plenty of the two-back sets with Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White rotating in with James Develin leading the way. It will be interesting to see if the team activates Damien Harris this week, as he was removed from the injury report and having Brandon Bolden limited with a hamstring issue.

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

The Patriots passing game looked really good passing for 374 yards in the opener against the Steelers. Tom Brady was sharp and was getting everyone involved in the passing game. The pass protection against the top team in sacks from 2018 held up quite well. Isaiah Wynn shined in his first game but the team lost Marcus Cannon to a shoulder injury in the second half. His absence will be a place to watch this week. The team did sign veteran tackle Marshall Newhouse this week. 

The Dolphins pass defense was arguably more miserable than their run defense was last week. Lamar Jackson had a perfect passer rating and threw five touchdowns along with 324 yards passing. His backup RG III came in and was 6-6 for 55 yards with a touchdown. Ravens’ QBs were 23-26 for 378 yards with six TDs. The secondary has some good pieces there with Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and Bobby McCain with a bunch of ex-Patriots, Eric Rowe, Johnson Bademosi, Jomal Wilz, and Ken Webster. 

The Patriots running game should open up play-action passing in this one. Seeing how the Dolphins choose to match up with Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Julian Edelman with White and Burkhead out of the backfield will be an interesting part of the chess match. Flores knows the Patriots weapons well and he’ll be trying to counter their moves. The pass rush for Miami is key here. If Brady has time to throw, he should light them up again. It is unknown right now whether Antonio Brown [on Wednesday evening] will play. It may depend on how much of the offense he can learn in practice this week.  

Next up the Miami offense:

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

The Dolphins rushing attack was put on the backburner early last week when they fell behind so far, so early. They have Kenyon Drake and Kalen Ballage toting the rock behind an offensive line with new pieces everywhere. 

Jesse Davis was moved to left tackle from the right side. Michael Dieter and Daniel Kilgore at LG and C respectively are the only carryovers. Right guard Danny Isadora and right tackle Julien Davenport are both new and started last week after coming to Miami after the initial 53-man cutdown. 

The Patriots front seven stuffed the Steelers rushing attack last week holding them to just 32 total yards. James Conner only gained 21 yards on 10 carries. The big men up front Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, and Michael Bennett held firm and allowed the linebackers to clean up. 

Although Drake has had success against the Patriots in the past, with this patchwork offensive line, it is tough to see Miami getting much going on the ground without them getting really creative here.  

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

Miami has surprisingly gone with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in the early going after they brought in second-year QB Josh Rosen earlier this year. Fitzpatrick has the capability to get really hot for a few games, as we’ve seen in the past, but overall he’s 2-9 in his career with the Bills and Jets against the Patriots. 

The skill players are good with DeVante Parker as their possession guy with Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant as their outside guys with speed to burn. Tight Mike Gesicki will be someone to watch. But this offensive line will decide this matchup. Can they hold up? 

The Patriots defense was outstanding against the Steelers, with the secondary of Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty taking away the outside threats. Look for Pat Chung to cover Gesicki and that will be a great matchup to watch. 

I look for the Patriots left side to attack Miami’s right side of the OL. Davenport who came over from the Texans in the Laremy Tunsil deal gave up 12 sacks, 65 QB pressures and committed 16 penalties last year. Look for the Patriots to bring their pressure attacking the right side. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski had a really solid game after an uneven preseason. He hit on all three extra points and all four field goal attempts. Jake Bailey hit one boomer and one dud last week. But his holds on the field goals were spot on, something they struggled with a bit in preseason. The coverage units were solid and Gunner Olszewski had a nice debut with punt returns of 20 and 15 yards. 

Miami’s Jason Sanders booted a 54-yard field goal last week in one of the few bright spots of that game. Punter Matt Haack averaged 53.7 yards per punt. Their return game didn’t net much on the day.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

Another year heading to the Patriots House of Horrors? New England is just 1-5 in their last six games in South Florida, including the past two. They always seem to save some of their worst football for games in South Florida. Can they turn that around and start the year off 2-0 and avoid the slow starts that have plagued the team in recent years?

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Be Aggressive and Get After Fitzpatrick – Look for the Patriots defense to be aggressive and attack the Miami offensive line here, while they try to set the tone of this one from the outset. Fitzpatrick isn’t the most mobile of QBs and the OL hasn’t played together for very long. Show them different fronts [Amoeba look with one down lineman] bring pressure and try to generate some turnovers. 

Jamie Collins, Michael Bennett, and rookie Chase Winovich are the players to watch here. They don’t want to lay back and allow Fitzpatrick to get into a rhythm. This secondary has shown it can play blanket coverage across the field, take advantage of it and force the issue. 

Run the Ball to Open up Play Action: The Patriots running game is looking to get untracked this week and this is a perfect time and place to do so. Miami hasn’t sorted things out yet and the ground game can set the tone for this one early. Michel, Burkhead, and White should give them plenty of yardage to open things up in the passing game. With play-action, Brady will have more open room across the middle and allow him more time to hit Gordon and Dorsett on the perimeter. It will be interesting to see if they give rookie Jakobi Meyers more snaps this week. We’re not counting on Antonio Brown playing in this one, but we’ll have to see how that plays out. 

Put Them Down Early: The Patriots have had a bad habit of letting the Dolphins hang around in games down in Miami and those have come back to haunt them. Sunday, they need to come out firing and put the Dolphins in the rearview mirror early. The confidence can’t be high there right now after last week’s debacle. 

Bill Belichick needs to get the team coming out fired up like this is a playoff game and approach it in that way. A couple of quick scores early and have the Dolphins on their heels. They have done that at home against the Dolphins seemingly every game, it is time to do so down there.  

___________

So, a lot of Patriots fans and some media have been playing up the familiarity idea that the Dolphins’ coaches know the Patriots and their system and know exactly how to attack them. And they point, successfully at the Lions and Titans games from a year ago. And it is a valid point…to a degree. 

But this New England team is a better one than took the field last year, and this Dolphins team is frankly, one that is going to struggle to win 3-4 games in 2019. The only thing holding the Patriots back this week is themselves. They should establish dominance early in this one. There won’t be any miracles this time.  Patriots 42-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour moves back to New England next week to take on the Jets.

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 2019 Opponents, First Impressions of the Dolphins

Steve Balestrieri
September 11, 2019 at 9:07 am ET

The Miami Dolphins cleaned house this past spring and brought in a new coach, GM and cut their ties with several players. The new head coach Brian Flores spent many years in New England and played a big part in their Super Bowl championship over the Rams in February. 

So Miami came calling, feeling that they were heading nowhere with Adam Gase at the helm, where he was tied to QB Ryan Tannehill who, despite getting paid like a franchise QB, never produced on the field like one. 

If things didn’t seem bad enough, where many NFL analysts had the Dolphins finishing among the worst teams in the NFL in 2019, right before the regular season worse news hit. The front office traded left tackle Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills to the Texans.

Their first game was a nightmare with the Raven annihilating Miami 59-10. Baltimore rolled up an incredible 643 yards of offense, 378 through the air and 265 more rushing. Lamar Jackson threw five touchdown passes completing 17-20. Miami could only muster 200 yards of offense of their own. Fans were leaving in droves long before the game ended. 

So, here are our first impressions of the Dolphins of 2019:

Brian Flores and His Staff Have a Lot of Work to Do:

Flores, known affectionately as B-Flo by the players here knew that the Dolphins needed to clean house when he over the team this past winter. But perhaps maybe he didn’t realize how far they had to go. He brought several coaches from New England with him, including former Patriots WR coach Chad O’Shea, who is now the offensive coordinator. After coaching a team that was always in the running for a Super Bowl, Flores and his staff went about trying to change the culture in South Beach.

Management’s decision to jettison both Tunsil and Stills was a sign that the front office is intent on tanking the season, possibly with the hope of landing Tua Tagovailoa, the QB from Alabama despite the fact that they brought in Josh Rosen, a top 10 pick from just a year ago from the Cardinals. 

Last Sunday, the Dolphins had 14 players on the opening week roster that weren’t with the team during the preseason. And it showed on the field. With his former boss Bill Belichick and the Patriots coming to town this week, the Dolphins have a lot of issues to correct, in all three phases of the game. 

Several Dolphins Players Reportedly Already Want Out:

Following the 59-10 debacle in South Beach last week, there were reports that several players are wanting to jump ship. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that  “multiple Dolphins players contacted their agents after Sunday’s season-opening blowout loss and directed them to attempt to engineer trades elsewhere.”

Florio added that the players in question believe that some of the coaching staff, “aren’t serious about competing and winning and, by all appearances, have bought into the notion that the Dolphins will take their lumps now in the hopes of laying the foundation via high draft picks for building a successful team later.” Ouch.

Flores has denied this stating, “I can’t really speak to the accuracy of that one,” he said on Monday. “We haven’t received any information like that.” But the players know that the front office has decided to tank this season to gain a more advantageous draft position in 2020. 

The Dolphins are basically holding a fire sale. And one player who several teams covet, cornerback Xavien Howard may soon be traded away as by GM Chris Grier. As for this week, Flores has announced that QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will once again get the start against the Patriots.  

Baker and Eguavoen Were the Ironmen for the  Defense:

The Dolphins didn’t have many bright spots in the 59 -10 thumping they took last week from the Ravens, but Flores and the coaching staff have to be pleased with the efforts of linebackers Jerome Baker and Sam Eguavoen who showcased their skills and conditioning, especially in the South Florida heat by answering the bell all day long.

Baker led the way by playing in 84 snaps, including 12 on special teams, while Eguavoen logged 83 of his own. And despite the way the game unfolded, Baker, who was a 3rd round draft pick of the Dolphins in the 2018 NFL Draft [73rd overall], remained upbeat about his teammates. 

On his Twitter account, Baker posted “I’ll go to war with this team every day!” which he tweeted with the hashtag PhinsUp and a dolphin emoji. He was asked about it after the game on Monday and he doubled down.

“It’s just a part of the game,” Baker said. “I don’t want anybody to question that we’ll all stick together. It’s just one loss. We’ve got to bounce back and ultimately stick together.”

Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham is keeping an open mind and an open door for his players to help turn things around, being open to suggestions that will help the team find some answers. 

 “I think we’re all doing this job together,” Graham said. “There’s definitely a leadership role. It starts with our head coach. It trickles down to me and then to the players and then the leadership within the player group as well, but my door is always open. I’m always open to hear and listen and get communication from the players and input because we are doing this thing together. We spend so much time with one another.”

Fitzpatrick Hoping to Capture Some “Fitzmagic” This Week:

With the Dolphins in full rebuild mode, many fans expected that the team would start second-year QB Josh Rosen to see what they had in the young QB who was saddled with arguably the worst supporting cast in the NFL last year. But the team instead opted for journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick finished the game just 14-29 for 185 yards with one TD and one INT. He gave way to Rosen who mopped up in the loss. Rosen completed one of three passes for five yards with an interception. Fitzpatrick set two records on Sunday, one of them was of the dubious quality. With his touchdown pass, he became the first QB to throw a TD pass for his eighth different team. And of course, his interception also meant that he has now thrown interceptions for eight different teams, also a record.

Fitzpatrick has faced the Patriots 11 times in his career and has a 2-9 record against them, seven of those as a member of the Bills [1-6] and four as a member of the Jets [1-3]. He has completed 238 of 388 passes [61.3 percent], for 3035 yards with 20 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. His passer rating is 82.6 in those 11 games. He’s also been sacked 20 times. 

If the Dolphins expect another “Miami Miracle” this Sunday, they’re going to need a lot more Fitzmagic and less of the Fitzpatrick that has faced the Patriots for much of his career. 

Questions Abound About the Offensive Line:

The trade of left tackle Laremy Tunsil was expected to necessitate change for the Miami offensive line in 2019, but nobody foresaw what ensued in Week 1. The coaches moved RT Jesse Davis to the left side, and then started two players, Julien Davenport at right tackle and Danny Isidora at right guard who had been on the team less than a week, the starting nod while benching Shalique Calhoun. 

The only two constants from the preseason were center Daniel Kilgore and left guard Michael Dieter. The results would speak for themselves. Miami could only manage 200 yards of offense and just 21 yards on the ground.

Both new players on the right side struggled mightily as the Ravens attacked that side and consistently won the one-on-one matchups. Expect the Patriots to do the same until the new players to get up to speed with the playbook, the offense and improve the communication. 

Both Davenport and Isadora struggle with pass blocking. As a member of the Texans last year, Davenport allowed 12 sacks, 65 QB hurries and committed 16 penalties. Expect the Patriots to be very aggressive on the Dolphins’ right side.

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

New England Patriots News 8-11, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 11, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-11 and AFC East notes this week. 

The Patriots return home and are off today after they played their first preseason game of the year against the Lions. They’ll be back at practice tomorrow and Tuesday and then head off to Tennessee where they’ll conduct joint practices with the Titans before preseason number 2. 

Check back with us frequently on PatsFans.com as we’ll continue to post daily training camp updates as well as breaking news. 

 Quick Hitters:

Chase Winovich – “It felt good to have it all come together,” Winovich said. “Hopefully, I made my family a little proud today.” On his first NFL action [1.5 sacks] and having his family there to see it.

Tom Brady – celebrating more for Brian Hoyer than Jarrett Stidham on Thursday? Don’t laugh, it is true. In the deep dive to find any controversy in Foxboro, we now have people analyzing his body language. 

Damien Harris – Didn’t play a down in Detroit, causing some to wildly speculate on what was the reason. I’d put money down that the coaching staff already puts him with some of the other established veterans [James White, Sony Michel] and gave him the night off. He’ll get plenty of work in Tenn. this week. 

Matt Patricia – was hearing the boo birds in Detroit on Thursday night. Entering his second season as the head coach, he’s already feeling the heat. The Lions’ fans have endured 60 years of frustration and that awful showing in the first preseason game was not a good start. 

Bill Belichick – Was in midseason form on Friday. Asked if Jerod Mayo was calling the defensive plays, Belichick refused to confirm or deny it. Pressed on it, in typical clipped Belichickian, he said, “we do what’s best for the football team and will continue to do so.” Well…all righty then.

Dan Skipper – the huge 6’9 left tackle hasn’t exactly filled the coaches and fans with optimism this summer. However, in the Thursday preseason opener, we didn’t hear his name called once as Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham worked for the most part with clean pockets. Granted, the Lions didn’t have their top starters out there. But at this point, we’ll take what we can get… A much bigger test awaits in Tenn.

Belichick Doesn’t Use New Coach’s Challenge on DPI:

There has been a ton of buzz this offseason on the new coach’s challenge for defensive and offensive pass interference and how they will change the game, especially time-wise. 

During the Patriots game with the Lions this week, there were two plays that the Patriots could have challenged during the game. Both were long passes from Jarrett Stidham to Maurice Harris. Both passes went off Harris’ hands, however, both seemed to be classic cases for the coach to throw the flag. 

Belichick didn’t choose to challenge either play although there was sufficient video evidence to suggest that both plays were DPI.  He was asked why he chose not to challenge the plays during his presser on Friday and gave a very distinct un-Belichick response to those questions. 

“It’s just… I don’t know. Maybe I’ve got to get used to the new rules.” 

Matt Patricia did challenge one play but the official call on the field stood and his challenge was denied. He had this to say after the game.

 “I think right now with the preseason, I think a lot of us, coaching-wise, we’re just trying to figure out how this is all going to be officiated,” Patricia said. I thought that maybe would be an opportunity we can see how they officiate it and we want to take that situation. It doesn’t really matter what we think of it, either way, it’s just I want to know what they’re going to look at and how they’re going to evaluate it.”

Belichick’s comment was far from the norm with him. He is always on top of changing rules and for him to say what he did was very curious, to say the least. 

Jarrett Stidham Finishes Off Good Week With An Impressive Game:

Oh my, how perceptions can change quickly. When the Patriots drafted QB Jarrett Stidham in the spring, the Auburn signal-caller wasn’t on anyone’s hot list for QBs who were designated as future starters in the league. 

But the rookie landed in a perfect place. With Head Coach Bill Belichick, Offensive Coordinator/QBs Coach Josh McDaniels, he has the right people for him to teach the system, and language of the Patriots offense. Don’t discount Asst. QBs coach Mick Lombardi. Of course, it doesn’t hurt learning on how to run the Patriots offense from Tom Brady. 

Stidham was a mixed bag in minicamp and early in training camp as he was trying to learn the system and how everything works together. Contrast that to the poised, calm demeanor we saw on Thursday in the huddle for the Patriots.

Granted it is only one game and as Belichick is sound of saying, “we have a long way to go”, but the coaching staff has to be quite pleased with how far and fast he is progressing. His deep ball accuracy is something he’s shown all summer and he delivered two passes on the money to Maurice Harris, but he dropped both. 

While it is far too soon to be putting him in competition with Brian Hoyer for Brady’s backup QB job [Hoyer was equally, if not more impressive Thursday night], now the doubts about his ability are being replaced with cautious optimism.

Bill Belichick chimed in on his performance during his Friday presser.

“I think there were several plays that fell into all the categories – quick throws where the read was clear and the receiver was open, and then maybe a secondary read, and then there were a couple of times where he scrambled and extended the play,” Belichick said. “Ran a couple of times and completed a pass. There was a little bit of everything there and most important thing for the quarterback is not to turn the ball over make good decisions and throw accurately. He did all those at times.”

Meyers Continues A Stellar Camp With A Big Game Performance:

For a guy who caught 92 passes a year ago, it was a bit of a surprise to not see Jakobi Meyers get drafted in April. While he didn’t test well at the NFL Combine [4.6 time in the 40], watching him play at NC State was another thing. And he’s carried that over to the Patriots now.

We’ve been singing his praises for a bit now as he constantly shows up big in practice and joint practice. He’s developing a chemistry and trust factor with Tom Brady, that we wrote about last week. But he had yet to do it in a game, which the UDFA rookie says he heard too.

 ”I was getting a lot of texts about, ‘Oh I heard you were doing great in practice,”’ Meyers said. ”It doesn’t mean anything because we didn’t have a game yet. So just the fact that I can go out there and show that I deserve to be here, for now, I’m just trying to keep pushing forward.”

In his first game action, Meyers was very impressive catching six passes for 69 yards and two TDs. And the rookie has his feet firmly on the ground, he isn’t worried about who DIDN’T draft him, but working for who did.

”I have to keep proving to my coaches that I deserve to be here,” Meyers said. ”I’m not on the team yet. I’m trying to make sure I can stay here and continue to be here. That’s who I’m trying to prove a point to, not really to people who didn’t give me the call.”

After the game, he was asked about his ability to catch on with this offense so quickly, something several established [and very productive] WRs have been unable to do. His comments were spot on.

“Because I want to be great,” he said. “I want to be in a position where they can depend on me, trust on me in tough downs, and at the same time, we’ve got a lot of great players on our team. All I have to do is listen. If I’m doing what they tell them to do, then I’ll just stick around.”

Winovich, Unlike Samson May Get to Keep His Hair:

Rookie edge player Chase Winovich has had a good productive training camp. And on Thursday night in front of a lot of hometown fans and family where he played nearby at Michigan, they got to see him perform. And he was very impressive with 1.5 sacks and displaying his non-stop motor, very good hands and bend coming around the edge.

Winovich spoke to the media after the game and made sure to downplay his own accomplishments and speak about the team, like he’d been playing for Belichick for years…

“It was cool. But it’s like anything. I’ve talked about this before, and I’ve always felt this way, and it’s definitely emphasized here,” Winovich said. “You saw me make the play, maybe on a couple of occasions today. But really, there are so many guys up front – Nick [Thurman], David [Parry], Byron [Cowart], Trent [Harris], really all the linebackers making the calls, Terez [Hall], Christian [Sam], and I could go on and on. There are so many intricacies during the game itself, just making adjustments with Coach [DeMarcus] Covington and Coach [Joe] Kim and Coach [Jerod] Mayo. I could name everybody by name. Just everything that goes into there and then goes back to all the work that we put in, staying extra at times, going over stuff, and working with Willie McGinest on technique.”

Belichick had to like his next answer when he was asked about what has he learned the most since joining the team this spring. 

“That’s probably my biggest thing, is the physicality and the moves and stuff, you improve on that stuff, but I’m just getting a lot better at my awareness and that stuff,” Winovich said. “Just trying to get better. I’m a rookie. I’ve got a lot to improve on.”

Winovich’s trademark look is his long blonde flowing locks, and one of the Patriots rookie initiations is to give them horrible haircuts. The rookie considers his hair a “source of pride and strength”

Winovich took to Instagram after the game with a picture of himself during game action. And one of his comments came from Brady himself who chimed in “Maybe you get to keep your hair.”

If Winovich keeps progressing like he is, maybe some of the players will begin sporting blonde wigs with a flowing mane under their helmets…

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Trade Eli Harold to Philly For OL Ryan Bates:

The Buffalo Bills have already had a lot of injuries to their offensive line. So, they traded DE Eli Harold to the Eagles for UDFA Ryan Bates who played both left tackle and right tackle for Penn State in 2018. 

Harold was just signed by the Bills this spring. He spent his first three seasons with the 49ers after being drafted in the 3rd Round [79th overall] in the 2015 NFL Draft and produced just five sacks. He notched four more last year with the Lions. With a base salary of just $805,000, Harold is not expensive and should benefit from playing in the aggressive scheme of Jim Schwartz. 

Bates wasn’t expected to make Philly’s roster and the OL is a position of need for Buffalo after the injury bug has hit. This move makes sense for both teams. 

Stills Doubles Down on Criticism of Dolphins Owner Ross for Trump Support:

The Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is hosting a fundraiser for his old friend Donald Trump who is running for re-election in 2020. That fact doesn’t sit well with Dolphins WR Kenny Stills who blasted the owner on social media stating, “you can’t have a non-profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump.”

Stills is referencing Ross’ non-profit organization the RISE Foundation which is hosting the event at Ross’ home. RISE [Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality] stands for racial equality and according to Stills, Ross is being hypocritical for hosting Trump with this event. 

Head Coach Brian Flores on Wednesday said that while he respects the veteran receiver using his platform, he was disappointed that Stills didn’t talk to Ross directly instead of airing it out over social media. Stills, after the Dolphins preseason game on Thursday, added more fuel to the fire.

“Someone has to have enough courage to let him know he can’t play both sides of this,” Stills said. “It’s something that I can look back on and say I made the right decision. … If you’re going to associate yourself with bad people, then people are going to know about it. I put it out there for everybody to see it. If you say you’re going to be about something, let’s be about it.”

Ross also stood by his friendship with the President with a statement of his own. “I always have been an active participant in the democratic process. While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about,” Ross said.

“I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions. I started my business with nothing and a reason for my engagement with our leaders is my deep concern for creating jobs and growing our country’s economy.

“I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”

Stills is not expected to receive any discipline from the team over his criticism of the team’s owner and Ross has stated that he doesn’t take the comments personally. 

Quinnen Williams and Jachai Polite Quiet in Jets PS Opener:

The New York Jets played their next-door rivals, the New York Giants in preseason Week 1 this week. Top draft pick Quinnen Williams had a fairly quiet game, playing in just 11 snaps on defense but did draw a penalty, and assisted on one tackle.

Edge player Jachai Polite, the rookie edge player from Florida, who has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism early in camp played mainly with the third-team defense and also was not as active as the coaches would have hoped. He was in on two tackles and played in 32 defensive snaps.

Sam Darnold and the offense, however, was a different story. Darnold started the game and needed only seven plays to travel 75 yards for a touchdown. Included in that were a 32-yard pass to Chris Herndon where Darnold scrambled to find him and a 28-yarder to Jamison Crowder on a check down. He later hit Crowder for a three-yard touchdown to finish off the drive.  A very good start for Adam Gase’s offense and Darnold in his second season. 

________________

“It’s a different type of preparation when both teams practice together, both teams get an equal opportunity to practice against each other, get familiar with each other instead of running plays off cards. The other teams actually do what they do and we develop a familiarity with them as well as compete against them. If you don’t do that then both teams prepare separately without that type of competitive preparation and then play the game. We got a lot of good 1-on-1 work, a lot of good individual work, and we got a lot of good teamwork for all three days.”Bill Belichick on joint practices –  8-9

“So, how was your week?”

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.

New England Patriots News 6-16, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 16, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-16 and AFC East notes this week. And a Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there.

While anyone can become a father, the word Dad means so much more. My own Dad never gave me much advice but the way he conducted himself every day and the way he treated everyone around him was all the example that was ever needed.

Quick Hitters:

Bill Belichick – decided to cancel the final two days of OTAs last week and on the first day, took the players out to a team-building exercise…a paintball range. Belichick supposedly took out Kyle Van Noy with a headshot, the linebacker told Dont’a Hightower his tooth hurt where Bill nailed him. In cooler weather, those tend to hurt even more.

Michael Roberts – the Patriots traded for the Lions tight end on Thursday, but he failed his physical on Friday and the trade was voided. He was placed on IR last year for a shoulder injury. Upon reverting back to the Lions, Roberts was released.

Tom Brady – heard about a high school senior who missed his graduation while in the hospital and Brady sent him a video message. Shaun Patterson was suffering from a congenital heart defect and was the recipient of a heart transplant. Brady heard about it and sent the Missouri teen a message. You can watch the clip here:

Zdeno Chara – While the Bruins Game 7 loss to St. Louis will sting all summer long, the Bruins captain was as tough and gritty as they come. It was revealed later that Chara’s jaw was fractured in two places when he was hit by a puck in Game 4. He tried to return that night but doctors wouldn’t clear him but did return and play in Games 5-7. At 42 years old, he’s no longer the Bruins best defenseman but he’s what being a captain is all about. Get well soon Big Z.

Pat Bowlen – RIP to the Broncos long-time owner who passed away on Friday at age 75. He turned around the franchise and brought them a winner.

Training Camp to Begin around July 25.

Thoughts on the Caserio Mess With Houston:

In the end, the Houston Texans declined to pursue any further contact with Nick Caserio and the Patriots have removed their charges of tampering against the Texans. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle was the first to report the development that there is a clause in Caserio’s contract that would stop other teams from pursuing him.

The Texans released a statement from Texans owner Carl McNair.

“When we started the process to interview Nick Caserio for our EVP/GM position, we consulted the League office on numerous occasions, followed the procedures outlined in the League’s rules and believed we were in full compliance,” McNair said. “We have now been made aware of certain terms in Nick’s contract with the Patriots,” McNair added in the statement. “Once we were made aware of these contract terms, I informed Mr. Kraft that we would stop pursuing Nick.”

Nick Caserio

The pursuing of Caserio reportedly began at the Patriots ring ceremony at Robert Kraft’s home. Jack Easterby, the former Patriots character coach and now part of the Texans organization (Executive VP for Team Development) had allegedly made overtures toward Caserio. He reportedly did so before the Texans asked the Patriots permission to interview for their GM position.

The interesting thing is the timing. The next morning, that Friday, Houston fired their GM Brian Gaine after one season. Gaine went 11-5 in his only season at the helm of the Texans and had just completed the NFL Draft. It has also been reported that Gaine was targeting and firing black employees of the staff, which will be looked at as well.

Houston tried last year to interview Caserio after then-GM Rick Smith stepped away to be with his wife during her cancer treatments. The Patriots rebuffed that approach and denied them the opportunity to interview Caserio.

The statement by McNair answered one of the questions surrounding this entire mess.

Other Questions About Caserio Matter:

“How could the Patriots allow this to happen, possibly losing Caserio?” Well, with the language inserted in there, it certainly seems like they have protected themselves against this scenario. But in reality, this entire mess could have easily been avoided.

Had the Patriots given Caserio the title of an equivalent position, (former Patriot front office man Scott Pioli was the VP of Player Development) and a raise, this entire situation never comes to fruition.

“Did the Texans knowingly tamper with Caserio?” Again, no one knows for sure. It is strictly innuendo. However, if Easterby did, in fact, make overtures to Caserio at Kraft’s house, as was implied, before asking the team permission, then yes they did. Another interesting tidbit is the fact that Easterby and Caserio share the same agent. Wouldn’t the Texans know that there is language inserted in his contract that would preclude him from being pursued? Especially given how close Caserio is with both Easterby and O’Brien?

One would think so. And in Houston, Caserio wouldn’t have the final say in the formation of the 53-man roster. That rests with O’Brien.

“Do the Patriots Have Their Succession Plan in Place?” Another good question. The answer is yes and no. It would seem like Josh McDaniels is the next head coach in waiting for the Patriots when Bill Belichick finally decides to retire. Caserio would be the obvious choice for the GM position. But he’s only signed thru the 2020 season. That will have to be rectified…and soon. He previously was interviewed for the Miami and San Francisco GM positions.

Caserio has a unique job in that he wears many hats for the team. While officially the Director of Player Personnel, he has a direct line during game days …to McDaniels in the headsets and advises him on situations unfolding during games. That is unheard of for a man with his title.

He has held many positions in his years with the team, personnel assistant, offensive coaching assistant, area scout, director of pro personnel, wide receivers coach as well as his current position. During minicamp, he was throwing passes to wide receivers.

Bill Belichick has said on numerous occasions that Caserio does much more than his job description states.

“Nick does a great job,” Belichick said last winter. “He does a lot of different things for us. I’m sure he does more than anybody in the league at his position in terms of his interaction with the team, the coaching staff, and the college and pro scouting. He’s involved in a lot of different things and does a great job at all of them. His job description would be several pages.”

One thing is for certain. There is no way the Patriots could have afforded to lose Caserio this summer. With all of the other losses of the coaching staff, this would have been a huge blow. Now they need to lock him up long-term for the future regime. Stay tuned.

Michael Bennett Could Be An Under-the-Radar Addition in 2019:

The Patriots lost Trey Flowers in free agency to the Lions this spring when he signed a monster deal that he wasn’t going to get in Foxboro. But they traded just a fifth-round draft choice for Michael Bennett and a seventh rounder. And although Bennett turned 33 in November he had nine sacks for the Eagles in 2018 plus another one in their two playoff games.

So while the production from last season is about the same as Flowers, it was the versatility of Flowers that will be missed. He could line up all over the formation and play any number of roles that the defense would ask of him.

Super Bowl XLIX:

Rewind the tape to Super Bowl XLIX, on the Patriots first four offensive snaps, Bennett lined up at four different positions, left defensive end, left defensive tackle, right defensive end, and right defensive tackle. And he pressured Tom Brady on three of those plays.

Bennett is at the age where most edge rushers (emphasis on most), seem to begin to lose their ability to produce. We didn’t see anything, however, from Bennett last year that he was approaching that level, despite his age. In fact, one could make the argument that he was the Eagles best pass rusher down the stretch last year.

The fire still burns bright for him as he is hungry for another championship. It is tough to gauge the big men on the offensive and defensive lines in minicamp. The real test for them begins with training camp begins.

But one area that Bill Belichick has always had a high percentage of hitting on is his ability to recognize and identify veteran players who can fill important roles for far less money and cap space. We believe Bennett will be another case of that.

Patriots-Lions Teaming Up for Joint Practices This Summer:

The Patriots are set to begin training camp around the July 25 timeframe, and prior to the first preseason game against the Detroit Lions, the two teams are going to conduct three joint practices. Former Pats DC Matt Patricia, like his mentor Bill Belichick, has a healthy respect for the value of joint practices and it seemed like a no-brainer that the two teams would hook up this summer.

The Lions announced on their website the dates and times for the joint practices:

The Detroit Lions 2019 Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage will open at the team’s headquarters and training facility in Allen Park for a 13th-straight year beginning July 25. There will be three practices exclusive to season ticket members and eight practices free and accessible to all fans. This year’s camp will also feature three joint practices with the New England Patriots prior to the Preseason Week 1 matchup at Ford Field (Thursday, Aug. 8; 7:30 p.m. ET).

With the three joint practices will take place at their Allen Park training facility on Monday-Weds. August 5,6, and 7 with practice beginning at 9:30 a.m. on each day. The gates will open at 8:30 a.m. Any Patriots fans looking to see the preseason game can plan their trip accordingly.  

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Buck Trend And Remain Traveling For Training Camp:

The Buffalo Bills are one of the teams that remains convinced that traveling away to training camp is the right way to go. They believe that their team-building and the opportunity for players to become the best versions of themselves are best served while going away for camp.

One can make the argument for or against such a move, but both head coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane are both on-board with that decision. On the Bills website, they both spelled out their reasoning behind the decision.

“First and foremost, we love going up to Rochester,” McDermott said. “We love going to Fisher. I think it’s a great venue for an NFL training camp. I think that the people and staff are first class. I’ve been around before when you go to a campus when you’re wanted contractually but not wanted maybe once you’re there. They open up their home to us. We love going up there. I love my early morning runs up there.”

Seating a challenge:

“The challenge a little bit is some of the location and the fields as it relates to the public practices,” McDermott added. “We’d love to make everything public, quite honestly. We’re just not able to do that necessarily with the physical location of things and trying to rotate fields and space.”

“It’s just when you go to that other field, that’s not the main one, it’s not conducive for the fans,” Beane said in reference to the grass field behind the St. John Fisher Fieldhouse. “It’s just hard to do that. It’s not fair for us to advertise — they don’t know which fields. We wouldn’t want someone driving multiple hours, bring kids and there’s no seating.”

Flores Changing the Dolphins Culture A Piece at a Time:

The Miami Dolphins have a new sheriff in town named Brian Flores and he knows that the rebuilding process takes time. But he also knows that the ownership group isn’t going to be overly generous with the time it takes to build a winner. They’re frustrated through years of mediocrity and are hungry for a winning team and attitude.

Flores saw what he perceives as a loose ship in South Beach and is trying to emulate the workman-like culture he was a part of in New England. And he didn’t waste any time in bringing that attitude to Miami.

Takes No Talent:

Flores trademark is the T.N.T. mantra (Takes No Talent), to build a winning attitude. The core values are hard work, discipline, and respect. It is easy to see some of the Patriot-way infused in Flores’ beliefs, but he’s put his own spin on it.

“I tell my players this — I can go out there and get conditioned if I just go out there and run every day. I’m not going to do that, not like they do; but I could do that,” Flores said, in a piece on ESPN.

“Any of us in here can do that. That really takes no talent; it just takes hard work, effort,” Flores said. “Everybody talks about, ‘This guy is talented; that guy is talented.’ The talent on the team and a lot of things in this game come down to focus, execution, not making a bad penalty. Really, that’s not a talent issue. It’s a focus issue; it’s a mindset issue. I try to, and us as a staff, we try to make an emphasis on those specific things. Things that take no talent, I think those are the details that help you win games.”

Little by little, Flores is putting his own stamp on things in Miami. By changing their work habits, discipline, and the overall culture, Flores is trying to speed up the rebuilding process.

Jets DC Williams Looking To Aggressively Use His Star Players:

The new defensive coordinator of the New York Jets, Gregg Williams has had seven different stops as defensive coordinator and one stint as a head coach, with the Buffalo Bills. And his units are always aggressive. And with a core of special players on defense, he has with Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams, and C.J. Mosely, the Jets will no doubt be aggressive again in 2019. And by adding arguably the best player in the draft in Quinnen Williams at DT, the Jets defense can be very tough this season.

Speaking of Mosely who the Jets signed as a free agent this spring, Williams raved about his play.

Leads by Example:

“He’s a really good leader and he leads by example first. All the great leaders that I’ve ever been a part of, have to show great example before you open your mouth, so he’s always doing that,” Williams said of Mosely.

“He’s always done that, he’s not an extremely highly vocal guy but he sets the example by how he goes about doing his job and he understands the routine of being a pro, being a real pro. Williams is excited about the flexibility now of all a sudden even being more of a quarterback of the defense and having the checks and the audible systems and the things that we teach. He’s been very good and it will be fun.”

In regard to Leonard Williams, his new DC is licking his chops at unleashing him on the competition. “I’m really looking forward to cutting him loose and he was high on my list to get a chance to draft,” he said to Jets.com.

“There is a drastic difference in just the philosophy of how we play up front and he’s had some really great springs, can’t wait to get him in pads and ready to go,” Williams said of the 25-year old. “But he’s another one I’m excited about the opportunity to help him be as good as he can be.”

________________

“It is a wise father that knows his own child.” William Shakespeare

“So, how was your week?”

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.

New England Patriots News 3-10, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 10, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-10 and AFC East Notes.

Quick Hitters:

Van Noy Defense – As if Van Noy needed anything else to endear himself to the fan base. After Colts TE Eric Ebron took a veiled shot at the Patriots when he tweeted  “nobody wanna do that Patriot way bull- #COLTure.” But Van Noy quickly answered that by tweeting a picture of two rings with a winking emoticon.

Gronk Selling Condo: On a day with some exciting trade news, one item that could have people thinking worst case scenarios was the news that Rob Gronkowski is selling his Boston seaport condo. Gronk’s luxury condo located at 21 Wormwood St. located on the waterfront can be yours for a cool $2,375,000. Does this mean the big guy is retiring? Not so fast. While it could be just that, it should be noted that he bought the place just a few years ago for $1.8 million. Just another sound financial investment.

Jamie Collins redux? With the news that the Cleveland Browns were parting ways with linebacker Jamie Collins, many fans and media members were wondering about a reunion for the two. As we see it here, that ship has sailed and he won’t be returning to New England. We don’t see it as a need as the LBer position isn’t in bad shape.

Et Tu Amendola: Danny Amendola was released by the Dolphins on Friday. The cost-cutting move is expected to clear a salary-cap space that Miami may use to entice Trey Flowers to South Florida. Now many are hoping for a reunion with Amendola and the Patriots.

Well, no one has been a bigger Amendola supporter than we’ve been on these pages. While we’d love to see him back in Foxboro this spring, the situation may preclude that from happening. The team needs to get younger at the position and with the cupboard bare, they may play a waiting game to see how the rest of FA/Draft plays out before making a decision. By then, I’d expect Amendola to be signed elsewhere.

Brown Has His Cake, But Won’t Share it With Buffalo: Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown may have effectively forced his way out of Pittsburgh by demanding a trade, and now is stipulating where he won’t go. The Steelers and Bills had a deal supposedly agreed to in principle but Brown put the kibosh on it, stating he won’t go to Buffalo.  

After a few tweets and videos that may have effectively ruined whatever compensation, the Steelers could have gotten for him, Brown now halted a trade. One has to wonder if he may paint himself into a corner where the Steelers (and rightfully so), give him the option to return to the team or sit out the season.

Bennett Trade, One The Team Couldn’t Bypass:

The Philadelphia Eagles are trading DL Michael Bennett and their 7th Round draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to the Patriots for New England’s 5th round pick in 2020. In terms of compensation, the deal is a steal. Bennett is still a very productive player and even at 33 logged more sacks (9) and QB hits (30) than anyone on New England and fourth most (QB hits) in the league.  

Bennett’s contract isn’t going to break the bank either. He’s due $7.2 million in salary and game day bonuses and $8 million in 2020. The Patriots tried to swing a deal with the Seahawks to get Bennett last spring, but the Eagles had pounced first and he was dealt to Philadephia.

Does this mean that the team is washing their hands of Trey Flowers in free agency? Not necessarily. We’ve been of the mind here that Flowers’ chances of resigning here have been slim. Especially now with so many of the edge rushers being tagged by their respective teams. But that doesn’t mean the team won’t try to retain Flowers. Bennett’s trade was something that just popped up on the radar that was too good to pass up for a player that they tried to bring in last spring.

He wasn’t brought in as a replacement for Flowers, although it could seem like that if indeed he does walk in free agency. But the thought of watching the two on the field together in the Pats defense is an exciting one. Will it happen? Stay tuned.

Brady Extension Coming?

We heard thru someone we know (and someone who would know) that a contract extension for Tom Brady was going to be done soon and the team would lock him up for another three years, that would take him to the age 45 limit that he said he envisioned.  

The guys on “Patriots Unfiltered”, what used to be known as PFW in Progress on the Patriots team website invited me on the show on Thursday and we spoke about it for a few minutes. It can be heard here:

Free Agency “Legal Tampering” Season Is Here:

Now is when things get interesting. The Patriots still have a slew of free agents to either resign or let walk including both kickers and still look for ways to improve the team.  So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at certain positions and see who the team has out there and who they could bring in.

Interior Defensive Line:  With both Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton unrestricted free agents, there is certainly a case to be made that neither returns. However, if I had to pick one… I’d go with Brown as being the one player closer to return, but not by much. Like a 52-48 ratio.  

There are some intriguing free agents out there, Sheldon Richardson (Vikings), Brandon Mebane (Chargers), Johnathan Hankins (Raiders), but I don’t see the Patriots laying out the money that those guys would draw in free agency. On our 4th and 2 podcast, I mentioned Jets FA Mike Pennel as a guy the Patriots may target. A huge, 6’4, 330, two-gapping space eater, the Patriots are one of the few teams that still covet those type of players. Not a sexy signing, but one that will pay dividends in the season.

Tight End: Will he or won’t he? If Rob Gronkowski retires, it will free up $11.6 million in cap space, and the position becomes of critical need. if he doesn’t, it is still a position in dire need of young(er) blood. They currently have Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister, Ryan Izzo, and the sleeper Stephen Anderson under contract. Hollister has looked good but can’t stay on the field. Izzo was an intriguing kid and Anderson has unlocked potential.

With the release of Dwayne Allen, the team needs an injection of talent and youth. One guy who’ll be the perfect #2 TE with the team, (especially in the two-TE sets) is Pittsburgh’s, Jesse James. He’s been a favorite here to pick up all winter. He’s big  (6’7, 260), is a very good blocker and productive as a receiver. He’s only 25 and has 112 catches in three seasons being the #4 or lower target.

Wide Receiver: With a slew of free agents (Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson), and only Julian Edelman and untested Braxton Berrios coming back, adding youth at WR is also critical. Will they bring back any of those three? I could see Patterson and maybe one or the other to return but they need some talent to help Edelman and Brady in 2019.

Free agents rumored to be linked to the Patriots include Golden Tate, Adam Humphries, Cole Beasley, Randall Cobb, Jamison Crowder, Eli Rogers,  and Danny Amendola. As much as we’d love to see Tate in this offense as well as Humphries, the money those two would be looking at may be prohibitive.

Look for the Patriots to make a move on Jamison Crowder. That still would be a difficult proposition, however, because even though he’s coming off an ankle injury that forced him to miss seven games, he’s still expected to fetch in the neighborhood of $8-10 million dollars in free agency. The draft, which the Patriots have struggled to find suitable wide receivers, may end up being the answer here.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Beane Says Brown Trade to Bills “Didn’t Make Sense”:

The Buffalo Bills inquired about and were close to making a trade for disgruntled Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown earlier this week. Then Brown put any hopes of that deal materializing by stating that he wouldn’t commit to showing up if the trade went thru. In the end, Bills GM Brandon Beane took the high road and in a statement. “We had positive discussions, but ultimately it didn’t make sense for either side. As great a player as Antonio Brown is, we have moved on and our focus is on free agency.”

The trade for Brown would have made total sense, from a football perspective for the Bills. They invested heavily into a young QB last year in Josh Allen. But he had a dearth of viable weapons to throw to plus an aging RB in LeSean McCoy. It would have made less sense, as it will for any other team since no one knows if Brown will tow the line in his next assignment.

As we mentioned above, Brown is painting himself into a corner, trying to force a trade to where he wants to go. For the Bills, they’ll approach free agency with about $80 million and the opportunity to sign lesser talented players but who will be more about the team than themselves.

Dolphins Clearing Cap Space, Release Three Veterans:

The Miami Dolphins have done a house cleaning in South Florida. By bringing in Brian Flores as the new head coach, he’s starting from scratch. Miami is expected to move on from QB Ryan Tannehill and that will be the first order of business for the new regime. But the team released three veteran players which will aid their salary cap situation.

Miami released wide receiver Danny Amendola, 33, in the move toward youth as well as DE Andre Branch and G Ted Larsen. The release of Amendola frees up $6 million and coupled with the other two vets gives Miami $22 million in cap space. Miami is also expected to decline the 5th-year option for WR Devante Parker making him a free agent this week. That will add another $9.4 million in cap space.

Amendola led Miami with 59 catches and 575 receiving yards in 2018. Now, Miami drafting in the first round with the 13th pick will have to decide whether to move up in the draft to get a QB they like, hope one falls to them in their spot, or wait until next year when the QB class is expected to be better. Free agency has the most intriguing name in Nick Foles, but the Jacksonville Jaguars released a slew of players adding $30 million to their salary cap and are expected to make a big push for the 30-year old QB.

Jets Have Money to Spend in Free Agency:

The New York Jets have nearly $100 million in salary cap space in 2019 and are in a position to make some big splashes in free agency. With that amount of money, they can front load some of those contracts to make the Jets the favorites to any team that they may be bidding against. However, they also have several (as many as 10) starting positions that need to be addressed.

New York is rumored to be in on the LeVeon Bell sweepstakes and signing the very talented running back would ease the growing pains on young QB Sam Darnold. On the flip side of the ball, the Jets are also expected to make a run at the very versatile and talented LB Anthony Barr who has spent the first five years of his career with the Vikings. He’d fill a great need for the Jets.

Barr is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who has been a Pro Bowler for the past four years with the Vikings. He’s adept at stopping the run, dropping into coverage and rushing off the edge. The team needs help at wide receiver as well as at edge rusher besides Barr. The Jets can be big players this spring with a ton of cap space. Look for them to make a splash or three.

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.