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Patriots Players To Watch, Week 5  Against the Redskins

Steve Balestrieri
October 4, 2019 at 7:31 am ET

The Patriots head back out on the road this week and are taking on the winless Washington Redskins in Landover, MD on Sunday. 

We posted our keys to the game and our positional matchups on Thursday and today we’ll look at the different players from a New England perspective that we’ll be watching if they wish to continue their undefeated run thus far. Bill Belichick has been talking up the 0-4 Redskins all week so that there is no letdown against a lesser opponent. 

Here are our Patriots players to watch this week down in Washington as the Patriots take on the Redskins and try to improve to 5-0. 

Sony Michel: 

The Patriots haven’t run the ball well this year and have averaged just 91.3 yards per game. And Sony Michel has had a rough time of it early averaging just 2.7 yards per rushing attempt in 2019.  Part of the reason the running game has struggled is on the offensive line where they’ve had several injuries. And let’s not forget that last season’s tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen were outstanding blockers. Everything factors in. And of course, perhaps Michel is a tad slow in getting to the hole. 

But this week, the Patriots are facing a Redskins team that is allowing 147.5 yards per game and 4.7 yards per rush. Last week they allowed 164 yards to a Giants team that was missing Saquon Barkley. So, the opportunities are there for him to get untracked this week and start building something for the rest of the season when the schedule gets tougher. 

Look for Michel to get a lot of work this week, especially if the team can get off to an early lead. The Patriots should be able to run the ball effectively and Michel will be one of the key players to watch this week as the offense looks to rebound after a tough week in Buffalo the week before.  Michel’s battery mates, James White and Rex Burkhead should be very active in the passing game…maybe time to get Sony a few looks too, Josh???

Kyle Van Noy:

The Patriots and Bill Belichick have had a good record of bringing in veterans from other teams and finding a role for them where they either prolong their career or accomplish more than anyone ever thought possible. Van Noy is arguably one of Belichick’s biggest steals. Drafted by the Lions with the 40th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Van Noy was highly thought of as a prospect. But the Lions never used his skills correctly and they unloaded him and a 7th round draft pick for a Patriots sixth-round pick in 2016. 

Belichick has found a way to maximize Van Noy’s talent and his career has taken off in New England. He’s one of their most versatile and important defensive players on the roster. Last week he was the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Week after his game against Buffalo. 

With the Redskins on tap for this week, we look for Van Noy to be a big part in trying to keep RB Adrian Peterson from getting untracked in the running game and for him to play close to RB Chris Thompson who has been very good for the Redskins out of the backfield with 20 catches for 251 yards, [12.6 yard average]. 

Marshall Newhouse:

Bill Belichick made it a point earlier this week to mention Redskins rookie outside linebacker Montez Sweat as one of Washington’s dangerous defensive players. Sweat was a first-round pick by Washington this spring [26th overall] one of two Redskins pick in the first round, [Dwayne Haskins #15]. 

Sweat is still learning his craft in the NFL but after the first two games where he struggled, he’s picked up his game and got his first NFL sack in Week 3 against the Bears. He’ll be rushing from Tom Brady’s blindside on the left. He’ll be taking on veteran Marshall Newhouse on that side. 

When Belichick mentions something, it isn’t normally to hear himself talk, so this area will be a point of emphasis for the team this week. Newhouse is going against an athletic, rookie pass rusher who ran a blistering [4.41] time in the 40 at the Combine. But the Patriots may be looking to run the ball to the left this week away from Ryan Kerrigan. That means Newhouse will be taking on the rookie in trying to get the RBs to the second level. 

Stephon Gilmore:

Gilmore’s rise among the NFL’s best cornerbacks means that he routinely gets the opponent’s best wide receiver. The veteran who always speaks quietly but confidently is the opposite of the many other brash but mostly less talented corners in the game. 

Gilmore has an intriguing matchup this week with the rookie speedster Terry McLaurin from Ohio State who is off to a tremendous start to his career. McLaurin who runs a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash has set a rookie record with at least five catches and a touchdown in each of his first three games. He can be a legitimate big play, deep threat receiver in the league. He missed the Giants game with a hamstring issue but was back at practice this week, albeit in a limited capacity. He may be a game-time decision.

If he does play this week, this will be a matchup to watch. The Redskins know, it will be hard to slowly move the ball down the field against this Patriots defense, they will have to get some chunk plays in the passing game. And Gilmore, who is among the very best in the league will be matched up with the very talented rookie.

Benjamin Watson: 

We were tempted to go with Tom Brady here, since all of the hot-take dolts on the national front drool over the Monday beat whenever Brady has [very infrequently] a bad day. But Brady rarely has two bad games in a row, and we expect him to be sharp this week. So, we’re going with Ben Watson, fresh off his four-game vacation, courtesy of the league office. Watson was back to practice this week, and it isn’t even certain that he’ll play yet, but we’re going on the assumption [dangerous game there] that he will indeed by activated and play this Sunday.

And the Patriots could surely use him too. Julian Edelman is playing with banged-up ribs, Josh Gordon has a knee issue that just popped up on the injury report and … oh yes, the current tight ends have been non-factors in the passing game and haven’t set the world on fire blocking either. 

While Watson was never known as a devastating blocker, he can at least hold his own and in the passing game, although 38 years old, he still runs well and can challenge the seams which should open up things a bit for the wide receivers underneath.   

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Patriots – Redskins Week 5 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 3, 2019 at 8:52 am ET

The Patriots are back on the road in Week 5, as they head to our nation’s capital to take on the Washington Redskins. With a win on Sunday, the Patriots will improve to 5-0 on the season and go 3-0 on the road, where they won only three games away from home in 2018.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, October 6 at 1:00 PM ET 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 (4-0) beat the Buffalo Bills 16-10 behind another outstanding defensive effort. New England had four interceptions and sacked Bills QBs five times

The Redskins (0-4) lost to the Giants 24-3. QB Case Keenum was replaced early in the second quarter for rookie QB Dwayne Haskins. .  

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 Redskins, although frequent preseason opponents, have met on 10 times in the regular season. Although Washington holds a 6-4 advantage overall in the all-time series, the Patriots have won the last three meetings including a 27-10 win over the Skins in Gillette Stadium back in the 2015 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 Redskins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been mired in mediocrity at the quarter pole of the season. As a team, they are averaging just 91.3 yards per game [24th in the NFL] and a measly 3.2 yards per attempt in 2019. Injuries all along the offensive line have certainly played a part and running back Sony Michel has had precious little room to operate. However, he could hit the hole a tad quicker to help things a bit. 

Fullback James Develin was placed in IR but Jakob Johnson showed some promise in the Bills game. Rex Burkhead was nursing an injured foot last week and had only a single touch against Buffalo after being the go-to guy in the first three games. James White and Brandon Bolden will chip in as well. 

Washington has been really struggling against the run so far this season and is allowing a whopping 147.5 yards per game on the ground and 4.7 yards per rush. Washington plays a base 3-4 front and they are getting pushed around. Although NT Daron Payne is having a solid season. He’s been the bright spot for a defense reeling. Last week Washington gave up 164 yards on the ground to a Giants team without Saquon Barkley.

This will be a good week to get the running game untracked a bit and have Michel getting some positive yardage against a porous run defense. Don’t be surprised to see Brandon Bolden continue to get some play in the mix while Burkhead nurses his foot back to health.               

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

The Patriots passing game had a rough afternoon in Buffalo last week, Tom Brady had the worst statistical game since 2006. The Bills secondary effectively shut down the wide receivers. With Julian Edelman banged up [ribs] and now Josh Gordon limited with a knee issue, the passing game will be a key area to watch on Sunday. 

But Ben Watson should be back in the fold on Sunday, and it couldn’t come at a better time. The Patriots tight ends have been largely invisible for the first quarter of the season. It is pretty telling that safety Devin McCourty has caught as many passes [4 interceptions] as the TE group has caught overall. Look for Watson to attack the seams and open things up underneath. Burkhead and White out of the backfield should see plenty of passes coming their way. 

Washington’s pass defense is middle of the road [251 yards per game, 18th in the NFL] but that is a bit of a smoke and mirror stat since teams have been running the ball on them at will. Without the benefit of a good pass rush other than Ryan Kerrigan, teams are completing 77.8 percent of the passes their attempting. Their third-down defense is allowing a whopping 63 percent of conversions. Of their top four cornerbacks, only Quinton Dunbar is performing well. Opposing QBs have a 29.9 QB rating when targeting him. The others including Josh Norman 121.7, Jimmy Moreland, 131.5, and Fabian Moreau, 112.0 are not getting it done. 

Look for Brady to isolate White and Burkhead on the linebackers frequently and pick his spots with the WRs outside. We look for Jakobi Meyers to perhaps get some looks in the game this week. 

Next up the Redskins offense:

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

The Patriots front seven has been outstanding against the run allowing just 61.3 yards per game [2nd overall]. And despite the big game from the ageless Frank Gore a week ago, most of his production came on two carries where the defense made correctable mistakes, mistakes that no doubt was played in the film room this week. Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy have been terrific at slowing the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up. 

Washington has struggled to run the ball averaging just 49.7 yards per game, and 2.9 yards per rushing attempt in 2019. Like New England, injuries to the OL have crippled them. Left tackle Trent Williams has been a holdout, center Chase Roullier and right guard Brandon Scherf are banged up. Adrian Peterson has had nowhere to run and is averaging just 2.7 yards per attempt. 

With their QB position in total flux right now, the Redskins are going to have to try to run the ball to take the pressure off whoever gets the start, [my money is on Colt McCoy this week].  With the way the Patriots front seven has been defending the run, I expect New England to win this matchup easily. 

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

The Redskins passing game has been middle of the road [246 yards per game, 16th] but with Case Keenum being benched and questionable for this one due to an injury, the question is who plays on Sunday? Jay Gruden, in a bit of gamesmanship, was asked about their QB plan for Sunday and replied that they didn’t have one. Haskins showed a week ago that he’s not ready. So I believe they’ll go with Colt McCoy.

The Redskins have two speedsters on the outside, rookie Terry McLaurin and Paul Richardson. McLaurin missed the game against the Giants due to a hamstring problem and is questionable for this one. But he’s been outstanding. Washington QBs targeting him thus far have a 141.8 QB rating. Chris Thompson has been a reliable target out of the backfield and has 20 catches for 251 yards. Tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are both banged up and may each miss this week.

The Patriots pass defense has been excellent thus far in 2019 allowing 181.8 yards per game [2nd in the NFL] and has racked up 18 sacks and 10 interceptions. Look for the Patriots to unleash the hounds on Sunday. With a running game that can’t get untracked, the Redskins should be in obvious passing situations most of the game. That is a recipe for the defense to attack.  

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Washington

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski was placed on IR [hip surgery] on Wednesday and as of this posting, the Patriots don’t even have a kicker on the roster. They’re holding tryouts 

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots are facing a team that is beaten up physically and reeling mentally. And yet, many fans and media members chuckle at Bill Belichick as he sings the praises of the Redskins as if they are 4-0 instead of the opposite. That’s why the team’s winning percentage is, and continues to be far above the rest of the league for the past 19 years. They rarely, if ever, play down to the level of their competition. In this sense, Belichick is the anti-Tomlin, and the team is much better for it. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Running Game Takes Over – Look for the Patriots to try to establish the run early in this game and set the tone for the afternoon. With a strong showing in the running game, it will open up play action passing and should help Tom Brady have a big day throwing the ball. 

On the flip side of the coin, controlling the Washington running game will force the game into the hands of whoever is the QB this week. With the way the secondary has been playing, coupled with the pressure the front seven has been getting, it is a recipe for success. Look for the defense to continue its very aggressive approach. 

Win Third Downs – The Patriots offense struggled last week against an overall excellent Buffalo defense [5-18]. That should change this week. Washington’s defense is allowing an average of 63 percent of third downs to be converted. Even worse, opposing QBs are completing  87percent of passes attempted on third down. If the running game gets untracked, like we envision, that trend will continue. 

The Redskins have struggled on 3rd down offensively converting only 12 of 42 attempts [28.5 percent]. Their inability to run the ball has forced them into too many third and long attempts. Look for the Patriots to dominate 3rd down defensively again. 

***Insane Stat Time*** – The Patriots defense has more turnovers [10] than 3rd down conversions they’ve allowed, [7]. Overall, the Patriots defense has been outstanding on 3rd down [7-52, 13 percent]. 

Keep Creating Turnovers – The Patriots are +6 in the turnover department, while the Redskins are -3. See above insane stat line, the only way Washington can hope to pull an upset is to protect the ball, which is something they haven’t done, and force the  Patriots into some turnovers. 

The way the defense has been playing very opportunistic football, we expect this trend to continue on Sunday as Bill Belichick knows that this team they’re facing is ripe for packing it in, if they get up to a nice lead early. 

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This should be a game where the Patriots should take care of business early and win easily. Jay Gruden is definitely on the hot seat in Washington, but with the interference of owner Daniel Snyder, the once prime Redskins job is now one, that won’t be highly sought after. The front office is no doubt pushing Gruden to start Haskins in this one, although he showed last week [and Gruden knew] that he wasn’t ready. Gruden will try to go with Colt McCoy in our opinion but his hand may be forced here. 

Don’t expect a lot of fireworks in this one. I expect a methodical, workman-like approach for the Patriots on offense, as they eat the clock and keep grinding the ball down the field. Look for James White/Rex Burkhead to have a big game catching the ball as the Patriots roll and move to 5-0. Patriots 35-7

The “Knocking on Seven’s Door” tour heads home to Gillette Stadium on a short week to take on the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football.

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