Tag Archives: Daniel Jones

Patriots Week 6 Report Card, 35-14  Win Over the Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 14, 2019 at 7:37 am ET

 Patriots Improve to 6-0 but Got Banged Up On Thursday

Time to clean out the notebook from the Giants and begin to move on to Week 7.

The Patriots are 6-0 and remain with the impressive 49ers as the only undefeated teams in the NFL. The landscape changes so much from week to week that winning is far from guaranteed regardless of the competition.

The Patriots were favored by as much as 17 before the game and won by 21 but this game appeared to be anything other than a blowout until the final 8-9 minutes. Six different players were injured and five didn’t return, so the extra off time will prove to be a needed respite this week. 

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

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady had another interception in the first half where it seemed like either he and Julian Edelman were way off of the same page or the wind affected a deep pass where it was easily picked off by Janoris Jenkins. He also suffered a strip-sack that was returned for a touchdown.

But in the second half, at one point he completed 15 passes in a row and finished 31-41 for 334 yards with an interception. He also scored two touchdowns on quarterback sneaks. Considering that he was playing without Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett and had UDFA wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski as his #2-3 WRs, things weren’t as bad as some were painting the situation.

Running Backs: B-

The favorite whipping boy for much of the media and the fan base, Sony Michel was bottled up all night until his final run at the end of the game. He finished with 86 yards on 22 carries, a 3.9-yard average. But the blocking for him just wasn’t there at all. 

James White was stuffed on his two rushing attempts, while Brandon Bolden scored the game’s first touchdown and had 23 yards on three attempts. Brady scored on the other two touchdowns on the ground.

Overall, the Patriots ran for 114 yards on 34 carries [3.4-yard average] which isn’t good enough. And they lost another fullback Jakob Johnson who is going on IR. 

Wide Receivers: C+

Julian Edelman had his second 100-yard game in a row [9 catches 113 yards] and was his normal pain-in-the-backside self to the defense. With no Gordon or Dorsett, the Giants knew they had to stop him but couldn’t. He had two drops that hurt considering the circumstances. 

Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski both contributed with 4 catches for 54 yards and 2 catches for 34 yards respectively. Both are normally working more with the scout team than the offense in practice, so they get high marks for their night. But although the team got by on TNF with them as the #2-3 WRs, this isn’t sustainable. 

Josh Gordon had one catch before getting injured. James White had nine catches on nine targets but for only 46 yards. Michel and Bolden each chipped in with a pair of catches out of the backfield.

Tight Ends: C-

Matt LaCosse was hurt again and left the game in the first half. He has been largely MIA all season. Ryan Izzo gave up the edge on the strip-sack TD on Brady and has not been good on those outside zone runs where the team has been stuffed nearly every time this year [18 outside zone attempts, 21 rushing yards this season]. 

Izzo caught two passes for 31 yards including a 20-yarder where he was able to shake free when Brady had all day to throw. Due to LaCosse’s injury along with others, the team was forced to play in only “11 personnel” [1 RB, 1TE, 3 WRs] for the entire second half on Thursday.    

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line, with the exception of the aforementioned Izzo sack and Marshall Newhouse, had a very solid night of pass protection. The Giants, and rightfully so, targeted Newhouse’s side for their pass rush and were successful. Newhouse has allowed too many sacks and the coaches are going to have to give him some help, especially with the blitz-happy Jets on-deck.

The run blocking remains very much hit or miss, they run well between the tackles but those outside zone runs and sweeps aren’t getting any traction. Short yardage runs are still a sore spot. 

 Defensive Line: B

The defensive line once again was very good. The Giants running game was predictably held in check with no Saquon Barkley with 52 yards on 16 attempts. Lawrence Guy was solid as always upfront and played more than everyone else as they rotated bodies on a short week. 

Deatrich Wise had two QB hits, but the Giants OL did a very good job of limiting pressure from the DL. Michael Bennett’s playing time continues to dwindle, he played in only 11 snaps late in the game and is now the subject of trade rumors, something to keep an eye on with the October 29th trade deadline upcoming.

Linebackers: A-

The Patriots linebackers didn’t dominate the way we’ve seen in the past few weeks, but they were still excellent although they lost Dont’a Hightower in this one. But Kyle Van Noy was the man once again for this unit. Van Noy had the team’s only sack, two QB hits, six hurries and scoop and recovery of a fumble that he returned for a touchdown that put the game away. 

Jamie Collins snuffed out the screen pass to Jon Hilliman and put a big hit on the back jarring the ball loose on the fumble, which Van Noy returned. Hightower, before being hurt had three tackles and a QB hit. 

Secondary: A-

The secondary continues to stick like glue to the opposition’s receivers. Stephon Gilmore continues his outstanding play and Daniel Jones would have been wise to avoid his side of the field. Gilmore was targeted six times and had an interception and five passes broken up. He had another pick right in his hands but couldn’t hold on. He also deflected another that was intercepted by John Simon.

Jonathan Jones battled Golden Tate in the slot all night and gave up the Patriots first touchdown receiving this year. But even on that play, he had tight coverage and got his hand on the ball. But it was a great throw by Jones and a super play by Tate who was able to corral it and haul it in. 

Jones completed less than 50 percent of his throws and had a passer rating of just 35.2 on the night while the defense intercepted him three times. Nuff said.

Special Teams: A-

Mike Nugent had a miss of a field goal that doinked off the upright but the replay clearly showed that holder Jake Bailey didn’t rotate the laces away, so we’ll cut him some slack there. Also, the extra points were all good this week…small steps.

Jake Bailey had to contend with the gusty wind and averaged only 40.7 yards on his punts. The Giants Riley Dixon, also with a strong leg averaged only 39.2 on the night. 

But the STs struck a big blow again when Mr. Do-Everything Brandon Bolden made a tremendous play, pushing Nate Stupar into the punter Dixon, causing the punt to carom off of his head. It was scooped up by Chase Winovich who scored his first NFL touchdown. 

Coaches: A-

The Patriots coaching staff made the adjustments they needed to make offensively, out of necessity on Thursday night when injuries forced Josh McDaniels to operate out of one personnel grouping for the entire second half. Brady mentioned after the game it was the first time he ever remembers the Patriots doing that in his 20 years here. 

Defensively they pushed all the right buttons and limited the Giants to just the one big scoring play and nothing else. They rolled their coverages and created mixed presures that kept the Giants off-balance.  

 

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.

 

Injury-Riddled Patriots Move to 6-0 With 35-14 Win Over Injury-Riddled Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2019 at 7:13 am ET

Mini-Bye Week Comes a Great Time for NE

The Patriots are 6-0 and defeated the New York Giants 35-14 but this one went unlike most had envisioned on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. Most had this one as a blowout which the final score indicated but in reality, it was anything but. 

Ah, the joys of Thursday Night Football…

With solid play and timely stops by their defense, the Giants were very much alive in this game with about nine minutes to play, with the score just 21-14. Then the Patriots defense, which was outstanding again, turned the game into the Pats’ favor for good. Jamie Collins jarred the ball loose from running back Jonathan Hilliman, where Kyle Van Noy scooped the ball up and rolled for a touchdown. Game over, thanks for coming, drive safely down Route 1.

New England could breathe a sigh of relief as this one was effectively over. Tom Brady added a final touchdown on a one-yard quarterback sneak to finish off the scoring, his second rushing touchdown of the game to put a bow on it, making the score 35-14.

It was the Giants who entered this game beat up missing three of their top offensive players [Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram], but it was the Patriots who limped out of this one. New England entered the game missing two of its own offensive performers, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and running back Rex Burkhead. But they then suffered a slew of injuries during the game.

Josh Gordon left after awkwardly twisting his ankle/knee and didn’t return. Fullback Jakob Johnson also left with an injury, as well as tight end Matt LaCosse who left early in this one. These losses would affect the way the offense was able to line up the rest of the game. With only one tight end and no fullback, the Patriots ran only 11 personnel grouping [3 WRs, 1TE, 1 RB] for nearly the entire second half. 

Gordon’s loss hit an already thin wide receiver position and forced undrafted rookie wide receivers, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, into prominent roles in the offense. 

On defense, Pat Chung, Dont’a Hightower, and J.C. Jackson left with injuries, although Jackson was able to return later. So, the mini-bye week with 10 days off before playing on Monday Night Football against the Jets, couldn’t come at a better time.

Other observations from tonight’s game include:

Defense Steps Up Again With Four More Turnovers:

The Patriots defense continues to play stellar team defense with great coverage in the secondary while generating turnovers. On a night where they generated just a single sack, the defense forced four turnovers with the aforementioned fumble and score by Van Noy and three interceptions by Duron Harmon, John Simon, and Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore almost had a fourth but dropped it when he jumped a route to Golden Tate on a third-down near midfield. 

The coverage was sticky all night long against a game but depleted Giants WR core. The defense did give up its first passing touchdown of the year, a 64-yard scoring pass from Daniel Jones to Tate, although Jonathan Jones had tight coverage and actually got his hand on the ball. But credit Tate with an outstanding play, he was able to keep his concentration and still able to haul it in for the score. 

But the defense limited the Giants to just 213 total yards [52 rushing, 161 passing] while being outstanding once again on third down, holding the G-men to just 2-10. 

You Think Bringing Back Brandon Bolden Was Worth It?

At the time Brandon Bolden was re-signed and brought back after a year with Miami, there were many who panned the signing,[including a hot-take dolt on the air] saying that Bill Belichick signs too many players with Special Teams talent only. As the Southwest Airlines commercial says, “Want to Get Away?” No, the return of Bolden has done nothing but pay dividends. 

Back in minicamp, I spoke with RB coach Ivan Fears prior to practice and asked him about bringing back the popular teammate inside the Patriots locker room. And what Fears said has rung true this season.  “No matter what we ask him to do, Brandon will do it, and do it well,” Fears said. 

In the last three games, Bolden has scored three touchdowns and figured prominently in a fourth. Bolden had a rushing touchdown against Buffalo, caught a 29-yard score from Brady against the Redskins and ran one in against the Giants in short-yardage tonight. But he caused the blocked punt in the first half which resulted in a Chase Winovich touchdown. 

Bolden rushed in on a punt block and drove Nate Stupar backward where Riley Dixon’s punt went off Stupar’s head. The ball bounced backward where Thor scooped and scored. This was all because of Bolden’s work while out on the field. 

Daniel Jones Can Sling It: 

What? you say, are you kidding? And a look at Jones’ numbers would seem to play that out. How so when he completed only 15 of 31 for 161 yards which was only good for 5.2 yards per pass and three interceptions?  

Granted Jones’ numbers weren’t good, nor his passer rating of 35.2, but his depleted receiving core was blanketed all night long and he frequently had nowhere to go with the football. 

But several of his throws, including the touchdown to Tate and another pass to Tate on a third-down slant were delivered in very tight windows, quickly and accurately. If you look past the boxscore and rewatch the tape, Jones did as well as could be expected given the circumstances.

The Giants, as we pointed out in our key matchups piece, would move Tate into the slot to take him away from Stephon Gilmore and have him battle Jonathan Jones. It was a good hard battle all night long.  

Jones had plenty of bad moments and plays to be sure, but he looks to be a good QB who was just placed in an unwinnable situation

Offense Needs Help But They Weren’t Quite As Bad As Believed:

  The Patriots struggled on offense for much of the night and had to claw and scratch for everything they got. The play of the offensive line continues to be suspect at times and they seem to be scuffling along in search of an identity. 

But at the end of the day, the generated 424 yards of offense and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes, which really tired out the Giants’ defense. 

Tom Brady struggled in the first half but ended up 31-41 for 334 yards. He scored on two short QB sneaks but threw a weird interception in the first half. While attempting a deep post to Julian Edelman, the ball was well behind Edelman where Janoris Jenkins picked it off. Was it miscommunication or the wind?  Edelman was outstanding with nine catches for 113 yards including a beautiful diving catch which set up Brady’s last TD dive. 

Sony Michel struggled for much of the night but ended up with 86 yards on 22 carries. The Patriots ground game, which struggled for much of the night ended up with 114 yards. But the offensive line and wide receivers need help. 

TE Ryan Izzo has really struggled with blocks to the edge which is supposed to be his strong suit. LaCosse can’t catch a break, or stay healthy, he’s hurt again. With the injuries to Dorsett and Gordon, an already hurting WR core was stretched mighty thin. Kudos to UDFA rookie wide receivers Meyers and Olszewski who both contributed in the passing game. Meyers had four catches for 54 yards including a nice 23-yarder where he high-pointed the ball and had the awareness to raise it over the defender to keep it from being knocked away. Olszewski chipped in with two catches for 34 yards. 

But within the next 10 days, they have some decisions to make. Even if Gordon and Dorsett are back, they should probably look at adding some help. One thing to keep in mind, 1st-round draft pick N’Keal Harry can begin practicing on Wednesday and return in another two weeks from then. 

And with LaCosse hurt again, it may be time to explore bringing in another tight end. The offense is getting by for now but with the meat of their schedule upcoming with Baltimore, Philadelphia, Dallas, Cleveland, Houston. and Kansas CIty yet to come, they need to get the offense figured out. 

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

 

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Patriots Players To Watch, Week 6 Against the Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 10, 2019 at 11:00 am ET

 

The Patriots are back home in Gillette Stadium to face the New York Giants. With the short week to prepare, the game plans for either team will probably be limited so it comes down to execution. Thursday night games tend to be sloppier than their Sunday counterparts, so limiting mistakes while trying to force some mistakes on your opponents are always a big key, even more so than on Sunday.

Here are our Patriots players to watch this week as the Patriots try to improve to 6-0 on the season against the Giants. 

James White: 

The Patriots, as we pointed out in our key matchups piece, will no doubt try to target the Giants linebackers in the passing game by putting them in coverage against the running backs. And their main weapon in that regard continues to be James White. 

White is fantastic out of the backfield and keeping the sticks moving and when the defense wants to drop back and play coverage, he has always been able to take advantage of his opportunities in the running game. 

We look for White to play a big role this week in the offensive game plan, facing a defense that has struggled to stop the run or the pass, White on the field is the kind of versatile chess piece which will keep the defense guessing.

Jamie Collins:

The Patriots linebackers are having a fantastic season. Dont’a Hightower has dubbed them “the Boogeymen” and Collins has fit the bill [no pun intended], as the top Boogeyman for opponents to face. Collins is having a fantastic second stint with the Patriots. He’s been disruptive, has done a great job of setting the edge, getting after the quarterback and dropping into coverage. 

Every week it seems that we’re singing the praises of one of the linebackers after a game. Two weeks ago it was Kyle Van Noy, who was the defensive player of the week. Last week it was Hightower who seemed to be everywhere in disrupting the Redskins offense. This week, it is Collins’ turn. 

With the Giants missing three of their top offensive chess pieces in this game, it will allow Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo to give Collins more opportunities to disrupt the flow of the Giants offense. And we expect him to do just that. 

Julian Edelman:

Bill Belichick said this week that Edelman is “one of the most competitive players I’ve ever coached.” Tom Brady took it one step farther heaping huge praise on the tough yet banged-up wide receiver. 

“He’s one of the best players in the history of the franchise,” Brady said in a radio interview on Monday. “When you think of some of the great receivers we’ve had, Julian is right up there at the top. So you’ve got to get him the ball, and he’s making a lot of yards with it in his hands. We put a lot on Julian. Julian’s a very smart player. Very tough. He’s mentally, physically tough. What he’s gone through the last few weeks with his injury and then still just laying it on the line — you see even on that catch-and-run there in the third quarter, him kind of diving over the pile. He’s an incredible player, an incredible teammate, and the more we get him the ball, the better it is for our offense.”

Edelman is questionable for this game as his chest/rib injury has been very painful, he’s been wincing every time he gets off the turf. But It would be folly to count him out of this nationally televised game. He knows how valuable he is to this offense. He’s the one matchup nightmare that the Giants will have a hard time covering tonight. 

Jonathan Jones:

Jones seems to be finally be getting his due as one of the outstanding slot corners in the NFL. The Patriots rewarded him with a 3-year extension this summer worth around $21 million dollars. Along with Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, the Patriots have one of the deepest and most talented cornerback groups in the league.

Jones may see a lot of Golden Tate this week. With Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram out this week, Tate may be the go-to guy for Daniel Jones and the Giants passing game. And the G-men may move Tate in the slot to keep him away from Stephon Gilmore and give Tate more options to break on the ball. 

This promises to be a great matchup between the two. Tate is an accomplished veteran who has been in many big games. The moment will never be too much for him and as he stated this week, the Giants aren’t intimidated by the moment. 

Matt LaCosse: 

LaCosse was a bit more involved in the offense last week, he only caught a single pass for 22 yards and has only caught three passes on the season, but he’s been banged up and now that he’s healthy, the Patriots are hoping that he can be more productive in the passing game. He did show up nicely in the running game, and easily had his best game of the season in that regard. He made a key block in springing Sony Michel for his 14-yard touchdown run. That is the type of play the team needs consistently.

The focus on LaCosse and Ryan Izzo will be much closer now that the team has decided to release veteran Ben Watson. Watson was considered to be the main TE target once his suspension was over. Now he’s gone and there the focus will be on these two, TEs to get it done. Especially on LaCosse who is considered the better receiver of the two. 

We’ll see if Josh McDaniels tries to get LaCosse more involved in the passing game this week. With WR Phillip Dorsett out with a hamstring injury, it would be a prime opportunity for him to begin to carve out a role for himself.   

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

 

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.

 

Patriots – Giants Week 6 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots return home on a short week to take on the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. The team has the opportunity to begin the season 6-0 and will have 11 days off before facing the Jets next week on Monday Night Football.

This week’s game will be broadcast by Fox on Thursday, October 10 at 8:20 p.m. and can be seen locally on WFXT Fox  25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink 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 (5-0) beat the Washington Redskins 33-7 with the defense getting six sacks and an interception while Tom Brady threw for 348 yards and three TDs.

The Giants (2-3) lost to the Minnesota Vikings 28-10. Daniel Jones threw a beautiful 38-yard touchdown pass but missed too many open receivers. The Giants run defense was gashed on the day to the tune of 211 yards.  

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

Series History:

The Patriots and Giants have met 29 times in the preseason including 15 years in a row. But they are meeting for just the 11th time in the regular season. The Patriots lead the overall series 6-4, but the G-men can lay claim to two Super Bowl victories over Brady, Belichick and the Patriots after the 2007 and 2011 seasons.  

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 Giants Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game finally showed some signs of getting itself untracked against an albeit awful Redskins run defense which entered the game allowing 147.5 yards per game. Sony Michel churned out 91 yards, most of which in the second half as the run blocking got much better after halftime.

The Giants got chewed up last week and are allowing an average of 130 yards per game. The big men up front led by rookie Dexter Lawrence are playing well, but they were victimized by zone running plays that tested their speed and athleticism. They should get linebackers Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis back this week, which should help the run defense. 

With the quick week coupled with the travel, and the weather where it is expected to have heavy rains and winds over 20 mph, the Patriots may opt to further wear down a run defense that took a beating on Sunday. Look for plenty of Michel and Rex Burkhead, if he’s able to go tonight.           

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

The Patriots passing game ended up having a very solid Sunday as Brady passed for 348 yards and three touchdowns after getting sacked three times in the first half. Julian Edelman was nearly uncoverable where Washington had no one that could stick with him. The running backs out of the backfield made big contributions with James White doing his normal solid work and Brandon Bolden hauling in a 29-yard touchdown. 

The Giants pass defense has been bad, allowing over 280 yards per game and allowing opposing QBs to post a 106.8 passer rating. Rewatching the tape of the Vikings game showed the play-action passing and crossing routes were giving them fits. However, the way to beat Brady and the Patriots offense is to bring pressure up the middle. That’s where Lawrence comes in. He has the ability to throw a monkey wrench into the Patriots plans. 

Look for the Patriots to utilize Edelman on those shallow crossers as he’ll take on Grant Haley in the slot. There will be no Phillip Dorsett, so Josh Gordon will be working against Janoris Jenkins. Look for the Patriots to run a lot of those two-back “Pony” sets with James White and Burkhead. Play action passing will be huge here to slow the pass rush and get the open man quickly.

Next up the Giants offense:

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

The Giants are missing the outstanding Saquon Barkley and his backup Wayne Gallman this week. Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain and is week-to-week and Gallman suffered a concussion against the Vikings. Now they’ll go with former practice squadders Jon Hilliman and fullback Eli Perry.  Perry is an intriguing player, tough physical, can carry the ball a bit and make the occasional catch. 

The Patriots front seven has been very good against the run. Last week, they had a single breakdown of a 65-yard jet sweep where the secondary missed tackles but other than that, they shut down the Redskins ground game. Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and Michael Bennett have been excellent at slowing things at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up. Unlike previous years, the Patriots are doing a much better job of setting the edge with John Simon and Jamie Collins doing a tremendous job. 

The much anticipated matchup with Barkley won’t happen this time around and with the G-Men on their third and fourth options, I don’t see them running a consistent rushing attack against a unit allowing 78 yards per game. 

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

The Giants passing game has shown definite signs of life with Daniel Jones, who was impressive here in August for the fourth preseason game. But he’s missing his top WR in Sterling Shepard as well as his top tight end Evan Engram who are hurt. He still has the talented Golden Tate and Darius Slayton but will that be enough? 

The Patriots pass defense has been on an absolute roll this year. With a deep and talented secondary with 11 interceptions, an excellent group of linebackers and a pass rush that has already generated 24 sacks, they are playing outstanding football. They are tops in the league allowing just 160.4 yards per game through the air and just 6.8 points per game. Despite the short week, the Patriots defense will have a slightly easier time to prepare for the Giants passing offense as it bears many of the same looks as Washington’s. 

Jones has mobility but look for the Patriots to continue to be aggressive and attack the Giants offensive line while rolling their coverages to try to confuse the rookie QB. Jamie Collins may be a spy on Jones if he starts to hurt the defense with his legs. But with a depleted pass receiving core, this matchup should easily favor New England.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New York

The Patriots Mike Nugent missed his first extra point attempt but then was perfect on his next three while hitting two chip shot field goals. Rookie punter Jake Bailey has been outstanding. While the return game has been hit or miss with rookie Gunner Olszewski. 

Meanwhile the Giants Aldrick Rosas hasn’t missed an extra point and has only one field goal miss although his long is only 36 yards. Punter Riley Dixon has been excellent and is averaging 47.5 yards per punt. Corey Ballentine has done a good job on kick returns, while Golden Tate and T.J. Jones handle punt returns. 

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots are playing on a short week, but get this one at home, which always helps on Thursday Night Football. The Giants are beat up physically and missing several key skill position players on offense. Their defense has been allowing over 400 yards and over 25 points per game.  

Bill Belichick has been kryptonite for rookie QBs when facing them for the first time and Tom Brady has an 11-1 record in Thursday games. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Running Game Center Stage – Look for the Patriots once again to try to establish the run against a team that is struggling to stop it. Sony Michel should see plenty of work along with Burkhead [if he is active], James White with some Brandon Bolden mixed in. 

Getting in good position on early downs will open up the entire offense. On the flip side, with no Barkley and Gallman, the Patriots should be able to shut down the run. 

Do a Better Job on Third Downs – The Patriots offense struggled again on third down going just 5-15 last week in Washington. That stat has to improve. With a strong running game, it will open up play action especially in third and short situations. The running backs in the passing game along with Edelman will be third down keys. 

The Patriots defense has been outstanding on third down and held Washington to just 1-11 last week. They will look to continue that as well as limit big plays by the Giants offense. They should be able to stifle them from making the long ball-control type of drives, so the Giants may have to hit some big chunk plays to keep pace. 

Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers – The Patriots have been crazy good at creating turnovers defensively with 11 interceptions and one fumble recovery. Look for them to try to keep creating a favorable field position for the offense. With a young, rookie QB, they may be able to bait him into making a mistake or two.

Brady has made two red-zone interceptions in the past two games, both of which were poor decisions. Those have to be cut out as well as maintaining good ball control on a night where the weather conditions are predicted to be bad. 

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This should be a game, [on paper] where the Patriots should roll easily. The Giants offense is missing their top two rushers and their top two pass receivers. Going against a defense that has been playing as well as New England’s while facing a rookie QB, it has the potential to get away from the away team quickly. That’s why they play the games. 

It will be interesting to see Josh McDaniels’ approach for the offense in this one. But with Sony Michel and the running backs in the passing game, along with Edelman and Gordon, Brady should have plenty of targets to go after a suspect Giants defense. Patriots 27-6

The “Knocking on Seven’s Door” tour heads to New Jersey and a Monday Night Football matchup with the New York Jets next 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 the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and breakdown game analysis

 

Patriots 2019 Opponents, Week 6, First Impressions of the Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 9, 2019 at 8:34 am ET

The New York Giants are hurting, injury-wise coming into the Week 6 game with the Patriots. If there isn’t enough reason to hate Thursday Night Football, besides the asinine uniforms that the teams wear, several key members of the G-Men, notably on the offensive side of the ball may not be ready to go by Thursday night.  

The Giants came under a ton of flak this spring when they selected Daniel Jones from Duke with their first-round pick, sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Jones quieted some of those critics with some stellar play in the preseason. But after a slow start, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur benched two time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning and placed Jones in as the team’s starter. Jones’ first game he led a thrilling come-from-behind win over the Bucs and coupled that up with a win over Washington, before losing last week to Minnesota. 

This team though right now is beset by several injuries and that is a big reason why the Patriots are 16 point favorites this week.

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

Belichick is Really High On Jones, Was Hoping He’d Drop in the Draft:

Bill Belichick was practically gushing about the talents of Jones when discussing the young Giants QB. During Belichick’s conference call on Monday to the media, he sounded quite impressed with him.

“We did some work on him in the spring as well; he visited here and spent some time with us,” Belichick said. “He’s a very impressive young man and I’ve gotten the chance to see him play in the last few weeks here. So he’s a smart kid, has a good football background, very athletic, runs well. He’s fast, he can get out of the pocket and he’s a hard guy to catch.” 

“It’s a very diverse offense, and it looks like Jones has handled it very well,” he added, speaking about Shurmur’s offense. “He does all of the things that they do, including the RPO’s and so forth that it looks like have been included in the offense, have been added in the last couple years. So, he has a pretty complete playbook for his level of experience and he handles all of those things well.”

“He’s an accurate thrower at all three levels. He’s shown a lot of poise in the pocket. He’s taken some hits and had people around him back in the pocket, but he has a lot of poise and toughness and just stands in there.”

Jones was very impressive in a short cameo during the 4th and final preseason game here in August. But if you think Belichick is just inflating this week’s opponent, as is the norm around here, consider this. 

Dianna Russini of ESPN reported that Belichick told Jones’ then Duke coach David Cutcliffe, “Jones won’t be there when we are on the clock but I sure hope he drops.”

Injuries May Have the Offense Short-Handed: 

The Giants will probably be without star wide receiver Sterling Shepard who is out with a concussion. Tight End Evan Engram will also probably miss this game with a knee injury. Worse yet, Adam Schefter reported on Tuesday that besides Shepard and Engram unlikely to play, that the Giants outstanding running back, Saquon Barkley is probably not going to be able to play either. 

Engram leads the Giants with 33 receptions for 373 yards and two touchdowns. The media in New York reported that there wasn’t a packed bag in front of Engram’s locker, which is indicative that he may not be making the trip to Foxboro. 

Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain about two weeks ago and although he’s been at practice, albeit in a limited fashion, he hasn’t yet received medical clearance to go. Initially, it was believed Barkley would out six to eight weeks. Now it could be much shorter, given his appearance at the last three Giants’ practices. 

Shurmur, however, isn’t having any of these reports. On Tuesday he stated, “You didn’t hear that from me,” Shurmur said when he was asked about the reports that described Barkley as unlikely to play on Thursday. “Some of the stuff that’s out there we didn’t put out there.”

The Giants Defense May Get Back Two Starting Linebackers:

The Giants’ injury woes on offense may be tempered somewhat by the news that two of their starting linebackers may return to action on Thursday night against the Patriots. Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis, who both missed the Giants’ last two games were full participants at practice on Tuesday. 

It is hoped that both will be ready to go and that will be a big boost for a defense that has been struggling a bit. The Giants lost rookie starter Ryan Connelly to a season-ending knee injury also and with three backups in last week against the Minnesota Vikings, the Giants were gashed for 211 yards on the ground. 

However, for one member of the Giants defense, strong safety Jabrill Peppers, he’s excited to be going against fellow Michigan alum Tom Brady for the first time. “This is my first time,” Peppers said. “I’m excited, I ain’t gonna lie.”

The Giants pass defense is ranked 28th in terms of yards allowed but Peppers has begun to assert himself in the defense. He had a pick-six against the Redskins two weeks ago and forced a fumble against the Vikings last week. 

Keep an Eye On Rookie DT Dexter Lawrence on Thursday Night: 

The old adage about the way to beat Tom Brady by moving him off his spot is very true while the silly wives’ tale of “Brady doesn’t like to get hit” is just that. Name me one QB that loves getting hit in the pocket. However, we digress here. One thing the Redskins were able to do, especially early in the game was bring pressure on Brady by only rushing three and frequently that was coming right up the middle. 

The Giants’ second 1st-round draft pick this spring was Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence who they selected with the 17th overall pick. The scouting profile on Lawrence had the big [6’4, 342] man being a premier run-stuffer but a player who wouldn’t offer much as a pass rusher. But early results show that may have been a flawed report. Lawrence has two sacks, three QB hits, and several hurries. 

If he can get the pressure up the A-gap that the Giants have been able to do to Brady in two SBs then they know that the chances for an upset increase. Lawrence, who grew up watching Brady on television as a kid, is eager for the opportunity. 

“It would be like a dream come true,” Lawrence said in an interview earlier this week. “That’s every young defensive player’s dream, is to go sack, Tom Brady. You see people get pressure up the middle, and he gets a little uncomfortable.”

If Barkley is Out Who Is Running the Ball? 

If Adam Schefter’s report is indeed true and RB Saquon Barkley misses this week’s game, his backup Wayne Gallman is also unlikely to play as he has a concussion. So the onus in the Giants running game will fall to third-stringer Jon Hillman and fullback Eli Penny who was activated off the team’s practice squad a la Jakob Johnson. 

Hillman is another guy who was formerly on the practice squad after going undrafted from Rutgers, the home for many of the Patriots defensive backs. Hillman didn’t have a lot of success running against a very stout Minnesota front seven last week. He gained only 20 yards on nine carries as they had trouble moving the ball. 

Penny a 6’1, 250-pound battering ram contributed in both the running and passing games and he may see a lot more reps and looks this week if the Giants offense is as short-handed as the early reports indicated. 

This is another reason why Thursday Night Football sucks. But hey, the league is all about player safety. 

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 3-03, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 3, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-03 and AFC East Notes.
Sorry, no AFC East notes this week, we’ll bring them back in the days following the 2019 NFL Combine.

Quick Hitters:

Adam Schefter is reporting that the Patriots have told Dwayne Allen that they plan on releasing him. They’d like to have him back, but at less money. But for now, he’s free to sign with anyone. Normally, a move like this means that the team is freeing up cap space to sign one of their own to an extension…stay tuned.

Youth? – Isn’t it strange that when all of the talk about the Patriots getting younger at wide receiver goes right out the window when veterans like Demaryius Thomas and Golden Tate become topics of discussion?

Local Talent: One local small school player, that we’d love to see get a chance to show what he can do is DE Ray Sarkodieh from Assumption College. The Worcester native who played locally at St. Peter Marian is a mathematics major. He’s a 6’2, 260 pass rusher who was the NE10 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Another local player being linked to the Patriots in the NFL Combine thus far is Boston College and Shepherd Hill offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom. Lindstrom is one of the top five rated guards coming out this spring.

Super Bowl Trailer: Patriots fans will soon be able to purchase the team’s Super Bowl season highlight film. The NFL Films production will feature all 16 regular season games as well as their three playoff victories including the 13-3 triumph over the Los Angeles in Super Bowl LIII.

NFL Films and entertainment company Cinedigm will release Super Bowl LIII Champions: New England Patriots on Blu-Ray Combo Pack, DVD, as well as digitally on March 5. The trailer for the video can be seen here:

Chiefs, Reid, Latest To Lobby For Rule Changes After Losing to NE:

We knew this was coming…right? Hardly a year goes by where a team that loses to the Patriots doesn’t go to the league to change a rule in protest of what they perceive to be an “unfair playing field” in the NFL.

So, Andy Reid and Kansas City GM Brett Veach are the latest to join the crowd. The Chiefs are mad that their offense wasn’t allowed a possession in overtime of the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots won the OT coin toss and moved down the field and scored a TD that vaulted them into the Super Bowl.

There was a similar call for this after SB LI when the Patriots beat the Falcons. The Patriots also won the toss and Tom Brady eviscerated the Falcons easily to win the game while Matt Ryan was left to wonder what happened to a 28-3 lead on the bench.

This year was different. The Patriots faced three 3rd and 10s during the overtime drive, any of which would result in the Chiefs getting the ball. KC’s defense, which was porous all season long, showed once again why they weren’t Super Bowl ready. But now it is the rules that need changing.

Leach was a guest on Pro Football Talk Live and had this to say:  “I think everybody wants a chance for guys to do what they do. I don’t really see the downside of having that,” Veach said. “Especially when you have a player like Pat Mahomes. It would have been a lot of fun. I think people, if they weren’t already tuned in for a great game, would have turned on that overtime.”

One has to wonder how much “fun” it would have been for Leach if the Chiefs had won the toss and gone on to score and Brady was allowed to touch the ball in OT. I’ll take the under.

The current O.T. rules were changed from a true sudden death where any score would end the game to each team having “a chance” for possession in overtime. That chance is neither allowing a touchdown or a safety on the opening possession.

The Chiefs will need 24 of the 32 teams to agree to change the rules. Reid and Leach now join Bill Polian who as a member of the Competition Committee lobbied for changes to the rules on how teams play defense after his Colts receivers got beat up in back-to-back years in the playoffs in New England.  John Harbaugh of the Ravens, who was incensed at the wacky formations the Patriots ran in the 2014 Divisional Playoffs that he tried to change the rules, then smugly smiled in a post-game celebration when he ran the same type of formation. Let’s not forget the calls for “player safety” after Shea McClellan blocked several field goals by leaping over the kicking team’s blockers.

Just imagine the angst next year, if the rules are changed and Brady and the Patriots use that to come back and win a game in OT after allowing a touchdown to start the session.

Patriots “ Character Coach” Jack Easterby Leaving:

The Patriots are losing Jack Easterby who is labeled the team’s “character coach/team development,” in a situation first reported by the Boston Globe. Easterby was brought in the 2013 season to help the players navigate thru the Aaron Hernandez fiasco.

Easterby, whose contract expired after the Super Bowl stated that he felt his position had “run its course” and that he’d be exploring new opportunities elsewhere. But this is the first true fallout from the Robert Kraft scenario.

Easterby was deeply troubled by the allegations surrounding Kraft and he retweeted a post from former Patriot Ben Watson that human trafficking is an“entrenched evil.’’ He’ll be missed in the locker room as he was considered a very important piece of the puzzle behind the scenes.

Hightower Won’t Budge on His Salary:

Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower hasn’t been approached by the team about taking a pay cut in 2019 and reportedly won’t be in favor of doing so either. Doug Kyed of NESN first reported that Hightower won’t be accepting any overtures from the team about taking a pay cut this season.

Hightower played in 15 games in 2018, the most he’s played in since the 2013 season. He and fellow linebacker Kyle Van Noy keyed a defensive resurgence down the stretch and into the playoffs where the New England defense was the key into winning the team’s sixth Super Bowl.

And in this case, we’re going to fall within Hightower’s line of thinking here. Although Hightower has a cap hit of $11 million this season, his salary is $7 million. Linebackers eligible for the franchise tag are getting $15.4 million in 2019. That puts Hightower among the bargains for the league.

As we’ve said on these pages many times before, is Hightower an All-Pro? No, but in THIS defense, his value is the same as one. And without him on the field, the last three Super Bowl wins don’t happen. He stopped Marshawn Lynch at the one-yard line with the game on the line in Super Bowl XLIX. His strip sack of Matt Ryan ignited the Patriots to come from behind in Super Bowl LI. And he was outstanding in all three playoff wins this year, where he logged two sacks, four quarterbacks hits, three tackles for loss and a pass defensed.

The Patriots can work something out where his cap hit is lessened this season and his money still isn’t being cut. And we’d be all for that. Because moving forward, the 28-year old linebacker is still an extremely valuable piece on the team’s front seven.

Team Interested in Bringing Back Hogan/Dorsett in 2019:

The Patriots are supposedly talking with both Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett about returning in 2019. The free agent wide receivers are far from locks to bring back, however, depending on the deals involved, it may still happen.

Hogan, 30, played in about 72 percent of the Patriots offensive snaps in 2018 but his targets were way down. Since signing with the Pats before the 2016 season, he’s averaged  36 receptions and 550 receiving yards.

He seemed to lose a lot of the trust factor with Tom Brady during the season, but with a solid special teams player that can be an effective #3-4 Wide Receiver, there is expected to be no shortage of teams that come calling.

Dorsett is just 26 and was arguably the #2 WR when the season started and played well. When the team signed Josh Gordon, his snap totals went way down. On the season, Dorsett caught 32 passes for 290 yards and three scores. He also added a big touchdown in the AFC Championship Game.

The former 1st round pick of the Colts has stated that he wants to return to the Patriots but they’ll have to work out a deal that benefits both parties. What is key for Dorsett is being a starter somewhere.

“Obviously, I want to be a key contributor for a team — a starter, that’s always been my goal, a guy that can help a team win. I enjoy going out there, working hard and just playing football. I love the game. It’s the only thing I want to do.”

Who Are We Watching at the 2019 NFL Combine?

With the NFL Combine in full swing in Indianapolis this weekend, the Patriots have an abundance of draft picks this year (12) with six in the first 101 selections. While it is extremely doubtful that the team will use all 12 picks, they do, however, have enough draft capital that they will be able to maneuver around the draft board and address their needs this spring.

It is really too soon to judge how the team will approach the draft since free agency hasn’t started yet. After the initial feeding frenzy dies down, we should have a better idea of how they’ll approach this year’s holes to fill on the team.

With that being said, we’ll list a couple of players we feel would be a nice fit in New England and who we’re watching for this weekend in Indy.

Defensive tackles:
Christian Wilkins – Clemson: Wilkins was a key contributor for the Tigers two recent National Championship teams. A smart, locker room leader, Wilkins was a captain who graduated in just two and a half years. He was a first-team AP All-American and an All-ACC selection in 2018.

Wilkins is versatile and can play end or inside and would fit in well with the Patriots recent attacking style of defensive line play. He keeps his pad level low, has very good short-area agility and is good at shooting the gaps.

Gerald Willis – Miami: Like many players who’ve played for the Canes, Willis comes with some questionable red flags. He was dismissed from Florida for fighting with a teammate and then took off the 2017 season to work out personal issues. But returned in 2018 and played some tremendous football, leading the ACC with tackles for loss with 18.  

Willis projects as a one-gap pass rusher right now, but with some work with the coaches, he could be a very productive three-down player. He’s more of a mid-round prospect.

Tight Ends:
Noah Fant – Iowa: Fant has received a lot of noise as a possible Patriot. He’s more of a move tight end and at this point, isn’t a great blocker. But he has good length, excellent speed, and explosion off the snap to get separation. He could become an immediate weapon and matchup nightmare in the passing game.

Irv Smith – Alabama: Smith is another matchup winner in the passing game. He’s a very smooth route runner who runs crisp routes and has good hands and a knack for finding the open spots on the field. He’s very well rounded and will be an immediate impact player.

Quarterbacks: ***Note*** While we don’t believe the Patriots will pick a QB early in this draft, never say never.
Daniel Jones – Duke: Jones is a guy who seems like a really good fit for the Patriots and the offense that they run. Prototypical size at 6’5, 221, Jones doesn’t have a cannon for an arm but has good mechanics and goes thru his progessions quickly. His receivers dropped 38 passes in 2018 alone…

Brett Rypien – Boise State: Rypien is the nephew of former Redskin Mark Rypien. He projects as more of a project than a pro-ready QB. He doesn’t have great size or arm strength but he’s very accurate, keeps his eyes downfield and has a quick, compact release. He has excellent football intelligence and keeps his eyes downfield.

Wide Receivers:
Riley Ridley – Georgia: Ridley is a WR who should be a better pro than college player. While not a burner, he’s tough and will make the physical catches while still able to stretch the field when matched up one-on-one.

He runs precise routes, has very good hands and will make those tough contested catches in traffic.

Deebo Samuel – South Carolina: Samuel is a tough, competitive wide receiver, who thrives in working the middle of the field where the game is at its toughest. While he too isn’t a burner, he’ll make YAC (yards after the catch) with surprising changing of direction as well as excellent vision.

He’s got strong hands and will work back to the football. He could be used similarly to how the Patriots used Danny Amendola in the past.

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.