Tag Archives: Dion Lewis

Podcast: Patriots Lose Badly To The Titans

Russ Goldman
November 13, 2018 at 11:01 am ET

In this episode, we started the show by looking back at the Patriots bad loss to the Titans. We also discussed our thoughts on a few polls about Dion Lewis. We ended the show with our Around The League topics.

Titans Lewis Didn’t Hold Back After Win, Following Up Comments By Trolling Former Team Over Twitter

Robert Alvarez
November 12, 2018 at 4:27 pm ET

Following the Tennessee Titans 34-10 victory over the New England Patriots, running back Dion Lewis turned some heads with some emotional postgame comments about his former team.

Speaking with NFL Network’s Mike Giardi, Lewis said the following;

Lewis didn’t stop there, on his Twitter account he also shared some “trolling” tweets that contained laugh emoji’s and .gifs that were seemingly directed towards the Patriots.

So what caused Lewis’ surprise criticisms of the “cheap” Patriots? According to multiple reports, his strained relationship with the team wasn’t new and began in 2017 training camp.

With a chip on his shoulder, Lewis wound up leading the Patriots with a career-high 896 rushing yards after being originally told he wouldn’t be guaranteed a spot that summer. He became the top back by Week 5.

However come the 2017 playoffs, his usage dramatically dropped following the return of Rex Burkhead from injury. In Super Bowl LII, Lewis logged just 39 rushing yards and had zero receptions.

Lewis would sign a four-year, $19.8 million deal with Tennessee during the first week of free agency in March 2018. The Patriots were never serious contenders to sign him.

During his time in New England, Lewis was a valuable asset to the teams success, the Patriots went 32-3 when he played and 13-7 when he didn’t. Unfortunately in the end, Lewis wanted to stay, and the Patriots wanted to part ways. Although Lewis was ultimately rewarded for his efforts, it wasn’t by the team he hoped.

Patriots Week10 Report Card, Titans Tune Up the Pats in Music City

Steve Balestrieri
at 4:10 pm ET

The Patriots got their collective butts handed to them in Nashville on Sunday afternoon to the tune of 34-10. It was ugly from start to finish. They weren’t ready to play and Tennessee was. We wrote in our keys to the game, getting off to a quick start was imperative this week. The last thing you want to do is to play from behind with the size of their offensive and defensive lines, they’ll make life downright miserable for you if that is the case, and they did.

There was no magic elixir here, no, the Titans weren’t trotting out a gaggle of new plays and busting out a trick play to confuse the Patriots. They lined the same as they always do. And their execution was spot on. The Patriots? Far, far different story there. Tennessee came into this game averaging 16.8 points per game, just 10 minutes into the first quarter they had 17. It was that kind of day

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

Quarterback: C-

Tom Brady, like the rest of his offensive teammates, were not on the same page yesterday and not prepared to face a Titans team that was fired up and ready to go. The day started well enough with Brady firing a dime down the field to Josh Gordon for 44 yards right down the middle.

And just as quickly, that changed. Brady missed on several throws were his fault. And several others where the coverage was superb. He was under duress all day and was forced to get rid of the ball early several times. While that wasn’t his fault, we wrote yesterday that it is easy to tell when Brady is struggling because he always makes the same mistakes.

Yesterday, once again, when he and the offense struggle, he locks into receivers and ignores the rest of the field. He targeted Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, and James White 32 times out of 41 passes on the day. That isn’t going to get it done. On the 4th and 6 where Edelman was blanketed by Logan Ryan, Chris Hogan put a double move on Malcolm Butler and was wide open. That’s on Brady. But he did zip some throws into very tight windows. He has to be better down the stretch…no ifs, ands, or buts.

Running Backs: C-

James White was rendered totally ineffective for the first time this year. The team tried to get him the ball but he was held to just 31 yards on five catches. He had just one carry and was blown up badly in the backfield for a loss of five. And to illustrate how out of sync this team was yesterday. White was bad in his pass blocking, something he’s never been as long as I can remember. Sony Michel returned from a two and a half week absence and was ineffective due to the offensive line. He had only 11 carries for 31 yards, a 2.8-yard average. Cordarrelle Patterson likewise was a total non-factor carrying the ball four times for 11 yards, mirroring Michel’s 2.8-yard average.

James Develin had his first carry of the year and had a one-yard touchdown.

Wide Receivers: C

The wide receivers had trouble all day with gaining separation. Julian Edelman gets very high marks with nine catches on 12 targets for 104 very tough yards. He was taking a lot of punishment after the catch. He was the bright spot on the offense on Sunday, before hurting his ankle.

Josh Gordon had 4 catches for 81 yards including the aforementioned 44-yard bomb. But he was targeted 12 times boys and girls. That kind of ratio isn’t going to cut it…. Not for anyone, especially someone who is supposed to be the go-to guy.

Chris Hogan is being frozen out of the offense. Brady barely looks in his direction anymore. And he may be replaced as the #3 option by Phillip Dorsett. Hogan was wide open for what may have been a score behind Butler who he beat on a double move. Patterson and Hogan had zero production. Dorsett? Two catches for 18 yards. Not good enough.

On the 4th and 6, Edelman was blanketed, Hogan put a double move on Butler and was wide open. Tell me again, how he has no separation. (screenshot CBS/NFL)

Tight Ends: C-

Rob Gronkowski was out again. Worse, Dwayne Allen was shaken up twice during the game and was forced to leave. That left the Patriots with only Jacob Hollister who was active for the first time in about a month. Hollister is more of a move tight end and not an in-line blocker. He did make one nice grab down the seam for 17 yards on two targets. The team really needs Gronkowski, a healthy Gronkowski back.

Offensive Line: D-

The offensive line was atrocious on Sunday, the worst performance I’ve witnessed from this unit in quite some time. Brady was sacked three times and was under pressure all day. The Titans completely dominated the line of scrimmage. And it wasn’t close. With Shaq Mason out, Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon missing several snaps each, there was a revolving door on the front. That certainly didn’t help with communication. But replacements Ted Karras and LaAdrian Waddle were being beaten with regularity.

The running game? Non-existent which just added to the misery of the entire day. The Patriots gained just 40 yards on 19 carries. That won’t win many games, especially when the pass protection is shoddy.

Defensive Line: C-

The defensive line was shaky in the early going, they didn’t set the edge or nor contain Marcus Mariota on the first drive of the day. They settled down and held Dion Lewis to just 2.8 yards a carry on the day. But as we pointed out on Friday, the Titans with the lead or close to it will hammer defenses with Derrick Henry. And that is just what Tennessee did. Henry gashed them with frightening ease.

The pass rush was non-existent for much of the day. Trey Flowers was good but the rest of the edge? Very little was heard from them. After the first drive, they did a great job of containing Mariota in the pocket. But the pass rush is the other half. Last week was their best game of the year in that aspect. On Sunday it was poor.

Linebackers: D

The Patriots linebackers had a “Groundhog Day” moment. The unit looked slow and appeared to be a liability especially Dont’a Hightower. Elandon Roberts had a couple of nice stuffs but then flies up into the gap against Henry at the goal line and misses him. How in the wide world of sports can you run by and miss a 250-pound running back? With Roberts, this happens far too often. Kyle Van Noy made a bunch of plays and had 12 tackles but like the others seemed out of position at times too.

Secondary: D

The secondary had the same kind of day that everyone else had…awful. When your best player in the secondary has been beaten for 3 catches for 63 yards and a touchdown… plus a pass interference call, in the first two drives, then you know what kind of day you are going to have. Corey Davis roasted the Patriots for 7 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. The instinct is to look at the box score and say, “Mariota only threw for 225 yards.” But did the numbers pass the eyeball test? No. His QB rating was 125.0 and averaged 9.5 yards per attempt.

The safeties didn’t have a great game. On the Titans first touchdown, however, Mariota broke containment and had a clear path to the end zone. The Pats had Jonnu Smith bracketed with Devin McCourty underneath and Pat Chung in trail. McCourty was forced to come up and force Mariota to throw…he was right in the throwing lane, and he lobbed it over him for an easy TD since Chung wasn’t close enough to influence the play. McCourty in that instance was victimized by the defensive line.  Chung did have a couple of nice stops on third down where he came up and tackled the receiver short of the sticks. But after arguably their best game of the year last week against Green Bay, this was a very poor effort against a team that came in averaging just 178 yards passing per game.

Special Teams: C

The Special Teams had a very mixed bag and much of it started badly. The opening kickoff had the Patriots coverage unit again have a breakdown and allowed a 58-yard return. That set the tone for the day. The Patriots allowed an average of 14 yards per punt. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 52-yard field goal wide left. That’s the bad news.

The good news is Julian Edelman averaged about 15 yards per punt return, Patterson averaged 24.7 on kickoff returns, Ryan Allen averaged 49.7 yards per punt while Stephen Gostkowski hit a 52-yard field goal. So things kind of averaged out but the start was atrocious.  

Coaches: F

The Patriots coaching staff totally dropped the ball on this one. This team was flat out not ready to play on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. The Titans scored more points in the first 10 minutes of the game than they’ve been averaging in a game all season.

Offensively, you won’t win many games where you score 10 points. How did Josh McDaniels NOT target Malcolm Butler in this one? He was listed as the worst starting CB in all of football. Everyone has been feasting on him with double moves all season and the Patriots avoided him like Revis Island in his prime…That deserves a double F.

Defensively, they were gashed every way possible and Mike Vrable gave Belichick the big “Eff You” when they tried their own pass to the QB and gained 21 yards after Brady stumbled after catching it.  That’s something the Patriots are used to doing to the opposition.

Speaking of stumbling…Patriots players were stumbling all day, shouldn’t the equipment guys have adjusted their cleats during the game or did they take the day off too?

Burn the tape, write it off and come back from the bye week and show the previous six weeks tape. Get that team ready to play the Jets…preferably in the first quarter.

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.

Music City Meltdown, Titans Thump Listless Patriots 34-10

Steve Balestrieri
November 11, 2018 at 6:11 pm ET

Pats Start Bye Week Early with a No-show

The New England Patriots needed to get out to a fast start this week against the Tennessee Titans and put the pressure on the offense which has struggled to throw the ball. That was our initial thoughts on the game but it was the Titans who whipped the Patriots from the opening kickoff until the final gun.

Tennessee dominated every phase of the game, offense, defense, special teams, and the Pats were left searching for answers as they head into the bye week at 7-3 after a really ugly 34-10 pasting by Mike Vrable and the Titans.

The handwriting was on the wall for this one right from the first play. The Patriots won the coin toss (the only matchup they’d win all day) and Tennessee promptly ran the kickoff back 58 yards to start the drive in Patriots territory. Things just got progressively worse from there.

Nothing was really working, Tennessee which came in averaging 16.8 points per game on offense, had 17 in the first 10 minutes of the game. So, rather than try to sugarcoat things or put a dress on a pig…here are our observations from this.

Brady is Struggling:

The game plan this week was to come out flinging it against a team that is really good at defending the pass. That’s the first clue that things were going to go awry. By the time they attempted a run, the Titans had already scored but they never gave the running game a chance and it showed in the output. The Patriots got 40 yards rushing….40 against a team, that although better lately is hardly stout. But I digress. Back to Brady.

How can you tell when Tom Brady is struggling? It is easy. He locks on to his primary target and forces the ball in there. And Brady is struggling right now. Granted the running game was awful, no Gronk and the offensive line resembled 2015 with constant shuffling, but this was bad.

Brady locked on to Julian Edelman who played a heckuva game (and took a worse beating) on 4th and 6. That was courtesy of Marcus Cannon who jumped on 4th and 1. Edelman was blanketed by Logan Ryan. James White was open and Chris Hogan was wide open after juking Malcolm Butler on a double move.

Brady was off all game and despite heavy pressure, had several throws go haywire when he had time to throw. He seemed to be shutting Hogan and Dorsett out. That isn’t good. Most of the passing yardage went to Edelman or Gordon. Edelman finished with 104 yards, while Gordon had four catches for 81 yards, but on 12 targets.

McDaniels Gives Butler A Pass:

Remember all of the pre-game talk of Butler being a sucker for the double move? The Patriots avoided Butler today for much of the game. Either they thought he’d morph into vintage Darrelle Revis this week, or they felt like he had too much help over the top. But they avoided him like he had the plague. Granted he didn’t play a ton, but when he was in the game, you would think he’d be the guy that they’d target, even in zone coverage.

Instead, they forced the ball all game long against Adoree Jackson and Ryan. We’ll have to go back and watch the tape again, but for Josh McDaniels to barely challenge Butler given the struggles he’s had was puzzling at best.

Hopefully, the answer will be inside the All-22 tape.

The Offensive Line  Was Constantly Shuffling and Awful:

Brady was under duress all game long, and Tennessee wasn’t exactly known as a big pass rush team. Shaq Mason was out, Marcus Cannon was in and out. Ted Karras got exposed a bit as did LaAdrian Waddle on Sunday. So with the pass blocking a negative, the run blocking was worse.

There was precious little running room against the Titans as the Pats barely averaged two yards a carry. Once Dwayne Allen got hurt, it made things worse. The only good runs were cut loose when James Develin would hit someone at the point of attack.

The Patriots never seemed to have a plan to run the football this week. And they didn’t.

Special Teams Play Was Abominable:

The STs units of Joe Judge have been uncharacteristically inconsistent this year. This was the worst they’ve looked overall in many years. How bad?

Tennessee started three drives in Patriots territory….in the first half. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 52-yarder wide left, the coverage units were awful and they did very little in the return game. The best starting field position for the Pats was the 35.

Shoddy tackling, blown assignments, and penalties….nope it can only go up from here.

Gilmore Lays an Egg:

Stephon Gilmore has been outstanding all season, since minicamp. But he was awful today, the Titans went after him with Corey Davis, and Davis totally dominated that matchup. Davis torched the Pats (and mostly Gilmore) all day long.

Gilmore got flagged twice for interference and was beaten cleanly for a touchdown. Obviously whatever malaise was infecting the other 45 players today, had an even bigger effect on the Patriots star corner. He had that kind of rough outing.

He was hardly alone, the defense was gashed by Marcus Mariota who constantly made very good throws. The Titans came in averaging 178 yards per game thru the air.

So with this kind of outing, the Pats chances of getting the top seed just took a huge blow. They limp into the bye week at 7-3 after not really ever showing up for this one. The coaches need to do a lot of self-scouting and having the team come out flat three times …all on the road this year is a coaching issue.

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.

New England Patriots News 11-11, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, and a Happy Veterans Day to all our veterans. If you are reading this in English today, thank a veteran. Here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-11, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here as well as our players to watch here:

Orange shorts?  Apparently, Patriots players are pretty fond of their gray workout shorts. According to Mike Reiss, the players (as well as former players) were taking them all home, instead of leaving them at the facility. So, the team issued the players those ugly orange ones in an attempt to stop the stealing. The hot take artists on sports radio that always cry that “the Patriots are cheap” will have a field day with this one!

Did you Know? Since Tennessee beat New England in 2002, the Patriots have won all five regular-season matchups and two playoff games against the Titans. In those seven games, Tom Brady has thrown 16 TDs and one INT.

Did you Know Pt.2? With a win today, the Patriots will be .500 or better for the 18th straight year, moving past the Browns for second place all time. The Dallas Cowboys had 21 straight years of playing over .500 football from 1965-1985.

Road Warriors- since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994, the Patriots have the league’s best road record, by far at 123-73 with a winning pct of .629. The next best is the record belongs to Pittsburgh at 111-84-1.

“The Closer” Duron Harmon is tied with Harrison Smith of the Vikings with 10 interceptions in the fourth quarter of games since the 2013 NFL season. Richard Sherman is tops in the league with 11.

Dink and Dunk?:  With his 55-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon on Sunday night against the Packers, that gave Tom Brady 42 touchdown passes of 50 yards or more since 2001. Only Drew Brees has more with 43. Other notable names include Eli Manning with 39, Aaron Rodgers with 36, and Peyton Manning and Tony Romo both with 35 TDs of 50 or more yards.

Heating Up in the Colder Weather:  Since 2001, the Patriots are 101-29 with a winning percentage of .784 on or after Thanksgiving. That is the best in the NFL. Under Bill Belichick, Patriots teams always seem to get better as the season rolls along.

Melifonwu Signing Was Looking Toward the Future :

When the Patriots signed Obi Melifonwu, they didn’t just have the stretch run of 2018 in mind. The big (6’4, 225) uber-athletic safety wowed the crowd at the 2017 NFL Combine but a series of injuries and misuse in Oakland ended his tenure there after only a little more than a year.

The Patriots scouted him in college and visited with him prior to the draft. How will the team use him? Bill Belichick said that it is still up in the air. They’ll no doubt try him in practice in a bunch of roles….deep safety, in the box safety, big nickel linebacker and see where his strengths lie. With his size, speed, and athleticism he may be perfect for helping out with opposing tight ends.

But he signed a two-year deal. It is just like Belichick and the Patriots to lock down an intriguing player with next year in mind. With both Pat Chung and Devin McCourty getting older, they may be giving Melifonwu the opportunity to carve out a future role for himself with the team. With just a couple of days of practice, I wouldn’t expect him to be active today. But it will be interesting to see a hometown boy suit up for the Patriots.

The key for Melifonwu is obviously staying healthy and on the field. Hopefully, his injury bug has been left behind in Oakland. He’ll have to learn the defense and find a role for himself. We should see him play some against the Jets after the bye week.

Titans Week Means More Malcolm Butler SB Discussion:

If there was anything that I think we’ve all heard enough of in the last nine months was the decision by Bill Belichick to bench Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl. It has been played out ad nauseam since February but with the Patriots-Titans meeting this afternoon, it has taken on a new life.

The bottom line, Belichick did what he thought was in the best interest for the team to win. Even Butler has admitted his performance and focus was off prior to the Super Bowl. Belichick made a similar move in the 2014 Super Bowl, benching Logan Ryan and putting in an undrafted rookie (Butler) who barely played during the regular season.

The situation last year got to Butler, who felt the Patriots should have paid him and not Stephon Gilmore the big contract. It affected his play all season as he tried to do too much, trying to play his way into a big money deal. This nightmarish season has been the opposite. Butler got paid but is now trying to justify his deal on every snap, again overplaying things and getting caught by double moves, forgetting how he got here in the first place.

Mike Vrable and the Titans’ coaching staff just need to get Butler back to his fundamentals, which are much better than what he’s been showing this season. He’ll get it figured out. But enough with the Super Bowl already.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 8 Predictions:

Last week: 10-3 Season 89-43-2 Bye Week: Ravens, Broncos, Texans, Vikings

Thursday night’s pick  Carolina over Pittsburgh 0-1 (yikes)

New Orleans at Cincinnati: Saints
Atlanta at Cleveland: Falcons
Detroit at Chicago: Bears
Arizona at Kansas City: Chiefs
New England at Tennessee: Patriots
Washington at Tampa Bay: Redskins
Buffalo at NY Jets: Jets
Jacksonville at Indianapolis: Jaguars
LA Chargers at Oakland: Chargers
Seattle at LA Rams: Rams
Miami at Green Bay: Packers
Dallas at Philadelphia (SNF): Eagles
NY Giants at San Francisco (MNF): 49ers

Thursday Early Pick: Seahawks over Packers

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills To Start Matt Barkley Over Peterman:

The Buffalo Bills seem to be making a statement about the future of QB Nathan Peterman by giving the start on Sunday against the Jets to Matt Barkley. Barkley was signed by Buffalo on October 31. Rookie QB Josh Allen is still out with an elbow injury and Derek Anderson is still out with a concussion.

Peterman has been a turnover machine in his brief time with the Bills. He’s thrown 12 interceptions in just 130 passes attempted for an interception percentage of 9.2 against just 3 touchdowns.

Barkley becomes the fourth Bills starting QB in just the past five games. Bills coach Sean McDermott said on Monday that if neither Allen or Anderson could go, that Peterman would get the nod. Now, he’s changed his mind. So either he had a bad week of practice or decided that his team, already offensively challenged, can ill-afford any more turnovers. Barkley has hardly lit the world on fire either. In six career starts, he’s thrown 8 TDs and 14 INTs.

Dolphins Offensive Line, Beat Up Before Packers Game:

The Miami Dolphins know that they’ll need a big effort from the entire team to beat a Green Bay Packers team desperate for a win after losing two in a row on the road. But protecting Brock Osweiler the Miami offensive line may have only one starter who was on the field in Week 1.

Tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ju’Wuan James are both dealing with knee injuries this week. Both will be game-time decisions on whether or not they’ll play. Ted Larsen, who replaced starting left guard Josh Sitton (IR), is dealing with a neck injury and is listed as doubtful for today’s game. Starting center Daniel Kilgore is on IR. That leaves only right guard Jesse Davis as the lone Week 1 starter that may play this week.

They won’t know until 90 minutes before kickoff where they are at health-wise, but it obviously isn’t the way you want to be preparing for the Packers on the road. Which will put even more pressure on a Dolphins defense that needs to really step up their play this week.

McCown Gets the Nod This Week For the Jets:

The New York Jets take on the Buffalo Bills today and veteran Josh McCown will get his first start of the season at quarterback for Gang Green. Rookie Sam Darnold has a sprained foot and probably won’t even be active this week. The Jets activated QB Davis Webb from the practice squad as the emergency backup.

It has been feast or famine for the Jets who are entering the game at 3-6. In their three wins, including opening night, they’ve scored 34 points or more. In their six losses, they’ve scored less than 17 points including just 33 in the last three weeks combined.

The Jets offense is dealing with a dearth of playmakers, an inconsistent rookie quarterback (which is expected) and a shaky offensive line. With the running game stuck in neutral, the passing game is having to carry the show and thus far they are 0-5 if Darnold attempts more than 30 passes in a game. This will be a good game for McCown to come in and see what he can do with the offense.

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.

Players To Watch Patriots-Titans Week 10

Steve Balestrieri
November 10, 2018 at 6:45 am ET

Big Game Before the Bye

The New England Patriots head down to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. If it seems rare to have a Sunday afternoon game, it has been. The Patriots have played four of their last five games in primetime, something Bill Belichick mentioned and remarked he was glad to be finished with.

The Titans are 4-4 and are an intriguing matchup. What immediately jumps off the page is the former Patriots on the other side. With Head coach Mike Vrable, Logan Ryan, Dion Lewis, and Malcolm Butler, there are plenty of familiar faces there.

Tennessee isn’t a prolific scoring team. They are big on both sides of the line. Their game is to keep things close and get into a smash-mouth four quarters football game. Obviously with a team ranked #30 in passing yardage, the Patriots want to get out to an early lead and force them into playing catchup.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Sony Michel:

The Patriots first round draft pick is said to be playing this week. If he does and is healthy, he’ll give the Patriots a huge boost offensively as when he’s been on top of his game, he gives them the balance that makes them very hard to stop.

Tennessee’s run defense was poor early in the year but has improved recently. They held Ezekial Elliott to just 61 yards rushing on Monday night. But with the weapons the Patriots and Tom Brady have in the passing game, they can’t overload the box and dare them to throw.

Michel just prior to getting hurt against the Bears was really getting into a groove. We’ll have to see if there is a rust factor after missing more than two and a half games this week. But I’d expect the Patriots to use him early in this one to try to set the tone.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots very versatile and talented defensive lineman had another standout game last week versus Green Bay. The Patriots kicked him inside to bring extra pressure on Aaron Rodgers. He was outstanding and has really elevated his game the past few weeks. He’s heating up at just the right time.

This week, they’re facing another mobile quarterback in Marcus Mariota, someone Belichick said this week is more mobile than anyone they’ve faced this season. While that may be a bit of a stretch, Mariota can definitely make plays with his feet. So, not only will the Patriots be looking to pressure Mariota but to contain him in the pocket as well.

This will be an interesting matchup, Flowers is heating up and facing an OL that has allowed 26 sacks on the season. If the Pats can force the Titans into being one-dimensional, it will allow Flowers and other edge players to be a bit more aggressive in their pursuit.

Josh Gordon:

The Patriots will be facing two of their former corners this week in Ryan and Butler and everyone is assuming Gordon will operate opposite of Butler this week. I actually believe it may be Ryan, but regardless, whoever it is, will have some help over the top and will have their hands full taking on the big and talented Pats wide receiver.

Gordon right now is just beginning to get healthy, he’s been bothered by a bad hamstring since he was in Cleveland. He was removed from the injury report and like Flowers, he’s getting hot at precisely the right time. He had his biggest game as a Patriots last week and the Patriots will be looking to get him involved and test their deep part of the field this week. If it is against Butler, look for the Titans to give him help over the top.

If he’s facing Ryan, look for a couple of jump balls down the sidelines. Brady and the Patriots remember the Super Bowl against Seattle where he had issues defending those and was replaced…by Butler. Familiarity works both ways.

Kyle Van Noy:

The linebacker who is so valuable (and so unpopular for some strange reason with one Boston radio station) has been also elevating his game of late and is one of the Pats most versatile defenders.

Van Noy does just about everything well and is very versatile. With a 1-2 punch of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis at running back, the key for Tennessee is to get Lewis in space where he’s always been so elusive. It will be up to Van Noy to see that doesn’t happen this week.

Look for Brian Flores to use Van Noy to mirror Mariota this week and possibly use him for some A-Gap blitzes to force some mistakes in the passing game. This will be a big week for the defense that has been much better of late and will be looking to continue the trend.

Julian Edelman:

The Patriots slot receiver had a fantastic game against the Packers, (71 yards receiving, 28 yards rushing, 37 yards passing) and is one of Brady’s most trusted receivers. He’ll probably face the Titans talented corner Adoree Jackson this week and that promises to be a great matchup to watch.

With Rob Gronkowski’s status in doubt, (we don’t think he’ll play this week), the Patriots will use Edelman to do the dirty work underneath along with James White to keep the chains moving. Pound-for-pound, Edelman is one of the toughest players on the Patriots and he’ll be looked to a lot in this one to set the tone against a tough, defense that is #1 in points allowed and #1 in the red zone.

We’re looking for those rub routes and shallow crossers to target the linebackers and getting them to move off the spot this 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.

Patriots-Titans Week 10, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 9, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

The New England Patriots head back out on the road and are going down to Music City as they take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon for a rare 1:00 p.m. start time. A win this week before the team’s bye week would ensure that the Patriots would finish with a .500 record or better for an 18th straight season.

A win would give the team seven wins in a row heading into their bye week and keep them firmly entrenched into the #2 spot in the AFC a game behind Kansas City, but the Patriots own the tiebreaker. Tom Brady is only 3 TD passes shy of Peyton Manning’s record of 579 (regular season and playoffs). Manning owns the record in the regular season with 539, Brett Favre is next with 508, Brady has 505.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS 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 (7-2) defeated the Packers on Sunday Night Football 31-17. Tom Brady threw for 294 yards and was a perfect 6-6 in the 4th quarter for 104 yards and a touchdown while holding Aaron Rodgers to 2-7 for 15 yards. The Patriots outscored the Packers 14-0 in the final stanza for the win.

The Titans (4-4) defeated the Dallas Cowboys 28-14 ending a three-game skid. But it didn’t start off well, Tennessee turned the ball over the first two times they possessed it in the game but in the end, they easily bested a poor Dallas team. Marcus Mariota led the Titans to their highest output of the season, points wise.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Titans history go back to the beginnings of the old AFL when the Titans were the Houston Oilers. But the Patriots have had the better of the matchups overall with a 25-16-1 record dating back to the early ‘60s. New England has won the last seven games between the two teams including a divisional playoff game last year in Foxboro 35-14 and the last time the two teams met in Nashville 34-13 on opening day in 2012.

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 Titans Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game is expected to get back Sony Michel this week which will be a huge boost. But despite missing the rookie, the Pats received a shot in the arm by WR Cordarrelle Patterson filling in ably using his speed to his advantage. James White and Kenjon Barner have also been active.

The Titans have been much better against the run in recent weeks after having issues earlier in the season. On Monday night they held Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott to just 61 yards while the Cowboys averaged just 3.8 yards per rush.

Look for the Patriots to mix it up to keep the defense guessing and not able to pin their ears back. The key obviously is having Michel back and healthy for this one. The Titans have been much better lately against the run, but having an offense as diverse as the Patriots will present some problems. Look for Michel, White, and Patterson too to have a solid day running the ball between the tackles.

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

The Patriots passing game has been getting better despite missing Rob Gronkowski and Michel in recent weeks. They’ve had to get a bit more creative about spreading the ball around. Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman have stepped up and each had big games against the Packers. Edelman had 71 yards receiving, 28 yards rushing and 37 yards passing, while Gordon had 130 yards including a 55-yard touchdown.

The Titans have the #1 scoring defense in the NFL allowing just 17.6 points per game. They also have the #8 pass defense allowing just 226.2 yards per game. The Titans sacked Dak Prescott five times on Monday night and picked him off. They have former Pats Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan on the outside with Adoree Jackson at the nickel or slot corner, with Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro at safety.

We don’t expect to see Gronkowski again this week as they’ll give him an extra week before the bye to get healthy for the stretch run. Edelman and Jackson will likely be paired off, while Gordon will likely match up against Ryan. That leaves Chris Hogan/Phillip Dorsett against Butler outside. As always, the “X-Factor” is White out of the backfield. Until last week, the Titans had troubles getting after the QB with just 15 sacks. If Brady gets time to throw, as good as this defense has been, NE will be successful. Look for the Pats to spread them out and pick their way down the field.

Next up the Tennessee offense:

Titans RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Tennessee running game has a pair of talented backs with big Derrick Henry and the elusive Dion Lewis but it hasn’t translated into the success that they envisioned this season. Henry averages just 3.3 yards per rush while Lewis is averaging just 3.7. Overall the Titans are averaging 3.9 yards per rush with QB Marcus Mariota bumping up that number with 217 yards rushing.

The Patriots have been much better against the run in recent weeks being able to slow down the opponents’ best rushing weapons. However, last week, they went to a much lighter package up front, basically daring Green Bay to run to help with the pass rush on Aaron Rodgers. Don’t expect that to continue this week.

Look for old pal Dion Lewis to give the Patriots some issues this week. He had a pretty solid game against the Cowboys last week and with the chance to show something against his former team, he’ll be very motivated. The NE defense has been good at setting the edge lately, but I’m looking for Lewis to have a good day inside.

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

The Titans passing game has been mired in neutral for much of the year, averaging just 178.2 yards per game. Mariota has been completing 67 percent of his passes but has just 1270 yards on the season with 5 TDs and 5 INTs. His biggest targets have been Corey Davis and Lewis out of the backfield. Tennessee quarterbacks have been sacked 26 times this season. Mariota was outstanding on Monday night in Dallas, spreading the ball around to nine different receivers and his ability to throw to a spot on the field well before his receivers were cutting was very impressive.

The Patriots secondary has been improving each week and held Aaron Rodgers to 259 yards and 17 points a week ago. They’ll be looking to continue that trend by forcing Mariota into obvious passing situations and bringing some pressure on him. Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn have stepped up their games in recent weeks and look for that trend to continue.

One way to get the 30th ranked passing game into sync is throwing the ball more early on downs and that is what I’d expect Tennessee to do. Look for Mariota to target Lewis out of the backfield and on screens early. And although their tight ends (Luke Stocker, Jonnu Smith) have combined for just 15 catches, I expect Mariota to try to get them involved early and often. The Patriots front seven will have to be aware of Mariota’s scrambling ability and try to keep him contained in the pocket.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams were excellent on Sunday night. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen always give them outstanding production in the kicking game. Cordarrelle Patterson had two solid returns a week ago and the return game is beginning to look more and more dangerous if teams opt to not boot it out of the end zone. The coverage units have been inconsistent but the team just added STs ace, Albert McClellan

The Titans counter with Ryan Succop and Brett Kern (47.1 average), they also use Darius Jennings on kick returns and he has a 94-yard touchdown this season but have also allowed a 102-yard return.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This should prove to be a very interesting matchup. Mike Vrable will be the first former player of Bill Belichick’s to face his as a head coach. There is a lot of familiarity in the Tennessee locker room with Butler, Ryan, Lewis, and Vrable. How much that plays into this week, will remain to be seen.

Butler is the strange case here. Last year he wasn’t good as he was trying to overplay everything in trying to win a big contract. After the Titans paid him big money, he’s been worse this season as he’s now overplaying everything in trying to justify his money. Vrable will have to get to him to remind him to just play in the manner that got him here. But I would expect Brady to test him with double moves this week. You think Vrable will give him help this week? You betcha.

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective this week:

Start Fast: Last week was a big win for the team, it was obvious in the pregame and post-game reactions by both players and coaches. They can’t allow themselves to let down now. Getting off quickly is a must against Tennessee. They are tied for 29th in scoring with just 16.8 points per game. They aren’t built to play from behind.

Force Tennessee into Passing Situations: The Titans are #30 in passing. They don’t have the type of passing game that can afford to get into a shootout with Tom Brady. If the Patriots can keep the pressure on them to score and do it thru the air, it is a win-win for the visiting team.

NE Must Win on Third Down/Red Zone: The Titans are the #1 defense in the red zone in the NFL. The Pats can’t be kicking a bunch of FGs and allowing the Titans to hang around late in the game. They’ll have to find ways to convert this week, especially if they don’t have Gronkowski, who always draws a lot of attention there.

Look for Josh Gordon to continue his hot streak with Tom Brady. He may not have eye-popping numbers but we expect him to put in another solid effort this week. White and Michel will be key for the Patriots to pull out a road win by contributing both on the ground and in the air. Trey Flowers figures prominently again this week.

New England enters the bye week with a hard-fought, tough road win.  Patriots 27-14

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 Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Good News, Bad News: Patriots Offensive Totals Through 5 Games

Ian Logue
October 12, 2018 at 1:00 pm ET

Some interesting numbers after five weeks for the Patriots offense, with a different take on some stats after comparing some totals at this point last season.

Here’s a little good news, bad news after looking things over:

Bad News: Rob Gronkowski doesn’t have a red zone reception so far through five games on just one target.
Good News: Gronkowski had just one red zone reception (a touchdown) in 2017 on six targets at this point, so he’s not far off from where he was last season in that regard.

Bad News: The Patriots have 443 fewer total receiving yards so far than they had at this time last year.
Good News: They have more red zone receiving yards (114yds) than they had at this point last season (107yds).

Bad News: The Patriots have fewer receiving first downs (63) than they had at this point last season (79).
Good News: They actually have one more receiving touchdown (12) than they had at this point last season (11).


Gronk currently leads the Patriots in receiving yards. (USA TODAY Images)

Bad News: The Patriots have just two receivers with 200+ yards receiving, with only Gronkowski eclipsing the 300+ plateau.  Last season at this point, the Patriots had five receivers with 200+ yards, including two who were over 300.  Gronkowski (318yds) and former Patriots wideout Brandin Cooks (379) were the two with those totals.
Good News: This season the Patriots have 11 receivers with double-digit yardage totals compared to 10 last season. Not exactly a huge positive, but a positive nonetheless.

Bad News: The Patriots have just two receiving plays of 30+ yards so far this season compared to eight at this point last season.
Good News: None…that isn’t good.  However, both of those plays occurred in each of the last two games (Patterson’s 55-yd TD against the Dolphins, and Josh Gordon’s terrific 34-yd touchdown Thursday night against Indy) so hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.

Good News: Tom Brady has thrown for more second-half touchdowns (5) than he had at this point last season (3).
Bad News: Four of his six interceptions so far this season have all come in the second half.  He hadn’t thrown any in the second half at this point in 2017.

Good News: For the most part, the Patriots offense has done a good job of staying out of long-yardage situations on offense, especially on 3rd down.   At this point last season they had already faced 3rd-and-10 seven times compared to just four this season, along with having been up against 3rd-and-over-10 yards twelve times compared to just eight this season.
Bad News: They’re 0-for-4 converting on those 3rd-and-10 attempts while converting just 2-of-8 on 3rd-and-over-10.  Again, obviously, not great news but that should also hopefully improve moving forward.

Bad News: Through four games, Tom Brady was just 15-of-30 (50%) for 143-yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs in the first quarter, compared to 33-of-49 (67%) for 433-yards and 4 TDs last season.
Good News: After the Colts game, where he was 12-of-13 for 105-yards and 1 TD, Brady’s first quarter completion percentage jumped to 63% with his totals now sitting at 27-of-43 for 248yds, 2TDs, 2INTs.  Players who helped raise that stat last Thursday night include James White (4/4 38yds), Julian Edelman (3/4 28yds), Corradelle Patterson (2/2 11yds, 1TD) and Rob Gronkowski (1/1 19yds). This improvement has been key as the Patriots have scored 10 of their current season total of 19 first-quarter points over the last two games.

Good News: Dwayne Allen actually has a reception through five games, which is certainly better than the 0-for-6 total he carried through the same number of games last season.
Bad News: That one catch went for a 4-yard loss.

LEFTOVERS:

– Sony Michel is ahead of last year’s leader at this point, Mike Gillislee, with Michel carrying the football 67 times for 294-yards along with 2 touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards-per-carry.  That’s better than Gillislee’s 69 rushes for 246 yards, which was an average of 3.6 yards. However, Gillislee also led all rushers at the time with four touchdowns.

– At this point last season, Chris Hogan had 23 receptions for 288 yards and a team-leading 5 touchdowns.  So far this year Hogan has just 11 receptions for 143-yards and 2 touchdowns, just one reception ahead of newcomer Corradelle Patterson (10 catches, 10yds, and 2TDs).  With Gordon and Edelman potentially taking the focus off of him, Hogan’s production should hopefully improve.

– One final related stat for Hogan, he had five red zone receptions at this point last season, with four touchdowns after being targeted nine times.  He’s been targeted just once thus far in 2018, which was a 7-yard touchdown.

– It’s hard to believe that James White didn’t have a touchdown reception at this point last season, but so far in 2018 he already has a team-best 4 touchdowns.  He also leads the team in receptions so far with 32 receptions for 270-yards.  He also led the team at this point last year with 29-catches for 230 yards, ahead of Hogan (23) and Amendola (23), followed by Gronkowski (20) and Cooks (18), who rounded out the top 5 in that category.

– Tom Brady has 8 red zone touchdowns so far, which is actually one better than the 7 he had at this point last season.  White (4), Phillip Dorsett (2), Hogan (1) and Patterson (1) are the ones who get the credit for that total.  Last season it was Hogan (4), Danny Amendola (1), Rex Burkhead (1) and Rob Gronkowski (1) who each accounted for that total.

For a more detailed look at much more sortable stats, view our Stats Page: 

New England Patriots News 9-09, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 9, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 9-09, & AFC East Notes.

The 2018 NFL regular season is back and although the Eagles and Falcons kicked things off on Thursday night, the season begins in earnest today. We look forward to seeing a bunch of good interesting match ups.

The opener on Thursday night is about what we expected when the starters for each team barely see the field during preseason. While there was some great exciting play, there was also some sloppiness, (26 penalties).

Kudos to Tom Brady, he saw NBA star LeBron James dunking a basketball and tried to recruit him to come to New England and team up with Rob Gronkowski as a tight end.

“Damn bro come play tight end you and gonk would be unstoppable!!!!” Brady said. Always looking out for the team first…

Duke Dawson was placed on IR for his hamstring injury which he will be eligible to return from this season and in his place the Patriots activated WR Riley McCarron. He should see some action returning punts this week.

Some good news on the injury front was RB Rex Burkhead was removed from the injury report this week and should be good to go for today’s game.

Brady Makes Things Clear…For Some:

Tom Brady has accomplished a ton in his NFL career, in fact, he’s at the pinnacle for success in the league but despite that, he’s mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore…good.

Despite making it crystal clear many times that he wasn’t going to entertain the questions that center around his friend and business partner Alex Guerrero, many in the media insist on pushing this silly agenda. So, Brady felt he had to set the record straight and filmed an epilogue of his “Tom vs Time” video series.

In it, Brady explained that he stayed away from voluntary workouts to spend time with his family and had some choice words to say about every move of his being questioned, scrutinized and his body language dissected using CIA-trained profilers.

“The last couple years, a lot of parts about football weren’t enjoyable when they should have been,” Brady said.

“I think people are just looking for something to write, talk about,” Brady added. “They want to talk about a lot of drama. I’m sure a lot of teams have things like that, but ours is just to the 10th (sic) degree. You learn to deal with it better. I just don’t give a f*** about that much anymore, about anything.” “Like nothing’s that big of a deal to me anymore,” Brady said… To worry about a lot of bulls*** that people may say or think or feel, I really don’t care at all.”

But on Friday, with the opener against Houston just two days away, someone had to ask about Guerrero.

“I don’t want to bring on any drama this year,” Brady said politely. “I’m just focused on what I want to do, and be a great football player for this team and be a good example in the locker room, provide great leadership. That’s where my focus is. I know you want to talk about a lot of other things, but I just really want to stick on football and focus on being the best I can be for this team.”

Nike, Kaepernick Ads Accomplished Exactly What They Aimed For:

The recent Nike ads featuring the former backup QB of the San Francisco 49ers was brilliant in its design and flawless in its execution. Regardless whether you believe in it or support it, the campaign did exactly what it set out to do and that is getting everyone talking about it.

Unfortunately, like anything else in this country, it is nearly impossible to have a measured discussion on anything anymore. There is for and against a topic and if you disagree with me, just scream louder and resort to insults and yes, of course, I’ll do the same. Need a for instance. Just look at the shameful excuse at the Senate hearings this week for the Supreme Court. Yes, shameful. Political grandstanding, people appearing in costumes, protesters interrupting nearly every minute. It is a sorry excuse for representing us a country. And both sides are guilty of it. But back to Kaepernick and the protests.

The ad has spurred countless counter-protests with people, as always plugging their own pictures in the ad which are everywhere. Just as a footnote, if you truly are against this ad campaign, you’re actually helping it when you post these one-up ads of your own. And burning your gear that you already paid for hurts Nike…how? But I guess it doesn’t matter in the world of social media.

I really wish people would stop using the military as the justification for their protests. Especially fallen members like former Cardinal Pat Tillman. I don’t like when people, even fellow military veterans try to equate our service with having a larger stake in our national identity. The flag, the anthem and whatever else belongs to us all equally. This isn’t “Starship Troopers” where the phrase, “Service means Citizenship”. We’re all equally members of this imperfect but beautifully constructed Republic.

The military community, like the country on most matters, is split on this. Many support the players’ right to protest, what they feel is a social injustice issue, while many others do not, mainly because of the vehicle (the national anthem) that they use for the protest.

As I’ve written in a military publication before, if the players feel that way, I’ve haven’t walked in their shoes and far be it from me to tell them how they should feel. And while I don’t care for the WAY they protested, I can’t pick and choose which parts of the Constitution I choose to defend. That isn’t the way it works. Fellow Special Forces veteran and former Seahawk Nate Boyer spoke with Kaepernick and believes that the kneeling protest is right. I’ve spoken with Boyer on Facebook at length about this issue as well.

There is a long way to go in this country when it comes to racial injustice. And Kaepernick didn’t help his own cause by showing up wearing a Fidel Castro t-shirt to a press conference. Castro is hardly a beacon of racial justice to people of color. If you doubt that, ask yourself why thousands of men, women, and children braved the ocean in flimsy rafts to get away from him and his worker’s paradise.

Like any other issue with people split on one side or the other, the only way it gets resolved is for people to come together and listen to one another. Will it happen? Let’s just say, I’m not holding my breath with optimism.

Like many others, I supported the idea of the protest but hated the vehicle chosen. And it was ill-conceived and impotent anyway. Why is it impotent? Most networks don’t air the anthem during the regular season anyway. So the message gets lost. And the people who dislike the way the protest is held will automatically tune you out. A better way is to wait until kickoff, at 1:05 p.m. The national cameras are rolling then. Then have the players walk out to midfield, take a knee, hold hands, say a prayer anything. That will get everyone’s attention. Hell, I’ll get kicked out of the stadium and go down and join you on the field. Now, can we get back to football, please?

Pat Chung Goes Full Circle, Is a Captain for 2018:

The Patriots turned a few heads when they brought Pat Chung back to the team after a year in Philly a few years back. His first stint didn’t end so well, but now that move is thought of as a no-brainer. Chung has been outstanding as the strong safety, playing down, close to the box since his return and he’s earned the trust of his teammates and coaches alike. Now, Chung is a captain.

Bill Belichick spoke very highly about Chung on Friday stating, “He’s tough. He’s a tough football player. He has a great football-playing mentality, very competitive, plays well, has played against a lot of good players, plays against good players every week and competes hard every week.”

Chung has only missed one game since returning to the Patriots in 2014.

“He’s out there on everything,” Belichick added. “He’s out there on defense, special teams. He runs a lot of scout-team plays for us on offense, kind of like Rodney (Harrison) used to do. He just loves to get out there and play and compete. He’s in great condition. He can go all day. He can go hard all day.”

Yes, you can go home again.

Who Do You Like This Week, Predictions on the NFL Schedule:

Thursday night, to no one’s surprise, we had the SB Champion Eagles over Atlanta to begin the season 1-0, here is the rest of the slate:

Bills at Ravens – Baltimore
Jaguars at Giants – Jacksonville
Bucs at Saints – New Orleans
Texans at Patriots – New England
49ers at Vikings – Minnesota
Titans at Dolphins – Tennessee
Bengals at Colts – Indianapolis
Steelers at Browns – Pittsburgh
Chiefs at Chargers – Los Angeles (still tempted to say SD)
Seahawks at Broncos – Seattle
Cowboys at Panthers – Carolina
Redskins at Cardinals – Arizona
Bears at Packers – Green Bay
Jets at Lions – Detroit
Rams at Raiders – Los Angeles

Plenty of good games to watch this week, and several new QBs on the slate. The first week of the season is always one of the hardest to predict with the new faces all over the league going into action for the first time.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Daboll Will Get the Bills Offense Moving in the Right Direction:

The Buffalo Bills are not being looked upon favorably by the pundits who do all the predicting when it comes to the NFL. And most of their bile concerning Buffalo has to do with their offense. And I won’t lie, I’m not convinced that this unit offensively will be great this year either. But they have the right guy in charge of it, and once they get their players sorted out, they may surprise some people. Who’s the right guy? Brian Daboll.

Daboll has worked with Bill Belichick and Nick Saban two of the best coaches in both the professional and college ranks and his offense shows a blend of both of those coaching trees.

The Bills offense has seemed predictable and stale for several years. Halftime adjustments were for the other guys. But that will all change with Daboll. Look for the Bills offense to make some headway this year. Instead of trying to get players to adapt to the system, Daboll will use the BB method of finding a players’ strengths and using him in the position where he has a greater chance of success.

It may take a while, but the Bills offense, will turn the corner. They have the right guy on the job already. Maybe not at QB, but at offensive coordinator.

Dolphins Linebackers Still A Question Mark Before Tennessee:

The Miami Dolphins have done a complete makeover for their roster in 2018. They’ve jettisoned, bloating contracts that had little in the way of production and have brought in solid, veteran leadership types. But while the defense on paper looks to be markedly improved, their linebacking core is still a potential weak spot this season.

Today the Titans come into town and have a mobile QB in Marcus Mariota, a two-pronged rushing attack with power runner Derrick Henry and the elusive Dion Lewis and a veteran, productive tight end in Delanie Walker…all things that gave them fits in 2017.

This year, the Fins get back Raekwon McMillan who will be the Mike linebacker after his rookie season was lost totally to a torn ACL. McMillan was very impressive last season before getting injured and he’s looked forward to picking up where he left off last summer. But even if he is, on either side of him are questions.

Kiko Alonso and Jerome Baker each come with their own set of questions. And while the Dolphins secondary should be better and their pass rush infinitely better with Robert Quinn joining Cameron Wake, if the Dolphins defense struggles, look no farther than their linebackers. Today is just the first test.

Darnold Gets the Nod for the Jets Against the Lions:

The New York Jets drafted QB Sam Darnold with the #3 pick in the NFL Draft this spring. And the 21-year old is getting the start against the Detroit Lions today. While many, including us here, thought the Jets should be cautious with their rookie’s confidence level until he’s ready….the Jets have gone all in.

“I’m starting him — my confidence level has got to be pretty high,” coach Todd Bowles said. “He’s [been] playing football his whole life. We don’t go by age.”

Bowles and Offensive Coordinator Jeremy Bates are both confident that the rookie will play and play well in this first NFL action. It will be interesting to see what new Lions coach Matt Patricia dials up against him. When he was the defensive coordinator in New England, the Patriots defenses were on the conservative side.

If Darnold struggles in the first few weeks of the season, Bowles and Bates, both will hear from the same fanbase and media that are cheering his decision to start the rookie right off the bat. Chalk this one up to must-watch television

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 7-22, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 22, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 7-22, & AFC East Notes. This is our last Sunday before football is back among us until 2019. It seems like a long time has passed since the Super Bowl. Three days and a wake up until football returns.

Quick Hitters:
Tom Brady has made it clear that he’ll not only be on time but report early for training camp. Brady is expected to arrive at Foxboro today for the beginning of the 2018 season. Brady missed all of the voluntary spring workouts but did attend minicamp.

Darrelle Revis has now voted himself off the island. The veteran cornerback has decided to call it a career and retire. The future Hall of Famer was on another plane for many years with the Jets and came to the Patriots for the Super Bowl season of 2014. He returned to the Jets before ending up with the Chiefs last year. He was one of the very best to ever play cornerback. And his countdown to Canton has already begun.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was among those who went to pay respects to the family of fallen Weymouth police officer Michael Chesna at his wake this week. Chesna was killed in the line of duty by a man who then killed an old woman. He leaves behind a wife and two young children.

Smart move. Julian Edelman announced that he will not take his appeal of his PED suspension to Federal Court. As we all saw in the Tom Brady case, the league and the commissioner have the ability to hand out punishment as they see fit.

Andrew Jelks is stepping away from football and announced his retirement on Friday. He hasn’t played since his sophomore year at college and has had ACL injuries. The Patriots took a flyer on him in 2017 and it appears that his knees will not allow him to play again. Sadly we’ll never get to see what they valued so highly.

Things you just shake your head at… just a few hours after the Miami Dolphins announced that they would take discipline on players protesting the national anthem, the NFL and NFLPA issue a joint statement regarding the new rules. Sadly, they’ll never get it.

You know it is summer time when Jimmy Garoppolo’s date with a porn star is top news.  

Veterans Who Will Be Fighting For Their Jobs in Camp:

Every summer, we always take stock of the 90-man roster and try to make sense of the comings and goings without the benefit of sitting in the coach’s offices. We report on what we see on the field, but what they see may differ radically.

But, the one constant in the Patriots roster thru the Belichick years is change, the roster is always changing and evolving and this summer will be no different. Several veterans are looking at fighting for their jobs this summer. They include:

Dwayne Allen: Allen was hoped to replace the blocking and production in the passing game of Martellus Bennett. And he only was successful in the former, not the latter. Allen was a complete afterthought in the passing game, something the Patriots really needed considering Rob Gronkowski has had injury problems in his career.

Allen this summer will have to show much more in the passing game. With the seeming emergence of Jacob Hollister in the passing game this summer, the 2nd year TE seems poised for a much bigger role and if he shows he’s better in the blocking game this year, Allen’s days in a Patriots uniform may be numbered, despite Belichick being in his corner.

His salary for 2018 is $5 million dollars which is very steep for a blocking tight end. Consider this, the Patriots balked at paying Danny Amendola $6 million and think about all of the clutch plays he produced in his time in New England.

If Gronkowski gets a new deal during training camp, Allen’s salary cap situation will bear even closer watching. The Patriots brought in blocking tight ends Troy Niklas from the Cardinals, Ryan Izzo in the NFL Draft (7th Round) and small school Shane Wimann as a UDFA. Those three will bear close watching as well.

Elandon Roberts: Roberts, the undersized but downhill thumper at linebacker was thrust into a starting role for much of 2017. And a lot of it didn’t go well. Several times Roberts burst into the wrong hole in the running game or was caught up in the wash at the second level.

While he’s showed effectiveness as a blitzer up the A-gaps, he’s also a liability in coverage. The Patriots drafted two linebackers this spring, one of them, Ja’Whaun Bentley is a bigger more physical presence on the inside. His drafting doesn’t show great confidence in Roberts’ ability to get the job done.

The battle in the middle will also include Harvey Langi and Dont’a Hightower as well and bear close watching this summer.

Mike Gillislee: Gillislee was signed last year and promptly scored three TDs against KC in the blowout loss in the opener. But his star quickly lost its shine as he was a healthy scratch more often than not down the later stretches of the season.

Gillislee ran fairly well when he was in the game, however, his lack of production in the passing game became an issue. Because when he was in the game, the Patriots offense became what they hated to be: predictable.

Dion Lewis took over Gillislee’s role and the offense took off. This year, with Lewis gone, the team used a 1st round draft pick for Sony Michel and he has the versatility in the running and passing games to easily become a threat like Lewis was.

Gillislee and Jeremy Hill, who is looking to resurrect his career in New England are probably fighting for one roster spot. Hill, in the past, has been more productive in the passing game while with the Bengals. This battle will bear watching, as another player in the backfield.

Brandon Bolden: Every summer it seems Brandon Bolden is put on the list of those to get cut…even here. But then every fall, he’s on the roster, giving very valuable reps as a Special Teams standout, a core member of all four units.

That’s because Bolden has a hard-nosed, goes all out when he’s on the field, is an outstanding teammate who is very popular in the locker and has the versatility to do many things.

As a runner and pass receiver, he’s a .260 hitter, not bad, not great but will fill in as the fourth option when his number is called. He has Tom Brady’s trust as a blocker, runner, and receiver.

So yes, he’s in a roster battle to keep his job. It is nothing new for him. He’ll approach this as he does every summer. And with the new rules on special teams, guys like Bolden, Matthew Slater, and Cordarrelle Patterson may be even more valuable. Don’t be surprised if he’s around for one more season. And we’ll revisit it again next summer.

Jordan Richards: Everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Richards finds himself annually on this list as well. Like Bolden, he’s a standout special teams player, but unlike the running back when he’s asked to play defense, he’s a disaster.

Every summer in preseason we watch him take poor angles in the secondary and turn small plays into big ones. That carries over into the regular season. Replay the end of the Pittsburgh game and Richards takes a brutal angle which turned a 3-yard Roethlisberger slant into nearly a 79-yard touchdown (tackled at the 10). That carried over into the Super Bowl where when he was on the field, Nick Foles and the Eagles went right after him.

So, will this summer be any different? I liked what I saw from David Jones last year but he was cut, brought back to the practice squad for the entire season. He was the Patriots practice player of the week six times in 2017, so perhaps the bigger and more athletic (also a punt returner) will push Richards.

Cyrus Jones: Jones is in a make or break season for the Patriots. After a disastrous rookie campaign in 2016 after being the team’s top draft pick, he was lost to a torn ACL and meniscus in the preseason of 2017.

He looked better (after forgetting how to cleanly field a punt in 2016) before his injury last summer and in the secondary as well. We’ll see how that transpires this summer. With Julian Edelman’s looming suspension, the punt returner slot is an instant roster spot ripe for the taking. There may be several punt returners vying for the position this summer and should be a lot of fun to watch.

But he wasn’t all the way back this spring, and that may force him to begin camp on the PUP. This will bear watching.

James Harrison Talks Belichick/Tomlin and Tom Brady:

Harrison who spent just a brief amount of time in New England after being released by Pittsburgh before Week 17, got the Western Pennsylvania population riled up this week when asked about the differences between Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin on the Fox show “Undisputed”.

Asked if Belichick is a better coach “by far”, he answered, “to me, yes.” He stressed Belichick’s discipline and the coaching staff which takes a page out of his book.

“The big thing with Belichick is he’s very regimented,” Harrison said. “He’s disciplined, everyone is going to be on the same page, there’s not going to be anything as far as someone doing their own thing. And I think over there [in New England] their whole coaching staff is like that.”

Harrison then added the kicker, “Man, I’ve seen Tom Brady run into a meeting scared to be late. I don’t even know what happens if you’re late to a meeting over there.”

On the subject of Brady, Harrison told the hosts, he at first wanted to hate him but added that he was “the ultimate teammate and person.”

“Tom is a great QB — the best ever. I’ve never seen anyone with his study habits, his preparation. He’s filling up a whole notebook of notes with each game.”

Patriots Preseason Broadcast Team Changes:

The radio duo of Bob Socci and Scott Zolak who do the Patriots’ games on the flagship radio station of 98.5 are moving to the television broadcast booth for the four preseason games. Joining the popular duo as always is Steve Burton who does the sidelines reporting and interviews while Andy Hart and Paul Perillo will provide commentary again from in the studio. Former Patriot Rob Ninkovich joins the broadcast team as the veteran sideline reporter.

The radio duties will fall to Dan Roche who called the games for the past several years on television and former SB champion Matt Chatham who moves from the sidelines to the color position for the preseason.  

Training Camp 2018, Dates and Times:

The Patriots training camp sessions begin this coming week and as a reminder:

Practices are free of charge and will be open to the public. Entrances will open about one hour before practice begins.

The schedule as of right now (and subject to change) is as follows:

Thursday, July 26: Practice Time – 9:15 a.m.

Friday, July 27: Practice Time – 9:15 a.m.

Saturday, July 28: Practice Time – 9:15 a.m.

Sunday, July 29: Practice Time – 9:15 a.m.

Check in periodically on the Patriots website for any changes on the scheduling of practices and fan events.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes: No AFC East Notes this week, we’ll be back with those next Sunday.

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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 Wednesdays at 12 noon.