Tag Archives: D’Onta Foreman

Patriots and Texans Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 21, 2017 at 10:26 am ET

The New England Patriots will meet the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.

This week’s game will be televised by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in Boston. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (1-1) were back on the winning track with a 36-20 thumping of the New Orleans Saints on the road. Tom Brady was laser sharp throwing for 447 yards as New England rolled up 555 yards of offense.

The Texans (1-1) also were back on the winning side of the equation. Led by a 49-yard touchdown run by rookie QB Deshaun Watson and a stifling defense, the Texans beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football 13-9.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 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 Texans will be meeting for just the 10th time as Houston entered the league in the 2002 season. The Patriots hold an 8-1 advantage in these contests while holding a perfect 4-0 advantage at home, including a 34-16 playoff win over the Texans in Gillette in January.

The Patriots dominated the Texans 27-0 in Week 3 of the 2016 season with Jacoby Brissett, the Pats rookie 3rd string QB at the helm. The defense shut down and shut out the Texans that night forcing three turnovers while rushing for 185 yards.

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 Texans Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Houston

The Patriots running game made some big changes this season bringing in Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead to go along with James White, Dion Lewis and James Develin. Gillislee has been productive scoring four touchdowns in his first two games but Burkhead is banged up and may miss this one.

The Texans front seven is very, very good with one of the best in the business in JJ Watt to go along with Whitney Mercilus, Benardrick McKinney, and Jadeveon Clowney. After a Week 1 aberration, they were back to being their normal stout self against the run, doing a bang-up job of stuffing the Bengals running game.

The Patriots will have to do a good job of mixing things up to keep them off-balance this week but it going to be tough running consistently on this group. Look for the backs to make their presence felt in the passing game.

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

The Patriots passing game was clicking on all cylinders last week against the Saints despite being severely shorthanded with only three healthy wide receivers. Brady used his running backs to great effect and this week will be another case of that, although the team will probably get Danny Amendola back which will be a huge help in the slot.

Houston has the pass rush which can rush either three or four and still get to the QB. Watt, Clowney, and Mercilus are outstanding at getting home and keeping #12 upright will be a huge test for an offensive line that wasn’t great a week ago.

Brady and NE get the slightest of edges here. They’re at home and Houston’s CBs are banged up. Both Jonathan Joseph and Kevin Johnson left last week’s game. Joseph should play this week but Johnson will be out a few weeks. Look for Brady to force the linebackers into coverage with the running backs this week to keep that pass rush at bay. This is why they picked up Brandin Cooks. He could be a big factor here as he’ll face single coverage at times this week and they have to pick their spots and make them pay. *Interesting tidbit* Houston hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer in 30 games.

Next up the Houston offense:

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

Lamar Miller remains the workhorse for the Texans running game. They also have the good-looking rookie RB from Texas D’Onta Foreman who shined in the preseason game against the Patriots. Alfred Blue may be back for this one but the issue has been the offensive line play. They’re banged up and not opening holes. Watson the rookie QB could be the X-Factor in the running game this week.

The Patriots were much better stopping the run last week allowing just 81 yards on the ground and 28 coming on the final play of the game in garbage time. Dont’a Hightower was back at practice on Wednesday so he has a chance to play. But David Harris, who played just one snap in New Orleans could be a bigger factor here this week. Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy had a much better game in Week 2 along with the defensive line which held firm in run support.

I’m looking for New England to try to stop the run and force the game into Watson’s hands throwing the football. If they can do that, with his depleted weapons around him, then they’ll be in good shape.

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

Tom Savage’s turn in the barrel lasted all of one-half as Bill O’Brien went to the talented rookie QB Watson who came on in the Week 1 loss in the second half and started last week in Cincinnati. He was missing all three tight ends last week (concussion protocol) as well as WRs Will Fuller and Bruce Ellington and was forced to rely solely on the uber-talented DeAndre Hopkins. He gets Ellington back this week as well as TE Ryan Griffin who caught 50 passes a year ago which will help. Look for them to try some trickery this week to ignite a passing game stuck in neutral.

The Patriots secondary continues to have some issues in communication. Specifically the rub-routes and pick plays have been giving them fits. But with a limited cast of weapons at his disposal, they have the advantage in the secondary. Look for them to play Hopkins underneath with a corner with over the top safety help. The pass rush focus this week will on keeping Watson in the pocket and forcing him to throw from there. If he begins making plays with his feet then, they’ll have troubles. The pass rushers, Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise will have to stay disciplined against a Houston offensive line having some issues.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski missed his first extra point on Sunday but made the rest including three field goals, his kickoffs, however, continue to pin teams deep. Ryan Allen didn’t have the best game a week ago but is solid with excellent directional kicking and hang time. The Texans are going with Kaimi Fairbairn this year as their kicker with solid long-time veteran Shane Lechler as their punter.  

Houston’s coverage units were awful in 2016 and last week gave up a 33-yarder to Adam Jones. The question for New England is who will return the kicks? Dion Lewis returned a kickoff for a TD against them in January….he may get the nod again.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This is going to be an interesting chess match. Bill O’Brien knows that Bill Belichick will try to force the game into Watson’s hands. WIth limited weapons and averaging just 4.85 yards per pass, he still has a long way to go. The Patriots are banged up offensively and the Texans will try to put pressure on Brady to take away that short passing game in the middle of the field.  The keys to the game from a Patriots perspective are:

  •         Don’t Turn the Ball Over: Houston is a very limited offensive team, especially in the passing game. Don’t make their job any easier by handing them a short field and letting their offense get some easy points. In a close low-scoring game, the Patriots, at home have the edge here. Making the Texans move the length of the field to score a small piece at a time will be their plan this week.
  •         Start Quickly and Put Pressure on them to Keep Up: Brady and the Patriots have the ability to score quickly and often and getting off to a quick start is a great way of putting pressure on both Houston’s defense as well as their offense.With a limited offensive arsenal, a quick start like last week will be exactly what O’Brien doesn’t want. It will force Watson into throwing and Belichick and Matt Patricia will show the rookie some different looks to try to confuse him and force a turnover or two.
  •         Stop Miller in the Running Game and Force the Ball into Watson’s Hands: This has been the Patriots M.O. forever against young QBs. If they can stuff the run and consistently get the Texans into obvious passing situations then they’ll be in good shape. The communication has to be better and they’ll have to bracket Hopkins and take their chances with Braxton Miller and Ellington. If they beat you…so be it. But they don’t want Hopkins having a big game.

Bottom line, New England holds serve at home but Brady will have a much rougher go this week against that stout defense. Look for James White and Dion Lewis to be targeted often in the passing game, trying to force the Texans linebackers in coverage. It should be a close one with New England pulling away with a late score. No style points this week.  Patriots 24-14

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.

New England Patriots 2017 Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Texans

Steve Balestrieri
September 20, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

Patriots Favorites in Rematch With Texans

The Patriots return home after the first road trip of the season and a successful one down in New Orleans. Their next opponent may not have the explosive offensive potential of Drew Brees but the Houston Texans have one of the better defenses in the NFL and they’ve constructed it with beating the Patriots in mind. The teams met twice last season, a Thursday Night Football game in Week 2 when Tom Brady was still under suspension and in the Divisional Playoff game in Foxboro, both won by New England.

The Texans like the Patriots played very poorly in Week 1, getting beat at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball by the Jacksonville Jaguars who sacked Texans QBs 10 times. They rebounded nicely and put together a much better performance, especially on the defensive side which was dominant in their 13-9 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football. Rookie QB Deshaun Watson stepped in and played well.  He protected the ball and gave the Texans a chance to win the game. The Texans, also like the Patriots have been hit hard by the injury bug. They were without three tight ends in Cincinnati, lost both starting corners during the game and has to deal with LB Brian Cushing serving a 10-game suspension.

Here are our further Five Impressions of the Texans:

Watson Is In At QB…For Now: When the Texans drafted Deshaun Watson, they knew they were getting a big-time playmaker, as anyone who watched the college national championship game against Alabama can attest to. It is just that no one expected him to be starting this early in his career.

Head Coach Bill O’Brien ran an open QB competition this spring and summer and it was won by Tom Savage. But during the opener, O’Brien used the hook on Savage quickly, benching him after only a half when the entire team not just Savage played poorly. Those kinds of benchings can do irreparable damage to a young QBs confidence level.

Watson came on in the second half in the loss to Jacksonville and got the start against the Bengals. He played well and ran five times for a team-high 67 yards including a highlight reel 49-yard touchdown, the only score of the game and completed 15 of 24 passes for 125 yards with no interceptions and three sacks.

If Watson begins to struggle at some point and all rookie QBs do, how will O’Brien handle the very talented rookie? Don’t be surprised if O’Brien tries to cook up some trickery with the rookie since there is very little tape to study with him yet.

Miller and Foreman make for an Ideal 1-2 Punch: The Texans signed Lamar Miller away from the Dolphins a year ago and he has become their #1 back and was backed by big back Alfred Blue. But this season, the Texans drafted Texas running back D’Onta Foreman and he seems to be on the fast track to becoming the #2 back in the rotation as well as pushing for reps away from Miller.

Miller has gotten the lion’s share of the reps in the first two weeks, carrying the ball 35 times for 126 yards, good for only a 3.7 yard per carry average. Foreman, the 6’0, 233-lb back is only averaging 3.4 yards per carry. The problem isn’t with the two backs who are both very good, it has been the offensive line which has struggled to open lanes for them to run.

We were very high on Foreman coming out in the 2017 NFL Draft and thought he’d be a great fit here. Our draft profile on Foreman can be found here: During the preseason game in August, Foreman took a pass from Watson 63-yards against the Patriots defense.

Watt is Back and Leads the Texans Defense: With J.J. Watt back this season, the Houston defense has one of the best players in the NFL back to help an already very good defense. Watt leads a group of four excellent players on the front seven for Houston including Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and Benardrick McKinney.

The excellent front seven is difficult to contain as they have so many impact players it is difficult to double-team any one player as opponents have to account for all of them. They can rush three and drop eight into coverage and still bring pressure on the quarterback. In the playoff game a year ago, they brought continuous pressure up the middle on Brady and flooded the middle of the field, taking away the short passing game across the middle. Julian Edelman had a big game against them in January. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots try to attack their defense this time around.

After a very lackluster opening game and allowing 155 yards on the ground, their defense was resembling the Texans defense we all recognize against the Bengals. They allowed just 82 yards rushing and kept the Bengals out of the end zone, allowing just three field goals in a very impressive showing. Expect the Texans defense to be sky high for this one on Sunday afternoon.

Fuller Returns to Practice: Texans WR Will Fuller broke his collarbone during training camp on August 2 and was expected to miss 2-3 months. But the fact that the Texans didn’t place him on IR to begin the season spoke to the belief that they’d have him back sooner rather than later. And with the release of WR Jaelen Strong this week, it seems that it will indeed be sooner. Fuller returned to practice on Tuesday.

Fuller is now in his second season with the Texans after being drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame. Fuller finished his rookie season of 2016 with 47 catches for 635 yards and two touchdowns.

If he’s able to return on Sunday to play against the Patriots, it would be a huge boost to the passing game. Because right now their biggest threat is De’Andre Hopkins and not much else.

Houston was without all three top tight ends, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson against Cincinnati. All three suffered concussions against Jacksonville in the opener. We won’t know until later on Wednesday when the injury report comes out if the three are going to be available on Sunday.

Texans Sign Cornerback Jonathan Banks in a Depth Move: In the Thursday game against Cincinnati, Houston lost both starting cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and Jonathan Joseph to injury. Joseph is expected to be back on the field this week in New England. However, Johnson is expected to miss about three weeks so the team added former Buccaneers corner, Jonathan Banks, to bolster their depth.

Kareem Jackson who came in for Johnson and played well is expected to get the start but the addition of Banks gives the Texans a much-needed boost of depth in their secondary.

The 27-year-old Banks was a second-round pick of the Bucs in 2013 out of Mississippi State. Banks was traded to the Detroit Lions in November of 2016 for a seventh-round pick. He was then released the next month and then signed with the Bears. He was just released by the Bears earlier this month.  He has recorded a total of 136 tackles, 17 pass deflections, seven interceptions and one touchdown during his NFL career

In a corresponding move, the team released TE Evan Baylis who was signed off the practice squad this week to fill in for the three tight ends who were out due to concussions. If Baylis clears waivers, he’s expected to be signed back to the practice squad.  

Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.

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.

Texans Down Patriots 27-23 in Preseason Week 2, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
August 20, 2017 at 8:15 am ET

Belichick, Patriots Playing it Close to the Vest

The Patriots wrapped up their week with the Houston Texans with a preseason game at the site where they triumphed in the Super Bowl just over six months ago. The two teams had a couple of spirited joint practices in West Virginia, a good competitive football game and they’ll meet again, for real in Week 3 of the NFL season.

There were a couple of surprises at the outset of this one. Rob Gronkowski played in a preseason game for the first time since 2012. The big man was used mainly as a blocker in the running game but as Bill Belichick said, they all need the work. Trey Flowers didn’t play, perhaps it was a coach’s decision since the team is so thin on the edge right now. Adding to that was the fact that Geneo Grissom didn’t dress, apparently suffering an injury during the joint practices on Wednesday. Our other observations from Saturday night:

  • Belichick and the team gave nothing away in this one. The offense was very conservative. No seam routes to Gronk, no deep shots to Brandin Cooks. Obviously, this has Week 3 in mind when the two teams meet again.
  • Tom Brady played a bit and looked good, completing 6-9 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.On the Patriots second drive, he marched them down the field for a touchdown.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t have a great night, turning the ball over twice. Once on a sack where he fumbled and the other on his last pass of the night, a poor decision on the sideline that set up a Houston TD on the next snap. Overall he completed 15-23 for 145 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
  • On Garoppolo’s touchdown drive, he was sharp going 6-6 for 70 yards, topping it off with a nice 25-yard touchdown pass to  D.J. Foster.
  • Jacoby Brissett once again came on late with a chance to pull the game out and failed. He holds the ball too long (broken record here) and his accuracy is all over the place.
  • Matt Patricia’s defense had another rough game. For a team that prides itself on no big plays, they gave up plays of 33, 37 and 63 yards in Houston. Preseason or not, that is unacceptable and the defense has some work to do.
  • Malcolm Butler struggled in his first game action of the year. He gave up a deep pass on the Texans first possession where he had good coverage but when turning, didn’t jump for the ball. Later he slipped in the end zone and gave up an easy touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong.
  • Rex Burkhead had a very nice night, he was showing why the Patriots picked him up from the Bengals. On the touchdown drive with Brady, Burkhead accounted for 70 of the 75 yards. He rushed five times for 14 yards and caught four passes for 56 yards including a 22-yard touchdown.
  • Stephen Gostkowski was sharp, hitting three field goals (38, 42 and 51). The team had him kicking off out of the end zone last night, possibly to minimize the injury factor. Normally his pooch kickoffs die on about the 5-yard line.
  • The Patriots passing game is going to feature the running backs quite a bit this year as the talented wideouts clear out real estate underneath for them to operate. We’ve seen that all summer and it was in evidence last night, Burkhead, and D.J. Foster’s touchdowns were clear cases of this. Dion Lewis had some wiggle room too.
  • Fans on social media were piling on Kony Ealy on DeShaun Watson’s touchdown scamper, but that is a mismatch against a defensive lineman. Ealy had his moments but overall played well.
  • I love the way Harvey Langi plays, but he has to remain in control, a couple of times he got upfield too far and allowed the QBs to step up and run to the edge.
  • One Texan who won’t look forward to the film session for this one will be LB Zach Cunningham. He was victimized…twice on those passes to the backs and looked bad on each.
  • During the work up to the draft, I wrote about Texas now Texans running back D’Onta Foreman. I loved the physicality of the big guy and was anxious to see how he looked. He didn’t disappoint. Taking a screen pass, he easily shook off Elandon Roberts and rumbled 63 yards to set up a score. He has tremendous power inside and looks to be a nice pickup.
  • Alan Branch played a lot of snaps this week, the team obviously wanted to get him right up to speed quickly.
  • James O’Shaughnessy took over the primary 3rd TE role last night and was a frequent target of Jimmy Garoppolo. He had a good week of joint practices both on offense and STs.
  • Elandon Roberts took a shot to the ribs by teammate Jonathan Freeny on the Foreman 63-yard catch and was helped off the field. Vincent Valentine turned an ankle but was able to finish the game.

While the collective angst in New England rose perceptibly during the game because of the losing effort. It should be noted that Brady didn’t attempt a pass to Gronkowski and just one short quick out to Cooks.

The offensive line woes with Nate Solder, LaAdrian Waddle, and Tony Garcia out no doubt dictated that but it probably was more to the coaches not showing their cards too much before Week 3.

The defense, however, needs some tweaking, especially they need to improve their tackling in the open field.

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.

Patriots Draft Profile: Texas RB D’Onta Foreman

Steve Balestrieri
March 28, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

Foreman is a Big, Fast Athletic Back With Upside

As the 2017 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots’ offense needs a big bodied running back to replace LeGarrette Blount. Blount is a free agent and is unlikely to return at this point. He was terrific in 2016 rushing for over 1100 yards and a league leading 18 touchdowns but he’s 30 years old now, a time when big backs begin to break down. He slowed considerably down the stretch.

The Patriots have a slew of pass receiving backs, James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and D.J. Foster. While all of them can catch the ball out of the backfield, they are not the big, physical downhill style runners they need to move the chains.

D’Onta Foreman from Texas is just what the doctor ordered. He’s got tremendous size and is deceptively athletic for a big man. He measured 6’0, 233 pounds at the Combine and has a 10 1/8 size hands. He was a consensus All-American and won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best back.

He passed up his final year of eligibility and posted excellent numbers for the Longhorns with 323 carries for 2028 yards with a 6.3 yards average per attempt. And 15 touchdowns in 2016.  He also caught seven passes out of the backfield for 75 yards.

Foreman has the size and physicality to move the chains and in short yardage had a fantastic conversion rate. Can either hurdle would-be tacklers who go too low or run over safeties when he lowers his head. Has very good yards after contact.

He’ll be limited in third down production initially as he’s not good at all in pass protection and that is something Ivan Fears and the Pats coaches will insist upon him improving.

Pros:

– Tremendous size, very athletic

– Very good cut-back ability and can change direction easily

– Runs hard, low and gets yards after contact

– Punishing runner when he wants to be

Cons

– Put the ball on the ground seven times in 2016 (six fumbles lost)

– Not a breakaway threat and is impatient at times with his reads

– Pass protection needs lots of work

What his Role Will Be:
Williams role will be as the Patriots big, physical, move-the-pile back. He’d take over the Blount role, especially as a red zone, goal line running back that will pound the ball between the tackles.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with improved pass protection and ball security, he could see his snaps definitely increase in Year 2.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
LaGarrette Blount, and/or Brandon Bolden.

What is his ST Value?
None

Conclusion:
Foreman is a tough physical runner that has proven that he can shoulder a tremendous workload as a featured back. In the Patriots offense, he won’t be asked to do as much of that, but as a role player with the responsibilities in short-yardage, goal line and as a closer late in games, he’d be terrific.

He has very good lateral movement and can cut into open lanes without any loss of speed. He’s outstanding at running between the tackles and has the size to create his own hole when need be. He makes very good yards after contact (YAC).

For a big man, he has excellent foot quickness. At times, however, he showed a tendency to choose the finesse route rather than bull his way thru the line. He needs lots of work on his pass protection skills where at times he just throws a shoulder up rather than square up on a pass rusher.

Foreman had some issues with fumbling last season and that will also have to be worked on with the coaching staff. But as a punishing runner inside between the tackles, he would be a tremendous fit.

He can come in and contribute in a big way on Day1 as the “big back” with their offense. Foreman is slated to be available in Round 2-3. If he is available when the Patriots are on the clock, then he’d be a great choice to bolster the running game. With the weapons in the passing game, Foreman in the running offense would make this team a very difficult one to stop.

Foreman’s highlight reel tape can be seen here:

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast 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.