Tag Archives: Elijah McGuire

PatriotsThrottle the Jets 38-3 in Finale, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
December 31, 2018 at 6:42 am ET

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We’re on to the bye week… isn’t it crazy how perceptions change? The Patriots are considered to have had a downer of a season. And yet they’ve won 11 games are getting a bye in the first round of the playoffs because of their thumping of the Jets this afternoon in Foxboro.

Yes, before any of Negative Nancy’s are quick to remind everyone, which I’m sure the hot take artists already are…the Jets mailed this one in. This had none of the intensity we’ve come to expect from the Patriots-Jets games, however, that isn’t what’s important.

What is important, is that the Patriots had a job to do today and that was they had to take care of business, win the game to secure a bye week for the team and then prepare for the Divisional Round. Check and check.

Bill Belichick was happy, he was giving much longer answers than normal and despite his normal dour expression, knew that the team performed exactly as they should have. He said it best when discussing the game in his post-game presser when he asked about the significance of the win and the season.

“There were some good things, and there were some things that could’ve been better – but in the end, we are where we are,” Belichick said. “Essentially we won next week because we won today.” Boom… mike drop.

We don’t know how far this team will go, but we say that every year because the playoffs are a one-game elimination where anything can happen, but in the end, as Belichick said, they are where they are. That is one win away from an eighth consecutive AFC Championship Game.

On Friday we posted our keys to the game and key matchups where we broke down the game positionally. And we hit on some and missed on others.

But here are our observations from today’s game:

Brady Spread the Ball Around:

That doesn’t seem like a big point because it seemed like he always did that. But lately, he’d been too locked into certain players. Not so on Sunday. There was a much more even spread to things and that ended up with one of Brady’s best games in a while.

Brady finished 24-33 (72.7%) for 250 yards with 4 TDs and 0 INTs with a passer rating of 133.8, which was his highest rating since Week 3 of 2017 against Houston. Other than overthrowing a wide-open Chris Hogan in the end zone, he was very sharp and made several really nice throws, his best was the touchdown pass to Rex Burkhead for an 18-yard touchdown.

Chris Hogan, who we were about to put on a milk carton, was rediscovered in the offense today and was targeted 11 times and had six catches for 64 yards. He was wide open in the left half of the end zone where Brady badly overthrew him from the 18, or his numbers would have been even higher. But today was a very welcome sight.

Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett each had five catches, James White chipped in four as the production was spread around pretty evenly. Rob Gronkowski had two catches for 24 yards but had a 30-yarder wiped out by a penalty.

We said we wanted to see the ball spread around more…and they did exactly that. And when they do that, this offense is much harder to game plan around.

Running Game Still Clicked:

The Jets had a sound game plan this week, they knew the Patriots were going to try to run the ball, as they did against the Bills last week. And with the passing game scuffling, they were going to take their chances there. So, they were bringing a safety up into the box at the snap and by bringing that extra body up, made it harder for the running game to find the room at the line of scrimmage. But it opened up room in the passing game, where Brady (as we mentioned above) was very efficient.

But regardless, Josh McDaniels kept things moving along and still found ways to keep the running game going. The Patriots were still able to grind out 131 yards on 30 carries and before three Brian Hoyer kneeldowns, they were averaging 4.96 yards per rush. That creativity is what they’ll need in two weeks and beyond.

While Sony Michel had just 50 yards on 14 carries, he once again came very close to breaking a couple of deep runs. He finished off a very solid rookie regular season with 931 yards rushing and that was with no preseason action and in just 13 games.

The Jet sweeps called by McDaniels were once again very effective, a total of four for 40 yards. Two by Julian Edelman for 24 and two by Dorsett for 16. James White added a really nice 21-yard run in the mix.

Defense Did a Good Job of Keeping the Jets Out of the End Zone:

The Jets were banged up at wide receiver but Sam Darnold threw for nearly 350 yards and three scores last week against Green Bay. And regardless of who is on the field, you still have to make plays.

The run defense was solid all day, the only aberration was a scramble from Darnold that went for 28 yards. Elijah McGuire was bottled up for the entire first half, at one point having nine carries for nine yards, one of which went for 17, so he essentially had eight carries for -8 yards when the game was still in doubt. He ran better in the 2nd half but by then the Pats had gone to lighter fronts to get after Sam Darnold who was forced to throw more.

Darnold finished 16-28 for 167 yards with 0 TDs, 0 INTs and a passer rating of just 74.6. The Patriots were blanketing his WRs, especially Robby Anderson who was covered by Stephon Gilmore (3 catches, 24 yards). After that absolute stinker in Miami, the defense held Pittsburgh to 17 points, Buffalo to 12 (with a garbage time TD) and the Jets to three. That’s trending in the right direction.

Gilmore and Trey Flowers have had outstanding seasons. And the Pats secondary has been one of the strengths of the team this year. There is still some question about the middle of the DL in the running game, but with Danny Shelton back inside, we’ll see how that works out.

In the six games since they came off the bye, they’ve held all of their opponents (except Miami) to 17 points or less.

Turnovers Are Always a Welcome Sight:

The defense has been pretty opportunistic this season forcing 28 turnovers (18 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries) the most the team has had since 2013. They forced three more on Sunday, Trey Flowers punched the ball out of McGuire’s hands in the first half, which they turned into a touchdown shortly after. Adam Butler knocked the ball out of Darnold’s hand which Kyle Van Noy scooped up and returned 46-yards for a TD (which will thrill a certain 2-6 radio show) and Jonathan Jones stripped the ball on the Jets final offensive play before Hoyer’s kneeldowns.

This is important because these things to tend to snowball one way or the other. When a defense isn’t getting any turnovers, they seem to go a long time without one. When a defense starts to get a bunch, that trend also seems to snowball…in a good way.

Another stat to consider is that the defense also had another 10 turnovers by stopping the opponent on downs.

Now We Wait …and Watch:

The Patriots came out of the game relatively unscathed, Devin McCourty suffered a concussion, but he’ll have two weeks to get ready for whoever gets the nod, and that game will be here in Gillette Stadium on Sunday, January 13 at 1:05 p.m.

The Patriots will play either the Texans, Ravens or Chargers, whoever is the highest remaining seed. The Patriots and the Chiefs get the bye and Kansas City, by clinching the top seed in the AFC will draw the lowest remaining seed.

The games should be interesting to watch this week, but we’ll be watching and trying to look at how this crazy 2018 NFL season continues to play out.

We’re on to the bye 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-Jets Week 17, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 28, 2018 at 6:30 am ET

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The New England Patriots finish off their 2018 regular season with a home game against the traditional rivals, the New York Jets. As the season closes, once again the teams are moving in opposite directions. The Patriots captured the AFC East for the 10th season in a row and the 16th time in 18 years. The Jets are fighting to keep Todd Bowles’ job.

A Patriots win on Sunday also guarantees a first-round bye in the playoffs for a record ninth consecutive year, no other team has more than four straight byes. But it wouldn’t be the end of the regular season where Manish Mehta, one of the Jets’ beat writers didn’t predict the impending doom of the Patriots dynasty in 2019 with the ascension of the Jets… This is as new as the tired “tomato can” myth.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, at 1:00 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (10-5) are coming off of a much-needed win over the Buffalo Bills 24-12 after dropping two in a row. Sony Michel led the way with 116 of New England’s 273 rushing yards against the #9 defense against the run.

The Jets (4-11) are coming off a heartbreaking 44-38 overtime loss to the Packers. They blew a 15-point 4th quarter lead but were victimized by 16 penalties, several of them of the “questionable” variety. Sam Darnold, however, had his best day as a pro, completing 24-35 for  341 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs for a passer rating of 128.4.

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 New England Patriots and New York Jets will meet for the 120th time, including three postseason games, since the series between the AFC East rivals began in the old AFL in 1960. New England leads the series 64-54-1 overall. The Patriots are 34-25-1 all-time at home against the Jets, including 14-4 at Gillette Stadium. Since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994, the Pats have owned a 35-16 record against Gang Green. Last year the Pats earned their 18th series sweep over the Jets and can earn #19 with a win on Sunday after their win in the Meadowlands in Week 12.

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 Jets Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game hit on all cylinders last week as they churned out 273 yards against a tough Bills defense. Sony Michel has had a very nice rookie season grinding out 881 yards on 195 attempts for a 4.5-yard average with six touchdowns. He still has a shot at a 1000 yard season with a big game on Sunday. He’ll be joined by Rex Burkhead, James White and James Develin in the backfield

The Jets aren’t as good as the Bills defense is at defending the run. They allow 126.0 yards per game on the ground which is 26th in the league and 4.6-yards per rush. They missed having Leonard Williams in the middle last week after getting ejected for taking a swing at the Packers Brian Bulaga.

Look for the Patriot to try to run Michel between the tackles again. The big men on the nose, Mike Pennel and Steve McClendon will have to be aware of the wham blocks the Patriots used on the Bills last week. The OLBs Brandon Copeland and Jordan Jenkins are going to have to stay home and not crash down inside or the jet sweeps by Cordarrelle Patterson (if he’s available) and Phillip Dorsett will be very effective. Williams against Shaq Mason should be a big matchup to watch.

Patriots WRs vs Jets Secondary – Razor’s Edge New York

The Patriots passing game has really sputtered lately. The rumors that Tom Brady has a medical issue (sprained MCL) on his knee continues to persist. And, since the Rob Gronkowski touchdown in Miami where he went down after throwing the ball, he simply hasn’t looked the same. Josh McDaniels is pulling out all the stops to generate some life in the passing game. But without Josh Gordon, Brady only targeted Edelman and Patterson at the WR position, Gronkowski at TE, White, and Burkhead at RB. Chris Hogan and Dorsett were not targeted at all.  

The Jets defense is also 26th in the league against the pass allowing an average of 254.7 yards per game. But they have been outstanding on third down and have the 2nd best 3rd down defense in the league allowing only 33.1 percent of opponent’s 3rd downs to be converted.

We’ll be watching the matchup between Edelman and Buster Skrine in this one closely. How well this matchup goes for the Patriots as well as the one between Gronkowski and Jamal Adams will decide the game for New England. We’ll see if the Patriots get James White back in the flow of the offense this week, But I really don’t expect a half dozen throws to be spread between Patterson, Hogan, and Dorsett this week.   

Next up the J-E-T-S offense:

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

The Jets running game has taken some major hits with Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell both being put on IR. That puts the onus on 2nd year RB Elijah McGuire from Louisiana-Lafayette. He’s struggled and is averaging just 3.2-yards per rush in 2018 with three touchdowns. He’ll be backed up by the small but speedy Trenton Cannon from Virginia State. Despite the offense rolling up 38 points a week ago, neither was particularly effective on the ground.

The Patriots were better against the run last week, limiting the Bills to just 72 yards which 30 of were scrambles from Josh Allen. They put Danny Shelton back in the lineup and they really need the big body who can two-gap in this defense. The Patriots have allowed 113.3 yards per game which is 13th in the league.

It will be tough for the Jets to smash the ball with McGuire this week; they’ll have to get creative by mixing things up with the speedster Cannon to get things going. But I look for the Patriots to do a good job against the Jets running game.

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

The Jets passing game is getting better down the stretch as the light has seemed to come on for the rookie Darnold since he returned from his injury. His last three games he’s gotten progressively better and threw the ball very well last week against Green Bay in the overtime loss throwing for a career-high 341 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.

He has Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa (missed last week) and Jermaine Kearse (hasn’t practiced this week) on the outside, with TE Chris Herndon and RBs McGuire and Cannon out of the backfield. This will be a big game for the rookie as he wants to end on a hot streak and this is the team he was drafted to play against.

The Patriots are 23rd in yardage allowed thru the air but are currently 7th in opposing passer rating. At home, the Patriots opposer passer rating is just 77.8. They’ve found a gem in UDFA J.C. Jackson who is really coming on this season to go along with Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty at corner.

The Patriots may try to throw some different looks at Darnold, as he’s never faced him before and try to confuse him. Depending on who’s healthy on Sunday will determine the matchups outside for the Jets. Look for Darnold to target Herndon often who is really coming on nicely this season and Anderson who is coming off a huge day against the Packers.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New York Jets

The Patriots special teams, specifically their coverage units have been up and down this season. This is an area where the Jets can take advantage. Andre Roberts does the work for the Jets in both the punt and kickoff return games and he is as dangerous as anyone they’ve faced. Roberts had a 99-yard TD and a 51-yarder last week and had another big one called back for a penalty.

The Jets coverage units have been good and that too will be an area to monitor as the Patriots return game has been steadily improving this year. Patterson, if healthy is always a player to watch. The Patriots have blocked three punts in the last three games.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

Keys from a Patriots perspective this week: And they’ll be looking for a bye week with a  victory on Sunday. The Jets are just playing for pride…and jobs in 2019

Show Up Early, Start Fast: The key for New England is to start fast and get out to an early lead on the Jets who are just 4-11 and whose coach is about to be unemployed. If they can get a quick 10 or 14 points in the early going, it may be all that many of the Jets players need to check out mentally and beginning their offseason plans.

The last thing they need is to have the opposite happen. If the Jets jump out to an early lead or hang around it will give them hope of pulling an upset and knocking the Patriots out of the #2 seed. At that point, they will be playing with house money.

Make the Jets Offense One-Dimensional: The Jets passing game and Darnold have been much better in the last three weeks. But even veteran QBs have trouble when their offense is tilted either one way or the other.

If they can get New York in third and long scenarios often enough, they can dictate the way the game is going and dial up some of their blitzes. The Patriots have actually been very good at getting pressure without blitzing, (top 5 but they haven’t been able to generate enough of those into sacks.

Brady Has to Spread the Ball Around: The Patriots can’t just target two WRs in the passing game. That is a recipe for losing in the playoffs. He has to get Hogan and Dorsett involved in the passing game, and this week will be a perfect time to start getting them jump started. That and get James White a bigger piece of the pie. The Jets linebackers, especially outside have been disappointing this year. It could be an area to take advantage of this week.

New England will lean on Sony Michel and the running game once again. Look for a nice afternoon from White in the passing game as they win franchise victory #500 and get the bye, then watch the scoreboard.  Patriots 27-17

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.

Who Are Those Jets Tied With the Patriots?, 5 Initial Impressions of Gang Green

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2017 at 9:37 am ET

Raise your hand if you saw that coming this summer. Don’t look now but the Jets are in first place. Yes they are, the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, have overachieved this season thru the first five weeks as Todd Bowles crew has bought into his system and his message.

Many people believed that the Jets wouldn’t win one game in 2017, never mind three in a row as the players have ignored the noise and are gutting out wins. Bowles was saddled with a team gutted by the front office in a total purge of big salaries and most of the NFL pundits believed that they were tanking in hopes of getting the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to get the franchise quarterback that has eluded them. But Bowles, who is coaching for his job, not the #1 pick has the team playing hard every week. While their wins, especially last week against Cleveland wasn’t a pretty one, no one cares at the end of the season how many style points you have, wins and losses is the measuring stick.

The surprising Jets are 3-2 and tied with the Bills and Patriots for the top spot in the AFC East, the Dolphins are a half-game back at 2-2. No one would have thought that they would be playing the Patriots in Week 6 with the top spot in the AFC East on the line. They’re playing with house money right now. I’d expect them to come out loose and ready to empty the tank in front of the home crowd in an attempt to steal a win away.

Here are our five initial impressions of the Jets heading into this week:

Sacks Have Been Hard to Come By …For Now:
The Jets have two of the better interior defensive linemen in the league with Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson. And while the two have been solid thus far, the one thing that has been missing so far is the sacks. Neither one has been able to notch a sack this season.

That has been especially frustrating for Williams, a 2016 Pro-Bowl lineman who listed as one of his goals this season was to notch a sack a game. Bowles, for one, isn’t worried about the sack totals per se, “They’re playing hard. I don’t worry about their sacks,” Bowles said on his Monday conference call. “Their sacks will come, but they’re playing hard. They’re taking a lot of doubles up for everybody else, but there are certain schemes that require different things, and they are doing those different things. They are great team players and great individual players, so the sacks will come.”

This week they’re going against a New England offensive line that is giving up far too much pressure and sacks on quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots quarterback has been sacked more in the first five games (16) than he was in all 12 games of 2016. So, this may be the week where those two look to get off the schneid.

Jets Offense Hasn’t Been Bad in the Early Going:
After releasing so many of their skill position players in the spring and suffering injuries this summer, the outlook for them was really not looking good this season. And while the team is still #26 in terms of yardage in the NFL, they haven’t been as bad as advertised.

The running game with Bilal Powell is in the middle of the pack, 13th in the NFL averaging 111.4 yards per game. The passing game is currently 25th averaging just 189 yards per game. They are scoring an average of 18.4 points per game which is good for 23rd in the league.

Josh McCown, the journeyman QB in his 15th season has played well. He’s completing 71.4 percent of his passes but for only 1020 yards thus far. Translation, he’s doing the things he needs to do and throwing the safe passes underneath for the most part.

But his most impressive drive this year? Last week against the Browns, they stopped Cleveland on their three-yard line and McCown took them on a 97-yard touchdown drive that put the game away. While they’ve struggled at times, they’ve also had some good moments as well. But for the game, they managed only 212 yards and 34 on the ground.

Running Backs Hurting:
As of Tuesday evening, we don’t know if the Jets will be without running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Forte has missed the last two games with a turf-toe injury and Powell is dealing with a calf strain. He exited the game on Sunday with the Browns just before halftime. He’s listed as day-to-day.

If those two aren’t able to go that would leave the job to rookie Elijah McGuire as the feature back and Travaris Cadet as their third down specialist. McGuire is a 5’11, 214-pound rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette. He’s run well thus far in 2017 carrying the ball 34 times for 176 yards, good for a 5.2-yard average, including a big, 69-yard touchdown run against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s an athletic, good runner with good ball security and shows good acceleration in getting to the hole. He has deceptive speed in getting to the edge. He’s also a decent pass receiver out of the backfield and has caught five passes thus far this year.

The Patriots will no doubt attempt to stop the run and force the Jets to beat them via the pass. So, we can expect that the play in the trenches will be key here. As of right now, Bowles told the press that the team doesn’t expect to sign another running back in the interim.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins Should Be a Big Target:
The Jets big tight end should see a lot of action going his way in the passing game this week. With the Patriots primed to slow or stop the run, play action passing from McCown will have to be spot on this week and the Jenkins may be the guy he turns to first.

Jenkins was one of the bright spots on an offense that didn’t have a great day against the Browns a week ago. He was targeted eight times in the game and hauled in six passes. While he gained just 29 yards, many of his receptions were just enough to keep the chains moving including a touchdown that gave the Jets the lead in the third quarter.

Jenkins will get matched up with either a safety (Pat Chung) or one of the linebackers and this will be a big matchup to watch this week. Despite playing in just three games this season, the big tight end has caught 15 passes for 106 yards and a score. Jets tight ends in 2016 caught a combined 18 passes in 2016. The Jets asked him to drop some weight this offseason and he did. He lost 30 pounds and moves much quicker and has shown better hands thus far than he has in the past.

Two Rookie Safeties Helping Turn the Defense Around:
Last season, the Jets defense was a mess and a lot of the struggles centered around weak play from the safety position. So they replaced Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor this spring by using a first and second-round draft picks to draft Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye respectively this April.

To be fair, Gilchrist and Pryor were far from the only problems on the Jets back end last year. But the team felt they needed a big upgrade there and so far it has worked very well. Adams and Maye became the first rookie starting safety tandem in the league since the AFL/NFL merger. The two rookies have impressed from Day 1 and won their starting jobs this summer and have not looked back.

Last year the Jets surrendered 13 plays of at least 40 yards in the passing game. Thus far in 2017, they’ve allowed one. This week, they’ll face a tough test in the form of Rob Gronkowski who Adams admits was one of the first people he thought of when he was drafted. Adams, in particular, has been very versatile. He’s lined up as a strong safety, free safety, nickel linebacker, slot corner, even splitting out wide as an edge corner a few times. The Jets took some heat drafting two safeties back to back but so far, they are performing even better than they could have hoped for and now offer positional stability for years to come.

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.