Tag Archives: Jamie Collins

Patriots Face Tough Challenge Keeping Their Defense Together Heading into Free Agency

Ian Logue
February 13, 2017 at 7:48 am ET

When the trade of Chandler Jones went down last March, the move seemed to be the signal of New England’s decision to ensure they would be able to lock up Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins for the foreseeable future and maybe even extend Malcolm Butler and possibly a couple of other players.

Nearly a year later, none of that happened.

Hightower is coming off of a solid season, which included a key play in Super Bowl LI that allowed New England to get back in the game and ultimately pull off a historic comeback to win their fifth title.  As for Collins, he was shipped to Cleveland midseason, rumored to be because of problems stemming from not sticking to the team’s defensive scheme and potentially becoming an issue in the locker room.

Meanwhile, Butler had another great year and is closing in on being a restricted free agent, having played for right around $600k for 2016, far below his market value.  New England is in the driver’s seat with Butler, but the fact he hasn’t yet been locked up for the long-term is still an interesting situation. It’s possible the Patriots may have wanted to be sure his terrific showing in 2015 wasn’t an anomaly and if that’s the case, he’s cernatainly shown that he should be part of the team’s nucleus moving forward and is worthy of a pay increase.

But the fact that no extensions came about is interesting given the fact that things had seemed like they were shaping up to go that route.  The Patriots had made their moves, all that was seemingly left to do was to work out the numbers.

Yet nothing was ever worked out with any of those players, but it’s not like they didn’t try.  According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, before this season, the team offered Hightower a deal worth more than $10-million per season and he reportedly turned it down.  The team could use the franchise tag (worth around $14 million), which the team has done in the past with another key player on defense in Vince Wilfork (2010) before eventually reaching to an extension.

Whatever they come up with will have to be competitive as he seems focused on making sure he’s paid appropriately after making two game-saving plays (his stop against Marshawn Lynch two years ago set up Butler’s game-winning interception) in two Super Bowl victories.

“Absolutely. I’ve spent five years here. I’m eager to see how that’ll turn out,” Hightower told the Providence Journal of free agency. “I’m looking forward to it. … I love New England. I love the fans. They can keep their cold weather, but it’s been a great five years and I’ve loved every second of it.”

Behind Hightower is defensive back Logan Ryan and safety Duron Harmon, who have each been solid in their roles on the defense.  As a cornerback, Ryan will likely garner interest in the open market and may enter a price tag that could just become too high for the Patriots, especially given how much they’ll eventually need to pay Butler.  The same could be said for Harmon, who has played his way into earning a big raise and he’ll likely get it from a team looking for such a talented player to add to their secondary.


Branch joins Hightower among defensive free agents this offseason.

There’s also Alan Branch, who the Patriots caught a major break with after the veteran won his appeal to avoid a late season suspension that could have jeopardized their solid finish and cost them their top seed.  His value up front can’t be understated, and he’s proven he’s a key part of their defense.

Then there’s Jabaal Sheard, who had a rough year but came on strong down the stretch, and he’s another player who New England will likely try and keep.  The same goes for Chris Long, who took a while to really get comfortable in this defense but got stronger as the year went on and proved to be a smart pick-up before the season.

The fact there are so many players will be a challenge, and oddly enough, It seems like it’s the first time that whatever plan the front office seemingly had to be proactive didn’t seem to work out.  It’s almost to the point where it’s hard not to wonder if there’s a collective effort out in the world of player agents to finally try and stop this juggernaut from underpaying guys in what they feel is too low below market value.  Given similar situations in the past, the fact nothing got done between last March and September is a bit of a red flag, and a curious situation to say the least.

Either way, this team faces some difficult challenges on the defensive side of the football this offseason as they try and keep their nucleus intact.  Success tends to result in big paydays since other teams want a taste of what each of these players just accomplished, and it will likely make things interesting in the coming months.  But with a higher cap number and over $60-million in cap room, the Patriots certainly have the space to get it done.

Now it’s just a matter of making the numbers work.  Hopefully, unlike last year, they’ll have a little more success this time around.

Jamie Collins Posts Curious Message To Instagram About Being In Cleveland

Robert Alvarez
November 29, 2016 at 8:29 am ET

On his Instagram account Monday morning, Cleveland Browns linebacker Jamie Collins posted an interesting photo “meme” that contained the message “I may not be where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BNWyComBLbJ/

It is unknown what exactly Collins is referring to, it might not mean anything at all, but given his abrupt departure from the New England Patriots he could be implying how happy he is in Cleveland despite the teams 0-12 start.

Another puzzling aspect to the photograph, was Collins tagged teammate and former Patriot Anthony Johnson who also was just picked up by the Browns.

In four games with Cleveland, Collins has 19 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble but during Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants, Collins effort was questioned on multiple plays by observers.

New England Patriots News 11-20, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 20, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 11-20, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Congratulations to Ty Law for being a semi-finalist for the 2017 Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Law may not make the cut this year but he certainly belongs. His numbers speak for themselves. His 53 career interceptions are tied with Deion Sanders. Durable, tough and a key cog on three Super Bowl winning teams. He was a big reason that Bill Polian lobbied the rules committee [of which he was a member] to have the PI rules changed after Law, beat up on the Colts WRs and picked off Peyton Manning three times in the playoffs.

Classy move by Tony Romo this week. How tough was that to admit, that you don’t deserve to be the starting QB for the Cowboys down the stretch. He’ll probably wear orange next season….just a guess but we’ve seen that before.

Bennett Trade Proves Smart with Gronkowski Injury:
The news that TE Rob Gronkowski wasn’t going to travel this week and therefore not play in today’s game against the 49ers wasn’t a shock. Gronk took a thunderous, but legal hit from safety Earl Thomas in last week’s loss to the Seahawks and had a chest injury, some called a perforated lung. Whatever it was/is, he didn’t practice this week.

But the trade that brought Martellus Bennett to the Pats is proving to be a valuable one. Bennett filled in nicely during the first four games of the season when Gronk missed the first two and was slow to work his way back in the next pair.

Now he’ll be asked to be the primary tight end in the passing game and with Chris Hogan also out this week [back], his importance in the game plan will become even more pronounced.

Belichick Isn’t a fan of Advanced Metrics:
In one of the more colorful press conferences this fall, Bill Belichick made his feelings known about advanced metrics. Asked on Friday if a quarterback’s quick release had always been a focal point of his offense, or whether it became more important after the rise of advanced metrics websites, Belichick unloaded.

“What the hell is that?” Belichick said. “You can take those advanced websites and metric them wherever you want. I don’t know. I have no idea. I’ve never looked at one. I wouldn’t even care to look at one. I don’t even care what they say.”

But he wasn’t done there, he broke it down into the simplest terms and preached a team concept on an effective quarterback and offensive play. Remember this is the coach who loudly preached in 2009 that, “Stats are for losers.”

“It’s timing, decision making, execution by the entire offensive team, that’s what the passing game is,” Belichick said. “Receiver’s got to get open and catch the ball. The quarterback has to read the coverage, make the right decision, make an accurate throw.

“All the metric pages and all that, I have no idea. You’d have to ask that to a smarter coach than me. I’m sorry.” While typically Belichick-ian in his response, essentially Bill said the same thing while kinda thumbing his nose at the guys from PFF.

More Intrigue with the Defense, Did Sheard Stay in NE?
While the Patriots were over the skies en route to San Francisco, Jabaal Sheard [or someone using his account], sent an Instagram post from the Celtics game on Friday night. Sheard wasn’t listed on the injury report this week. So, if he indeed stayed home then one would have to assume that he’s going to be a healthy scratch for Sunday’s game.

Such a move would show a definitive dissatisfaction with the big man’s play. Big things were expected this season from Sheard, who moved into the starting lineup with the trade of Chandler Jones. But his play this season hasn’t matched up to that from last year where he had 8.5 sacks as a sub-package plugin. He played a season-low 16 snaps against Seattle last week, giving way to Trey Flowers on the depth chart.

As we write this [Friday evening], we’ll watch for updates and confirmation from SF to find out if he indeed stayed home this weekend.  If so, then that won’t bode well for the 27-year old who is in a contract year.

***UPDATE*** Sheard was indeed left in New England and won’t play for performance reasons this week. If that is the case, the chances of them bringing him back next season are about nil now. The team will definitely be in the market for an edge rusher.

Patriots May Ease Dion Lewis Back into the Mix Today:
In a bit of good news this week, Patriots running back Dion Lewis made the team’s flight out to San Francisco and could make his season debut against the Niners today. Lewis was dynamic a year ago out of the backfield for the Patriots before tearing his ACL on a non-contact play against the Redskins.

Lewis activated from the PUP to the active roster last week but was inactive against the Seahawks. Could he see his first action this week? It would appear so. The Patriots have wisely taken a cautious approach with Lewis, allowing him to work his way back from the serious leg injury.

And with good reason, James White has had a very good 2016 season thus far and has become a valued, trusted member of the offense. Both are equally good at catching the ball out of the backfield. Lewis had the innate ability to make people miss and is the most elusive of the two. How will they ease him into the mix and how will he be used more down the stretch?

Look for Brady to put him in motion and flex him outside creating mismatches on linebackers. It was an area where they created quite a bit of production last season and something they haven’t done much with White this year.

Good Acting? Or Was Brady Sending a Message?
The recently released and quickly gone viral video for Footlocker that Tom Brady did this week was a hilarious view on Deflategate by the Patriots QB.

The never-mentioned but thinly veiled shot at Roger Goodell and the NFL over Brady’s suspension over ignoring of the Ideal Gas Law quickly struck a chord with Patriots fans. But now it begs the question…. Was it good acting or was Brady venting his true feelings after nearly two years? Watch it one more time and you be the judge.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 7-7 putting me at 81-63-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with for the games on tap today Carolina from TNF (picked last Sunday) Pittsburgh, Dallas, Detroit, Tennessee, Cincinnati, KC, NYG, Minnesota, Miami, NE, Seattle, Washington, Oakland

Early pick for Thanksgiving Day/Night Football, (Detroit, Pittsburgh, Dallas).

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills Secondary Looking for Better Results vs Cincinnati:
The Buffalo Bills are coming off their bye week and although the lead the league with 30 sacks in 2016, they’ve given up an alarming amount of big plays and this area is one where both the coaches and players are looking to correct.

Buffalo has allowed a league-high seven plays of 50+ yards in the passing game this season and coach Rex Ryan isn’t pleased. Ryan said this week that Bills opponents don’t fear to attack Buffalo’s secondary vertically and that is a prime reason for the Bills 4-5 record at the break.

CB Stephon Gillmore fired back stating that a team that plays as much man coverage as the Bills will have the occasional big play allowed.

“We probably play the most man in the league,” he said. “You can’t name a team that plays more man than we play, so you’ve got to stop everything. You can’t just play the vertical passing game. You’ve got to stop every route.”

Ryan made some moves this week, releasing safety Duke Williams and replacing him with veteran James Ighedibo and stating that he may go with corners Corey White and rookie Kevon Seymour and sit Ronald Darby and Nickell Robey-Coleman.

These moves, if they are indeed done, will bear watching against the struggling Bengals.

Dolphins Want Parker Involved More in the Offense:
The Miami Dolphins won their fourth game in a row with a four interception fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers last week. A win this week against the Rams starting a rookie QB, Jared Goff, would put Miami at 6-4 and open the talk for a possible playoff scenario.

But Miami wants to get WR DeVante Parker more involved in the offense. They believe that for them to make the jump, that they’ll need for the talented but inconsistent wide receiver to take it to the next level.

“We think he can be one of the top guys in the league,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said to the media this week. “We see it every day, a big catch here and a big catch there. A big thing is his health, and keeping him healthy… We need a consistent DeVante Parker, where it’s week-in, and week-out where people fear him. He took over the game in his way last week and gave us a huge lift.

“I think he is really key to us going from solid to good on offense. I think he’s the guy, his big plays. Those are the plays that take you to whatever that next level is, one notch better. And minus those big plays makes it harder.

Parker had five catches for 103 yards last week but has only 403 yards and one touchdown on the season. Those are numbers far below what Miami believes him capable of producing.

Jets Bye Week, Fitz or Petty against the Patriots?
With the Jets surprisingly at 3-7 during their bye week, not many people expected them to be in this position after 10 games. With a shot at the playoffs becoming a distant memory now they must balance the present with the future.

GM Mike Maccagnan has stated that head coach Todd Bowles has the final say in who will be the quarterback when the Jets host the Patriots next week in the Meadowlands. Bryce Petty played last week in the Jets 9-6 loss to the Rams but did lead the team on a 99-yard drive that resulted in their only points of the day. Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched to let them see what they have in Petty, the second-year QB from Baylor

Bowles has stated that he’ll go with the best choice that will give their team a chance to win. That would be Fitzpatrick. But Bowles has also stated that he’s worried that his players will check out if Petty is named the starter. Fitzy isn’t in the future plans for the Jets. Will Petty be? One game won’t be enough to judge him on.

It is going to be a complicated decision but I’d bet Fitzpatrick is under center next week when the Patriots come to town.

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.

Podcast: Patriots Loss Against The Seahawks And Niners Preview

Russ Goldman
November 18, 2016 at 12:06 pm ET

In this episode, we looked back at the loss to the Seahawks for the Patriots, and later on previewed the upcoming game against the Niners.

Podcast: Do The Patriots Have A Scheme Problem And Not a Talent Issue on Defense?

Russ Goldman
November 17, 2016 at 7:35 am ET

In this episode we talked again to Lee Schecther who is a writer for PatsFans.com and Bleacher Report. Lee was on to discuss his very interesting article entitled “The Patriots Have a “Scheme” Problem, Not a Talent Issue on Defense.” Co-hosting this episode was Steve Balestrieri.

During this episode, Lee and Steve shared their views on what went wrong on Sunday for the Patriots defense, which included a discussion on the defensive breakdowns and blown coverages during this game. I invite you to listen to our view on what went wrong on Sunday defensively for the Pats.

Patriots Defense Is Changing, But Not Against Wilson

Steve Balestrieri
November 10, 2016 at 6:26 am ET

Now that the election hysteria has subsided for the moment, it is time to get back to football. Just about a week ago, the Patriots traded linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns and now the unit will be forced to undergo some changes. But if you’re like many fans and expecting them to be more aggressive on defense, those changes aren’t coming, at least not this week.

The most immediate focus on Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is how they play on replacing Collins in the defense and number two is, how to breathe some life in what has been a moribund pass rush.

First, what’s the plan on replacing Collins? As we’ve now been already aware, the Patriots had planned on making Collins a part-time player and already against Buffalo, they replaced him on early downs by rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts. Roberts is a smaller player at 6’0, and 235 pounds but doesn’t play that way. He’s a downhill, physical player with a great burst.

“He’s a missile, man,” Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower said earlier in an interview. “He’s a torpedo. He’s a hammer.”

While he’s definitely a force against the run as his play against All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas in the Cleveland game will attest, he’s not as comfortable in his coverage role. The Patriots know that they’ll have to live with his learning that aspect of his craft on the job. But for third downs or obvious passing downs, there will be some tinkering to do.

The obvious choice would be to use Barkevious Mingo, who, not possessing the strength or the size of Collins, is at least as close as one can get in the athletic department. Recent addition Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin, as well as Rob Ninkovich, may get some looks there.

Hightower remains the key member of the unit, he can do it all. The Pats signal caller on defense is a big, physical run-stuffer inside and can bring great pressure on the A-gap blitzes up the middle. They can also shift him to the outside and force plays out on the edge where he had some experience as an outside edge rusher while at Alabama. Expect them to tinker with different combinations to find the right mix.

Which brings us to the pass rush, if you are expecting them to get more aggressive this week, think again. Although Russell Wilson has been banged up and still doesn’t have the normal burst and quickness that we’ve seen out of him in the past, he’s quickly getting there. Watching the Buffalo game showed that he’s almost got his mobility back.

And if there’s one thing that Bill Belichick will preach this week, it will be containment. This has been the Patriots M.O. when facing mobile quarterbacks, they’re willing to sacrifice pass rush pressure to keep the quarterback in the pocket. That is especially important to a team that likes to play man-to-man coverage like the Patriots do.

With defensive backs trying to stay plastered to a wide receiver down the field, if a quarterback escapes the pocket and begins to run, their job then becomes much more difficult. Invariably once a QB breaks containment or a would-be sack, someone becomes wide open down the field.

The problem becomes one of time. How long can you expect the secondary to hold their coverage before someone breaks open? And with a QB like Wilson, he’s much better suited for hitting plays from the pocket than a player like the Pats faced two weeks ago in Tyrod Taylor.

With the Seattle running game mired in neutral this season and averaging just about 81 yards per game, those problems running center around the health of Wilson who has averaged much more yardage rushing in the past. The Patriots may opt to keep a spy on Wilson and get after him a bit more, but history has shown that they’ll try to contain him on the edge and slowly force the pocket closed.

With Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and tight end Jimmy Graham, Wilson has plenty of options to stretch the field and if he begins to make plays with his feet, they can easily break off a big play down the field. He hit Baldwin on a 50-yarder on Monday night against the Bills.

The Patriots don’t want to see that; their focus is on denying the big plays down the field and they have been very good at preventing those. They’ve only allowed one 40+ yard pass play this season.

So on Sunday night, expect to see much of what we’ve seen before when facing QBs like Wilson. They’ll be in the containment mode and try to squeeze the pocket. If there is some pressure, look for it up the middle in trying to force Wilson into getting rid of the ball quickly. As always, that can be a dangerous proposition against the mobile Seattle QB.

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 News 11-6, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 6, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 11-6, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Mid-Season Awards:
We already did our report cards this week by positions but who gets the individual awards at the halfway point of the season? Who were the guys who stood out both positively and negatively?

Offensive MVP: LeGarrette Blount
I was definitely leaning towards Brady who has been absolutely lighting it up since his return [more to that below], but the much-maligned big man really stepped up this year, and when they needed him the most, during Brady’s suspension.

Blount has 609 rushing yards and an already career-high nine touchdowns. Raise your hand if you saw this coming…. That’s the good news. The better news is with Brady back, and the passing game coming around, there’s no reason to believe Blount won’t be any less effective once the weather turns ugly around here.

Honorable Mention: Martellus Bennett. With Rob Gronkowski out and then limited the first four games, Bennett more than stepped up and played fantastically.

Defensive MVP: Dont’a Hightower
Much is expected with the Patriots captain; he was given the spot in the locker room where players like Willie McGinest and Jerod Mayo reigned over the goings on among the players. It isn’t given lightly. And Hightower has delivered.

He’s logged 33 tackles…and when he hits people they’re tackled, 1.5 sacks and two safeties. His tackle of Andy Dalton for two points was the turning point of the game.

Top Rookie: Joe Thuney
No brainer here. Thuney has shined from Day 1 and has not only been an immediate starter but has thrived on the left side. He and Nate Solder have played very well together, and not surprisingly, those are the guys they look to run behind when closing out games.

Thuney has shown that he may be a fixture at the left guard position for years to come as this under-the-radar draft pick was a steal for the Patriots.

Biggest Surprise: Marcus Cannon
At the start of the season, there were very few people happy with the fact that Cannon was the starting right tackle in place of Sebastian Vollmer [PUP]. Well with improved health and much better technique [thanks to Dante Scarnecchia], Cannon has been very solid thru the first half, especially in the running game.

His pass protection has been improving in recent weeks as well, which Scarnecchia says has a lot to do with much better technique at using his arms and keeping opponents away from him. Happy to have been wrong on this one.

Biggest Disappointment: Cyrus Jones
The easier choice would have been to go with Collins since the Patriots felt their defense was better without the All-Pro and shipped him off to Cleveland for a song. But like the Cannon situation, this is one that no one saw coming, except in not a good way.

Jones was a highly regarded cornerback from a big school [Alabama] that plays in high-pressure situations. We thought he’d be pushing for starting reps by now. Instead, he’s been a healthy scratch for three games. And when he has been on the field, he’s been picked on by the opposition. A dynamic punt returner in college, this was a role that he was supposed to step into on Day 1. He’s shown a problem hanging onto the ball and has been replaced by Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.

Best Offseason Addition: tie Martellus Bennett/Chris Hogan
Again I feel like I’m would not be giving Bennett his due here if he isn’t the choice. Second on the team with 31 receptions for 402 yards and four touchdowns, he put the work in with Brady this offseason and he’s earned his way into that circle of trust that Brady demands to have with his receivers. And Bennett’s blocking has been superb in the both the running game and in pass protection.

But what about Hogan? Little fanfare was present when he signed [except here], after all, he was a guy that couldn’t break through with the Bills offense. Well, the guy nicknamed 7-11 because he’s always open has made the most of his opportunities. He has 19 catches for 391 yards [20.6 average], including 4 of 35 yards or more. Is he a #1 WR? No. But he doesn’t have to be in this offense. Bet Buffalo regrets letting him walk?

Top Offensive Play: Brady 53-Yard Touchdown Against Buffalo
Facing a third and 13 from the Patriots 47-yard line, Brady threw a perfect rainbow to Hogan who streaked past Stephon Gillmore down the left sideline for a 53-yard touchdown strike.

Not only was it a big touchdown in terms of the game, putting the Pats up 14-3, but for Hogan who was let to walk away this year by the Bills and Rex Ryan. We see Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo practice this play every day during training camp at the end of each session. They try to drop a deep pass into a trash can. Brady’s pass went dead center to Hogan in stride.

Top Defensive Play: Hightower’s safety of Dalton in the Cincinnati game
Hightower’s safety was the turning point of the game against the Bengals. Dalton had been having his way with the Patriots defense. But a penalty set them back and then on the next snap Hightower launched thru the line on a blitz and was able to wrestle Dalton to the turf for a safety.

Soon after the Patriots would take the lead and never look back. These are the type of impact plays that the team looks for from the leader of their defense.

Jamie Collins Trade Shows Why Belichick Isn’t Afraid to Make Tough Choices:
The trade of the talented Collins has been hashed about all week on social media as well as sports talk radio and we’re not going to rehash it again here.

But the thing that people should keep in mind is this; Belichick has made these difficult decisions before and he’s not worried about what the media believes, how the fans will react and could care less what the rest of the league thinks.

His only focus is doing what is best for the football team. Mike Lombardi who worked in the front office with Belichick until this summer had this to say on Fox Sports about his call to trade Collins.

And Jamie, for all the rhetoric that has gone around, when you really study what was going on, on the field, they were not producing.”

Does it mean that Belichick is infallible? No. One can easily question this decision and will. If the Pats fail this post season, this decision will surely pop up as a sticking point. But Belichick has the track record where he should be given the benefit of the doubt until proven wrong. And he isn’t afraid to make those decisions.

Tom Brady Player of the Month for October:
Since coming back from his suspension, Tom Brady has been lighting up the NFL like he’s playing the Madden video game. He’s always been sharp in the month of October and has more wins (49) than any QB in the history of the NFL, but this month was even more special.

He’s completed 98 of 134 passes, 73.1 percent for 1319 yards, 12 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. His passer rating is 133.9 and leads the league along with his completion percentage, as well as yards per attempt, 9.84 which would all be career highs.

In winning the Offensive Player of the Month, Brady now owns that record as this award was his ninth. He passed Peyton Manning (8) to take over sole possession. Rust? Not so much. Speaking of Brady…

Reggie Wayne Says Brady’s “Cheating” Should Disqualify Him for MVP:
Nope, this isn’t a typo.  For some of the Colts, or even former Colts, Brady’s four-game suspension wasn’t enough for the beating he put on them in the AFC Championship Game two years ago, they still want their pound of flesh.

Reggie Wayne, the former Colt, and Patriot (for a cup of coffee), WR believes that Brady’s Deflategate punishment should extend over this season as well.

“There is no way Tom Brady can win MVP because he was caught cheating this year,” Wayne said on the NFL Channel’s, All Access show.

News Flash Reg… the kangaroo court of Goodell never proved there was ever any cheating going on, however, he was indeed suspended for actions that happened two years ago. Not last year, and certainly not this year.  Wayne’s last game happened to be the AFCCG in which the Deflategate issue reared its ugly head. Hmm.

Wayne signed with the Pats and asked for his release a short while later stressing that the Pats worked too hard and it was “not fun”. There’s the reason for their success … But Wayne after being lambasted by Patriots fans this week, took to Twitter to rebut the “too hard, not fun” story, 14 months later.

Who Do You Like This Week:
Last week’s picks were 6-6-1 putting me at 66-51-2 on the year. So, who do you like today?

I am going with for the games on tap today Atlanta from TNF (picked last Sunday) Minn, NYG, NYJ, KC, Dallas, Pittsburgh, NO, Carolina, GB, SD, Denver, and Seattle on Monday Night Football

Early pick for Thursday Night Football, (Baltimore over Cleveland).

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills Hopeful McCoy can Play on MNF, Gillmore Lashes Out at Fans:
The Buffalo Bills face the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football and hope to have their best offensive player, LeSean McCoy back on the field. Rex Ryan sounded very optimistic that he’ll play.

“I feel like he’s really close,” Ryan said. “Hopefully … I’m thinking he’s going.”

Cornerback Stephon Gillmore has been taking a ton of flak from fans and media members on social media for his poor play this week, especially for the 53-yard touchdown pass where Chris Hogan blew by him for an easy score. On the play, Gillmore began berating a teammate before Hogan even reached the end zone. Well, Gillmore didn’t mince words when asked about it.

“I’ve had it worse,” Gilmore said. “Playing corner, everybody wants to play from the stands and from the internet and don’t know nothing about football.”

Dolphins Going with “Safety By Committee” after losing Jones:
Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph admits the Miami defense hasn’t played well enough yet this season but has hope that the unit is turning things around. One of the reasons for the struggles… the loss of Reshad Jones.

So, the Dolphins will be using Isa Abdul-Quddus, Michael Thomas, and Bacarri Rambo in different places and situations to try to duplicate the production of the talented Jones. Miami is also happy keeping Mario Williams’ workload down to a minimum because, at his age, he’s much more effective when playing fewer snaps.

“So I think Mario understands now that playing 30 plays at 100 percent he helps us win versus 55 plays at 50 percent,” Joseph said. “So Mario playing less but playing harder helps us win. Sometimes you can’t play that hard for 50 plays at a certain stage of your career.”

Jets Want to Run the Ball at the Dolphins:
In an important matchup for both teams, the Jets are facing the Dolphins today and want to run the ball against the Fins 30th ranked run defense.

“It helps us to run the football,’’ Jets head coach Todd Bowles told the media on Friday. “We don’t want to be one-dimensional. If you can run the football and throw when you want to, that opens up a lot of things, so the last two games, we’ve been able to get that going. So that helps all around.’’

Not surprisingly, with Matt Forte carrying a heavy load the past two games, 55 carries for 182 yards, the Jets were victorious in both, beating both Baltimore and Cleveland. Now they want to do the same when they face Miami.

But the problem for Gang Green is the health of their offensive line. Center Nick Mangold will miss this one with a bad ankle and both Ryan Clady and Breno Giacomini are questionable with shoulder injuries.

Despite the banged up OL, look for Forte and Bilal Powell to have good games running the ball today.

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 Bye Week Mid-Term Report Card – Defense

Steve Balestrieri
November 4, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Unit hasn’t played to their potential…yet

The Patriots get their bye week at a perfect time, right smack dab in the middle of the season before they begin a very important stretch of games that will mark the outcome of the 2016 regular season.

The Jamie Collins trade furor has subsided a little bit and again good timing by Bill Belichick. The players get over their shock, get a couple of practices in, get some time off to lay in the sun somewhere and come back refreshed, and hopefully focused.

We’re breaking down our mid-term grade for the defense’s positions today after the offense’s yesterday.

So… step back off the rail on the Tobin Bridge, buckle up and let’s look at the first half of an eventful and at times, tumultuous first half of the season. The Patriots went 7-1 much to the chagrin of the league and the rest of the teams as they are the top team in the AFC at the midway point.

One thing to keep in mind about the Patriots defense, and something Bill Belichick preaches constantly. The most important stat per Belichick is points, specifically, points allowed by the defense. The Patriots are currently third in the NFL allowing only 16.5 points per game behind just Minnesota and Seattle.

Denver whose defense is the one that Patriots fans always use for comparison is currently fifth, allowing 17 points a game. Does that mean the Pats defense is better than Denver’s? Not at all, but at the same time it shows that there is possibly a lot more that this unit can accomplish.

Defensive Line: B
The Patriots defensive line has done a pretty good job at defending the run this year…apart from the two games against Buffalo. They’re allowing 101.2 yards per game this season. Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, with Vincent Valentine and Woodrow Hamilton have been very good at clogging up the middle. Branch is playing some of his best football in his career with the Patriots and has been a very valuable piece inside. Even pushing the pocket a bit on passing downs.

The edge players, Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich have likewise been outstanding in run support and set the edge very impressively. They stay at home, stretch the plays out and either make them on their own or allow the linebackers or secondary members to clean it up.

Where they’ve lacked thus far this season is in the pass rush department. They just aren’t winning the one-on-one matchup battles nearly consistently enough. Part of the reason is by design. Both Bill Belichick and DL coach Brendan Daly have stated that the defense has sacrificed the pass rush to help defend certain backs and tight ends as well as keep scrambling QB’s in the pocket.

Daly told NESN this week, “A lot of people want to judge it based on sack numbers, quarterback hit numbers. I think there’s a lot of other things that go into play there: keeping scrambling quarterbacks in the pocket, forcing quarterbacks that aren’t as mobile to move out of the pocket, the kind of marriage of coverage and rush. And certain times game plan-wise, we may sacrifice some pass rush to take away a back or a tight end.

“The reality is, you’re trying to affect the quarterback. However, you get that done to be more successful is what the ultimate goal is in winning the game. So, I think it’s a very difficult thing to put your finger on in terms of ‘is it successful, is it not successful?’”

While they aren’t as terrible as they’ve been made out to be, can they improve? Absolutely. This one area I would expect them to be working on much harder next week.

Linebackers: B
Jamie Collins wasn’t his dominant self the first half of the season. Other than the Houston game where he was all over the field, he played well but not well enough apparently and the coaches shipped him off to the equivalent of football Siberia…Cleveland. Now they’ll have to replace his three-down presence.

Dont’a Hightower and Elandon Roberts are physical downhill, instinctive run-stuffers. Hightower will have much more on his plate now and the defensive captain will be looked to even more to provide the leadership on the defense as well as do some more blitzing in the A-gaps.  Roberts is an undersized, rookie who plays much bigger than his size, see Joe Thomas in Cleveland.

Shea McClellin was brought here in free agency but hasn’t played a ton. He also missed a few weeks with a concussion. Ninkovich can also drop back and play some linebacker as he’s done in the past.

Which brings us to our final two linebackers and now with the trade of Collins the most intriguing, Barkevious Mingo and Kyle Van Noy. Both at this stage are complete unknowns.

Mingo came over at the end of preseason and has the freakish athleticism of Collins, but lacks his size and strength. Could he become the third down ‘backer that can rush the passer? Possibly. Although he’s been playing a lot of special teams, he’s played very little on defense, a total of 27 snaps, including 10 against the Bills, his most.

Van Noy came out of the draft as a guy that could do a little bit of getting after the passer and coverage of tight ends and backs. He too will probably get some snaps to see what he can do. Can the Patriots bring out what the Lions and Browns couldn’t with these two? We’ll soon find out.

Secondary: B
The secondary has had a decent start to the season. Malcolm Butler was hobbled by a bum ankle but has been playing better than his 2015 season and has shown he deserves a very healthy pay raise next year.

Logan Ryan has played okay, and usually gets matched up with the opponent’s speediest receiver with some safety help. But his play has been a bit inconsistent of late and facing teams with some bigger receivers, the Pats gave Eric Rowe the start the past two weeks. Rowe is the biggest of the Pats corners but struggled in Buffalo, drawing some PI flags…one in particular, was not earned.

Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones, the Pats top draft pick, have not been good as the slot or nickel corner. Both have struggled and Jones has been a healthy scratch for the past three weeks.

Devin McCourty and Pat Chung lead a safety group that is very solid. McCourty is the QB of the secondary and has had an outstanding season. Chung has gotten some flak, undeserved in my opinion as he’s been a major plus in his second go-around with the team. Duron Harmon is an under the radar third safety. Jordan Richards and Nate Ebner haven’t gotten a ton of snaps.

Special Teams: B
After struggling to start the season, Stephen Gostkowski looked more like the guy we’ve seen for the past 10 seasons, last week in Buffalo. He was 5 for 5 on extra points and made both field goal attempts, including a 51-yarder at the end of the half. His short kickoffs have been outstanding all season.

Ryan Allen has had some ups and downs but he’s been very solid for the most part in 2016. He’s been very good at angling his punts inside the 20 to limit the returns. The Patriots coverage units have been terrific so far and the return game got a boost from Danny Amendola returning the second half kickoff last week 73 yards.

Coaches: B+
Matt Patricia hasn’t had a great season thus far. The defense is not playing as well as they were envisioned at the beginning of the year. The talk was that this was going to be a Top 10 or even a Top 5 defense. While they are third in points allowed, their overall play has only been so-so. And until recently their play in the red zone and on third down has been spotty. Patricia has his work cut out for him in the second half as the defense will be going thru some changes.

Bill Belichick did a masterful job of not only preparing the team but its two young QBs to carry on for Tom Brady in the first quarter of the season. Now he faces another difficult challenge.

By trading one of the top players on the team and easily the most athletic, he’s pushed all of his chips into the middle of the table betting that he can get the best out his remaining players on defense. And of course, lead them to another Super Bowl berth. Now we’ll all watch to see how the players will react. There are examples of them reacting well, (2003), and poorly, (2009). One thing it won’t be is boring.

We’re on to Seattle.

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.

Podcast: Can We Make A Case For Trading Jamie Collins?

Russ Goldman
November 3, 2016 at 7:38 am ET

This is another episode with PatsFans.com and Bleacher Report writer Lee Schechter. During the show we discussed Lee’s article entitled ” The Jamie Collins Trade Was Shocking, but Let’s Make the Case for It”. Lee shared his thoughts on the Jamie Collins trade.

Podcast: Patriots Victory And Jamie Collins Traded

Russ Goldman
November 2, 2016 at 12:51 pm ET

In this episode, we discussed the Jamie Collins trade along with a look back at the Patriots victory against the Bills.