Tag Archives: Jimmy Garoppolo

Podcast: Dolphins vs. Patriots Preview Show

Russ Goldman
September 27, 2018 at 9:38 am ET

In this episode of Patriots Fourth And Two, we started this show by discussing the article “Patriots Demise Syndrome, the symptoms and how to cope” by Tom E. Curran.

We then previewed the upcoming game for the Patriots against the Dolphins, as we went through the major match-ups, and also shared the keys to victory. We then gave our predictions for the game to end the show.

Podcast: Patriots vs. Lions Preview Show

Russ Goldman
September 20, 2018 at 10:55 am ET

In this episode of Patriots Fourth And Two, we previewed the upcoming game for the Patriots against the Lions, as we went through the major match-ups, and also shared the keys to victory. We also gave our predictions for the game.

However, to start the show, we did our “Around The League” segment and the topics this week included , analytics in football, the Super Bowl Half Time Show, and drafting the right players that fit your team.

2018 Patriots Training Camp Primer – Quarterbacks

Steve Balestrieri
June 21, 2018 at 1:44 pm ET

The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks, the OTAs and minicamp are over and the team has a 90-man roster ready to go. They’ll tweak this a bit as we go on but this group should remain pretty intact to start thru the beginning of training camp. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. So first up are the quarterbacks

Sorry to say, this column is strictly football, so if you’re looking for analysis of body language, the subliminal messages by Gisele or TB12 that may have been sent on social media or the butterfly effect that the Dalai Lama breaking wind in Tibet and the effect it will have on the Patriots this season, you can save yourself the time now.

So… who is locked in and who is on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Tom Brady
The Patriots are so fortunate that every year since early in the 2001 season, they know who their starting QB is and have the luxury of knowing that he is more than capable enough to take them to the promised land.

In 2017, the 40-year old quarterback had an MVP season, completing 385 of 581 passes, (66.3 %), for 32 TDs and just 8 INTs. He led the Patriots offense to 394.2 yards per game, #1 in the NFL and to 28.6 points per game, #2 in the league.

In the playoffs, Brady went 89 of 139 (64%) for 1132 yards with 8 TDs and 0 INTs. He brought the Patriots back in another big 4th quarter comeback in the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars leading to a third Super Bowl appearance in four years. Against the Eagles, Brady went 28-48 (58.3%) for a Super Bowl record 505 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs.

However, every season we deal with the inevitable question of “when will Brady begin to show his age and slow down? Answer: It doesn’t look like it anytime soon. Which is why I have zero issues with Brady taking the OTAs off this season.

Consequently, lost in the all the “Hatfield – McCoy Feud” storyline is the fact that perhaps Brady feels at his age that he wants to limit the wear and tear on his arm and may have been feeling fatigued at the end of last season. That very possible scenario got little to no play this spring.  

If that is the case, I have zero problems with it and neither should anyone else. He’s more than earned that right. But for the record, would I rather see #12 QBing the team during the spring workouts? Of course, especially with the new faces here on the roster. So, we’ll see how all of this works out, but if you’re expecting (hoping) to see a significant drop off in Brady’s production, you may be disappointed.  

However, there are some legitimate questions to ask this year. How will Brady deal with the loss of

  • his top two wide receiver targets from last season, (Cooks, Amendola)
  • New England’s top running back option from last season (Dion Lewis), and finally
  • his starting left tackle of the past six years, (Nate Solder)

Unlike nearly every other quarterback in league history, Brady has shown an ability to adapt to change. 2018 will likely not be any different. On a positive side, the Patriots get back Julian Edelman (albeit after a possible 4-game suspension), picked by Jordan Matthews this spring and drafted the dynamic Sony Michel who should be a big factor in both the running and passing games. And the best tight end in the game Rob Gronkowski is healthy and ready to go.

I watched Brady at minicamp and saw no drop off in his game, nor any indications that he was “mailing it in”, (a familiar question this spring). He looked like the Tom Brady we’ve all come to expect and to see and he looked like Tom Brady….meaning excellent.

Near Roster Locks: Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling

Hoyer came back to New England in the fallout from the Jimmy Garoppolo trade with the 49ers last fall. He was released to make room for Jimmy G. and then quickly signed back with New England as Brady’s backup.

Hoyer is who he is at this point in his career. He’s not a great QB and is limited in the things that he can do. But he knows the offense very well and he has the confidence of the coaches that he can get the job done if the situation arises where he has to step in. .

Etling is a rookie who is still trying to learn the Patriots offense and find his rhythm with it. He has a long way to go. With his limited snap load in training camp, do we expect him to push Hoyer for the backup spot on the roster? Very doubtful.

But the Patriots made an investment in him this spring, albeit a 7th rounder (219th overall). His job this summer is to show enough progress to justify keeping him around this season and to learn the offense enough to push Hoyer out next summer as the backup. I think he’s already shown enough to justify that. He’ll probably get very acquainted with the clipboard this fall, but I think he’ll stick.

With Brady sitting out the majority of the spring workouts, Hoyer was getting a ton of reps and looked a bit arm fatigued by minicamp. With both he and Brady getting up there in age, having Etling around will help him learn the system and keep their workloads down to an acceptable amount.

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.

Podcast: Patriots Draft Recap

Russ Goldman
April 30, 2018 at 11:33 am ET

In this episode of Patriots Fourth And Two, we discussed all the draft picks for the Patriots, along with talking about the trade for Trent Brown. However, we started the show by focusing on quarterback Danny Etling, who the Patriots drafted in the seventh round.

PODCAST: Brandin Cooks Trade Reaction and Discussion

Russ Goldman
April 4, 2018 at 12:02 pm ET

In this episode, we spent a good amount of it discussing the Brandin Cooks trade in three different ways. Later on in the Patriots Fourth And Two Roundtable, we talked about our three positional needs heading into the Draft. After that, we debated if the Patriots issues on defense are scheme related, or about the personnel. We finished the show with a lively discussion on Rob Gronkowski.

Podcast: Do The Patriots Need To Draft A Quarterback In The Upcoming NFL Draft?

Russ Goldman
March 28, 2018 at 12:44 pm ET

In this episode, we talked about several Patriots related topics which included the Brady/Belichick situation, along with Tony Massarotti’s opinion that Josh McDaniels is overrated. However, things got heated when the topic of drafting the next Patriots Quarterback came up.

New England Patriots Draft Profile, Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond

Steve Balestrieri
at 8:30 am ET

Lauletta Has Patriots Written All Over Him

As the 2018 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, after trading Jimmy Garoppolo at the deadline last season are back looking for an eventual successor to Tom Brady. While Brady showed no signs of slowing down last season, he’s going to be 41 this August and it is just a matter of time before he finally begins to show his age.

Brian Hoyer is just a journeyman, backup and while they can rely on him to hold the fort down for a week or two in an emergency, he doesn’t have the skill set or the longevity to be the solution. So, who is next successor to Brady? Do the Patriots even dip into the pool this year? While we feel it may be risking things a bit to put it off another year, the team may feel that they don’t like any of the QBs that will be available to them. Although I believe that they’ll at least dip for a developmental guy later in the draft.

There are no shortage of quarterbacks in this season’s draft that speak very highly of Brady. That shouldn’t be a shock, he’s been on top for 17 seasons and his longevity is tied to his work ethic, and the constant desire to improve. Whoever they do pick up will be expected to study under the master for the next year or two and be ready to take over then. There won’t be a big rush in Foxboro to push the next QB before he’s ready unless of an injury.

Kyle Lauletta from Richmond, is, in our opinion a pretty darned good fit for the Patriots. He has good size (6’3, 215-pounds) but it is his pedigree that makes him seem like a Patriot from jump street. Both his father and uncle played football at Navy. His uncle was coached by Steve Belichick on the Midshipman’s Special Teams’ squad as the team’s punter.

But beyond the Navy angle, he has the intangibles the Patriots, as well as other teams, look for. He’s considered a team leader both on and off the field and was elected captain. He comes from a QB line, his dad as we mentioned above was a QB at the academy.

Lauletta was a high school lacrosse player, who could have gotten a scholarship for that but his love for football won out. He didn’t receive any Division I offers. So he went to a lesser level of competition at Richmond and played with a chip on his shoulder. His production spiked in 2016 and 2017. Despite only having a so-so 6-5 team in 2017, he completed 64.9 percent of his throws for 3737 yards with 28 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.

Lauletta has a quick release and timed with the ability to read and process the information quickly, makes him a very good QB to beat the blitz with quick accurate throws.He does, however, at times get happy feet in the pocket.

Despite being nearly an afterthought for the Senior Bowl, he had a great week of practice there and had a very strong game completing 8-12 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns while taking home the MVP award.

Pros:

– Quick decision maker

– Accurate passer

– Very good on timing patterns

– Throws to spots on the field

Cons

– Arm strength is an issue

– Will throw into double coverage at times

– Gets happy feet in the pocket on occasion

What his Role Will Be:

Lauletta will be under no pressure for immediate playtime and results.  He should be the third QB on the roster and focus on learning the offense, working on his mechanics and improving his arm strength.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?

Yes, in Year 2 he could be ready to challenge Hoyer for the backup job and become the true successor for #12.

How Many Downs Can He Play?

N/A

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

No one, they’ll probably keep three QBs on the roster again and for this year, Brian Hoyer will be the backup for at least 2018.

What is his ST Value?

None

Conclusion:
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein in his profile didn’t give Lauletta high marks, he wrote, Lauletta has decent accuracy and mechanics to work with, but his lack of NFL arm strength will limit the number of teams who are willing to consider him. Lauletta’s interceptions come due to arm issues rather than decision-making and that may not be correctable in the pros due to the increase in play speed that he will see in NFL secondaries.

He has frequently been compared to Jimmy Garoppolo and the feeling here is that is based more on the fact that he’s been rumored to New England, and was a smaller school prospect. I don’t get the Garoppolo comparison at all.

His arm strength issues are a bit overblown (we heard the same things about Brady and Garoppolo) and could be a mechanical fix, If the Patriots decide to take a shot on him, then maybe some sessions with Tom House may be in order. But there is a lot to like about Lauletta. He gets rid of the ball quickly and accurately. He moves well in the pocket and has shown the ability to get away from the rush and scramble a bit.

He throws to spots on the field, which is a Brady trait. It shows that he and receivers work on their chemistry. He knows where a receiver is supposed to be and throws it there. So there is the trust factor which is big.

Another thing to like about Lauletta is how quickly he processes information. No one is as good as Brady at that, but Jimmy G. got much better at it while Jacoby Brissett did not. He throws on the move quite well and seems to have a knack for finding the open receiver once he’s on the move. And his accuracy was outstanding while rolling out. It looked like the coaches had quite a few called rollouts for him and after watching his accuracy, it is easy to see why.

It will be interesting to see what the Patriots do in Round 2. I don’t see them taking him in the 1st round. But although he’s slotted to go in Round 5, I believe that it is far too late after seeing what he did in the Senior Bowl.

Lauletta has a nice highlight reel tape from Priority Sports and can be seen here: 

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, 2-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 18, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 2-18, & AFC East Notes

It has been a long couple of weeks here since the Super Bowl but the Malcolm Butler story just won’t go away and while we may never have the complete story, fans continue to chime in on it. Was the Butler benching in SB LII “Bill Belichick’s arrogance” as some have repeatedly stated or was there something deeper there? Did Butler do or say something that would have caused him to sit?

That is something the Patriots will never say, other than what Belichick said, which was it was a football decision, made in the best interests of the team. Which can mean many things. It is time to let it go. Regardless of the decision, it is water under the bridge and the Eagles made more plays two Sundays ago and it is on to NFL Combine and Draft. But for the sake of conspiracy theorists, I’d be inclined to believe the latter more than the former…

Happy Birthday to the Man Who Originated the “Gronk Spike”:
If you ever wondered about where spiking the football originated from read on… Back in the 1960s, many players, including several stars, (Frank Gifford of the Giants and Paul Hornung of the Packers) would celebrate a touchdown by flinging the ball into the stands. The NFL cracked down on this in 1965 (even back then) by fining players $500 if they tossed the ball into the stands.

The Giants signed a speedster in 1965, Homer Jones from Texas Southern. A 6’2, 220-pound track star to play wide receiver. Jones wanted a celebration of his own but didn’t want to pay $500 bucks either. So after a touchdown, he started a trend of throwing the ball hard on the ground. Asked what it was, Jones called it “a spike.”

Back before the merger, the Patriots games in the AFL were carried on NBC. The Giants in the NFL were all carried here in New England on CBS. As a youngster, Jones was one of my favorite players to watch in 1967. And what a season he had. In the run-heavy era of the ‘60s, Jones had 49 catches for 1209 yards for an incredible 24.7 yards per catch and an NFL leading 13 touchdowns receiving.

Giants quarterback Fran Tarkenton, said throwing to Jones was like hitting a man on a motorcycle with a butterfly net.

Knee injuries curtailed what could have been an unbelievable NFL career in 1971, but Jones was electric in the open field. His career average of 22.3 yards per catch is the NFL’s best for any player with 200 receptions or more.

Today is Jones’ 77th birthday, in an interview a few years ago, he said he regretted ever doing the spike. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski would probably respectfully disagree. Happy Birthday to #45.

Colts Still Get Patriots Assistant Coach, Ray Ventrone To Head Colts STs:
After the Colts-Josh McDaniels fallout, Indianapolis hired Frank Reich as their new head coach. And one of Reich’s first hires was to New England’s assistant STs coach Ray Ventrone.

“Bubba” Ventrone was an 11-year player in the NFL and spent the past three seasons as the Patriots assistant STs coach. The Colts will be looking to improve their STs by grabbing a coach from NE who have one of the better STs units in the league.

Who Will the Patriots Draft at QB This Season:
Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes…” well add to that Ben, the Patriots drafting a QB. The Patriots draft one every year, but this one better be a good one, someone that takes over for Tom Brady once #12’s career winds down.

The team traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers this season at the deadline and now with Brian Hoyer as the backup, they’ll need to look to the future. But finding a capable backup to Brady isn’t the option anymore. We all know Brady’s age so this is must be someone they feel can lead them to continue to win once Brady decides to hang it up.

So who is out there in the draft in 2018? Forget about the Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and Josh Allen call, they’ll be gone in the top of Round 1, long before New England picks. A couple of names to keep an eye on are Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Washington State’s Luke Falk, Western Kentucky’s Mike White and Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta from a Patriots perspective.

We’ll look at them in the upcoming draft series after free agency but one guy who they pick with their top draft choice is Lauletta. Forget about all the lacrosse stuff, yes he and BB share that, but he has the look of a QB that would thrive in this system.

Schuplinski A Key Coach to Watch, For the Next QB Taken:
Another overlooked part of the McDaniels remaining in New England is the retaining of assistant QB coach Jerry Schuplinski who was rumored to be heading to Indy along with McDaniels. Now, Schuplinski, a close friend of McDaniels is opting to remain too.

Mike Reiss of ESPN penned an interesting piece about the role of Schuplinski mentoring both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett and will likely mentor whoever the Patriots draft this season.

No Mulligans, Now Belichick “Should’ve Drafted Garoppolo in Round 1:
My, my, my (Joe Kenda voice), how quickly the worm turns. The latest idea making the rounds over on social media was that Bill Belichick screwed up by not taking Jimmy Garoppolo in the first round of the draft back in 2014. The feeling is, if he had, then Garoppolo, being a first-round pick would’ve been under the Patriots control for one more season.

First of all, isn’t it amazing how Belichick lasted this long as the Patriots coach because so many of his decisions have come under such scrutiny? How many times have we heard or read, “GM Bill is hurting Coach Bill with bad decisions.” Well, now we have this one. And it isn’t recent, this particular story began circulating back in mid-August I believe.

Just as a reminder, when the Patriots drafted Garoppolo, the talk was that they “reached” for him and that he’d have been available later in the draft. But in actuality, even if you could peek into the crystal ball and look back and ahead, they would still be in a position where they’d probably be doing just what they did. Brady, who led the league in passing in 2017 and threw for 505 yards in the Super Bowl, doesn’t look like a guy getting ready to go over the cliff anytime soon. What was Bill thinking back then?

Resetting the 2018 Season Priorities:
We’ve been exploring the Patriots own free agents here on PatsFans.com but we’ll be exploring some other issues that the team will have to address if they are to return to represent the AFC again in Super Bowl LIII. Some upcoming articles to look for are:

  • Getting younger and more Athletic on Defense, Especially Linebacker
  • Finding the “next guy” at QB in the NFL Draft
  • Sorting out who will be the RBs in 2018
  • Resign Key FAs, starting with Nate Solder and Danny Amendola
  • Who will replace Malcolm Butler, a veteran or draft pick?

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Vontae Davis Leaves Buffalo Without a Contract with the Bills:
Although the Buffalo Bills hosted free agent cornerback Vontae Davis, the first visit that Davis attended, he left without a contract. It was then reported that Davis then visited Cleveland and spent some time with the Browns.

This is probably nothing more than Davis seeing what is out there in terms of Free Agency cash that teams will throw around before making his decision. Which is a smart move by the player as he’s under no rush whatsoever to make a decision quickly.

Davis was released prior to the 2017 NFL season ending so he doesn’t have to wait for the beginning of free agency to sign anywhere. He could get locked up with a team early and prepare for the NFL season whenever he’s ready.

Davis will be 30 years old this year and was a Pro Bowl corner with excellent cover skills in 2014 and 2015. But he’s missed significant time due to injury the past two seasons. Many teams may want to give him a one-year “prove it” type of deal to see if he’s healthy or he’s beginning to fade, including the Patriots.

Dolphins Contribute $100K to Stoneman Douglas Fund:
The Miami Dolphins made two payments of $50,000, to the GoFundMe page for the Stoneman Douglas school to help put the donations over $1,000,000 in just two days of being active. It was explained that the Dolphins had to make two donations because the maximum allowed by the page to accept was $50,000.

Soon after the Dolphins gesture, donations began pouring in from around the world. According to the Miami Herald, over 16,000 people have donated to the page.

“Donations raised here will be used to provide relief and financial support to the victims and families of the horrific shooting,” the fund’s organizer said. In a separate donation, Dolphins coaches donated $17,500 to the family of Aaron Feis, the assistant football coach who gave his life, shielding students from the psychopathic gunman who attacked the school.

Jets Have the Cap Space and Expected to Chase Cousins, Perhaps Butler Too?
The New York Jets have an estimated $73,000,000 in salary cap space for 2018 and they’re expected to make a serious run at Washington QB Kirk Cousins as soon as free agency opens. It may not be as far-fetched as some people believe at first glance.

With that much cap space, they can not only snag Cousins but a number of players who can help support Cousins and give him enough weapons to make the Jets relevant again. Another potential selling point is the big market NYC area for Cousins to play in as well as the fact that they can point to the way that the Jets played for Coach Todd Bowles right up until the end of the season. The Jets players believe in Bowles and have bought in.

Another rumor has it that Patriots free agent cornerback could possibly be going to the Jets. Can you imagine the hype for the two meetings this season if both Cousins and Butler end up with Gang Green in 2018? That would immediately make the two meetings even bigger than they normally are, regardless of team’s records.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots React To News of Garoppolo Record Deal With 49ers

Robert Alvarez
February 9, 2018 at 8:04 pm ET

On Thursday, former New England Patriots quarterback and current San Francisco 49er Jimmy Garoppolo made headlines when he agreed to an NFL record 5-Year, $137.5 Million Contract.

On social media, a few of Garoppolo’s old teammates in New England took time to congratulate him on his new deal and wished him well.

Mood

A post shared by Jimmy Garoppolo (@jimmypolo10) on

New England Patriots News 1-7, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 7, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 1-7, & AFC East Notes.

We hope everyone made it thru the first big winter storm that rolled thru the area this week. If you lived on the coast, some areas were hit really hard with some awful flooding. That’s mother nature’s way of reminding us that she can really pack a wallop. Let’s hope everyone is ok and back in their homes soon.

It Has to be Playoff Time When You See…:
Unless you’ve been on a winter trip in the Amazon, by now you’ve heard about the story in ESPN about the Patriots coming apart at the seams and the feuding going on between Patriots owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

It never ceases to amaze that the network always “breaks” these stories around the time the playoffs are going on…coincidence? A few of the items in the story just jump out, so our two cents on these, in no particular order:

-Trade Demanded by #12:  If you believe that Tom Brady forced Robert Kraft to force Bill Belichick to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, you just haven’t paid any attention to what’s been going on around these parts for the past 17 years. Brady lives for competition, it drives him and it has been why he’s so successful.

How many times have we talked about and remarked how competitive he is…in practice? Brady regularly treats practice in training camp like a playoff game. If the Patriots’ coaches told him that Garoppolo is soon to take over, it’s going to light a fire under his butt, not drive him to run to Kraft demanding Jimmy G. gets traded.

Brady has always adopted an almost warrior-type bushido in his professional career. The average man looks at events that occur in his life as a blessing or a curse. The warrior looks upon those same events as a challenge.

-Garoppolo Turned Down $17-18 Million Dollar Extension: This one got into specifics and was perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire piece. Supposed, the Patriots went to Garoppolo and Don Yee, his manager, who also reps Brady and offered him a nice extension but were turned down. Two Patriots insiders Tom E. Curran, and Mark Daniels have their own sources and stated that this never happened. As for Garoppolo being locked out of the TB12 clinic next door? Please. This fall, I walked into the front door of the place, looking for alternatives to gel injections for arthritic knees and waltzed right in. That’s one of the more ridiculous mentions. And as for Garoppolo claiming that Brady refused to help him? Well, a month ago Brady said that the two still talk regularly and have a great relationship. Garoppolo gave Brady credit for helping him in a presser for the Niners…hmm.

-Brady and Belichick Are Feuding Over Guerrero: While there may be a slight lingering of hurt feelings over Guerrero, I wrote here two weeks ago that even those I believe to be overblown. Belichick needs one voice in the locker room and on the field and that is the team’s. Many of the beat writers have said that the relationship between the coach and QB has never been a close personal one but a close professional one.

And you’re dealing with big egos here. Are there going to be disagreements and even arguments? After a 17-year marriage? Are you kidding me? When you put two Type-A personalities in the same room, of course, there will be plenty of those…it comes with the territory. I can speak from personal experience. As the Commander of a Special Forces A-Team, it was never-ending. Put 12 Green Berets in a room to plan an operation, get your popcorn and watch the show. We used to joke that the only difference between God and a Green Beret was that God didn’t think he was a Green Beret… So the fact that Belichick and Brady have huge egos isn’t either news or a surprise.

A few of the other tidbits, that the young players call Brady “sir”…that is laughable. And if they did, shame on them. Many of the players, especially Brissett and Garoppolo when they were here cracked on Brady because of his age. And Brady bristling about not getting “Patriots Player of the Week” is pretty bizarre. He’s never been about individual awards but about team accomplishments. See the first paragraph.

But perhaps the most intriguing thing about this entire piece was the fact that the author got so many juicy quotes from team staffers. The beat guys work for years to build up relationships that open up a crack in an organization that is more locked down than Langley. And yet a guy, who rarely, if ever comes here, blows into town for a few weeks and gets over a dozen people to open up to him and give these incredible quotes which were the true meat of the story.

In the words of the Wells Report…”it is more probable than not” that there was just maybe a little bit of exaggeration there. Either that or the author missed his calling and belongs in the above-mentioned cubicles of Langley since it would qualify as a tremendous amount of elicitation in a record amount of time.

“We Stand United”, Patriots Big Three Answer:
Again, you know it is playoff time when the Patriots have to answer questions about ridiculous scandals that never show up until January. The timing of the ESPN piece was not a coincidence since it was posted just hours after the team was released for a few days during the bye week before the Divisional Playoff prep.

But respond they did, the Patriots released what they characterized as a joint statement from Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady to address the latest round of hoopla. The team minced no words on calling some parts of the article “highly exaggerated” or “flat-out inaccurate.”

Perhaps the most intriguing of the team’s response was the one line that could mean nothing or perhaps is telling where they addressed the future. “We look forward to the enormous challenge of competing in the postseason and the opportunity to work together in the future.” Stay tuned. So, back to football

Patricia’s Defense Ends up Top 5 In Points Allowed:
For all the criticism about the Patriots defense in 2017 and much of it deserved, especially early in the season, Matt Patricia’s unit excelled in the one area that is most important. Points allowed.

The Patriots defense finished 5th in the NFL in points allowed, giving up 18.5 points per game. During the first four games of the season the unit allowed 128 points (32 points per game), however during the last 12 games, the defense allowed just 168 points (14 points per game). That speaks to the way that Patricia coached them to tighten up in the red zone. The Patriots defense was 4th in the NFL in the number of red zone TDs allowed and 1st in the league in the scoring percentage allowed in Red-Zone possessions.

That’s not to say that the Patriots defense is a Top 5 unit, but are they good enough to get them to Minnesota and win in the Super Bowl? The short answer is yes. And Patricia who already has interviewed with the Giants and Lions for head coaching opportunities has a lot to do with their success.

Who Takes Over as Coordinators if Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia Leave:
Just as the usual stories arise to distract the team every playoff season, the Black Monday coaches purges always bring many of the Belichick assistants into the limelight.

McDaniels is rumored to be on the Giants radar as a frontrunner while Patricia is also rumored as the top choice for the Detroit Lions. So, if these two excellent coordinators do indeed leave this offseason, who takes over and is will there be an appreciable drop in the collective performances in each unit?

The first part is easy, the second will have to wait. Chad O’Shea would be the front-runner to replace McDaniels as the Offensive Coordinator, although the rumor mill has the Pats going after former coach Brian Daboll who is now the OC for the Alabama Crimson Tide who are preparing for the National Title Game against Georgia. O’Shea has been with the team since 2009 and is currently the team’s Wide Receivers Coach.

The favorite on Defense is Linebackers Coach Brian Flores. Flores coincidentally is also in the interviewing process for the Arizona Cardinals as their next head coach as Bruce Arians retired. Flores is on the Cards radar for a reason, despite not having any coordinator experience, he’s just about done it all with the Patriots. After graduating from BC, he joined the Pats as a scouting assistant. After two years, he became a full-time scout. Then after two years, he became a coaching assistant with the Special Teams. He’s served as a defensive and offensive assistant, then became the safeties coach before moving over to the linebackers in 2016.

Flores may be a year or two early for a head coaching job but he’s an extremely well-rounded coach who garners great respect from his players. He has been being groomed for the DC job. He’s called the defensive signals for both the 2016-17 preseason finales where Belichick begins the grooming for assistants. O’Shea called the signals for the offense this season in the finale against the Giants as Patricia and McDaniels both got the night off.

Will they succeed? Time will tell, but the way Belichick grills his assistants early and then grooms them for bigger and better responsibilities has always seemed to bear fruit. I would expect both to do well if indeed Patricia and McDaniels move on.

Harrison Signing Was a Potential Big Return on Small Investment:
Once James Harrison was released by the Steelers, the Patriots invited him to Foxboro and signed him for the remainder of the season. Which, cost them about $57K. After what we saw against the Jets, it was a bargain.

After the normal drivel of “they signed him to get the Pittsburgh playbook” nonsense, Bill Belichick put those thoughts to rest. After just about 4-5 days of prep time, Harrison played quite a bit against the Jets and played well. Regardless of his age, (39), Harrison keeps himself in excellent condition and has fresh legs, having played a total of 40 snaps for the Steelers all season. Harrison made a couple of nice plays, burying Robby Anderson with a big hit short of the sticks on a third down as well as a couple of sacks, including a strip sack of Bryce Petty.

Harrison admitted to being a bit nervous about his first action with the team. Equating himself to a rookie stating, “it is like starting your rookie season. New game plan, you got to pick things up.” He even sounded a bit like Belichick when he talked about “just doing my job” and gave credit to his teammates. “I was getting a lot of help from the guys around me.  

If Harrison can give the Patriots 25-30 plays like that in the next few weeks, it will be a boost for the defense. Don’t forget, he had big plays against Eric Fisher and the Chiefs both last year in the playoffs and this season in the regular season.

Brady, Gronkowski Named First Team All-Pro:
The Patriots dynamic duo were the only two members of the team named as first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. It was Gronkowski’s fourth time on the list while surprisingly it was just Brady’s third selection.

Brady easily distanced Eagles QB Carson Wentz after the Eagles signal caller went down with an injury forcing him on IR a few weeks.  Brady is expected to be named as the league’s MVP. He also won the MVP in both 2007 and in 2010. Gronkowski, also, easily distanced himself from Chiefs Travis Kelce at tight end.

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Wildcard Weekend:
Last week 13-3 mark. Regular Season Total: 170-86.

Saturday: Titans at Chiefs – Kansas City
Falcons at Rams – Atlanta

Sunday: Bills at Jaguars – Jacksonville
Panthers at Saints – New Orleans

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Need to be Creative Against the Jaguars:

The Buffalo Bills have the 31st ranked passing attack in the NFL. Tyrod Taylor is the lowest ranked QB in the playoffs. They’re on the road facing the #1 pass defense in the NFL that allows just 169 yards per game. Their work is cut out for them in the Wildcard Game. Is it season over for the BIlls? Not so fast.

Buffalo can’t go in with the mindset that they’ve had all season by trying to be conservative and win by running the ball. If they do that, it will be a long quiet plane ride home. They’re going to have to be creative and take shots in the passing game.

Play action passes on first down, be willing to take risks, something Taylor is loathe to do will be the only way they score enough to win. Empty the playbook, get Kelvin Benjamin involved and let Taylor run.

On defense, the Bills rush defense will be up against it with Jax’s Leonard Fournette, but again, with an approach of loading the box and daring Blake Bortles to beat them may work. The Bills secondary can hold their own but a conservative approach won’t win them the game. Sean McDermott is on the clock. How will they proceed?

 

Landry fined $48K, Dolphins Fans Rejoice “Patriots Downfall”:

The Miami Dolphins were assessed three fines for the finale against the Buffalo Bills. Worst hit was WR Jarvis Landry who assessed a $48,620 fine for unsportsmanlike conduct and abuse of an official. Kenyan Drake was fined $12,154. Landry was considered a repeat offender by the league and this was why he was tagged for more.

But a couple of Dolphins’ fan websites were more interested in the “meltdown in Foxboro” as an omen that bodes well for Miami, more so than worrying about improving their own team. Word to the wise, believe about half what you read and when the season opens next year, prepare to see both Belichick and Brady across the field from you, and get Ryan Tannehill back and healthy.  

Will the Jets Go After FA QB or Look to the Draft:

The New York Jets over-achieved for Head Coach Todd Bowles in 2017, winning five games when many expected the Jets to finish similar to the Browns, winless this season. Much of their early-season success, when they went 3-2 was due to Josh McCown. If they were to pursue a FA QB like Kurt Cousins, then, of course, McCown would be gone, but if the Jets were to draft one of the big name QBs in the draft at #6, then McCown could and should be kept around as a bridge.

Who could the team then approach the draft in a different light? Picking at #6, who could the Jets target?

Rich Cimini of ESPN had an interesting take in his column. He made the case for taking Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. While running backs aren’t normally taken that high much anymore, Barkley would be an intriguing addition to the Jets offense, especially with Bilal Powell turning 30.

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