Tag Archives: Kenyan Drake

Patriots Week 14 Report Card, A Very Mixed Bag in the Loss to Miami

Steve Balestrieri
December 11, 2018 at 7:20 am ET


The Patriots went down to Miami and played just well enough to keep a very inferior team in the game long enough for them to steal away a victory on a fluke play on the last snap of the game. Like John Houseman used to say in those old Smith Barney commercials, “They earn it.” And the Pats earned that loss in a game that they should have won.

Some parts of the Pats game was outstanding, others were absolutely terrible. On both sides of the ball. That’s what a wacky game this was. They will get over this one…or perhaps they won’t. They don’t have a lot of time to dwell on it. A trip to Pittsburgh looms next week and don’t expect to see the same Steeler team that lost to the woeful Raiders next Sunday.

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

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady, save for one colossal mistake at the end of the first half was outstanding. Brady completed 27-43 passes for 358 yards (8.3 yards per pass) with 3 TDs and 0 INTs. His accuracy was very good throughout the game and those bogus hot take artists who regularly spew insipid bile about his arm strength need to watch back-to-back plays in the first half.

Facing a 3rd and 10, Brady lasered a rocket to Julian Edelman for 16 yards and a first down. On the next snap, Brady rocketed a 37-yard fastball down the field on a line where Cordarrelle Patterson made a nice grab for a 37-yard touchdown.  

Brady’s one gaffe was a very costly one. With time running down in the first half, Brady held on to the ball too long with no one open and took a sack. At that point, the clock ran out and the Patriots lost a golden opportunity to add points on the board. It was a rookie mistake, he lost track of how many timeouts they had used and it is something, he’s never done. And it couldn’t come at a worse time. That’s what knocks his grade down somewhat.

Running Backs: D

The Patriots running backs were rendered a total non-factor in this game. Despite the Dolphins having a sieve for a run defense for all of this season, they were a stone wall on Sunday and held the Patriots running backs to an awful 2.6 yards per rush average.

Sony Michel had 20 carries for just 57 yards. He had one nice run at the end of the game that looked like the Patriots were finally going to take over but it was wiped out by a holding penalty. It has been a familiar refrain for him all season. He could probably have close to 50 percent of his yardage added to his total that has been lost on flags.

James White whether by the Dolphins defense or the Patriots game plan was invisible on Sunday. Granted Brady was shredding the Dolphin secondary but when the team goes just 3-6 in the red zone, perhaps, White could have been used a bit more. Rex Burkhead also was invisible, carrying four times for two yards with just a single catch for three yards.

James Develin was solid in his blocking and added another short touchdown run. But his penalty hurt at the end of the game.

Wide Receivers: B

Both Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon had outstanding games on Sunday. Edelman had 9 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown and as always he goes into those dangerous spots over the middle. His score was reminiscent of his TD catch in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks. He had a costly drop however where he began to run before securing the ball, a very uncommon mistake for him.

Gordon was outstanding and is looking every week like he’s getting better and better. He’s a monster on those quick, short slants where he uses his size and speed to get position and then is tough to bring down. He had five catches for 96 yards and added a pass interference call as well as a holding call.

Cordarrell Patterson had two catches for 51 yards including a beauty of a 37-yard touchdown. It was a perfect throw and a very nice catch as he stretched out and snagged the ball for the score.

Chris Hogan had only one target and Brady, under pressure overthrew it badly. It was a play we wrote about this weekend, the back of the end zone pass used to be a staple in the Patriots offense and that was one of the first times we’ve seen it in a long time. And it was open too.

Tight Ends: A-

Rob Gronkowski had a very good game, arguably his best of the year on Sunday. He was targeted eight times and made eight catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. He was taking some big hit and gave the Dolphins a lot of trouble in the passing game. They were convinced that they could cover him with single coverage. They were wrong.

Gronk deserves no criticism for the ridiculousness at the end of the game. He should have never been out there in the first place.

Offensive Line: D+

The offensive line did a tremendous job in the passing game, Brady was sacked just twice and they did a very good job of keeping the interior of the pocket clean where he could step up and throw the ball.

But in the running game? They were singularly awful. Remember this is a Dolphins team that has been gashed all year long but this was their third lowest total allowed. Only two games against the anemic Jets offense did they allow less. The running backs had nowhere to run on Sunday. This was a matchup the offensive line was supposed to win and should have. They did not.

Defensive Line: D

The defensive line like the offensive line and much of the team was really good in one aspect and absolutely terrible in the other. Trey Flowers was once again terrific, he led the way with two sacks, two tackles for loss and four QB hits. And in the pass rush department, the defensive line had another strong game with 3 sacks and six QB hits.

But the Mr. Hyde part of the game was the run defense which was gashed. While that isn’t on just the DL (read below), they share in the grade as they were consistently pushed around in the running game.

Linebackers: D

The Patriots linebackers after their best game of the season against Minnesota had arguably their worst. They did do a good job of getting after Tannehill in blitzes with 1.5 sacks and a pair of QB hits.  Dont’a Hightower had his first sack of the season and John Simon was particularly effective in his best game in a Patriots uniform.

But in run support they were absolutely terrible, Miami rushed for 189 yards on just 21 carries which averages out to 9.0 yards per rush attempt. Brandon Bolden looked like Barry Sanders in his prime flying through open space for a 54-yard touchdown. No one could get off of their blocks. Elandon Roberts had a rough game, getting bulldozed on the Bolden first TD and then whiffing (how many times do we see this?) on an open field tackle attempt on Frank Gore. Hightower was fooled by Tannehill on the first series with a play fake where he ran for 13 yards.

Secondary: C

The secondary took a step back from their stellar game of a week ago. Kenny Stills was giving Jason McCourty fits all game long until he was eventually replaced by J.C. Jackson. Gilmore was beaten by Brice Butler for a touchdown on a post route that was an excellently thrown ball by Tannehill. But the rest of Miami’s receivers had no more than one catch apiece.

But on the topic of the elephant in the room or in this case a Mastodon, there were breakdowns all over the field which all help create a play which will forever be a New England Butt Fumble moment. Another look at the play, (and it is like watching a car wreck) shows some horrible situational football.

Jonathan Jones is in perfect position to make the tackle and end the game since Miami has no timeouts remaining. But instead, he foolishly tries to make a play on the ball and is then, way out of position.  Jackson and Gilmore appear to be more worried about defending another lateral and run like their feet are underwater. Devin McCourty wasn’t on the field (the only snap he missed all game) and Gronk, who isn’t a defender (more to this below) stumbled trying to get the angle on Drake. Epic fail.

Special Teams: C+

The Special Teams blocked two punts, Albert McClellan blocked both by rushing right up the middle. Ryan Allen’s punting was fantastic and the coverage units easily had their best game of the year. But Stephen Gostkowski’s two misses on easy kicks (an extra point and a chip shot 42-yard field goal) cost the team four points, which would have rendered the fiasco at the end moot. Nuff said.

Coaches: C-

The Patriots coaching staff which prides itself on not beating itself and good situational football failed on multiple accounts here. Why was Gronk in the game at all on that last play. With Miami back on its own 31, Tannehill isn’t throwing the ball 75+ yards in the air and even if he does, the team just signed 6’4 Obi Melifonwu who has a 40-inch vertical leap and can run like a scalded dog. It was unfathomable.

While the decision to go for the field goal was considered the “safe, smart” move, I’d have opted for another shot at a touchdown to put the game away and even if you don’t your forcing the Dolphins to start from inside their 5-yard line. Three points there doesn’t ice the game and you’re just giving them better field position to work from.

Just goes to show, Bill isn’t infallible, he can make mistakes. There were plenty of them to go around. We’re on to Pittsburgh…

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Miracle Finish Is Fitting End to Dolphins 34-33 Win, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
December 10, 2018 at 6:30 am ET

The Patriots got another loss in South Florida the old fashioned way…they earned it. Very uncharacteristic mental mistakes abounded and cost the team just about any slim chance they had at securing the #1 seed in the AFC playoff picture. Lost in the wild, wacky, horribly-played lateral play was a plethora of unforced errors and bad situational football which placed them in the position in the first place.

From Stephen Gostkowski doinking an extra point off the goal post and then shanking a gimme 42-yard field goal, to Bill Belichick showing an almost Andy Reid-like clock management skills at the end of the first half, to Tom Brady inexplicably forgetting how many timeouts they had. It only gets better.

Julian Edelman running before he secures the ball on a screen, Stephon Gilmore dropping a gift pick-six by Ryan Tannehill, false starts, an offense that looked unstoppable in the first half, and then scores just six points in the fourth quarter, they set themselves up for just a finish.

The decision not to go for a touchdown on 4th down at the Miami one-yard line can be debated, but a field goal didn’t put the game away and even if a touchdown attempt failed, it would have left Miami with under 30 seconds and 99 yards to go. But the pièce de résistance was the decision to put Rob Gronkowski back as the deep safety with Miami on their 31-yard line with 0:07 seconds to go.

Did the coaching staff really think that Ryan Tannehill was going to (could) throw the ball 75 yards down the field on a final Hail Mary? And even if they did, the team just signed 6’4 safety Obi Melifonwu who had a 40” vertical leap and runs like a deer. Inexplicable…but it is over and you have to own it.

Other observations include:

With the loss, the Patriots have about zero chance of now getting the top seed in the AFC. Baltimore took Kansas City to overtime but ultimately lost. They are now two games back in the standings with just three games to play.

The #2 seed and a bye still remain a very doable proposition, however. The Texans lost to the Colts and the Steelers, like the Patriots, played down to the level of their competition and lost to the 2-10 Raiders.

On a day when the defense sacks the QB five times and you block two punts…you have to get pretty creative to lose but that’s exactly what they did.

The running game was non-existent today as the Patriots managed just 77 yards on 30 carries, a paltry 2.6-yard average. Facing a Miami defense that was being gouged for 144.7 yards a game and nearly double the average yards per carrying, that was a huge win for the Fins defense.

In contrast, the Miami running game, nearly an afterthought for much of the year absolutely gashed the Patriots defense to the tune of 189 yards on 21 carries for a whopping 9.0 yards per play. Old friend Brandon Bolden looked like he was shot out of a cannon and galloped 54-yards untouched for the first of two touchdowns in the first half and Frank Gore was outstanding, rushing 12 times for 92 yards.

Tom Brady was outstanding in the first half, he was virtually unstoppable until the final two minutes, but was held to just a pair of field goals down the stretch and it would come back to haunt them. Brady finished with 27 completions in 43 attempts for 358 yards with 3 TDs and 0 Interceptions.

Both offenses were scoring at will in the first half, up and down the field each team was moving the ball and scoring with ease.

The silly questions about Brady’s arm strength were put to rest (for now) on Sunday. On back-to-back plays, he lasered a 3rd and 10 pass to Edelman for 16 yards and then to Cordarrelle Patterson for a 37-yard touchdown.

Rob Gronkowski had arguably his best game of the season and caught 8 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. He also took some hard shots to his knees and lower body.

Kenny Stills was nearly uncoverable for Miami, turning in a great game catching 8 passes for 135 yards and a score on nine targets. He was consistently getting the better of Jason McCourty and easily won that matchup today.

Josh Gordon turned in another solid game catching 5 passes for 96 yards, several of the difficult variety. Gordon and Patterson give the Patriots the size and speed that they’ve lacked in the passing game. Julian Edelman, doing the dirty work underneath, caught 9 passes for 86 yards, but his drop of a screen pass where it appeared he had some room to run was a drive killer. We’ll have to rewatch the tape of that one.

Albert McClellan was signed to give the Special Teams a boost and today, he did exactly that. Blowing straight up the middle he not only blocked one but two punts. The second one with just under a minute to go in the half gave the Patriots the ball at the 15. Normally this is when the Patriots and Brady put a dagger into the hearts of opponents…however>>>

Clock Management Andy Reid Style 1.0: The Dolphins had the ball at their own 25-yard line with 3:49 left in the half. The Patriots forced a three-and-out but didn’t use their timeouts as the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning. But after taking over at their own 20, they did nothing punted back to Miami with one minute left.

Clock Management Andy Reid Style 2.0: After the Patriots sack Tannehill and have the Dolphins facing a 2nd-and-21, then they finally stop the clock with just 46 seconds left. They then sacked Brock Osweiler, then block the punt and take over at the Dolphins 15-yard line with 30 seconds left. Brady zipped another laser to Gronk put them at the Miami 2 with 21 seconds left. Brady then overthrew an open Chris Hogan along the back of the end zone, (a play we’ve been clamoring for)  and then inexplicably took a sack on third down with no timeouts left and come away with nothing.

Weird play in the third quarter when Trey Flowers punched the ball away from Gore causing a fumble. The officials signaled that Miami had recovered yet when the scrum had cleared the Patriots flipped the ball back to the official. Another one where maybe the tape will clear it up.

The final play will mask what was a pretty good day by the Patriots secondary. Other than Stills, the rest of Miami’s passing game was pretty much held in tow. But that isn’t how the game unfolded.

Then with 0:07 seconds to go, the Dolphins had the ball on their 31-yard line. The Patriots defenders said after the game, that they knew it was too far for a Hail Mary and it would be a lateral situation. Then why place Gronk back there for McCourty? Or Melifonwu for that matter. Tannehill hit Stills with about a 20-yard pass where Jonathan Jones took an angle that we haven’t seen since Jordan Richards whiffed on JuJu Smith Schuster in Pittsburgh a year ago.

Stills lateraled to DeVante Parker who then lateralled to Kenyan Drake and the play unfolded and it looked like Moses parting the Red Sea as Patriots defenders were lost in the wake. Gronkowski stumbled and missed a chance to knock him out at the two-yard line and Miami had the finish that kept alive their playoff hopes for another week.

Now the Pats are on to Pittsburgh, who have dropped three in a row. And lost again in stunning fashion to the lowly Raiders. But don’t expect that kind of performance from them next week. The Patriots coaches will have to work hard with the team after that meltdown.That is the kind of loss that can stick with a team.

Patriots-Dolphins Week 14, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 7, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

The New England Patriots head out for the first of their final two road games of the 2018 regular season. They play in Miami this week and Pittsburgh next week in games that will go a long way in determining where they stand in terms of AFC Playoff seeding.

The Patriots can clinch their 10th straight AFC East title with a win or a tie and would set a record for making the playoffs in10 straight years. They are currently tied with the Dallas Cowboys (1975-83) and the Indianapolis Colts (2002- 10) as the only teams to play in the postseason for nine straight seasons.

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

The Patriots (9-3) beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 in Foxboro as the defense was outstanding limiting the Vikings offense to just 278 yards while rolling up 471 of their own.

The Dolphins (6-6) beat the Buffalo Bills 21-17 as Ryan Tannehill threw for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter come-from-behind win.

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

Series History:

The Patriots and the Dolphins are meeting for the 107th time in their history. Miami holds the overall edge 54-52 with each team holding big advantages at home. Against the Dolphins in Miami, the Patriots are 4-15 in the month of December.

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 Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game is nearly back to full strength with Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead as the three main backs in the backfield. But Julian Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson both will see some carries on Jet Sweeps. James Develin, their big blocking fullback is now a short-yardage option. He scored a pair of touchdowns last week against Minnesota.

The Dolphins run defense was first gashed by the Patriots to the tune of 175 yards this season after Miami began 3-0. Since then they allowed 164 to the Bears, 248 vs the Lions, 188 to Houston, 195 to Green Bay, and 198 to the Bills. Miami is allowing an average of 144.7 yards per game and 5.0 yards per rush, which is 30th in the league.

Look for the Patriots to try to pound the rock all day between the tackles. Miami’s defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Akeem Spence have not played well against the run and neither have linebackers, Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso. If DC Matt Burke tries to bring the safeties up into the box in run support or blitz the linebackers, it will open up play-action passing.

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

The Patriots passing game has been playing their cards close to their vest lately as their being fairly conservative in the passing game. But in Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan at wide receiver, Rob Gronkowski at tight end and James White, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel out of the backfield, Tom Brady has a plethora of weapons. Add it Patterson and Phillip Dorsett and the depth is there for them to mix it up.

Miami may be without their best defensive player in Xavien Howard who has a knee injury. He’s an All-Pro talent who leads the team with seven interceptions this year. With him injured they’ve been forced to play Minkah Fitzpatrick at the other corner with Bobby McCain in the slot. If Howard can’t go, 2nd-year corner Torry McTyer will get the start. Miami has two very talented edge rushers in Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake but they’ll need to get pressure up the middle if they want to be successful there.

Look for Brady to utilize the “Pony” backfield with White and Burkhead on third down a lot in this one, they’ll try to isolate the linebackers in coverage and keep the sticks moving. If Howard is indeed out, look for Brady and Gordon to test McTyer. Chris Hogan could be an “X-Factor” this week.  

Next up the Miami offense:

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

The Dolphins running game is averaging 102.7 yards per game (24th) this season with a 4.3 average yards per carry. They have two very good backs in the ageless Frank Gore who leads the team with 616 yards and the dangerous Kenyan Drake. Their problem has been the offensive line hasn’t been on the field enough because of injuries.

The Patriots rush defense is currently 13th allowing 106.7 yards per game. They’ve been trending up in that regard and this week, they’ll have their hands full as the Dolphins will try to mix things up by using both Gore and Drake. They’ll have to get a big game out of their linebackers, especially Kyle Van Noy who Adam Gase was talking about this week.

Look for the Patriots to go to a bigger front this week with Gore in the lineup and try to get Miami into the 3rd and long passing situations. They’ll have to set the edge this week as the Dolphins should be much more patient with their running game than the Vikings were.

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

The Miami passing game is 28th in the league averaging just 199.4 yards per game. But getting Ryan Tannehill back from injury has helped and in the last two games, he’s had a passer rating of over 100 against the Colts and Bills defenses. He has DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and Danny Amendola as wide receivers with Nick O’Leary and Mike Gesicki at tight end with Drake out of the backfield. The team was much more explosive before Jakim Grant and Albert Wilson went on IR.

The Patriots defense had their best game of the year last week against the Vikings. The secondary stuck like glue to the receivers and they had constant pressure on QB Kirk Cousins. Can they do that again in South Florida?

I would expect they will try to match Stephon Gilmore on Stills which should be a great matchup to watch. And I’d expect either Jason McCourty or J.C. Jackson on Parker with either McCourty or Jonathan Jones on Amendola in the slot. The key is getting pressure on Tannehill and look for the Patriots to attack the middle/right side where the Dolphins OL is banged up and RG Jesse Davis has not played well.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Miami

Both teams have gotten solid play in the kicking game from punter Matt Haack and kicker Jason Sanders for Miami and Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski for New England. But Sanders gives the Dolphins the edge in the kicking game, especially at home. While Patterson in the return game is always a threat to return a big one. But although Miami misses Grant in the return game, the Pats coverage units have been uncharacteristically very inconsistent.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one is a playoff game for both teams. Unlike 2013 and 2015 when the Patriots came limping into Miami beat up, this year it is the Dolphins who are all banged up with injuries while the Patriots are as healthy as one can expect at this time of year.

Last year the Pats got caught looking ahead to Pittsburgh and got their butts handed to them. But last year they afford that loss and keep the #1 seed as long as they beat Pittsburgh the next week. This year they don’t have that luxury and they know Miami still has a shot for a playoff berth.

Three keys from a Pats perspective:

Run the Ball Between the Tackles:
Miami isn’t good against the run and they’re ranked 30th for a reason. Spread the wealth between the three RBs and keep their defense on their heels. Plus it will open up play action and slow down their edge rushers.

Win the Turnover Battle:
Miami isn’t an offense that scores a lot of points, they can’t afford to get into a shootout situation. Their 29th in offense and 29th in defense. They are still in the hunt because they force a lot of turnovers. Make them go the length of the field with no easy scoring drives is a win-win situation.

Get After Tannehill:
Dolphins QBs have been sacked 31 times this year, the offensive line is suspect. Especially in the center and on the right. The Patriots don’t have a lot of sacks this year but they are among the top teams at creating pressure. They need to do that and force Tannehill into making mistakes. When they’ve lost to Miami down there, he was standing flat-footed in the pocket for much of those games.

Look for the Pats to play much better this time around. Belichick will harp on the way they looked past them last December and they should be ready to play. Look for Michel, Burkhead, and White to all have big games for the Patriots as the defense clamps down this time in South Beach. The East goes thru New England again.   Patriots 27-13

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Patriots  Week 14  Report Card, Dolphins Dump Patriots 27-20

Steve Balestrieri
December 13, 2017 at 10:36 am ET

First things first, and we’ve said this many times in the past, however this time the script was flipped. The score is far from indicative of how the game played out on the field. Miami dominated this one from start to finish in all three phases of the game. That the Patriots were still within striking distance late in the game to attempt an onside kick was a testament to their resiliency because they really had no business winning this game.

It was a very disappointing effort on all accounts as they had an opportunity to wrap up the division with a win and played their worst game in the past two months.

So we’ll go thru the positions after rewatching the tape and see what the grades say this week.

Quarterback: C-

Tom Brady had what he characterized as his worst game of the season, which is pretty accurate. The Dolphins switched up their defense, took away the middle of the field,  and were getting constant pressure on him while their corners completely shut down the Patriots wide receivers on the perimeter. Brady was forced into forcing low percentage passes down the field. He was picked off twice and nearly had a third.

He was forced to throw to the backs time and again because he had nowhere else to go.It was a very frustrating night for the team and its quarterback. It didn’t help matters that the offensive line wasn’t having a good night either. The Patriots were 0-11 on third down and Brady’s ability to slide and move in the pocket was the only reason the Dolphins didn’t have half a dozen sacks.

Running Backs: C

The Patriots didn’t run the ball effectively enough and then abandoned the idea way too soon in the second half. Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead had just 10 carries between them, James White had one. When the offense, which has been so balanced falls into that kind of ratio, bad things can happen and on a night where their top two receivers (Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski) weren’t in the lineup…bad things abounded.

Lewis had a fantastic one-handed stab of a pass Brady floated out when the Dolphins blitzed and Lewis, running a wheel route turned it into a 20-yard gain.

Burkhead turned one screen into a 23-yard play and had a nice run behind a block from James Develin into the first touchdown of the game.

James White made a really nice catch on a low throw from Brady and was able to keep his balance and dove for the pylon for a touchdown.

Wide Receivers: D

The wide receivers probably didn’t get the memo that the game started at 8:30 because they didn’t show up and then barely at that until the second half. Xavien Howard completely shut down Brandin Cooks, he wasn’t able to do anything on the Dolphins corner who picked off two passes. He had no catches until late in the game when he snagged a 38-yard pass when Miami had gone to a zone and blew the coverage and left him all alone. Chris Hogan caught one pass for one yard on five targets, being much less a factor in his return than was thought.

Danny Amendola had six catches including a nice 23-yard grab where he just came up short of falling into the end zone with just under two minutes to go in the game. Had the onside kick worked, it would have been a much bigger play.

Tight Ends: D

No Rob Gronkowski this week equated to zero production from the tight end position. With Gronk out, the Dolphins left a safety in the middle and Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister were not able to make any production at all where it was needed most.

Allen was targeted five times although not all of Brady’s throws were on the mark. He ended up with two catches for 10 yards. Not nearly enough.

Offensive Line: D

The offensive line had a night that they’d rather forget although, with Dante Scarnecchia as their coach, they’ll hear about it this week. The running game rushed for 25 yards, Brady has hit hard all night and the Dolphins blitzes weren’t being picked up nearly as sharply as they should have. The fact that Brady was sacked only twice speaks much more about his ability to move and slide in the pocket and unload the ball than it did about their ability to protect him.

The bad night was shared equally. All of the members were getting beat at different times on Monday night. Ndamukong Suh had a very strong game, he overmatched them inside all night long.

Defensive Line: C-

The defensive line was thin, missing Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy who plays both on the edge and as a linebacker. Then Alan Branch went down with a knee injury, tried to come back and left for good. That left Deatrich Wise, Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy and Eric Lee playing a lot of snaps with little rest. That is an awful lot of inexperience there. Only Guy has played in the league longer than this season. And he had a terrific game and really stepped up his play. He had two run stuffs and nearly had a pick-six when Jay Cutler literally threw the ball right to him on a botched screen.

Butler had a few flashes, especially late in the game when the defense stiffened in the fourth quarter, but the run defense was gashed by Kenyan Drake and their inability to set the edge hurt. Lee was caught a few time not doing that, and for a guy with three games of experience in the NFL, that is what happens when the next man up mantra gets overused. No pass rush to speak of, Cutler was way too comfortable for most of the night. This unit needs to get healthy quickly this week.

Linebackers: D+

Elandon Roberts had arguably his best game as a Patriot two weeks ago against Miami but the script was flipped on him this time around and he had one of his worst. Due to injuries and David Harris being a healthy scratch, it was just Roberts and Marquis Flowers for the majority of the night. The run support wasn’t great, (Roberts’ specialty). Matt Patricia called a run blitz and instead of stuffing it behind the line, Roberts whiffed (a common occurrence all night) and Drake ran for 26 yards. Miami isolated him with Drake split wide and the results were what one would expect. That isn’t Roberts fault, the Patriots often do the exact same thing. It is up to the coaches to get him some help. Letting the speedy Drake run a 47-yard fly on Roberts is a win for Miami. Marquis Flowers had a forgettable night but did have one nice stop on Drake for a loss. Trevor Reilly made a cameo.

Secondary: C

The secondary had its weakest game in the last two months. Malcolm Butler had a very rough night. He was burned by 5’6 wide receiver Jakeem Grant for a 25-yard touchdown and should have given up another. Grant flew by him and was wide open. Cutler put the ball perfectly in his hands and Grant dropped it.

Stephon Gilmore and Jonathan Jones were simply okay and not playing anywhere near the level they had been in the past month plus. The players looked like the dreaded communication issues were resurfacing with all of the crosses and bunch formations Miami was running. Pat Chung got faked out completely on a beauty of a spin move by Drake…that is one you just tip your hat to the foe.

Devin McCourty was solid and came unblocked on a blitz where he made a big sack of Cutler keeping the Patriots close. Jordan Richards came on another similar play and whiffed completely, resulting in a first down and later a Miami touchdown.

Special Teams: B-

The star here was Ryan Allen, who had his best game in quite awhile. He had a strong 46.4 net punting average with incredible hang time which really limited Miami’s ability to return the ball. He dropped several inside the 20. That fact alone kept the Patriots hanging around late in the game. Stephen Gostkowski hit both field goals and his kickoffs once again were outstanding, Miami’s kick return game was stifled by excellent coverage. The Patriots return game was stuffed completely as Miami’s coverage units were likewise outstanding.

What in the world was up with that onside kick? That had to be one of the uglier attempts I’ve seen, rivaling the Colts fake punt. Ugly design, uglier execution.

Coaches: C-

Bill Belichick was outcoached by Adam Gase, something that doesn’t happen all too often. The team came out flat and seemed unprepared. They usually have one of these type of games every year but this was the worst of all possible times to have that happen.

Josh McDaniels had some curious play calls and abandoned the run far too soon which seemed a bit of a panic move especially with the team down only three at the half. Matt Patricia’s MASH unit on defense was gashed both on the ground and in the air. But he did what he had to do, got creative with some blitzes and the defense made five straight stops late in the game to give them a chance to come back.

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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.

Ugly MNF Loss As Miami Dominates the Flat Patriots 27-20

Steve Balestrieri
December 12, 2017 at 8:30 am ET

Yes, we know how short-handed the Patriots were on Monday night, missing several key players and losing another in the first half, but that wasn’t the story on Monday night in Miami. The Dolphins were the team ready to play on Monday night and it showed. They dominated in all three phases of the game and the final 27-20 score doesn’t do justice to how much they pressured and stymied the Patriots offense.

Monday night was the Patriots worst game since their early season struggles. They were sluggish from the opening snap and Miami’s offense set the tone early. The Dolphins were running short crossing routes and the Patriots defenders were having trouble with their communication and the crossers and rub routes were very effective. Jay Cutler didn’t resemble anything close to the aging QB who has struggled all season in South Beach and had arguably his best game of the season. Cutler, scraggly neck beard and all, even showed some fire on the field as he beat New England for the first time in his career.

On the opposite side, Tom Brady was flustered and off-balance all night. The Patriots offense had to rely on their running backs as their wide receivers were MIA in Miami all game long and were a complete non-factor. The Patriots also ended their streak of allowing 17 points or less as well as their 14-game road winning streak. Other observations from tonight’s game include:

Play Calling Curious: Josh McDaniels abandoned the running game far too early in this one. Despite being dominated in the first half, the team was down only 13-10 at halftime. The last time the two teams met, New England rushed for nearly 200 yards. To only give your running backs 10 carries? Curious.

Late in the game, needing two scores, Danny Amendola was tackled right near the goal line giving the team first and goal at the one-foot line. Rather than attempting to run it in, they passed, steadily moving backward until they faced a 3rd and goal from the 15-yard line. They kicked a field goal but the onside kick was comically bad and Miami recovered and killed the clock.

But had they scored a touchdown there, a field goal would have been all that was needed to tie the score. Very un-Patriot like.

Offensive Line Issues Abound: With the running game an after-thought, the Patriots offensive line was not up to the task of protecting Brady. Miami was blitzing all night, normally a sign that New England would be eating them up offensively, but not tonight.

Brady was under duress from all points of the compass and pointing the finger at just Cameron Fleming is wrong. They were beat all along the line and the communication there wasn’t the best.

The worst part is, the pressure Miami was bringing was right up the middle, not allowing Brady to step up enough and throw in the pocket.

Dolphins Secondary Dominates: Miami did a great job of taking away the middle of the field. Granted, that is a spot where Gronkowski normally dominates, but other than passes to the running backs, Brady and the wide receivers were never able to get anything going in the middle of the field until very late in the game.

Xavien Howard erased Brandin Cooks tonight, and intercepted Brady twice. Cooks was shut out until the fourth quarter when the Dolphins dropped into a zone and had a bad bust in coverage. But holding Cooks and Hogan to one catch a piece is a big win for their secondary.

Danny Amendola ended up with six catches with all of them coming in the second half. Miami forced Brady into his first two-interception game in the regular season since 2015 against Philadelphia. And the Patriots were an astounding 0-11 on third down.

Brady Battered and Flustered: Tom Brady was hit hard again and this time, the effects were shown. He finished 24-43 for 233 yards with one touchdown and two picks. His QB rating of 59.5 was his lowest since 2013.

Unable to convert a single third down and a combined 2-12 when targeting Cooks and Hogan, Brady was unloading those low percentage deep balls time and again. In the first quarter, the Patriots got two (2) yards of offense. Two, that is not the way you want to start.  In the second half, they got away from targeting the running backs as they were forced to stay in and help with pass protection.

Kenyan Drake Shreds the Defense: The former Alabama third down specialist is now an every-down back and he’s electric. The Dolphins wanted to get him the ball more as he’s got tremendous speed. And his array of moves was on full display tonight. He faked Pat Chung with a spin move leaving Chung holding air that was amazing. And once he hits the hole, if the defense doesn’t lay a hand on him, he has the speed to take it to the house.

Drake finished with 25 carries for 114 yards and five catches for 79 more in the passing game. They split him out wide and isolated him on Elandon Roberts which is a total mismatch. While Roberts has issues in coverage, asking him to cover Drake deep is a win-win for Miami. He burned Roberts for a 47-yard gain deep down the right sideline.

If Drake can hold up physically, he’s going to be an intriguing member of the Fins to watch next year.

Butler Has Rough Game: Malcolm Butler had one of his least memorable games in Miami tonight. He was constantly behind in coverage and was beaten badly by Jakeem Grant a couple of times, one for a 25-yard touchdown and on another on a deep pass by Cutler that was perfectly thrown and the wide-open Grant dropped it.

Butler is going to have to have a very short memory this week as he’ll be facing Antonio Brown this week in Pittsburgh. And judging from the game Brown had on Sunday and Butler had last night, the Steelers will be going to the well early and often against Butler this Sunday afternoon.

Branch Injury Leaves Defense More Depleted: The Patriots defensive line took another shot as Alan Branch injured his knee in the first half, tried to return but left for good leaving an already depleted defense even thinner. Facing the Steelers offensive line and Le’Veon Bell on a short week, if Branch is unable to go, that will be a huge loss.

Right now they have Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, and Adam Butler inside, with Guy playing some on the edge as well with Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy out. Vincent Valentine hasn’t even begun practicing yet so expecting help from him this week is not going to happen.

The Patriots simply were outplayed from start to finish in this one. Miami was hungrier, more motivated and came out with a purpose. This is what we expected from New England. So the Dolphins are alive for one more week and the Patriots still hold their destiny in their hands. With a win over the Steelers, they’d still own the #1 seed.  We’ll have more on this game later in the 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 Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Dolphins MNF Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
December 8, 2017 at 12:10 pm ET

The Patriots go back out on the road for their fourth game in the last five as they take on the Miami Dolphins in South Florida on Monday Night Football. This is a hat and t-shirt game for the Patriots. With a win or a tie, the Patriots clinch the AFC East once again for the ninth straight time and the 17th since Robert Kraft took over the team in 1994.

This week’s game will be broadcast by ESPN on Monday, December 11 at 8:30 p.m. and can be seen on WCVB, Channel 5 in Boston. Sean McDonough will handle play-by-play duties with Jon Gruden as the color analyst. Lisa Salters 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 (10-2) are coming off a 23-3 blowout win over the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park. The running game ran for nearly 200 yards while the defense for the eighth game in a row allowed 17 points or less.The Patriots secondary held Buffalo to just 82 yards passing

The Dolphins (5-7) are coming off of a 35-9 blowout win over Denver. The team snapped a five-game losing streak and are looking to get some consistency.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Dolphins are meeting for the 105th time overall with Miami holding a 53-51 lead all-time in the teams’ rivalry. However, the Patriots have won 12 of the last 15 meetings including the lone from two weeks ago where the Patriots rolled 35-17 behind 196 yards on the ground.

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 Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been steadily improving behind the tandem of Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis. Two weeks ago against Miami, Lewis ran for 112 yards on 15 carries. They controlled the clock, the tempo and the line of scrimmage./

Miami has issues with the run with DE Andre Branch and DT Jordan Phillips having problems in the running game. If the Patriots see these two on the same side, look for them to run right at them. While they may not roll up 200 yards on the ground again, they should still find plenty of room to be more than a complimentary piece.

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

The Patriots passing game is averaging 292 yards per game, tops in the NFL. Tom Brady however, won’t have his top receiver, Rob Gronkowski in the game as he’ll be serving a one-game suspension. But…the team may get back Chris Hogan this week. He’s been at practice all week and if he’s able to go would signal a huge boost in the Patriots passing game outside the numbers.

Miami got after Brady with very good pressure from everyone across the defensive line in the first matchup. They’ll need an effort like that again because their best corner  Cordrea Tankersley could miss this week with ankle and knee woes. Without Gronkowski look for Brady to spread them out and try to use their quickness all over the field. They’ll try to get Brandin Cooks the ball in space and Hogan (if he plays) may get the chance to go deep on a few plays down the field. The backs will again be a major factor in both the running and passing games.

Next up the Dolphins offense:

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

The Dolphins running game hasn’t been the same since they traded the freelancing Jay Ajayi to the Eagles. The carries have been shared between Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams, but Williams is dealing with a shoulder issue and may not go.

The Patriots run defense has not been good and was gashed pretty well by the Bills last week although the return of Malcom Brown should help things. But will the Dolphins have the depth to force enough leverage there? The feeling here is no especially if they find themselves falling behind again.

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

Miami will have Jay Cutler back under center this week. He’s a different player than Matt Moore, so we’ll probably see some more shots down the field. Jarvis Landry had eight catches for 70 yards in the first one and he, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker with tight end Julius Thomas should be much more productive than they are.

The Patriots pass defense is playing tremendous right now. It is a possibility that we’ll see some of Eric Rowe on Landry this week as he has a bit of size, although Jonathan Jones matched up well with Landry in the first meeting.

Look for the Patriots to be much more aggressive against this beatable Miami offensive line again. They teed off in the second half and got six sacks. Cutler isn’t mobile and the Patriots may call down the dogs this week.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski is having an outstanding season. His kickoffs are pinning teams deep and the outstanding coverage units are smothering the opposition. The Dolphins have solid kickers but aren’t generating anything in the return game. The Patriots Special Teams has been scoring points, blocking kicks, and last time ran a fake punt for a big first down that set up a touchdown.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one is a divisional matchup on Monday Night so, as we’ve seen all season, anything can happen. But unless the Patriots implode, I can’t see the Dolphins beating New England this week. However, the Patriots have traditionally not played well in the heat of Miami. It does help that this one is at night so that shouldn’t be a big factor.

Having No Rob Gronkowski is a big blow for the Patriots offense but if Chris Hogan is able to come back and play this week it will be a nice boost to the outside passing game. Look for the running game to continue their solid play and Brady to spread the Dolphins defense out. Miami may run the ball effectively, but I don’t see Cutler having a good night against the secondary. New England heads to Pittsburgh 11-2 setting up a big game next week.  Patriots 30-13

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 – Dolphins Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
November 24, 2017 at 9:16 am ET

The Patriots return home for one game this week against the Miami Dolphins before heading back out on the road for a three-game road trip. In a weird quirk in the NFL’s scheduling, the Patriots and Dolphins meet twice in three weeks.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, November 19 at 1:05 p.m. and can be seen 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 (8-2) are coming off a very successful two-game road trip with blowout wins coming against the Denver Broncos 41-16 and last week in Mexico City against the Oakland Raiders 33-8. Tom Brady continues his torrid pace in 2017 and the defense for the sixth game in a row allowed 17 points or less.

The Dolphins (4-6) have lost four in a row and in danger of falling out of the playoff race after entering the season with so much hope of earning back to back playoff berths.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Dolphins history has been a streaky one with Miami holding an overall 53-50 lead all-time in the teams’ rivalry. However, the Patriots have won 11 of the past 14 meetings including the last eight at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots swept the series last season, 31-24 in Week 2 with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at the helm and in the regular season finale 35-14 in Miami.

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 Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been improving with Dion Lewis taking over the bulk of the running game with Rex Burkhead getting the complimentary carries and James White just a few here and there. Mike Gillislee has been a healthy scratch for two weeks in a row. The Patriots haven’t run the ball a ton lately because they’ve been so adept at passing it but this week could see more emphasis on the running game.

Miami for the first month of the season looked vastly improved in the running game. But during their losing streak, they’ve been getting gashed by the run. Having released Rey Maualuga at middle linebacker won’t help matters as he was impressive as a run stuffer.

Look for the Patriots to mix things up quite a bit this week. Miami’s defensive ends will be looking to influence the passing game by teeing off, so they’ll attempt to run right at them on Sunday.

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

The Patriots passing game is averaging over 300 yards per game, tops in the NFL. Tom Brady has been brilliant about spreading the ball around to a plethora of different receivers and they’re continually able to find mismatches. With their wide receivers banged up, they haven’t missed a beat.

Miami’s pass defense is allowing just 229 yards per game but opposing QBs are completing nearly 70 percent of their throws and have an average passer rating of 104.3 which is second worst in the league.

Look for Brady to work the tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett as well as the running backs, James White and Rex Burkhead heavily into the mix this week. The Dolphins pass rush has had issues getting to the QB, and if Brady has time, he’ll carve them up in death by 1000 cuts.

Next up the Dolphins offense:

Dolphins RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Miami

The Dolphins traded their top running back Jay Ajayi to the Eagles earlier in the season and now are going with Damien Williams and the intriguing Kenyan Drake who’s averaging about 5.5 yards per carry. The Dolphins have been struggling to run averaging just 80.4 yards per game and score, with just one rushing touchdown on the season.

The Patriots run defense has struggled in 2017, with Malcom Brown injured and Vincent Valentine and Dont’a Hightower on IR, the middle of the line has been suspect. Coupled with less than stellar play that we’ve come to expect from Alan Branch, it is an issue. The Raiders ran the ball effectively last week but the Patriots jumped out to such a big lead they were forced to abandon it.

Look for Miami to feature Drake more this week. Williams has been the de facto starter since Ajayi left but that may change as they are looking for answers to get their offense untracked. And we feel here, Drake will have a solid day on the ground.

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

Miami’s passing game has been mired in mediocrity since Ryan Tannehill went down in camp. The team signed Jay Cutler and he hasn’t gotten it done. With the targets he has in the passing game with Jarvis Landry (3rd in the NFL with 67 catches), Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Julius Thomas at tight end and the running backs, the Dolphins passing game should be its strength.

The Patriots pass defense is playing much better since a nightmarish start to the season. Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler did a fine job on the duo of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper last week. Landry is their go-to guy to move the sticks but Stills is the Miami big play guy and if Eric Rowe isn’t ready to go, that will fall to Jonathan Jones, who has played well this year.

Cutler was in concussion protocol this week but did return to practice, albeit in a limited fashion on Thursday, which means he probably passed. If so, he’ll probably get the start but one has to wonder if the Dolphins would be better suited to go with the steady if unspectacular Matt Moore in there.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski was the AFC STs Player of the Week after booting a pair of 50+ yard field goals (62 and 51) in a 4-4 day against the Raiders. His short kickoffs coupled with outstanding coverage has put the Patriots in great advantageous position. Ryan Allen’s punting has been steadily improving and it seems like every week the Patriots are getting big plays from their STs units.

The Dolphins Special teams have been playing very well. Their own coverage units are very solid and they have a pair of very good kickers but their return game hasn’t had a big impact. With the way New England’s STs units are playing right now, they get the nod.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one will be an intriguing one to keep an eye on. The Patriots will want to get off to a fast start and see if Miami, who has dropped four in a row answer the bell or pack it in. Two of their four losses in the last month have been blowouts. The Patriots secondary has been much, much better the past month and I look for them to continue that trend this week. It is a much different atmosphere for the Dolphins when they play at Foxboro. They haven’t won in New England since the Wildcat game in 2008 when Matt Cassel was the QB for New England.

Look for Tom Brady to spread the Dolphins out and find the mismatches underneath. Getting T.J. McDonald back from an eight game suspension should help in defending the tight ends, but he and Reshad Jones can only do so much. The running backs in the passing game may open up some down the field options for Brandin Cooks.

The Patriots hold serve at home with another big win and head to Buffalo at 9-2.  Patriots 34-16

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 – Miami, Despite Dropping Four in a Row, Dolphins Still in the Hunt

Steve Balestrieri
November 22, 2017 at 11:15 am ET

After a very good 2016 where they made the playoffs, the confidence was high in Miami this season. The team had surrounded Ryan Tannehill with a very nice array of weapons and the defense was looking to make a big turnaround.

But things haven’t worked out that well. Tannehill was hurt in training camp and was lost for the season. The team signed Jay Cutler and he hasn’t worked out. The Dolphins offense has sputtered along and is currently 30th in the NFL in yards and 31st in scoring averaging just 15.7 points per game. Jay Ajayi was traded in midseason and the running game is mired in neutral.

The defense, while the middle of the road in terms of yardage is 25th in points allowed and hasn’t made the strides that they envisioned.

Here are some other of our first impressions of the Dolphins:

Down But Not Out: Miami’s dropped four in a row and is now sitting at 4-6, but they are still very much in the hunt for a playoff spot. They’re only a game behind the Bills and Ravens who are 5-5 for the final playoff berth.

So while head coach Adam Gase must get things turned around quickly for the Dolphins, a loss this weekend doesn’t spell the end of their season although no one wants to lose five straight.

Parker Has Been Disappointing this Season: Jarvis Landry has been the go-to guy in the Dolphins passing offense in 2017. He’s been the guy to move the chains and leads the team with 67 catches and 6 touchdowns. Kenny Stills has been their home run threat averaging 14.7 yards per reception with 40 catches with 5 touchdowns. But the third part of their three-headed monster at wide receiver, DeVante Parker has been a disappointment this season. He has just 34 catches for 404 yards and one touchdown.

This was supposed to be both Parker and Tannehill’s coming out party this season and despite a stellar training camp where he turned heads and was expected to light it up in 2017. Part of the reason is a nagging ankle injury that caused him to miss some time.

He’s still not 100 percent and the feeling around Miami is beginning to develop that Parker is just one of those players that just won’t perform at a high level unless he’s feeling great.

While all eyes will be on Landry this week, the guy to watch is Stills who they’ll probably operate out of the slot against Jonathan Jones. Miami quarterbacks have a 117.4 passer rating when targeting Stills in 2017. For Parker, who was targeted nine times last week and caught just four passes for 26 yards, Dolphins QBs have just a 77.9 passer rating when targeting him.

Running on Empty: The Dolphins running game is averaging just 80.4 yards per game this season which is just 29th in the league. They jettisoned Jay Ajayi who is currently loving life in Philadelphia. That leaves them with Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake. Williams has been getting the most reps but that may be about to change. Williams ripped off a 69 yard run last week. But his other 10 runs netted just 9 yards.

Drake meanwhile is averaging a stellar 5.5 yards per carry and has the blazing speed that makes him dangerous.

Tight end Anthony Fasano who has played with Jamaal Charles and DeMarco Murray likes what Drake in limited reps has been able to do and thinks he’s just scratching the surface. In an interview with Palm Beach Post, he raved about the 2nd year running back.

Once they break through the secondary, they’re a threat to go the entire field,” Fasano said Friday. “At any moment. That breakaway speed they all have in common. DeMarco has great vision. And can really find holes. Jamaal has elusiveness and can bounce it. And Drake is the same way. So I could just say the breakaway speed and the vision are similar.”

Dolphins Pass Defense Will Be Tested This Week: On the surface, Miami’s pass defense looks to be very stout. They’re allowing just 229.3 yards per game and have given up just one pass play of 45 yards or more all season.

But opposing quarterbacks can be patient and work their way down the field as opposing QBs have completed 67.6 percent of their passes. Miami has only three interceptions on the season and has allowed 18 touchdown passes. Opponents’ passer rating is 104.3. This type of game plays into what the Patriots and Tom Brady do well.

One area to monitor will be the tight ends. Miami has struggled to cover tight ends and the Patriots can throw to three at any given time. Rob Gronkowski will be a matchup to watch this week. Whoever gets him and it may be two defenders it will open up single coverage on someone else.

The Dolphins pass rush hasn’t been as productive as they’ve hoped. They’ve logged just 17 sacks, the same number that the Patriots have. Cameron Wake leads the way with six and Ndamukong Suh has 3.5 and as always, they’ll have to be accounted for. Wake seemed to tire at the end of games lately so it will be imperative for the coaches to limit his reps and work in Charles Harris and William Hayes into the lineup.

Check back later this week with us and we’ll have a detailed breakdown of all the key matchups in this game.

Happy Thanksgiving all….

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 Tuesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Mock Draft 2.0 – Early April Edition

Steve Balestrieri
April 4, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Free Agency signings make for better draft flexibility

With the Patriots still being active in free agency, it is time to conduct our Patriots Mock Draft 2.0 – Early April Edition. Obviously with the moves their making with available veterans it will affect the way they approach the draft.

There is a fascinating tool to use for doing a mock draft made possible by the guys over at Fanspeak.com that we touted last year and is even more fun to use in 2015.
In their “On the Clock” simulator, you are the GM for any NFL team. You can choose how many rounds you’d like to draft for (1-7), and pick one of nine different big boards to choose from.

All of the big boards differ quite a bit and the site has a random selection process that picks for the other 31 teams based upon the best player available and team needs that are constantly updated. For this second mock draft (4-2), I used the big board of Optimum Scouting.

I say this because the big boards differ a great deal depending upon the board chosen. I did another using a different big board and the results were vastly different. Looking at how the board plays out, I think we can all expect the Patriots to make a move to move into either the 4th or 5th rounds as the talent level begins to drop steeply between the third and sixth rounds.

With the continued moves the Patriots are conducting in free agency, it makes their job a bit easier once the draft rolls around. Without as many holes to fill, they can be flexible and opt for the best player available or move up and down if they so choose. It was a surprise to see both a well-known RB and CB plummet down the draft boards until they were available much later that we thought earlier… Read on.

Here is our Patriots Mock Draft 2.0 – Early April Edition:

Round 2, Pick #1 RB Alex Collins, Arkansas: Collins earned second team All-SEC honors behind Heisman winner Derrick Henry in 2015 where he had his third 1000-yard season in a row, rushing for 1577 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Razorbacks.

Collins has good size at 5’10”, 217 pounds and was a TD machine getting 32 scores in three years. Great vision and patience, keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and stays low with excellent pad level thru the hole.

Displays very good hands out of the backfield and is very consistent at finding daylight and moving the sticks. His major red flag is ball security, with 16 fumbles over the past three seasons.

Round 2, Pick #2 OT Joe Haeg, North Dakota State: Haeg was a 4-year starter at NDSU and is versatile, playing both tackle spots. Athletic at 6’6, 304 pounds, he could use some bulking up at the NFL level as well as building up his core strength.

Haeg uses his length to his advantage in pass protection and has good agility and lateral quickness to get to the edge in the running game. His run blocking needs to improve a bit.

Selecting him in the 2nd round may be a bit of a reach, but with the NFL strength and conditioning program and being coached up by Dante Scarnecchia, Haeg could be a nice pickup.

Round 3, Pick #3 OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia: Here was the first of a few surprises in this draft as Floyd fell all the way to Round 3. He’s been widely mocked to go in the 1st in many spots. With a playmaker of his caliber, he was too good to resist.

Floyd has great length at 6’4, 244 pounds, and is a rangy, athletic player with off-the-charts numbers in the vertical (39.5 inches), and in the broad jump (127 inches) which for a player of his size is fantastic. He ran a 4.60 time in the 40-yard dash and a 7.18 time in the 3-Cone Drill.

Floyd is extremely versatile and played ILB, OLB and as a down lineman for the Bulldogs. While his production wasn’t eye-popping, he led the team in sacks for three seasons in a row. He can rush the passer by blitzing off the edge and cover in space. He needs to add some beef before he can set the edge in the running game but would be a great addition in the Pats sub-packages.

Round 3, Pick #4 WR Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa: Garrett is a big-bodied WR (6’4, 221 pounds) who had a tremendous 2015 in the high-flying Tulsa offense. He grabbed 96 passes for 1588 yards and eight touchdowns.

He’s a huge target that can go up and catch contested balls in space. Dropped only 3 of 99 catchable balls in 2015. Once he gets his hands on the ball, he can make opponents miss and forced 21 missed tackles last year.

He ran a limited route tree at Tulsa and his route running needs to get crisper but he has all kinds of potential and the Patriots have the offensive personnel now that they can take their time with him to develop him into a big target for the offense.

keyarris-garrett

Round 6, Pick #5 RB Kenyan Drake, Alabama: Shocked to see Drake still available on this mock. Drake was the #2 back to Henry in Alabama but the 6’1, 210 pound back has good size and is explosive as both a runner and a pass receiver.

Has quick feet that never stop moving and he’s elusive in the open field and has the ability to make people miss. Extremely versatile, Drake was sometimes split out as a slot receiver where his value as a receiver was showcased.

He can run, catch the ball, has been a kick returner and blocked a punt on special teams. He’s perfect insurance for Dion Lewis, in case he’s not ready to start the season while recovering from his ACL injury.

Round 6, Pick #6 CB Artie Burns, Miami: Another shocker here as I expected to see Burns gone by Round 2 at the latest. Burns has good size at 6’0, 190 pounds with excellent ball skills and the ability to play press man coverage or zone.

Burns shows good awareness and can read the play and react quickly, but he needs to add some weight at the NFL level and improve his tackling. He’s very aggressive which could lead to some penalty flag issues in the NFL

Another versatile guy, he was a kick returner and is a very mature young man, foregoing his senior season to care for his two younger brothers and a son after his mother died in October of a heart attack.

Round 6, Pick #7 OL Willie Beavers, Western Michigan: Beavers was a three-year starter at left tackle at Western Michigan and has very good size at 6’5, 321 pounds. He has good athleticism and agility with quick feet which aids in pass protection. He’s quick off the snap and is able to slide and protect against speed rushers on the edge.

Good run blocker that is able to fire out, and push him man downfield with leverage. Has no major weaknesses, he just needs to fine tune his game, something Coach Scarnecchia will be bound to do.

Round 6, Pick #8 DT Darius Latham, Indiana: Latham was a two-year starter for the Hoosiers playing both the one and three-technique in the hybrid defense, improving every season. He has good size at 6’4, 311 pounds and shows good lateral agility and strength. He can overpower blockers at the point of attack. Plays with a mean streak.

Plays a bit upright and doesn’t have great vision. Latham has some red flags for off-field issues. Was suspended twice for violation of team rules and for an altercation with the student ethics committee.

Round 6, Pick #9 DE Miles Grooms, Hampton: Grooms is a small school stud, playing for Hampton but the 6’3, 251-pound edge player has dominated and is looking to make the big jump to the NFL.

He projects to be a strong side linebacker in the NFL and has the speed and athleticism to be able to cover in space and blitz off the edge. He has excellent initial burst, quick feet, and the flexibility and knee bend to consistently force tackles off balance.

Round 7, Pick #10 OT Tyler Marz, Wisconsin: Marz has good size at 6’6, 316 pounds and played well for the Badgers for the past three seasons. He has decent but not great arm length at 33.5 inches. He’s a good, tough run blocker but at the East-West Shrine game, struggled against good pass rusher in one-on-one drills.

Probably a fit at right tackle or guard is in store for him at the NFL level.

Round 7, Pick #11 QB Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky: Doughty was a three-year starter at WKU and finished up his FBS career with 111 TD passes (15th all-time), and had the 10th best career completion percentage at 68 percent.

Doughty has decent size at 6’3, 216 and has adequate arm strength but is inconsistent with his deep ball throw. Draft expert Dane Brugler from CBS Sports said that “Doughty was an ideal fit for the up-tempo scheme that relied on a quick release and smart decisions, making most of his reads pre-snap and identifying soft spots in coverage. He has improved functional pocket mobility and carries himself like a coach.”

 

mock Draft 2.0 2016

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