Tag Archives: Malcolm Butler

PHOTOS: Julian Edelman Shows Respect To Malcolm Butler

Robert Alvarez
November 14, 2018 at 9:19 pm ET

Although their time as teammates in New England didn’t end the way they had hoped for, Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman still has plenty of love and appreciation for Malcolm Butler.

On Tuesday, Edelman shared photographs of the two together over Instagram.

The first photograph was an embrace on the field after Sunday’s game and the second was from their 2015 Grammy Awards appearance.

“Nothin but respect for my brother” Edelman wrote in an accompanying caption.

View this post on Instagram

Nothin but respect for my brother @mac_bz ✊

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

Leading up to this past Sunday’s reunion, Edelman was complementary of Butler despite his struggles in 2018 with his new team;

Malcolm’s Malcolm,” Edelman said last Wednesday. “He’s a strong player who plays the ball well in the air. He’s gotten beat a couple times, but that’s the nature of his game. He’s a real aggressive player that competes, plays the ball well through your hands. He’s long — upper body. He’s got that ability to make up speed with the ball in the air while looking back. A lot of corners can’t do that. I got a lot of respect for Malcolm. He’s a hard player that competes, and his road to where he’s got shows how hard he works. He’s a stud.” 

Podcast: Patriots Lose Badly To The Titans

Russ Goldman
November 13, 2018 at 11:01 am ET

In this episode, we started the show by looking back at the Patriots bad loss to the Titans. We also discussed our thoughts on a few polls about Dion Lewis. We ended the show with our Around The League topics.

Patriots Week10 Report Card, Titans Tune Up the Pats in Music City

Steve Balestrieri
November 12, 2018 at 4:10 pm ET

The Patriots got their collective butts handed to them in Nashville on Sunday afternoon to the tune of 34-10. It was ugly from start to finish. They weren’t ready to play and Tennessee was. We wrote in our keys to the game, getting off to a quick start was imperative this week. The last thing you want to do is to play from behind with the size of their offensive and defensive lines, they’ll make life downright miserable for you if that is the case, and they did.

There was no magic elixir here, no, the Titans weren’t trotting out a gaggle of new plays and busting out a trick play to confuse the Patriots. They lined the same as they always do. And their execution was spot on. The Patriots? Far, far different story there. Tennessee came into this game averaging 16.8 points per game, just 10 minutes into the first quarter they had 17. It was that kind of day

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

Quarterback: C-

Tom Brady, like the rest of his offensive teammates, were not on the same page yesterday and not prepared to face a Titans team that was fired up and ready to go. The day started well enough with Brady firing a dime down the field to Josh Gordon for 44 yards right down the middle.

And just as quickly, that changed. Brady missed on several throws were his fault. And several others where the coverage was superb. He was under duress all day and was forced to get rid of the ball early several times. While that wasn’t his fault, we wrote yesterday that it is easy to tell when Brady is struggling because he always makes the same mistakes.

Yesterday, once again, when he and the offense struggle, he locks into receivers and ignores the rest of the field. He targeted Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman, and James White 32 times out of 41 passes on the day. That isn’t going to get it done. On the 4th and 6 where Edelman was blanketed by Logan Ryan, Chris Hogan put a double move on Malcolm Butler and was wide open. That’s on Brady. But he did zip some throws into very tight windows. He has to be better down the stretch…no ifs, ands, or buts.

Running Backs: C-

James White was rendered totally ineffective for the first time this year. The team tried to get him the ball but he was held to just 31 yards on five catches. He had just one carry and was blown up badly in the backfield for a loss of five. And to illustrate how out of sync this team was yesterday. White was bad in his pass blocking, something he’s never been as long as I can remember. Sony Michel returned from a two and a half week absence and was ineffective due to the offensive line. He had only 11 carries for 31 yards, a 2.8-yard average. Cordarrelle Patterson likewise was a total non-factor carrying the ball four times for 11 yards, mirroring Michel’s 2.8-yard average.

James Develin had his first carry of the year and had a one-yard touchdown.

Wide Receivers: C

The wide receivers had trouble all day with gaining separation. Julian Edelman gets very high marks with nine catches on 12 targets for 104 very tough yards. He was taking a lot of punishment after the catch. He was the bright spot on the offense on Sunday, before hurting his ankle.

Josh Gordon had 4 catches for 81 yards including the aforementioned 44-yard bomb. But he was targeted 12 times boys and girls. That kind of ratio isn’t going to cut it…. Not for anyone, especially someone who is supposed to be the go-to guy.

Chris Hogan is being frozen out of the offense. Brady barely looks in his direction anymore. And he may be replaced as the #3 option by Phillip Dorsett. Hogan was wide open for what may have been a score behind Butler who he beat on a double move. Patterson and Hogan had zero production. Dorsett? Two catches for 18 yards. Not good enough.

On the 4th and 6, Edelman was blanketed, Hogan put a double move on Butler and was wide open. Tell me again, how he has no separation. (screenshot CBS/NFL)

Tight Ends: C-

Rob Gronkowski was out again. Worse, Dwayne Allen was shaken up twice during the game and was forced to leave. That left the Patriots with only Jacob Hollister who was active for the first time in about a month. Hollister is more of a move tight end and not an in-line blocker. He did make one nice grab down the seam for 17 yards on two targets. The team really needs Gronkowski, a healthy Gronkowski back.

Offensive Line: D-

The offensive line was atrocious on Sunday, the worst performance I’ve witnessed from this unit in quite some time. Brady was sacked three times and was under pressure all day. The Titans completely dominated the line of scrimmage. And it wasn’t close. With Shaq Mason out, Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon missing several snaps each, there was a revolving door on the front. That certainly didn’t help with communication. But replacements Ted Karras and LaAdrian Waddle were being beaten with regularity.

The running game? Non-existent which just added to the misery of the entire day. The Patriots gained just 40 yards on 19 carries. That won’t win many games, especially when the pass protection is shoddy.

Defensive Line: C-

The defensive line was shaky in the early going, they didn’t set the edge or nor contain Marcus Mariota on the first drive of the day. They settled down and held Dion Lewis to just 2.8 yards a carry on the day. But as we pointed out on Friday, the Titans with the lead or close to it will hammer defenses with Derrick Henry. And that is just what Tennessee did. Henry gashed them with frightening ease.

The pass rush was non-existent for much of the day. Trey Flowers was good but the rest of the edge? Very little was heard from them. After the first drive, they did a great job of containing Mariota in the pocket. But the pass rush is the other half. Last week was their best game of the year in that aspect. On Sunday it was poor.

Linebackers: D

The Patriots linebackers had a “Groundhog Day” moment. The unit looked slow and appeared to be a liability especially Dont’a Hightower. Elandon Roberts had a couple of nice stuffs but then flies up into the gap against Henry at the goal line and misses him. How in the wide world of sports can you run by and miss a 250-pound running back? With Roberts, this happens far too often. Kyle Van Noy made a bunch of plays and had 12 tackles but like the others seemed out of position at times too.

Secondary: D

The secondary had the same kind of day that everyone else had…awful. When your best player in the secondary has been beaten for 3 catches for 63 yards and a touchdown… plus a pass interference call, in the first two drives, then you know what kind of day you are going to have. Corey Davis roasted the Patriots for 7 catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. The instinct is to look at the box score and say, “Mariota only threw for 225 yards.” But did the numbers pass the eyeball test? No. His QB rating was 125.0 and averaged 9.5 yards per attempt.

The safeties didn’t have a great game. On the Titans first touchdown, however, Mariota broke containment and had a clear path to the end zone. The Pats had Jonnu Smith bracketed with Devin McCourty underneath and Pat Chung in trail. McCourty was forced to come up and force Mariota to throw…he was right in the throwing lane, and he lobbed it over him for an easy TD since Chung wasn’t close enough to influence the play. McCourty in that instance was victimized by the defensive line.  Chung did have a couple of nice stops on third down where he came up and tackled the receiver short of the sticks. But after arguably their best game of the year last week against Green Bay, this was a very poor effort against a team that came in averaging just 178 yards passing per game.

Special Teams: C

The Special Teams had a very mixed bag and much of it started badly. The opening kickoff had the Patriots coverage unit again have a breakdown and allowed a 58-yard return. That set the tone for the day. The Patriots allowed an average of 14 yards per punt. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 52-yard field goal wide left. That’s the bad news.

The good news is Julian Edelman averaged about 15 yards per punt return, Patterson averaged 24.7 on kickoff returns, Ryan Allen averaged 49.7 yards per punt while Stephen Gostkowski hit a 52-yard field goal. So things kind of averaged out but the start was atrocious.  

Coaches: F

The Patriots coaching staff totally dropped the ball on this one. This team was flat out not ready to play on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. The Titans scored more points in the first 10 minutes of the game than they’ve been averaging in a game all season.

Offensively, you won’t win many games where you score 10 points. How did Josh McDaniels NOT target Malcolm Butler in this one? He was listed as the worst starting CB in all of football. Everyone has been feasting on him with double moves all season and the Patriots avoided him like Revis Island in his prime…That deserves a double F.

Defensively, they were gashed every way possible and Mike Vrable gave Belichick the big “Eff You” when they tried their own pass to the QB and gained 21 yards after Brady stumbled after catching it.  That’s something the Patriots are used to doing to the opposition.

Speaking of stumbling…Patriots players were stumbling all day, shouldn’t the equipment guys have adjusted their cleats during the game or did they take the day off too?

Burn the tape, write it off and come back from the bye week and show the previous six weeks tape. Get that team ready to play the Jets…preferably in the first quarter.

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.

Music City Meltdown, Titans Thump Listless Patriots 34-10

Steve Balestrieri
November 11, 2018 at 6:11 pm ET

Pats Start Bye Week Early with a No-show

The New England Patriots needed to get out to a fast start this week against the Tennessee Titans and put the pressure on the offense which has struggled to throw the ball. That was our initial thoughts on the game but it was the Titans who whipped the Patriots from the opening kickoff until the final gun.

Tennessee dominated every phase of the game, offense, defense, special teams, and the Pats were left searching for answers as they head into the bye week at 7-3 after a really ugly 34-10 pasting by Mike Vrable and the Titans.

The handwriting was on the wall for this one right from the first play. The Patriots won the coin toss (the only matchup they’d win all day) and Tennessee promptly ran the kickoff back 58 yards to start the drive in Patriots territory. Things just got progressively worse from there.

Nothing was really working, Tennessee which came in averaging 16.8 points per game on offense, had 17 in the first 10 minutes of the game. So, rather than try to sugarcoat things or put a dress on a pig…here are our observations from this.

Brady is Struggling:

The game plan this week was to come out flinging it against a team that is really good at defending the pass. That’s the first clue that things were going to go awry. By the time they attempted a run, the Titans had already scored but they never gave the running game a chance and it showed in the output. The Patriots got 40 yards rushing….40 against a team, that although better lately is hardly stout. But I digress. Back to Brady.

How can you tell when Tom Brady is struggling? It is easy. He locks on to his primary target and forces the ball in there. And Brady is struggling right now. Granted the running game was awful, no Gronk and the offensive line resembled 2015 with constant shuffling, but this was bad.

Brady locked on to Julian Edelman who played a heckuva game (and took a worse beating) on 4th and 6. That was courtesy of Marcus Cannon who jumped on 4th and 1. Edelman was blanketed by Logan Ryan. James White was open and Chris Hogan was wide open after juking Malcolm Butler on a double move.

Brady was off all game and despite heavy pressure, had several throws go haywire when he had time to throw. He seemed to be shutting Hogan and Dorsett out. That isn’t good. Most of the passing yardage went to Edelman or Gordon. Edelman finished with 104 yards, while Gordon had four catches for 81 yards, but on 12 targets.

McDaniels Gives Butler A Pass:

Remember all of the pre-game talk of Butler being a sucker for the double move? The Patriots avoided Butler today for much of the game. Either they thought he’d morph into vintage Darrelle Revis this week, or they felt like he had too much help over the top. But they avoided him like he had the plague. Granted he didn’t play a ton, but when he was in the game, you would think he’d be the guy that they’d target, even in zone coverage.

Instead, they forced the ball all game long against Adoree Jackson and Ryan. We’ll have to go back and watch the tape again, but for Josh McDaniels to barely challenge Butler given the struggles he’s had was puzzling at best.

Hopefully, the answer will be inside the All-22 tape.

The Offensive Line  Was Constantly Shuffling and Awful:

Brady was under duress all game long, and Tennessee wasn’t exactly known as a big pass rush team. Shaq Mason was out, Marcus Cannon was in and out. Ted Karras got exposed a bit as did LaAdrian Waddle on Sunday. So with the pass blocking a negative, the run blocking was worse.

There was precious little running room against the Titans as the Pats barely averaged two yards a carry. Once Dwayne Allen got hurt, it made things worse. The only good runs were cut loose when James Develin would hit someone at the point of attack.

The Patriots never seemed to have a plan to run the football this week. And they didn’t.

Special Teams Play Was Abominable:

The STs units of Joe Judge have been uncharacteristically inconsistent this year. This was the worst they’ve looked overall in many years. How bad?

Tennessee started three drives in Patriots territory….in the first half. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 52-yarder wide left, the coverage units were awful and they did very little in the return game. The best starting field position for the Pats was the 35.

Shoddy tackling, blown assignments, and penalties….nope it can only go up from here.

Gilmore Lays an Egg:

Stephon Gilmore has been outstanding all season, since minicamp. But he was awful today, the Titans went after him with Corey Davis, and Davis totally dominated that matchup. Davis torched the Pats (and mostly Gilmore) all day long.

Gilmore got flagged twice for interference and was beaten cleanly for a touchdown. Obviously whatever malaise was infecting the other 45 players today, had an even bigger effect on the Patriots star corner. He had that kind of rough outing.

He was hardly alone, the defense was gashed by Marcus Mariota who constantly made very good throws. The Titans came in averaging 178 yards per game thru the air.

So with this kind of outing, the Pats chances of getting the top seed just took a huge blow. They limp into the bye week at 7-3 after not really ever showing up for this one. The coaches need to do a lot of self-scouting and having the team come out flat three times …all on the road this year is a coaching issue.

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.

Players To Watch Patriots-Titans Week 10

Steve Balestrieri
November 10, 2018 at 6:45 am ET

Big Game Before the Bye

The New England Patriots head down to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. If it seems rare to have a Sunday afternoon game, it has been. The Patriots have played four of their last five games in primetime, something Bill Belichick mentioned and remarked he was glad to be finished with.

The Titans are 4-4 and are an intriguing matchup. What immediately jumps off the page is the former Patriots on the other side. With Head coach Mike Vrable, Logan Ryan, Dion Lewis, and Malcolm Butler, there are plenty of familiar faces there.

Tennessee isn’t a prolific scoring team. They are big on both sides of the line. Their game is to keep things close and get into a smash-mouth four quarters football game. Obviously with a team ranked #30 in passing yardage, the Patriots want to get out to an early lead and force them into playing catchup.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Sony Michel:

The Patriots first round draft pick is said to be playing this week. If he does and is healthy, he’ll give the Patriots a huge boost offensively as when he’s been on top of his game, he gives them the balance that makes them very hard to stop.

Tennessee’s run defense was poor early in the year but has improved recently. They held Ezekial Elliott to just 61 yards rushing on Monday night. But with the weapons the Patriots and Tom Brady have in the passing game, they can’t overload the box and dare them to throw.

Michel just prior to getting hurt against the Bears was really getting into a groove. We’ll have to see if there is a rust factor after missing more than two and a half games this week. But I’d expect the Patriots to use him early in this one to try to set the tone.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots very versatile and talented defensive lineman had another standout game last week versus Green Bay. The Patriots kicked him inside to bring extra pressure on Aaron Rodgers. He was outstanding and has really elevated his game the past few weeks. He’s heating up at just the right time.

This week, they’re facing another mobile quarterback in Marcus Mariota, someone Belichick said this week is more mobile than anyone they’ve faced this season. While that may be a bit of a stretch, Mariota can definitely make plays with his feet. So, not only will the Patriots be looking to pressure Mariota but to contain him in the pocket as well.

This will be an interesting matchup, Flowers is heating up and facing an OL that has allowed 26 sacks on the season. If the Pats can force the Titans into being one-dimensional, it will allow Flowers and other edge players to be a bit more aggressive in their pursuit.

Josh Gordon:

The Patriots will be facing two of their former corners this week in Ryan and Butler and everyone is assuming Gordon will operate opposite of Butler this week. I actually believe it may be Ryan, but regardless, whoever it is, will have some help over the top and will have their hands full taking on the big and talented Pats wide receiver.

Gordon right now is just beginning to get healthy, he’s been bothered by a bad hamstring since he was in Cleveland. He was removed from the injury report and like Flowers, he’s getting hot at precisely the right time. He had his biggest game as a Patriots last week and the Patriots will be looking to get him involved and test their deep part of the field this week. If it is against Butler, look for the Titans to give him help over the top.

If he’s facing Ryan, look for a couple of jump balls down the sidelines. Brady and the Patriots remember the Super Bowl against Seattle where he had issues defending those and was replaced…by Butler. Familiarity works both ways.

Kyle Van Noy:

The linebacker who is so valuable (and so unpopular for some strange reason with one Boston radio station) has been also elevating his game of late and is one of the Pats most versatile defenders.

Van Noy does just about everything well and is very versatile. With a 1-2 punch of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis at running back, the key for Tennessee is to get Lewis in space where he’s always been so elusive. It will be up to Van Noy to see that doesn’t happen this week.

Look for Brian Flores to use Van Noy to mirror Mariota this week and possibly use him for some A-Gap blitzes to force some mistakes in the passing game. This will be a big week for the defense that has been much better of late and will be looking to continue the trend.

Julian Edelman:

The Patriots slot receiver had a fantastic game against the Packers, (71 yards receiving, 28 yards rushing, 37 yards passing) and is one of Brady’s most trusted receivers. He’ll probably face the Titans talented corner Adoree Jackson this week and that promises to be a great matchup to watch.

With Rob Gronkowski’s status in doubt, (we don’t think he’ll play this week), the Patriots will use Edelman to do the dirty work underneath along with James White to keep the chains moving. Pound-for-pound, Edelman is one of the toughest players on the Patriots and he’ll be looked to a lot in this one to set the tone against a tough, defense that is #1 in points allowed and #1 in the red zone.

We’re looking for those rub routes and shallow crossers to target the linebackers and getting them to move off the spot this week.

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

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

Patriots-Titans Week 10, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 9, 2018 at 7:00 am ET

The New England Patriots head back out on the road and are going down to Music City as they take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon for a rare 1:00 p.m. start time. A win this week before the team’s bye week would ensure that the Patriots would finish with a .500 record or better for an 18th straight season.

A win would give the team seven wins in a row heading into their bye week and keep them firmly entrenched into the #2 spot in the AFC a game behind Kansas City, but the Patriots own the tiebreaker. Tom Brady is only 3 TD passes shy of Peyton Manning’s record of 579 (regular season and playoffs). Manning owns the record in the regular season with 539, Brett Favre is next with 508, Brady has 505.

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 (7-2) defeated the Packers on Sunday Night Football 31-17. Tom Brady threw for 294 yards and was a perfect 6-6 in the 4th quarter for 104 yards and a touchdown while holding Aaron Rodgers to 2-7 for 15 yards. The Patriots outscored the Packers 14-0 in the final stanza for the win.

The Titans (4-4) defeated the Dallas Cowboys 28-14 ending a three-game skid. But it didn’t start off well, Tennessee turned the ball over the first two times they possessed it in the game but in the end, they easily bested a poor Dallas team. Marcus Mariota led the Titans to their highest output of the season, points wise.

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 Titans history go back to the beginnings of the old AFL when the Titans were the Houston Oilers. But the Patriots have had the better of the matchups overall with a 25-16-1 record dating back to the early ‘60s. New England has won the last seven games between the two teams including a divisional playoff game last year in Foxboro 35-14 and the last time the two teams met in Nashville 34-13 on opening day in 2012.

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 Titans Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game is expected to get back Sony Michel this week which will be a huge boost. But despite missing the rookie, the Pats received a shot in the arm by WR Cordarrelle Patterson filling in ably using his speed to his advantage. James White and Kenjon Barner have also been active.

The Titans have been much better against the run in recent weeks after having issues earlier in the season. On Monday night they held Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott to just 61 yards while the Cowboys averaged just 3.8 yards per rush.

Look for the Patriots to mix it up to keep the defense guessing and not able to pin their ears back. The key obviously is having Michel back and healthy for this one. The Titans have been much better lately against the run, but having an offense as diverse as the Patriots will present some problems. Look for Michel, White, and Patterson too to have a solid day running the ball between the tackles.

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

The Patriots passing game has been getting better despite missing Rob Gronkowski and Michel in recent weeks. They’ve had to get a bit more creative about spreading the ball around. Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman have stepped up and each had big games against the Packers. Edelman had 71 yards receiving, 28 yards rushing and 37 yards passing, while Gordon had 130 yards including a 55-yard touchdown.

The Titans have the #1 scoring defense in the NFL allowing just 17.6 points per game. They also have the #8 pass defense allowing just 226.2 yards per game. The Titans sacked Dak Prescott five times on Monday night and picked him off. They have former Pats Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan on the outside with Adoree Jackson at the nickel or slot corner, with Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro at safety.

We don’t expect to see Gronkowski again this week as they’ll give him an extra week before the bye to get healthy for the stretch run. Edelman and Jackson will likely be paired off, while Gordon will likely match up against Ryan. That leaves Chris Hogan/Phillip Dorsett against Butler outside. As always, the “X-Factor” is White out of the backfield. Until last week, the Titans had troubles getting after the QB with just 15 sacks. If Brady gets time to throw, as good as this defense has been, NE will be successful. Look for the Pats to spread them out and pick their way down the field.

Next up the Tennessee offense:

Titans RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Tennessee

The Tennessee running game has a pair of talented backs with big Derrick Henry and the elusive Dion Lewis but it hasn’t translated into the success that they envisioned this season. Henry averages just 3.3 yards per rush while Lewis is averaging just 3.7. Overall the Titans are averaging 3.9 yards per rush with QB Marcus Mariota bumping up that number with 217 yards rushing.

The Patriots have been much better against the run in recent weeks being able to slow down the opponents’ best rushing weapons. However, last week, they went to a much lighter package up front, basically daring Green Bay to run to help with the pass rush on Aaron Rodgers. Don’t expect that to continue this week.

Look for old pal Dion Lewis to give the Patriots some issues this week. He had a pretty solid game against the Cowboys last week and with the chance to show something against his former team, he’ll be very motivated. The NE defense has been good at setting the edge lately, but I’m looking for Lewis to have a good day inside.

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

The Titans passing game has been mired in neutral for much of the year, averaging just 178.2 yards per game. Mariota has been completing 67 percent of his passes but has just 1270 yards on the season with 5 TDs and 5 INTs. His biggest targets have been Corey Davis and Lewis out of the backfield. Tennessee quarterbacks have been sacked 26 times this season. Mariota was outstanding on Monday night in Dallas, spreading the ball around to nine different receivers and his ability to throw to a spot on the field well before his receivers were cutting was very impressive.

The Patriots secondary has been improving each week and held Aaron Rodgers to 259 yards and 17 points a week ago. They’ll be looking to continue that trend by forcing Mariota into obvious passing situations and bringing some pressure on him. Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn have stepped up their games in recent weeks and look for that trend to continue.

One way to get the 30th ranked passing game into sync is throwing the ball more early on downs and that is what I’d expect Tennessee to do. Look for Mariota to target Lewis out of the backfield and on screens early. And although their tight ends (Luke Stocker, Jonnu Smith) have combined for just 15 catches, I expect Mariota to try to get them involved early and often. The Patriots front seven will have to be aware of Mariota’s scrambling ability and try to keep him contained in the pocket.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams were excellent on Sunday night. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen always give them outstanding production in the kicking game. Cordarrelle Patterson had two solid returns a week ago and the return game is beginning to look more and more dangerous if teams opt to not boot it out of the end zone. The coverage units have been inconsistent but the team just added STs ace, Albert McClellan

The Titans counter with Ryan Succop and Brett Kern (47.1 average), they also use Darius Jennings on kick returns and he has a 94-yard touchdown this season but have also allowed a 102-yard return.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This should prove to be a very interesting matchup. Mike Vrable will be the first former player of Bill Belichick’s to face his as a head coach. There is a lot of familiarity in the Tennessee locker room with Butler, Ryan, Lewis, and Vrable. How much that plays into this week, will remain to be seen.

Butler is the strange case here. Last year he wasn’t good as he was trying to overplay everything in trying to win a big contract. After the Titans paid him big money, he’s been worse this season as he’s now overplaying everything in trying to justify his money. Vrable will have to get to him to remind him to just play in the manner that got him here. But I would expect Brady to test him with double moves this week. You think Vrable will give him help this week? You betcha.

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective this week:

Start Fast: Last week was a big win for the team, it was obvious in the pregame and post-game reactions by both players and coaches. They can’t allow themselves to let down now. Getting off quickly is a must against Tennessee. They are tied for 29th in scoring with just 16.8 points per game. They aren’t built to play from behind.

Force Tennessee into Passing Situations: The Titans are #30 in passing. They don’t have the type of passing game that can afford to get into a shootout with Tom Brady. If the Patriots can keep the pressure on them to score and do it thru the air, it is a win-win for the visiting team.

NE Must Win on Third Down/Red Zone: The Titans are the #1 defense in the red zone in the NFL. The Pats can’t be kicking a bunch of FGs and allowing the Titans to hang around late in the game. They’ll have to find ways to convert this week, especially if they don’t have Gronkowski, who always draws a lot of attention there.

Look for Josh Gordon to continue his hot streak with Tom Brady. He may not have eye-popping numbers but we expect him to put in another solid effort this week. White and Michel will be key for the Patriots to pull out a road win by contributing both on the ground and in the air. Trey Flowers figures prominently again this week.

New England enters the bye week with a hard-fought, tough road win.  Patriots 27-14

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

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

Podcast: The Patriots Fourth And Two Interview With Adam Jones From 98.5 The Sports Hub

Russ Goldman
August 25, 2018 at 6:47 am ET

This episode is an interview with Adam Jones from 98.5 The Sports Hub. During this interview, you will learn about Adam’s radio history, and his approach to covering Boston Sports Teams. After that, you will hear us debate several Patriots topics that you should find interesting, as it is clear he looks at the Patriots differently than host Russ Goldman sees the team.

Podcast: Observations From Patriots Training Camp

Russ Goldman
August 1, 2018 at 5:43 pm ET

In this episode, we shared our thoughts on the beginning of Patriots Training Camp.

2018 Patriots Training Camp Primer – Cornerback

Steve Balestrieri
July 20, 2018 at 10:14 am ET

The Patriots begin training camp in less than a week and have many intriguing decisions to make at several positions on the roster. With 90 players on the current roster, many of them will be truly competing for roster slots and reps and are not just camp bodies.

The defense was much maligned in 2017 and there looks to be several different faces on the field from the team that played in the Super Bowl. Among them is the cornerback position. Malcolm Butler left via free agency to the Tennessee Titans after being benched for the Super Bowl. Jonathan Bademosi in now in Houston.

The team drafted Duke Dawson and Keion Crossen in the 2018 NFL Draft. They also brought in the intriguing rookie J.C. Jackson as a UDFA this spring. Jackson had a strong spring but now will have to prove it again once the pads come on. With several veterans and rookies, 11 players in all vying for probably six roster spots, reps will be valuable and possibly limited for some. This will be a fun position to watch next week.

So, with that in mind who is locked in and who is on the bubble?

Roster Locks- Cornerback: Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson

The team paid big bucks for Gilmore last season in free agency and after a little bit of a shaky start where he was struggling to find a comfort level, he quickly turned it around. Gilmore was the Patriots best corner, by far down the stretch and into the playoffs last year. His diving play, knocking the ball away on a 4th down against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game, sealed the deal and sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl.

He followed that up with a stellar spring where he blanketed whoever was assigned to him to cover. Gilmore is locked in as the team’s starting left corner and they’ll be in good shape with him out there for the next few years.

Rowe has the size (6’1,205) they like to match up with bigger wide receivers and will vie for the starting spot opposite Gilmore. He has the versatility to play outside or in the slot, although with the players they’ve brought in, it seems they are intent on keeping Rowe on the perimeter.

Dawson was the team’s 2nd Round (56th Overall) selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Patriots have scouted him for quite some time and like the versatility for the soft-spoken corner. He can play on the perimeter, in the slot and even some safety. But given his size, 5’10, 202, he’s shorter but very stocky, he may be best suited for the slot.

Near Roster Locks: Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones

The Patriots brought in McCourty from Cleveland and after trying a few years to land the twin brother of Pats safety Devin, they’ve finally got their man. He was thought to be in the mix for the starting job immediately but then in the spring he barely played. Was it a nagging injury or something else? We’ll have to see.  But I think he will stick and play a key role.

Jonathan Jones played valuable snaps in the slot last season and generally fared well when he was on the field. He played sparingly in 2016 but then parlayed that into nearly 50 percent of the defensive snaps a year ago while being a regular valuable contributor on Special Teams.

He was hurt late in the year with an ankle injury that landed him on IR and the Patriots really missed him in the slot especially in the Super Bowl where they were gashed by the Eagles.

He missed all of the spring workouts and I have a sneaking suspicion that he’ll begin training camp on PUP.

On the Bubble: Cyrus Jones, Jomal Wiltz, JC Jackson, Ryan Lewis

The Patriots used their top pick a couple of years ago on Cyrus Jones who, it was thought would be an immediate contributor on defense as well as in the punt return game. Neither happened as he struggled all season with fielding kicks cleanly.

He tore an ACL and meniscus during preseason last year and was placed on IR. In Year 3, he’s running out of time to show something. Unfortunately for him, he may not be ready to go either, missing all of the spring workouts and may begin camp on PUP.

The Patriots picked up Wiltz last season and he spent the entire season on the practice squad. He could be in line for a big jump in Year 2 but we’ll have to see if he can turn some heads in camp.

Jackson may be this season’s UDFA steal. He had a pretty impressive spring and earned reps next to Gilmore and went against the likes of Edelman, Hogan and the other starters. He looked strong and feisty and competed hard on every snap.

With the two Jones possibly on PUP, it may open the door a crack for the former Maryland corner to find his way onto the roster if he can continue his strong play.

Lewis is a very intriguing player. Undrafted last spring, he went thru camp with the Cardinals and played well. He was cut, signed to the Arizona practice squad and released on September 12. The Patriots signed him the next day to their practice squad.

Buffalo attempted to sign him off the practice squad to their 53-man roster but the Patriots convinced him to stay by paying him the salary of an active roster player. That speaks volumes about what the team thinks of him.

He’s certainly athletic, at his pro day in March 2017, Lewis ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash with a 6.87-second 3-cone, 35-inch vertical leap, 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump and 4.34-second short shuttle. Those are all impressive numbers. With a strong second season, he too could force his way onto the roster.

Outside Looking in… Long Shots: Keion Crossen, AJ Moore

Without any untold injuries, it is hard to envision either the athletic Crossen or Moore making the roster at this point. Unless they have a fantastic summer. But it is strictly a numbers crunch. There are only so many reps to go around. Both are candidates for the practice squad. But crazier things have happened. Malcolm Butler was another one of those real longshots to make the roster and he’s now cashing in Tennessee.

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.

PHOTO: Malcolm Butler Receives 2017 AFC Champions Ring

Robert Alvarez
July 17, 2018 at 12:53 pm ET

On his Instagram story Monday, Tennessee Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler shared a photo of his 2017 AFC Championship ring with a “blessed emoji.”

Although the game may not have turned out the way Butler or the Patriots would have liked, he continues to show nothing but praise and appreciation for head coach Bill Belichick despite the surprise benching in the Super Bowl.

On Monday, Butler compared his current head coach Mike Vrabel to Belichick, stating, “You can tell Mike played for Belichick because you can see some of the similarities. They’re about winning the way New England is about winning.”

“One thing I saw early: Mike will put you on blast. He don’t care who’s around. He’s going to say what’s right. He might be a bit looser than Bill Belichick, but they’re both great guys. A man caught a ball on me—honestly I don’t know his name yet—but Mike let me hear about it. ‘Don’t get stuck on top of the routes like that! Make a play!’ Nobody cares where you come from or what you make. Everyone’s equal. And you can tell from the head coach all the way down to the interns, everybody wants to win.”