Tag Archives: New York Giants

Patriots Week 6 Report Card, 35-14  Win Over the Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 14, 2019 at 7:37 am ET

 Patriots Improve to 6-0 but Got Banged Up On Thursday

Time to clean out the notebook from the Giants and begin to move on to Week 7.

The Patriots are 6-0 and remain with the impressive 49ers as the only undefeated teams in the NFL. The landscape changes so much from week to week that winning is far from guaranteed regardless of the competition.

The Patriots were favored by as much as 17 before the game and won by 21 but this game appeared to be anything other than a blowout until the final 8-9 minutes. Six different players were injured and five didn’t return, so the extra off time will prove to be a needed respite this week. 

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

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady had another interception in the first half where it seemed like either he and Julian Edelman were way off of the same page or the wind affected a deep pass where it was easily picked off by Janoris Jenkins. He also suffered a strip-sack that was returned for a touchdown.

But in the second half, at one point he completed 15 passes in a row and finished 31-41 for 334 yards with an interception. He also scored two touchdowns on quarterback sneaks. Considering that he was playing without Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett and had UDFA wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski as his #2-3 WRs, things weren’t as bad as some were painting the situation.

Running Backs: B-

The favorite whipping boy for much of the media and the fan base, Sony Michel was bottled up all night until his final run at the end of the game. He finished with 86 yards on 22 carries, a 3.9-yard average. But the blocking for him just wasn’t there at all. 

James White was stuffed on his two rushing attempts, while Brandon Bolden scored the game’s first touchdown and had 23 yards on three attempts. Brady scored on the other two touchdowns on the ground.

Overall, the Patriots ran for 114 yards on 34 carries [3.4-yard average] which isn’t good enough. And they lost another fullback Jakob Johnson who is going on IR. 

Wide Receivers: C+

Julian Edelman had his second 100-yard game in a row [9 catches 113 yards] and was his normal pain-in-the-backside self to the defense. With no Gordon or Dorsett, the Giants knew they had to stop him but couldn’t. He had two drops that hurt considering the circumstances. 

Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski both contributed with 4 catches for 54 yards and 2 catches for 34 yards respectively. Both are normally working more with the scout team than the offense in practice, so they get high marks for their night. But although the team got by on TNF with them as the #2-3 WRs, this isn’t sustainable. 

Josh Gordon had one catch before getting injured. James White had nine catches on nine targets but for only 46 yards. Michel and Bolden each chipped in with a pair of catches out of the backfield.

Tight Ends: C-

Matt LaCosse was hurt again and left the game in the first half. He has been largely MIA all season. Ryan Izzo gave up the edge on the strip-sack TD on Brady and has not been good on those outside zone runs where the team has been stuffed nearly every time this year [18 outside zone attempts, 21 rushing yards this season]. 

Izzo caught two passes for 31 yards including a 20-yarder where he was able to shake free when Brady had all day to throw. Due to LaCosse’s injury along with others, the team was forced to play in only “11 personnel” [1 RB, 1TE, 3 WRs] for the entire second half on Thursday.    

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line, with the exception of the aforementioned Izzo sack and Marshall Newhouse, had a very solid night of pass protection. The Giants, and rightfully so, targeted Newhouse’s side for their pass rush and were successful. Newhouse has allowed too many sacks and the coaches are going to have to give him some help, especially with the blitz-happy Jets on-deck.

The run blocking remains very much hit or miss, they run well between the tackles but those outside zone runs and sweeps aren’t getting any traction. Short yardage runs are still a sore spot. 

 Defensive Line: B

The defensive line once again was very good. The Giants running game was predictably held in check with no Saquon Barkley with 52 yards on 16 attempts. Lawrence Guy was solid as always upfront and played more than everyone else as they rotated bodies on a short week. 

Deatrich Wise had two QB hits, but the Giants OL did a very good job of limiting pressure from the DL. Michael Bennett’s playing time continues to dwindle, he played in only 11 snaps late in the game and is now the subject of trade rumors, something to keep an eye on with the October 29th trade deadline upcoming.

Linebackers: A-

The Patriots linebackers didn’t dominate the way we’ve seen in the past few weeks, but they were still excellent although they lost Dont’a Hightower in this one. But Kyle Van Noy was the man once again for this unit. Van Noy had the team’s only sack, two QB hits, six hurries and scoop and recovery of a fumble that he returned for a touchdown that put the game away. 

Jamie Collins snuffed out the screen pass to Jon Hilliman and put a big hit on the back jarring the ball loose on the fumble, which Van Noy returned. Hightower, before being hurt had three tackles and a QB hit. 

Secondary: A-

The secondary continues to stick like glue to the opposition’s receivers. Stephon Gilmore continues his outstanding play and Daniel Jones would have been wise to avoid his side of the field. Gilmore was targeted six times and had an interception and five passes broken up. He had another pick right in his hands but couldn’t hold on. He also deflected another that was intercepted by John Simon.

Jonathan Jones battled Golden Tate in the slot all night and gave up the Patriots first touchdown receiving this year. But even on that play, he had tight coverage and got his hand on the ball. But it was a great throw by Jones and a super play by Tate who was able to corral it and haul it in. 

Jones completed less than 50 percent of his throws and had a passer rating of just 35.2 on the night while the defense intercepted him three times. Nuff said.

Special Teams: A-

Mike Nugent had a miss of a field goal that doinked off the upright but the replay clearly showed that holder Jake Bailey didn’t rotate the laces away, so we’ll cut him some slack there. Also, the extra points were all good this week…small steps.

Jake Bailey had to contend with the gusty wind and averaged only 40.7 yards on his punts. The Giants Riley Dixon, also with a strong leg averaged only 39.2 on the night. 

But the STs struck a big blow again when Mr. Do-Everything Brandon Bolden made a tremendous play, pushing Nate Stupar into the punter Dixon, causing the punt to carom off of his head. It was scooped up by Chase Winovich who scored his first NFL touchdown. 

Coaches: A-

The Patriots coaching staff made the adjustments they needed to make offensively, out of necessity on Thursday night when injuries forced Josh McDaniels to operate out of one personnel grouping for the entire second half. Brady mentioned after the game it was the first time he ever remembers the Patriots doing that in his 20 years here. 

Defensively they pushed all the right buttons and limited the Giants to just the one big scoring play and nothing else. They rolled their coverages and created mixed presures that kept the Giants off-balance.  

 

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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.

 

Injury-Riddled Patriots Move to 6-0 With 35-14 Win Over Injury-Riddled Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 11, 2019 at 7:13 am ET

Mini-Bye Week Comes a Great Time for NE

The Patriots are 6-0 and defeated the New York Giants 35-14 but this one went unlike most had envisioned on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. Most had this one as a blowout which the final score indicated but in reality, it was anything but. 

Ah, the joys of Thursday Night Football…

With solid play and timely stops by their defense, the Giants were very much alive in this game with about nine minutes to play, with the score just 21-14. Then the Patriots defense, which was outstanding again, turned the game into the Pats’ favor for good. Jamie Collins jarred the ball loose from running back Jonathan Hilliman, where Kyle Van Noy scooped the ball up and rolled for a touchdown. Game over, thanks for coming, drive safely down Route 1.

New England could breathe a sigh of relief as this one was effectively over. Tom Brady added a final touchdown on a one-yard quarterback sneak to finish off the scoring, his second rushing touchdown of the game to put a bow on it, making the score 35-14.

It was the Giants who entered this game beat up missing three of their top offensive players [Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram], but it was the Patriots who limped out of this one. New England entered the game missing two of its own offensive performers, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and running back Rex Burkhead. But they then suffered a slew of injuries during the game.

Josh Gordon left after awkwardly twisting his ankle/knee and didn’t return. Fullback Jakob Johnson also left with an injury, as well as tight end Matt LaCosse who left early in this one. These losses would affect the way the offense was able to line up the rest of the game. With only one tight end and no fullback, the Patriots ran only 11 personnel grouping [3 WRs, 1TE, 1 RB] for nearly the entire second half. 

Gordon’s loss hit an already thin wide receiver position and forced undrafted rookie wide receivers, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, into prominent roles in the offense. 

On defense, Pat Chung, Dont’a Hightower, and J.C. Jackson left with injuries, although Jackson was able to return later. So, the mini-bye week with 10 days off before playing on Monday Night Football against the Jets, couldn’t come at a better time.

Other observations from tonight’s game include:

Defense Steps Up Again With Four More Turnovers:

The Patriots defense continues to play stellar team defense with great coverage in the secondary while generating turnovers. On a night where they generated just a single sack, the defense forced four turnovers with the aforementioned fumble and score by Van Noy and three interceptions by Duron Harmon, John Simon, and Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore almost had a fourth but dropped it when he jumped a route to Golden Tate on a third-down near midfield. 

The coverage was sticky all night long against a game but depleted Giants WR core. The defense did give up its first passing touchdown of the year, a 64-yard scoring pass from Daniel Jones to Tate, although Jonathan Jones had tight coverage and actually got his hand on the ball. But credit Tate with an outstanding play, he was able to keep his concentration and still able to haul it in for the score. 

But the defense limited the Giants to just 213 total yards [52 rushing, 161 passing] while being outstanding once again on third down, holding the G-men to just 2-10. 

You Think Bringing Back Brandon Bolden Was Worth It?

At the time Brandon Bolden was re-signed and brought back after a year with Miami, there were many who panned the signing,[including a hot-take dolt on the air] saying that Bill Belichick signs too many players with Special Teams talent only. As the Southwest Airlines commercial says, “Want to Get Away?” No, the return of Bolden has done nothing but pay dividends. 

Back in minicamp, I spoke with RB coach Ivan Fears prior to practice and asked him about bringing back the popular teammate inside the Patriots locker room. And what Fears said has rung true this season.  “No matter what we ask him to do, Brandon will do it, and do it well,” Fears said. 

In the last three games, Bolden has scored three touchdowns and figured prominently in a fourth. Bolden had a rushing touchdown against Buffalo, caught a 29-yard score from Brady against the Redskins and ran one in against the Giants in short-yardage tonight. But he caused the blocked punt in the first half which resulted in a Chase Winovich touchdown. 

Bolden rushed in on a punt block and drove Nate Stupar backward where Riley Dixon’s punt went off Stupar’s head. The ball bounced backward where Thor scooped and scored. This was all because of Bolden’s work while out on the field. 

Daniel Jones Can Sling It: 

What? you say, are you kidding? And a look at Jones’ numbers would seem to play that out. How so when he completed only 15 of 31 for 161 yards which was only good for 5.2 yards per pass and three interceptions?  

Granted Jones’ numbers weren’t good, nor his passer rating of 35.2, but his depleted receiving core was blanketed all night long and he frequently had nowhere to go with the football. 

But several of his throws, including the touchdown to Tate and another pass to Tate on a third-down slant were delivered in very tight windows, quickly and accurately. If you look past the boxscore and rewatch the tape, Jones did as well as could be expected given the circumstances.

The Giants, as we pointed out in our key matchups piece, would move Tate into the slot to take him away from Stephon Gilmore and have him battle Jonathan Jones. It was a good hard battle all night long.  

Jones had plenty of bad moments and plays to be sure, but he looks to be a good QB who was just placed in an unwinnable situation

Offense Needs Help But They Weren’t Quite As Bad As Believed:

  The Patriots struggled on offense for much of the night and had to claw and scratch for everything they got. The play of the offensive line continues to be suspect at times and they seem to be scuffling along in search of an identity. 

But at the end of the day, the generated 424 yards of offense and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes, which really tired out the Giants’ defense. 

Tom Brady struggled in the first half but ended up 31-41 for 334 yards. He scored on two short QB sneaks but threw a weird interception in the first half. While attempting a deep post to Julian Edelman, the ball was well behind Edelman where Janoris Jenkins picked it off. Was it miscommunication or the wind?  Edelman was outstanding with nine catches for 113 yards including a beautiful diving catch which set up Brady’s last TD dive. 

Sony Michel struggled for much of the night but ended up with 86 yards on 22 carries. The Patriots ground game, which struggled for much of the night ended up with 114 yards. But the offensive line and wide receivers need help. 

TE Ryan Izzo has really struggled with blocks to the edge which is supposed to be his strong suit. LaCosse can’t catch a break, or stay healthy, he’s hurt again. With the injuries to Dorsett and Gordon, an already hurting WR core was stretched mighty thin. Kudos to UDFA rookie wide receivers Meyers and Olszewski who both contributed in the passing game. Meyers had four catches for 54 yards including a nice 23-yarder where he high-pointed the ball and had the awareness to raise it over the defender to keep it from being knocked away. Olszewski chipped in with two catches for 34 yards. 

But within the next 10 days, they have some decisions to make. Even if Gordon and Dorsett are back, they should probably look at adding some help. One thing to keep in mind, 1st-round draft pick N’Keal Harry can begin practicing on Wednesday and return in another two weeks from then. 

And with LaCosse hurt again, it may be time to explore bringing in another tight end. The offense is getting by for now but with the meat of their schedule upcoming with Baltimore, Philadelphia, Dallas, Cleveland, Houston. and Kansas CIty yet to come, they need to get the offense figured out. 

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Check back with PatsFans.com for all of our pregame and post-game analysis. And if you’re a wiz at predicting the NFL slate straight up, register for our message board and then post your picks every week. We’ll see who is the top dog at the end of the season. That page can be found here: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

 

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Patriots Players To Watch, Week 6 Against the Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 10, 2019 at 11:00 am ET

 

The Patriots are back home in Gillette Stadium to face the New York Giants. With the short week to prepare, the game plans for either team will probably be limited so it comes down to execution. Thursday night games tend to be sloppier than their Sunday counterparts, so limiting mistakes while trying to force some mistakes on your opponents are always a big key, even more so than on Sunday.

Here are our Patriots players to watch this week as the Patriots try to improve to 6-0 on the season against the Giants. 

James White: 

The Patriots, as we pointed out in our key matchups piece, will no doubt try to target the Giants linebackers in the passing game by putting them in coverage against the running backs. And their main weapon in that regard continues to be James White. 

White is fantastic out of the backfield and keeping the sticks moving and when the defense wants to drop back and play coverage, he has always been able to take advantage of his opportunities in the running game. 

We look for White to play a big role this week in the offensive game plan, facing a defense that has struggled to stop the run or the pass, White on the field is the kind of versatile chess piece which will keep the defense guessing.

Jamie Collins:

The Patriots linebackers are having a fantastic season. Dont’a Hightower has dubbed them “the Boogeymen” and Collins has fit the bill [no pun intended], as the top Boogeyman for opponents to face. Collins is having a fantastic second stint with the Patriots. He’s been disruptive, has done a great job of setting the edge, getting after the quarterback and dropping into coverage. 

Every week it seems that we’re singing the praises of one of the linebackers after a game. Two weeks ago it was Kyle Van Noy, who was the defensive player of the week. Last week it was Hightower who seemed to be everywhere in disrupting the Redskins offense. This week, it is Collins’ turn. 

With the Giants missing three of their top offensive chess pieces in this game, it will allow Bill Belichick and Jerod Mayo to give Collins more opportunities to disrupt the flow of the Giants offense. And we expect him to do just that. 

Julian Edelman:

Bill Belichick said this week that Edelman is “one of the most competitive players I’ve ever coached.” Tom Brady took it one step farther heaping huge praise on the tough yet banged-up wide receiver. 

“He’s one of the best players in the history of the franchise,” Brady said in a radio interview on Monday. “When you think of some of the great receivers we’ve had, Julian is right up there at the top. So you’ve got to get him the ball, and he’s making a lot of yards with it in his hands. We put a lot on Julian. Julian’s a very smart player. Very tough. He’s mentally, physically tough. What he’s gone through the last few weeks with his injury and then still just laying it on the line — you see even on that catch-and-run there in the third quarter, him kind of diving over the pile. He’s an incredible player, an incredible teammate, and the more we get him the ball, the better it is for our offense.”

Edelman is questionable for this game as his chest/rib injury has been very painful, he’s been wincing every time he gets off the turf. But It would be folly to count him out of this nationally televised game. He knows how valuable he is to this offense. He’s the one matchup nightmare that the Giants will have a hard time covering tonight. 

Jonathan Jones:

Jones seems to be finally be getting his due as one of the outstanding slot corners in the NFL. The Patriots rewarded him with a 3-year extension this summer worth around $21 million dollars. Along with Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, the Patriots have one of the deepest and most talented cornerback groups in the league.

Jones may see a lot of Golden Tate this week. With Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram out this week, Tate may be the go-to guy for Daniel Jones and the Giants passing game. And the G-men may move Tate in the slot to keep him away from Stephon Gilmore and give Tate more options to break on the ball. 

This promises to be a great matchup between the two. Tate is an accomplished veteran who has been in many big games. The moment will never be too much for him and as he stated this week, the Giants aren’t intimidated by the moment. 

Matt LaCosse: 

LaCosse was a bit more involved in the offense last week, he only caught a single pass for 22 yards and has only caught three passes on the season, but he’s been banged up and now that he’s healthy, the Patriots are hoping that he can be more productive in the passing game. He did show up nicely in the running game, and easily had his best game of the season in that regard. He made a key block in springing Sony Michel for his 14-yard touchdown run. That is the type of play the team needs consistently.

The focus on LaCosse and Ryan Izzo will be much closer now that the team has decided to release veteran Ben Watson. Watson was considered to be the main TE target once his suspension was over. Now he’s gone and there the focus will be on these two, TEs to get it done. Especially on LaCosse who is considered the better receiver of the two. 

We’ll see if Josh McDaniels tries to get LaCosse more involved in the passing game this week. With WR Phillip Dorsett out with a hamstring injury, it would be a prime opportunity for him to begin to carve out a role for himself.   

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Check back with PatsFans.com for all of our pregame and post-game analysis. And if you’re a wiz at predicting the NFL slate straight up, register for our message board and then post your picks every week. We’ll see who is the top dog at the end of the season. That page can be found here: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

 

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

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

 

Patriots – Giants Week 6 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:00 am ET

The Patriots return home on a short week to take on the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. The team has the opportunity to begin the season 6-0 and will have 11 days off before facing the Jets next week on Monday Night Football.

This week’s game will be broadcast by Fox on Thursday, October 10 at 8:20 p.m. and can be seen locally on WFXT Fox  25. Joe Buck will handle play-by-play duties with Troy Aikman as the color analyst. Erin Andrews and Kristina Pink 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 (5-0) beat the Washington Redskins 33-7 with the defense getting six sacks and an interception while Tom Brady threw for 348 yards and three TDs.

The Giants (2-3) lost to the Minnesota Vikings 28-10. Daniel Jones threw a beautiful 38-yard touchdown pass but missed too many open receivers. The Giants run defense was gashed on the day to the tune of 211 yards.  

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 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 Giants have met 29 times in the preseason including 15 years in a row. But they are meeting for just the 11th time in the regular season. The Patriots lead the overall series 6-4, but the G-men can lay claim to two Super Bowl victories over Brady, Belichick and the Patriots after the 2007 and 2011 seasons.  

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 Giants Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game finally showed some signs of getting itself untracked against an albeit awful Redskins run defense which entered the game allowing 147.5 yards per game. Sony Michel churned out 91 yards, most of which in the second half as the run blocking got much better after halftime.

The Giants got chewed up last week and are allowing an average of 130 yards per game. The big men up front led by rookie Dexter Lawrence are playing well, but they were victimized by zone running plays that tested their speed and athleticism. They should get linebackers Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis back this week, which should help the run defense. 

With the quick week coupled with the travel, and the weather where it is expected to have heavy rains and winds over 20 mph, the Patriots may opt to further wear down a run defense that took a beating on Sunday. Look for plenty of Michel and Rex Burkhead, if he’s able to go tonight.           

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

The Patriots passing game ended up having a very solid Sunday as Brady passed for 348 yards and three touchdowns after getting sacked three times in the first half. Julian Edelman was nearly uncoverable where Washington had no one that could stick with him. The running backs out of the backfield made big contributions with James White doing his normal solid work and Brandon Bolden hauling in a 29-yard touchdown. 

The Giants pass defense has been bad, allowing over 280 yards per game and allowing opposing QBs to post a 106.8 passer rating. Rewatching the tape of the Vikings game showed the play-action passing and crossing routes were giving them fits. However, the way to beat Brady and the Patriots offense is to bring pressure up the middle. That’s where Lawrence comes in. He has the ability to throw a monkey wrench into the Patriots plans. 

Look for the Patriots to utilize Edelman on those shallow crossers as he’ll take on Grant Haley in the slot. There will be no Phillip Dorsett, so Josh Gordon will be working against Janoris Jenkins. Look for the Patriots to run a lot of those two-back “Pony” sets with James White and Burkhead. Play action passing will be huge here to slow the pass rush and get the open man quickly.

Next up the Giants offense:

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

The Giants are missing the outstanding Saquon Barkley and his backup Wayne Gallman this week. Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain and is week-to-week and Gallman suffered a concussion against the Vikings. Now they’ll go with former practice squadders Jon Hilliman and fullback Eli Perry.  Perry is an intriguing player, tough physical, can carry the ball a bit and make the occasional catch. 

The Patriots front seven has been very good against the run. Last week, they had a single breakdown of a 65-yard jet sweep where the secondary missed tackles but other than that, they shut down the Redskins ground game. Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and Michael Bennett have been excellent at slowing things at the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to clean up. Unlike previous years, the Patriots are doing a much better job of setting the edge with John Simon and Jamie Collins doing a tremendous job. 

The much anticipated matchup with Barkley won’t happen this time around and with the G-Men on their third and fourth options, I don’t see them running a consistent rushing attack against a unit allowing 78 yards per game. 

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

The Giants passing game has shown definite signs of life with Daniel Jones, who was impressive here in August for the fourth preseason game. But he’s missing his top WR in Sterling Shepard as well as his top tight end Evan Engram who are hurt. He still has the talented Golden Tate and Darius Slayton but will that be enough? 

The Patriots pass defense has been on an absolute roll this year. With a deep and talented secondary with 11 interceptions, an excellent group of linebackers and a pass rush that has already generated 24 sacks, they are playing outstanding football. They are tops in the league allowing just 160.4 yards per game through the air and just 6.8 points per game. Despite the short week, the Patriots defense will have a slightly easier time to prepare for the Giants passing offense as it bears many of the same looks as Washington’s. 

Jones has mobility but look for the Patriots to continue to be aggressive and attack the Giants offensive line while rolling their coverages to try to confuse the rookie QB. Jamie Collins may be a spy on Jones if he starts to hurt the defense with his legs. But with a depleted pass receiving core, this matchup should easily favor New England.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New York

The Patriots Mike Nugent missed his first extra point attempt but then was perfect on his next three while hitting two chip shot field goals. Rookie punter Jake Bailey has been outstanding. While the return game has been hit or miss with rookie Gunner Olszewski. 

Meanwhile the Giants Aldrick Rosas hasn’t missed an extra point and has only one field goal miss although his long is only 36 yards. Punter Riley Dixon has been excellent and is averaging 47.5 yards per punt. Corey Ballentine has done a good job on kick returns, while Golden Tate and T.J. Jones handle punt returns. 

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots are playing on a short week, but get this one at home, which always helps on Thursday Night Football. The Giants are beat up physically and missing several key skill position players on offense. Their defense has been allowing over 400 yards and over 25 points per game.  

Bill Belichick has been kryptonite for rookie QBs when facing them for the first time and Tom Brady has an 11-1 record in Thursday games. 

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Running Game Center Stage – Look for the Patriots once again to try to establish the run against a team that is struggling to stop it. Sony Michel should see plenty of work along with Burkhead [if he is active], James White with some Brandon Bolden mixed in. 

Getting in good position on early downs will open up the entire offense. On the flip side, with no Barkley and Gallman, the Patriots should be able to shut down the run. 

Do a Better Job on Third Downs – The Patriots offense struggled again on third down going just 5-15 last week in Washington. That stat has to improve. With a strong running game, it will open up play action especially in third and short situations. The running backs in the passing game along with Edelman will be third down keys. 

The Patriots defense has been outstanding on third down and held Washington to just 1-11 last week. They will look to continue that as well as limit big plays by the Giants offense. They should be able to stifle them from making the long ball-control type of drives, so the Giants may have to hit some big chunk plays to keep pace. 

Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers – The Patriots have been crazy good at creating turnovers defensively with 11 interceptions and one fumble recovery. Look for them to try to keep creating a favorable field position for the offense. With a young, rookie QB, they may be able to bait him into making a mistake or two.

Brady has made two red-zone interceptions in the past two games, both of which were poor decisions. Those have to be cut out as well as maintaining good ball control on a night where the weather conditions are predicted to be bad. 

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This should be a game, [on paper] where the Patriots should roll easily. The Giants offense is missing their top two rushers and their top two pass receivers. Going against a defense that has been playing as well as New England’s while facing a rookie QB, it has the potential to get away from the away team quickly. That’s why they play the games. 

It will be interesting to see Josh McDaniels’ approach for the offense in this one. But with Sony Michel and the running backs in the passing game, along with Edelman and Gordon, Brady should have plenty of targets to go after a suspect Giants defense. Patriots 27-6

The “Knocking on Seven’s Door” tour heads to New Jersey and a Monday Night Football matchup with the New York Jets next 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 and breakdown game analysis

 

Patriots 2019 Opponents, Week 6, First Impressions of the Giants

Steve Balestrieri
October 9, 2019 at 8:34 am ET

The New York Giants are hurting, injury-wise coming into the Week 6 game with the Patriots. If there isn’t enough reason to hate Thursday Night Football, besides the asinine uniforms that the teams wear, several key members of the G-Men, notably on the offensive side of the ball may not be ready to go by Thursday night.  

The Giants came under a ton of flak this spring when they selected Daniel Jones from Duke with their first-round pick, sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Jones quieted some of those critics with some stellar play in the preseason. But after a slow start, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur benched two time Super Bowl winner Eli Manning and placed Jones in as the team’s starter. Jones’ first game he led a thrilling come-from-behind win over the Bucs and coupled that up with a win over Washington, before losing last week to Minnesota. 

This team though right now is beset by several injuries and that is a big reason why the Patriots are 16 point favorites this week.

So, here are our first impressions of the Giants of 2019:

Belichick is Really High On Jones, Was Hoping He’d Drop in the Draft:

Bill Belichick was practically gushing about the talents of Jones when discussing the young Giants QB. During Belichick’s conference call on Monday to the media, he sounded quite impressed with him.

“We did some work on him in the spring as well; he visited here and spent some time with us,” Belichick said. “He’s a very impressive young man and I’ve gotten the chance to see him play in the last few weeks here. So he’s a smart kid, has a good football background, very athletic, runs well. He’s fast, he can get out of the pocket and he’s a hard guy to catch.” 

“It’s a very diverse offense, and it looks like Jones has handled it very well,” he added, speaking about Shurmur’s offense. “He does all of the things that they do, including the RPO’s and so forth that it looks like have been included in the offense, have been added in the last couple years. So, he has a pretty complete playbook for his level of experience and he handles all of those things well.”

“He’s an accurate thrower at all three levels. He’s shown a lot of poise in the pocket. He’s taken some hits and had people around him back in the pocket, but he has a lot of poise and toughness and just stands in there.”

Jones was very impressive in a short cameo during the 4th and final preseason game here in August. But if you think Belichick is just inflating this week’s opponent, as is the norm around here, consider this. 

Dianna Russini of ESPN reported that Belichick told Jones’ then Duke coach David Cutcliffe, “Jones won’t be there when we are on the clock but I sure hope he drops.”

Injuries May Have the Offense Short-Handed: 

The Giants will probably be without star wide receiver Sterling Shepard who is out with a concussion. Tight End Evan Engram will also probably miss this game with a knee injury. Worse yet, Adam Schefter reported on Tuesday that besides Shepard and Engram unlikely to play, that the Giants outstanding running back, Saquon Barkley is probably not going to be able to play either. 

Engram leads the Giants with 33 receptions for 373 yards and two touchdowns. The media in New York reported that there wasn’t a packed bag in front of Engram’s locker, which is indicative that he may not be making the trip to Foxboro. 

Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain about two weeks ago and although he’s been at practice, albeit in a limited fashion, he hasn’t yet received medical clearance to go. Initially, it was believed Barkley would out six to eight weeks. Now it could be much shorter, given his appearance at the last three Giants’ practices. 

Shurmur, however, isn’t having any of these reports. On Tuesday he stated, “You didn’t hear that from me,” Shurmur said when he was asked about the reports that described Barkley as unlikely to play on Thursday. “Some of the stuff that’s out there we didn’t put out there.”

The Giants Defense May Get Back Two Starting Linebackers:

The Giants’ injury woes on offense may be tempered somewhat by the news that two of their starting linebackers may return to action on Thursday night against the Patriots. Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis, who both missed the Giants’ last two games were full participants at practice on Tuesday. 

It is hoped that both will be ready to go and that will be a big boost for a defense that has been struggling a bit. The Giants lost rookie starter Ryan Connelly to a season-ending knee injury also and with three backups in last week against the Minnesota Vikings, the Giants were gashed for 211 yards on the ground. 

However, for one member of the Giants defense, strong safety Jabrill Peppers, he’s excited to be going against fellow Michigan alum Tom Brady for the first time. “This is my first time,” Peppers said. “I’m excited, I ain’t gonna lie.”

The Giants pass defense is ranked 28th in terms of yards allowed but Peppers has begun to assert himself in the defense. He had a pick-six against the Redskins two weeks ago and forced a fumble against the Vikings last week. 

Keep an Eye On Rookie DT Dexter Lawrence on Thursday Night: 

The old adage about the way to beat Tom Brady by moving him off his spot is very true while the silly wives’ tale of “Brady doesn’t like to get hit” is just that. Name me one QB that loves getting hit in the pocket. However, we digress here. One thing the Redskins were able to do, especially early in the game was bring pressure on Brady by only rushing three and frequently that was coming right up the middle. 

The Giants’ second 1st-round draft pick this spring was Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence who they selected with the 17th overall pick. The scouting profile on Lawrence had the big [6’4, 342] man being a premier run-stuffer but a player who wouldn’t offer much as a pass rusher. But early results show that may have been a flawed report. Lawrence has two sacks, three QB hits, and several hurries. 

If he can get the pressure up the A-gap that the Giants have been able to do to Brady in two SBs then they know that the chances for an upset increase. Lawrence, who grew up watching Brady on television as a kid, is eager for the opportunity. 

“It would be like a dream come true,” Lawrence said in an interview earlier this week. “That’s every young defensive player’s dream, is to go sack, Tom Brady. You see people get pressure up the middle, and he gets a little uncomfortable.”

If Barkley is Out Who Is Running the Ball? 

If Adam Schefter’s report is indeed true and RB Saquon Barkley misses this week’s game, his backup Wayne Gallman is also unlikely to play as he has a concussion. So the onus in the Giants running game will fall to third-stringer Jon Hillman and fullback Eli Penny who was activated off the team’s practice squad a la Jakob Johnson. 

Hillman is another guy who was formerly on the practice squad after going undrafted from Rutgers, the home for many of the Patriots defensive backs. Hillman didn’t have a lot of success running against a very stout Minnesota front seven last week. He gained only 20 yards on nine carries as they had trouble moving the ball. 

Penny a 6’1, 250-pound battering ram contributed in both the running and passing games and he may see a lot more reps and looks this week if the Giants offense is as short-handed as the early reports indicated. 

This is another reason why Thursday Night Football sucks. But hey, the league is all about player safety. 

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

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

 

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: The Patriots Beat The Redskins And Look To Do The Same Against The Giants

Russ Goldman
October 8, 2019 at 5:26 pm ET

In this episode of Patriots Fourth And Two. we looked back at the Patriots victory against the Redskins. After that, we talked about the Patriots releasing Ben Watson. Lastly, to finish the show, we previewed the upcoming game for the Patriots against the Giants.

New England Patriots News 9-15, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 15, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 09-15 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, and a return to football… hopefully, this afternoon. This past week has been a ridiculously, needless testament to what the news has become in this country. The Antonio Brown saga has been in full-blown TMZ mode all week to where the Patriots opening season big win over the Steelers and the upcoming game at Miami were swept aside like unnecessary backdrops. 

“Should Belichick Release Him?”, “When did the Patriots know?” “Why Didn’t the Patriots Know?” “What Number/Helmet/cleats is AB wearing?” Non-stop since Tuesday.

You know it has gotten ridiculous when CNN fixes a GPS map finder to someone’s car so that he can find Gillette Stadium and then attempt to harangue Bill Belichick with the same question three times like they would third rate politicians as if that is really going to make him answer. 

*Hint for today* – When the team releases a statement stating they are aware of an investigation and will not comment further until there is a resolution…and you ask once, you are doing your job. Ask the same thing twice and you’re getting into rude territory. Push it a third time by talking over the coach saying “you didn’t answer it”, then you’re just a jerk who is making this about yourself…but they have a penchant for that. 

The only thing missing was for Harvey Levin to have one of his dweebs outside the stadium with a video camera. “We got Belichick coming out at 2 a.m. after meetings and film study. ‘So Bill, do you really like football?’” 

So, for a few hours, we can watch the game(s) and not have to be subjected to the same “All Antonio, All the Time” drivel non-stop. Unless Brown does play and has a big game…

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Malcolm Mitchell – opened up to NBC in an interview on how difficult it is to move on to life after football. His career ended prematurely due to numerous injuries and it was derailed just as it should have been taking off. 

“I guess I knew I would have this breakup with football, someday. I just didn’t know how bad it would be on my mental health. It’s like I’ve been reincarnated, as somebody else. And I don’t want to be anybody else,” Mitchell said. 

“I have to move on,” he added. “I know that. I have to come out of this grieving phase, and I’m working on that. I can’t stay here, because if I do, I’m as good as dead.”

Patriots Baby Boom  – Last week Kyle Van Noy was inactive for the Steelers game due to his wife going into labor and then welcoming his son into the world. On Friday it was reported that James White wouldn’t travel as his wife was giving birth as well. But on Saturday it was reported that he indeed did travel to Miami. However, it seems like there may have been a slight boom during the post-regular season time frame. Perhaps, it was across the region as well. 

Rob Gronkowski – The big man remains in the news as he’s been doing interviews and promoting his new business [CBD Oil] which he claims has healed him. Gronk told an interviewer this week, that despite nine surgeries, he had at least 20 concussions of which five were “total blackouts”. He did add that although not yet a father, he would allow his son to play football as long as he was made aware of the risks involved.

Obi Melifonwu – After being let go with the addition of Antonio Brown, the big safety from Grafton cleared waivers and the Patriots brought him back onto the practice squad. And the team did him a big solid. While the bottom line for pay for practice squad players is $8000 a week, the Patriots frequently pay more and in Melifonwu’s case, much more. The team brought him back at his regular salary of $645,000 or in this case $37,941 a week. When people talk about “how cheap” the Patriots are…remind them of this little tidbit. Melifonwu may still fit in the team’s long-term plans with Pat Chung and Devin McCourty possibly retiring soon. 

Week 1 Overreaction? Say it ain’t so – After the Patriots dismantled the Steelers on opening night, optimism was running very high in New England, and why not? Despite some uneven play at times, they dominated from start to finish, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. First, it is one game, and we all remember the horrific opener against the Chiefs a few years ago, right? And second, despite the optimism emanating from Western PA, the Patriots have owned the Steelers in Foxboro. 

That said, the defense played as advertised and the offense despite going 0-3 in the red zone looked much better than advertised. It is a good, no, very good start. But remember, today is another day and let’s wait to see how they play in Miami, where they traditionally lay an egg. FWIW, I still believe Pittsburgh wins their division.

The Patriots Passing Game Now a Position of Strength? You Bet:

The strong showing by Tom Brady and company on Sunday night, plus the addition of the aforementioned Antonio Brown definitely played a hand in the trade of WR Demaryius Thomas to the Jets. We’ll get to more of that below. But as of right now, the passing attack is, at least for one week, much farther along than we would have believed just a few short weeks ago.

With Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers at wide receiver and James White along with Rex Burkhead out of the backfield, the offense has plenty of weapons for Brady to utilize. This is before even adding Brown, running back Damien Harris, rookie WR N’Keal Harry (IR) and veteran WR Cameron Meredith (PUP) to the mix for depth purposes later in the year. Now the possibilities are very optimistic. 

So even though the situation at tight end is far from perfect with Matt LaCosse banged up and Ryan Izzo more of a blocker, there are still plenty of options for Brady to target. Ben Watson can return after the Bills game and he should help there. 

But in Thomas’ case, I received a DM on Twitter asking, “if the Patriots had known about the AB claims, would they still have traded Thomas?” It is a good question, but my answer is yes. The passing game was clicking and even without considering Brown, they still have Harris, Harry, and Meredith. So, they really didn’t need him, and were able to unload his contract so there is no dead money involved. 

But their choice of trading partners was really intriguing. I was also asked what I thought of the choice of the Jets for his landing spot. Bill Belichick has traded with 30 other NFL teams since taking over the Patriots. Until this week, the only team he hadn’t traded with was the Jets. 

My feeling is, and this is strictly just an opinion, that they didn’t feel that Thomas was ever going to recapture enough of his game to be a viable receiver once again. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have traded him to the Jets…we’ll see next week. 

Time to Get Michel More Involved in the Passing Game:

The Patriots will be looking to get Sony Michel more involved in the running game today and get him untracked but they can help in that regard by getting him more involved in the passing game. Last week the Steelers keyed off of Michel’s being on the field by crowding the box and playing the run. And in that, they were very successful as Michel had only 14 yards on 15 carries.

According to my feeble math skills, with Michel on the field, the Patriots ran the ball nearly 75 percent of the time. Pittsburgh, having watched the postseason tape of the Patriots played run-heavy and was able to stuff it time and again. After rewatching the game tape, when the Patriots passed with Michel on the field, they were very successful. Now I get it, it is a minuscule sample size, but they averaged about 15 yards per play. 

Getting Michel more involved in the passing game just removes some of the predictability that other teams will have noticed and make this offense that much harder to stop. Today would be a perfect time to start giving opposing defensive coordinators even more to consider. 

Bulked Up Josh Gordon “In the Best Shape of My Career”:

Josh Gordon is playing at nearly 240 pounds this season as he may be in line for some of Rob Gronkowski’s work in the slot. Gordon’s bulked up presence may have been by design to take on the extra workload of Gronk’s absence. He played only about 10 percent out of the slot in 2018. On Sunday it was around 35 percent.

Gordon spoke about his workload and how he feels physically this week and he’s very optimistic of his long-term outlook. NFL Network’s Mike Giardi asked him if he’s in the best shape of his career and Gordon was quick to agree.

“Oh yeah, by far. By far,” Gordon told Giardi. “I don’t have any injuries this year, fortunately. Me and [strength and conditioning coach] Moses Cabrera have been in the training room every morning getting after it and continue to grow. It’s only Week 2. I’m excited, we’re all excited to see what happens halfways toward the end of the season. I think it’s going to be a huge upside at that point.”

Gordon’s upbeat attitude is definitely a plus and we can expect him to get even more looks in the passing game as the season winds on today.

NFL Schedule Week 2, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 11-4-1

TNF Carolina over Tampa Bay 0-1 

Dallas over Washington
Tennessee over Indy
Pittsburgh over Seattle
Buffalo over NY Giants
Patriots over Miami
Houston over Jacksonville
Green Bay over Minnesota
LA Chargers over Detroit
Cincinnati over San Francisco
Baltimore over Arizona
Kansas City over Oakland
Chicago over Denver
LA Rams over New Orleans – Rematch of the NFC Championship
SNF Philly over Atlanta
MNF Cleveland over NY Jets

Early Thursday Night Football pick Tennessee over Jacksonville

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Need to Slow Down Saquon Barkley Today:

The Buffalo Bills can go to 2-0 by winning in the same stadium on the road, two weeks in a row. The Bills scored 17 straight points by beating the Jets in MetLife Stadium last week and take on the Giants today. But they face a very talented back in Saquon Barkley and he’ll be a big difference in who wins or loses.

The Bills pass defense is the strength of their team and they’ve allowed 217 yards or less for nine straight weeks, heading back to last season. And the Giants are banged up at WR. So, it stands to reason that the Giants may opt to feed one of the best RBs in the business in Barkley.

Barkley averaged 10.9 yards per rushing attempt last week in Dallas garnering 120 yards on just 11 carries. Which begs the question, why didn’t they use him more? On the flip side, watch for Bills rookie Devin Singletary to get more work today. The rookie RB had 70 yards on just four carries and added 28 more on five receptions. He was fun to watch. 

Dolphins Minkah Fitzpatrick Possibly Going to Dallas:

The Miami Dolphins agreed this week to allow safety/cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick to seek a trade partner.  And while there will no doubt be several teams interested, one team, the Dallas Cowboys have already publicly expressed interest. 

Fitzpatrick was a first-round draft pick just a year ago, but he’s unhappy with the way he’s being used by the new coaching staff and wants out. Dallas has been trying to upgrade the safety position all year. They courted the idea of bringing in Earl Thomas and Eric Berry but signed neither. They signed George Iloka. But the veteran was released, beaten out by veteran Jeff Heath and rookie Donovan Wilson. Fitzpatrick is a big upgrade over either of those two. So, this will bear watching.

What would be the asking price? Some circles are pointing to DL Taco Charlton who isn’t playing much because of a deep Dallas front seven. This development may have some bearing on how much Fitzpatrick plays today.

Jets Are Banged Up and Now Lose Darnold to Mono:

The New York Jets have already suffered a rash of injuries this season, Quincy Enunwa is out for the year with a neck injury. C.J. Moseley was forced to leave last week’s opener with a groin injury. RB Le’Veon Bell hurt his shoulder and had an MRI on it. But now they’ve lost QB Sam Darnold to mononucleosis, which is expected to keep him shelved indefinitely. And the schedule isn’t doing them any favors.

Trevor Siemian takes over for Darnold and faces a daunting schedule. The Jets play a Cleveland Browns team that was embarrassed last week on Monday Night Football, then head to Foxboro to take on the Patriots, followed by games against the Eagles, Cowboys, and then the Patriots again. That is a tough five-game stretch even if Darnold was in the lineup.

The Jets offensive line will also have to deal with a very less mobile QB than Darnold as Siemian can’t make plays outside the pocket as Darnold can. 

________________

“Yeah, Troy’s done a good job. You know, we have three rookie receivers, and Troy was in the same type of situation when he came. Obviously, that was in a different system, but he’s seen a lot of guys come through that. He did it himself, and I think he can help everybody – from the rookies, the guys who have never played before, to new players, to players who have played here a long time like Julian.” – Bill Belichick on the difference former Patriot Troy Brown has made helping coach the WRs.

________________

“So, how was your 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 Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots Close Out Preseason, Now It is Decision Time

Steve Balestrieri
August 30, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

For the fifteenth year in a row, the Patriots and Giants ended their preseason with a game against each other and the Giants, courtesy of a last-second Kyle Lauletta touchdown pass [albeit one where the play clock ran out well before the snap], beat the Patriots 31-29, scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half.

With the preseason over, now comes the cut-down from the 90 man roster limit to the active 53-man roster by Saturday at 4:00 p.m. On Sunday at 1:00 p.m. the teams can fill out their 10 man practice squad. The Patriots actually have a waiver for an 11th player, Jakob Johnson due to his being an NFL International Player if he doesn’t make the 53.

Here are our quick observations from tonight’s game:

Tough Ending for Olszewski:

Gunner Olszewski was beaten on the final play of the game in the end zone when Lauletta launched a 14-yard touchdown to Alonzo Russell with no time left on the clock. It was a disappointing ending of what was a good night and a truly outstanding summer for the UDFA rookie from Bemidji State.

Nobody gave the Division 2 cornerback that the Patriots turned into a wide receiver much of a shot to make the team. But he’s worked hard and has been able to contribute in the kick return game and a bit offensively. He may not make the 53-man roster but he put some distance between himself and Braxton Berrios who was thought to have the inside track on the position. 

On Thursday night, Olszewski returned three kicks for 77 yards, one punt for seven, and had two catches for 35 yards including a nice 29-yard reception. At the end of the game, he went back to playing defense on the Giants last possession and was at big size mismatch against Russell who beat him for the touchdown. 

Olszewski has been a really nice story this summer, and there is still a shot that he’ll make the team as a returner. 

Gordon, Thomas, and Edelman at WR, Who Would Have Predicted That?

Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, and Julian Edelman all played in the first half, giving the Patriots a look offensively that one wouldn’t normally enjoy for the 4th preseason game. But none of them had played at all this preseason and the coaches obviously felt that they could use some live game action. 

Edelman had one catch for 20-yards but landed on his injured thumb and quickly left the game, having had it checked out by the medical staff on the sideline. That tweak sent Patriots fans on social media from unbridled optimism to near panic… “Why’s he out there in a meaningless 4th preseason game, Bill!” sigh.

Thomas looked like he was moving pretty well, with no discomfort and had seven catches for 87 yards with 2 touchdowns on eight targets. It had to be a promising start for a guy who had surgery for a torn Achilles about eight months ago. 

The offense and Gordon had trouble clicking as Stidham and he didn’t have their timing down. Which isn’t surprising since he was suspended since December and just began work with the team last Sunday. He was on NFI until this week. However, despite catching just two passes for 30 yards on six targets, Gordon’s night was particularly optimistic looking forward. He also drew a 35-yard pass interference penalty. Gordon showed he still has the explosiveness off the line and has the ability to stretch the field vertically which should lend itself well to the offense.

Stidham Plays the Entire Game:

This wasn’t a surprise, we felt that the Patriots would approach the game by giving the rookie QB all the work in this final tilt. Barring catastrophic injury, this should be the last meaningful game action until the 2020 preseason. 

Stidham completed 18-25 for 225 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. His pick resulted from a big hit he took as he was releasing the ball causing his pass to flutter straight up where safety Sean Chandler picked it off. 

But the only way for Stidham to improve is by getting game reps so that he can work on his decision making, his speed in processing plays and getting a better overall feel of the offense. He’s made very impressive strides since the first time we watched him back in minicamp. As we said in our podcast earlier this week, the Patriots should keep three QBs on the 53-man roster. 

Rookie Froholdt Injured, OL Depth Takes a Hit:

The team started Hjalte Froholdt at guard tonight, the rookie from Denmark is considered a project for the offensive line this year. He’s been battling a shoulder issue but then went down with an injury in the first half, holding his right arm. After going into the blue medical tent, he was taken to the locker room where he didn’t return. 

The team just made a couple of trades yesterday for tackle Korey Cunningham and guard Jermaine Eluemunor but Froholdt was still on our list for players making the 53-man roster. This injury may change that. If he’s hurt and going to be out for an extended period of time, the Patriots may opt to place him on IR, which may open the door for James Ferentz. 

Coaches Test Versatility With Olszewski, Williams, Johnson: 

We mentioned above that the coaching staff had Gunner Olszewski in all three phases of the game, offense, defense, and special teams. But he wasn’t alone. Jakob Johnson played fullback and in the second half was also logging snaps as an outside linebacker, and even generated some pressure on the QB. But the real story was the team moving rookie Joejuan Williams to safety. 

Williams is a corner but he has the size of a safety at 6’3, 212. He has the size and physicality that is slightly reminiscent of Brandon Browner. And while this may be nothing more than to see what the rookie can handle, We view Williams as a matchup piece where the coaching staff figures to use him against bigger wide receivers and/or tight ends. But with Belichick, it is always a case of “the more you can do…” 

Williams played next to Malik Gant who was injured and was carted off during the game. It was curious that Obi Melifonwu who was dressed didn’t play tonight. 

So, the coaches have to make their roster cuts, one player who was just signed on Sunday, LB Scooby Wright, acquitted himself quite well. He had four tackles, two sacks and two tackles for losses. Another linebacker, Calvin Munson is making a case for himself to make the roster as well. 

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

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

What to Watch For, Patriots and Giants Preseason Finale

Steve Balestrieri
August 29, 2019 at 7:25 am ET

The Patriots wrap up their preseason slate later on tonight against a very familiar foe, the New York Giants. The two teams have faced each other 15 years in a row in the preseason finale, it is akin to the warning bell telling both teams that the preseason is over and the games count starting next week. 

However, despite the fact that the starters on either team will barely play if at all should not lead one to believe that this game is meaningless. A number of players from both teams are playing for their futures tonight and while most of the slots on each team are already decided a few may hinge on what happens tonight in Gillette. 

So, from a Patriots perspective, what are we looking for tonight and how will these scenarios shape the upcoming roster cuts?

Stidham Should Play the Entire Game at QB:

Tonight will be the Jarrett Stidham show from start to finish. Tom Brady will definitely not play and Brian Hoyer should only enter in case of an emergency, or injury to the rookie. If Hoyer were to play any snaps in a scenario other than what was mentioned, it definitely wouldn’t bode well for his chances of sticking. 

And…in a perfect world, these should be the last meaningful snaps we see Stidham take in live-action until next preseason.  He won’t have a full complement of backs and receivers but, the coaches will get to evaluate how he handles the huddle, situational football and how well he grasps the offense.

Nick Brosette and Brandon Bolden …C’mon Down:

Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, and Damien Harris should get the night off. So it will be up to Brosette and Bolden to handle the running back duties. It wouldn’t be crazy if the coaches decided to get Harris some more game action but the feeling here is that he’s shown them enough and he’s been slowed by a few injuries this preseason, that they don’t want to risk aggravating anything this close to the Steelers game. 

Brosette has played pretty well this summer, but he’s a victim of the numbers game as the team is really deep at running back. Bolden is a special teams ace but will spell Brosette here and there as well as catch the odd catch out of the backfield.

While Bolden is pretty much a lock for the roster with his STs experience, Brosette will either be auditioning for the Patriots practice squad or for another team. Jakob Johnson [NFL International Player] will be on the PS and he and Andrew Beck should see plenty of work at fullback.

No Edelman, Gordon, Thomas, Harry Tonight?

It would be very surprising to see Josh Gordon or Demaryius Thomas on the field tonight against the Giants. Neither played against the Panthers and it would appear that the coaches are satisfied that they’ll be ready to contribute vs the Steelers next week. Ditto for Phillip Dorsett, although they may opt for him to play a few series just to give Stidham some targets [ditto for Jakobi Meyers]. No way we’ll see Julian Edelman. 

So, Meyers, who has built quite a nice chemistry with Stidham should get the start and see plenty of work. This game will be very important to both Gunner Olszewski, and Braxton Berrios. Both showed good promise in the return game this summer. Berrios was beginning to catch on in the passing game before suffering an injury. Olszewski looked very good in the return game recently. 

But with the activation of Thomas from PUP and Gordon from suspension, the chances of either making the 53-man roster for their STs [read return] ability has really taken a hit. Either or both could be brought back to the practice squad. Of course, the question is, if they don’t make it, who are your kick returners? It would seem to fall to Dorsett and Bolden… stay tuned.

OL Shuffling, Newcomers to See Work?

The Patriots just traded a 6th round draft choice for swing tackle Korey Cunningham, he was a 7th round draft pick for the Cardinals last year who got six starts at left tackle. The 6’6”, 305-pound tackle should immediately vault over Dan Skipper and Cole Croston for a spot on the 53-man roster. 

With David Andrews sidelined for at least three months and possibly for the season, the Patriots brought in more depth in a trade with Baltimore for interior OL Jermaine Eluemunor. He was a 5th round draft pick of the Ravens in 2017 and has appeared in 17 games with three starts. He was named to the PFWA [Pro Football Writers of America] All-Rookie Team in 2017. 

Players like James Ferentz and Hjalte Froholdt will get plenty of playing time and it may come down to just one of those two making the roster,

Defense Is Set, Now Is the Time For Game Experience:

The Patriots defensive line looks pretty set right now so, with no Michael Bennett, Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, or Adam Butler expected to play tonight, the younger players should see plenty of action to get more game time snaps. That begins with impressive rookies Chase Winovich and Byron Cowart. 

Derek Rivers and Shalique Calhoun are still banged up so we’ll see a lot of Umfomba Kamalu, Nick Thurman and David Parry tonight. One big scenario to watch is for Deatrich Wise’s situation. Many have him on the bubble. If he sits it would seem his position is safe. If he plays, those rumors would appear to be true. 

The same holds true at linebacker where Elandon Roberts [trade bait?] and Calvin Munson appear to be fighting for one roster position. Munson has been impressive in the past few weeks. And with Brandon King on IR, Munson has taken many snaps on STs and it could swing in his favor. 

In the secondary, look for younger guys J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen, and Joejuan Williams to get a lot of work at cornerback. Duke Dawson has played a lot of STs and he may play some safety too. The final safety spot comes down to Nate Ebner [strictly STs] or Obi Melifonwu who offers some ST’s acumen and a much higher upside defensively.

Check back with us after the game for our observations and notes. 

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

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

New England Patriots News, 4-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 14, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-14 and AFC East Notes.

It is looking like it is going to be another soggy Boston Marathon this year, we’d like to wish all of the competitors the best of luck tomorrow.


As we stated last week we have begun our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team, our first on tight ends can be seen here:  And our follow-up post on possible wide receiver fits can be seen here: Our draft profiles on defensive tackles is here:

ICYMI: Our second Mock Draft 2.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. You can recap it here: I believe we all expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, possibly packing some picks for a trade or perhaps moving around the board as they are very used to doing. Mock Draft 3.0 will be coming out early this week.

Derek Havens and I have been doing a special podcast highlighting the upcoming NFL Draft in addition to the regular one we do with host Russ Goldman. This week, we’re planning on having ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates with us to discuss the draft, what the Patriots may do, especially in the early rounds and about the NFL in general. Please do check that out around mid-week.

Last week did a draft mailbag podcast which can be listened to here:

Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady was on his Instagram account beginning his offseason work at his home. The interesting thing about that was he was still picking confetti from the Super Bowl out of his helmet. Speaking of which, he can no longer wear his old one and must wear the newer version which he tried a few times last year.

Chris Hogan signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. Hogan had quite a few memorable moments and catches in his three years in New England, helping the team get to three Super Bowls and winning two. But his leaving this spring is not a surprise, it seemed like a long shot for him to return.

Pat Chung has signed a one-year extension according to NFL.com, locking up the Patriots safety thru the 2021 season. Ian Rapoport was the first to report the news. Chung broke his arm in the Super Bowl but is expected to be fully healthy by training camp

Tim Tebow was in Pawtucket playing the Paw Sox for the Mets minor league affiliate and was asked about his brief time with Tom Brady. Tebow gave a long answer, gushing over the qualities of Brady as both a QB and a teammate. Then apologizing for giving an answer that was too long.  Tebow was and is always a class act.

RIP Forrest Gregg the longtime Packer great offensive lineman who passed away at age 85 this week. Gregg set a record (since broken) of playing in 188 straight games and later became the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Green Bay Packers. Vince Lombardi called Gregg, “the greatest player I ever coached.”

The Patriots were supposedly interested in making a trade for NY Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepherd, but for the second year in a row, the Giants when they found out there was interest in their player (OBJ last year), gave the player a fat extension. In Shepherd’s case a 4-year, $41 million dollar extension.

Seferian-Jenkins Is Excited to Play in New England:

With the signing of TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins this week, it was a move we immediately pegged as a win but then turned around and stated that he probably would not be a #1 tight end here. And we’ll double down on that. The move was for the veterans’ minimum salary with just a $50,000 signing bonus and incentive bonuses totaling only another $40,000. That is peanuts; so the outlay of cash and risk for the team is very minimal.

Seferian-Jenkins could….could step into a #1 role for the Patriots, but they don’t obviously think that is so or they would’ve enticed him earlier with more money. It will be interesting to see how he works out with the team in the spring. And if he can stay healthy and on the field.

A best-case scenario for the team would be for them to get one of the top TEs in the draft (which is still a big need) and have Seferian-Jenkins step into the #2 role as a complementary receiver.

Jenkins took to social media posting a picture of the original Pat the Patriot (he immediately got high marks from here) and thanked the Patriots and stated “I am ready to go to work.” And why wouldn’t he be? Look at the QBs he’s played with and he’s never been on a playoff team.

Belichick Praises Caserio, Scouting Dept. Ahead of the Draft:

Bill Belichick held a pre-draft press conference at Gillette on Weds. and opened with nearly a 7-minute statement praising the work of Nick Caserio, the Pats Director of Player Personnel.

With a big turnover in the coaching staff, Belichick said that there was less scouting of college prospects by the coaching staff than in previous years. But he raved about the job that Caserio and the Director of College Scouting Monte Ossenfort and Pro player Scouting Dave Zigler have done. With the absence of so many coaches, Zigler and his staff jumped in to help with the process.

“So it gives us a tremendous opportunity for him to connect with the coaches and understand the schematics of what’s going on with the coaching side of it, and to try to integrate and correlate the players we’re evaluating on all different levels,” Belichick said of Caserio.

Belichick added that the goal, as always is to come away “as good a predictor as possible as to how the player will fit in and perform on our team, and in our system, (emphasis mine),  in New England regardless of what the league value is for the player. It’s really what the player can do for us is what the final evaluation goal we’re trying to achieve.”

Patriots and Titans Will Hold Joint Practices This Summer:

The Patriots always try to conduct joint practices during training camp and this season will be no exception. Prior to their Week 2 preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, the two teams will conduct joint practices against one another at the Titans’ facility.

“Sure, we are going to practice against the Patriots,” Vrabel said on Friday.

“They’re going to come down here, and it’ll be great for our fans to come out here and see a lot of great players, the team that won the Super Bowl last year. And they’ll be able to watch those practices and see our work and see how we compete against each other and try to improve.”

That immediately set off a lot of good-natured trash talking between old friends and former Patriot Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, and Pat Chung. Ryan said he was going to play one snap at WR to burn the McCourty Twins. He tweeted, “Easy money, he getting old.”  Which immediately got a response from Devin where he answered, “Which one? I guess it don’t matter, I don’t like you vs anyone!” Chung jumped in with “I mean damn, Let’s do it!…LOL.”

The two teams will meet there in Nashville during the week of August 12. If fans are looking for a nice vacation trip…Nashville is nice any time of the year.

Seahawks and Patriots Trading for #21 Pick in the Draft?

The Seattle Seahawks are expected to be trading back from the #21 pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. And depending upon how the board plays out, the Patriots with a plethora of draft picks could be in a prime position to move up if one of the tight ends they covet are there or perhaps one of the premier edge guys like Clelin Ferrell.

Seattle has only four picks in the upcoming draft, (1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Rounds) so creating a few more would seem to be the order of the day for Pete Carroll. According to the Draft Value Chart, Seattle’s pick at #21 is worth an even 800 points. So to give them adequate compensation, the Patriots could package their first round pick at #32 (590 points) and #73 (225 points) to give Seattle a slight perceived edge or you could delve really deep and package #32, and some of the Patriots mid-to-later round picks for the Seahawks #21 and one of their mid-round picks.

Of course, they won’t be alone. Everyone knows that Seattle may be looking to trade back and that means the Seahawks brass will be looking for the best deal for them. That’s what makes this time of year so interesting.

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Speaking of the draft, I was talking about Boston College OL Chris Lindstrom to a high school coach that coached against him in school last week and he remembered how impressive the former Shepherd Hill OL was back then. “They ran those tight formations (Double Wing) and watching him pull out and road grade thru the defenses was impressive,” he said.  “Back then he was about 270 (pounds) and he was still one of the faster players on the field. You could tell he was going to a really special player.”

We say that because don’t go to sleep on a player like Lindstrom. He played right tackle for the Eagles, but projects to be an interior OL at the next level. But he has the versatility to maybe do both.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Looking For A Big Draft to Upgrade Offensive Weapons:

The Buffalo Bills were very active in free agency and signed six offensive linemen as well as two wide receivers during the early going of free agency. Don’t expect the Bills to stop there. Buffalo has 10 picks in the upcoming draft and they have the flexibility to move around the draft to search for the weapons to surround 2nd year QB Josh Allen with the talent he needs to succeed.

The Bills OLwas a mess in 2018 and they signed three guards, two tackles and one excellent center to help protect their franchise QB. They also added WRs John Brown, Cole Beasley and TE Tyler Kroft to the mix.

But now they are poised to make some noise in the draft. With the #9 pick in the draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has them taking Iowa T.J. Hockenson and then adding Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry with their 40th pick. The Bills just had the other Iowa TE Noah Fant in for a visit.  Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll doesn’t need to see Alabama TE Irv Smith up close for a visit, he coached him with the Tide.

The Bills also signed FA DE/OLB Eli Harold this week. Harold played two seasons for the 49ers and last year with Detroit where he had eight tackles, four sacks and a pass deflected in 13 games for the Lions.

Dolphins To Pass on Early QBs in the Draft? Quite Possible:

The Miami Dolphins and new head coach Brian Flores have a lot of holes to fill in the 2019 roster. After the jettisoning of Ryan Tannehill and the signing of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, most experts believe the Dolphins may reach early for the next potential franchise QB at #13 in the draft. Not so fast…

If someone they like is still around at #13 could Miami pounce on them, but with big holes to fill at DE, the offensive line, running back and corner, they Dolphins may wait to select a QB they can develop in the middle rounds.

Fans may scream given Fitzpatrick’s track record as a starter, but with Brian Flores coming from the Belichick regime, they may be looking at the long-term best solution first rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, which is how they ended up in this predicament.

Jets Ink Montgomery, Maybe the End of the Line for Powell:

The New York Jets signed RB/WR/KR Ty Montgomery this week to back up Le’Veon Bell. The former Ravens player was also reportedly being courted by the Miami Dolphins. A talented kick returner, Montgomery was cut by Green Bay after an ill-advised return at the end of a game with the Rams. Montgomery was told to take a knee and returned it out of the end zone and then fumbled.

He was dealt to the Ravens where in six games he rushed for 83 yards on 15 carries, with no touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 65 yards. He began his career as a WR and switched to RB with the Packers. It is expected that head coach Adam Gase will try to find a niche role for him behind Bell.

But that news is probably the end of Bilal Powell’s time as a New York Jet. He suffered a neck injury last season but was thought to be able to continue his career fully. In his eight seasons with the Jets, the 30-year old Powell rushed for 3,446 yards and 15 touchdowns, while catching 204 for 1,567 yards and five touchdowns. He was never the Jets #1 running back but led them in scrimmage yards in both 2013 and 2016.

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We’ve all seen those commercials “Want to Get Away?” When someone does something silly or just plain dumb… How about the editorial staff on Sportsnaut? This week they published a piece on “NFL stars about to fade in 2019” and who leads off the list? Danny Amendola. Okay you say, that could happen, but what? Danny Amendola of the New England Patriots.

“This veteran receiver will likely see an uptick in targets next season now that Rob Gronkowski has retired. In no way does this mean the 33-year-old Amendola is going to be as efficient as we’ve seen in the past.” Ouch. Ummm Amendola hasn’t been with the Patriots since 2017, having spent the 2018 season with Miami and now with Detroit.

The facts checker took the day off it seems. Want to get away? …

“Is it time for the Draft yet? So, how was your 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 Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.