Tag Archives: Patriots edge rushers

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: Texans vs. Patriots Preview

Russ Goldman
September 19, 2017 at 12:13 pm ET

In this episode we previewed the upcoming game for the Patriots against the Texans. However, we started the show by looking back at the Patriots victory against the Saints.

 Patriots Report Card, 36-20 Win Over the New Orleans Saints

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:30 am ET

High Marks For the Team in a Winning Effort

The Patriots are back in the win column and after 10 days of being subjected to questions about their makeup and roster moves, it comes at a perfect time. Was this a game they should have won? Yes …absolutely, but after Week 1, the team made a number of improvements…. Was it perfect? No. Are they where they want to be? Hardly. But in Week 2, they looked pretty darn good, especially on offense.

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: A
Tom Brady was masterful, in control and was obliterating that poor Saints defense. Only three healthy wide receivers? No problem. Brady goes 30-39 for 447 yards and three touchdowns, no picks, and a passer rating of 139.6.

The team wanted to get off to a good, fast start and put the Saints in catchup mode. Plus, it would take the crowd right out of the game. Brady threw for 177 yards and three scores in the first quarter as the team raced out to a 20-3 lead and never looked back.

Brady hung in the pocket all day and delivered the ball pretty much exactly where they wanted him to throw on Sunday. The few passes that were off the target had to do with either the pressure getting to him or in a few cases, he got hit as he released the ball.

He also spread the ball around nicely hitting nine different receivers for passes and throwing a touchdown to a wide receiver, tight end and running back….that’s getting everyone involved.

Running Backs: B+
In our pregame write-up on the key matchups, we wrote that the team needed to get the running backs more involved in the passing game. And that they did, the backs responded with 13 catches for 143 yards, led by James White who made eight catches for 85 yards. Rex Burkhead responded with a nice afternoon catching three passes for 41 yards and a touchdown before injuring his ribs.

In the running game, the backs picked up 96 of the 119 yards on the ground. Mike Gillislee led the way with 69 yards on 18 carries including his fourth touchdown of the season. While his numbers weren’t eye-popping, he’s giving them nice production in the red zone when they ask him to.

Wide Receivers: B
These guys hung in there and did their job on Sunday. With only three healthy players at the position, they finished the game with really only one (Brandin Cooks). Both Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett had gotten dinged up but they hung in there and finished the game. Hogan was dealing with a thigh injury, that doesn’t seem serious, however, he was obviously limping a bit during the game, which surely limited his effectiveness. But he ended up with five catches on six targets for 78 yards including a touchdown.

Dorsett showed that he’s coming along in his progression with the Patriots offense and made three catches for 68 yards including a nice deep ball from Brady for 38 yards down to the four-yard line. I would have liked to have seen more production from Cooks in this game but with Brady under pressure for much of it, he was clearing out the underneath routes for the guys over the middle and it was that kind of day. Cooks should have had had an easy touchdown on a post route and had a good five yards of separation, but the pressure on Brady made his throw very short where Cooks had stop and go down at the one-yard line to haul the pass in.

It is hard to be very critical of this group. How many times do you see a team come into a game with just three wide receivers and while their numbers weren’t off the charts (11 catches for 183 yards and a score), on a day when the team rolled up 447 yards thru the air, it was plenty good enough.

Tight Ends: A-
The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski were the subjects of many pieces after the Week 1 loss. Eric Berry did a masterful job of manning up on Gronk, and when that didn’t work, he grabbed a fistful of jersey. It isn’t against the rules if it isn’t being flagged. So, Gronkowski heard the “he’s losing a step”, “he looks old and slow” etc. last week.

Until he hurt his groin in the second half, he was having a typical Gronk, monster type of afternoon. He hauled in six catches for 116 yards including a 53-yard touchdown where he broke a couple of tackles and dragged two defenders into the end zone.

Dwayne Allen has been utilized mainly as a blocker and was targeted once, Jacob Hollister had his first catch in the NFL and got a couple of reps in.

Offensive Line: C
The offensive line specifically left tackle Nate Solder didn’t have a great day. There were a lot of plays where Brady was under duress. He got hit five times and sacked just twice but often his pocket was collapsing all around him. The offensive line didn’t do a great job in the running game as the team only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. It could have, should have been much better. Especially against this Saints defense.

Defensive Line: B+
The Patriots defensive line had a nice bounce-back type of game. It was great to see all the young guys (Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler) getting so much work in the game. The coaches sent a message to Alan Branch that his effort last week wasn’t good enough and he sat until the second quarter. The rush defense was much improved this week. New Orleans had 81 yards on the ground but 28 of them came off the final garbage time play of the day. After getting gashed by the Chiefs for nearly 200 yards, that is a good sign.

Wise had a terrific game, the big, talented rookie had a sack, five quarterback hits and a pair of tackles. While the pass rush is still a work in progress, Wise, Flowers, and Butler are showing some nice potential. Lawrence Guy was solid and Cassius Marsh saved a TD when he got pressure on and forced Drew Brees to throw short in the end zone when a player was open.

Linebackers: B-
Interesting that with Hightower out, David Harris was a total non-entity. Elandon Roberts had a pretty good game with eight tackles. He and Kyle Van Noy were getting the bulk of the work. The middle of the defense in the running game was much, stronger this week and it snowballed.

Hightower will probably miss at least this week’s game against the Texans, so they’ll need the rest of the guys to step it up a bit. But overall, this week’s game, against a tough opponent was a pretty good effort.

Secondary: B-
The bad news is that the Patriots allowed Drew Brees to pass for 356 yards this week. But, he does that against everyone when he’s at home in the dome so that in itself isn’t a bad sign per se. The good news is, the Patriots defense held him to just two touchdowns on Sunday. Let me ask a serious question here. If last week I said, the Pats defense would hold Brees and New Orleans to just two scores would you have taken it? Damned right you would have.

I had to read with amusement all of the “the last time the Patriots faced Brees in NO” …news flash. The Pats don’t have Jonathan Wilhite and Leigh Bodden at corner anymore…thankfully. They still have plenty of communication issues on those pick plays and rub routes but it is eminently fixable. A few of those deep balls were just absolute dimes by Brees and you just have to tip your hat to him.

Overall, again, a much better effort. Can it get better? Much. Will it? Yes.

Special Teams: B

Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point, again. He was perfect on three field goals, however. And the other three extra points. His kickoffs pinned the Saints deep but the coverage units did an okay job. The Patriots had zero return yards on one punt return for no yards and no kick returns at all.

Ryan Allen didn’t have to punt much on Sunday and had a so-so game by his standards with a 37.0-yard average.

Coaches: A
Bill Belichick had the team ready to go after a poor Week 1 showing. He made it clear that a lot had to change, and it did. They came out prepared, motivated and ran the Saints out of the building in that first quarter. After they had issues stopping the run in Week 1, they were much better and he and Matt Patricia put them in the right combinations to stop the Saints.

Josh McDaniels had everything going on early in the game. He had the Saints grasping at straws trying to find a way to stop the Patriots offense. Even as guys were getting banged up, McDaniels mixed things up nicely and the team responded. After only having Dorsett on the team for two weeks, McDaniels gets a lot of credit for getting him in tune with the offense.

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

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

New England Patriots News 9-17, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 17, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 9-17, and AFC East Notes for this week.

Good luck to former Patriots QB Jacoby Brissett, getting the start today for the Colts.

With many of the injured players not going to suit up today, it will be intriguing to see if TE Jacob Hollister sees some playing time. He has a good shot to be a game-day active and he was one of our favorites to watch during training camp.

The Patriots try to rebound today against the Saints in New Orleans. Since 2010, the two teams are the #1 and #2 scoring teams in the NFL. While everyone points to the 2009 game as a benchmark, remember this, that New Orleans team started 12-0. And other than the matchup of Tom Brady and Drew Brees, the teams are altogether different. That Patriot team was 2-6 on the road and this one comes in with an 8-0 road record from 2016.

Shorthanded Pats Minus Hightower/Amendola: The team will be going today without Dont’a Hightower and Danny Amendola, leaving them potentially thin on the edge where they were gashed a week ago and at wide receiver where there is a mini-epidemic right now. Amendola is also the team’s punt returner so who fills in that duty today? Possibly Pat Chung [as we’re writing this on Friday night] Unless they activate a WR from the PS. It probably will NOT be Phillip Dorsett. Stay tuned.

Harvey Langi Should See His First Action:
Immediately upon seeing that Hightower didn’t practice this week, (not a surprise and don’t expect him against Houston), we sensed he’d be out. But the team got a bit of welcome news in that rookie linebacker Harvey Langi was taken off of the injury report.

Harvey Langi, seen here breaking up a pass, should see his first action of the season. (SBalestrieri photo)

Langi should see his first action of the year and we’re excited to see what the rookie can bring to the table. The Patriots experimented this summer with moving him around and trying him in a variety of different roles to learn what he can and can’t-do. He spoke to the Patriots.com website and said he’s excited to get on the field this week.

“It’s a day-to-day thing for me,” Langi said. “Got to go out there and play wherever they tell me to play. If it’s [defensive] end, if it’s outside [linebacker], if it’s on kickoff, kickoff return… whatever it is. I’m wanting to help out the team and do whatever I can to do that, to bring some urgency to practices.”

Patriots Front Seven Isn’t the Big Issue It is Being Made Out to Be:
The sky is falling crowd is reaching epic proportions now after a bad performance in Week 1. Look there weren’t any positives there, they were gashed, and badly by the Chiefs and Alex Smith. But does that mean that this team going to be forced into shootouts every week?

Obviously, the fanbase thinks so… The Patriots website asked a poll question if fans were concerned with the defense. The results? A whopping 85 percent answered yes. Bill Belichick’s teams always play better defense as the season progresses.

Increased snaps for rookie Deatrich Wise and a better performance by Kyle Van Noy this week are needed for the Patriots. (SBalestrieri photo)

While we’re not trying to discount what happened last week, the lack of faith in Belichick is always a thing in this town. At the first sight of trouble, there seems to be a lot of broken legs from people jumping off the bandwagon. This will get figured out, it always does. They’re still mixing with different combinations up front until they find one that works. But Alan Branch, who didn’t play well last week, is just getting into playing shape and now they’ll have to work thru missing Hightower and Shea McClellin.  It is a process and there is no one better than Belichick at figuring it out.

Let’s just say, this week, I’m looking for more of the Big Nickel on defense with Chung as the safety/linebacker and less of the dime look with four safeties and Jordan Richards in that role.

With Three Healthy WRs, Expect More RB Involvement in the Passing Game:
Much has been written about who will play the slot since Amendola will miss this week’s game. Again, don’t look to Dorsett, he’s an outside receiver in either the “X” or the “Y” mode. I’d look for Hogan to pick up the slack this week, with Cooks and Dorsett out wide. I’d also look for plenty of the “21” or “22” personnel packages.

The “21” package has two running backs, one tight end, and two wide receivers. The “22” has two running backs, two tight ends, and one wide receiver.

Look for James White and the Patriots running backs to be more involved in the passing game this week. (SBalestrieri photo)

They definitely have to get the backs much more involved in the passing game than a week ago. With James White, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis, they have plenty of weapons that they can utilize in the passing game. With only four receptions for 38 yards in the opener, that is far below what we envisioned.

Who Do You Like This Week? NFL Schedule Week 2:

Last week wasn’t great with a 9-6 record as the Dolphins game was postponed. This week started off well with the Texans win over Cincy. here’s the rest of the schedule for Week 2 in the NFL.

Browns at Ravens – Baltimore
Bears at Buccaneers – Tampa Bay
Vikings at Steelers – Pittsburgh
Patriots at Saints – New England
Eagles at Chiefs – Kansas City
Titans at Jaguars- Tennessee
Cardinals at Colts – Arizona
Bills at Panthers- Carolina
Jets at Raiders – Oakland
Dolphins at Chargers – Miami
49ers at Seahawks – Seattle
Redskins at Rams – Los Angeles
Cowboys at Broncos – Denver
Packers at Falcons – Atlanta
Lions at Giants – New York

Early pick for Thursday Night Football, (Rams over the 49ers).

Eastbound and Down, AFC East Notes:

Bills McDermott Returns to Carolina, in Big Early Season Matchup:

The Buffalo Bills go on their first road trip of the season and new coach Sean McDermott is returning to very familiar surroundings in Carolina. Having coached there, he knows the tendencies of the offense as well as their strengths and weaknesses as well as anyone. He also knows their defense as well and can game plan for their weaknesses. It should prove to be an interesting matchup.

The Bills nation was in total celebratory mode last week because at least for one week Buffalo sat alone atop the AFC East standings. And despite Cam Newton not playing especially well last week, the Panthers are at home and have a very good defense.

The feeling here? McDermott has the intel on his former team but not the horses to pull off the upset. I like Carolina to hold serve at home this week and Super Bowl reservations from Western New York get canceled.

Facing Cutler and the Dolphins, “No Problem” Says Chargers’ Ingram:

The Dolphins haven’t played a game yet this season, as their game was postponed last week due to the hurricane blasting South Florida. They flew out to California early as a result and have gotten extra practice time to prepare for the Chargers. But the Bolts, now in LA playing in a 30,000 seat stadium have had a short week to prepare for Miami and new QB Jay Cutler, having played on Monday night. What problems will Cutler bring to the Bolts defense, DE Melvin Ingram was asked?

“None,” Ingram said. “We don’t see him as a problem for us.” There are bulletin board material posts and then there is just utter stupidity. This falls as part of the latter. Why give the Dolphins any extra incentive. This is a team that is itching to get on the field after the awful events of last week in Florida and Ingram and the Bolts, coming off of a short week and the wrong end of a 24-21 score in Denver, have little room to talk.

The Bolts defense gave up 24 points to Trevor Siemian so they’re hardly in a position to talk a lot of smack. Advantage Dolphins. We had already picked Miami to win this game, I think you can add a little extra cushion in this one now.

Talent Starved Jets Offense Takes on Oakland :

The New York Jets gutted the roster earlier this spring and several of their high priced players on both sides of the ball are now gone. But nowhere it is more obvious than the offensive side of the ball. The Jets have a dearth of playmakers on offense as they doing a complete overhaul of the roster.

And that begins at quarterback. The Jets have three QBs and none fit the mold as someone that they will build the roster around. So it leaves the 38-year old Josh McCown in familiar territory. He will be the placeholder with an inferior array of weapons around him until the team finds their franchise QB. But he’s always been a good soldier and will continue to be. His 2-14 record as a starter the past few seasons doesn’t describe his capabilities to lead. Is he an even upper tier QB? No, but he’s not horrible. He didn’t play badly last week, but facing a Buffalo team that is looking for an offensive identity is much different than facing an Oakland team that many have competing for the Super Bowl this season.

Look for the Jets to get smoked on Sunday and the inevitable finger pointing will begin. But not many QBs can win with the talent level that McCown has around him right now.

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

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

Patriots – Saints Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 15, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

The New England Patriots find themselves in unfamiliar territory after the first week of the season at the wrong end of a 0-1 record. To even things up, they have to travel to the New Orleans Mercedes Benz Superdome where the Saints are always tough to beat. The Saints are also 0-1 and like New England didn’t play particularly well on Monday Night. Now with a short week, they return home to face a Patriots team that is looking to rebound in Week 2.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 17 at 1:00 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nance will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines. The game will also be on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

The Patriots (0-1) lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 42-27 giving up 21 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. The defense struggled and gave up the most points and yards ever allowed by a Bill Belichick coached Patriots team.

The Saints (0-1) lost to the Minnesota Vikings 29-19. The offensive line struggled to protect Drew Brees and the defense gave up big plays on third down and had communication issues in the secondary. Not exactly unheard of on Week 1 with a young defense.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give a quick break down 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 Saints have met thirteen times in their history dating back to 1972 with the Patriots holding a 9-4 advantage including 4-1 in New Orleans. The last meeting was in Foxboro in 2013 when Tom Brady hit Kenbrell Thompkins with a game winning touchdown with less than a few seconds left on the clock to pull it out 30-27.

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 Saints Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game is still looking to get untracked but did have a bit of success running the ball last week. Although stopped twice on 4th and 1 attempts, Mike Gillislee scored on three short yardage touchdown runs from 2,2, and 1 yard out.

The Saints did a pretty good job of stuffing the run last week against Minnesota holding Adrian Peterson and Co. in check. Cameron Jordan is their best pass rusher and a very good run defender.

Look for the Patriots to spread them out and run Rex Burkhead in between the tackles this week. I expect to see him get plenty of work in the passing game as well. Gillislee will be the designated goal line/short yardage back.

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

The Patriots passing game was very lackluster last week, Tom Brady completed only 16-36 for 267 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Patriots were trying to stretch the field last week going deep vertically much more than they’re accustomed to. They have to get back to stretching the field horizontally this week.

The Saints have a young and talented secondary but they’re not ready yet. They had multiple breakdowns and communication issues in Week 1. They also struggle to cover the tight ends which should be a big matchup nightmare for them this week.

I’m looking for Brady to get the tight ends involved early and often this week. Even with an injury depleted wide receiver corps, Brady still has plenty of weapons to go to. Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen should be primary targets early in this one. Look for Josh McDaniels to get the running backs more involved in the passing game this week. As long as the offensive line gives Brady time to throw, he should find plenty of space to work in this week.

Next up the New Orleans offense:

Saints RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New Orleans

The Saints barely used Mark Ingram who rushed for over 1000 yards last year. And neither was Adrian Peterson who they signed this spring as they went with rookie Alvin Kamara who played well And after Peterson yelled at head coach Sean Payton late in the first half of his first game as a Saint, his time there may be short.

The Patriots played in a dime for most of the game last week with Jordan Richards as a linebacker and were gashed by the run. They allowed 185 yards and 6.9 yards per run. This week’s game should see them change that up quite a bit as that strategy plain didn’t work. Look for the Patriots to be much better against the run this week.

Saints WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New Orleans

Drew Brees struggled in the opener because of issues with his offensive line. But he has a very good wide receiver in Michael Thomas and a burner in Ted Ginn as well as TE Coby Fleener. If Brees gets time to throw, he can pick apart any defense.

The Patriots were gashed in the passing game as well, this secondary is much too talented for that. Look for the Patriots to go to the Big Nickel this week, with Pat Chung as the extra linebacker. Harvey Langi should see some action this week. The key will be the pass rush against a beat up New Orleans offensive line. Look for Trey Flowers to have a nice game this week putting pressure on Brees.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Push

The Patriots special teams lost their punt returner when Danny Amendola went down with a concussion. That’s three punt returners and counting that have been lost so far this season. The coverage units and kicking game were solid last week. The kickoff return team was stuck in neutral.

Bill Belichick raved this week about Thomas Morstead this week, (he loves his punters) and he’s one of the better ones in the league. Their kicking game with Wil Lutz had a solid week, but the Saints allowed five kicks to be blocked last year. Look for the Patriots to try to get one this week.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one should be an entertaining one as two of the best quarterbacks in the league get together. Both have enormous respect for one another and both are ultra competitive who leave it all out on the field. The Patriots defense has some issues to work out or else Brees could have a huge day. Likewise, the Patriots offense, even with banged up WRs should have their way with this young defense.

This has the potential to be a shootout. But I like the Patriots to take control of this game with a much better effort defensively. It starts with the run defense and Alan Branch and Malcom Brown inside. Ditching the four-safety look this week should really help. Look for Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise to put some pressure on Brees against the younger tackles.

Offensively, if the Patriots don’t score between 30-35 points I’d be very surprised this week. A look at what Minnesota was able to do with a much less talented offense sets the bar this week. And it starts with Rob Gronkowski. Gronk had to hear the entire, “he can’t run anymore”, “he’s lost a step”, take your pick. He’s in line for a huge game this week. Brady will spread them out and find his mismatches. It may be newcomer Phillip Dorsett against nickel corner De’Vante Harris, who was picked on by the Vikings on Monday night. Look for the Patriots to rebound and play a much better game in New Orleans. Time for the fan base to come in off the ledge.

Patriots 34-24

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

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

Patriots – Chiefs Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 6, 2017 at 11:19 am ET

The New England Patriots begin the 2017 season trying to become the first team since the 2003-2004 Pats to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. They have a great first game of the season on tap as they face the Kansas City Chiefs who were the #2 seed in the AFC a year ago. 

The game will be televised by NBC with their top announcing crew of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth handling the play-by-play and analysis duties. The game will also be on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

The Patriots (14-2) won the AFC East a year ago and were the top seed in the AFC They beat the Texans and Steelers at home before going to the Super Bowl LI and coming from 25 points down to wind up defeating the Atlanta Falcons in the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.

The Chiefs (12-4) won the AFC West before losing to the Steelers 18-16 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give a quick break down 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 Chiefs have met 34 times with Kansas City holding an all-time 17-14 edge (three ties). The series has been dominated by the home teams, with KC owning an 11-3-1 lead at home and the Patriots enjoy an 11-6-2 mark at home. The last time the teams met was in January 2016 when the Patriots defeated KC 27-20 in the Divisional Playoff Game.

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 Chiefs Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Patriots running game is really a new entity in 2017 With Mike Gillisllee and Rex Burkhead coming on board this spring, Dion Lewis is waiting in the wings as well with James White. They have plenty of weapons and they will be able to run the ball very well this season. But in Week 1? They haven’t worked together much on the field and although the unit is solid, they’ll need to get things sorted.

KC was uncharacteristically soft in their run defense in 2016 giving up 121 yards per game. Dontari Poe was let go as they felt he couldn’t handle the double teams anymore and the team brought in Bennie Logan. Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson return as well and this unit should be much tougher to run against than a year ago.

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

The Patriots passing game was outstanding for the 2016 season and they’ve added Brandin Cooks this spring. However, the loss of Julian Edelman is a huge blow to the offense, especially on third down. But with Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen with RBs White, Lewis and Burkhead coming out of the backfield, QB Tom Brady has a plethora of targets to use.

The Chiefs have an outstanding pass defense. With CB Marcus Peters and SS Eric Berry, they have two of the best players at their position in the league. With Houston back and healthy after two seasons of knee injuries and Dee Ford as their pass rushers, they can get after the QB. They suffered a big blow with CB Steven Nelson going on IR. Terrance Mitchell will fill in and will be tested.

Next up the Kansas City offense:

Chiefs RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Chiefs lost their starter Spencer Ware during the preseason and he was expected to be the lead back in Andy Reid’s offense. That was a big loss for them, but rookie Kareem Hunt from Toledo is an intriguing player with a lot of upside. Many of the pundits had him as one of the top RBs in this year’s draft class. Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller back him up. Tyreek Hill is the X-factor in the running game as is Alex Smith who can scramble. The KC Offensive line is very good.

The Patriots are set up very well to stop the run in 2017 with Alan Branch returning, Malcom Brown inside along with Lawrence Guy and linebackers Dont’a Hightower and David Harris. This preseason, opponents were running right at the center of the defense, albeit with many backups in the game. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues into the regular season.

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

Alex Smith had a stellar 2016 completing 67 percent of his passes. He rarely makes mistakes, and while he’s not an “elite” QB, he’s plenty good enough to take them deep into the playoffs if he gets help around him. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are his top two targets and they are each difficult to account for in their own way. With releasing Jeremy Maclin this spring, KC needs a third WR to step up.

The Patriots added CB Stephon Gillmore this spring to an already solid secondary. Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe (slot), along with Devin McCourty and Pat Chung give the Pats an (on paper), outstanding secondary. But the question this season will be is the pass rush going to be good enough? They get their first test on Thursday night against a good OL and a QB that can run.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Kansas City

The Patriots special teams get the slight edge in the kicking game, where Stephen Gostkowski is among the best in the league at the pooch kickoffs stranding teams deep and he’s seeming back on track after a solid summer. He gives them the edge over Cairo Santos. Dustin Colquitt and Ryan Allen are both outstanding punters that excel in directional punting and hitting punts inside the 20  But in the return game, the Chiefs have a clear advantage. Hill is a dynamic returner who averaged 15.2 yards per return. With Cyrus Jones and Julian Edelman on IR, the Patriots return game is starting from scratch.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This game and the first game of every season are always among the most difficult to predict because there are so many unknowns out there with no regular season film to watch. The Patriots should get a huge boost from the home crowd especially with dropping Super Bowl banner #5 just prior to the game. But I worry about them coming out flat after all the emotion of the pregame celebrations.

I keep reading all over social media that the Pats are going to romp in this one. I couldn’t disagree more. This Chiefs team won 12 games a year ago and have a few of their key pieces back that was missing. I think this is going to be a tough, hard-fought one with almost a playoff atmosphere to it.

A couple of the key matchups to watch is Eric Rowe, who I think will draw Kelce on defense and if he can stand up to the physicality of him. Malcolm Butler will draw Hill with safety help. The Chiefs aren’t an air-it-out team but you can expect them to try a few times. I look for them to try to get Hill the ball in space. Look for shallow crosses or rub routes. When he gets the ball, he can fly.

On offense, look for Tom Brady to spread out the Chiefs defense and try to find the mismatches. With everyone talking about Cooks and newcomer Phillip Dorsett, who may not even play, they’re forgetting the main man for Brady and that is Gronkowski who is healthy now and wants to put on a show in primetime…much like Hill. With Brady stretching the seams and forcing some of the Chiefs excellent LBs into coverage, they should be able to find some space. This will be a tough, exciting matchup. I like the Patriots to hold serve at home.

Patriots 28-20

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New England Patriots News 9-3, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 3, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Patriots news 9-3 and AFC East notes.  One of the more interesting notes from Saturday was that the Patriots were waiting until after their scheduled 12:15 p.m. practice to make their final cuts. It isn’t like they didn’t already know who is going to make or not make the team. It does seem odd with their timing of things. I’d love to find out their reasoning behind it, although we never may.

Quick Analysis on the Four Trades this Weekend:
The Patriots made four moves over the period between Friday and Saturday by the time of the initial 53-man roster cut-down.

  • The trade of CB Justin Coleman to Seattle for a 7th Round draft pick was a win for both teams. Coleman had been outplayed by the top four corners as well as (in our opinion) Kenny Moore and D.J. Killings. By getting something for him, it was a win for NE as he didn’t fit in their plans.
  • The trade for Detroit’s Johnson Bademosi was a nice boost for the Pats. He didn’t fit into the Lion’s plans and they netted a 6th rounder in 2019. The Patriots got a good STs gunner in Bademosi and with several of the team’s STs performers banged up and facing KC with Tyreek Hill this week, smart move.
  • The team’s trade with Indianapolis was again, a win for both teams. Phillip Dorsett obviously didn’t fit in the Colts long-term plans. Ditto for Brissett in New England. Folks, Bill Belichick isn’t going to trade a QB that fits into their plans. That position is the hardest to fill in the NFL. With Julian Edelman on IR and Malcolm Mitchell banged up all summer, the Patriots will try to find a way to harness his 4.33 speed. With Dorsett, Cooks, and Hogan, the Patriots now have speed merchants to create matchup nightmares. Will it work? Time will tell.
  • The trade with Seattle later on Saturday afternoon was another good move by Bill Belichick. The team was releasing STs stalwart, Geneo Grissom. But he never made a dent on defense and with the team thin at the DE position, made the deal for the same draft pick they got from Seattle to give it back for DE Cassius Marsh. Marsh played nearly 80 percent of the Seahawks STs snaps in 2016 and is a versatile guy that plays on the edge or as an interior pass rusher.

Overall all of the trades worked out for the Patriots and the teams they dealt with. Seeing reports that the Pats “fleeced” the Colts is hogwash. The Colts were reportedly taking offers for Dorsett this week and with Andrew Luck not yet ready for action, they were in need of another QB. Brissett’s sharp performance on Thursday night must have been the deciding factor. Will all of these moves work out? Time will tell but overall the moves make sense for both teams across the board.

Patriots “Initial” 53-Man Roster Hardly Will Resemble Unit Later:
While the Patriots have made their initial cuts to get down to the 53-man roster limit, don’t get too wrapped up in who is here, especially at the bottom end of the roster.

If Bill Belichick and the staff have shown anything in the past several years it is that the roster will change, sometimes a lot in the early days of the season. I would expect the team to tweak the roster quite a bit in the next two weeks as we’ll see the coaches tinker with and find the players who best fit what they’re trying to do.

Then, as we’ve usually seen, the team will make a deal or two in-season to fill a need or to bolster the team’s depth. And as with the practice squad, which will be announced later today, this unit will see plenty of faces. So, don’t get too worked up over the roster construction, as it is currently constructed. There will be more changes coming.

Belichick Waxes Long on the Differences Between KRs/PRs:
There are times when Bill Belichick’s press conferences become “must-see” and great learning tools for the media and fans (live cast on Patriots.com). Whenever he’s talking about football history is always a perfect example. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at one last year when he spoke at length about forming a practice squad. On Friday, he was at it again when asked if a punt returner, as in a player who might not contribute much offensively or defensively, was worthy of a roster spot. His answer, long and articulate is the kind of stuff that makes his Friday pressers those must-attend events.

“I mean I’d say the ball-handling is critical,” Belichick said. “It’s like the long-snapper. How many plays is a long-snapper in for a game? Call it 10? I don’t know. Somewhere in that neighborhood. Eight to 10 extra-points, punts, field goals. But everybody carries a long-snapper.

“Of course the easy answer is if one person does both, that makes it a lot easier, and it also makes the overall roster discussion a lot easier,” Belichick stated. “The big difference, of course, is on kickoff returns you have a chance to build up your speed. You get a chance to handle the ball cleanly, and there’s nobody on top of you when you’re catching it. You’re able to run and set up your blocks and hit things full-speed . . . usually between the 20 and 30-yard line, where the coverage and the blockers and the wedge all sort of come together and the returners get a chance to set those blocks up and hit them and try to get through there.

The Patriots are looking for a punt returner now that Cyrus Jones has gone on IR. (SBalestrieri photo)

“Between the kick-returns and the punt-returns, maybe a couple less than that. But I’d say the difficulty of those jobs and the importance of them and core ball-handling, there’s not much of a way to lose a game quicker than that. I think it’s a high priority for everybody. When I say everybody, I say every team . . . We’ll have to see how it turns out, but it’s not an afterthought at all. It’s a priority.”

“The punting game is a lot more situational. Mostly on kickoffs, the ball’s always kicked from the same place. Rarely is there a difference; there are some, but they’re minimal — after a safety or that type of thing. But punting, the ball can be anywhere. The situation that they’re punting in can be quite diverse and sometimes complex. Punters are very good at directional punting and kicking different types of punts — end-over-end punts, spiral punts, spirals that don’t turn over and so forth. The ball-handling is a little more complex.

“And you have to deal with players around you as you’re catching the ball sooner or later. Sometimes a punter will outkick his coverage, but the majority of the time there’s some decision making involved on whether to catch it and how to make the first coverage player or two miss to get the return started, or fair-catch it, or to let it go and not catch the ball, or to let it go over your head and go into the end zone for a touchback. There’s a lot of decision-making on whether to just catch the ball, or whether to catch it and run with it, or whether to catch it and just fair-catch it that are quite different than the kickoffs.

“And then in addition to that, you’re dealing with defenders and coverage players that are on you a lot quicker on punt returns. Sometimes you only have a yard or two, or a couple yards, to get into space, make a guy miss, break a tackle, whereas kickoffs are much more of a build-up play. Because they’re so different a lot of times you don’t have the same player doing both.

“And on a personal opinion, because they’re so different, I find the two plays very fascinating and intriguing and a great part of the strategy of football. Just because the plays themselves are so different in the teaching… the rules, the skills and so forth. So that’s why I’m not in favor of . . . I take an opposing view to the people that want to eliminate kickoffs from the game and try to have as few kickoffs as possible. I think it’s an exciting play. It’s a unique play and one that is a big momentum play because of what happened the play before — the score or possibly the times at the start of the half where it’s kind of a tone-setter or a pace-setter for that opening play.

“So yeah they’re plenty different. And of course the same thing in the blocking. You have a chance to set up a return (on kickoffs), whereas on the punting side of it you have an option of trying to pressure the punter and block it or return it, but you kind of have to return it from the line of scrimmage. You can’t drop off too far because of the possibilities of fakes. So you have to keep enough guys up on the line of scrimmage to ensure that that ball is punted. And you have to ensure you’re not getting an onside kick, too, but again, that’s much less frequent and the rules are in the kick-return team’s favor on the onsides kick. It’s a big gamble for the kicking team to do that as a surprise tactic. So the blocking patterns and techniques of blocking are quite different on the punt returns compared to what they are on kickoff returns.” Mic drop.

Jacob Hollister was a surprise UDFA who made the initial 53-man roster out of preseason. (SBalestrieri photo)

Jacob Hollister Makes Initial 53-man Roster:
One of the good stories this spring was the Patriots signing of twin brothers Jacob and Cody Hollister as UDFAs.  And the news that Hollister at least initially made the roster was exciting news. He’s one of a few UDFAs that made the team along with Adam Butler, Harvey Langi, and Cole Croston. However, his brother Cody was released but may be brought back onto the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Hollister was (again in our opinion) the better option in the passing game than James O’Shaughnessy. He’s able to stretch the field, has good hands and has shown the ability to hold onto the ball. He’s more of a move tight-end and still needs some work on his blocking. But he got some good STs work in as well this summer. We liked him as soon as they signed him with his work in college and got to do one of his first interviews during training camp. Which can be revisited here:

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Trade Seymour to Panthers for WR/KR Clay:
The Buffalo Bills have traded for Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kaelin Clay. Carolina got the Bills sent second-year cornerback Kevon Seymour. The Bills also acquired Carolina’s seventh-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Clay will be expected to be a vertical threat for the Bills offense this season and will be called on to return kicks as well. He played for the Ravens in 2015 before getting injured and going on IR. He was out of football before signing with the Panthers this spring.

Miami Signs T.J. McDonald to a Four-Year Extension Worth $24 Million:
The Dolphins signed safety T.J. McDonald to a four-year extension on Saturday.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal is reportedly worth $24 million and includes $10 million in guarantees.

McDonald signed a one-year deal with Miami in the spring despite being hit with an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. The suspension begins this week.

Jets Trade Seahawks for Jermaine Kearse and Give Up Sheldon Richardson:
The New York Jets addressed one of their needs by getting wide receiver help by trading DL Sheldon Richardson to Seattle for WR Jermaine Kearse. The Jets also get a 2nd round draft pick in 2018. The teams also swapped their 5th round draft picks.

Kearse has always been very productive but is coming off of a down year in 2016 when he logged only 41 catches for 510 yards and one touchdown. The Jets will obviously be expecting much more.

Richardson, 26, has spent his entire career with the Jets. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year made the Pro Bowl in 2014.But his maturity has been called into question several times and he’s been suspended by the league twice.

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

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

Patriots Add Depth To DL/STs WIth Trade With Seattle for Cassius Marsh

Steve Balestrieri
September 2, 2017 at 5:18 pm ET

The Patriots on Saturday have been wheeling and dealing. They made their third trade of the day, sending the 7th round draft pick they received from Seattle in the Justin Coleman deal back to Seattle for DE Cassius Marsh.

Marsh is a 6’4, 270-pound defensive end who is entering his fourth season in the NFL. He was drafted in the 4th Round of the 2014 NFL Draft from UCLA. He had his best season a year ago with 22 tackles and three sacks.  He’s also a core Special Team’s player, appearing in nearly 80 percent of the Seahawks’ STs snaps in 2016.

Pete Carroll was using him as both an interior and edge pass rusher. Marsh got kudos from teammate Michael Bennett earlier this summer as one of the most improved members of the defense.

In essence, now the trade works out as Coleman for Marsh…another win-win for both teams. This will help boost the depth of the Patriots edge players and it seems like Marsh’s role will take over that of Geneo Grissom.

 

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

What Does the Marquis Flowers Trade Mean for the Patriots

Steve Balestrieri
August 30, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

The Patriots addressed their depth at linebacker and on special teams on Tuesday morning when it was announced that they traded a 7th round draft pick for LB Marquis Flowers from the Cincinnati Bengals.

Flowers was drafted by the Bengals in the 6th Round (212th Overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Arizona. The 6’3, 245-pound Flowers is an athletic player who is more comfortable outside on the edge than he is inside. He can cover and has the range to run with more athletic players. He’s been used as strictly a special teams’ player for the Bengals, playing only two snaps on defense last year. With their Special Teams’ standouts having been hurt this summer, including Harvey Langi, Shea McClellin, and Geneo Grissom, Flowers will step right into a key role right away. That was apparent in Tuesday’s practice as he stepped into the starting ST’s unit.

Why is this move significant? Well, that depends on your perspective. With many of the special team’s players banged up and facing the Kansas City Chiefs with the dangerous return game with Tyreek Hill, the coaching staff will want their most athletic players on the field. But this may go even deeper than that.

This may be a signal that the Patriots are planning on cutting their ties to two of their more dynamic special teams’ players in Brandon Bolden and Jordan Richards. Bolden has been a standout STs performer for years but is just in a position that is log jammed with talent.

Richards, on the other hand, has been a disappointment. They’ve tried him at different positions on the defense and he hasn’t been able to make a positive impression. This could be a signal that one or the other, perhaps both may be on the block.

But for Flowers, he’s young, athletic and can step into a core special teams’ role immediately. And he’s able to step up and play some defense as well.

While many on social media were thinking that Flowers is a camp body for the 4th preseason game, I disagree. I think he’s pretty much a lock. They need some athleticism on their STs units with KC coming into town. And he’ll give them that and be able to play some defense as well in the team’s sub-packages. The Patriots have made a trade, albeit a minor one but one which will have some impact, at least in the first few weeks of the season.

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

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

New England Patriots News 8-27, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 27, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Patriots news 8-27 and AFC East notes.  

Patriots Lose Edelman for the Season, What it Means:
The Patriots worst fears were realized on Saturday afternoon when it was revealed that Julian Edelman’s right knee injury was an ACL tear and the valuable, versatile and hard-working cog of the Patriots’ offense will be gone for the 2017 season.

Edelman went down on a non-contact play against the Lions as he was cutting through the secondary on the Patriots first drive of the game. He caught three passes for 52 yards on the Patriots opening drive.

Julian Edelman was having a terrific summer before injuring his knee on Friday night. (SBalestrieri photo)

The normal mantra is for Patriots fans to call the old standby “next man up” and truthfully, as long as Tom Brady is under center, this team should be fine. But Edelman is Brady’s go-to guy on third down and you just don’t replace 90 or so catches and a 1000 yards at the drop of a hat. Look back at 2015, with Edelman, the Patriots were 9-0 and converting over 40 percent of their third downs. Edelman missed the last seven games and the Patriots went 3-4 and their 3rd down conversion rate plummeted to 32 percent. That wasn’t a coincidence.

This will put the onus of Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski to stay healthy this year. Amendola can pick up some of the slack in the slot with Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan rotating thru there as well depending on the matchups. It will also affect the punt return game. Malcolm Mitchell’s role will increase as well.

Edelman has always been money at returning punts in big games. If Cyrus Jones falters this season, the team could have easily turned to Danny Amendola, but now his role will change, and the team may be forced to cut back on his snaps in that realm. That backup, perhaps primary kick returner may fall to Dion Lewis. If Jones should stumble.

There’s no beating around the bush here. Can they work thru this? Yes. But the idea that it is no problem, despite how deep and versatile they are is ridiculous. This is a huge loss for the Patriots offense. He’s Brady’s best friend as well as his most trusted wide receiver. Those two frequently can see something and react wordlessly at the line of scrimmage and run the correct play. We saw that on Friday night.

Patriots Release Kony Ealy:
The Patriots released DL Kony Ealy who they acquired in a trade with the Carolina Panthers just five months ago. They traded back eight spots in the 2017 NFL Draft sending their 2nd round draft pick for Ealy and Carolina’s 3rd round pick.

Ealy, 25, struggled to fit in the Patriots system from the beginning of training camp and struggled, although he seemed to pick up his play lately. He had a QB hit and three hurries in Detroit but also lost his containment on a few others.

Kony Ealy struggled to fit in the Patriots scheme. (PatsFans.com photo)

It was widely reported on Friday that the Patriots were actively shopping Ealy to see if that was any interest in the talented defensive lineman. But his commitment and work ethic have been called into question. If Ealy clears waivers, he will become a free agent.

The Patriots tried to find a fit for Ealy but he was either unable or unwilling to do what they required of him. One thing that stood out which may mean nothing but now is a curious question is, was he a malcontent in the locker room? We watched him walk out alone for practice on most days. Coincidence or not?

The timing is also curious too, do the Patriots wait and pluck someone off the waiver wire or make a trade?  Or is a trade partner already out there? It is not like Belichick to jettison a guy without a plan in place. Or was it just a case of not wanting to keep a player around that they have no plans on keeping.

Adam Butler Making a Push for the Roster:
Rookie defensive lineman Adam Butler has been making the most of his opportunities and now appears to have a good chance of sticking with the 53-man roster. He came on as training camp progressed and had a solid game against the Lions on Friday night.

The 6’5, 300-pound defensive lineman has exhibited some explosion off the snap and has shown the ability to disrupt plays in the backfield. With that kind of penetration and the ability to stuff the running game, his chances of making the roster are increasing.

With the release of Ealy on Saturday, Butler may find himself on the inside now. He’ll be a player to watch this week, both during practice and against the Giants in the preseason finale in Foxboro.

Gillislee Impresses in First Opportunity With the Patriots:
Patriots running back Mike Gillislee got into his first game action as a member of the team on Friday night after missing most of the training camp with a balky hamstring. Now declaring himself, “100% percent healthy” Gillislee had eight carries for 38 yards and a touchdown in Detroit. He also added a two-point conversion.

Gillislee is a one-cut, hard nosed runner who is expected to take up the slack for the departed LeGarrette Blount who is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. His touchdown run was an easy one, with James O’Shaughnessy and James Devlin both putting excellent blocks on the right side. Gillislee waltzed in.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a game, last December, so I was just anxious to get out there and get that first hit,” Gillislee said after the game. “After that, I was good.”

First World Problems…Patriots Do Construction to Fit Super Bowl Banners:
The Patriots had a problem this summer that other teams would love to have. They had nowhere to hang their fifth Super Bowl banner. According to Mike Reiss in his Saturday column:

After internal meetings, the Patriots ultimately chose to have parts of Gillette Stadium undergo construction to make room for the new banner. That construction is close to its conclusion and the club tweeted out a sneak preview of where the banners will hang.

The Gillette Stadium sign was raised in the South end zone, creating room for the five banners — and possibly more in the future.

As owner Robert Kraft said on SiriusXM NFL Radio, “We’ve had to change the construction around. We have a little surprise for our fans [opening night], which should be very cool.


President Trump Gets a Super Bowl Ring From the Team:

Patriots owner Robert Kraft gave President Donald Trump a commemorative Super Bowl ring after the team’s visit to the White House in April. It seems that the Patriots who already came bearing gifts on their official visit felt that more was called for after the reception they received on visiting the Trump White House was the best they received in their five visits according to Kraft.

Trump received a customized, personalized ring that mirrored what the Patriots players and staff received. Those rings were crafted in 10-karat white gold and featured 280 diamonds with the words “World Champions” on the front. The inside of the ring includes, “We are all Patriots” and “greatest comeback ever,” a nod to the 31 unanswered points scored against the Falcons in the most dramatic comeback win in Super Bowl history.

The Super Bowl ring given to Trump is expected to be placed in the President’s Library at the end of his presidency. And according to federal watchdogs, he’ll have to claim the gift on his financial statements in 2018 as the gift is greater than $375.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Hoping for LB Ragland to Get His Burst Back:
Buffalo Bills second-year linebacker Reggie Ragland was supposed to push starting Mike Linebacker Preston Brown for the starting position this summer in the Bills training camp. But it hasn’t materialized and the team is waiting for Ragland to get his noted burst back in his game.

Ragland was taking first team reps a year ago when he tore his ACL on Aug. 5 during last year’s camp. Right now, he’s listed as third on the depth chart leading to some speculation that he’s on the trading block.

But as we’ve frequently seen with ACL injuries, it takes about 18 months for a player to fully get his health and speed back to where it was prior to the injury. The Bills seem to be patient and know that Ragland will keep improving as the season progresses.

Cutler Finding Chemistry with Miami Wide Receivers:
The Dolphins signed QB Jay Cutler after starter Ryan Tannehill went down with an ACL injury and the immediate question was, having never played with any of the Dolphins’ skill position players, could he find chemistry with and thrive in Miami’s offense. Early indications are looking good.

He seems to be developing nice chemistry with Devante Parker and he also connected with Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry. He tossed a touchdown pass to tight end, Julius Thomas, while going 5-8 for 105 yards and a touchdown in their game on Thursday night against Philadelphia. While far from perfect it was a good building block for Cutler as he tries to find his comfort level in the Miami offense.

His best throw of the night was a 72-yarder where Parker won a jump ball. A deep throw to Stills drew a pass interference call in the end zone. It certainly looks like Adam Gase is going to take advantage of Cutler’s arm strength and test the deep parts of the field much more than the Fins were willing to do with Tannehill.

Jets Giving Hackenberg and Petty One More Look at QB:
The New York Jets, seemed like they were poised to go with veteran Josh McCown as the starting QB once the season began. But head coach Todd Bowles took a step back as McCown was relegated to a bystander as Bowles gave Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty split the reps as the team was preparing for their third preseason game.

While McCown remains the favorite to be the starter in two weeks, Bowles claimed late this week that the competition is still wide open and said that Hackenberg gets better the more he plays.

McCown has been getting the star treatment during the preseason, playing only one series in the first preseason game, but with a very limited wide receiver group, he needs to develop a chemistry with whoever is going to be out there.  

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.

Are You Ready For Some Football? Patriots Dominate Early In Win Over Detroit

Steve Balestrieri
August 26, 2017 at 9:15 am ET

Bill Belichick doesn’t like the term dress rehearsals but if this was the Patriots’ in Detroit, then the offense looks more than ready enough to start the season. Tom Brady and Company were clicking on all cylinders in a first quarter that saw them race out to 24 points as they played most of their starters in the first half.

But it was truly a tale of two halves. The Patriots backups struggled on both sides of the ball before they eventually had to come from behind with a last minute field goal to beat the Lions 30-28.

The impressive showing by the starting offense had an ominous cloud hanging over it however, as it is feared that Julian Edelman may have suffered a serious injury and may be lost for the season. Edelman went down on the Patriots first drive after making a cut and grabbing his leg in pain. Initial tests revealed an ACL tear but the team is waiting for a test on Saturday morning to confirm it.

Brady and the Patriots offense came out firing, going to an up-tempo style offense, they marched down the field in just 3:09, before many fans found their seats, scoring a touchdown when Brady hit Chris Hogan for a seven-yard score. The drive covered 75 yards in just 7 plays. Edelman was huge in the drive, up to his injury catching three passes for 52 yards.

Detroit’s Matthew Stafford completed a pass to Golden Tate but Malcolm Butler punched the ball out and with three Patriots around the ball, Jordan Richards fell on it and the Patriots were in business at the Detroit 32.

Brady went for the quick strike, hitting Chris  Hogan streaking down the left side for a 32-yard touchdown pass making it 13-0 just 21 seconds after the first touchdown. On the right side, Brandin Cooks was also open deep as Brady had his pick of where to go. Stephen Gostkowski pulled the extra point wide left.

The Patriots defense held Detroit to a three and out and went right back on the attack. Facing a 3rd and 4, Brady and Danny Amendola had a beautiful 32-yard hook up where Amendola showed great concentration, hauling the ball in between two defenders as he was going to the ground. Then a defensive pass interference call on Rob Gronkowski, (the second he drew in the first quarter), set the team up at the 12-yard line. Three plays later, Mike Gillislee in his first carry in a Patriots uniform powered in from the one-yard line after great blocks by James O’Shaughnessy and James Develin to make it 19-0. The extra point was good, but the Lions were flagged on the play so New England went for two. Gillislee scored on basically the same play, this time cutting it back to the inside and the score was 21-0.

Brady led another scoring drive but this one stalled as Gostkowski nailed a 46-yard field goal to make the score 24-0. Brady was 10-11 for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. The only incompletion was a drop by Cooks on a deep stick route.

Stafford finally got Detroit’s offense clicking and he completed four consecutive passes for 70 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to Marvin Jones that made it 24-7. The play was another curiously bad one by Butler who gave up a long pass last week. The Patriots starters were done after Brady moved them into Lion’s territory and badly missed a connection with Hogan in the Detroit end zone that resulted in a pick by Glover Quin. It was an uncharacteristic bad decision by Brady, throwing into double coverage.

Stafford was 11-of-17 for 125 yards, a touchdown and a pick against the Pats starting defense. He came out in the third quarter and played a series with the starters against the Patriots backups and shredded them, going 4-of-5 for 65 yards and a touchdown to Dwayne Washington.

Jimmy Garoppolo and the second team offense struggled in the second half until their two final drives where they were able to get field goals from Gostkowski to narrow the Lions’ lead to 28-27 and then finally going back out in front with two seconds to go 30-27. Other observations included:

  • Chris Hogan was dynamic, especially in that pivotal first quarter. He caught five passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Remember the talk when the team traded for Cooks and many thought Hogan’s reps would disappear? That now seems to be firmly in the rear-view mirror.
  • Jordan Richards was moved to a linebacker role in the Patriots “Big Nickel” formation on defense and struggled again. He did recover the fumble but missed some tackles that should have been made. We know Belichick loves this kid, but for them to keep him this season, would be a head scratcher.
  • Veterans David Harris and Kony Ealy saw extensive action, but with the injuries on the defense, it was more out of necessity than anything else. Both had some good and bad. Ealy seems to be at his best as an inside penetrator. Harris is solid in run support but was in a mismatch in the passing game with Ameer Abdullah.
  • Garoppolo and the offense seemed stuck in neutral, although much of that had to do with the play of the offensive line until the final two drives when Josh McDaniels went to the up-tempo offense. It seemed the ball was coming out quicker and with better accuracy.
  • D.J. Foster will be playing somewhere in September. It looked like he was running the ball with some excellent vision this week, he had one drop in the passing game, but it would have been a tough catch.
  • Cooks and Gronkowski each only caught one pass but it wasn’t anything to be concerned with. Gronk drew two pass interference penalties and Cooks, with Edelman out, would have had his role increased had the offense remained out there in the second half.
  • It was a pretty decent night for Cameron Fleming, he played mostly well but whiffed a couple of times on speed rushes off the edge by Anthony Zettel.

The Patriots now have the final tune-up with the Giants before the games begin for real when Kansas City comes into town in just 13 days. The team has plenty of decisions still to make and next week, the fringe players should see plenty of action.

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.