Tag Archives: Ryan Fitzpatrick

Despite Patriots Loss, End of Dynasty Talk Can Wait For Some Other Day

Bob George
January 6, 2020 at 10:29 am ET

End of an era?  Save that for March when some famous quarterback’s contract expires.

It doesn’t feel like it, but it’s over.  No more football in New England until this summer.  The 2019 season came to an abrupt end on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, as former Patriot Mike Vrabel led his Tennessee Titans to a hard fought 20-13 win over the former Super Bowl Champion Patriots, sending his charges to Baltimore to take on the top-seeded Ravens next weekend.  Derrick Henry rushed for 182 yards last night, but the Titans’ defense may give up 282 rushing yards to Lamar Jackson next week.  That’s Tennessee’s problem, not New England’s.

What is their problem is what to do moving forward.  This team turned out to be one of the worst 12-4 teams in recent NFL history.  This season was clearly mischaracterized by the ridiculously easy early first half of the season, where the Patriots went 8-0 and beat teams that woebegone UMass might have given a good game.  Once the good teams started lining up on the opposite side of the ball, things began to change.  The last two games, home losses to Miami and Tennessee, revealed to the pro football world what the 2019 Patriots really were.  Key injuries, key retirements, and a general misjudging of the talent on this team all combined to lead to their early playoff exit, something not seen around these parts in exactly a decade when Baltimore came into Gillette Stadium and blew out the Patriots, 33-14 in the last Wild Card round game this team has played until last night.

That said, here are the five main reasons why the team crashed and burned and saw their Super Bowl championship come to an end last night.

#5 – Offensive line needed more than just Coach Scar

 This was a bad year for the offensive line, period.  David Andrews was lost in training camp for the season due to blood clots in his lungs (more on him later), which got things off to a bad start.  But basically, this unit never jelled at all.  For much of the season, the line started guys like Ted Karras, Marshall Newhouse and Jermaine Eluemunor.  Starting tackles Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon missed significant playing time.  Wynn came back for the Dallas game, but the team went only 3-4 after he came back.   Cannon had a substandard season at right tackle when he did play.  Karras is simply no Andrews, and Newhouse and Eluemunor were stopgap fill-ins, nothing more.  Except for a few nice runs by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead here and there, this line had a bad year.  Tom Brady’s pass blocking protection this year was mostly non-existent (his season passer rating of 88 was his lowest since 2013).  If Brady either retires or winds up leaving the Patriots, one has to wonder if the bad performance of the offensive line will be a major factor.

#4 – A vastly overrated defense, totally exposed in the end

 They were being held up there with the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens and 2002 Buccaneers as one of the best one-season defenses in NFL history.  They were 8-0, and fantasy owners who had the Patriot defense (Yours Truly included) enjoyed astonishingly high numbers.  Then along came Lamar Jackson and everything changed.

Granted, Jackson has made a lot of defenses look like a combination of matadors, young guys suddenly looking old as dirt, and befuddled dopes who would have problems stopping a high school option offense.  But the Patriots always seemed to have an answer for everything.  They were powerless to stop Jackson, but that soon begat getting shredded at home by Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and bludgeoned by Mark Ingram, Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry.  They could not stop a final scoring drive at home from Miami with a first-round bye on the line.  All-Pro Stephon Gilmore suddenly looked like 1997 top draft pick Chris Canty when trying to cover Devante Parker in that hideous regular season finale.

Explaining the offensive line was easy.  Explaining the collapse of the defense isn’t.  Granted, the unit played okay Saturday night and allowed only 13 points, but stopping Ryan Tannehill (previously 0-6 lifetime against the Patriots) is like Dietrich Wise or Adam Butler trying to stop a six-year old kid from entering a candy store.  Henry won the game for Tennessee Saturday night, not Tannehill, and they even allowed some Harvard grad named Anthony Firkser to catch a touchdown and make a key third down catch late in the game.  There was no clutch in this group down the stretch, and all the big plays that are usually made were not made this year.

Wow.  First Fitzpatrick, and now Firkser.  Let’s send some more Patriot scouts to Cambridge from now on.

#3 – Brady cannot totally blame his receivers for lack of chemistry

 Late in his career, the Celtics allowed the late, great John Havlicek to report to training camp late.  He simply needed more rest at his advancing age.  Problem is, the last two Celtics teams he played on were knocked out of the playoffs by Philadelphia, and failed to make the playoffs in his final season.  Was Havlicek reporting late the reason why?  Certainly not, as the front office made one bad trade after another and by 1978, the team was so bad that perhaps Red Auerbach could be forgiven if he yelled “Russell is not coming through that door!  Neither is Heinsohn, Cousy, or anyone named Jones!”

For the last two offseasons, Brady has missed all of the voluntary OTAs.  He is spending more time with his wife Gisselle and his children, consorting with his personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, and working with his personal quarterback coach, former Red Sox lefty reliever Tom House (whose only other claim to fame is catching Hank Aaron’s 715th career home run in 1974 in the Atlanta Braves bullpen).  At Brady’s age, you have to figure that he’s earned it.  He’s the GOAT, and he doesn’t need all this voluntary offseason stuff that the younger, more mortal players need.

But as the Ghost of Christmas Past told Ebenezer Scrooge in one of the many versions of A Christmas Carol (this is the version that stars George C. Scott as the Humbug Homey), “You have shown me what you have gained!  Now I will show you what you have lost!”

Brady gains valuable family time, and is totally comfortable with Guerrero and House, as most of us all know (especially if you watched that Facebook feature Tom Vs Time two years ago).  But his not attending the OTAs meant that he didn’t get a chance to build a rapport with Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski and Matt La Cosse.  In past years, this was why a Wes Welker could be cast aside and a Danny Amendola or Julian Edelman could be groomed to take his place.  By not attending the OTAs, Brady never got that time in.

As a result, in most of the games played, all defenses had to do was account for Edelman and James White, and that was that.  Brady was never on the same page with anyone other than those two veterans.  You can’t count Antonio Brown in this discussion, as he was only here for one week.  But his choosing to spend time away from Foxborough in the offseason did have some repercussions.

#2 – Injuries to Andrews and Develin were not overcome

 Andrews, as previously stated, had blood clots in his lungs and was declared out for the season in training camp.  That left all his responsibilities to Karras, and the dropoff was noticeable.  The center does a lot more than snap the ball.  He calls out blocking assignments and sets the line for the next play.  Of course, he also has to be a good blocker.  In both areas, Karras simply did not account for the loss of Andrews.  Dante Scarnecchia had plenty of time to develop either Karras or some other player to at least hold down the fort in Andrews’ absence.

Develin’s injury may have been even more damaging.  His lead blocking for Michel and Burkhead might be seen by some as overlooked, but not by those who really know the game.  Linebacker Elandon Roberts turned out to be the replacement for Develin as Jakob Johnson also went down with an injury.  Roberts was much like Karras in that he did okay but was clearly no Develin.  Roberts was called upon to try and convert a third and one on Saturday night but was stuffed for no gain.  He did crack off some nice lead blocks, but the failed first and goal at the one exposed the absence of Develin at a time where a touchdown was badly needed but a field goal was all they got.

#1 – Gronkowski was never replaced, even slightly

 Rob Gronkowski retired last March, and kept true to his word.  Several experts predicted he would come back around November, but he never did.  He is still trying to become a comedian on the Fox pregame show rather than trying to surprise Patriot Nation with a late return to the Patriot lineup.  He is done with football.  Period.

The Patriots did not draft a tight end.  All the Patriots did was to bring in La Cosse and ancient former Patriot Ben Watson, who had to be talked into coming out of retirement.  Even Jacob Hollister was cast adrift, now catching tosses from Russell Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks.

Brady missed Gronk big time.  Yes, the Patriots did win Super Bowl LI with that biblical comeback without Gronk in the lineup.  But over an entire season, the Patriots had no Martellus Bennett this year.  Without Gronkowski or Bennett to worry about, defenses double teamed Edelman with no qualms or trepidations.  They didn’t worry about Dorsett, Harry or Meyers.  This all combined to throw Brady off kilter and reduce the Patriot passing attack to something merely mortal.

Patriot Nation certainly knew what it had with Gronkowski.  Sometimes Bill Belichick can get away with personnel magic, but he couldn’t this time.  Both Brady and Gronkowski made it to the NFL Network’s Top 100 list at their respective positions (as did Belichick).  It could be that Belichick didn’t restock on tight end because perhaps he thought Gronk would come back in November.  Didn’t happen.

Add it all up, and it’s someone else’s turn this year.  Any talk about the end of the dynasty can wait for some other day.

 Patriots Week 17 Report Card, Crushing Loss to Miami, Bye-Bye Bye Week

Steve Balestrieri
January 1, 2020 at 8:05 am ET

Patriots Come Out Flat And Lose #2 Seed

Happy New Year, from all of us here, we hope that you all had a happy, safe and fun New Year’s Eve and an even better 2020.

The Patriots lost out on a big…and needed opportunity to earn themselves a bye week by losing to the Miami Dolphins at home 27-24 in the final regular-season game of  2019. Entering Sunday’s game Tom Brady had a 15-1 record at home against Miami but like last year, they lost a game to the Dolphins in the final seconds. 

So, check out our grades and we’ll take one more look at the game film before putting the regular season behind us this week.

Quarterback: D

Tom Brady after one of his best performances against the Bills had one he’d rather forget. Brady was sailing the ball high on many of his incompletions and was wearing different cleats (looked like hightops) which may speak to having an ankle issue which would explain part of it. But both he and the team started slowly against a team that was 28th in pass defense. Brady was 2-4 for 10 yards in the first quarter.

His protection overall was outstanding, he had plenty of time to throw for the vast majority of the game. The accuracy and timing just weren’t there. Brady finished 16-29 for 221 yards with 2 TDs and a horrible pick-six to Eric Rowe. 

Running Backs: B

The Patriots running game once again had a pretty solid night rushing for 135 yards with some solid work by Sony Michel (74 yards on 18 carries) and Rex Burkhead (48 yards on six carries). Despite Miami cheating their linebackers up in the box and blitzing on running plays, they consistently gained yardage after contact and have turned it up a notch down the stretch. 

Elandon Roberts once again provided good blocking in the running game, opening the hole for Michel’s touchdown run. And he caught his first NFL pass, which just happened to go for a 38-yard TD.

Wide Receivers: C-

The Dolphins bracketed Julian Edelman all game long and dared the Patriots to beat them elsewhere. Edelman, hobbled by shoulder and knee issues, hasn’t been 100 percent for quite some time. On Sunday he was held to just three catches for 26 yards.

Phillip Dorsett and Mohamad Sanu once again failed to pickup the slack. Sanu had just three catches for 35 yards, that 2nd round draft pick trade is looking worse and worse. Dorsett meanwhile had just one catch a 50-yard bomb from Brady where he did do a nice job of tracking the ball and kept going for some yards after the catch. But that was it, and it isn’t enough. 

N’Keal Harry had three catches for 29 yards on seven targets. Brady’s two touchdowns came on passes to Roberts (38 yards) and to James White on a nicely designed screen pass for 11 yards with a great block by Shaq Mason. 

Tight Ends: C-

Are we seeing a trend here on the Patriots skill position players? Matt LaCosse has been much, much better in the run blocking department lately, helping to open some holes for the backs to get to the second level. But with Miami’s linebackers cheating up and blitzing inside in the running game, we kept waiting for the Patriots to attack the seams and make them pay… nothing materialized and LaCosse didn’t have a catch 

But he wasn’t alone. Ben Watson had just one catch for four yards. This was a disappointing end to what was a disappointing regular season for the tight ends. 

Offensive Line: B+

The offensive line play was not the reason for the team losing on Sunday, they opened holes for the running backs to run for 135 yards and if the defense had played their normally stellar game, then they’d have run for a lot more. Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney were both excellent.

The pass protection for nearly the entire game was terrific, giving Brady oodles of time to throw and look downfield. The only sack given up was by Marcus Cannon on a nice speed rush move by Trent “Toolbox” Harris who may look familiar to Patriots fans. He spent the last two training camps here and was a member of the practice squad in 2018.                  

 Defensive Line: B

The defensive line once again played very solidly against the run, which wasn’t a big surprise as the Dolphins entered the game as the worst running team in the league averaging just 72.9 yards per game. They only managed 63 here, but their running backs had a combined 37 yards on 16 carries. Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton were solid as usual. 

The defensive ends set the edge well but didn’t generate a lot of pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Linebackers: B-

The linebackers had some issues with wrapping up and missing tackles which was a small issue but in what has become a concerning trend, the pass rush, while getting pressure has been just short of getting home. Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Dont’a Hightower was getting plenty of pressure on Fitzpatrick, but those big drive ending sacks or QB hits resulting in turnovers haven’t been there. 

Collins had one of their only two sacks and a QB hit, where they generated only four. They are going to need those players to step un next week.  

Secondary: D

The Patriots secondary had, by far, their worst game of the season. Stephon Gilmore had his worst game as a Patriot since perhaps his first month here. DeVante Parker clearly won the matchup against the Patriots top corner as no one has done yet. Parker had eight catches for 137 yards with the vast majority coming against Gilmore.

But Gilmore wasn’t alone, J.C. Jackson allowed six receptions while Jonathan Jones still hobbled by a bad groin allowed five catches on five targets. Mike Gesicki got the better of Pat Chung most of the game and beat him for the game-winning touchdown. 

Special Teams: B

The Special Teams had a solid game on Sunday. Brandon Bolden ripped off his longest return of the season for 38 yards which set the team up with excellent field position for a change. Nate Ebner had a couple of good tackles in coverage while Matthew Slater remains the gold standard for gunners in the league. Nick Folk converted all three extra points and his only field goal attempt. A good day for Joe Judge’s troops 

Coaches: C-

The Patriots coaching staff, and it begins with Bill Belichick had some head-scratching moments this week. After preaching like they were treating this as a playoff game, the Patriots came out flat and it was Miami who looked like it was playing for a playoff bye. And the end of the first half time management looked like the team was playing not to lose (Marty ball?) which isn’t the way the Patriots have performed under Belichick.

Defensively, the Belichicks (plural) were taken to school to Chad O’Shea, who, interestingly enough was fired after the game. They never found a way to counter what Miami was doing or to stop them…And that isn’t a great offense at all. 

Offensively, despite all the hand-wringing over Josh McDaniels play calling, this offense is very flawed, especially at wide receiver and while he may have waited a bit too long to adjust the power running game, he’s working with a short deck. 

We’re on to Tennessee and the Wild Card game… 

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

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

 

Dolphins Slam the Door on a Patriots Bye and Any Possible SB

Steve Balestrieri
December 29, 2019 at 8:36 pm ET

You can put a fork in ‘em, folks, because the 2019 version of the Patriots are done. There won’t be no coming together and doing self-scouting this week to get healthy and prepped for a deep playoff run. While they’ll live to play again either next Saturday or Sunday, this season is on life support and any hopes of playing in Miami in February are a pipe dream at this point. 

With a chance to clinch the #2 seed and get that all-important bye week against a 4-11 Dolphins team, the Patriots showed no fire and slept walked through the first quarter while their defense, which has been their rock all season was eviscerated by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who sliced and diced, scattered, covered and smothered them like homes fries at Waffle House. 

Although the Patriots took the lead with five and a half minutes to go, there was no feeling that they were going to close this one out as they’d done so many times this season. Fitzpatrick picked them apart worse than any QB had done all season long. And he methodically went down the field, (like Brady) and calmly sliced a pass to Mike Gesicki from 5-yards out with just 24 ticks left on the clock. 27-24 Dolphins. Thanks for coming, place your seats in the upright position and please be kind on Route 1. 

Last year, the Dolphins won on a fluke, a freak play that never should have had any success. This year, there was no fluke. Fitzpatrick turned into Fitzmagic, as we said in our pregame, he’s fully capable of doing. When the Patriots played zone, he picked them apart and when they played man coverage, his wide receivers totally dominated on the field. 

Fitzpatrick finished the day 28 of 41 for 320 yards and a touchdown, nearly double what the Patriots had been allowing through 15 weeks. The Dolphins got 26 first downs, 19 through the air. Stephon Gilmore had, arguably his worst game in a Patriot uniform and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. 

DeVante Parker totally dominated his matchup with Gilmore this afternoon, something no one has done in three years. Parker had eight catches for 137 yards on 11 targets and was once again Fitzpatrick’s favorite target. 

If there was any team that needed the bye it is this one. Julian Edelman has been hobbled by a myriad of injuries all season and the while he’s been out there giving his all, right now he’s a shell of his normal self. 

Brady has been dealing with an elbow issue and he was wearing different cleats today, which means he maybe has an ankle issue going on? Mohamad Sanu has been dealing with an ankle issue, the offensive has been banged up….we could go on and on. 

The Patriots needed this bye week, we’ve seen their history. Playing on Wildcard Weekend in the Belichick era they are 3-3. And if this team wins next weekend against Tennessee, they’d have to go on the road to Kansas City and Baltimore to make the Super Bowl. Anyone think this team can go to both and win a big road playoff game? Anyone? Bueller….Bueller? 

The blame can’t go to the offensive line today, once again the running game showed signs of life and despite getting away from it, they ran the ball for 135 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per rushing attempt. Sony Michel led the way with 74 yards on 18 carries. Rex Burkhead had 48 yards on 6 carries (8.0 yards per rushing attempt.

And the OL gave Brady plenty of time to throw, but for much of the game, he was way off target. Brady also threw an awful pick-six between Edelman and Michel and it was difficult to tell who the pass was intended for. Eric Rowe was stuck right between both, not sure who to cover. Brady’s pass went right to him. 

Michel and Burkhead were bright spots on the offense, as was Elandon Roberts. He caught a 38-yard touchdown when no one followed him out in the pattern. He made a nice catch from Brady and then raced down the sideline for a score. Brady’s other touchdown pass went to James White on a very well developed screen pass with a great block downfield by Shaq Mason. 

The coaches didn’t get the players ready to go today, despite proclaiming all week that this was a playoff game for them…let’s hope this isn’t what to expect in a playoff game because that effort and the gameplan was not good…at all. 

And in a move right out of the Andy Reid school of clock management, another head-scratcher. After stopping the Dolphins at the end of the first half with about 1:42 to go and three timeouts in the pocket, the coaches decided to let the clock run out and hand the ball off to Michel. In a tie game that your team needs for a playoff bye. Head-scratcher. 

So Tennessee is coming here next weekend after the Patriots blew a prime opportunity to get themselves in the bye week. And the worst part of this? They could actually face a short week if they are slated for Saturday. This was an ugly finish to the most dominant decade in NFL history. This is the kind of loss that can stick with a team, it isn’t just going to be business as usual this week. 

C-ya next weekend in Foxboro…just don’t be booking any flights to Kansas City just yet. 

Patriots-Dolphins Week 17, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 27, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots can wrap up the 2nd seed of the 2019 AFC Playoffs with a win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. A win or a loss or tie by the Kansas City Chiefs will mean the Patriots are the #2 seed and earn an all-important bye during Wild Card Weekend next weekend.    

Miami is just playing out the season and is in full rebuilding mode. However, they’ve played much better in the second half of the season.  After starting 0-7, the Dolphins are 4-3 in their last seven games. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Melanie Collins 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 (12-3) beat the Buffalo Bills 24-17 to clinch their 11th division title in a row. Tom Brady had his best game in several weeks, while the running game got 143 yards keeping the offense balanced.

The Dolphins (4-11) beat the Cincinnati Bengals 38-35 in overtime. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 419 yards and four touchdowns.

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 Dolphins have been playing each other twice a year since 1966 when Miami entered the league. The Dolphins lead the all-time series 55-53 which includes 3 games in the postseason, where the Patriots lead 2-1. This series has been dominated by the home team. Miami is 38-17 at home while the Patriots are 35-17 in Foxboro. 

The teams split the series last season. In Week 2 in Miami, the Patriots shut them out 43-0, which happened to be the only game that Antonio Brown suited up for the Patriots this season.  

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

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

The Patriots running game shined for the second week in a row, and against a much tougher defense in Buffalo running for 143 yards. Sony Michel had the most productive game of his own going for 96 yards on 21 carries. Rex Burkhead scored the game-winning touchdown, breaking two tackles on his way to the end zone.

Miami’s run defense is not good this season. The Dolphins have had equal difficulties stopping the run or the pass. Currently, the Dolphins are 27th against the run, allowing 135.4 yards per game. 

Look for the Patriots to continue to accentuate the run with Michel this week. The Dolphins linebackers have been hit hard by injury this year. Michel and Burkhead should both see a lot of work in this game. With the offensive line play improving, the Patriots should be able to dictate the pace here and open up play-action passing.          

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

The Patriots passing game looked better than they have in months against the Bills. Tom Brady completed nearly 80 percent of his passes and threw for 271 yards. He spread the ball around to nine different players. WIth better pass protection, he looked laser-sharp and just what they need heading into the playoffs.

Miami’s pass defense is 28th in the league this season, allowing over 265 yards per game. They’re missing their best corner, Xavien Howard and have a former Patriots (Jomal Wiltz, Eric Rowe) and a rookie Nik Needham in the secondary. Miami has only generated 22 sacks this season.

Look for Brady to have another solid game and continue to spread the ball around. Julian Edelman is banged up but will no doubt play. Mohamad Sanu has been disappointing but has made noise this week that says he’s feeling better and is ready to be more of a factor. James White and Burkhead out of the backfield should both factor in the passing game. 

Next up the Dolphins offense:

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

The Patriots run defense with Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton have continued to trend upward and they both have been playing excellent football this season. The linebackers are very good at shooting the gaps and stuffing the opponent’s running game, and putting them in must-pass situations. 

Miami’s running game is dead last in the NFL averaging just 72.9 yards per game. The leading rusher for the Dolphins is their journeyman 37-year old QB Fitzpatrick. Nuff said.

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

The Miami passing game with Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a fairly good bright spot this year. As always, Fitzpatrick can get hot and absolutely tear up opposing defenses. But just as fast he can begin turning the ball over as well. He’s thrown 19 touchdowns but 13 interceptions as well. 

Turnovers are what hurts the offense. Fitzpatrick has good weapons to work with DeVante Parker is having an excellent year with 64 catches, 1065 yards, and 9 TDs. Tight end Mike Gesicki has 47 catches and is improving every week. Alan Hurns and Albert Wilson round out the receiver core. 

Stephon Gilmore should be matched up with Parker and that battle should be a good one to watch. I’m looking for the Patriots to get after Fitzpatrick, Miami has allowed 56 sacks this season to force him into being the latter of the two scenarios this week. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots special teams give them a whitewash of the key matchups this week. The coverage units have been outstanding and they’ve blocked four punts this season. Jake Bailey is having a terrific rookie season and Nick Folk has solidified the kicking with extra points and field goals. 

Miami has Jason Sanders who has done a good job in the kicking department. Matt Hauck is the punter. Their return game should be held in check this week. Look for the Patriots to go after another punt this week.  

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

The Patriots and Tom Brady have enjoyed excellent success against Miami at home (In Miami is another story) and are looking to continue that trend. Bill Belichick has stated that last week and this week are essentially playoff games. They need this win to get a playoff bye. Miami has played hard all season for Brian Flores but they’re playing only for pride …and jobs next season.  

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Keep the Running Game Going – The Patriots will attempt to run the ball against a Dolphins defense that has struggled to stop it all season long. The offensive line has played much better the past two weeks and will be looking to make that trend continue. 

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White should all see some snaps in the running game. Also, look for N’Keal Harry to get another shot at a Jet Sweep this week. 

Brady to Spread the Ball Around – With the running game gaining momentum, this opens up play-action passing and look for them to work the middle of the field as well as the perimeters this week. Last week Brady used nine receivers in the passing game and it kept a very good Bills defense off-balance. Look for him to get everyone involved again and spread the wealth. 

Get After Fitzy And Force Some Turnovers – The defense didn’t get any turnovers against the Bills, but as we stated above, that is the big problem with Miami’s offense. On the season the Dolphins are -12 in the turnover department while the Patriots are +25. If the pass rush can get home, they can force Fitzpatrick into making a few errant throws that have been the bane of his career. 

__________

This is a game the Patriots should win easily. They are playing for a bye week while Miami is just playing out the string. While Flores has had the Dolphins playing hard for him all season, a fast start by the Patriots should put them in good position. I look for Brady and the offense to have another big day as New England ends up 13-3 in 2019.  Patriots 31-10

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour gets a week off as the Patriots get a bye week and watch the Wild Card Round resting up before a home game for the Divisional Game.

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

 

New England Patriots News 11-17, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
November 17, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 11-17 and AFC East notes this week. 

Gameday! The Patriots are back from their bye week and are set to take on the Eagles in the late afternoon game. It is a big matchup for both teams and should be one of the best games to watch today. 

Veterans Day is tomorrow. To those who served before me, to those I served with and to the ones who followed and will follow in the future…I salute you. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Bill Belichick – Addressed the Myles Garrett incident (more below) and how the Patriots address those issues. “Every situation is different. There’s no two that are the same. We can go back and look at 50 of these through the years, some type of fighting or ejections. They’re all different. I wouldn’t say it’s like offsides penalties. There’s a lot of different things happening, different situations and so forth and so on. Yeah, fundamentally, I told players what we should do in those situations, how we should handle them. I think they’ve done a good job with it.”

Tom Brady – This will get plenty of airplay now, as Brady’s personal trainer says Brady could play until he’s 46, or 47. “We talk about it all the time, Alex Guererro said. “Every year he just adds another year. He goes in and he’s like, ‘Guys, I feel so good still. I think I am going to go till 45.’ I am like, ‘OK.’ Now he’s like, ‘Alex, I think I can go like 46 or 47.’”

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, Please do check it out. 

Patriots – Bills – The Patriots have had enough prime time games this season. And thankfully there won’t be another added as the NFL has released the late-season schedule and the Patriots and Bills will meet on Saturday, December 21 at 4:30 p.m. The game could have got flexed to another night game

N’Keal Harry’s Situation Will Be Closely Watched Today:

Will he play or will N’Keal Harry be inactive again? If he does play, how active will he actually be? Will he just play enough to get his feet wet or is he ready to jump in and become an integral part of the Patriots offense, which we all envisioned when he was drafted this past spring?

Nobody knows the answers to those questions just yet. But some of those answers we’ll find out later this afternoon. It isn’t quite as simple as just coming off of IR and being close to being physically ready. That’s just a small part of the equation. 

For a rookie like Harry, he was just beginning to round into form during training camp, learning the offense, his route tree and was just beginning to learn the little nuances of the offense as Tom Brady likes to run it. He and Brady were working a lot of one-on-one during STs portions of practice as he was getting the chemistry and timing down for the first time. For someone like Julian Edelman, who’s been in the system for several years, it is much simpler. He already has that built-in chemistry with Brady, and he’d just have to get his timing down.

Harry had to basically restart everything from scratch. However, he was able to sit in the meetings and soak up all of that, so that part of it should be just fine. Knowledge of the playbook and his route tree is essential. Then he just has to be where Brady expects him to be. Brady throws to spots on the field where he expects (actually demands) his receivers to be. We watched him discuss this with Harry and everyone else who has come along, down to the minutest detail. 

If he doesn’t trust that you’ll be there, you won’t get many second chances. But the reason the Patriots offense has been so successful for so long is that Brady and Josh McDaniels always try to put players in their best position to succeed. They don’t ask a guy to do something he’s not good at. They’ll find your strengths and play to them.

I can’t wait to see what Harry can bring to the table. Just know this… what you see today and moving forward this season, is just scratching the surface on his potential moving forward… Let the games begin… 

Miles Garrett Situation, Scary, Ugly, and Dangerous: 

As the game on Thursday night between the Browns and Steelers was winding down, an ugly incident unfolded and will have fans and media discussing it for a long, long time. Myles Garrett took down Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph hard after he tossed a screen pass. Rudolph took exception to that and as the two were on the ground, he twisted Garrett’s helmet. 

What unfolded went from ugly to scary to dangerous in a matter of seconds. Garrett and Rudolph began to tussle and then the Browns edge rusher ripped Rudolph’s helmet off his head and then swung it hard and made glancing contact (thankfully) before bedlam ensued. Maurkice Pouncey, coming to Rudolph’s defense tried to kick Garrett in the head several times before punching him on the ground.  The benches emptied and it nearly got out of control. 

The referees insisted on playing out the game which was at that point smoking around a powder keg and Freddy Kitchens wisely sent out the Browns backup QB to take the final snap. Garrett was suspended indefinitely, at least through the rest of the season and the playoffs and rightfully so.  There is absolutely no defending what he did. And for one of the NFL’s youngest and brightest stars, it is crushing for his team as they hope to climb out of a deep hole and make a playoff run. 

I still can’t believe what I watched there. I fully expected to Rudolph to go down and not get back up. No one wants to see that, especially if the aftermath were very different which it could have been. 

Pouncey was suspended three games for kicking Garrett in the head. Larry Ogunjobi was suspended for one game for his own actions, as he leveled Rudolph after the fact. The Steelers and the Browns are bitter rivals, everyone knows that, but what transpired was way beyond football and any rivalry. Thankfully, Rudolph wasn’t seriously injured and the courts didn’t get involved in this. Which is the last thing anyone, especially the NFL wants to see.

What Is the NFL Doing With The Kaepernick Workout?

It is a bizarre scenario with the entire Colin Kaepernick being shadow-banned by the league, his lawsuit which was settled out of court and now his league-sanctioned workout. Actually, it wasn’t sanctioned, it was almost an ultimatum. Take it or leave it.

Kaepernick was given no notice and had only hours to agree to the terms, will supposedly work out this Saturday (this was written on Friday) for representatives from 24 NFL teams in a private event funded and arranged by the league.

The entire thing is crazy. Why on Saturday, the day before a game when coaches and general managers are prepping for their game the next day? Tuesdays are the day off for all of the teams that play on Sunday and would have been a much better choice. 

The Patriots will attend and if they were interested in Kaepernick, and we’ve examined this n the past, they’d have to change their offense if they wish to get the most out of Kaepernick’s talents. Could it be a look to the future? Kaepernick is now 32 and after not playing for several years, how much of a future does he truly hold? 

NFL Schedule Week 11, 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: 4-9
Season:92-55-1

TNF Browns over Pittsburgh 1-0

Carolina over Atlanta
Dallas over Detroit
Indy over Jacksonville
Buffalo over Miami
Baltimore over Houston
Minnesota over Denver
NY Jets over Washington
New Orleans over Tampa Bay
San Francisco over Arizona
Oakland over Cincinnati
New England over Philadelphia
SNF LA Rams over Chicago
MNF Kansas City over LA Chargers

Bye week: Green Bay, NY Giants, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee

Week11 Thursday Night Football Browns over Pittsburgh

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills, Hauschka Looking to Rebound:

The Buffalo Bills lost a golden opportunity to gain ground on the idle Patriots by dropping a 19-16 decision to the then 2-6 Cleveland Browns (the Browns have now defeated Buffalo and Pittsburgh to move to 4-6). The loss dropped the Bills to 6-3 and two games behind the Patriots (New England owns the tie-breaker too). 

With the Patriots facing a tough test against the Eagles this afternoon, Buffalo is facing the Miami Dolphins who’ve won two in a row. Miami’s offense should have a tough task taking on the Bills defense, but after practicing in the cold and snow this week, the game is in South Beach, so that may have some bearing on it. 

One player looking for some bounceback is kicker Stephen Hauschka. He hasn’t been good this season (4th worst FG average) and his range looks seriously shorter than we remember. He missed two big kicks last week, right before the half, and at the end of the game. Those kicks were costly.

Dolphins’ Fitzpatrick Maintains His Love for the Game:

The Miami Dolphins are just 2-6 but QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has lost none of his enthusiasm and love for the game. ESPN Insider Field Yates was a guest on One Bills Live podcast and said Fitzmagic’s love of the game rivals that of Brett Favre. 

“And, not that Ryan Fitzpatrick has had Brett Favre’s career at all,” he said, “but he reminds me of Favre in his pure enjoyment of football. Fitz seems to have a blast every time he is out there. Sometimes people may see it as carefree, I look at it as passionate. He’s a warrior. He’s incredibly tough. I think his teammates respect the heck out of him. I’ve really enjoyed the various chapters of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career.”

The Dolphins players respect and believe in Fitzpatrick, which is why he’s still the starter and Josh Rosen is not. 

Jets Facing Haskins, Redskins Today, Prepare for Heat Young Man:

The New York Jets are facing the woeful Washington Redskins this afternoon and Washington is starting rookie QB Dwayne Haskins. The Skins want to run the ball with Adrian Peterson and Darius Guice but the Jets have a very good run defense. 

Translation, Gregg Williams is going to stack the box to take away the run and blitz the heck out of Haskins. The rookie will be throwing to Terry McLaurin, his Ohio State teammate, but don’t expect him to have much time to throw it down the field.

This one is ready-made for Williams to throw the kitchen sink at Haskins. Look for the rookie to have a rough outing against the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets today. He’ll need the cold tub tomorrow.

________________

See what happened, check it out, absolutely,” Belichick deadpanned. “Interact with everybody, see what they think, get my opinions out there. I don’t want to get left behind on that. Then brush my teeth.”Bill Belichick being asked about jumping on social media first thing in the morning to give his take on issues trending around the league.

________________

“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 Week 2 Report Card, Filet-o-Dolphin, 43-0 Shutout

Steve Balestrieri
September 17, 2019 at 7:00 am ET

 The Patriots traditionally save some of their worst football for South Beach and have been embarrassed by their performances when on the road against the Dolphins. But if their performance on Sunday was among their worst of 2019, then the future looks mighty bright. The Patriots rolled easily over former coach Brian Flores charges 43-0 on Sunday that, while didn’t erase the sting of the 2018 Miami Miracle, but it certainly helped.

The Patriots completely dominated this one defensively holding Miami to just a total of 184 yards total, most of it, like Week 1 in garbage time. The Dolphins were just 2-15 on third down while the Patriots defense rolled up seven sacks, seven passes broken up, 4 interceptions of which two were returned for touchdowns. 

The offense was workman-like and efficient, wearing down a tired Dolphin defense with a mixture of the pass and run, despite the absence of both starting tackles. The coaching staff had the team well prepared for the Dolphins as well as the heat and a steady stream of rotating players kept everyone fresh.  

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

Quarterback: A-

Tom Brady finished the day 20-28 for 264 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 124.7 against the Dolphins. He was his normal, very efficient self, completing his first eight passes on the day, several of which went in the direction of Antonio Brown who was the recipient of Brady’s first three throws. 

The plan obviously was to get Brown as acclimated and as comfortable in the Patriots as he could be after being only in the building for three practices. There was some lack of timing which is understandable. The pair connected on a beautiful 20-yard back-shoulder touchdown throw in the second quarter. They narrowly missed another as Brady’s throw was short.

TB ➡️ AB ➡️ TD@TomBrady | @ab84 pic.twitter.com/bpq30cgofW— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 15, 2019

But despite Miami not being the most hospitable place for Brady thru the years, he was efficient, cool and accurate. 

Running Backs: A-

The Patriots also wanted to get Sony Michel more involved in the running game after his subpar performance against the Steelers. Michel answered the bell rushing 21 times for 85 yards in a solid performance. Rex Burkhead was once again very impressive totaling 68 yards [21 rushing, 47 receiving] and was quick with his decisions and cuts.

James White added in 10 yards rushing and 19 more receiving including a 10-yard touchdown on a screen pass with three blockers in front of him and seemingly no Miami players. James Develin had a couple of carries in the red zone and short yardage. 

Wide Receivers: A-

Antonio Brown did indeed play on Sunday and he made his presence known right off the bat. On the Patriots second play from scrimmage, Miami blitzed their two inside linebackers, Brown ran a slant across the vacated middle for an easy 18-yard gain. He later added the touchdown mentioned above. He made a nice adjustment on the ball in the air as Brady put it perfectly for him to catch it. 

Julian Edelman had four catches for 51 yards while Phillip Dorsett had three for 39. But Dorsett’s grab on a third and 17 was a beauty. He knew the distance went just past the sticks and dove for a Brady pass that he cradled as he went to the ground. 

Josh Gordon had just two catches for 19 yards as he drew tight coverage most of the game. Brady and Brown, if they continue to work together will find their comfort level and chemistry in short order. The nice part is that the Patriots don’t have to change anything with their offense to accommodate Brown. His skill set fits what they do perfectly. The only question is if [and a big if] will be here for the season without being suspended.  

Tight Ends: B

Matt LaCosse made his first appearance and made two really nice plays in the passing game, netting 33 yards. The first was a throw that was low and behind him from Brady but he made a nice adjustment by going down and getting it and getting the first down. He had another for 22 yards later on a nice catch.

Ryan Izzo was flagged for what Michael Hurley calls the “ode to Rob Gronkowski” for his weekly offensive pass interference penalty. 

Offensive Line: B-

The offensive line played really short-handed on Sunday. David Andrews has been on IR with Ted Karras taking over at center. Right tackle Marcus Cannon missed this week with a shoulder injury and then left tackle Isaiah Wynn went down at the end of the first quarter with a toe injury. That involved bringing in Marshall Newhouse [LT] who’d been on the team for about three days and Korey Cunningham [RT], who has been here about two weeks. 

And the line held up fairly well, partly by design. The coaches knew that with all of the new parts in there, they didn’t want to push the envelope, so they called plays that would get the ball out of Brady’s hands quickly. 

Brady was sacked twice, one of them was a fantastic play by Miami rookie Christian Wilkins who shoved Shaq Mason back into Brady, knocking both of them to the turf. It isn’t often we see Mason knocked back like that. 

But the line also hung tough and opened up enough holes in the running game to help the team rush for 126 yards. Not flashy or great but considering the circumstances and the heat, they had a credible, solid afternoon.

Defensive Line: A

The defensive line was outstanding and completely dominated while they were in the game. The Dolphins rushing game had just 42 yards on 15 carries [2.8-yard average] while the passing game could only muster 142 yards net passing. Dolphin QBs completed 18-39 passes with 0 TDs and 4 Interceptions. The defensive front seven had seven sacks split between the D-Line and the linebackers.

Danny Shelton has found his second season here to be a charm. He’s been outstanding in run support and garnered a sack. Lawrence Guy and Michael Bennett were immovable inside with Bennett getting a sack. Situational pass rusher Adam Butler had a pair of sacks.

Linebackers: A++

The Patriots linebackers were off the charts good on Sunday. They are so deep and so versatile that nobody played a lion’s share of the snaps. Everyone was getting into the act and after rewatching the tape today, there were only about a dozen snaps that they didn’t have four linebackers on the field. On a few plays, they had five.   

Jamie Collins was simply outstanding. He had five tackles, including one tackle for a loss, .5 sack, a QB hit, two passes defensed and two interceptions, the first of which he returned 69 yards for a touchdown. His second pick, from Josh Rosen, was the final play of the game. But he set the tone, on the Dolphins second play from scrimmage, he recognized a jet sweep and shot the gap between the tackle and tight end and buried Jakeem Grant for a four-yard loss.

.@j_collins91 takes the ball then takes it to the house! #GoPats | #NEvsMIA pic.twitter.com/qqhKoVUYiU— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 15, 2019

Edge players John Simon and rookie Chase Winovich were excellent. Simon had a sack, a QB hit and a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. Winovich had a pair of tackles, a tackle for a loss, two QB hits and 1.5 sacks. 

Kyle Van Noy returned to the field after missing last week’s game due to the birth of his son. He, Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Elandon Roberts were stout in the running game, allowing none of the Dolphins backs to find cracks in the line. And they too supported the pass rush by applying pressure on Fitzpatrick and Rosen. Another fantastic effort.  

Secondary: A

The secondary continued its stellar play led by the All-Pro Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore was matched up mostly with DeVante Parker on the afternoon. Parker was targeted seven times in the game and had zero catches. Gilmore created the Patriots first interception with a leaping tip of a deep ball by Fitzpatrick that bounced straight into the arms of Devin McCourty. Later in the second half, Fitzpatrick was flushed out of the pocket and tried to force a quick pass into Parker. Gilmore stepped in front of it, picked it off and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown. 

INTERCEPTED AND GOODBYE! @BumpNrunGilm0re | #GoPats pic.twitter.com/AxRA4l44Lz— New England Patriots (@Patriots) September 15, 2019

J.C. Jackson had a nice pass breakup, this one on another deep ball to Preston Williams. Jonathan Jones continues his stellar play and will likely garner some Pro Bowl mention this fall. Jason McCourty was solid. D-Mac and Chung were their normally solid performers as the secondary gave the Dolphins’ QBs nowhere to go with the ball.

Special Teams: B-

Stephen Gostkowski had a truly rough day in Miami, missing two extra points as well as a field goal. Was it Gostkowski or the holding of Jake Bailey? We don’t know but rest assured they will be working overtime this week, trying to get it sorted out. To the legion of fans who want Gostkowski cut, who would you bring in? Nobody out there that is available is even close to Gostkowski’s skill level. While it is a concern, they’ll attempt to work thru it…as they should. 

Bailey punted three times and put all three inside the 20-yard line. He averaged 48 yards per punt with a 46.3-yard net average. The coverage units led by Matthew Slater were outstanding. Returner Gunner Olszewski didn’t have a lot of room in the return game and wasn’t a factor. 

Coaches: A

The Patriots coaching staff once again outclassed their competition, this time former assistant Brian Flores who had a lot of ex-Patriots on his staff. Many believed that their familiarity with the Patriots system would give them an advantage, but Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels on offense with Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick calling the defense kept the Dolphins staff a step behind all day long

Belichick has the team ready to go every week and thoroughly prepared for their opponent. It makes them awfully tough to beat. But it is a long season and they are taking it one game at a time. We’re on to the Jets.

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Whitewash in Miami, Patriots Defense Rocks in 43-0 Blowout

Steve Balestrieri
September 15, 2019 at 8:49 pm ET

No miracle finish this time, and for the Miami Dolphins, the only thing close to a miracle was that the Patriots were missing both of their offensive tackles or else this one could have been much, much worse.

The Patriots dominated this one from start to finish, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Miami managed only 184 yards of total offense, with the vast majority of those coming well after this game was over.  In the first two games of the 2019 season, the Patriots have allowed just three points. 

The only big downside to the blowout win was the loss of left tackle Isaiah Wynn to a foot injury at the end of the first quarter. He didn’t return. With right tackle Marcus Cannon missing this one with a shoulder injury, it definitely affected the play of the offensive line overall. Marshall Newhouse, the 11-year veteran had been on the team for all of three days, stepped in to play left tackle. This situation will bear close watching. 

Here are some of our observations from the blowout win. While it won’t exorcise all of the demons of playing in Miami, it has to feel pretty good for the team as they improve to 2-0 on the season.

  • The Patriots sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen seven times and intercepted four passes, returning two of those for touchdowns.
  • Stephon Gilmore had the first pick-six of his career. As Fitzpatrick rolled to his right, he tried to force a short pass to DeVante Parker. Gilmore stepped in front of him and picked it off and sauntered into the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown. 
  • Gilmore also caused the first interception of the day. On a deep pass down the right sideline, he went up and deflected the ball which went straight to Devin McCourty.
  • Jamie Collins had a monster game. He made five tackles, [one for a loss], had a sack and then had an interception that he returned 74 yards for a touchdown. On the last play of the game, Collins intercepted Rosen and then took the ball straight into the Patriots locker room. 
  • Rookie Chase Winovich made two tackles, one for a loss and had 1.5 sacks
  • Antonio Brown did play and scored a 20-yard touchdown on a nice back-shoulder throw from Tom Brady to him in the end zone. Brady was impressed with Brown’s quick grasp of the offense and said after the game that he had “good snap” off the line early in this one. Brown finished the game with four receptions for 56 yards and the score.
  • Brady finished 20-28 for 264 yards with two touchdowns passing and one rushing. 
  • Sony Michel had 85 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. He also had a fumble lost later in the 4th Quarter. Rex Burkhead was once again impressive as he had 68 yards combined rushing and receiving on just seven touches. 
  • Julian Edelman had four catches for 51 yards. Josh Gordon had two catches for 19 while Phillip Dorsett had three catches for 39. His catch on third and 18 was a beauty, however. He went right to the sticks and dove for the hard pass from Brady.
  • James White didn’t get a ton of touches in this one [3 rushes for 10 yards, 3 catches for 19 more] but had a too easy touchdown late in the game. Miami sent a blitz at Brady and the screen pass had three offensive linemen with no one to block as White sauntered into the end zone. 
  • Miami has saddled former Patriot DC Brian Flores, their new head coach with a truly awful football team and their performance in their first two games have played that out. They have been embarrassed on their home turf for two weeks in a row. First by the Ravens and then again 43-0 against the Patriots, the first time in their history that Miami has been shut out at home by New England. 
  • Stephen Gostkowski had a rough, rough day, missing a field goal and two extra points. But for all of Patriots fans calling for him to be immediately cut, we’ll ask this. Replace him with who? While it certainly is a concern moving forward, it is not going to cause him to be jettisoned that fast. Bill Belichick will work with him this week and they’ll try to get him back on track. Calm your jets folks…

Miami gained only 42 yards on the ground on 15 carries which worked out to just 2.8 yards per rushing attempt. In two games the Patriots have allowed 74 yards on the ground an average of 37 per game. Fitzpatrick completed just 11 of 21 passes for just 89 yards with three interceptions. His passer rating was just 23.8. Rosen came in with just over eight minutes remaining in the game and completed 7-18 for 97 yards with an interception. His passer rating was just 33.8.

Overall, the Dolphins QBs were 18-39 for 142 yards with 0 TDs and 4 INTs with seven sacks for 44 yards. Fitzpatrick was under duress all game long with nowhere to throw the ball due to the blanket coverage. 

Offensively, with both tackles out, it made both running and passing the ball more difficult but the team still rolled up 381 yards of offense, 126 on the ground and 255 more thru the air. Brown only had a handful of practices this week, but he has already shown how effective he can be once he gets on the same sheet of music with Brady. 

As always I find it amusing that national writers accuse Belichick of running it up but last week, after scoring 42 points in the first half, the Ravens ran a fake punt…crickets. And as to why Brady and Co. were still in the game late into the 4th quarter. Brady said, Belichick’s message all week was to play solid for 60 minutes. In Bill’s mind, football players play football so, while some a few people were lamenting seeing the starters in there, the coach wants to see them continue to work to get ready for the long season ahead.

For now, the team is 2-0 and rolling very impressively defensively. Next week they return home to take on the New York Jets who play Cleveland on Monday Night Football this week.  

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

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

Patriots-Dolphins Week 2 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 12, 2019 at 7:50 am ET

The Patriots head out on the road for the first time in 2019 as they travel to South Florida, to take on the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots are looking to get off to a 2-0 start and put behind them the slow starts that have earmarked earlier seasons.

Miami has a new coaching staff in place with Brian Flores, the former de facto Defensive Coordinator for New England serving as their new head coach. He has taken several former New England assistants with him, including Chad O’Shea who is the Dolphins Offensive Coordinator. 

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 15 at 1:00 p.m. and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines.. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (1-0) are coming off a convincing 33-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns.

The Dolphins (0-1) were shellacked 59-10 by the Baltimore Ravens where Miami’s defense was gashed for 623 yards [265 on the ground, 378 in the air]. 

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 Dolphins have been playing each other since 1966. Miami holds the overall edge 55-52 with each team holding a huge edge in home games. Miami is 38-16 at home against New England while the Patriots are 36-17 all-time at home against the Dolphins. Bill Belichick’s record versus Miami with the Patriots is 24-14. In games in Miami, Tom Brady is 7-10, and the team is just 1-5 in their last six games there. 

The teams split last year’s contests with the Patriots blowing out Miami 38-7 at home and then losing 34-33 in December in the “Miracle in Miami” 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 Dolphins Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game didn’t have a great game last week, but it wasn’t all bad either. The team ended up with 99 yards on the ground against a very good Pittsburgh front seven. They’ll be looking to get Sony Michel untracked this week as he was bottled up against the Steelers last week. 

Miami was gashed badly by the Ravens in the opener to the tune of 265 yards and 5.8 yards per rushing attempt. They were overwhelmed at the point of attack and will be looking to do a much better job. They’ll need their big men up front, nose tackle Davon Godchaux, and ends John Jenkins and Christian Wilkins to be much better. If the Patriots big men in the middle, Ted Karras, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason can get a push to the second level, the ground game will be successful. 

Look for plenty of the two-back sets with Michel, Rex Burkhead, and James White rotating in with James Develin leading the way. It will be interesting to see if the team activates Damien Harris this week, as he was removed from the injury report and having Brandon Bolden limited with a hamstring issue.

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

The Patriots passing game looked really good passing for 374 yards in the opener against the Steelers. Tom Brady was sharp and was getting everyone involved in the passing game. The pass protection against the top team in sacks from 2018 held up quite well. Isaiah Wynn shined in his first game but the team lost Marcus Cannon to a shoulder injury in the second half. His absence will be a place to watch this week. The team did sign veteran tackle Marshall Newhouse this week. 

The Dolphins pass defense was arguably more miserable than their run defense was last week. Lamar Jackson had a perfect passer rating and threw five touchdowns along with 324 yards passing. His backup RG III came in and was 6-6 for 55 yards with a touchdown. Ravens’ QBs were 23-26 for 378 yards with six TDs. The secondary has some good pieces there with Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and Bobby McCain with a bunch of ex-Patriots, Eric Rowe, Johnson Bademosi, Jomal Wilz, and Ken Webster. 

The Patriots running game should open up play-action passing in this one. Seeing how the Dolphins choose to match up with Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Julian Edelman with White and Burkhead out of the backfield will be an interesting part of the chess match. Flores knows the Patriots weapons well and he’ll be trying to counter their moves. The pass rush for Miami is key here. If Brady has time to throw, he should light them up again. It is unknown right now whether Antonio Brown [on Wednesday evening] will play. It may depend on how much of the offense he can learn in practice this week.  

Next up the Miami offense:

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

The Dolphins rushing attack was put on the backburner early last week when they fell behind so far, so early. They have Kenyon Drake and Kalen Ballage toting the rock behind an offensive line with new pieces everywhere. 

Jesse Davis was moved to left tackle from the right side. Michael Dieter and Daniel Kilgore at LG and C respectively are the only carryovers. Right guard Danny Isadora and right tackle Julien Davenport are both new and started last week after coming to Miami after the initial 53-man cutdown. 

The Patriots front seven stuffed the Steelers rushing attack last week holding them to just 32 total yards. James Conner only gained 21 yards on 10 carries. The big men up front Danny Shelton, Lawrence Guy, and Michael Bennett held firm and allowed the linebackers to clean up. 

Although Drake has had success against the Patriots in the past, with this patchwork offensive line, it is tough to see Miami getting much going on the ground without them getting really creative here.  

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

Miami has surprisingly gone with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in the early going after they brought in second-year QB Josh Rosen earlier this year. Fitzpatrick has the capability to get really hot for a few games, as we’ve seen in the past, but overall he’s 2-9 in his career with the Bills and Jets against the Patriots. 

The skill players are good with DeVante Parker as their possession guy with Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant as their outside guys with speed to burn. Tight Mike Gesicki will be someone to watch. But this offensive line will decide this matchup. Can they hold up? 

The Patriots defense was outstanding against the Steelers, with the secondary of Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty taking away the outside threats. Look for Pat Chung to cover Gesicki and that will be a great matchup to watch. 

I look for the Patriots left side to attack Miami’s right side of the OL. Davenport who came over from the Texans in the Laremy Tunsil deal gave up 12 sacks, 65 QB pressures and committed 16 penalties last year. Look for the Patriots to bring their pressure attacking the right side. 

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski had a really solid game after an uneven preseason. He hit on all three extra points and all four field goal attempts. Jake Bailey hit one boomer and one dud last week. But his holds on the field goals were spot on, something they struggled with a bit in preseason. The coverage units were solid and Gunner Olszewski had a nice debut with punt returns of 20 and 15 yards. 

Miami’s Jason Sanders booted a 54-yard field goal last week in one of the few bright spots of that game. Punter Matt Haack averaged 53.7 yards per punt. Their return game didn’t net much on the day.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

Another year heading to the Patriots House of Horrors? New England is just 1-5 in their last six games in South Florida, including the past two. They always seem to save some of their worst football for games in South Florida. Can they turn that around and start the year off 2-0 and avoid the slow starts that have plagued the team in recent years?

Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:

Be Aggressive and Get After Fitzpatrick – Look for the Patriots defense to be aggressive and attack the Miami offensive line here, while they try to set the tone of this one from the outset. Fitzpatrick isn’t the most mobile of QBs and the OL hasn’t played together for very long. Show them different fronts [Amoeba look with one down lineman] bring pressure and try to generate some turnovers. 

Jamie Collins, Michael Bennett, and rookie Chase Winovich are the players to watch here. They don’t want to lay back and allow Fitzpatrick to get into a rhythm. This secondary has shown it can play blanket coverage across the field, take advantage of it and force the issue. 

Run the Ball to Open up Play Action: The Patriots running game is looking to get untracked this week and this is a perfect time and place to do so. Miami hasn’t sorted things out yet and the ground game can set the tone for this one early. Michel, Burkhead, and White should give them plenty of yardage to open things up in the passing game. With play-action, Brady will have more open room across the middle and allow him more time to hit Gordon and Dorsett on the perimeter. It will be interesting to see if they give rookie Jakobi Meyers more snaps this week. We’re not counting on Antonio Brown playing in this one, but we’ll have to see how that plays out. 

Put Them Down Early: The Patriots have had a bad habit of letting the Dolphins hang around in games down in Miami and those have come back to haunt them. Sunday, they need to come out firing and put the Dolphins in the rearview mirror early. The confidence can’t be high there right now after last week’s debacle. 

Bill Belichick needs to get the team coming out fired up like this is a playoff game and approach it in that way. A couple of quick scores early and have the Dolphins on their heels. They have done that at home against the Dolphins seemingly every game, it is time to do so down there.  

___________

So, a lot of Patriots fans and some media have been playing up the familiarity idea that the Dolphins’ coaches know the Patriots and their system and know exactly how to attack them. And they point, successfully at the Lions and Titans games from a year ago. And it is a valid point…to a degree. 

But this New England team is a better one than took the field last year, and this Dolphins team is frankly, one that is going to struggle to win 3-4 games in 2019. The only thing holding the Patriots back this week is themselves. They should establish dominance early in this one. There won’t be any miracles this time.  Patriots 42-13

The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour moves back to New England next week to take on the Jets.

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, First Impressions of the Dolphins

Steve Balestrieri
September 11, 2019 at 9:07 am ET

The Miami Dolphins cleaned house this past spring and brought in a new coach, GM and cut their ties with several players. The new head coach Brian Flores spent many years in New England and played a big part in their Super Bowl championship over the Rams in February. 

So Miami came calling, feeling that they were heading nowhere with Adam Gase at the helm, where he was tied to QB Ryan Tannehill who, despite getting paid like a franchise QB, never produced on the field like one. 

If things didn’t seem bad enough, where many NFL analysts had the Dolphins finishing among the worst teams in the NFL in 2019, right before the regular season worse news hit. The front office traded left tackle Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills to the Texans.

Their first game was a nightmare with the Raven annihilating Miami 59-10. Baltimore rolled up an incredible 643 yards of offense, 378 through the air and 265 more rushing. Lamar Jackson threw five touchdown passes completing 17-20. Miami could only muster 200 yards of offense of their own. Fans were leaving in droves long before the game ended. 

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

Brian Flores and His Staff Have a Lot of Work to Do:

Flores, known affectionately as B-Flo by the players here knew that the Dolphins needed to clean house when he over the team this past winter. But perhaps maybe he didn’t realize how far they had to go. He brought several coaches from New England with him, including former Patriots WR coach Chad O’Shea, who is now the offensive coordinator. After coaching a team that was always in the running for a Super Bowl, Flores and his staff went about trying to change the culture in South Beach.

Management’s decision to jettison both Tunsil and Stills was a sign that the front office is intent on tanking the season, possibly with the hope of landing Tua Tagovailoa, the QB from Alabama despite the fact that they brought in Josh Rosen, a top 10 pick from just a year ago from the Cardinals. 

Last Sunday, the Dolphins had 14 players on the opening week roster that weren’t with the team during the preseason. And it showed on the field. With his former boss Bill Belichick and the Patriots coming to town this week, the Dolphins have a lot of issues to correct, in all three phases of the game. 

Several Dolphins Players Reportedly Already Want Out:

Following the 59-10 debacle in South Beach last week, there were reports that several players are wanting to jump ship. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that  “multiple Dolphins players contacted their agents after Sunday’s season-opening blowout loss and directed them to attempt to engineer trades elsewhere.”

Florio added that the players in question believe that some of the coaching staff, “aren’t serious about competing and winning and, by all appearances, have bought into the notion that the Dolphins will take their lumps now in the hopes of laying the foundation via high draft picks for building a successful team later.” Ouch.

Flores has denied this stating, “I can’t really speak to the accuracy of that one,” he said on Monday. “We haven’t received any information like that.” But the players know that the front office has decided to tank this season to gain a more advantageous draft position in 2020. 

The Dolphins are basically holding a fire sale. And one player who several teams covet, cornerback Xavien Howard may soon be traded away as by GM Chris Grier. As for this week, Flores has announced that QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will once again get the start against the Patriots.  

Baker and Eguavoen Were the Ironmen for the  Defense:

The Dolphins didn’t have many bright spots in the 59 -10 thumping they took last week from the Ravens, but Flores and the coaching staff have to be pleased with the efforts of linebackers Jerome Baker and Sam Eguavoen who showcased their skills and conditioning, especially in the South Florida heat by answering the bell all day long.

Baker led the way by playing in 84 snaps, including 12 on special teams, while Eguavoen logged 83 of his own. And despite the way the game unfolded, Baker, who was a 3rd round draft pick of the Dolphins in the 2018 NFL Draft [73rd overall], remained upbeat about his teammates. 

On his Twitter account, Baker posted “I’ll go to war with this team every day!” which he tweeted with the hashtag PhinsUp and a dolphin emoji. He was asked about it after the game on Monday and he doubled down.

“It’s just a part of the game,” Baker said. “I don’t want anybody to question that we’ll all stick together. It’s just one loss. We’ve got to bounce back and ultimately stick together.”

Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham is keeping an open mind and an open door for his players to help turn things around, being open to suggestions that will help the team find some answers. 

 “I think we’re all doing this job together,” Graham said. “There’s definitely a leadership role. It starts with our head coach. It trickles down to me and then to the players and then the leadership within the player group as well, but my door is always open. I’m always open to hear and listen and get communication from the players and input because we are doing this thing together. We spend so much time with one another.”

Fitzpatrick Hoping to Capture Some “Fitzmagic” This Week:

With the Dolphins in full rebuild mode, many fans expected that the team would start second-year QB Josh Rosen to see what they had in the young QB who was saddled with arguably the worst supporting cast in the NFL last year. But the team instead opted for journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick finished the game just 14-29 for 185 yards with one TD and one INT. He gave way to Rosen who mopped up in the loss. Rosen completed one of three passes for five yards with an interception. Fitzpatrick set two records on Sunday, one of them was of the dubious quality. With his touchdown pass, he became the first QB to throw a TD pass for his eighth different team. And of course, his interception also meant that he has now thrown interceptions for eight different teams, also a record.

Fitzpatrick has faced the Patriots 11 times in his career and has a 2-9 record against them, seven of those as a member of the Bills [1-6] and four as a member of the Jets [1-3]. He has completed 238 of 388 passes [61.3 percent], for 3035 yards with 20 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. His passer rating is 82.6 in those 11 games. He’s also been sacked 20 times. 

If the Dolphins expect another “Miami Miracle” this Sunday, they’re going to need a lot more Fitzmagic and less of the Fitzpatrick that has faced the Patriots for much of his career. 

Questions Abound About the Offensive Line:

The trade of left tackle Laremy Tunsil was expected to necessitate change for the Miami offensive line in 2019, but nobody foresaw what ensued in Week 1. The coaches moved RT Jesse Davis to the left side, and then started two players, Julien Davenport at right tackle and Danny Isidora at right guard who had been on the team less than a week, the starting nod while benching Shalique Calhoun. 

The only two constants from the preseason were center Daniel Kilgore and left guard Michael Dieter. The results would speak for themselves. Miami could only manage 200 yards of offense and just 21 yards on the ground.

Both new players on the right side struggled mightily as the Ravens attacked that side and consistently won the one-on-one matchups. Expect the Patriots to do the same until the new players to get up to speed with the playbook, the offense and improve the communication. 

Both Davenport and Isadora struggle with pass blocking. As a member of the Texans last year, Davenport allowed 12 sacks, 65 QB hurries and committed 16 penalties. Expect the Patriots to be very aggressive on the Dolphins’ right side.

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.

New England Patriots News, 7-21, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 21, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-21 and AFC East notes this week. 

Just 4 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Tony Romo- was effusive in his praise of Bill Belichick this week while doing an interview on 105.3 the Fan in Dallas. Romo called the Patriots Super Bowl LIII game plan as “one of the greatest defensive performances I have ever seen in football.”

“He genuinely is not scared to go outside the box,” Romo said. “And I find in the NFL very few teams vary from what they do. So what he does then, is he drafts people that he believes can adapt from week-to-week.”

Patriots Cheerleaders – were doing their annual calendar shoot in St. Lucia this week, catch up on that on Patriots.com

Tom Brady – was cliff diving with his daughter in Costa Rica, then went horseback riding with his wife Gisele in his last family getaway before training camp starts next week. But his shot at Max Kellerman was the stuff of gold…

Mike Lombardi – Former Patriots front office person and friend of Bill Belichick was a guest on VSIN’s “A Number’s Game” and said he believes the Patriots defense will be better than the 2018 version.

“I think they are better on defense,” Lombardi said. “I think New England is better on defense this year. I think Jamie Collins wanted to come back to New England. He wanted to play. I think he will make them a better team and allow (Dont’a) Hightower to play more on the edge, which is what he’s more suited for than playing in the base. Then, there’s Kyle Van Noy. I think Michael Bennett still has some gas left in the tank, so I do think they will be better on defense. I think the guy that is coaching the defense is a Hall of Fame defensive coach — forget the fact that he’s a Hall of Fame head coach. I do think they will be better.”

Gordon Not In Patriots Plans, But Would Be Welcomed Back:

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and NFL.com was on WEEI this week and addressed the Josh Gordon situation with the Patriots. He stated that the team would most certainly welcome the troubled but very talented wide receiver back, but that they were not counting on him in 2019 and have no idea when or if he’ll even be reinstated. 

“Josh Gordon, I don’t know,” Rapoport said. “It’s not a guy who’s in their plans right now. I think that they would certainly welcome him back if he showed that he’s going to be a better version — as a person, I’m talking about — a better version of the one they got last year. I just don’t know that he’s actually going to get reinstated, prove to the Patriots that he has turned the corner, that he’s a different person, show that he’s in the right frame of mind.”

“As always with Josh Gordon, the talent is incredible. We’ve seen probably one-tenth of it, honestly,” Rapoport added. “But there’s always so much that goes into it. I think the Patriots know better than to say this is a guy we’re counting on for next season.”

Hill Situation Highlights Lack of Consistency with NFL:

The NFL decided that Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill will not be disciplined under the league’s personal conduct policy. Whenever an NFL player is accused of off-field wrongdoing, the conduct policy is detailed in Article 46 of the league’s collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the National Football League Players’ Association is brought into play. 

Back in March Hill’s son who is just three years old suffered a broken arm and was removed from the home of Hill and fiancee Crystal Espinal by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF). 

The District Attorney declined to press charges against either which prompted Hill’s attorneys to write the NFL that it was an accident and that he played no role in his son’s injuries.

After doing an investigation, Park Avenue decided not to punish Hill saying it “cannot conclude” that Hill, whom the Chiefs ordered to stay away from the team pending the NFL’s investigation, violated the personal conduct policy. 

This is the same Hill who still proclaims his innocence of beating Espinal while she was pregnant four years ago. He pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery charges that he hit Espinal in the face and stomach while she was eight weeks pregnant. He also strangled her. Despite his repeated claims of innocence of those charges, he admitted to them in court. 

Then there is the taped phone conversation. In it, Espinal says their son is terrified of his father, Hill responds with a threat.

“A 3-year-old is not going to lie about what happened to his arm,” Crystal Espinal tells Hill in the recording, adding, “He is terrified of you.”

Hill responds, “You need to be terrified of me, too, dumb bitch.”

So while the NFL says that the child’s safety is their priority, it rings with insincerity. 

It cannot conclude Hill caused the child’s injuries…Really? The same man who punched his pregnant girlfriend in the face and stomach, strangled her and threatens her on the phone. Someone broke the child’s arm. So, they have to consider that Espinal is guilty?

The utter lack of consistency is plain to see. Less than a year ago, the NFL suspended Ravens CB Jimmy Smith for threatening and abusive behavior. 

New England fans began to harp on this latest fiasco from Park Ave. Of course, this entailed some people stating it doesn’t apply. to this case. To that, we reply… respectfully, “Bull excrement”. 

The NFL in the Wells report, (Pg 228) it stated that the league couldn’t conclude with certainty that anyone did or did not tamper with a football, but their analysis is “dependent on assumptions and information that is not certain.”  There was a total lack of evidence that anyone even attempted to deflate a football, when in fact a reasonable scientific explanation was right at hand.

But in this case, a player with a history of abuse suddenly has a child with a broken arm and threatens his fiancee openly. And … nada. “There isn’t evidence?” It never stopped them before. One has to conclude that the child’s safety takes a backseat to the fantasy points that will be generated by Hill in the highest-scoring offense in the league. 

“You do not have to be convicted or even charged of a crime to be able to demonstrate that you’ve violated a personal conduct policy, and reflect poorly not only on themselves, but all of their teammates, every NFL player in the league, and everyone associated with the NFL.” Roger Goodell

Joe Thuney Enters Pivotal Contract Year:

Joe Thuney 62) during minicamp a few summers ago SBalestrieri photo

With training camp set to begin later this week, one player who will be garnering a lot of attention this season will be guard Joe Thuney. Thuney is entering a contract year and is part of arguably the best guard tandem in the league with Shaq Mason. 

He is slotted to make about $2 million dollars in 2019 in the final year of his rookie contract and is in line to make much more in 2020. Will it be with the Patriots? Time will tell, but if he plays it out until free agency, the chances of him making significantly more cash will be available to him. The Patriots locked up center David Andrews this spring with a three-year $9 million dollar deal. Last summer, Mason signed a five-year contract worth a total of $50 million with $23.5 million of it guaranteed. Will the Patriots make Thuney as big an offer as he’ll get on the open market? Doubtful. 

Thuney’s versatility, he can play anywhere along the offensive line was apparent this spring. With both Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste out of minicamp due to offseason surgery, Thuney was taking all of the first-team reps at left tackle. If for any reason Wynn and Cajuste aren’t ready for training camp, look for Thuney to continue to fill in. That will further drive up his already considerable …and growing value. 

He has been remarkably durable, not only playing in all 48 games of his NFL career but in every one of the Patriots 1119 offensive snaps in 2018. Since entering the league, he’s been constantly improving under the tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia. Last year he was the NFL’s 7th rated guard by Pro Football Focus (PFF). 

If you make it down to training camp this week, be sure to check out big #63. It may just be his last season in a Patriots uniform. And he’s been one of their better performers. 

Patriots Players Needing to Rebound in 2019:

Training camp is the time for the young players to show what they can do to earn a roster spot. It is also time for some of the veterans to show that they can still perform at a high level. Here are a couple of players who will be looking to ignite their production in 2019 on the eve of training camp.

Demaryius Thomas – The former Broncos and Texans wide receiver was once one of the most productive WRs in the game but his game has been in steady decline for several years. He’s gone from 1619, 1304,1083, 949 to 677 in the past five years. Then he tore his Achilles with the Texans late last season. 

Thomas may not even be ready for training camp, having not taken part in any activities this spring. He may begin camp (and we suspect he will) on the PUP list. While no one expects him to return to his glory years with Denver, there is some hope that he can still be a viable target in the Patriots offense…time will tell. 

Derek Rivers – We already identified 2019 as a make or break season for the Patriots top draft pick in 2017. He tore his ACL in preseason of his rookie season but was still not looking 100 percent last year. While he did make the team in 2018, he played very sparingly in six games and registered just two tackles and one sack. That isn’t the kind of production the team was looking for out of him. 

He’ll get the opportunity to show what he’s got this summer and he’ll have to shine. With a much more crowded front seven this year, we currently have Rivers on the outside looking in. He’ll have to leapfrog some players and show he can produce at the NFL level. 

Ryan Allen – If it seems strange to you for a player who could’ve been named the MVP of the Super Bowl to need “to rebound” in 2019, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, it is true. The 2018 season wasn’t the most consistent of Allen’s career. But he did turn it on for the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, he was outstanding, out-punting the Rams Johnny Hekker who is among the best in the game.

But for the second year in a row, the Patriots have brought in competition for Allen. This year they moved up in the draft to take Jake Bailey from Stanford. The reports about the strength of Bailey’s leg are well-founded. After watching him at minicamp he puts an absolute charge into the ball. Plus he’s more versatile and can kickoff as well as fill in as a field goal kicker in an emergency. His issue has been consistency as well. 

But with the Patriots possibly relying more on the running game this year, especially early in the year, they may be looking for a punter with more range and hang time in the event they’re punting more from their own side of the field and deeper than in year’s past. Allen will be on watch this summer. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Cole Beasley Looks to Be the Top Target in Bills Passing Game: 

When the Buffalo Bills throw the ball this season, they will have a new and revamped passing attack. When we wrote about the changes forthcoming here a while back, we mentioned that Brian Daboll who used to be on the Patriots staff could be looking to replicate a lot of what the Patriots do with Julian Edelman. And that player on Buffalo would be Cole Beasley.

Beasley left Dallas and complained that he wasn’t getting enough looks in the passing game. And he’d have a point. In 2016, he led the Cowboys with 75 catches, 833 yards, and 5 TDs. The Cowboys went 13-3. In 2017, Dallas’ offense went away from Beasley, in 15 games he had just 36 catches for 314 yards and 4TDs. Dallas went 9-7. Last year, he was second on the team with 65 catches for 672 yards and 3 TDs, with Dallas going 10-6. But once Amari Cooper came onboard, Beasley’s numbers and targets went down. In the playoff loss to the Rams in the Divisional Round, he was targeted just twice.

With Buffalo and Daboll as the Offensive Coordinator, he has a chance to be the safety blanket, the chains mover and 2nd-year QB Josh Allen’s favorite target. Like Edelman, he excels in the short-area quickness part of the field. Buffalo threw the ball down the field too often in 2018. Look for them to utilize the short areas of the field more this year. And with the sure-handed Beasley in the mix, he should be the boon of his QB’s throws, especially on a team that had more than their share of drops.

Rosen or Fitzpatrick? The Dolphins TC Will Answer That:

The Miami Dolphins have (finally) moved away from QB Ryan Tannehill, who got more than a fair shake as their team’s QB. Now with a new coach and staff, new QBs and a fresh attitude, they’re going to attempt to turn things around.

With a full rebuild going on, no one is expecting Miami to be very competitive this season for a playoff spot. But with new coach Brian Flores and new signal callers under center, the Fins will be intriguing to watch. 

After signing Ryan Fitzpatrick as their bridge QB, Miami swooped after the Arizona Cardinals simply had to have QB Kyler Murray after drafting Josh Rosen with a Top 10 pick just a year ago. This could prove to be highway robbery. 

While no one knows how this will play out, Flores is going to let the players decide on who starts and who sits. But at some point, he’ll have to let Rosen show what he can do so that they can either stick with him as a potential franchise quarterback or that they have to address the situation next year in the NFL Draft. 

Our money here is on Rosen; he was awful last year, but he was a rookie saddled with an even more awful team. It was a total lose-lose situation. The games in the AFC East this year within the division are much more compelling with all of the new quarterbacks in place. 

Jets Williams Still Unsigned, May Miss the Beginning of Training Camp:

The New York Jets rookie players were scheduled to report for training camp on Friday. Quinnen Williams was not to be one of them. Williams still hasn’t signed his contract, making it the second year in a row that the team has had its top draft pick not show up on time for training camp. Last year, Sam Darnold missed the first three days of training camp while getting his deal finalized. 

Williams took part in all of the Jets’ spring workouts and the hold on his contract isn’t about his salary, which is mandated by the league. The Jets took Williams with the #3 pick in the NFL Draft this spring. What the holdup is, probably centers around offsets and cash flow. 

Is it a big worry? No, but the team never likes having their top draft pick miss any time during his first training camp. This is something that should be worked out fairly quickly and then Williams, who is considered one of the top picks in the draft, should be ready to go. 

________________

“I no longer listen to what people say, I just watch what they do. Behavior never lies” Winston Churchill

“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.