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Patriots Preseason Spotlight

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Patriots Preseason Spotlight: New Gronkowski On The Horizon?

The New England Patriots preseason slate opened on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. New England lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-24, but in all honesty, who really cares about the final score.

Preseason football is all about watching the rookies and players looking to make a name for themselves. Thursday nights preseason opener was filled with performances that are note worthy from unproven players.

Let us start with the offense and work our way through to the defense and special teams.

The primary QB for the Patriots was backup Jimmy Garoppolo. Jimmy is sort of a proven player at this point. But he showed off some mobility on Thursday.

This touchdown to Austin Carr was an example of what Garoppolo can do when moving around the pocket under pressure.

His final stat line of the night was 22-28 with 235 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Receivers Making A Name For Themselves

The play highlighted above showcased the impressive roll out and under pressure throw. But what was truly spectacular was the catch by Carr.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “It was a scramble play. It’s never how you draw it up, but we do that drill every week and Jimmy [Garoppolo] threw a great ball and I was able to go up and get it.” “As I was coming across the end zone, I was trying to make sure I didn’t get pushed out [of bounds]. The [defensive back] made a great play on the ball. All of the [defensive backs] on the Jaguars had a great game, but I was able to pull that one down.” [/perfectpullquote]

The rookie was able to show off his athleticism by going up and grabbing the football on a touchdown. Carr is a player to watch on the Patriots depth chart as he caught 5 passes on 7 targets for 44 yards with the touchdown. Carr is currently fourth on the unofficial depth chart tied with Devin Lucien and Cody Hollister.

Another receiver to watch for the Patriots is Jacob Hollister. His game on Thursday reminded me of a young Rob Gronkowski. The rookie tight end signed as a free agent in May and reeled in 7 passes on 9 targets for 116 receiving yards. A look at the unofficial Patriots depth chart shows the Hollister brother as fourth tied with players like James O’Shaughnessy and Sam Cotton.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “I was just trying to do my job tonight and just a product of the coaches getting me ready and feeling good. Everybody did their job for most of the night. Still made a lot of mistakes, but looking forward to getting better.”   [/perfectpullquote]

But after Thursday’s performance and a solid start to training camp, you could see this gritty tight end jump up the depth chart. Ahead of him currently is Rob Gronkowski, Dewayne Allen, and Matt Lengel.

Garoppolo seemed impressed by the two young receivers.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Yeah, I mean, all those skill guys – Austin made a tremendous catch on a touchdown. I mean, he really went up and got that one for me. Jacob – you know, savvy player, performed very well. I mean, all those skills guys, just the young guys especially, came out and played well, and we needed them to. We were limited with guys tonight and they did a good job.[/perfectpullquote]

The third and last receiver to watch after Thursday’s preseason opener is A.J. Maye. Maye caught Garoppolo’s second touchdown pass.

The 23-year-old wideout finished the game with 6 catches on 7 targets for 34 yards and the touchdown. He sits third on the unofficial depth chart behind Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell.

Receivers in preseason without Tom Brady is almost pointless, however. While they can impress the coaching staff, if they fail to connect with Brady it almost certainly will not work out in New England. One player who has connected with Brady in practice is Lucien, who only recorded one catch on 5 targets in the preseason opener.

The receiving core will get its first real look once Brady is under center which could come next week.

Defensive Players That Showed A Different Side

The defense as a unit got torched by the Jaguars offense to the tune of 447 total yards allowed. There isn’t much to highlight, but what happened to Cyrus Jones was something special

Cyrus Jones got torched not once, but twice. He allowed two touchdown passes and gave up 3 catches on 4 targets for 151 yards. While his overall performance was abysmal and he declined to talk to reporters postgame, he was moved from cornerback to safety by the end of the game.

Coach Bill Belichick noted after the game that the move was due to the lack of depth at the position. But seeing Jones player over at safety is an interesting move. Something that could pan out in the long run. Think Devin McCourty or Patrick Chung, both couldn’t cut it at corner and turned out to be solid safeties.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Yeah, again we have a lot of players having a lot of different responsibilities, playing in different spots. We went into the game with three safeties and they weren’t all able to finish, so that’s part of it, too. But the more things a player can do, if he can do them at a good level, then the more value he adds to the team. It wasn’t something we really planned on but it worked out that way. We’ll take a look at it and evaluate that.[/perfectpullquote]

I think the overall defensive takeaway is there is a lot of coaching to do. That is showcased clearly in this play that Elandon Roberts choked on.

Special Teams

Stephen Gostkowski and his struggles at hitting field goals ever since the Denver game two years ago has been a hot button of conversation. In the preseason opener, he went 1/2 on FG attempts. The miss came on a 56 yarder attempt, not a real miss since he wouldn’t have taken that in a game. He was 3/3 on extra points.

Cyrus Jones was the primary special teamer returning kicks, he caught one punt, no gain. Jones also had 6 kickoff returns averaging 19 yards in return and had a 27-yard return which was his longest return on the night. Jones was heralded as being a kick return specialist coming out of Alabama. For New England, this is how he can make an impact this season.

Next Man Up

Who did you think stood out? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

The New England Patriots will head to Houston to face the Texans in week 2 of the preseason next Saturday, August 19th.

Tanner founded Trifecta Network in Spring of 2016 and has been the Chief of Content for the Network since that time. Currently Tanner covers all the sports teams in Boston and has contacts in many of the teams in the city. Before starting Trifecta, Tanner was a Site Expert for the FanSided site Chowder and Champions before leaving to cover Boston teams on the ground as a member of the media for Trifecta.

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Patriots Still Have A Ways To Go, AFC East Up For Grabs

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Heading into the Patriots-Jets game head coach Bill Belichick stressed on how good the Jets were so far in the young NFL season. In New England’s 24-17 win on Sunday his impression of New York looked correct.

Jets QB Josh McCown went 31-47 for 354 yards with a QBR of 84.9. McCown was all over the place making crazy throws while making stupid throws at the same time. His up and down performance led to two interceptions while also keeping them in the game right until the end.

McCown wasn’t perfect but he was able to expose the weakened Patriots secondary on numerous occasions. Statistically, he outplayed Patriots QB Tom Brady who had a QBR of 80.7 with a 20-38 for a 257-yard day. The Patriots winning the game to move their record to 4-2 with 11 straight road victories is huge, but they are still aren’t having success in all 3 phases of the game.

New England’s defense which has been suspect every single week so far looked ok against the Jets. But the defense was bailed out by the Jets offense which lacks the real weapons to compete in the NFL on an offensive level. On offense, the Patriots have been up-and-down so far this season with 30+ point games followed up by 2 less than stellar performances.

Having Rob Gronkowski back and snagging 2 touchdowns is huge. But going to him on 10 targets for 6 receptions is way too much. Gronk led New England with those 10 targets, injuries and lack of depth continue to force Brady to go to him which has already caused Gronk to miss a game this season.

The bottom line is the weak link on offense this season is Dwayne Allen. Allen has been a negative factor as the backup tight end. He hasn’t been anything close to what Martellus Bennett gave the team last season. Allen’s failures in both the passing and blocking game have caused Brady to get hit an immense amount this season. Having a zero factor tight end causes Gronk, a great blocker, to go out and catch the ball more instead of blocking. Allen was a bad trade for New England, almost as bad as the David Harris signing. Only reason Harriss still has a roster spot is the $1 million guaranteed he is owed this season.

Despite GM Belichick’s failures this offseason, the injuries on both sides of the ball has killed the Patriots through 6 games. It is actually impressive that they are 4-2. What is important is that New England has yet to play their best ball, the real question though is if they will ever do so this season.

Now by now, you have likely questioned why I stated that the AFC East is still up for grabs. Here is why.

Still, long ways to go in this NFL season, but the AFC East is currently close. Teams in the division have overplayed but one could envision a team like Miami or Buffalo going 9-7 this season. Hell one of them could even go 10-6. Of course, New England should be able to best that type of record, but what if they don’t?

What if Gilmore never really pans out? The communication never improves? Hightower gets hurt again and exposes a weak LB group? Brady goes down? Wideout injuries continue? Gronk goes down? No real backup tight end?

The list of questions through 6 games for the Patriots are crazy. Usually, at this point, many of these types of issues will start to be answered. But from the start of the season till now it feels as if the questions are mounting instead of being answered. 4-2 and atop that AFC East is great. But one of these years the Patriots will be surpassed, could it be this season? Maybe not, but the Patriots still have a ways to go to prove they belong atop the division standings come January.

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Patriots Football Talk: Week 6 Win Against the Jets

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The Patriots were down by 14 Points in the 1st Half against the Jets.  It didn’t look good.  They started out slow, getting the ball after a New York Jets TD score for the 1st possession of the game.  It was a real struggle for the Team.  Their Defense struggled, their offense struggled.  It was difficult sustaining a drive.  They made mistakes and Tom Brady threw an interception.  It looked to be disappointing.  But don’t call a TB12 Game over before 60+ Minutes.  He can make any comeback happen, give him time on the clock and he can make miracles happen.

They were down in the 2nd Quarter but like other games this Season they played their best in the 2nd Quarter.  Then the tides began to turn.  And they got a drive going and had a TD Rush from Dion Lewis from the 1 yard line.  It was just what they needed to get fired up.

The Patriots Defense held the Jets to 14 Points for the rest of the half.  And with 40 seconds left to go they got a Defensive INT by Macolm Butler, before Halftime.  It was the start of an avalanche by the Patriots.  Tom Brady threw to Brandin Cooks and got to the 1 yard line.  It was an excellent pass and was delivered right to the WR.  Over the shoulder and close to a score.

Then Tom Brady went to Rob Gronkoski, he just missed him in the end zone.  Luckily he went back to Gronk again for the 2nd down and goal.  Touchdown!  It was remarkable and just what the Pats needed at that right time.

Gronk would go on to catch 6 out of 10 targets for 83 yards.  And he would get another TD in the 2nd Half.  He high stepped his way into the end zone.  This is a guy who is uncoverable and boy did he show up today.  Making it [21-14].  The Pats would kick a Field Goal in the 4th Quarter, Steven Gostkowski made up for that Field Goal that he missed in the 2nd Quarter.  This made it [24-14], giving New England a 10 Point lead.

Some notables were on the Team were Brandin Cooks who would go on to get 93 Yards on 6 catches out of 9 targets. And Danny Amendola who had a good game with 40 Yards on 3 Receptions.  Also Dion Lewis with 52 Yards on 11 Attempts and 1 TD.  The Patriots would go on to hold the Jets to a Field Goal in the 4th Quarter.  They got a lucky call on a called turnover in the end zone on replay.  Yeah it was really controversial but you know the Pats have been in murky waters before.  And you know what on the replay of the Jets TD score was reversed.  Wow, what a relief!

The Patriots would get another INT and put this game away just like that!  It became Tom Brady’s 187th Regular Season Win, which is a new NFL Record, it was 212th Win including the Playoffs also an NFL Record.  He is the best of the best, and he showed it today on the road.  With this Win the Pats go 4-2 on the Year and tops in the AFC East Division.

Next Week they play in Foxboro against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday October 22, at 8:30 pm on NBC Sunday Night Football.

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Patriots Talk: NaVorro Bowman Released By 49ers, Possible Pick-up?

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Patriots Talk: NaVorro Bowman Released By 49ers, Possible Pick-up?

It’s somehow shocking that NaVorro Bowman is released from the San Fransisco 49ers in an unexpected move from new General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. Many teams are likely going to look into Bowman, but there are too many teams whose defense would love a guy like him. However, according to the public statement from the 49ers from GM John Lynch:

“We talked at length with NaVorro about the direction that each party wanted to go in. And that’s what we left that meeting. Since then, we’ve been working in earnest to find that trade partner. We had a couple of things that, a couple teams that were very interested. Came very close to happening. Ultimately, we were working with NaVorro and his representation, Drew Rosenhaus, to try to get this thing across the finish line. We wanted NaVorro, we felt like he had earned the right to have some options and some choices that he deemed the right ones for him. In the end, he chose that he would rather look at all 31 teams and we granted his request there. So, we’re going to go ahead and release NaVorro Bowman.”

This seems to be a situation where the San Fransisco 49ers couldn’t hold onto Bowman any longer due to frustrations with the coaching staff. This was later explained:

“Just a little context as to how this all came about; NaVorro spoke publicly about his frustration with the strategy that Kyle and his staff have put together to try to get the best out of NaVorro, in our minds, and have it be best for NaVorro and for our team. Drew spoke to me on Monday night and indicated his frustration on behalf of NaVorro and I told him that I had talked with Kyle and his staff and that we were convicted, that we felt like this was the best thing for him, which in response Drew communicated that if that’s the case NaVorro would prefer to be traded.”

This seems to be a case of the players and the coaching staff not approving of neither situation. Right now, Bowman is not a savior or player that can make a difference based purely on his physical play. For the last several seasons Bowman has been suffering much over his seven-year career. The 29-year old missed all of the 2014 season due to an ACL and MCL tear sustained after the 2013 NFC title game (which was on their way to Super Bowl 47). In addition, he ended his 2016 campaign on injured reserve with an Achilles’ tear. It’s very clear that the reason he didn’t get many offers is due to his on-the-field performance so far this season and his injury history. Right now, Bowman has struggled in coverage this season and allowed 11 of 13 passes thrown his way to be completed for 113 yards and a touchdown.

His main strength is his instincts, straight football IQ and leadership (which is very similar to David Harris). Many have been thinking of him as a potential pickup but for now, the Patriots have nothing to lose thus far, so they can at least give his agent a call.

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