Patriots Can Grab Statement Win Versus Dolphins

The Patriots kick off their season against the Miami Dolphins for the second year in a row this Sunday. What’s also repeating for the Pats is that they’re introducing a new quarterback to the world. After just one season, Cam Newton was kicked to the curb following a disheartening training camp and pre-season. Thus, rookie quarterback, Mac Jones was handed the reins to the offense. An offense in which has been remodeled to an extreme measure. The tight end stable is now Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, two of the best in the league. Then with the wide receivers, some recognizable names have been added with Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.

In McCorkle’s Patriots debut, he’s not only facing a Bill Belichick protege in Brian Flores, but also his predecessor from his days at Alabama in Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. These divisional rivals are all too familiar with one another, and it usually makes for a fun matchup. So without further delay, let’s kick off this season! Set it up, Bailey. Let’s get 2021 underway for real.

Three Keys to The Game

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Key #1: Mac Jones needs to start strong

Mac Jones has some pretty hefty shoes to fill in Foxboro. After a painful season in 2020, Patriots fans are desperate and impatient to return to their winning ways. Being a first-round pick brings great attention to you in the NFL. I doubt that McCorkle gets as much crap from fans as Newton did last season, but the clock is ticking for results. It will be huge for Jones to come out and at least flash his capabilities in this league. I’m not saying he has to be the 2001 Tom Brady miracle kid, but this team is being slept on for the first time in years. It’s time to wake up the rest of the league from a brief moment of peace without Belichickian dominance. A big win against a good divisional rival will go a long way in doing just that.

Key #2: Stuffing the run

The last time these two teams met, the Dolphins had their way on the ground. Rushing the ball for 250 yards and having a 14-minute advantage in the time of possession, winning the game 22-12, and eliminating the Patriots from playoff contention. With the return of Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, this shouldn’t be a major issue. This defense has been revamped for this type of matchup. The pairing of Lawrence Guy and newcomer Davon Godchaux will go a long way in stuffing the team of Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown, and Salvon Ahmed.

Key #3: Surviving without Stephon Gilmore

So the good news is, DeVante Parker won’t be turning Stephon Gilmore into his son for the third season in a row. The bad news is, the Pats don’t have Gilmore until week seven against the Jets at the earliest.

So who pairs up with J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones in the secondary? It looks like it won’t be swiss army knife Jalen Mills, who was a non-participant in practice this week. Could we see JoeJuan Williams in an extended role? Or maybe Shaun Wade gets some real reps after playing a relatively solid game in his Patriots debut two weeks ago in the final pre-season game. If Will Fuller weren’t suspended, the Dolphins air attack would be scary and possibly too much to handle for the Pats thin secondary. It will be interesting to see how Bill and Steve Belichick along with Jerod Mayo compensate for not having much depth in a position where they seemed to often have too much.

X-Factor: Kyle Dugger

LOCAL PRO ROUNDUP: New England's Dugger 'hyped' for 2021 NFL season |  Sports News |

I could very easily just stuff your faces with just how important this game is for Mac Jones and make him the X-Factor, but let’s change it up, shall we? Safety Kyle Dugger has been given the difficult task of replacing Patrick Chung, who retired this past off-season. He will more than likely be given the role to take care of up-and-coming tight end Mike Gesicki. Who will likely serve as Tua’s safety blanket if he’s still not confident in hitting receivers deep downfield. This is the role Chung excelled at, and Rodney Harrison before him. With an already worrying secondary, if Dugger can step up to the challenge, it’s a massive load off of this defense’s shoulders.

I would look towards Adrian Phillips to step up in this role as well. He covered multiple big-time tight ends last season impressively. Dugger and Phillips should make for a strong rotation at the strong safety position.

Closing Thoughts

Bill Belichick's final coaching chapter tied to Mac Jones' performance for  Patriots | Matt Vautour -

The Mac Jones era kicks off effective this Sunday in Gillette Stadium. All eyes will be on him. Well, all nine (two with only half) states that won’t have the Chiefs versus Browns matchup on their local channel. Nevertheless, first impressions are always huge. Good or bad, this is our first look at what’s in store for the New England Patriots for the next 10-15 years if all goes to plan. Belichick isn’t getting any younger, and almost every Patriot from the Super Bowl XLIX championship run has either retired or moved on to other teams. It’s saddening to see my childhood team become unrecognizable, but the veterans of NFL fanbases have seen this at least thrice over.

As far as this game goes, I’m confident in the Patriots starting out on the right foot. McCorkle seems to have the team rallied around him. They’re vastly improved on both sides of the ball. Plus for now, there haven’t been any pesky COVID-19 cases to worry about. I see this game being close, as the Dolphins are pretty close to us as far as team development goes, and it will for sure be a preview of what’s to come for both of these squads. A lot will happen between the aftermath of week one and the next time we see them in January of 2022. Let’s get the upper hand early. We’ll need all the wins we can get if retaking the AFC East is in our plans.

Final Score: 31-27, Patriots win (1-0)

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Must Watch Matchups – Bucs vs Cowboys

Week 1, Dallas Cowboys

photo: Calenna Williams/Dallas Cowboys

The 2021 NFL season kicks off in Tampa with a highly awaited contest between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Dallas Cowboys. When America’s best team and America’s Team face-off much will be made about Brady vs. Prescott. This makes no sense to us at PFP because here we believe matchups make fights. The games within the game are going to decide who wins. Here are the must-watch matchups for the Bucs Cowboys 2021 NFL season opener.

Vita Vea vs. Connor McGovern

photo: Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Zack Martin, one of the league’s top guards, will be on Dallas’ COVID list for week 1. If Jerry Jones could’ve picked one week where he could’ve guaranteed you this guy would be to be available to play, he might’ve picked this week. Martin is one of the few interior linemen who stood a fighting chance of blocking Vita Vea 1v1, and this is Dak’s first game back after a major leg injury. In steps Connor McGovern, a third-year backup guard with some big shoes to fill. Without Martin’s dominant presence Vita will see double teams on nearly every play, and Vita may even still drive the pocket back. If McGovern proves to be a liability, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys’ faithful will be sweating bullets until the final whistle.

Davis/Murphy-Bunting vs. Cooper/Lamb

photo: Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

While Zeke and the run game have defined Dallas in the past, I’m not so scared about him lining up against the best run defense in the league two years running. It’s the addition of former Sooner CeeDee Lamb that has me worried about the potential of the Cowboys’ offense. In fact, it’s my opinion that it won’t be long before CeeDee is the number one receiving threat instead of Amari Cooper.

I’m interested in how Todd Bowles will attack the Cowboys’ passing attack in the secondary. Will either corner follow a receiver across either side of the field? Will the Bucs lean more on man or on zone coverages to slow down the receiver duo? In any case, we will have some combination of Davis/Murphy-Bunting vs Cooper/Lamb play out the entire time Dallas is on offense. I think this matchup, not Zeke and the run game, will determine Dallas’ success.

Wirfs/Smith vs. Demarcus Lawrence

photo: Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Even though Demarcus Lawrence hasn’t notched a 10 sack season in the last two years, he is still the straw that stirs the Dallas defense’s drink. The linebacking core, with the additions of Penn State stud Micah Parsons and former Falcon safety Keanu Neal this offseason, may eventually grow to become the most formidable unit on Dallas’ defense, but in week 1 Demarcus is the only established threat to Tom Brady in the pocket.

Lawrence is capable of rushing on both sides of the defensive line, and it will be interesting to see where the Cowboys deploy him. Tristan Wirfs has proven to be a top 100 player in the league as a rookie. It may be wiser to line Lawrence up on Tom’s blindside and against Donovan Smith, but either way, Demarcus makes for a must-watch matchup.

BONUS: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka vs. the Bench

photo: Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In an article earlier this offseason, I predicted that Joe Tryon-Shoyinka may only see the field 35% of the time. I based these numbers off of other #3 pass rush options and how much they played recently.

Ladies and gents, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is here to ruin all that math I did.

After an impressive training camp, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka upped the ante with an equally impressive preseason performance. The first-round selection out of Washington looks blazing fast off the ball. More than just physical tools, he has shown an impressive repertoire of pass rush moves for a rookie. I’m interested in watching how much action he gets in his first game, and where he lines up when he’s in because Tryon-Shoyinka might just become the next great Bucs defender.

Mac Jones Is Ready for Battle

According to cut-down day, Mac Jones does not need a mentor. Late Tuesday morning, the New England Patriots parted ways with former NFL MVP Cam Newton, and in turn, handed the reins to one McCorkle Jones. The rookie out of Alabama had an electric pre-season. He was graded as PFF’s highest rookie quarterback, passing for 388 yards and one touchdown with a 69.2 completion percentage. Also posting a 97.3 passer rating.

When you look at Mac Jones and his performance through camp and pre-season, he passes the eye test with flying colors. He has calm command of the huddle, he throws the ball quickly and accurately, and he protects the football. The offense moved much quicker and just looked more patriot-like with Jones behind center. With no disrespect towards Newton. I have been one of his bigger advocates in Patriots media. I wish that he had gotten a second chance to revive his career. But I trust Bill Belichick’s judgment if the first-round pick is ready to play.

Looking at the Future with Mac Jones

Bill Belichick goes into depth about Mac Jones' work ethic

This is by no means an easy job for the rookie quarterback. Jones is entering a division with two other playoff contenders. Surrounded by an offense surrounded by question marks or inconsistencies. Not to mention, a date with the best to ever do it come week four against quarterback Tom Brady and the Super Bowl LV champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Jones will certainly have his hands full in his rookie season. With all of the New England region looking on him with microscopes and prepared with insults in angry accents. I imagine Jones will get more leeway than Newton did last season. The team is certainly better than 7-9 and is certainly improved on the offensive side of the ball, even if there is much to be proven. But Belichick and Josh McDaniels have faith that McCorkle is the man to lead the charge, and he’s ready to take on the NFL’s best competition. He’ll have his chance to do that early and often his rookie campaign. His first start his against his predecessor at Alabama in Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins. Here’s to a delightful 2021 season for McCorkle and a good start to a new era of Patriots football.

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Pats Preview: Pre-Season Week 3 @ New York

We’ve made it, ladies and gentlemen! The pre-season finale is upon us. After six and a half long months of no regular season or playoff action, we are just two weeks away from the beginning of the 2021 season. The Pats have kept themselves busy and currently boast a 2-0 record in the pre-season. Both quarterbacks Cam Newton and Mac Jones have looked excellent. Meanwhile, the running back core has remained second to few, even after trading away 2018 first-round selection Sony Michel this week.

The Pats take on the Giants in the final game of the preseason in MetLife Stadium. After a long week of joint practices, both teams can begin to mold their week one lineups and find out which bubble players are lucky enough to remain on the starting 53-man roster. We’ve said this all pre-season long, there are plenty of things to pay attention to in camp. Even as late as the last week of the preseason slate. So let’s just dive right into it, folks. Kick it off, Bailey! Let’s get this one underway.

Three Things to Watch

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#1: Final Look at Quarterback Competition

Mac Jones vs Cam Newton has been all the rage this summer in Foxboro. The rookie from Alabama has looked excellent thus far in camp. Grading as PFF’s top rookie quarterback so far in the pre-season. Meanwhile, Newton isn’t doing too shabby himself. After a clunky debut against Washington, the 2015 NFL Most Valuable Player had a gigantic bounce back against the Philadelphia Eagles last week. While taking most of the starting reps in his limited time at joint practices with the Giants.

I doubt that Newton’s job as the Pats’ starting quarterback is in any jeopardy after the COVID-19 test misunderstanding. I don’t see him going too far into this game, and I don’t expect Jones to get more than maybe a quarter and a half of work. I’m interested to see if there will be any further developments, but I think Newton is the guy until further notice.

#2: Who Steps Up in the Runningback Room?

After trading Sony Michel, there is a gaping hole for Rhamondre Stevenson and J.J. Taylor to take over. Somebody is going to have to compliment Damien Harris and take up Michel’s snaps. With Brandon Bolden and James White already having established roles, it’s time to find what the Pats can do with the other two.

Stevenson and Taylor have both had excellent preseasons. Stevenson has rushed for 193 yards and four touchdowns, while Taylor has 103 yards under his belt and a score. I see a whole lot of potential in both backs, and I think that Stevenson definitely has the edge to take over the bulk of Michel’s carries. But I do think Taylor can take over the Rex Burkhead role. Being a kickstart and secret weapon of sorts for this Patriots offense. We all should be watching intensely at these two and see if we can get a clue as to how they both could fit into this offense’s identity.

#3: Does Shaun Wade Make Immediate Impact?

The Patriots just recently made a trade with the Baltimore Ravens to acquire rookie cornerback Shaun Wade from Ohio State. A fifth-round pick, Wade is an excellent slot corner. He would have been taken much higher had he not been exposed when playing on the outside in 2020. With Jonathan Jones getting injured this week and still no sign of Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots had to act. They were one injury away from calling up Ty Law and offering him a gig.

Who knows if Wade makes an appearance after being on the team less than 96 hours come kickoff. It’s hard to say, but I’d like to see him out there if possible and see if there’s something worth investing in. Not all fifth-round picks have to be bubble players that barely make the team. I’d love to get a solid backup to Jones if that’s possible. All depth is good depth in the current state of the NFL.

Highlight Player: Kristian Wilkerson

Kristian Wilkerson on staying with Pats: 'I just want to be a winner' -

Unfortunately, wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson hasn’t lived up to the early practice hype he had back in July and early August. He’s failed to pop in any of the preseason opportunities he’s had. Wilkerson’s highlight so far has been dropping a perfectly thrown deep ball by Mac Jones against Washington. This game might be Wilkerson’s last stand to make a case for his standing on the 53-man roster.

The Pats are desperate for any production at the wide receiver spot. Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne haven’t done too much to stand out. Jakobi Meyers has picked up where. he left off, but we saw in 2020 just how capable he is of carrying a passing game. I’m not saying Wilkerson is the next unstoppable UDFA legend. But I’ll take any bright spots where I can. Here’s to Wilkerson having one hell of a night come Sunday.

Closing Thoughts

Bill Belichick Has a Season-Altering Decision to Make That Has Nothing to  Do With Choosing Between Mac Jones and Cam Newton

I know we’re all sick of watching the backups and trying to invest in games where the score doesn’t really matter. Personally, I’m getting amped up for week one against Miami. It’s so close yet so far away. But there are still many decisions to be made.

Some were made this week. The trade of Sony Michel is a fantastic example of getting ahead of the ball. I wrote last week that I felt like Belichick had a difficult decision to make when it came to the running back room. He flipped Michel for a fourth and opened up a ton of space for the younger backs. Then getting some much-needed depth in a talented rookie in Shaun Wade.

Overall, it’ll be great to see if some bubble players break out in their last chance. The Patriots are always good for one UDFA to make the roster. Any guesses on who that will be?

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Sony Michel Trade Had to Be Done

Patriots’ 2018 first-round pick running back Sony Michel was traded to the Los Angeles Rams early Wednesday morning for two conditional picks. If the Rams are awarded a fourth-round compensatory selection, the Patriots will get that instead of the two picks (a fifth and a sixth) in 2022. Patriots fans may be reactionary about this deal. The response is already not that great. Though, I feel that Patriots fans may be overvaluing the fourth year running back from Georgia.

Let’s start this off by looking at the rest of the Patriots’ running back room. He was clearly going to be the odd man out. With how well third-round selection Rhamondre Stevenson has played, it was only a matter of time. Damien Harris and James White are basically locked for the 53-man roster. Meanwhile, even second-year undrafted free agent J.J. Taylor has been killing it in camp. Sony Michel, on the last year of his rookie deal, had to be traded. A fourth-round pick at best sounds like a solid deal for the Patriots, who didn’t really need him.

Let’s face it, Sony Michel was never going to garner a first-round selection in return. Michel hasn’t done anything to demand that type of value. Last season he only rushed 79 times for 449 yards and 1 touchdown. Not adding much in the receiving department with 17 catches for 114 yards and a score. He wasn’t all that available in 2020, and it’s a common truth that in the Patriots locker room, the best ability is availability. He hasn’t had that since his breakout rookie campaign. Sure, he had a terrific 2018 post-season, and even a solid sophomore output, but he got outplayed and replaced by Damien Harris. As well as not doing enough to separate himself from Taylor and Stevenson.

Patriots’ Running Back Room From Here

Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson has 'worked his butt off' since failing  conditioning test, per Ivan Fears -

Simply put, the Patriots do not get any worse from this Sony Michel trade. Sure, the return isn’t the best of value, but that’s not why it was made. Trading Michel simply makes the team that much more flexible at the running back position. Michel is no longer demanding carries. Come week one, Rhamondre Stevenson could be seeing some real playing time. Meanwhile, Taylor can take over that Rex Burkhead role that we missed a good chunk of last season when he tore his ACL. James White and Damien Harris can continue their usual duties, and maybe Brandon Bolden sticks around on this roster for his value on special teams.

I’m very excited to see what the Patriots have to offer in the run game. They have quite the diversity in their backfield. Plus with Cam Newton adding his rushing threat at quarterback? This team is poised to be a top-five rushing attack again in 2021.

Saying Goodbye to Sony Michel

Look: Sony Michel receives Super Bowl ring for New England Patriots

I have never been Sony Michel’s biggest advocate. I’ve always felt like the Patriots took the wrong Georgia running back in the 2018 NFL Draft, and should have gotten Nick Chubb if running back was the route to go in. Though, I would be foolish to not acknowledge the good he did in his time as a Patriot. His 2018 playoff performance is second to none. Shattering a ton of rookie postseason records, and even scoring the lone touchdown in Super Bowl LIII to give the Patriots a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Their sixth Super Bowl title in 17 years.

Unfortunately, the time has just come. He didn’t separate himself enough from the competition to justify taking away snaps from younger players. This is Damien Harris’s backfield now. With James White as the premier pass catcher, and Rhamondre Stevenson and J.J. Taylor carving out roles for themselves.

Nevertheless, Sony Michel should be celebrated for his contributions as a Patriot. In spite of injuries and growing pains, he was a serviceable player for New England. Even if a trade had to be done, it’s hard not to have a good feeling thinking about his rookie campaign.

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Evaluating Patriots’ 35-0 Win Over the Eagles

I wrote in my preview of this game on Wednesday that I hoped the Patriots would blow out the Eagles. They did just that, but I’ve taken for granted just how great close preseason games are for evaluation. The Eagles’ offense simply rolled over and died Thursday night, and their defense didn’t give the Patriots much resistance. Nevertheless, I’ve found five focuses of interest to discuss, and I hope next week we can see a more competitive match-up to really finalize the final pieces of the roster.

#1: Cam Newton Takes Charge of Patriots’ Offense

Patriots' starting QB job is Cam Newton's to lose, and he did nothing to  hurt his cause - The Boston Globe

The Patriots starting quarterback job is still Cam Newton’s to lose, and on Thursday night he did nothing to hurt his standings. After having an abysmal outing against Washington last week, SuperCam stepped up to the plate and posted an impressive 103 yards on nine throws and a touchdown pass. He really looked like the quarterback we all thought we were getting in 2020. Making good reads, protecting the football, calmy navigating the pocket when the pressure came in. Sure, it was against a horrendous Eagles defense without some of their most key starters. But let’s take the positives where we can get them. QB1 looked excellent and has at least temporarily restored confidence in Patriots fans everywhere. Not bad for the “Checkdown King”.

#2: Mac Jones Continues Positive Development

Mac Jones updates: How did Patriots rookie QB perform in Week 2 of  preseason - DraftKings Nation

Of course, if we discuss one quarterback, we must discuss the other. First-round pick Mac Jones continued his impressive pre-season against Philadelphia going 13-19 again for 146 yards. He had another beautiful deep ball down the sidelines that should have been caught. Unfortunately, N’Keal Harry had butterfingers and screwed up his shoulder/arm in the process. McCorkle has not made this an easy win for Newton in the quarterback competition. As he should be doing. I think Newton will probably be the starter in the season opener, but Jones is right on his tail ready for his moment.

#3: Patriots Have a Dilemma at Runningback

What Role Will Rhamondre Stevenson Have With The Patriots? -

Ice cream is fantastic every once in a while, but you can always have too much of a good thing. This is the Patriots’ situation at running back. There are five really solid backs on this depth chart as is. Damien Harris, James White, Sony Michel, Brandon Bolden, J.J. Taylor, and Rhamondre Stevenson make up this elite backfield. But the Patriots can’t keep every single one. There’s going to have to be an odd-man-out after next week. I would think that Harris’ and White’s jobs are safe, and Bolden’s expertise in special teams keeps him here. In all likelihood, the Patriots are going to be able to keep maybe two more. This is going to be a tough decision for Bill Belichick. One that I do not envy. Especially after Michel, Stevenson and Taylor all played extremely well Thursday night in Philly.

What I would do? I’d look to trade Sony Michel. He’s in a contract year and I don’t think the Patriots are looking to sign him long-term anyways. Then you can either try to get away with putting Taylor on the practice squad or give Stevenson the good ol’ “Foxboro Flu” where they get redshirted their rookie season. It’ll be interesting to see what Belichick does at this position.

#4: Matt Judon Looks Like a Great Investment

4 Ups, 4 Downs From Patriots' Preseason Blowout Win Over Eagles – CBS  Boston | NewsRobin

Edge rusher Matt Judon has been a bull in a china shop for the Patriots so far in pre-season. Right off the bat against the Eagles, he made his presence felt with a strip-sack off of former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. Sure it was a bad snap, but we can’t knock the hustle. He was just as lethal against the Football Team last week consistently getting into the backfield and making good tackles. So far he’s proven to be the best investment from the 2021 free agency class. Tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith haven’t exactly gotten the chance to shine this pre-season, but Judon has and he’s made the most of it. Chase Winovich, Josh Uche, and Ronnie Perkins are going to have a difficult time getting snaps in the regular season if Judon keeps this up.

#5: Still No Answers at Reciever for the Patriots

N'Keal Harry, Josh Uche exit Patriots' preseason game vs. Eagles with  injuries | Patriots Wire

So far, it looks like Jakobi Meyers is the only dependable wide receiver for the Patriots on their depth chart. Sure, the volume hasn’t been fantastic. The rushing offense has absolutely taken the most attention and has been the most effective thus far in the pre-season. But I was really hoping that we would see more from guys like Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor (who made his pre-season debut in Philly), N’Keal Harry (who left in a sling), and camp standout Kristian Wilkerson. Nobody has really stepped up to the plate for the Pats at this spot, and I fear that we may have some inconsistent production similar to last season. Which is detrimental if the tight ends aren’t available or part of the game plan.

There’s still a week to go, and I’m really hoping that Newton and Jones get to display their arm talent a little more and set up guys like Bourne and Agholor to make some big plays. I’m not saying the Patriots have to have production at wide receiver rivaling the Buccaneers. But just more than what we’ve seen two games in.

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Pats Preview: Pre-Season Week 2 @ Philadelphia

The Pats have been down in Philadelphia practicing with the Eagles all week. Quarterback Cam Newton has looked electric during the joint practices and the team looks solid. On the other hand, the Patriots have just one healthy tight end going into tomorrow night’s matchup with the Eagles. It’s going to be another interesting matchup to see who the Patriots decide gets more snaps than others, and just how they handle the current situation at tight end with Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, and Matt LaCosse all hurt.

There are quite a lot of things to look out for in Lincoln Financial Field tomorrow night, but I’ll try to narrow it down to three. Kick it off, Bailey. Let’s get this one underway.

Three Things to Watch

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#1: How are the reps split at Quarterback?

Last week we only saw Newton get two drives in the first quarter against Washington. The rookie Mac Jones got five drives and was impressive for the most part. Meanwhile, the veteran Brian Hoyer got to end the game by throwing just four passes. It is imperative to me that we get to see more of Newton in these final two games. In Gillette Stadium last week, he only got to throw it seven times and the highlights of his drives were getting strip-sacked and a big play taken away by a holding penalty. I loved watching Jones as much as everybody else did. But we can’t just throw Cam Newton out to the curb after one pre-season game. Let’s see more of what the former MVP has to give.

#2: Are there any switches at Cornerback?

Last week we saw Jalen Mills get torched by Terry McLaurin in his Patriots pre-season debut. The Pats cannot afford to be this lost at their cornerback depth. They have to figure something out because as it stands currently, Stephon Gilmore won’t be back by week one. Whether it be because of injury or his lack of a new deal. I’m definitely going to keep an eye on who’s covering the Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith. Two of the corner positions are set in J.C. Jackson and Jonathan Jones, who will be the next man up?

#3: How does Devin Asiasi handle larger role?

As we mentioned before, the only healthy tight end heading into tomorrow’s exhibition is the second-year 3rd rounder Devin Asiasi. He has one career touchdown catch and most of his receptions came in week 17 against the Jets last year. I’m very curious as to how the Pats use him. Will they use fewer tight end sets or will they see this as an opportunity to see what the UCLA product has to offer? I personally hope it’s the latter. If Henry or Smith have to take an extended leave of absence due to injury, somebody has to step up. I would absolutely love it if Asiasi is the one to step up to the challenge.

Highlight Player: Chase Winovich

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Listen, Bill Belichick put it best: “…obviously he needs to work in every area because he hasn’t done much”. Chase Winovich is just now returning from the PUP list and has missed a significant portion of training camp. I can’t say if he’ll get a whole lot of snaps, but I hope the Pats use pre-season to throw him into the fire and see what he’s got to focus on. Year three is big for any player on their rookie deal. Winovich exploded in his own way in 2020. 2021 will be huge to determine his long-term future in New England if there is to be a future in Foxboro. The Michigan man is going to have to fight like hell to get some starting reps in the regular season. The pre-season is your best bet to beat out guys like Josh Uche, Matt Judon, Henry Anderson, Tashawn Bower, and Deatrich Wise.

Closing Thoughts

Bill Belichick has classic response for not challenging missed call in Pats pre-season opener.

With there only being three pre-season games, it’s difficult to predict how many reps starters will get. We always knew the starters would get at least a half in the third game and nothing in the last game in previous seasons. Now does that dress rehearsal get pushed up to week two? Or does it stay week three and that’s how the pre-season ends? It’ll be interesting to see how teams handle this dilemma.

My energy remains the same anytime the Eagles get on the schedule. I don’t care if it’s pre-season or the Super Bowl. I’m hoping for a 52-0 blowout. Super Bowl LII and just how rambunctious their fans get always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It may be hypocritical, but don’t pretend like the rest of the NFL’s fanbase feels the same way. I knew people who hated the Patriots in 2017 who wanted the Pats to win that game. But overall, here’s to hoping that we see great play out of our own guys, and anything bad by the Eagles would just be a cherry on top!

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Cam Newton Shouldn’t Be Benched Just Yet

I know we’re all excited about Mac Jones. Trust me, I do. He looked like a young Tom Brady Thursday night against the Washington Football Team. After taking over for Cam Newton who got just two drives, the Patriots’ offense started to click. The first-round pick from Alabama completed 13-19 passes for 87 yards and almost had a touchdown. Unfortunately for the veteran Newton, he got just seven pass attempts and just completed four of them. His highlight of the night was unfortunately a strip-sack by Chase Young on his first possession.

Fans were quick to jump the gun on this quarterback controversy. All over social media fans began to make the casual arguments of “Cam Newton looks the same as last year! Put in Jones!” and are ready to close the book on the second year of SuperCam in Foxboro. If you’ve been following my work this off-season, you know where I lie when it comes to Cam Newton and the Patriots. I want him here so long as Mac Jones is developing and he is the best option at quarterback. Here’s to providing some rationality and hopefully justifying the argument that Newton should be judged on a little more than just seven passes in the first preseason game.

Two Drives Simply Isn’t Enough

Cam Newton and the Patriots Are Headed in the Wrong Direction - The Ringer

Like we said before, Mac Jones looked excellent in his five possessions. I certainly don’t want to discredit just how impressed I was with the rookie. But are we seriously going to get riled up about Newton missing three of seven passes and the blocking selling them out twice? On his second drive, the offense did move down the field with ease before Jonnu Smith got called for holding. Unfortunately for us who are trying to evaluate, Newton obviously didn’t throw the ball that much. When he did, they were mostly check-downs and screen passes. Short timing routes, though valuable, don’t get to show exactly what Cam Newton has to offer.

Hopefully next week against the Eagles we see more of Newton, and we can fairly assess what he has to offer. Simply put, it would be extremely unfair and hasty to name Mac Jones the starting quarterback based on one preseason outing where his opponent had the opportunity to show virtually nothing and Jones got most of the reps in the entire game.

We Can’t Throw Mac Jones Into the Fire

How Mac Jones fared in crucial Patriots debut

Make no mistake, Mac Jones coming out of Alabama is by no means a finished product. He isn’t the same caliber quarterback as Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Kyler Murray, and others who can start virtually immediately. McCorkle is going to need some time to grow. Throwing him out there week one without any sort of fire and handing him the starting job would be a disastrous mistake that could ruin his future. Cam Newton has value on that alone. Unless Jones is clear cut the best quarterback and there’s no doubt, Newton should still be on this team. Unless you guys think Brian Hoyer is capable of keeping this team competitive while Jones gets ready to go. I don’t think even the most die-hard Hoyer fans believe that, if they even exist.

The Competition Will Bring Out the Best Quarterback

Cam Newton mentoring Mac Jones has impressed <a rel=

Make no mistake about it, we don’t want this to be an easy decision for Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels. If Mac Jones is by far the better quarterback, he doesn’t even have to be great necessarily. That could just mean Cam Newton is that bad. If anything, you’d hope Newton is the best coming out when you look at the two extremes because at least Jones has time to grow and you’re in no rush to thrust him out there. The battle for starting quarterback should by no means end in the preseason. We’ll get a good look at these two signal-callers, but unless Mac Jones is truly the second coming of Tom Brady or Newton simply cannot throw the football anymore, we shouldn’t force it with McCorkle.

We’re just one week into the preseason, and I get that fans are reactionary. That’s what this industry is all about. But let’s just try to keep cool heads about this subject here. Jones will get his time, and when he does he better be prepared for the task at hand. That being said, if he’s even remotely unprepared and Newton is capable of leading this team in 2021, I think the answer is more obvious than it seems.

If you enjoyed this content, or hate it and want to argue with me, follow me on Twitter @KalebEmcee! Feel free to check out the work I do on Foxboro Beat! Also, read up on the rest of the NFL content PFP has to offer here!

Patriots Preseason Week One Instant Reactions

The New England Patriots picked up a big preseason win against the Washington Football Team Thursday night. In a decisive 22-13 win, the Patriots looked as good as ever with a huge Rhamondre Stevenson toss to the outside to ice it. Completing drives, forcing turnovers, and simply just playing smart football. There are five key moments I’d like to shed some light on. Let’s go over the big takeaways from the first action in Gillette Stadium since December.

#1: Mac Jones Looks Really Good

Mac Jones gets his first completion in his NFL preseason debut

Quarterback Mac Jones performed about as well as I could have hoped. He went 13-19 on his passes in his five drives. Jones could have even had a big touchdown if rookie receiver Kristian Wilkerson was able to haul in a deep ball. He was smart with the ball while being quick and decisive. I don’t want to get too hyped up over a preseason game, but McCorkle showed up when he was called upon. While the fans loved him. When it looked like the game might be tied at 15-15 with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter, fans (including myself) roared “WE WANT MAC!”. This is a good sign. He might be putting Newton on the hot seat as we speak. It’s only one preseason game, but the headlines write themselves.

#2: Jalen Mills Is Not That Guy at Corner

Jalen Mills explains why <a rel=

Defensive back Jalen Mills is a swiss army knife for sure. He can do all sorts of different things on the defensive side and I see the appeal. But he can not replace Stephon Gilmore. He played opposite of J.C. Jackson at corner, and he got torched by Terry McLaurin. I’m not saying Mills is a bum, but he can’t be our Gilmore fill-in until he gets healthy and a new contract. JoeJuan Williams had a big interception last night, maybe try him out against the Giants next week. But it’s been known Mills isn’t a great corner. We can’t force the square peg into the round hole with this one.

#3: Offensive Line Needs Some Work

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On the game’s first offensive possession, Cam Newton was strip-sacked because Isaiah Wynn fell asleep and Chase Young blew past him. This wasn’t the only time the offensive line collapsed, but it’s the moment that still sticks out to me. This line has the potential to be a top-five unit in the NFL. There are obviously still some kinks to be worked out, and they have a handful of weeks to do so. But too often the Patriots’ line both starters and depth just got beat for no good reason.

#4: J.J. Taylor Has Potential

Patriots: 3 players who earned Week 1 playing time in preseason opener

I was expecting to see more Rhamondre Stevenson in the Patriots preseason opener, but J.J. Taylor seemed to be more of the man of the night. He caught passes as well as anybody with five receptions for 31 yards. He also showed some potential on the punt returns. I’d like to see more designed runs for him and just get. a look on how useful he could be for the Patriots. The second-year running back could see more use as a James White type if he keeps it up. He’s got me interested in more, that’s for certain.

#5: Quinn Nordin Might Be the Franchise Kicker

Forget Patriots QB battle, rookie Quinn Nordin gunning for kicker job: 10  things we learned from preseason opener vs. Washington -

I’ve never claimed to be an expert on the kicking of football. I likely never will, but Quinn Nordin looked excellent in his Patriots debut. Kicking two field goals (one from 50, another from 40) and missing just one PAT. Again, we don’t want to be dramatic about just one game, but we’ve seen how bad kickers have been around the league. Some teams are already having doubts about their situation. We have Nick Folk on the sideline at the moment. Then having Nordin showing out in preseason? The Patriots are in great shape on special teams heading into 2021. Just as long as we turn down the stupid false start penalties, which were a problem all last year too.

If you enjoyed this content, or hate it and want to argue with me, follow me on Twitter @KalebEmcee! Feel free to check out the work I do on Foxboro Beat! Also, read up on the rest of the NFL content PFP has to offer here!

2021 NFL Preseason Week 1: Stories to Watch

Football is here! The NFL preseason officially started last week between the Steelers and Cowboys, but most fans consider this week to be the start of football season. As we head into an exciting NFL season, the first week of preseason is rife with interesting stories to follow. Here are just a few.

Justin Fields’ Snaps

Bears coach Matt Nagy recently claimed he would make sure Justin Fields receives as many reps as possible against the Miami Dolphins. This is a bold attitude for a head coach to take with his first-round quarterback but his mindset is simple. “The more reps we can get of him right now, the better.”

Of course, there are obvious concerns this mindset raises. Snaps are important for all rookies, quarterbacks especially, but risking your potential franchise quarterback’s health to prioritize snaps during a meaningless preseason game? That’s a bit more questionable.

Not all fans are happy with the decision, but Nagy isn’t bothered. In his words, “When you look at the Quarterback position, there is that balance. We’ve gotta be able to evaluate. The only way you can evaluate is running stuff you want to run.”

Translation: we don’t know what we have until the kid gets snaps, so we’re getting him as many snaps as possible.

If this storyline wasn’t juicy enough, Justin Fields has apparently been tearing training camp up. His arm talent, mobility, and accuracy are impressing everyone. If the reports are true and carry into the game, Fields might announce his NFL presence in the first action of his professional career. Certainly, something to watch.

The Taunting Rules

Will taunting become the next hot topic in the NFL preseason?

The preseason is the first chance for fans to see the new NFL rule changes in action. It’s also a chance for NFL referees to set the tone with players, which usually leads to high penalty counts. A few years ago, the preseason was filled with flags for players lowering their heads to initiate contact. This year, we’re likely to see officials crackdown on taunting. Allegedly, NFL coaches have complained that taunting rules are almost never enforced, and they have a point. Somewhat. Taunting is more common in today’s league, but most fans seem to enjoy it.

To call this new emphasis unpopular would be…an understatement. For a brief moment, the phrase “No Fun League” was trending on Twitter when the news broke. Players, fans, and media members alike voiced their outrage at the NFL for seemingly trying to take the fun out of the game.

If history repeats itself and we see a large number of taunting penalties, it would sour the start of an otherwise promising year. Let’s watch and hope the NFL doesn’t repeat its mistakes.

The Preseason Superstars

Okay, this one is a bit of a cop-out, I’ll admit. But it’s still exciting! The preseason offers a chance for players fighting for a roster spot to receive major playing time over their established counterparts. As a result, every year, unknown players have the games of their life in the preseason, vaulting their names into the national spotlight for a moment.

Sometimes, these players translate their performances into grander careers. Victor Cruz notably put on an amazing display against the New York Jets his rookie year – within a few years, he was one of the best receivers in the game. Getting a glimpse at the next NFL star in the preseason is a rare treat for any NFL fan.

Other times, these players don’t amount to anything, even after their performance. Yet, in a strange way, that makes them even more captivating than the “successful” preseason superstars. Their stardom is as brief as the sport will allow; just a week, maybe two. But for that moment, their names become the discussion of media members and team fans alike. “Does so-and-so have a chance to make the roster?” “Who is this guy?” “I’ve never heard of this college before, are we sure it isn’t imaginary?”

That fleeting fame is a glory reserved exclusively for the preseason, where backups become the starters and get their chance to show the world their gifts. But it’s a pyrrhic glory for many, often highlighted against the shadow of unfulfilled dreams. The two sides of failure and success are on full display, highlighting the valleys and peaks of many young men’s lives. It’s the natural high of hope and the crushing agony of despair alike. It’s football, and it’s back.

I just can’t wait.

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