The New England Patriots faced off in in AFC Championship game rematch against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars got their revenge on the Patriots for the 24-20 victory the Patriots had over them back in January with a 31-20 victory on Sunday.
In the AFC Championship game Tom Brady was able to lead the Patriots back with a miraculous fourth quarter comeback, but he was not able to duplicate that magic this time around. There were some glaring concerns that I have noticed in the Patriots first two games this season, that were especially more noticeable against the Jaguars.
The first issue is the Patriots offensive line. Tom Brady has been under a lot of pressure through two games and has been getting rid of the ball quicker than he would like to. The interior lineman for the Patriots are David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Joe Thuney are a very strong group, but have not being doing very well so far this season. Shaq Mason who was just extended for five years and sixty million dollars is very good. Andrews and Thuney are good, but tend to be inconsistent.
The 6’8” 360 pound Trent Brown has been very solid for the Patriots so far this season, but he is more of an uncertainty than an issue at this moment. He is a massive human being, but lacks speed, so it will be hard to tell if he’ll be able to keep up this strong performance over a long grueling football season.
LaAdrian Waddle has not been good at all this year, plain and simple. Against the Texans he got beat bad by JJ Watt multiple times in the second half of the game, and gave up many hits on the quarterback. On Sunday, Waddle was getting beat all game long by the Jaguars ferocious pass rush, even giving up a pivotal strip sack when the Patriots were trying to mount their comeback in Jaguars territory.
Waddle is not a starting offensive lineman in the NFL, and he never has been. Marcus Cannon is a much better option at right or left tackle. Cannon is dealing with a calf issue and should be back soon, but it’s a position of worry until he returns.
The second issue for the Patriots is their lack of talent at offensive skill positions. Starting with the running backs of James White, Rex Burkhead, and Sony Michel. They are all great at catching the ball out of the backfield, but none of them are proficient when it comes to running between the tackles. Unfortunately, that guy that could run between the tackles for the Patriots this year was supposed to be Jeremy Hill, but the Patriots lost him for the season when he tore his ACL trying to make a tackle on a fumble return.
So far these 3 Patriots running backs have caught 13 passes for 123 yards and have averaged 3.4 yards per carry for only 149 yards through 2 games. Those are not great rushing stats. The Patriots could use a pounder for short yardage and in the red zone situations, similar to a LeGarrette Blount type of back. They can’t rely on their skinny 41-year-old quarterback to convert every 3rd or 4th and short for them.
Next we move onto the Patriots’ wide receivers. It has been a motley bunch when you think of the names and what they have accomplished in this league thus far in their careers. Two failed high draft picks in Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson, as well as the well documented former lacrosse player Chris Hogan. Julian Edelman is out due to suspension until week five.
The Patriots were just able to steal Josh Gordon former Pro-Bowl receiver from the Cleveland Browns on Monday afternoon for a conditional 5th round pick next year. If Gordon is not active for ten games this year, the Browns will have to send the Patriots a late round draft pick as compensation.
This wide receiving corps does not cause any fear to opposing defenses, so rather than focusing on them they can spend their time double teaming the Patriots best offense weapon, TE Rob Gronkowski. Sunday against the Jaguars, Gronkowski only had two catches for fifteen yards, in part because they spent more time making sure that Gronk wasn’t the player that beats them this game. All props to Marrone, it was a great game plan by Jacksonville. It worked to perfection.
Brady had trouble finding wide receivers, and he reverted to a dink and dunk offense just dumping the ball off to the running back. Those three Patriot wide receivers had 11 catches for 104 yards, a very underwhelming number for an entire receiving corp. The Patriots trading for Gordon was a necessity he can put those numbers up by himself in a game, and is going to be a real shot in the arm for this stuttering offense. They finally have a deep threat and defenses will struggle to figure out how to defend three great players when JE11 makes his return.
For years my two biggest complaints about the Patriot’s defense has been its lack of speed and lack of ability to get after the Quarterback. This team is looking like it’s going to have the same issues.
The pass rush was especially dismal against the Jaguars, when New England’s stud DE Trey Flowers went out with a concussion in the 1st quarter. Their other DE Dietrich Wise Jr went out with a finger injury in the 4th quarter. The Patriots were not able to put any pressure on Blake Bortles, and let him stand in the pocket to dink and dunk them to death. He killed the Patriots with short throws to running backs, and wide receivers on crossing routes burned the Pats defense all game. It was very difficult to watch it happening all game long with what seemed to be little to no adjustments.
The Patriot’s secondary is going to be just fine even though they had a tough game (377 yards 4TD’s), but it is hard to put all the blame on them because they were having to cover their man for 4 to 6 seconds every play with the lack of any pass rush from the Patriot’s front 4. Stephon Gilmore, Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty are still great players and leaders. Nothing has changed in that department.
Eric Rowe has shown his incompetence for years now, and it is time to make a change. Jason McCourty is on the bench, and the veteran deserves the opportunity to get on the field to see what impact he’ll make next to his twin brother. I think if they are given a reasonable amount of time to cover it will show they are a good secondary.
Ja’Whaun Bentley, the Patriots’ rookie linebacker, looks like he has a bright career ahead of him.
A big sign of concern for the Patriots that I’ve realized over the first two games is Dont’a Hightower. He has not looked like the same player. He is extremely slow, and never around the ball, with only 3 solo tackles in 2 games. Hightower did miss all of last season due to injury, so maybe he is just trying to get his legs back underneath him. Hightower’s performance so far makes me reminisce of Jerod Mayo in his last years as a Patriot MLB. He was still solid, but not close to that same impact player he used to be. Luckily LB Kyle Van Noy has been playing decently well so far to pick up Hightower’s slack, but the sluggish defense is very noticeable and easily beatable by opposing offenses.
Brady has looked very good, but not great through the first two games of the season. He has done as well as he can do with the current offensive line and weapons around him for they just don’t have many threats at this current moment.
Belichick did exactly what they have needed to do for years, get the freak athlete receiver with unimaginable potential. No matter the issues Gordon has notably had throughout his career, he’s an impact player and is a current necessity to this offense. Someone that can get some separation and gives Gronk some space going down the seam will be huge for this New England team.
They should also grab a linebacker or pass rusher with some speed, because this defense is lacking speed big time and needs players who can get after the ball carrier. The team needs multiple ballhawks that go after the ball like a heat seeking missile, but if Bill can make a move for one of them and just make the adjustments, this defense can be solid enough to stop offenses.
The Jaguars were just by far the better team on Sunday, but we all know the Patriots start their season slow and get better as the season progresses. Every year some idiot analyst says the Patriots are done after an early season loss, but I am not worried at all about this Patriot’s team yet, I’m just pointing out their glaring flaws that could use some cleaning up as the season goes on.
I don’t believe the Patriots are the favorites to make it to the Super Bowl, that title goes to the Jaguars who easily handled the Patriots Sunday, or possibly the apparent offensive juggernaut the Kansas City Chiefs, but I still believe without a doubt if they can just clean up some of their play and maybe grab a few key acquisitions on the waiver wire they will like always have a shot to be in Atlanta come February at Superbowl LIII.
The Patriots are the Patriots, and they always make it work with what they have. Although what they have this year in terms of talent is probably worse than any season I can remember in recent history. There is no reason to freak out or get nervous, it has only been two weeks and the best games of the season are yet to come for this team, especially as the schedule only gets easier down the road and division games come into play. Now that Josh Gordon is a member of the team I expect the offense and Brady to look so much better than they have to start this season. Once week 6 or 7 comes around the Patriots should be looking like the best team in the league as Gordon learns the playbook and Edelman makes his long awaited comeback. I expect Gordon to have huge production for this team as he will hopefully spend much more time smoking secondary’s than trees in Foxboro.
The Patriots face their long time defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia Sunday night and an 0-2 Lions team that looks very weak. I expect the Patriots to show up and blow out the Lions on their home field with a bounce back 38-10 statement victory in Josh Gordon’s first game with the Pats.
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