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As We Wait…

…with bated breath for the first game of Week 3 in the NFL season, the New York Jets versus the Cleveland Browns, we can address a few additional football topics.  Specific to the hometown New England Patriots, I mean.

Wait, is anyone really anxious to see Jets v. Browns?  I guess…J-E-T-S fans could be excited about Sammy Darnold.  Browns fans can be excited by almost getting a couple of wins against alleged Super Bowl contenders in the Steelers and Saints.  Perhaps the nation is fired up to see this new Cleveland kicker that no one’s ever heard of…someone who only made 69.5 percent of his kicks in college too…that should work out nicely.

Anyway, as for the Pats, we could talk about the Jacksonville beating.  But why bother?  The offense couldn’t do anything and the defense stunk.  Some think that because it was Week Two, the Pats didn’t overextend themselves, knowing that beating a fired up Jags team in their home opener in 90 plus degree weather was unlikely to happen.  The offense didn’t exactly take a lot of risks, after all.

That doesn’t explain how poorly the D played though.  Sure, when you lose 2 of your better players in Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung fairly early in the game, that certainly doesn’t help.  But that doesn’t explain Eric Rowe and all the linebackers looking putrid.  And Adrian Clayborn running past Blake Bortles numerous times, leaving Bortles plenty of room to run for yet another first down.

I don’t have any answers.  All I am thinking is that the Pats sometimes look very average in September and then fix problems as the season goes along.  Though I was pretty pissed during the game, I have started to trend in that direction throughout the week.  Maybe this year is different though, who knows?

Perhaps the Patriots have fixed one of their issues already…a punt returner.  Because CYRUS JONES IS BACK!  He is?  Really?  Didn’t see this one coming.  And I’m sure he’s not really going to make much of a difference.  I’m not sure I understand…even if it is just to return punts for two games until Julian Edelman comes back.  But they gave Jones a two-year contract.  Not that that necessarily means a whole bunch.  But still…does that mean they have bigger plans for Cyrus?  They didn’t sign Corey Coleman or Bennie Fowler to two-year contracts, to the best of my knowledge.  We’ll see…

You wanna talk about Josh Gordon?  I don’t.  Why?  That’s all people are talking about locally now and I’ve had my fill.  He supposedly has great talent.  I say “supposedly”, because he really hasn’t played in 5 years.  So how do we know he still has “it”?  Wide receivers coming into this system often take forever to figure things out, if they ever even do.  Can’t afford that kind of time here, but it may happen.  I have no problem with the trade, as who really cares about the 5th round pick?  It’s worth the gamble, even if he goes and gets loaded tonight and gets banned from the NFL yet again.  Because of the potential for that and all the other uncertainty revolving around Gordon, I am not getting my hopes up.  But I certainly will be paying attention.

You wanna talk about Ian O’Connor’s book?  I suppose we can chat a little.  I mean, it’s kind of old news now a rift has formed between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady over time.  Some of the excerpts from the book are gold though.  Bill and at least some of the coaches think they could have taken an average quarterback and made him do the same things Brady has done in his career?  Laughable.  Brady is shocked that he was getting old and Bill was looking to the future to replace him at some point, just like what has happened to EVERY OTHER PATRIOT, INCLUDING ALL THE LONG TIME GREATS.  Laughable.

Listen, this was bound to happen.  Anyone that has a head on their shoulders should know that this wasn’t going to end well.  “This” being Brady’s career in New England.  And…it will get worse, I think I would bet the house on that.  Unfortunate, of course, but who really didn’t see this coming?

This topic is going to be beaten to death over the next few weeks, so I’ll stop here now.  Once the book officially comes out, maybe I’ll read it and share some thoughts.  In any event, hopefully, Bill and Tom can put their differences aside and just win games together.  Because they needed each other for this long run of success.  We should be all able to agree on that.  Thank God Brady has Matty Patricia’s defense coming up on Sunday Night.  That should be a recipe for success.  Then again, Eric Rowe will be out there again trying to stop Matty Stafford…

As for the beginning of Week Three’s slate:

New York Jets at Cleveland (-3.5)

When do you think the Browns were last favored in a game by three and a half points?  I don’t know the answer, but I can’t imagine it’s in the decade of the 2010’s.  Maybe it was, but they still shouldn’t be favored by that here either, even against the Jets.

I know, Cleveland is a little bit of a darling these days.  1-31 the last two years, somehow Hue Jackson keeps his job and the GM is fired.  Then the tie in Week One and a close loss in Week Two…largely again, because their kicker was brutal.  But these guys are still the Browns.  And Tyrod Taylor is still their QB.  But their new kicker has a strong leg, did you hear?

You know what?  This is the NFL.  EVERY kicker has a strong leg.  Maybe teams should be more concerned with getting a kicker who is ACCURATE, even if his leg is a little weaker.  There’s a thought, eh?

Anyway, Cleveland may yet win this game.  But Darnold looks like the real deal.  And Thursday Night games usually stink.  So I am “betting” this one is close.

New York Jets 20, Cleveland 16 (one missed extra point and at least one missed field goal).

Week (against the spread):  8-8

Week (straight up):  9-7

Season (against the spread):  13-19

Season (straight up):  16-16

 

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New England Patriot Roster Projection-Defense, v2

Right to the defense…

DE (5):

Locks:  Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise

In:  Keionta Davis

Out:  Eric Lee

Way Out:  Frank Herron

Comments:  Guess I probably should have had Clayborn in the “lock” category all along.  Davis has been getting some prime time and a ton of praise, so I made some room for him.  Not much else has changed here.

DT (4):

Locks:  Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton

In:  Adam Butler

Out:  Vincent Valentine

Way Out:  John Atkins, Trent Harris

Comments:  Adding Davis, knocks Valentine off.  Davis apparently has played some inside, so maybe that’s legit.  I still wouldn’t be surprised if both Adam and Vincent broke camp with the team.  But one of them may not make it.  Right now I say Vincent.  But tomorrow I could say Adam.  Likely really doesn’t matter either way of course.

LB (5):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley

In:  Marquis Flowers, Elandon Roberts

Out:  Christian Sam

Way Out:  None

Injured Reserve?:  Harvey Langhi

Comments:  Bentley seems to be the biggest story of camp…well, other than that putrid wide receiver group.  The biggest positive story perhaps?  I’m locking him in because of that.  I’d rather keep just about anyone other than Flowers and Roberts.  But my sense is that they are staying.  Langhi may be ticketed for IR again this year.  It is clearly still an underwhelming group.

CB (6):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson

In:  Cyrus Jones, J.C. Jackson

Out:  Jason McCourty, Ryan Lewis, Keion Crossen,

Way Out:  Jomal Wiltz

Comments:  I’m buying into the “McCourty doesn’t make the team buzz”.  Unless he can play safety and beats that stiff Jordan Richards off the team.  Jason played some safely in the last game.  Not sure that’s enough to keep him.  I just have a feeling Cyrus gets one more chance…especially with the team really not having a punt returner for at least 4 games.  And who wants Edelman returning them anyway once he comes back?  Undrafted free agents usually make the Pats every year.  Sometimes one, sometimes more.  I think the only one of those dudes I have on my squad now is Jackson.  After all, he was supposed to be drafted, but teams shied away because of some of his off-field hijinx.  He may not make it through waivers to the practice squad.  The others like Crossen and Lewis may.  And don’t you want to keep some of these young guys when you look at the group as a whole?  Other than Gilmore, a bunch of question marks.

S (4):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

In:  Jordan Richards

Out:  Damarius Travis

Way Out:  A.J. Moore

Released:  Eddie Pleasant

Comments:  Still Richards…yup.  I don’t want it.  But I don’t see him being jettisoned.

Specialists (8):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Brandon King (ST), Brandon Bolden (ST), Nicholas Grigsby (ST)

In:  None

Out:  Corey Bojorquez (P), Geneo Grissom (ST)

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Looks like Allen has held off the kid, as “Bojo” hasn’t punted in the preseason at all.  I actually looked to include Grissom this time around, since he was playing with the first string defense last game.  Yes, I swear I saw him.  But in the end, since he is a guy that can come and go off the roster, I kept him off.  But we haven’t seen the last of him, I can promise you that.

As far as the IR/PUP/NFI and practice squad go, well, I took a stab at some IR guys earlier.  Doesn’t look like anyone is eligible for the PUP list, as it appears all of the preseason PUP guys were activated off it.  The NFI list has a couple of wide receivers on it in Darren Andrews and Cody Hollister…but if they were healthy they sure as hell ain’t helping that group anyway.

Practice squad?  10 spots there.  If we go by my calculations, I would put the following 10 on the ideal initial practice squad:  Etling, Webb, McCarron, Lucien, Ferentz, Lee, Valentine, Sam, Lewis and Crossen.

New England Patriots Roster Projection-Offense, v2

Three preseason games down, one meaningless one to go.  Well, “meaningless” for some people…I guess it’s pretty meaningful for the dudes trying to win jobs here or elsewhere.  Either way, time for the 2nd roster projection.  88 players on the roster…wait, 86…I just read about two departures.  We will cover everything here, so don’t you worry.

Offense:

QB (2):

Locks:  Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

In:  None

Out:  Danny Etling

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Nothing to see here.  Hoyer stinks, we do know that, but he ain’t going anywhere.  Unless Etling throws for 600 yards in the preseason finale, I guess…

RB (5):

Locks:  Rex Burkhead, James White, Sony Michel, James Develin

In:  Jeremy Hill

Out:  Mike Gillislee, Ralph Webb

Way Out:  Henry Poggi

Comments:  Only change here is adding Hill to the squad.  Jeremy has had a pretty good preseason, and unless his injury from late in the last game is serious, the consensus is he will make the squad.  Seeing that Burkhead is always hurt and Michel has been hurt (and apparently has underwhelmed, to boot) this training camp, I actually tried to find a way to hang on to Gillislee too.  But with Belichick loving his 19 special teams only guys, I couldn’t find the space for him.  Not yet anyway.  Oh wait, there is another difference:  Poggi is added to the last group.  He wasn’t here for the first projection.  And he won’t be here much longer, especially after his one touch in the last game resulted in a fumble.

WR (3):

Locks:  Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson

In:  None

Out:  Riley McCarron, Devin Lucien

Way Out:  Paul Turner

Suspended:  Julian Edelman

Injured Reserve?:  Braxton Berrios

Released:  Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews

Retired:  Eric Decker

Comments:  Abysmal.  There is no other way to put it.  Even when Edelman comes back.  And who is to say he even is the same guy these days, post-injury?  This group is brutal.

The amazing thing though, is I think they get through it.  I think the team uses more backs and tight ends in the passing game and things will be ok.  Why do I think that?  No f’n idea…just a hunch.  Maybe they get someone on waivers.  But we saw how that went with Dorsett last year, after he was acquired a few days before the season.  Didn’t do much last year.  So we really can’t expect something different this year.  Dez?  Looks like that ain’t happening.  But would he be the right fit anyway?  And how much does he actually have left?  Not sure on either count.

In any event, this is what we have.  Dorsett hopefully takes a step up…Patterson too, for that matter.  What are the chances of either of those happening for real though?  Berrios has been hurt and it may make sense to stash him on IR.  Britt, Mitchell and Matthews were hurt and it made no sense to stash them.  Still feel bad about Mitchell, but looks like he is still a free agent, so I suppose every other team feels the same way.  Decker was apparently so bad, he literally just retired.  Prime opportunity for him to come here and make something happen, but alas, it didn’t happen.  Turner?  Who?

I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see McCarron stick, at least to start the year.  We’ve heard about him, though haven’t necessarily seen much.  But maybe he’s the guy that returns punts while Jules is out.  Who the hell knows?  I tried to put him on actually, but again…the special teams guys…

TE (3):

Locks:  Rob Gronkowski

In:  Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister

Out:  Will Tye

Way Out:  None

Injured Reserve?:  Ryan Izzo

Released:  Troy Niklas, Shane Wimann

Comments:  So much for Niklas living up to his draft position.  He was cut a month ago and remains unemployed.  Wimann never had a chance either I guess.  The praise for Hollister has been effusive at times, so I guess he has to be in.  No idea how Allen still keeps his spot.  But there has been no indication that he is in danger of losing it.  Izzo seems like a nice IR stash.

OL (8):

Locks:  Trent Brown (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT), LaAdrian Waddle (T)

In:  Ted Karras (G/C), Cole Croston (T)

Out:  Matt Tobin (T), Luke Bowanko (C/G), James Ferentz (C), Jason King (G), Ulrick John (T)

Way Out:  Brian Schwenke (C)

Injured Reserve:  Isaiah Wynn (T/G)

Released:  Nate Theaker (G)

Comments:  Starting five remains intact.  Too bad about top pick Wynn being shelved for the year.  But every team has their injuries I suppose.  Wynn’s injury makes Waddle a lock.  And I changed my mind on the “In’s”.  Now, I can’t say I study offensive line play.  But I read and listen to a lot of analysis.  It seems the Pats brought in guys like Bowanko, Tobin and John to improve upon last years’ backups in Karras and Croston.  I haven’t seen or heard anything that has indicated that they will actually will be improvements.  With Cannon being hurt, maybe they find space for one or two more initially.  But with the last couple of spots, honestly, you’re guess is as good as mine.

Next:  Defense and Specialists

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