It’s Jets week folks…actually, the week is basically over, since the game is tomorrow. If you haven’t heard. And you possibly may not have heard. This past week has been one of the quietest lead-ins to a Pats/Jets game for as far back as I can remember. Of course, most of that probably has to do with that loudmouth Rex Ryan being no longer here. But still…
Not much chatter this week, you can almost hear a pin drop. Sure, a couple of Jets have said a couple of minor things that the local media has tried to escalate the meaning of a bit. But nothing like the past. Kind of depressing I say. I’m used to a lot more hype for the game. Guess we will have the Bills’ games for that though.
Coming right out and saying Patriots 31, Jets 16. Full disclosure, I picked the Jets plus 9.5 in a weekly picks pool I am in. But that is more about superstition than anything else. Seems like when I take the Pats, they never cover…and occasionally do not win. So I basically just pick their opponent every week if there is any doubt whatsoever. Against Jacksonville a few weeks back? Nope, I took the Pats. But divisional games I have to say I mostly pick the opponent, plus the points (isn’t it ALWAYS the opponent getting “plus the points” with the divisional foes?). Makes me feel like I am being somewhat partial anyway.
In any event, why this score? I mean, the Jets are 4-1, shouldn’t I really give them more of a chance? Especially since they have given up only 75 points in 5 games? Well, have you seen what the 4-1 consists of? Wins against the Browns, Colts, Dolphins and Redskins and a loss against the Eagles. That’s quite a murderer’s row, right? Other than the Colts in their house, I pay no mind to the rest of the scores. And that’s also stretching it, since the Colts haven’t been as good as most people thought they would be, especially when they came out of the gate. So please, enough about the Jets bandwagon…settle down with that. They do have some overall talent on both sides of the ball. And maybe Todd Bowles is a good coach in the end. But 5 games against mediocre competition and some are calling the J-E-T-S the main competitor to the Patriots in the AFC? A win for the NY team Sunday would go a long way towards that maybe. But until then…relax.
The main reason I think the score is even this close is because of where the Patriots have some injury concerns. And no, I am not talking about Matthew Slater. An aside, I love what Slater brings to the table. He is all over the field on every special teams unit. As William Belichick will tell you, special teams are indeed a big part of the game. But if Slater goes down, can’t they get some other young dude that runs with abandon down the field on every special teams play? It’s not like he even returns kicks or punts. As great as he is at what he does, he should be replaceable in that capacity. But I digress…
The offensive line is what I am talking about of course, as far as the injury bug goes. Nate Solder is of course gone for the year. His immediate replacement, Marcus Cannon, has also been ruled out. Cannon is up and down for sure, but he is at the very least serviceable. So they are left at the tackle spot with Sebastian Vollmer, a good lineman, but playing on the left side instead of his usual right. And Cameron Fleming, a 4th round pick in 2014, who was waived after only a year with the team earlier in the year (fairly soon for Bill to give up on a 4th rounder, especially a big body on either side of the line.). Any team could have claimed him for cheap money and they didn’t. So he ended up back on the practice squad, then back on the active roster and now in the actual starting lineup. Who is the third guy now? No one on the current roster. Chris Barker and Blaine Clausell (who?) are on the practice squad. TE Michael Williams moving back to tackle for the short-term? Maybe one of those dudes, but it’s obviously not ideal.
Throw in the fact that Shaq Mason is questionable at one guard spot too. Maybe Ryan Wendell is ready to play in place of him finally, recovered from whatever illness he had. But that also leaves Joe Kline and Tre’ Jackson at the other guard position, and although they seemingly have been decent, I’m not excited about them against the Jets’ front four. Ditto for David Andrews. He’s acquitted himself well this year, but is still a rookie and faces a major test on Sunday. Kind of a scary proposition when all things are considered. The Patriots have no doubt game planned around all this. But then there is the secondary to be concerned about, what with Darrelle Revis leading the charge back there too.
So why 31 points? I think the Pats offense is too good to lock down every drive. I think they will use quick passes to combat the OL issues and try to keep the secondary at bay somehow. I think Ryan Fitzpatrick will help by giving up a fumble or an interception or two which will lead one or two scores. Either directly by a defensive score, or indirectly by giving the Pats a short field. I feel pretty confident in this.
16 for the Jets? I believe the Pats will game plan around Brandon Marshall and not let him be the one who beats them. As is said over and over, Belichick seems to be able to normally shut down the oppositions best player. Some may say that is Chris Ivory. I think Ivory has the potential to run wild in this game. But he will get shorter chunks of yards than Marshall would get if they focused on Ivory and not Marshall. Ivory will get yards, but as usual, the Pats’ “bend, but don’t break” defense will shut him down inside the red zone and thus force the Jets to kick field goals. Jeremy Kerley always seems to play big against the Patriots. And he may well do so again, but his will be of the shorter variety as well. But will he play a big role? He hasn’t played much this year. Some dude I’ve never heard of was actually their 3rd receiver but was suspended earlier this week. So maybe Kerley does take his spot. Eric Decker? Good player, but not afraid.
Should be a fairly decent game for the country to see I would say. As long as the Pats get a win and Tom Brady doesn’t get killed, that’s about all we can ask for I guess. But I wouldn’t mind some sort of fireworks coming out of this game to juice up the second meeting later in the year…
Locks: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers
Way Out: None
I wanted to split out the defensive ends and defensive tackles, but with the way the Patriots kind of shuffle these guys around, maybe that wasn’t such a smart idea. In any event, it looks as if the team has more DL types than pure DE types as of right this second. The possibility also exists that if Jamie Collins, Don’t’a Hightower and Jerod Mayo are all healthy, either Collins or Hightower will rush the passer more from this position. So I went with all 4 pure DE types being locks. Obviously changes if Flowers’ injury from the exhibition opener is serious.
Locks: Dominique Easley, Malcolm Brown, Sealver Siliga, Geneo Grissom
In: Zach Moore
Out: Alan Branch, Joe Vellano, Casey Walker, Antonio Johnson
Way Out: A.J. Pataiali’l
Not many people loved the Grissom pick…where it happened in the 3rd round anyway. So regardless of how well he does now, it’s unlikely he won’t make the squad. Moore seemed to have some potential last year and I wouldn’t think he would be cut either. Though I do wonder why they moved him inside this year. But he would seemingly be DE depth as well. Branch is the vet on D that I could see them moving on from kind of unexpectedly. I don’t think the salary is prohibitive. But if they wanted to keep all of these younger bodies in tow it may be a move that has to be made. The other vets are fringe guys anyway. And A.J. Pahkjnafanjknj…I admittedly know nothing about.
Locks: Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo
In: Jonathan Freeny, James Morris
Out: Darius Fleming, Cameron Gordon, Dekoda Watson, Rufus Johnson
Way Out: Xzavier Dickson, L.J. Fort, Eric Martin
Can’t get any more solid than the locks above. Yet again though, the backup LBs are a weak group. Belichick seems to basically use his backup LBs as special team linchpins every year. Even the 4 “outs” are probably known more as special team guys. Anyway, didn’t think much of Freeny until they played him a ton in the first game and he was lauded by Bill this past week. Morris was kept on IR all of last year and I’ve heard whispers that they seem to like him. In any event, don’t be surprised to see Chris White back here once his injury heals. I know, L.J. Fort was already released today. But since I had the bulk of this written before I found out, I’m leaving him here. Proves I got one thing right anyway. Well, maybe it proves nothing, but…
Locks: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan
In: Tarell Brown, Robert McClain, Darryl Roberts
Out: Bradley Fletcher, Dax Swanson
Way Out: Jimmy Jean, Brandon King
Letting go of arguably their 4 top cornerbacks on paper this offseason (Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard…ok, you can fight me on Fonzie) seemed to be a dicey proposition. That hasn’t changed for me, sorry. Butler goes from 5th or 6th CB to Super Bowl hero to now top CB…just like that? Ryan played ok as a rookie, not so much in his sophomore year. Brown and McClain are veterans who don’t seem to be special. Roberts is a 7th round rookie. If you want to add Fletcher here, throw him in the same category as Brown and McClain. I have Bradley out since I’ve heard nothing from him since the start of camp. He may still make it, especially if they stash Roberts on IR after his injury in the opener. But you can’t tell me that you have any comfort with this group at all. Scary.
Locks: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards
In: Tavon Wilson
Out: Nate Ebner
Way Out: None
Same goes for the safeties. McCourty is a good one, but one of the highest paid? Not so sure. Richards was a reach in the 2nd round, according to everyone (nice reminder of how well Tavon Wilson has worked out as an unheard of 2nd rounder…oops). The other guys? Unexciting. That may be the kindest word to describe them. These DB’s scare the bejesus out of me. That about sums it up.
Physically Unable to Perform (2): Chris Jones, Dane Fletcher
There are 4 dudes on the preseason PUP list. Keeping these 2 on for the regular season. LaFell and Wendell tentatively break camp with the team. Since no one really knows how their injuries are progressing, this could obviously change.
Injured Reserve (2): A.J. Derby, Tyler Gaffney
At least we know these 2 guys are here. Already on the list going forward. And so much for the Gaffney Hall of Fame push. All I heard was that Tyler was going to be a major cog in the backfield this year once healthy. That they stole him from Carolina last year. Listen, if Carolina absolutely wanted to hang onto the guy, they wouldn’t have exposed him to waivers at the time that they did. They would have carried him and then put him on IR when they didn’t have to expose him to waivers. They took a chance that no one would claim him. They were wrong, but if he was that invaluable, he wouldn’t be here in the first place. Plus, he wouldn’t have been a 6th round pick either. But what do I know?
Non-Football Injury (1): Caylin Hauptmann
I think this guy is still on the NFI list and I don’t even know what for. Nor do I care. The Pats did care enough about him to carry him on the practice squad for however long last year. But I’m not expecting him to be a factor at any point, no offense to him or his family.
Practice squad (10):
Total shots in the dark here, as obviously it is early in the preseason. But also because of the eligibility rules. I am not going to pretend I know who exactly is eligible for the practice squad and who is not. Sure, I could do all the research. But, ummmmm…no thanks. Not for this projection anyway. I did just briefly look at the eligibility rules though, for the record. All sorts of stuff about accrued seasons and 46 man game day rosters and third practice squad seasons and changes for 2014 & 2015 that will revert back to 2013 rules for 2016 if there is no extension and blah blah blah. For this exercise, I will just assume anyone with less than 3 year’s experience is eligible. Thank you so much for your understanding…
That’s about it…along with Fort being released there was a trade today and some more roster moves. So I guess I won’t be perfect…
Been a bit since I’ve posted. So here is some general mishmash, in completely random order:
*Yup…starting with the New England Revolution…whoda thunk it??! It’s cuz I can. And it’s somewhat interesting to me. The team has played 3 games (0-2-1). They have zero goals. ZERO! How is that possible? Didn’t this team make the MLS Finals last year? In no way do I claim to remember their exact roster from December, but I just scanned the current one and it appears to have a lot of the same names I heard during the playoffs last year. Mystifying to me anyway…
Note: The Revs are waaaaaaaay down on the list of my concerns. But since they are local…and oh for five in championships…it would be nice if they could win one someday.
*Big week at the owner’s meetings in the NFL. (Wow…the second point is one that I normally don’t care about either!). Apparently there were 23 rule changes to be discussed. Due to complete lack of interest (both by any readers here and myself as well) I’m not going to comment on the majority. But the Patriots’ three proposals are worth spending a second or two on anyway.
- Having the ability to challenge any call…or however it is defined…it would be increasing the amount of replays available regardless. Wouldn’t be excited about this at all…and apparently enough teams weren’t either, in order to change this rule. Sure, there are probably more plays that should be reviewed. But where do you draw the line? EVERY play can be reviewed for some kind of reason. So do you want 6 hour games? I love football, but that is a little much.
- Having fixed cameras on boundary lines. This is an absolute no brainer and something William Belichick has championed for years. Why wouldn’t you do this? It would make so many replays shorter. They say because owners do not want to foot the cost to set these up? How ridiculous is that, coming from a bunch of billionaires? Oh yeah, right. These are the same dudes that penny-pinched the officials a couple years back and we had to suffer through replacement officials that were clearly in over there head. Nevermind…
- Move the PAT to the 15 yard line. Not sure this will solve much, still a chip shot. But better than where it is now, I suppose. It is time for a change, no question in my mind anyway. What was it, like 99.7% of these are made now? Seems kind of outrageous that any kind of points are automatic. I haven’t thought enough about it to have a solution, but something should be done. Force a 2 point conversion play? Make the 2 pt. conversion start at the 1 yard line to entice more teams to go for it? Make the extra point at least 40 yards out? Smarter minds than me hopefully will work this out in the near future.
*I’ve started to live with the fact that Darrelle Revis will not be here next year…even accepting it to some degree. I know there are several contracts coming up soon and that they are still close to the cap, blah, blah, blah. I get it. But the cornerback depth chart right now? Yikes!! One projection had Malcolm Butler #1 and Bradley Fletcher #2 now. Double Yikes!! Butler seems to be able to play, but that is quite a big jump to expect him to take. Maybe Fletcher gets some confidence back and is serviceable next year. But another big “if” as well. I won’t go through the rest. Good thing it’s only March…
*But please, Bobby Kraft. Don’t insult our intelligence by saying “we really TRIED hard to get Revis back”. If you really wanted him back, the contract the Jets gave him was not prohibitive enough where you wouldn’t have been able to bring him back. Sure, a couple of decent bodies would have to have been sacrificed. And additional maneuvers necessary in future years. But you really could have figured it out. So please stop it.
*I’ve made a decision. As painful as it is for me to say this, I do NOT want the Bruins to make the playoffs. It’s time for change. All around. Major. And missing the playoffs is the only way change will happen.
Starting with Peter Chiarelli. He’s had a nice run as GM, no question about it. But the bad contracts (either too long, too soon, too much money, or in some cases, all three), the bad drafts, being seemingly too satisfied some years (after blowing a 3-0 series lead in the second round against Philadelphia in 2010, he said “well, we are one of only 5 teams to make the second round of the playoffs the last 2 years”), the laissez-faire attitude towards the players some years (after getting bounced from the playoffs in the first round the year after winning the Cup, he said “well, the players came to me and said they felt like it was really just one long season and were tired…”. I would have lit any player up had they told me that!). Etc. It’s time to go.
As much as I’ve changed my opinion on Claude Julien over the years and see him in a much more favorable light, it looks like it is time for a change there as well. For one, the players seemed to have tuned him out…specifically the “core” guys. There is a noticeable difference on the ice this year, as far as intensity and pride go it seems. Talent too, I suppose. But it’s just not the same. Not saying it is all Claude’s fault. But I’ve said it many times before, sometimes you just need a new voice. He’s been here a long time and it has been a nice run. But it happened to Doc Rivers. It happened to Terry Francona. It hasn’t happened to Belichick, probably because there is a lot more roster turnover year to year in football. Not to mention the fact that with all the nonguaranteed contracts in the NFL, there is a way to rectify any player situation quickly by jettisoning him. I just wonder if the three year contract extension given to him before the year will preclude Charlie Jacobs from doing anything here. Then again, a new GM will want to pick his own coach…
The roster. Complete overhaul, I say. I will leave open the possibility that a new GM & coach may light a fire under some of these guys. But here’s the list of players I WOULDN’T dangle in trades:
Dougie Hamilton, David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron.
Yup, that’s it. I’m not likely to deal David Krejci. Or even Malcolm Subban. But I am up for dealing anyone else. For whatever that’s worth. The team is full of third/fourth line types. And third pairing defensemen. There are not many quality bodies in Providence ready to step in and contribute. Well, maybe there are. But youngsters are usually stifled by this regime, so we may never know. Time to find out, I say.
Enough for now…but still more to catch up on…