The Patriots suffered their first loss in Seattle on Sunday night to the tune of 35-30. After a hot start on defense led by a Devin McCourty pick six, the defense never really regained that momentum as Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson torched the New England secondary for 5 touchdowns. While no loss is ideal, the Patriots fared better than many had expected, going toe to toe with arguably the best team in the NFC, right down to a goal line stand. Defensively, the Patriots were very hit or miss, Seattle would burn them one drive, but the defense would hold them to a 3 and out the next drive, however they did make a stop when they needed to, leading to New England’s failed goal line touchdown. The Patriots showed heart throughout the game, while many would choose to give up and put in their backups, the Patriots kept grinding and came close to a victory.
The Patriots may not have won, but their resilience and toughness in the 4th quarter made them a very dangerous team. They will look to rebound against the Las Vegas Raiders in New England next week.
Three bright spots despite the loss:
Cam Newton: Newton threw for 397 yards and 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He also added 47 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground.
The receivers: Julian Edelman snagged 8 passes for a career high 179 yards, with N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd each contributing 72 yards. This unit certainly isn’t as terrible as the rankings and projections made them out to be.
Overall discipline: The Patriots were only penalized twice for 12 yards and they played a clean game. Despite the win, the Seahawks were penalized 9 times for 68 yards and even had Safety Quandre Diggs ejected from the game after a cheap hit on N’Keal Harry.
It’s the Cam Newton show and the league is in for a sequel. That’s what Pats fans saw as Newton’s legs propelled the team to a 21-11 victory on opening day.
After an uneventful first quarter, Cam Newton scrambled to the right for a 4 yard New England touchdown. After throwing an interception to Stephon Gilmore, Miami was able to get the ball back and kick a field goal. The next Dolphins drive ended abruptly, with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing an interception to Adrian Phillips. The first half ended with the Patriots up 7-3. On the opening possession of the 2nd half, the Patriots drive ended with an 11 yard rush by Cam Newton for a touchdown, increasing the score to 14-3. On the ensuing Patriots possession, receiver N’Keal Harry fumbled the ball out of the endzone causing a Miami touchback, the Dolphins (aided by 2 pass interferences) scored a touchdown on a Jordan Howard run and then a 2 Point Conversion, cutting into the lead with a 14-11 score. The Patriots embarked on an arduous drive and after converting a fourth down, the Dolphins players become agitated and Jerome Baker laid on Newton and refused to get up, then Kamu Grugier-Hill threw a punch at a Patriots offensive lineman. There was a resulting call of Unsportsmanlike conduct, which placed New England on the 1 yard line allowing a Sony Michel 1 yard touchdown, increasing the lead to 10 points, 21-11. Miami was unfazed and marched down the field, but Ryan Fitzpatrick threw an interception in the redzone to JC Jackson, thus sealing the game.
3 Keys to victory:
Cam Newton: Newton put the team on his back and gained 155 passing yards, 75 rushing yards, and 2 rushing touchdowns. Showing no sign of injury, Newton was efficient and starting to look like his old self once more.
The Rushing Game: The Patriots rushing attack was on full display during the game with 217 total rushing yards. Sony Michel added an extra rushing touchdown for good measure and JJ Taylor gained 28 yards on 4 carries. Look for the ground attack to take off once Damien Harris is added to the mix.
Pass Defense: While the interference calls didn’t help their case, they were able to grab 3 interceptions off of Fitzpatrick. With JC Jackson’s 4th quarter takeaway officially sealing the game.
The Patriots will travel to Seattle for a tough matchup with the Seahawks for their next game, while Seattle may be better on paper, the Patriots are just getting warmed up and will meet the challenge head on.
Cut down day is behind us and barring any surprise signings, the initial 53 man roster is set for the Patriots. The Patriots’ first game is less than a week away and the roster does have some question marks after some surprising cuts. The first thing to address is the kicking situation, both Justin Rohrwasser and Nick Folk were cut and later signed to the practice squad leaving the official roster short of a kicker. This is likely some form of Bill Belichick trickery, taking advantage of the new 16 man practice squad, which can now hold up to six veteran players, no longer only being reserved for players on their rookie deals. Belichick appears to like both kickers but the current starter is unclear, Belichick seems to believe that Rohrwasser is “NFL quality”. While this may confound some, NESN.com shares an interesting thought on what New England could do, “Under new NFL rules implemented for this season, teams are permitted to temporarily elevate up to two players from their practice squad for each game… Each player can be elevated twice — to call him up a third time, the team would need to add him to the 53-man roster — and not in consecutive weeks. These elevations can occur on game day, as long as they take place more than 90 minutes before kickoff. So, the Patriots theoretically could elevate Folk (or Rohrwasser) for Sunday’s game, then return him to the practice squad after the final whistle, allowing them to enter the season without a kicker on their 53.” Never doubt that Bill Belichick would take full advantage of the new rule.
A notable name did not crack the roster, Mohamed Sanu, who New England forked over a second rounder to acquire. After a down 2019 season (where it was revealed he played through an injury), Sanu looked to bounce back with the Patriots in 2020. This was not the case and New England released him prior to cutdowns. A shocking move in the NFL world, as the Patriots are considered thin at wide receiver, and cut their number 2 option. Bill Belichick is quoted saying, “It’s just one of those things that didn’t work out. I think he tried hard, we tried hard, I don’t think it was anybody’s fault, it was just one of those situations that didn’t work out as well as everyone hoped it would when the transaction was made.” Sanu’s release puts the pressure of number 2 receiver on former 1st rounder N’Keal Harry, who is coming off an injury riddled 2019 rookie campaign. Harry had an excellent training camp and seems to have gained speed and separation, as well as a better catch radius. After him, the depth chart appears in the following order: Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Byrd’s speed adds a decent threat to the passing game and Meyers looking to improve upon a solid rookie season.
The last position of note is running back; New England has trimmed down to 4 backs and has an interesting choice to make. While veteran Lamar Miller and undrafted standout JJ Taylor were victims of cutdowns, Damien Harris has been a pleasant surprise, emerging as the feature back in training camp. Harris is ready to go off in his sophomore season after riding the bench last year, however he has suffered a hand injury, which may see him be sent to IR (this year teams can have unlimited returns from IR, so this isn’t too worrying). The second piece is Sony Michel, who missed a sizable portion of training camp, but lost a fair amount of weight, leading to a boost in speed and explosiveness. Michel will most likely be ready for week one and I am confident that he and Harris (when he sees the field) may become New England’s next one-two punch out of the backfield.
I recently visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio and as I looked in admiration upon some of the game’s most notable names, I began to wonder, which Patriots should be Canton bound? There are obvious ones, like Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, etc. who are still active, but there are some retired Patriots who need to receive their gold jackets and have their faces immortalized in Canton. There are 3 former Patriots players who must be included in the Hall of Fame and here are their cases.
First and foremost, I must mention Richard Seymour. For him it’s when, not if, he will be inducted. Seymour has been in the running for the Hall of Fame for about 3 years now and every year he advances further in the elimination polls, which is a good sign. This year he fell short once again and didn’t make the final HoF class of 2020 in the last elimination poll. However, Seymour makes a strong case to have a spot in Canton, specifically being a large part of the Patriots first 3 Super Bowls as a run stuffing defensive end/tackle hybrid who could get after the quarterback. On top of that, he was a 5 time pro bowler and a 3 time 1st team all pro during his tenure in New England.
Willie McGinest has also been in the hall of fame conversation along with Seymour. McGinest had an impressive career being a driving force on defense in the Patriots Super Bowl victories early in the dynasty. McGinest was always underrated during his playing years but still racked up 804 tackles and 86 sacks, along with 5 interceptions and 4 defensive touchdowns. McGinest also holds the record for most sacks in the postseason, with 16 across 18 games played, making this Patriots legend, a more than qualified candidate to be enshrined in the hall of fame.
If you were asked about the best wide receivers in the 1980’s, you’d likely forget about Stanley Morgan, but he was a star amongst some lackluster Patriots teams. The 3 time pro bowler never got much love due to an unfortunate team situation and that may be the reason Canton hasn’t called him, but Morgan’s numbers speak for themselves. In his career he amassed 10,716 yards, 72 touchdowns, and averaged 19.2 yards per catch. It’s important to keep in mind that New England’s shaky quarterback play during that time kept him from doing even better. Unfortunately he probably will not get into the Hall of Fame, but he more than deserves it.
Lastly, these players are not considered to be Hall of Fame caliber, but the voters should consider giving the following players another look:
Drew Bledsoe, QB
44,611 yds., 256 td, 4x Pro Bowl
Ben Coates, TE
50 td, 5x Pro Bowl, 2x 1st Team All Pro
Bruce Armstrong, OT
Started every game he ever played, 6x Pro Bowl (Bad team hurt his notoriety)
Matt Light, OT
1x 1st team All Pro, 3x Pro Bowl, 3x Super Bowl Champion
Logan Mankins, OG
7x Pro Bowl, 1x 1st team All Pro, (Just became eligible)
Tedy Bruschi, LB
1,074 tackles., 30.5 sacks, 12 int, 1x Pro Bowl, 3x Super Bowl Champion
Asante Samuel, CB
51 int, 4x Pro Bowl, 1x 1st team All Pro, 2x Super Bowl Champion
Lawyer Milloy, S
1,439 tackles, 25 int, 4x Pro Bowl, 1x first team All Pro, 1x Super Bowl Champion
The 2020 NFL season is only a few weeks away and teams will have to cut their 80 man rosters down to 53 players, with players on the PUP list and IR not counting. That being said, let’s get down to projecting who makes the team and who misses out. (This does not take into account any future signings)
Quarterbacks: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham
Cut: Brian Hoyer, Brian Lewerke
Cam Newton has quickly picked up the Patriots playbook and his acclimation to the offense even draws praise from Bill Belichick. Stidham will also crack the roster, but as a backup, this time learning from Newton. The projection of cutting Hoyer may surprise some, but his lackluster training camp performance only validates any questions regarding his job security.
Runningbacks: James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Lamar Miller, JJ Taylor
PUP: Sony Michel
Sony Michel on the PUP list certainly increases the odds that JJ Taylor will be able to make the roster, Taylor will likely be sent to the practice squad upon Michel’s return. Lamar Miller is certainly an interesting piece on Belichick’s roster. Most are unsure of his role, especially with Damien Harris shining in camp, but a player like him isn’t someone a team simply lets go.
Cut: Jeff Thomas, Will Hastings, Isaiah Zuber, Devin Ross
There aren’t any real surprises here, though many expected Jeff Thomas to sneak onto the roster, there isn’t enough room. Sanu Sr. and Harry will be looking to improve upon last year’s disappointing season and will be given many chances to improve in the upcoming season.
Tight Ends: Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Ryan Izzo, Rashod Berry
Cut: Paul Butler, Paul Quessenberry, Jake Burt
Asiasi and Keene were obvious but every player behind them is uncertain. Izzo could be a safe bet given his experience and Berry can play tight end or defensive line and that versatility is valued in the New England system. The others are extremely unlikely to make it to the final 53, having either no experience or very little upside.
Offensive Linemen: David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Isaiah Wynn, Ben Braden, Yodny Cajuste, Korey Cunningham, Jermaine Eluemunor, Hjalte Froholdt, Mike Onwenu
Cut: Tyler Gauthier, Justin Herron
The big mystery for the O-line is, who will replace Marcus Cannon after he opted out? It will be a 3 way battle between Cajuste, Eluemunor, and Cunningham. They have all been solid thus far (personally Cajuste is my pick). As for Herron and Gauthier, they haven’t been able to stand out in camp and would logically be cut.
Defensive Lineman: Lawrence Guy, Chase Winovich, Adam Butler, John Simon, Byron Cowart, Beau Allen, Deatrich Wise Jr.
Cut: Michael Barnett, Derek Rivers, Tashawn Bower, Xavier Williams, Nick Thurman, Bill Murray
Though Barnett and Williams were recently signed, they simply don’t have enough time to establish themselves on the roster. Rivers is certainly a wild card, he’s had a solid camp but he must remain injury free if he is to be retained. Other than that, the defensive line doesn’t see much change.
New England suffers from a thin linebacking core after a brutal free agency and Dont’a Hightower’s opt out. Ja’whaun Bentley will likely take the role of the defensive signal caller, with Copeland, Uche, and Jennings seeing the field as well. If the linebackers are to be successful, the rookies (Uche, Jennings, Maluia, and Harris) must produce.
Defensive Backs: Stephon Gilmore: Jason McCourty, JC Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips
Cut: Cody Davis, Justin Bethel, Michael Jackson, Terrence Brooks, Myles Bryant, D’Angelo Ross
Myles Bryant is having a great camp as an undrafted free agent, but the depth chart may just be too stacked for him to truly make an impact. Other than him, there is no real surprise, but look for Joejuan Williams to step up this year and for Kyle Dugger to see more playing time than Patriots rookie defensive backs in years past.
Kicker: Nick Folk
Punter: Jake Bailey
Long Snapper: Joe Cardona
Cut: Justin Rohrwasser (Kicker)
Rohrwasser’s status is unknown and he appears to struggle at times, therefore the Patriots signed kicker Nick Folk, who suited up for them last year. Folk made 82.4% (14/17) of his field goals last season and 100% (12/12) of his extra point attempts, according to Pro Football reference.
Training camp is underway in Foxborough. For the first time in MANY years, the future of the Patriots is uncertain due to the departure of Tom Brady. As a new season appears over the horizon, we look to the rookies. These youngsters are the future of New England and look to make a key impact in their first season. (This will not be including any undrafted players)
Kyle Dugger (safety)
Dugger was a standout at the D2 school, Lenoir-Rhyne. The Patriots traded back to the 2nd round in order to snag him (his school’s D2 status is likely what kept him from being a first rounder). Many fans showed concern over this pick due to Bill Belichick’s unfortunate history with second round defensive backs, with busts such as Ras-I Dowling, Jordan Richards, Cyrus Jones, and Duke Dawson to name a few. The common reason for their bust status being that they could not separate themselves amongst established veterans and Pro Bowlers, this is not the case with Dugger. Patriots star safety Patrick Chung has opted out of the 2020 season, giving Dugger a chance to shine, with his only real competition being free agent pickup Adrian Phillips. Dugger also excels in the return game as well, giving him more opportunities to impress. So far in training camp Dugger has stood out in coverage, breaking up passes and even intercepting Jarrett Stidham. Dugger is also flourishing as a return man, which has caught the eye of special teams coach Troy Brown, “You search far and wide to try to find these guys, it’s not an easy job finding them, and it’s not an easy job once you do find them to get those guys to do [things] correctly all the time.” per Heavy.com. Ultimately, fans can expect to see Dugger in a return specialist role first and foremost, but he will have a sizeable role at safety as well.
Josh Uche (linebacker)
The versatile Josh Uche made a name for himself at Michigan in his senior year, and the Patriots eagerly selected him when he fell into the late 2nd round. Like Dugger, Uche will benefit from a Patriots star opting out, this time it’s Dont’a Hightower’s absence which will prove useful for Uche’s development. Uche will almost certainly be used as an edge rusher who can be moved to either side of the line, which is how he was used in college, totaling 8.5 sacks in his last year in Michigan. Uche is no stranger to dropping into coverage as an off the ball linebacker as well, so expect Coach Belichick to use his versatility in blitz packages or zone schemes. Uche also has one final plus, his chemistry with defensive end Chase Winovich, thanks to their playing time together in college.
Anfernee Jennings (linebacker)
The Alabama Crimson Tide produced another linebacker for New England, when Jennings was selected in the 3rd round. Like Uche before him, Anfernee Jennings will benefit from Dont’a Hightower opting out, which will likely secure him more playing time. While undersized, his explosiveness and hard hitting style of play allow him to be an exceptional edge rusher, his instincts are fine tuned thanks to Alabama’s pro style defensive schemes, and he shows great off the ball ability as well. Expect the Patriots to move him around, on the edge or as a tackler in the defensive backfield. Jennings has not appeared in any padded practices so far this offseason and with no explanation as to why, one could assume he is hampered by an injury, thus making his stat predictions difficult.
Devin Asiasi (tight end)
Tight end was a crucial need for New England entering the draft, they drafted the UCLA product, Asiasi in the 3rd round. In the 2019 season, the lack of production from the tight end position harmed the Patriots after losing future Hall or Famer Rob Gronkowski to a temporary retirement, but what was felt the most about Gronk’s absence was his dominant run blocking. Devin Asiasi was certainly a force in UCLA’s run blocking and, in an age where tight ends are more valued as pass catchers, it’s a relief that Asiasi is an apt run blocker. Asiasi is also a refined route runner and is deceptively fast, according to Patriots.com “Moves well for size. … Big-play TE with the ability to get up the seam. … Works well against zone coverages. … Shows ability to run solid routes and creates separation with his breaks.” Asiasi certainly seems like a good fit for the Patriots and should easily win the starting job.
Dalton Keene (tight end)
The Patriots double dip at tight end in the 3rd round by grabbing the Virginia Tech pass catcher Dalton Keene. Keene was not a huge piece of the Virginia Tech scheme, but his athleticism made him an interesting prospect. Looking to take the 2nd tight end spot, Keene is more known for his pass catching in college, making him the opposite of Asiasi, with his speed, agility, and sure hands. He is also known for his positive energy, which was infectious in the Hokies’ locker room and his smart play kept him from being penalized, having no penalties in the 2019 season.
Justin Rohrwasser (kicker)
The Patriots released kicker Stephen Gostkowski after an injury plagued year, but found his replacement in the 5th round draft, Marshall’s very own Justin Rohrwasser. As a kicker, Rohrwasser stands at an impressive 6’3, 230 lbs., towering above the average kicker (6ft, 201 lbs.). His leg strength is certainly impressive, which earned him Conference USA’s 2019 Special Teams MVP. The most likely reason that New England selected him is his ability to play in the elements, a crucial attribute for a kicker, especially in the often frigid winter conditions of Massachusetts. New England has no other kickers on the roster currently, therefore Rohrwasser will likely take the starting role.
Field Goal%: 70%-85%
Michael Onwenu (guard), Justin Herron (tackle), Cassh Maluia (linebacker)
These three players were selected in rounds 6-7, not expected to make much of an impact. Maluia will likely see special teams play or be sent to the practice squad, but expect the Patriots to keep him around due to a thin linebacker core. Justin Herron and Michael Onwenu will attempt to compete for the open spot on the offensive line but it will likely go to second year man, Yodny Cajuste. They can vie for backup roles as well, with Onwenu likely to crack the final roster due to his massive frame. Their stats will be especially difficult to predict because of their late round status, but a sudden injury could thrust them into the starting lineup.
The sports broadcasting industry is abundant with great announcers, writers and producers. Their captivating shows and/or articles can inspire many to develop an interest in the field and for me, no broadcaster personifies this more than Jim Nantz.
Known for his catchphrase “Hello friends”, Nantz’ work is incredible, spanning multiple sports leagues, including, The NFL, The NBA, Division 1 Men’s Basketball, and The PGA Tour. All of this under CBS, where he has worked since the 1980’s. Still going strong at age 61, Jim Nantz has wowed many fans with his analysis, interviews, and his legendary play by play announcing, he could even be credited for helping and grooming the up and coming broadcaster, Tony Romo, known for predicting plays and breaking down schemes when calling games with Nantz during the NFL season. Of course, Nantz is not without awards throughout his career, some of his most notable accomplishments include: an Emmy Award in 2008 and 2009 for Outstanding Sports Personality-Play by Play, The Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, awarded by none other than the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Basketball Hall of Fame has also awarded him the Curt Gowdy award for broadcasting and Nantz is the 5 time winner of the NSSA’s National Sportscaster of the Year Award.
Personally, watching Jim Nantz call a game (specifically football, but I can appreciate his other broadcasts) is inspiring. He has the ability to fully immerse the listener in whatever game he commentates. Nantz has the ability to be so informative, yet lively when the game dictates it. Nantz performance’s on air are the best parts of any CBS broadcast, from the Super Bowl to March Madness. His style of announcing, that factual, yet entertaining way of commentating is what every person interested in broadcasting should look to. Whenever I finish one of his broadcasts, I feel informed but still eager to hear more from him, there is no announcer that can keep me engaged quite like him. From his broadcasting to his accolades, Jim Nantz is truly an inspiration.
As COVID-19 continues to run it’s course, it hasn’t completely stopped the football world, with the start of the season drawing closer, the Patriots have had some interesting situations occur recently. Through free agency rumors and players opting out, the Patriots certainly have some questions t answer and issues to address.
The opt out deadline has passed on August 6th and the Patriots were slammed with 8 opt outs, the most in the NFL. The following players have officially opted out of the 2020 season, causing many holes to open across the roster; Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, Najee Toran, Marquise Lee, Dan Vitale, Matt LaCosse, and Brandon Bolden.
The loss of Cannon, Hightower, and Chung are the most detrimental to the team by far and the losses of the others add insult to injury. Interestingly enough, there is a small silver lining, with the opt outs and revised CBA the patriots have over $35 million in cap space as of right now. Which is enough to sign a veteran player to fill the void left by these players. With Chung’s opt out, the obvious replacement would be 2nd round rookie, Kyle Dugger. Bill Belichick has a lackluster track record with defensive backs drafted in the second round, the reason usually being that the can not separate themselves on a depth chart crowded with veterans and pro bowlers, but with Chung gone, there is no excuse not to play Dugger. Hightower’s opt out will be the hardest to overcome, with Ja’Whaun Bentley having to fill his void, which shouldn’t be to much of an issue, however , New England was relatively thin at linebacker before, so the best move would be to sign a free agent. Replacing Marcus cannon will not be too difficult in terms of depth, with Yodny Cajuste and Michael Onwenu who could take his place, even guard, Joe Thuney is willing to move to tackle to replace cannon.
In other news regarding possible free agents, the Patriots held workouts with defensive tackle Darius Kilgo and tight end Jordan Leggett. Kilgo is a former Patriot, having spent a year on the bench in New England and would fit the Patriots’ scheme. Leggett has received legitimate interest from the Patriots according to NBC sports, however the Patriots have signed Kilgo, it will become final if he passes his pending physical, but they opted not to sign Leggett. The Patriots may also be eyeing big name free agent, Delanie Walker, per NESN and Bleacher Report. The tight end is a good blocker, something the Patriots value and can be elusive in the open field. Still, Walker remains unsigned and New England has the money to sign him, but nothing else is known about the likelihood of this happening. As of yesterday the Patriots have also traded a conditional 7th round pick to the Detroit Lions for cornerback, Michael Jackson, per NESN’s Doug Kyed.
It is currently unknown what New England’s plans are for Jackson, but there is almost no risk in the trade and the Patriots could waive him if he doesn’t make the team. The Patriots also signed free agent center, Tyler Gauthier, who will likely serve as a backup for David Andrews after spending his rookie year on the Dolphins’ practice squad.
The Patriots have made a big move in free agency late on Monday the 10th as they signed pro bowl Runningback, Lamar Miller, to a one year deal, per Sports Illustrated. With Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead in the Backfield, it is uncertain what role Miller would have. He spent the season on injured reserve last season, just a year removed from a pro bowl appearance, a very low risk/high reward signing.
Training camp is coming fast, set to start on August 17th and with no preseason, undrafted players and unproven signings will have to shine amongst veterans of the Patriots’ system. One such player to keep an eye on is quarterback Cam Newton, who is eager to start proving that he is still an elite talent. Receiver Julian Edelman has high praise for Newton, saying “He’s a specimen, for sure, when you first meet him, just his stature. The dude is large, put together well, and he’s got a great energy about himself. I was really impressed with his work ethic and his mindset.” Newton himself has been working out with New England receivers and has had an opportunity to build a connection with them and work on understanding the playbook. Can Newton win the starting role? Who will step up in the voids left by the opt outs? Will the Patriots sign Walker? What will Lamar Miller’s role be? Unpadded practice may start on August 12th, but training camp will hold the answers.
For the first time in over a decade, the future of the Patriots is uncertain. Since the great Tom Brady headed to Tampa Bay, it looked as if the Patriots were confident in backup Jarrett Stidham. Then, out of nowhere the Patriots picked up Cam Newton, the former star of the Carolina Panthers. The Patriots have stated that they have faith in Stidham, but still signed a former league MVP in Newton, now the question remains, who should be the Quarterback of the future?
While it’s nearly impossible to guess what goes on in Head Coach Bill Belichick’s mind, Cam Newton is by far the best choice. Interestingly enough, the sporting world is seemingly split over whether Newton will win the starting role; there are many voices who believe that Stidham will start in week 1. Sports Illustrated reports that former Patriot, Scott Zolak believes in Stidham.
“I believe Jarrett is going to be the starter from the people that I talk to, the people that I trust: the players, people tied to the team, team captains,” Zolak said. “The way they speak of Jarrett Stidham and the work he has put in.”
He is correct in everything he says, Bill Belichick has praised the second year quarterback repeatedly and Stidham does appear to be well liked in the locker room. He even has been in the Patriots system over a year longer than Newton, on top of that, Newton has battled injuries for the past two seasons. This begs the question, why should Newton start?
Yahoo! Sports reported what Patriots coaching great, Dante Scarnecchia had to say about Newton,
“I think he has a huge edge because of what he’s done in the league. The guy was an MVP [in 2015]. We played against him a number of times, have a huge respect for him as a player and leader, and the things he’s done.
This guy, from a skill set, a lot different from guys we’ve had in there at quarterback over the years. [Jarrett] Stidham has great feet and ability to move and avoid the rush, and create and do a lot of similar things.”
Cam Newton has more league experience under his belt, add a league MVP and that would already be a convincing case to Start Newton. One thing that many people fail to mention about Newton is his ability to command a locker room. In Carolina, he had the respect and loyalty of all the players and coaches, this still rings true today. Newton had already held private, 1 on 1 workouts with the following, Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, and N’Keal Harry, including holding larger workouts with the aforementioned players and Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers, and Gunner Olszewski. All the receivers seem to like his presence and respect him immensely, say what you will about Stidham, but it’s obvious that the locker room gravitates towards Newton.
The final point to make is simply that Newton has the best chance to succeed in New England, he has a stronger arm, better mobility, and more experience than Stidham, and this is possibly one of the better offenses he’s had. Without a doubt this is his best offensive line, as Joe Thuney, David Andrews, and Shaq Mason, are make up one of the best interior offensive lines in the league. Newton also has more weapons than he had in Carolina, he has a hungry receiving core who want to prove themselves and a strong 1-2 punch at running back with James White and Sony Michel. Even in his best season, Newton had an aging Greg Olsen and Jonathan Stewart and the mediocre Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn and an injury prone Kelvin Benjamin. Currently, this is arguably the best offense he’s had. When you take all of this into consideration, Cam Newton should obviously start for New England, all of Stidham’s upsides pale in comparison to what Newton brings to the team. If he can do it with his 2015 Panthers team, Cam Newton can surely work his magic to boost the Patriots back to the promised land.
The “silent assassin” himself, Stephon Gilmore has earned a top ten spot in the NFL’s annual top 100 ranking, landing the 9th spot. A well earned ranking indeed, however, could he have been ranked higher? That’s the question and there is no clear answer, it’s all subjective. Lucky for us Pats fans, Gilmore makes a convincing case.
In order to truly understand what makes Gilmore the force that he is, we must look to his stats (provided by ESPN)
Interception Return Yardage
These are impressive for a defensive back, but there are two categories that stand out in particular. First, he racked up 6 interceptions, tied for the most in the league, stemming from that is that fact that he took 2 of those back to the endzone for touchdowns. Meaning, during that season, if he caught an interception, he had a 33.3% chance of scoring a defensive touchdown. Secondly, he led the league with 20 passes defensed, that’s breaking up 20 passes this season. One must also remember who he was covering this season, some people he locked down included; Juju Smith-Schuster, DeAndre Hopkins, Alshon Jeffrey, Amari Cooper, and Sammy Watkins, to name a few.
Moving on to where he should be ranked, we must look at two players who were ranked above him, these 2 players of interest are, DeAndre Hopkins (number 8) and Aaron Donald (number 5). DeAndre Hopkins and Stephon Gilmore faced off in Houston on December 1st 2019; while the Texans did edge out the Patriots, 28-22, Hopkins was a non factor, only catching 5 passes on 8 targets for 67 yards and no scores. On Hopkins’ longest catch (a 27 yard jump ball) Gilmore was not covering him at that time, so to say that Hopkins should have a higher rank is questionable at best. Now let’s take a look at Aaron Donald. The reason Gilmore should be ranked ahead of him is simple, Gilmore won the “Defensive Player of the Year” award. The award signifies that whoever wins it is the best player on defense, so common sense would dictate that Gilmore should be ranked higher than Donald. On the top 100 show, many players voiced their admiration of Gilmore’s play and their frustrations of playing him:
Braxton Berrios: “He’s one of those DB’s where you sit back and you’re like how do I get open, how do I beat him?”
Xavier Rhodes: “His technique is flawless.”
Darius Slay: “Easily defensive player of the year in my book.”
Allen Hurns: “That comes from experience, a lot of cornerbacks aren’t able to do that.”
Either way, I’m happy that a Patriot managed to get into the top ten (but don’t get me started on the Patriots players who were snubbed), so the answer to whether Gilmore should be ranked higher is yes. Anywhere from 8-5 would suffice, I would actually have him ranked at the 5 spot, swapping he and Aaron Donald. At the end of the day, his ranking is good, after all, being underrated makes a good player hungrier for more success.