A new era of New England Patriots football is here and the Patriots 21-11 week 1 win vs. the Miami Dolphins showed us just how ‘new’ the offense is, with new quarterback Cam Newton rushing the ball 15 times. What is this college football? The defense turned the ball over, played well on 3rd down, and showed up in critical situations. And if it was odd for us at home watching the game with no fans, imagine playing in a stadium with no fans. An odd atmosphere that players can now be prepared to adapt to.
Cam Newton’s ability to run the ball has never been questioned other than weighing the risk for injury. I saw much more designed zone read run vs. the RPO’s. (Run, Pass, Option) His footwork running the zone read is very good as is his ability to get north/south as a runner. There wasn’t a lot asked of him in the passing game and he was efficient overall. He must get better at pre-snap recognition and getting out of bad plays. Holding the snap count longer and hoping the defense jumps offside won’t cut it for this coaching staff. And I still haven’t figured out if the 2nd sack of Newton was because he slipped, or did he give up in the pocket?
RUNNING BACKS: B
When you add the rushing totals of Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, J.J. Taylor, and James White, the final tally is 26 rushes, 119 yards, 1 touchdown. If those stats were connected to one player, we’d be gushing over the performance. The Patriots coaching staff choose to rotate running backs based on situation and play call. Michel looked good especially running over the left side. JJ Taylor is intriguing, because he’s short and a change of pace, but he shouldn’t be stealing anyone’s job.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B
Nice job of blocking when asked. It didn’t look like anyone was out of position or running the wrong routes. Julian Edelman had 5 catches and was productive in the running game as well with his 23-yard run. A step in the right direction for N’Keal Harry, until he fumbled through the back of the end zone taking points off the board. Long gone are the days of 5 receiver formations slinging it out of shotgun.
TIGHT ENDS: A
Ryan Izzo had the lone receiving highlight with his catch over the middle off play action. Pretty solid blocking from Izzo all day long. Asiasi played some to get his feet wet. Give this group time to grow with the offense, I think Cam won’t be as selective in throwing to players as Brady. This unit will produce in due time.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A
Loved how they played. Physical, big boy football. Isaiah Wynn and Joe Thuney set the tone in the first quarter with multiple productive runs over their left side. When you have a move quarterback, conbined with ball fakes, it freezes the linebackers and allows the offensive lineman to get to the ‘2nd level’ for easier blocks of those players. Watch Cam’s 2 rushing touchdowns and how the offensive line sells the play fake. Guard Shaq Mason should’ve gotten the spike on Newton’s 2nd touchdown, his block on the playside defensive end gave Cam room to run.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-
The core “up front” was John Simon, Chase Winovich, and Adam Butler. They all played more than half the defensive snaps. On early downs you saw 2 DL in the middle of the defense, then came the pass rush unit on longer downs and distances. Defenses are going the way of having athletes who are long and can run. This unit will see as much substituting as the running backs will on offense.
Right now this group features one guy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, who played over 80% of the snaps. And he did a nice job, especially in handling the run. Right now there is learning on the job for Shilique Calhoun, and Anfernee Jennings in limited snaps. The much heralded Josh Uche was inactive. Adrian Phillips is a safety but lined up inside the ‘box’ at times either acting as, or disguised as a linebacker.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A
I will sign up for 3 interceptions every week. The McCourty’s, JC Jackson, Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, and Phillips played at least 70% of the defensive snaps as Belichick will lean heavily on the ‘back end’ guys to carry this defense. I don’t think the Patriots can do that every week, as they will have to have some beef to stop the Baltimore running attack. This defense has a shutdown corner, smart safeties, and athletes who can cover man to man. Not many teams have that in their secondary.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Jake Bailey had 3 punts all downed inside the 20 yard line and boomed 4 kickoffs for touchbacks. Damiere Byrd got his shot at punt return (caught a bad break) and learned that ball security is paramount. Nick Folk missed is lone field goal try and right now it’s safe to assume they do not have a kicker they trust. Will it eventually affect Josh McDaniels play calling?
3 Things to Watch For
- After the post-game scrum, Cam Newton was grabbing his left hamstring. Is he hurt of not?? Get ready for a week of speculation.
- The evolution of Adrian Phillips in the Patriots defense. Is he just a matchup guy? Or the safety Belichick has been looking for since he brought in Tank Williams to be a S/LB?
- Virtual Kicker workouts.