Gresh’s Grades – Week 3 9/27/20

Everything lined up quite nicely for the New England Patriots on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The Las Vegas Raiders were ripe to be plucked, coming off a big win on Monday night, short week, cross country travel, early game based on their west coast clocks. In the end, the Patriots just ran all over the Raiders who had very little ‘oomph’ in the second half.

QUARTERBACK: B
This win wasn’t about Cam Newton’s ability to run the ball, it was based on the threat that Cam would run the ball. From a game management standpoint, he was on point. I loved him milking the play clock with a lead in the 4th quarter. Smart. His interception, not good. Trying to make too much happen. My beef this week is Cam needs to trust the play design and throw the ball earlier on short yardage play action. The ball that hit Ryan Izzo in the hands should’ve been thrown 4 seconds earlier right as he turned his head on the rollout.

RUNNING BACKS: A
Fans and media rubes don’t get Sony Michel because the expectations for him are to be something he’s not. Get the guy to the 2nd level and he can make things happen. And if you ignore his blocking in pass protection, that’s on you. I’ve said here many times, I like Rex Burkhead, he helps in many ways. Until he gets injured. Fingers crossed he doesn’t. And J.J. Taylor added a different look to the running game with his outside toss plays and jet sweeps. Keep the defense guessing.

WIDE RECEIVERS: A+
This unit gets the highest grade because they did the dirty work. No receiver had great numbers, but the stats put up by the running backs were possible because of blocking and unselfishness by this unit. Isaiah Zuber flashed in limited snaps with his jet sweep run and blocking around the goal line. You can see the confidence building in N’Keal Harry.

TIGHT ENDS: B-
The Raiders defensive line personnel are a tough matchup for Ryan Izzo and Devin Asiasi. Tall guys with long arms. Izzo was much more competitive than Asiasi who took a bit to get into the game. For now, they’re the grunts of this offense.

OFFENSIVE LINE: A
The Patriots may have found something here with Michael Onwenu at left guard. He graded out well in pass protection but also paired well in the run game with Wynn to his left. Moving Joe Thuney to center from left guard, and inserting a versatile tackle, showed how this offense must be committed to the run. Good snap and push all day long. Jermaine Elumanore had a few pass protection issues but overall, a good days work.

DEFENSIVE LINE/ENDS: A-
I hope readers of this space have adjusted their expectations on what ‘Good’ run defense looks like in the NFL. It’s bend but don’t break. Gone are the days of 4 true, DL in a game anymore. This group got gashed with the run, but I think those are the NFL times in which we live. This group was impressive with their pass rush and ability to disrupt all day long. Deitrich Wise was productive when lined up inside or outside. Chase Winovich and Lawrence Guy stood out as well. Get that rush ready for Kansas City.

LINEBACKERS: B
This unit was mostly made up of Ju’Whaun Bentley, and Shilique Calhoun. But it’s really Bentley. I feel for him because he only has 2 TRUE DL in front of him most of the time so it’s easier for a center or guard to get up to block him. He’s getting more comfortable playing in space and isn’t getting smashed in the run game. Tough job.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: A
We know that Jon Jones can be picked on at times, but he, J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore along with the safties did a great job of not letting Vegas TE Darren Waller get involved in this game at all. Vegas doesn’t have a wide receiver that makes you scared and it was the slot receiver Hunter Renfrow that made any hay against this secondary. I also thought this unit tackled well. See the Atlanta game for what happens when your defensive backs don’t want to tackle.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A
Bailey boomed kickoffs and his 2 punts were good. Nick Folk was perfect in FG’s but with one PAT miss. (If he makes that this grade’s an A+) The return game and coverage was very good with an excellent job of avoiding blocks and not allowing any big returns. Much, much better than last week.

3 Things to Watch For
1) With the east/west runs showcased against the Raiders, the run game will flourish against the Chiefs.
2) Deitrich Wise to get more playing time inside on pass rush situations.
3) Isaiah Wynn’s injury situation. Justin Herron played 10 snaps at LT and did well.Onwenu is inside so another tackle stepping up is important.