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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick thoughts and notes about the New England Patriots and the NFL:
1. Warner on Mac: Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner participates Monday night in the AFC East showdown between the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium (8:15, ESPN), and provides analysis for Westwood One’s radio call of the game.
Warner’s presence provides an ideal opportunity to share his insights on Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones.
“I really like him,” Warner said. “I am convinced that if you know what you are looking at and know where you can quickly open your eyes and you can make different kinds of throws, you can always be successful as long as your skills are good enough no matter what level you play.
“You saw it for 20 years with Tom [Brady]. He knew what to look for. He knew how to get the ball out of his hands. He knew exactly where to throw it. And that’s exactly what I see with this young kid. “
Jones, the 15th overall pick in the 2021 draft from Alabama, is 268-of-381 for 2,850 yards, with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.
“Sometimes he can get to his check-down a little too fast, but he’s a rookie,” Warner said. “Even though it’s being checked down for 4 [yards], and skip a play for 12, you can live with that. … People want to compare him to who Tom Brady was in ’01. He does more for this team and plays better than Tom Brady did in ’01.
“To me, that’s the compliment you’re looking for. Is he Tom Brady? No. Is he one of the best guys in the league? No. But … what is he doing at such an early stage, playing in himself? himself and to understand that he can win in the way that is impressive. There are guys who have been in the league for a long time who do not see the field and understand their readings as he does. “
Warner is curious to see how Jones grows over time.
“We’ve seen him make some really good throws, but I do not know what his upside is. I always thought at one point that you should consistently make those throws off the platform, or throws when guys are in your face, and you’re in different places and some guys can physically do that and some guys can not, “he said. “It … determines in a way, for me, how good a guy like Mac can be. Will he get there to become a Tom Brady who can carry a team with his right arm? It’s still unknown.”
2. Duggers vacuum: Possibly because he’s so soft-spoken, the Patriots’ second-year safety Kyle Dugger is not generating much media attention despite his growing influence on defense (team-high 75 tackles). So it was no surprise that the significance of his place on the reserve / COVID-19 list last week – and the growing likelihood of his absence on Monday night – seemed to me underplayed over the last five days. The Patriots are one of only two teams in the NFL that have three primary safeties (Devin McCourty, Dugger, Adrian Phillips) averaging more than 80% playing time, reflecting how the three-security package is their base staff (Washington is the other). The dropout after that trio – with Myles Bryant likely the next safety up, and then Joejuan Williams bumping into the third corner spot in Bryant’s place – seems big. Especially against a pass-first team like the Bills.
Rare bets: How unusual is Monday’s Patriots-Bills game based on what’s at stake? Primarily due to the Patriots’ previous dominance of two decades in the AFC East, this is just the third Patriots game in December or later under coach Bill Belichick, where the winner is guaranteed to take over first place in the division. The Patriots won the previous two – 2001 vs. Miami Dolphins and 2010 vs. New York Jets.
Van Noy’s Disorder: Kyle Van Noy leads all NFL linebackers in pass breakups (13) and completion rate allowed (57%) as the closest defender, according to the NFL Next Gen Stats. It reflects how he has had a solid season in his return to the Patriots. Van Noy plays, and sometimes speaks, with an edge – with an example that came last week when he said of his 2020 season in Miami: “I think something many people are not aware of, is that I’ve gone somewhere else and played. at a high level, even though people do not think I did. “
5. UDFA features: CBS sideline reporter Evan Washburn highlighted the Patriots’ success with exhausted free agents during last Sunday’s Patriots-Titans broadcast (e.g., cornerback JC Jackson), and passed on four traits that he said emerged in his preparation for the game. What are the patriots looking for in UDFAs? According to Washburn, the top four qualities are speed, speed, competitiveness and instincts.
6. Low-scoring match ?: The Patriots and Bills are the top two scoring defenses in the NFL, making Monday’s game the sixth prime-time game in Week 13 or later with the league’s two best scoring defenses (since the merger in 1970). It’s the first since the 49ers Seahawks game in Week 16 of the 2012 season. Linebacker Matthew Judon used the word “transform” when asked what defines the Patriots’ defense – in the sense that it can be transformed into different forms based on how offense attacks.
7. Henry-Knox connection: With seven touchdown receptions each, Hunter Henry (Patriots) and Dawson Knox (Bills) are a draw in the NFL among tight-ends this season. They share the same field Monday night, but it will not be the first time they do so this year. They participated in the offseason “TE University” hosted by George Kittle. “He’s from Nashville, so it was right there in his neck of the woods,” Henry said. “Great guy and it’s great for his success.”
8. Brown’s injury: The Patriots’ offensive line is best when veteran Trent Brown is at the right tackle, but his right calf disease is still an issue. He struggles through it and admits last week: “Some days are better than others. It’s okay.” Brown was not his usual dominant self in the win against the Titans, which could have been injury-related.
9. Protection of Nordin: The Patriots seemed to be strategically timing their decision to relinquish the unsuccessful kicker Quinn Nordin last week so he would not be claimed and they could bring him back on the coaching staff to develop him as their possible future option. They could not be sure that it would happen, but waiting until Wednesday, when most teams were deep in their preparations for a game week, increased the likelihood that Nordin would slip through. Smart business.
10. Did you know: With another win, the Patriots will manage their 35th season with a winning record since the 1970 merger. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers (37) have more, followed by the Patriots, Dallas Cowboys (33), Minnesota Vikings (31), Dolphins (31) and Denver Broncos (29).