Patriots

In Year Two, where does Brissett fit into Patriots QB equation?

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In Year Two, where does Brissett fit into Patriots QB equation?

FOXBORO - Tom Brady is about to turn 40 and still playing at an elite level. Jimmy Garoppolo is the most talked about backup quarterback in football as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. So, where does that leave Jacoby Brissett? The physically impressive second-year pro is intent on inserting himself into the quarterback equation.

“I’m trying to close the gap every day,” he told me after Tuesday’s practice. “I just gotta go out there and do the best I can, do my job. Whatever else happens happens.”

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What’s happening is three players, all at different levels, pushing one another both on the field and in the meeting rooms. You might think that would be hard to do, what with the Greatest of All Time, Brady, as the lead dog. Not so fast, says Brissett.

“You go out there and compete against him,” he said. “Every day, he doesn’t allow us, Tom doesn’t allow us not to compete against him. I think that’s the standard we hold in our room. Jimmy, Josh [McDaniels], [assistant QBs coach] Jerry [Schuplinski], I think we do a great job making sure everybody knows when the time comes, you got to take the approach that nothing else changes.”

Brissett probably had his best day of this young training camp Tuesday and maybe delivered the best ball of the session with a dart deep down the left sideline to undrafted rookie free agent Austin Carr. That drew some oooooohs and ahhhhhs from a relatively small crowd in Foxboro and also got Brissett some love from a handful of players who, like him, are trying to work their way up the depth chart.

“Definitely kind of hard the first year [to take leadership],” said Brissett. “You don’t really know everything that’s going on. Year two, there’s no excuse to not knowing what’s going on.”

His coach, Bill Belichick, has noticed. In an interview with SiriusXM, Belichick spoke of Brissett’s growth.

"It will be interesting to see how it goes this year because his role is a little bit different,” he said. “He has a lot more experience and he’s certainly grown as a quarterback, but it will be interesting to see how that all manifests itself this year. I think he’s had a good training camp so far and it looks like he’s come back ready to compete and he’s definitely made some progress here in the last week or so. We will just see how that continues to go.”

Part of what makes it interesting in Belichick’s view is that Brissett has no clear-cut role to start the season, which is unlike last year. Health was also an issue, obviously, with Brissett ending up on injured reserve with a thumb injury for a period before being brought back late in the season.

“Jacoby is kind of in a unique situation," Belichick said. "When he started the year last year, we knew he was going to be the second quarterback with Jimmy, while Tom [Brady] was out. This year, that’s really not the way it is as we stand right now. Jacoby made a lot of progress through training camp and through the first month of the season, as you mentioned until he had the thumb injury. It took the wind out of the sails and then by the time he came back, even though he was participating, he had missed so much time. And at that point, Tom was back and Jimmy was in the No. 2 spot, so it really didn’t provide a lot of opportunity for Jacoby, certainly not the way the opportunity was there at the beginning of the year.”

Brissett didn’t necessarily agree with his coach on that point.

“I wouldn’t say so because you still get to sit back and watch and get to learn from those mental reps,” he said, adding, “but it definitely helps to be back out there.”
 

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.

Have the offseason changes negatively affected the Patriots locker room?

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Have the offseason changes negatively affected the Patriots locker room?

The Patriots improve their record to 4-2 with a win over the Jets, but there are still a lot of concerning factors for New England. Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen talk about something the team isn't used to - close games.

Giardi also dives into whether there is a major problem with the locker room dynamic, and whether all the moves they made in the offseason were blown way out of proportion by the media and fans of the talent added, but didn't factor in the personalities they lost.

Koppen and Giardi also look at how the offensive line play has fallen off, despite the same personnel as last year. Finally, discussing the late scratch of Stephon Gilmore due to a concussion. Anything to read into the timing?