Patriots

Belichick says 'there's a lot to like about' accurate Jets QB McCown

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Belichick says 'there's a lot to like about' accurate Jets QB McCown

FOXBORO - The Jets are not, by any standard measure of productivity, a great offense.

They are 26th in yards per game, 25th in pass yards per game and 23rd in points per game. Their No. 11 ranking in rushing is a bright spot, but some of the shine comes off that statistic when you realize their ball-carriers have fumbled four times (tied for second-most in the league) and the folks at Pro Football Focus have the Jets down as the second-worst run-blocking offense in football.

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So, how have they worked their way to 3-2?

Well, they have yet to go up against an offense that is better than 20th in the league in yards per game (Jacksonville), and two of their three wins have come in matchups with Cleveland and Miami -- the two lowest-scoring offenses in the NFL. 

That's helped.

They've also gotten competent quarterback play of late. Josh McCown, 38, has a 90.5 rating (11.5 points above his career average) and has put together a 3-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio over the course of the last three weeks.

During his press conference on Wednesday, Bill Belichick lauded McCown's ability to extend plays and make good decisions.

"Very athletic guy. You can see his ability to run, extend plays, get out of trouble," Belichick said. "He’s got quickness. He’s got some speed. He plays on his feet well, has good feet in the pocket. But look, he’s a tough guy. He’s very smart. I don’t know what happened in all of the situations that he was in. I just know what I see on film and from our interactions with him competitively. He’s a good player."

With the help of a quick-hitting passing game that emphasizes shorter routes and limits risk, McCown is hitting on 71.4 percent of his passes, behind only Alex Smith as the most accurate quarterback in the league. McCown's adjusted completion percentage, which accounts for drops, batted passes and throwaways is 81.4, again, behind only Smith (85.2).

McCown has the fourth-quickest average time to throw in football (2.42 seconds) and he's completing 74 percent of his throws when blitzed, according to PFF. 

"He’s accurate," Belichick said. "He gets the ball out quickly. He gets it to the open guy. If you make a mistake he is going to make you pay for it. If you line up in something that he can take advantage of then he can get his team into whatever the game plan play is, those types of things. Guys that are unblocked – he throws the hot or the sight-adjust or whatever is the appropriate part of the play. You don’t see him making a lot of mistakes."

While McCown isn't going to threaten the Patriots down the field in the same way that Cam Newton or Drew Brees did -- he's attempted 13 passes that have traveled 20 yards or more in the air this season, per PFF, 27th in the league -- Belichick knows he can't count on McCown to screw things up either. 

"You see him throwing the ball accurately and you see him athletically getting out of some trouble," Belichick said. "He manages the team well. He’s good in close games at the end of the game, critical situations. I mean, there’s a lot to like about the guy."

Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today. we're looking at a position where the Patriots have arguably the best player that’s ever manned it in his presumed prime. But tight end is suddenly a tenuous spot for New England.

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HOW THEY PERFORMED


This became – contrary to the Patriots hopes – a one-man position. Rob Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games. The rest of the tight ends – Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister and Martellus Bennett – combined for 20 catches and six of those came from Bennett who played just two games before heading to injured reserve. Gronk was – and is – the best tight end in the game and one of its most dominating offensive weapons. After losing Julian Edelman in the preseason, the Patriots offense became tremendously Gronk-reliant. They got away with it. But they clearly wanted more from Dwayne Allen than what they got or they wouldn’t have gone after Bennett when he became available.

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018?
Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Martellus Bennett, Will Tye, Jacob Hollister

WHO IS NOT?
All tight ends on the roster are under contract.

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED?


Publicity grab or legitimate consideration? What exactly to make of Gronk’s reported dalliance with the WWE and his idle desire to be an action movie star (also reported)? Both have the earmarks of brand-building genius. It’s a page torn from the business plans of Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Sugar Ray Leonard or Conor McGregor – ruminating on retirement and expressing interest in other public pursuits exponentially ratchets up public interest in both the main gig and the potential side gig. Gronk himself might not be that savvy and calculating to mildly hold the Patriots fortunes hostage but Gronk Inc. certainly is. Then again, maybe he legitimately is weighing it. The “will he or won’t he” conversation will sustain buzz and has to in some way impact the Patriots’ offseason plans. The presumption has to be that Gronk returns but this is anything but a layup. Which means the need is a Level-8

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY?


There is a nice crop of tight ends hitting the market. Virtually all of them come with the same nagging health issues that Gronk has (had). Jimmy Graham is the biggest name in the group. His tepid blocking skills may make him unattractive to the Patriots, but never let it be said the Pats don’t like to take a flier on a once-electric player who’s on the backside. At 31, Graham’s coming off a 10-touchdown season, though his yards per catch went down to 9.1. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see New England pursue. The Eagles' second tight end, Trey Burton, is 26 and stuck behind Zach Ertz. An undrafted rookie, the kid who threw the touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl is targeted sparingly in Philly but is a smooth player. He also plays special teams (boing!). Austin Sefarian-Jenkins finally got his stuff together with the Jets in 2017 and he’s only 25. He’s no dummy, he’s only acted like one in the past and it seems like he’s got a handle on it now. He’d need face-to-face vetting but he’s got upside. Then there’s Tyler Eifert. Still just 27, Eifert’s played in 10 games the past two seasons and had season-ending back surgery in the fall (it was performed by the same doctor who treated Gronk). He’s played 39 games in five seasons. Terrific talent. Always broken.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT?


I like this Dallas Goedert kid from South Dakota State. Also, Dalton Schultz from Stanford gets checkmarks as a blocker and competent receiver. Neither of them are first-round prospects at this point. Hayden Hurst from South Carolina and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are regarded as the top prospects. Hurst is a very good pass-catcher with a huge catch radius. He’s a 24-year-old former Pittsburgh Pirates draftee. Andrews is smooth as a receiver but not seen as a potent blocker. Same with Mike Gesicki from Penn State who’s the best athlete along with Hurst but doesn’t impress with his blocking.

HOW CAN THE PATRIOTS ADDRESS IT?


Assuming Gronk is returning, the Patriots can go at it a number of ways. There’s not a “can’t miss” prospect out there, so drafting Hurst or Gesicki in the first couple of rounds means they’ll have to live with the shortcomings or hope they can improve them. Given other needs, they may not want to spend on “maybes” near the top of the draft. Too many drafts have been like that, especially with second-rounders. It seems unlikely they’ll be really interested in counting on either Allen or Bennett to provide anything in 2018. If they take a run at the Eagles’ Burton and pay him a crapload, Gronk will lose his mind. Screw it. They should take Hurst. We will change our minds several times between now and April but that’s where we are now.

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

Julian Edelman is grinding.

The New England Patriots receiver, who is recovering from an ACL repair surgery that ended his 2017 season, shared a quick video from his workout on Tuesday. Edelman is shown running with a resistance band and a trainer in-tow.

Edelman has posted a few tidbits on social media to show encouraging signs during his recovery since he got surgery in October after suffering an ACL tear in a preseason game. He was spotted around the locker room a few times during the final weeks of the 2017 season.

"Rehab is a [expletive]. It sucks," Edelman said in November on Barstool Sports' "Pardon My Take podcast." "You go in and you’re feeling decent and then you warm up, you beat it up and then you get stiff again. I mean it’s just a process and you go in six days a week and you’re going into work it, work on everything — your flexion, your extension."