Patriots

Patriots-Redskins: What to expect this afternoon

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Patriots-Redskins: What to expect this afternoon

What I'm looking for today as the New England Patriots host the Washington Redskins at Gillette Stadium:

1) The Redskins secondary is beat up. D'Angelo Hall is not likely to play. Their best corner, Bashaud Breeland, has a bad hamstring and will try to gut it out (although he first may need to convince trainers he can go). Another corner, Chris Culliver, has a sore knee and is in the same predicament as Breeland. Couple that with a pair of safeties in Dashon Goldson and Trenton Robinson who haven't been average this season, and it's easy to see Tom Brady doing what he's done every week: Going for 300 yards, if that's the route the Pats choose.

2) Of course the Pats could attack the Redskins between the tackles as well, with injuries playing a role there. Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton didn't make the trip to Foxboro. He's dealing with something called cluster headaches, which are debillitating. Knighton hasn't been playing great football this year. He's been merely average. But he's the 'Skins starting nose tackle and his absence could force Jason Hatcher to a more prominent role over rookie center David Andrews. Hatcher is better suited as a defensive end either over the tackle or shaded betwen the tackle/guard gap. He might get lost on the interior. So that could entice the Pats to finally unleash LeGarrette Blount, though I'm still of the opinion that every game should be a Dion Lewis game until he proves otherwise.

3) There's also the matter of the Pats' offensive line. I expect Andrews to remain at center despite the activation of last year's man in the middle, Bryan Stork. Stork got work at guard this week in practice and it seems a smart decision to let him stay there for now, especially with Tre' Jackson out this week and Shaq Mason also recovering from a knee injury that's kept him sidelined the last two games. This is an area the Pats can ill-afford any more injuries, having placed Ryan Wendell on season-ending IR yesterday (where he joins starting left tackle Nate Solder). The third tackle would seem to be TE Michael Williams, who played tackle with Detroit before being dealt to New England.

4) If you're buying on Chandler Jones and his breakout performance this year, his matchup with Redskins left tackle Trent Williams is one to watch. Williams is a top-3 left tackle in my book, and elite as a pass blocker.

5) Little bit different of a test for the Pats secondary. DeSean Jackson is expected to play, and he is a straight burner with a big-play resume. To me, he's the guy I keep a body over the top of, and take my chances being physical with the other wideout, Pierre Garcon. The Redskins' best threat in the passing game is tight end Jordan Reed, at least when he's healthy. He is for this game, but he's been brittle. If the Pats are without LB Jamie Collins, who showed up as questionable on the injury report with illness yesterday, Matt Patricia's defense loses someone who could give Reed a different look, with the size and speed to run with Reed. Pat Chung, who's played his best football as a Patriot in the last month, surrenders 3 inches and 25 pounds to Reed.

6) Lastly, I love Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins hybrid LB/DE. He got off to a fast start this year but has been quieter in recent weeks, and then broke his hand versus the Buccaneers two weeks ago and couldn't finish the game. One of the things that makes Kerrigan so impressive is how well he uses his hands both as a pass rusher and in the run game, disengaging from blockers. If he's casted up, or wrapped up, as you would expect him to be, I would think that would be a big deterrent on Kerrigan reaching the levels he's capable of reaching.

Patriots' Phillip Dorsett remembers former Colts QB Andrew Luck as an 'amazing teammate'

Patriots' Phillip Dorsett remembers former Colts QB Andrew Luck as an 'amazing teammate'

FOXBORO – Phillip Dorsett spent his first two NFL seasons with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis.

He, like the rest of the football-watching world, was left wide-eyed Saturday night when he learned Luck was retiring at 29.

“I was shocked,” said Dorsett, who said he fell asleep watching football then woke up to see the news on social media. “I thought it was a joke. But then I saw it come on the ticker and I said, ‘Wow, it’s serious.’ ”

The reverberations around the league from Luck’s retirement will be felt everywhere from the balance of power in the AFC to the fact that it’s another young player who’s been laid low by the mental and physical toll the game exacts. 

Beyond the timing of the announcement and the talent of the player is the fact that a smart, earnest and admirable person is leaving the game at an age we would all consider too young.

“He was an amazing teammate,” said Dorsett. “Great guy to be around. Always full of joy. Nothing but respect for Andrew. I love him. He’s a good dude. But it is what it is. It’s football. I can’t sit here and say I know what he was going through because nobody does. But I know it’s tough on him, I know he didn’t want to walk away but he had to do what he had to do for himself."

There are unmistakable parallels to be drawn between Luck and Rob Gronkowski. Both talked of the mental fatigue of trying to get their bodies tuned up just to be betrayed by them.

With both men, the conversation about whether or not they’ll stay retired quickly followed. There’s a presumption they’ll change their minds at some point when their bodies feel better.

Maybe they will. But in order for either player to come back, both will have to get to a point where they feel the competition, camaraderie, financial reward and everything else are worth the cost of playing again.

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Demaryius Thomas confident he can produce at a high level: "I still can go"

Demaryius Thomas confident he can produce at a high level: "I still can go"

FOXBORO – Demaryius Thomas and Tom Brady seem to have become fast friends, at least judging by the amount of time they were seen on the sidelines last week talking and laughing during the team’s preseason game with the Panthers.

To hear Thomas talk on Sunday, you can appreciate why Brady might be a fan.

Speaking for the first time since joining the Patriots as a free agent in April, Thomas stressed again and again that Job No. 1 is being someone Brady can trust.  

“Being dependable and consistent,” said Thomas when asked what he needed to provide the quarterback. “Those two things are the biggest things you can do for a quarterback. Being consistent and dependable.”

Which is precisely what Brady is looking for as a revamped fleet of receivers and tight ends keep trying to get up to speed with the Patriots before the opener September 8.

Thomas, who’s coming back from an Achilles tear suffered at the end of 2018, sounded very confident in his ability to play at the same level he always has.

“I still can go,” said Thomas, who took part in his first full practice last Tuesday. “I still can go. Like I said, knock a little rust off and just keep hitting the days.”

So the explosion is there?

“I can feel it,” he said. “I can feel it certain days and certain days I can’t. It’s a thing that I feel when I play and I still got it. I touched it here and there but some days some stuff it bothers (me).

“I don’t think it’s a crazy challenge (to get back to a high level),” he said. “I think it’s a challenge to me to keep going out and doing what I’ve done my whole career. It’s a tougher challenge because here they expect more and it’s a little different than where I’ve been but I’ll be all right.”

The 31-year-old Thomas said he still “getting the hang of” the Patriots offense but said his time with the Houston Texans and former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien last season helped him get a grasp on some of the concepts New England uses.

There’s still a couple of things I have to pick up but so far so good,” he said. “I’m just trying to fit in where I can and ask as many questions as I can.”

Thomas said he consults everyone – from Julian Edelman to the running backs to defensive players – for assistance on the little things that will help him be ready to contribute.

The essence of his job, he said, is “being in the right spot and catching the ball.”

“I still got some work to do but it’s getting better and better, I’m learning a lot,” he said. “Everything (Brady) tells me I’m taking in and same with Coach McDaniels. Everything they tell me I try to take the field.”

The Patriots wide receiver depth chart is a little murky. Edelman is at the top of it but rookie N’Keal Harry has been down for nearly two weeks. Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers has had an outstanding camp and preseason but still has a ways to go before he’s got full command. Phillip Dorsett is dependable but is more a complementary piece. And Josh Gordon just took part in his first full practice Sunday.

Thomas appreciates what Brady needs and also the work the quarterback puts in.  Asked what surprised him about Brady, Thomas said, “Just being able to be around him and learn the game. Sit beside him and see him go through the things he does before practice and see him be able to do it at the age he is. He’s still got zip on the ball and still the best in the game at what he does.”

As for being in New England, Thomas said, “It’s different. The way they go about it, I see why they win so much. Everybody do their job. Nobody try to do too much.”

If Thomas can do the two things he mentioned – be in the right spot and catch the ball – that will be plenty for Brady.

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