Patriots

Bill Belichick details challenges Bills QB Josh Allen poses in running game

Bill Belichick details challenges Bills QB Josh Allen poses in running game

The New England Patriots won't face many quarterbacks who are better at running the football than Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills' second-year quarterback picks up huge chunks of yards on the ground with his impressive athleticism and strength. Allen, who's listed at 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds, also isn't easy to bring down.

What sort of challenge does Allen present the Patriots defense ahead of Sunday's Week 4 game in Buffalo? Patriots head coach Bill Belichick highlighted a few areas during his Wednesday press conference.

"He's like a running back," Belichick explained. "He breaks tackles, he's got good speed, good power and he's shifty and he avoids and breaks a lot of tackles. Yeah, that's another dimension. A sixth receiver in the passing game, if you will, and gives you another blocker in the running game when they have designed run plays for him.

"They've hit a lot of them at critical times, a lot of big plays, touchdowns, red area, third-down conversions, things like that. They use them in some timely ways, well-designed plays that create problems for the defense. He adds that element to their offense and they've used it very effectively."

Allen played just 12 games as a rookie and still tallied 631 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. He's been a little less effective on the ground this season, with 105 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Still, Allen's ability to escape the pocket and pick up first downs with his legs is something the Patriots defense will need to be aware of at all times. Tackling also will be a huge factor Sunday, but in fairness to the Patriots, they rank among the best tackling teams in the league

Allen isn't the only rushing threat in the Bills offense. 

Veteran running back Frank Gore -- yes, that Frank Gore -- is still a quality player in his 15th pro season. He's racked up 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns in three games for Buffalo.

"Fourth-leading rusher all-time in NFL history. I think that pretty much says it all right there," Belichick said of Gore. "Guy's a great player, great competitor, he's hard to tackle, just a good football player."

The Patriots are well-equipped to slow down the Bills' rushing attack. New England has allowed the fewest rushing yards per game and per carry this season, in addition to giving up zero rushing touchdowns through three games.

The Bills, however, are by far the best rushing team the Patriots will have played at this point of the season. They should give the Patriots' run defense an excellent test, and the winner of this matchup likely will emerge from Week 4 with an unbeaten 4-0 record atop the AFC East.

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Will Patriots suffer similar fate as Broncos have post-Peyton Manning?

Will Patriots suffer similar fate as Broncos have post-Peyton Manning?

Editor’s note: In the coming weeks our Patriots insiders will be speaking with beat writers from around the NFL to get an outside view on what the future holds for the Patriots. Today’s team: The Denver Broncos with Ryan O'Halloran of the Denver Post.

The Denver Broncos took a chance on an aging Peyton Manning before the 2012 season and it paid huge dividends.

Manning played the final four seasons of his Hall of Fame career with the Broncos, and Denver made the playoffs each year, highlighted by two Super Bowl appearances.

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The legendary quarterback retired after winning Super Bowl 50 during the 2015 season, and the Broncos have yet to fully recover. Denver has failed to reach the playoffs in each of the four seasons, and oddsmakers don't expect the Broncos to end that postseason appearance drought in 2020.

The New England Patriots could soon be in a similar situation.

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady recently left the Patriots in free agency after playing the first 20 years of his career and winning six Super Bowl titles with the franchise. Like the Broncos after Manning's exit, the Patriots likely will turn to a young quarterback to lead the offense.

Will the Patriots suffer the same fate as the Broncos have post-Manning and struggle to make the playoffs?

"Maybe there's that initial little backtrack, which is understandable," O'Halloran told our Patriots insider Phil Perry. "But I think the Patriots are probably constructed better than the Broncos at that point with the continuity of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, and Jarrett Stidham at least having been there for a year, if he ends up being the starter, or Brian Hoyer being a veteran. The Broncos, I think the real thing for them was Gary Kubiak retired a year after Manning retired, for health reasons, and that started a cycle they're still trying to get out of, having missed the playoffs four straight years."

The quarterback of the present, and potentially the future, for the Broncos is Drew Lock. He had a very good finish to his rookie season in 2019, and after the Broncos drafted two of the best wide receivers in the 2020 class in Alabama's Jerry Jeudy and Penn State's KJ Hamler, expectations for Denver's offense are high entering 2020.

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"(Lock) deserves to be the guy, and he is the guy, for this year," O'Halloran said. "All bets are off, I think, because it's a second-round contract. If he struggles, then you go back to the drawing board. He went 4-1 as a starter down the stretch last season, granted it was the equivalent of NFL garbage time, but he showed mobility, he showed a willingness to throw into traffic, and throw guys open and make plays on the run.

"I think what you saw, especially, was guys rallied around him, saying, hey, this could be their quarterback for the next couple years, and definitely in 2020. So, I think he gave a lot of reason for optimism, while also saying, OK, he has to learn a new offense from (offensive coordinator) Pat Shurmur, he has a new quarterbacks coach in Mike Shula, and a lot of new players he has to learn without the benefit of an offseason program."

Lock will get an early challenge from the Patriots defense in 2020. Denver is scheduled to visit Gillette Stadium in Week 5. Fortunately for the Broncos, they play on "Thursday Night Football" in Week 4, so they'll have a few extra days to prepare for their matchup with the Patriots.

Jason McCourty explains how Patriots' Joejuan Williams 'got better' as a rookie

Jason McCourty explains how Patriots' Joejuan Williams 'got better' as a rookie

Joejuan Williams didn't play much as a rookie in the 2019 NFL season, but one of his teammates is confident he'll be ready when the opportunity arrives.

The New England Patriots selected Williams out of Vanderbilt in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The 22-year-old cornerback played in nine regular season games for the Patriots in his rookie campaign, and he played more snaps on special teams (84) than he did on defense (80).

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Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty liked what he saw from Williams last season despite his limited playing time. In a video conference call with reporters Wednesday, McCourty explained how Williams' compete level was a huge factor in his improvement during the 2019 campaign.

"He loves to compete," McCourty said. "I think that’s something that you need. Obviously, at our position, when you’re in the back end, any mistake can be a 70-yard touchdown or a game-changing play, so I think you’ve got to have guys that are willing to go out there every single day and compete your butts off and get better. That’s what he did last year. As a rookie, he came in, he was willing to learn, he was willing to listen, and I felt like every day when we went out there on the practice field, he got better.

"I think not only for him being a rookie, but for all of us as a team, that’s what the process is about. Whether you’re in year one or you’re in year 12, every day you’ve got to show up with a willingness to compete and to prove that you belong there and a willingness to get better and listen to coaching. I think whether it’s Joejuan, whether it was D’Angelo (Ross) before he got here, Malik (Gant), all of those young guys came in and they were willing to listen to the older guys, listen to the coaches and really do everything that was asked of them on a daily basis to make sure they were making the necessary movements forward to get better as a football player."

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Did Williams prove he belonged? McCourty said he did, but not before getting in a friendly jab at Vanderbilt.

"I mean, he went to Vanderbilt, so that’s a little bit of a knock on him. In the SEC, they’re one of the weaker schools, but other than that, yeah, he definitely did."

One way for Williams to play more snaps in 2020 is by learning to play safety. The ability to fill in at cornerback and safety would provide the Patriots defense with valuable versatility, and we know Patriots head coach Bill Belichick very much values players who excel at multiple positions.

The Patriots have tons of depth and loads of talent in their secondary -- highlighted by reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year award winner Stephon Gilmore -- but that doesn't mean Williams won't fill a key role for that group next season, especially if he's able to play both cornerback and safety.