Patriots

Bills quarterback Josh Allen poses unique challenge to Patriots' defense

Bills quarterback Josh Allen poses unique challenge to Patriots' defense

FOXBORO -- How is it that the Patriots are concerning themselves with a rookie quarterback who on a good day barely cracks 200 yards passing? 

That's been the case this week at Gillette Stadium as Bill Belichick's defense gets prepared to take on Josh Allen -- he of the 204 yards passing and the 89.3 rating (third-highest rating of the season) in a win over the Lions last weekend -- and the Bills on Sunday.

"He’s big, he’s fast, he’s got a strong arm, he’s accurate," Belichick said earlier in the week. "He can stand in the pocket and throw. He can get out. There’s some designed runs. There’s some quarterback scrambles or some scrambles that are runs or he scrambles and extends plays and throws it. I don’t know. He’s a hard guy to defend. I mean, he had almost three quarters of their total offense against the Jets (206 yards passing, 101 rushing). It’s a lot."

Allen was the epitome of the unrefined bag of quarterbacking tools coming out of Wyoming back in the spring. At 6-foot-5, 237 pounds he ran a 4.75-second 40-yard dash at the combine, vertical jumped almost 34 inches and broad jumped almost 10 feet. Picture a move tight end with among the strongest arms to come out of the draft in recent memory. 

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According to Patriots safety Patrick Chung, that’s how the Patriots defense will approach bringing him down in the open field. 

“You've just got to man up,” Chung said. “You've just got to tackle him. He's just like a running back or a tight end or someone who we're trying to tackle anyway.”

Allen is more likely to scramble than any quarterback on football, taking off on runs that weren’t designed to be runs 16 percent of the time. When he does scramble, he’s averaging about 10 yards per carry and almost seven yards after contact per carry. 

Because he’s such a threat to run, the Patriots (largely a man-to-man team in coverage) may play more zone against Allen in order to have more eyes in the backfield reading the quarterback than there would be with defenders focused on their individual assignments across from them. 

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Of course those long runs that get into the secondary could be stopped before they ever get going if the Patriots front can keep Allen in the pocket. 

They executed their “crush rush” to bear perfection against the Packers and Aaron Rodgers earlier this season and could look to do something similar Sunday. If they try to carry speed to the edge and pressure that way, Allen is more than capable of hurting the Patriots the way Mitchell Trubisky did in Chicago. 

Through the air, Allen and the Bills are far from prolific, but receiver Robert Foster is averaging a whopping 25.8 yards per catch in his last four games, and Patriots players have noticed that offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has cooked up plays for his quarterback to stretch the field vertically whenever he can. 

In a way, Patriots defensive backs explained, you almost have to recalibrate your feel for how far a quarterback can throw when facing an arm talent like Allen’s. Being “deeper than the deepest” is never suggestion, but in a matchup like this one it’s etched in stone as a coaching staff commandment. 

Don’t allow a back-breaking explosive play through the air... Don’t allow a demonarizing quarterback scramble at the wrong time...

For a players with some impressively ugly numbers in certain categories — Allen was last in the league in quarterback rating coming into the week, and third-to-last in rating from inside the pocket — he has the ability to scare a defense in various ways. 

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Raiders QB Derek Carr to face Patriots early in what could be bounce-back season

Raiders QB Derek Carr to face Patriots early in what could be bounce-back season

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 Las Vegas Raiders with Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area.

The Las Vegas Raiders reportedly were among the teams with some level of interest in signing Tom Brady in NFL free agency, but the Silver and Black ultimately decided to stick with Derek Carr as its starting quarterback.

Carr shouldn't be too comfortable, though.

Despite making the most of a tough situation in 2019 during which the Raiders lacked skill and depth at many offensive positions, Carr's job doesn't appear to be safe. For example, the Raiders signed veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota in free agency, and he has several seasons of starting experience.

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NBC Sports Bay Area's Raiders insider Scott Bair recently spoke to our Patriots insider Phil Perry, and one of the topics centered around Carr's future and if he can once again perform at the level of a top-tier quarterback.

"Actions speak louder than words, and (head coach) Jon Gruden and (general manager) Mike Mayock at the combine and all these different places, they say the right things -- Derek Carr is their guy," Bair said. "But then, they're constantly flirting with Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins, and they sign Marcus Mariota to a deal that could evolve into paying him starter money should he take over that job. Those actions don't say (Carr is their guy).

"I've seen every professional snap that Derek Carr has ever taken. I've seen every practice rep that I've been allowed to see, and I may be in the minority, but this is a guy I believe can be an upper-tier NFL quarterback. He can make every throw, and if you go back to 2016 when he had a loaded offensive line and lots of good skill players, he finished third in MVP voting despite the fact he broke his leg in Week 16. I know that's in there. Now, Raiders fans don't believe me, the national media doesn't believe me, but I think the stage is set for him to have a career year and find that 2016 form yet again, that most fans think is lost forever."

One defense Carr will go up against in 2020 is the New England Patriots.

The Raiders are scheduled to visit Gillette Stadium on Sept. 27 for a Week 3 matchup, and they currently are underdogs by almost a touchdown, according to oddsmakers. Bair thinks the matchup is closer than the betting lines would suggest.

"I would definitely hammer the Raiders pretty hard right there," Bair said. "I just think they're going to have a lot of explosive firepower, and when there's uncertainty at quarterback, (the more explosive team) seems to be a safer bet. Maybe you know better than I do exactly how (the Patriots') quarterback situation is shaping up, but if there are major questions marks there, I would go with the more established quarterback, the more established offense. Again, (the Raiders) are going to be able to score in bunches, and I think they're going to be pretty excited to come to Foxboro and finally get a win, even if Brady isn't there."

The Raiders and Patriots both face a bit of uncertainty at quarterback entering the 2020 season, and whichever coach is able to surround his young QB with the best system and the right talent will put his team in a strong position to reach the playoffs. The Patriots haven't missed the postseason since 2008, while the Raiders have made only one appearance since 2002.

If Brian Hoyer starts for Patriots in Week 1, that's absolutely crazy

If Brian Hoyer starts for Patriots in Week 1, that's absolutely crazy

Rob Ninkovich sounded drunkovich when he spoke of Brian Hoyer starting Week 1 for the Patriots.

Get that man a breathalyzer. Stat.

And if Nink turns out to be right, get Bill Belichick one too. 

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I have said this before — and I will say it again: I will not watch one down of Brian Hoyer under center for the Patriots.

And you shouldn’t either!

Don’t be a sucker. Really, you’re going to waste your time watching a guy who has started 25 games in 11 seasons in the NFL?

He may be a nice guy, good at carrying a clipboard and ridding Tom Brady of his insecurities, but he is a lousy quarterback. Patriot fans deserve better.

Going from Tom Brady to Brian Hoyer is cold turkey to the extreme. I can feel the cotton mouth, cold sweats and shakes coming on already. 

Does Bill Belichick expect you to accept Brian Hoyer as a starter? If he does, it should piss you off. 

If Hoyer does get the call you can still watch some of the game. I plan to. When the Patriots are on offense I will switch to the other game or Red Zone, and when I see on my phone that the Pats are back on defense, I will switch back over and watch Gilmore, Hightower and the McCourtys do their thing. 

That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.