Patriots

Marcus Mariota, Corey Davis help Titans take a bite out of Patriots defense

Marcus Mariota, Corey Davis help Titans take a bite out of Patriots defense

The pass rush discipline of last Sunday night seemed to evaporate somewhat against the Titans. Part of that has to do with the superior speed, physical health and age of Marcus Mariota relative to Aaron Rodgers, but the room Mariota had to step up as the pass rush cruised by was a factor in his success finding some relatively easy throws.

Mariota finished 16 for 24 for 248 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t shy away at all from Stephon Gilmore, hitting Corey Davis seven times for 125 yards and a touchdown from 23 yards out in the first half. And even on that one, Gilmore drew a flag for grabbing Davis’ arm.

Gilmore also drew a pair of flags covering Davis, who was targeted 10 times.

The Titans made a ton of yards through the middle of the Patriots defense. Dion Lewis carried 20 times for 57 yards. Seven of his runs went for a yard or less, so there were occasions he was bottled up. But he also got through to the second level with regularity as well.

WHAT WE SAID BEFORE THE GAME

The Patriots effort on Derrick Henry, the Titans’ big back was disappointing. He ended up with 58 yards on 11 carries including two walk-in touchdowns, one from 1-yard away, the other when he took a direct snap and scored almost untouched from 10 yards out.

The Titans scored on four of their first six possessions and made it into New England territory on all but one of their first-half drives.  They went 4-for-6 scoring touchdowns on their first half drives.

Nobody in the secondary played especially well. Patrick Chung had a missed tackle on tight end Jonnu Smith and Smith also got loose from Chung for a red zone touchdown. Devin McCourty was in coverage on two third-down conversion throws in the second quarter, one of them a 20-yard completion on third-and-14.

In the front-seven, Donta Hightower had two tackles for loss and Lawrence Guy played the best up front on a day when that group had limited effectiveness.

The story of the day, though, was Mariota and his repeated attacking of Gilmore. In last year’s Divisional Playoff at Gillette, the Patriots sacked Mariota eight times. This time around, they got to him twice and the pressure that causes him to throw high and wild at times never came with enough regularity to make him full-on skittish.

MORE HARD TRUTHS

Gilmore’s been so solid for so long – dating back to last season – that a talented young wideout tuning him up one week after he shut down another talented young wideout (Davante Adams) is no cause for panic. It will, however, invite more throws his way going forward.

With the bye, the Patriots will have a week to self-scout and tighten the bolts once again on a defense that had been working like clockwork.

The competent performances aren’t wiped out by what happened in Nashville. But it does give some pause since they’ll see better quarterbacks than Mariota and better offenses than the one that beat them soundly on Sunday.

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Patriots get Demaryius Thomas back at practice; could be coming off PUP list

Patriots get Demaryius Thomas back at practice; could be coming off PUP list

FOXBORO — For the second straight day, the Patriots got a big-name receiver back out at practice and in uniform. 

During Tuesday's workout ahead of Thursday's preseason game with the Panthers, receiver Demaryius Thomas was dressed — jersey, shorts, shells, helmet and all — for a more active practice workload for the first time all summer. 

That's an indication that the 31-year-old has been removed from the physically unable to perform list and is eligible to join the 53-man roster for the start of the regular season. 

The Patriots depth chart at wideout is suddenly starting to look a little more crowded. Thomas is joined by Julian Edelman, who was removed from the non-football injury list yesterday, as well as N'Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Phillip Dorsett and Braxton Berrios. Josh Gordon (NFI) and Cam Meredith (PUP) remain ineligible to practice but were on the fields behind Gillette Stadium Tuesday afternoon and warming up with their teammates. 

We'll dive more deeply into what qualify as reasonable expectations for Thomas coming off of a season-ending Achilles tear last year, but the addition of players with NFL experience to a receiver room that appeared lacking just last week has to be a welcome sight for Tom Brady. 

Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, Derek Rivers and Shilique Calhuon weren't spotted at the start of Tuesday's practice. Both suffered injuries on Saturday against the Titans. Reporters also couldn't find Patrick Chung and Michael Bennett on the field during practice — neither of whom played against the Titans in New England's second preseason game. 

The Patriots won't practice Wednesday and then will take on the Panthers Thursday night in Foxboro. 

Phil Perry's 53-man Patriots roster projection>>>>>

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This Chase Winovich preseason stat bodes well for his Patriots future

This Chase Winovich preseason stat bodes well for his Patriots future

We know: We shouldn't put too much stock into preseason stats.

After all, defensive end Trent Harris led the New England Patriots in sacks last preseason but didn't even crack the team's 53-man roster.

But Chase Winovich has done enough through his first two preseason games to warrant at least an eyebrow raise.

The Patriots' rookie edge rusher has amassed nine tackles and 2.5 sacks combined against the Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans. According to Pro Football Focus, Winovich also has beaten his offensive line counterpart on 40 percent of pass rush snaps.

Since 2015, only Carolina Panthers defensive end Mario Addison and Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Daeshon Hall have higher preseason pass rush grades, as Winovich also beat out Pro Bowler Olivier Vernon.

That's good company to be in, even if it's just the preseason. Addison has blossomed into one of the Panthers' best pass-rushers with 29.5 sacks over the past three seasons, while Vernon has 51 career sacks in seven seasons.

PFF's Zoltan Buday also notes Winovich, the 77th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, is outperforming all rookie pass-rushers in its overall grades -- including fellow Michigan alum Rashan Gary, who went 12th overall to the Green Bay Packers.

"Gary has played 61 snaps and earned an overall grade of 56.5, which ranks 40th among rookie edge defenders, while Winovich’s grade of 92.2 on 66 snaps leads all rookie edge defenders," Buday writes.

Again, it's a small sample size, but Winovich's efforts through two games even drew rare praise from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who usually is hesitant to pump tires.

"Chase is very aggressive, fast. He has a relentless motor," Belichick said Monday in an interview on WEEI''s "Ordway, Merloni & Fauria" radio show. "All those things are good. He lacks some experience and there are some things he definitely needs to work on and can improve on, but he is a hard-working kid."

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