Patriots

Michael Bennett miffed by lack of playing time in Patriots-Giants

Michael Bennett miffed by lack of playing time in Patriots-Giants

The New England Patriots have been historically dominant on defense this season. Must be because of the Pro Bowl defensive end they traded for in March, right?

One would think. But Michael Bennett was mostly a spectator Thursday night at Gillette Stadium, playing just 11 defensive snaps and failing to record any defensive stats in New England's 35-14 win over the New York Giants.

That snap total, Bennett's lowest of the season, continued a curious trend of decreased playing time for the talented veteran. Here's a look at Bennett's defensive snap totals by week, via Pro Football Reference:

Week 1: 37 (55 percent of total defensive snaps)
Week 2: 25 (40 percent)
Week 3: 19 (38 percent)
Week 4: 24 (30 percent)
Week 5: 14 (25 percent)
Week 6: 11 (22 percent)

Bennett has played in a lower percentage on New England's snaps every week since starting in the season opener. So, what gives?

Even Bennett isn't sure.

"I don’t know what’s happening,” Bennett told Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal after Thursday's game. “You have to ask (head coach) Bill (Belichick). I wish I knew. If I had a better answer, I would tell you."

“You’ve got to ask them, man. I’m just trying to do what they ask me to do."

That doesn't sound like a guy who's thrilled with his current role.

Belichick commended Bennett earlier this week for "embrac(ing) what we've asked him to do," and suggested Bennett's reduced role is simply a byproduct of the team's deep defensive depth chart.

"We rotate a lot," Belichick told reporters Tuesday. "I mean, we’ve played 20 players on defense the last four or five weeks. So naturally, when you start splitting it up between 20 guys, that’s what you’re going to get. Show me how many teams play 20 players on defense."

Defensive ends Deatrich Wise Jr., Chase Winovich and John Simon all out-snapped Bennett on Thursday night. And in truth, the Patriots' defense hasn't really needed him: The unit has allowed just three defensive touchdowns amid a 6-0 start.

It's possible New England is keeping Bennett fresh for its much more challenging schedule down the stretch. Bennett probably is hoping that's the case, as he's not really earning his two-year, $16.75 million contract from a statistical standpoint right now.

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Why Tom Brady might consider Chargers, Dolphins

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Patriots Talk Podcast: Why Tom Brady might consider Chargers, Dolphins

Our Tom E. Curran laid out the hard truth earlier this week: There's a legitimate chance this is Tom Brady's final season with the New England Patriots.

But that begs the question: If Brady leaves New England and doesn't retire -- he just turned 42 and wants to play until he's 45 -- where will he go in 2020?

That hot topic came up on the latest Patriots Talk Podcast, where Curran was joined by fellow NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Phil Perry.

Curran and Perry both believe a number of factors would contribute into where Brady might play next, both on the field (style of offense, coaching staff, personnel, ownership, etc.) and off the field (best fit for his family, best fit for his TB12 business, weather, etc.).

Taking those factors into account, Curran and Perry speculated about a few destinations where Brady could land and made compelling cases for two potential front-runners: the Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins.

Here are their rationales for both destinations:

L.A. CHARGERS

Perry: "They [Brady and wife Gisele Bundchen] have lived in L.A. before. Brady has family in California, northern and southern."

Curran: "His niece will be going to UCLA as a blue-chip softball recruit. That means Tom Sr. [Brady's father] and Galynn [Brady's mother] are frequently making the trip down already."

Perry: "This is a team that could be in need for a quarterback ... [and] could also be looking for a head coach. So, maybe if you're the Chargers, you're looking to hire Josh McDaniels, and you say, 'Hey Tom, we've got $50 million for two years, no problem.' "

"Mike Williams is a very nice deep threat, contested catch guy. ... Big market, great opportunity for TB12 if you're looking for those."

MIAMI DOLPHINS

Perry: "I think it's a good culture. I think it's a team on the rise. I also know it's a team that is slated to have over $100 million in cap space going into 2020. You want me to rattle off some guys who could be available via free agency? Because it's kind of interesting. How about A.J. Green? How about Emmanuel Sanders? How about Randall Cobb? How about Amari Cooper?"

"You've got (former Patriots wide receivers coach) Chad O'Shea. You've got Brian Flores as the head coach. You've got Jerry Schuplinski, who worked with the quarterbacks quite a bit in New England and now has a significant role.

"On top of it ... Big market, warmer climate and a very health-conscious fanbase that might be into the whole TB12 idea."

Perry saved his most intriguing point for last: The Dolphins' owner, Stephen Ross, is an alumnus and generous donor at Brady's alma mater, Michigan -- and also is in the real estate market.

"Very high-end condominiums and townhouses is his deal," Perry added. "And it appears, from the surface research I have done, that Brady has lived in or at least purchased multiple units in Stephen Ross-owned and constructed buildings."

Curran and Perry pointed out that this is all speculation for now. But if Brady indeed leaves the Patriots, there are plenty of clues to suggest where he might end up.

Hear more from Curran and Perry on the latest episode of "The Patriots Talk Podcast," which drops every Tuesday and Thursday as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

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Was Deion Sanders referring to Dez Bryant joining Patriots in coming weeks?

Was Deion Sanders referring to Dez Bryant joining Patriots in coming weeks?

Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders made a rather interesting guarantee earlier this week that the New England Patriots would be getting some help in the next few weeks. 

The question is, how reliable is his take? A rather interesting pair of social media posts from former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant could shed some light on what Sanders was referring to. 

Will the 31-year-old make his NFL comeback with the Patriots? He cryptically tweeted that he may receive some big news in the coming weeks, which is synonymous with Sanders' take.

He also responded "maybe lol" to an Instagram comment which stated "He's going to the Pats. Confirmed. Mark it."

What's even more interesting is that in November he tweeted that he didn't want to be a starter, he'd rather contribute off the bench. Though he hasn't played in the NFL in two years, he could be a veteran target for Tom Brady and New England, who have Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett and N'Keal Harry on the receiver depth chart.  

Sanders lobbied for Bryant's return to the Cowboys in 2018, so Deion could be doing it again for Dez, this time with the Patriots.

Bryant has 531 receptions for 7,459 yards and 73 touchdowns over his eight-year NFL career. 

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