Patriots

One more thing for Sam Darnold to worry about vs. Patriots defense

One more thing for Sam Darnold to worry about vs. Patriots defense

Not only does Sam Darnold have to face a team on Monday night that leads the league in scoring defense, total defense, third-down defense and quarterback rating. 

He might have to do it with a makeshift offensive line. 

The Jets are riding high after their first win of the season last week over the Cowboys. Darnold came away with AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors in his first game back from mononucleosis and looked every bit the franchise quarterback he was drafted to be.

While Darnold has taken on this week with "swagger," saying in a press conference that the Jets offense would find the weakness in the Patriots defense on Monday night and hammer away at it, the Jets have been trying to figure out how they'll protect him. 

Left tackle Kelvin Beachum is dealing with an ankle injury, which could thrust third-round rookie into the starting left tackle role. Edoga played right tackle for two weeks as he beat out Brandon Shell for that particular gig. Now, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, Edoga will head over to the left side with Shell forced back into action due to Beachum's injury.

Edoga was primarily a right tackle during his collegiate career at USC, playing just two games on the left side back in 2016. Many offensive linemen have difficulty flipping sides on the line because the footwork is reversed, but Edoga came into last year's draft viewed as a very good athlete -- he also had a strong Senior Bowl week -- and so maybe the transition will be smooth for him. 

Still. First start at left tackle. Against a team that's second in the league in sacks. Not ideal. 

Starting left guard Kelechi Osemele -- who last played against the Patriots in Week 3 -- remains out with a shoulder injury. (The Jets fined him for missing Saturday's practice because they believe he can play through the pain, per Mehta, and Osemele will file a grievance.) Meanwhile, center Ryan Kalil is questionable with a shoulder issue, which means the team may have to play Jonotthan Harrison, who was beaten out by Kalil for the starting job when Kalil came out of retirement this offseason. Kalil is currently Pro Football Focus' 30th-graded center.

Against the Jets in Week 3, the Patriots rattled quarterback Luke Falk with varied pass-rush plans, but the offensive line didn't do much to help out their young fill-in starter. 

They couldn't handle pressures the Patriots brought early on, whether it was with five, six or even seven rushers, and there were times when the entire group looked as confused as Falk did. Later in the game, the Patriots had no issue generating pressure with just four rushers as their twists and stunts worked consistently.

The Jets might be feeling good about their chances of keeping pace with a Patriots offense that's dealing with its share of injuries as well, but it could be a long night for Darnold if his offensive line isn't ready to go against what's been a historically-productive defense to this point in the 2019 season.

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Could trick-shot kicker return to Patriots in 2020 after practice squad release?

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USA TODAY Sports

Could trick-shot kicker return to Patriots in 2020 after practice squad release?

FOXBORO -- The New England Patriots' rare instability at kicker has forced them to get creative.

The Patriots raised a few eyebrows Wednesday by signing Josh Gable -- a "YouTube star" with no college football kicking experience best known for his trick shot videos -- to their practice squad.

Gable's tenure in New England was short-lived, as the Patriots released him Friday.

So, why use a practice squad spot on a kicker only to cut him two days later?

"We had a spot available on the practice squad, and it gave us an opportunity to look at a younger kicker," head coach Bill Belichick said Friday.

" ... Rather than just (have him) come in and do a workout, we were actually able to (have him) kick with the team and put him on the practice squad for a couple days."

Belichick said the Patriots have no plans to move away from Nick Folk as their starting kicker this season. 

But getting Gable in for essentially a multi-day tryout allowed New England to explore a potential kicking option for 2020.

"We'll worry about that next year," Belichick said. " ... Put that in the bank, and maybe it comes up later on at some point in time down the road. Maybe it doesn’t. I’m not sure."

Such is the reality for the Patriots, who lost Stephen Gostkowski to season-ending hip surgery in October and have cycled through Mike Nugent, Kai Forbath, Folk and Younghoe Koo (practice squad) since.

Gostkowski turns 36 in January and is entering the final year of his contract, so Belichick has good reason to get a head start on contingency kicking options for 2020.

That's assuming New England doesn't stick with Folk: The veteran has been the most consistent of Gostkowski's replacements this season, connecting on eight of 11 field goals and making all four of his extra-point attempts.

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N'Keal Harry using big play vs. Chiefs as a reminder of his potential

N'Keal Harry using big play vs. Chiefs as a reminder of his potential

FOXBORO -- At the moment, N'Keal Harry will take positive reinforcement wherever he can get it.

The New England Patriots rookie had just one reception in last Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He made the most of it, though, breaking multiple tackles and diving for what should have been ruled a touchdown.

For 21-year-old rookie with just five catches on 10 targets through four NFL games, the play was a reminder to himself and the Patriots of what he's capable of in space with the ball in his hands.

"Yeah, definitely," Harry said Friday when asked if that play was a confidence boost for him. "It kind of felt like some of the stuff I did in college, just getting the ball in my hand and being able to run with it.

"So, that definitely helped. Just seeing that I'm able to do the same things (I did in college)."

Harry averaged 13.9 yards per catch as a sophomore and 14.9 yards per catch as a junior at Arizona State, earning First-Team All-Pac-12 honors in both seasons as a playmaking deep threat.

Harry's NFL transition has been bumpy to date, as an ankle injury caused him to miss New England's first nine games. But the Patriots still are well aware of his talent.

"I need to do a better job of finding ways to get him in space, get him the ball, and let him have an opportunity to (make plays)," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels admitted earlier this week.

The red zone seems like a natural place to get Harry more involved; the 6-foot-4, 225-pound wideout is a matchup nightmare for smaller cornerbacks and scored 17 touchdowns over his final two seasons.

Even after the Week 14 confidence booster, though, Harry will defer to McDaniels on how the Patriots want to increase his workload entering Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"That's more of a Josh question," Harry said when asked about his role in New England's red zone offense. "I'm just ready whenever my name is called."

" ... Whenever I get onto the field, whether it's 50 snaps or one snap, whenever my name is called, I have to be able to contribute."

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