Patriots

Patriots do what they're supposed to do against hapless Bills offense

Patriots do what they're supposed to do against hapless Bills offense

Of course, it was Robert A. Heinlein who wrote: “If a grasshopper tries to fight a lawnmower, one may admire his courage but not his judgement.” 

Heinlein, a science fiction writer who died in 1988, knows nothing of the current state of the Buffalo Bills or their fans’ proclivity for lobbing rubber penises onto the field during NFL games.

But it probably wouldn’t have taken him long to ID the Bills offense as the grasshopper on Monday night.

Even though the Bills defense allowed them to hang around into the third quarter on the scoreboard, there was no way to conjure a scenario in which the Derek Anderson-led offense was going to bumble its way into the end zone a couple of times against the Patriots.

WHAT WE SAID BEFORE THE GAME

They are the worst offense in the NFL right now and their offensive coordinator, Brian Daboll showed his appreciation for that reality right out of the gates, running out of Wildcat formations and attempting a flea flicker on the Bills first drive of the game.

It oozed desperation but, you know what? Who cares? Daboll had a grasp on reality that told him his team scoring a total of 31 points in its previous four games wasn’t some cruel coincidence. The Bills really don’t have much they can do on offense. Certainly not with Anderson running things.

How much does that diminish the performance of the Patriots defense in their 25-6 win? Not a bit.

Defensively, the Patriots did exactly what it was supposed to do. Choke the Bills offense out. They did. Buffalo went 4-for-14 on third down and managed 46 yards on the ground on 19 carries. And 17 of those yards came on the Bills’ first drive.

Five drives ended with punts, one ended with a strip-sack by Kyle Van Noy and the other ended with a pick-six interception return by Devin McCourty.

OTHER HARD TRUTHS

There’s no threat of the Patriots mistaking what they did to the Bills as being a precursor to how things will go with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers this Sunday. But it was a satisfying performance for a group that allowed 1,197 yards and 92 points over the previous 10 quarters.

The best defensive player on Monday night was Trey Flowers who had six tackles, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup. Behind him, it was Van Noy who had two sacks and made eight tackles.

The Patriots weren’t challenged the way they were when Kansas City came to Foxboro, but – washed as Anderson may be – he was a better thrower than Mitch Trubisky was last week.

None of the above (and that includes Patrick Mahomes) present anything close to what the Patriots will see on Sunday night. Rodgers can run if he wants (and he’ll do it better than Trubisky did). He can throw it as hard and accurately as Mahomes does. And he’s got far better guys to throw to than Anderson did on Monday night.

Buffalo is a bad offensive team. The 25-6 final may look better (somehow) than the 37-5 loss last week to the Colts, but it was still an exercise in futility for them on offense.

This was a good weigh station for the Patriots, a defensive checkup, a chance for them to get some stuff right without the threat of immediate scores when they got it wrong.

They needed to subdue an offense and leave it in pieces. The Patriots were the lawnmower. The Biils were the grasshopper. 

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Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Bill Belichick was there. Josh McDaniels was there. The Patriots had a large contingent down in Mobile, Ala. for this week's Senior Bowl practices (the game will air Saturday on NFL Network at 2:30 p.m.), which should come as no surprise.

Just look at how the Patriots have drafted of late. 

In 2019, they selected Jarrett Stidham, Byron Cowart and Jake Bailey -- all of whom participated in the Senior Bowl. They also signed undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers, who played in the game. 

In 2018, they grabbed Isaiah Wynn in the first round, Duke Dawson, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Braxton Berrios after they'd competed in the Senior Bowl.

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Three of their four draft picks from 2017, plus two undrafted rookies, were in the Senior Bowl. 

From 2013-16, they brought aboard 20 Senior Bowl participants as rookies.

"The great thing about the Senior Bowl is that you're seeing some of the best players," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said last spring. 

"There have actually been some underclassmen who have been incorporated into that mix. So you're seeing them against good competition and it's a different dynamic or different situation that they've been placed in. You're kind of taking them out of their environment that they've been in and kind of giving them something new and seeing how they handle it against good people."

The small-school players -- or the players who are asked to do something they didn't do much as collegians -- are the ones who have an opportunity to really land on radars during Senior Bowl work. For the Patriots, who constantly harp on the benefit of having seen players work against great competition on a regular basis when they hail from an SEC program, seeing some of the best in the country work against one another matters.

"It’s one thing if they do it against a lower-level team," Caserio said back in 2016, when asked about the Senior Bowl. "I mean, look, not all teams are created equal. Not all conferences are created equal. That’s just a fact. We can’t control that. So when you can see them actually play against really good players or good players that are at a comparable level of competition that they’re going to see every Sunday, that has to be a part of [the evaluation], no question."

The next year, the Patriots took two Senior Bowlers from smaller programs: Youngstown State's Derek Rivers and Troy's Antonio Garcia. 

"Where [the Senior Bowl] probably helps a little bit is players on a lower level that maybe haven’t competed against the same level of competition," Caserio said back in 2017. "Obviously, they’re making a big jump. . . Garcia was down there. That’s going to be a big jump in competition because this is what they’re going to be playing against. 

"With all due respect to whatever conference Youngstown State is in, there’s not a lot of NFL players in that conference. I mean, that’s just the way that it is. You’re going to have to see him against NFL competition, which the Senior Bowl is usually a pretty good indication of that because you’re talking about the top seniors in the country. It’s a part of the process. You’re not making a decision based off of that, but maybe a player who doesn’t have as much experience against that level, you’re going to see how he fares, and then you just kind of continue to move forward."

Some small-school prospects who may have caught Belichick's eye this week? 

Dayton tight end Adam Trautman was already considered one of the better tight ends in the draft class and seemed to only help his stock.

Safety Kyle Dugger -- who hails from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University -- impressed. Ditto for Division III offensive lineman Ben Bartch out of Saint John's, who saw rushers from Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and other high-end programs and reportedly held his own.

Perhaps the most recent success story out of Senior Bowl week for the Patriots wasn't with a small-school prospect, though. It might've been with Shaq Mason, a guard coming out of a run-heavy system at Georgia Tech. The Patriots simply hadn't seen him do much in the way of pass protection for the Yellow Jackets.

But Mason got to the Senior Bowl, took to the coaching he received, and the Patriots took notice. 

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"The thing I’ll say about Shaq," Belichick said after drafting Mason in 2015, "is just watching him at the Senior Bowl, I mean it was only one week, but he made a huge improvement just in those, whatever it was, four or five practices, whatever it was down there. His stance is different. You could see each day progressively how he was taking to the coaching down there and his footwork and his hand placement and his body position. I know it was basic. It wasn’t like it was a big scheme thing at the Senior Bowl, but just doing things on a daily basis better than the day before, looking more comfortable doing them. And it was different than what they did at Georgia Tech."

Big school. Small school. Everyone had something to gain in Mobile this week. And that includes the Patriots. That's why -- with more time off this year than recent years -- they were well represented down there.


 

NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

The New England Patriots reportedly have made an addition to their coaching staff.

According to Jim McBride of The Boston Globe, they've hired ex-Los Angeles Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.

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Fisch's official role with the Patriots offense is to be determined. But now that there's an opening at wide receivers coach with Joe Judge joining the New York Giants, Fisch could be a candidate for the job.

He brings plenty of experience to the table having coached Denver Broncos wide receivers in 2008 and Michigan receivers from 2015-16. Fisch also coached Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks in 2010 and was the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator from 2013-14.