Patriots

Should Patriots defense keep it simple in dealing with Patrick Mahomes?

Should Patriots defense keep it simple in dealing with Patrick Mahomes?

FOXBORO -- Are the Patriots in a position to try and confound Patrick Mahomes?

Even though they’ve been outstanding for six of their last eight defensive quarters (the second half against Indy being the exception) and Mahomes is just six starts into his NFL career (all wins), this might not be the time to try and make Mahomes' brain overheat with a bunch of sophisticated schemes. 

The complement of complementary skill position players the Chiefs have is one reason. From versatile tight end Travis Kelce, to whippet-quick wideout Tyreek Hill to long and athletic wide receiver Sammy Watkins and dangerous running back Kareem Hunt, KC can play a few different styles. 

Then factor in Mahomes’ arm strength, accuracy and mobility which allow him to buy time and create on the move. And toss in the myriad motions and formations the Chiefs use, identifying who’s lined up where and doing what is a big enough pre-snap chore. 

But it’s not just about Kansas City. Last season, the Patriots were undone in the season opener against the Chiefs by defensive breakdowns that led to long touchdowns. There was a 75-yard pass to Hill early in the third. In the fourth, there was a 78-yard pass to Kareem Hunt and a 21-yard run by Charcandrick West. The Patriots led that one 27-21 entering the fourth and lost 42-21. 

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What impresses Belichick about Mahomes? 'Pretty much everything'

After the game – and for weeks following – communication breakdowns were an issue. 

It took until nearly November for defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to find the right scheme to fit his players’ skills. 

But as they enter this game against the 5-0 Chiefs, Kansas City coach Andy Reid expects the Patriots to do what they do. Which is whatever is best for flustering an offense. 

“(Patriots head coach Bill Belichick) is going to form fit the defense to your offense and do what he feels is best there,” Reid said on Monday. “It might be completely different than the week before. He has done a great job of that over the years. The same thing on offense. They are going to fit it to what they think are your tendencies and matchups and everything else. I think he is great at that.”

Asked if this will be Mahomes’ “greatest test,” Reid predicted, “(Belichick) will have something new. (Sunday’s opponent, Jacksonville) was more diverse in the Cover-3 deal that you might have seen with Seattle. (Jags head coach Doug Marrone) branched off and worked a bunch of things in there so they threw a lot of stuff at him. I would tell you Bill, will do the same thing. He is going to find what he feels is best and he will test you. You have to trust your eyes and what you see and go play.”

The same goes for the defense though because Reid’s offense is forever morphing as well. 

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“There’s so many shifts and so many motions, they’re attacking you from everywhere from an offensive standpoint,” Jason McCourty said on Monday’s Quick Slants. “Tyreek Hill is outside lined up at receiver in a normal spot, then he’s in the backfield. Then they bring in (5-9, 175-pound wide receiver) De’Anthony Thomas and move him around. Then they bring in Sammy Watkins, he’s in the slot, he’s on the outside. Travis Kelce’s in the backfield, he’s split out wide, there’s just so much that you have to prepare for with so many weapons, I don’t know if there’s a quarterback playing better than Pat Mahomes right now.”

Over Belichick’s career, his teams have had great success against young quarterbacks. They are 16-5 against rookie quarterbacks and 9-0 at home

The caveat? Mahomes isn’t a rookie anymore. And he sure isn’t playing like it either. 

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Sony Michel and Demaryius Thomas to start camp on PUP list

Sony Michel and Demaryius Thomas to start camp on PUP list

As the Patriots gear up for the start of training camp and another Super Bowl championship defense, a few key players will start camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP). 

Sony Michel and Demaryius Thomas are the big names on there, per Field Yates, while Mike Reiss reported Nate Ebner, Cole Croston, Deatrich Wise and Ken Webster will begin camp on the PUP list. 

All this means is the players on the PUP list at this time have not been cleared for on-field drills yet. They can come off any time since it is just training camp. If any of these players end training camp on the PUP list, they can be placed there for the regular season, where they won't be able to practice or play for the first six weeks of the year. 

On the bright side, it appears left tackle Isaiah Wynn will not begin camp on the PUP list, according to Mike Reiss. The Patriots selected Wynn in the first round of the 2018 draft, but the University of Georgia product missed the entire season with an Achilles injury.

Wynn projects to be the team's starting left tackle this season after the loss of Trent Brown in free agency, so it's a good sign he'll be able to participate right away at camp. 

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Patriots HOFers Brown, Harrison back on the field in Foxboro this week when training camp begins

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Patriots HOFers Brown, Harrison back on the field in Foxboro this week when training camp begins

As the Patriots return to training camp this week, they'll be plenty of familiar faces getting back to work and some new additions. 

Among those who know they're way around the fields in Foxboro and will be out there again are a Patriots Hall of Famer and soon-to-be Pats HOFer, Troy Brown and Rodney Harrison. 

Brown, the former versatile receiver inducted into the team's Hall in 2012, will be on the field working with receivers again, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN. While not officially on the coaching staff, Brown worked with first-round pick N'Keal Harry, free-agent signee Maurice Harris and veteran Julian Edelman, along with other receivers at minicamp in June. He's lent a hand to Bill Belichick and special teams coach Joe Judge, who is also doubling as receivers coach after several staff departures in the offseason. Brown's former teammate Jerod Mayo is on the staff and will work with linebackers.

Harrison, who will be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame at a Gillette Stadium ceremony on July 29 along with late offensive lineman Leon Gray, is scheduled to arrive on Thursday, when the team begins practices. While not coaching, Harrison, the former hard-hitting safety who now works for NBC as an NFL analyst, will be a visitor on the field and is never shy about sharing his insights and opinions, such as going into the Pats Hall means more than being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall in Canton.

"To get named a Hall of Famer to the greatest organization in sport ever, it just means so much to me," Harrison told Reiss. "I'm still stunned. I can't believe I'm in the Patriots Hall of Fame. All I can do is shake my head at this point."

As for the current edition of the Patriots, Harrison expects them to be in a familiar position:  "I know Kansas City is really good...but I still think the Pats are the best team in the AFC."

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