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Chief Thoughts: Analyzing the Patriots’ week 2 loss against the Jaguars

Relax. It’s as bad as you think.

NFL: New England Patriots at Jacksonville Jaguars Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

I want all of the credit. None of the blame.

This really sums up sports media, and frankly, human nature in general. We crow about our correct calls and let the bad takes slide quietly into the night. It really gives the impression that there is no accountability, and except for savage twitter reminders, there really isn’t. Still, I think it’s important for writers to take themselves to task since there really isn’t anyone else to do it for us.

In my case this was an especially bad week for predictions. Not because all of my predictions were wrong but because only the negative predictions turned out to be right. With that ominous note in mind let’s review the week.

Full Disclosure: I was in and out of the game with a decent amount of regularity so these takes must necessarily be had with a bit of skepticism. Feel free to sound off in the comments if you think I missed something.

Dorsett Train Takes a Detour

After a 66-yard, one touchdown campaign to start the season, Dorsett was basically a non-factor against the Jaguars. I predicted this is exactly what would happen. Contrary to a certain commentator who claimed A.J. Bouye was a bad cornerback, he is not. I don’t think Dorsett looked bad. I made it clear before the regular season that I thought he had the most probable upside of any wide receiver on the roster. I think that prediction has held true and will continue to do so. I just don’t see a strong probability of a top wide out. And you know what? That’s okay. I think Dorsett can be an excellent complement to Edelman and Gronk.

Patterson Train Delayed at the Station

I said this when I wrote his profile and the first two games support the hypothesis: physically, Patterson is an elite talent. He is freakishly athletic for his size. I love watching him with the ball in his hands because he is a skilled runner with good vision. But he’s not a good wide receiver. His ceiling may be elite but it’s pretty clear after five years in the league it is extremely unlikely he will ever ascend that peak.

It was heartening to see him perform well in camp but as I pointed out in his spotlight that is nothing new. There is a reason the Vikings only fed Patterson the ball on screens. I think Patterson will have games where he flashes and makes plays. It’s very possible he could match his previous career high here. But when you are talking about a player that has never cracked 500 yards that’s not saying a ton. The look on Josh McDaniels’ and Tom Brady’s faces when Patterson fell on his ass... I wouldn’t want to be him is all I am saying.

Running back analysis

I thought Sony Michel looked good. Don’t mistake me. His stats were completely pedestrian, but the offensive line was doing him no favors. He’s coming off knee surgery and a week of limited practice. Alvin Kamara was a non-factor his first three weeks. LeVeon Bell started slow last season. I saw a couple nice runs. I’ll take it.

Sony still has a ton of work to do. And it is not good enough for him to be decent. He has to be very good. People can claim a 31st pick doesn’t need to necessarily be very good to be worth it but I strongly disagree. Why? Reasons. So many reasons.

  1. The Patriots only save $2.5 million in cap relative to signing Lewis.
  2. Lewis has injury concerns but we drafted a running back with injury concerns.
  3. Lewis is a proven talent; Michel represents a risk like any draft pick.
  4. Rookie running backs provide the least cap advantage to a team relative to other rookie contracts.
  5. Running back is the least valuable position in the NFL.
  6. Superior running back talent is consistently found in the lower levels of the draft relative to other positions. Out of the top 20 running backs in 2017 only 6 were first round picks. Contrast that with the top 20 pass rushers and 14 were first round picks. It gets worse. 11 of the top 20 running backs were taken after the first two rounds. Only 4 of the top 20 pass rushers were taken after the first two rounds. No team better represents the risk of taking a running back high than Seattle when they picked Rashad Penny in the first round. Penny lost the role of lead back in camp to seventh-round pick Chris Carson!
  7. The Patriots have a proven ability to take running backs off the trash heap and turn them into productive backs.
  8. There were plenty of talented backs still on the board in the later rounds.
  9. The Patriots have other serious holes on the roster.

I could keep listing reasons but I don’t want to beat a dead horse. No one is denying the dynamic weapon an elite running back can be for a team, but if you are going to invest a first-round pick you better get a damn good back out of the deal.

You might be reading this and think I am against the Sony pick. I am not. I personally think Michel can be a damn good back in the NFL. If that is the case he’s worth the investment. I do have one major caveat to that support though: I assumed Michel was not going to have the major health risks Dion Lewis had. I’m not sure that is the case anymore and it’s definitely the variable on which my support for this pick is based on.

We already had a damn good back on our team. The big issue was that he was frail. Investing a 1st in another frail running back just doesn’t make sense. If you are rolling the dice on health spend the extra $2.5 million for the back you already know is talented. Spend the first on any number of holes left on the roster or trade down for more picks. You have to have confidence in Sony health or you are just risking more while paying a large opportunity cost relative to just signing Lewis for an extra $2.5 million.

Finally, shout out to James White. He’s not a great runner but is there a better pass catching back in the NFL right now? Yes, is the answer. But the guy is still really good.

Defensive Defeat

The defense sucked. Don’t sugarcoat it. They let Blake Bortles look like an MVP candidate. They let mediocre backs consistently rip off major gains and mediocre receivers score big touchdowns. They whiffed on tackles almost as badly as I whiffed on predicting the defense would do well this week.

The front seven was weak. Adrian Clayborn and Keionta Davis played like crap and yet apparently they are still better than Derek Rivers who I thought would be a good addition to the defense. Multiple times Clayborn lost contain on critical third downs. That was part of the reason we brought him aboard. The team did a decent job last week so I don’t want to exaggerate the issue but it is frustrating to watch. Two weeks in Flowers looks like the undisputed champion of the front seven. That’s frustrating because he’s a free agent next year. Hightower has been quiet I don’t deny that. But all the folk reaching for torches and pitchforks need to calm down. He’s two weeks in after a season ending injury. Give it time.

The secondary was not any better than the front seven. Gilmore was okay but benefited from a drop and also pulled a complete amateur move in coverage of Montcrief. I expect Gilmore to shut down talents like Montcrief and he did not do his job. Still a hell of a lot better than Malcolm Butler, who appears to have fallen off a cliff in terms of play. Chalk up one win for Bill the GM. Keep watching Devin McCourty who is merely adequate so far this year. He’s a solid free safety, team captain, and a Bill acolyte. He’s probably safe. But I definitely see him as a potential cut or trade for next season given his massive contract. I have never been a Rowe fan. I absolutely roasted him for his Superbowl performance and this week was just another reminder of his limitations.

But it’s week two. I’m just not willing to get that upset over a week two performance. Especially when I predicted we would lose this game before the season started, along with many others. Would you trade this defense for the Jaguars last year? I would. That Jags defense gave up 37 points to the Titans in week 2 of last year. They also gave up 44 points in week 16 to the 49ers. 42 to the Steelers in the playoffs. Defenses lay eggs. Even excellent ones. We did this week. We’re on to Detroit.

Offensive Offense

The interior offensive line and LaAdrian Waddle were bad. Maybe not terrible, but still bad. I’m not going to be too excitable about the interior. We know these guys. They aren’t great but they are decent. It’s week two in the sweltering heat against an elite front seven. They played well against the Jags last year and they played well against another talented front just a week prior. Much like the defense: it’s on to Detroit.

Hitting the panic button on Waddle is something I feel more comfortable doing. Good tackle play is crucial. If Cannon plays this is going to be a good offensive line. If he doesn’t it’s average at best. Waddle will have better games against worse competition but he isn’t equipped to handle elite talent.

This isn’t surprising or a sign of poor roster management. It’s what happens when your fourth string tackle is forced into action. Half the teams in the NFL can’t even field two good tackles. We have two good tackles down with injuries two weeks into the season. It’s not Bill Belichick’s fault – it’s God. And God willing Cannon will be healthy most of the season, or at minimum, for a playoff push.

The rest of the offense did not fair much better. Brady and McDaniels lighting into them was a clear sign that they were extremely unhappy with the effort and execution they observed. McDaniels was significantly more calm down three touchdowns in the SB than he was today. That suggest to me that there were some issues beneath the surface that extend beyond the other team playing just playing well.

Around the League

Suck it haters. 6-0. That’s the number of TDs to INTs Patrick Mahomes threw yesterday. My QB1 from the 2017 draft class and the new face of the Chiefs. This is not all Mahomes. He’s as stacked at the skill positions as any quarterback in the NFL. Andy Reid is scheming like a mad man. But in two games, Mahomes has thrown TD’s to as many receivers as Alex Smith did all last year. The kid is playing lights out. The stars, and their crappy defense, are the limit for this Kansas City team.

Big Ben was God-awful in game one and played excellent, albeit against a bad defense, in game two. This is why you don’t panic off of a one game sample size. Crap happens.

Two ties in two weeks? Why does the NFL allow ties?

The Vikings have absolutely zero chance of winning the Super Bowl this year. Zero. Why? Because they don’t have a kicker and everyone knows if the Vikings don’t have a kicker they are doomed to crushing playoff defeats. I mean they are probably doomed anyways, it’s the Vikings, but doubly so in this case.

Fitzmagic continues. And it will continue right up until the Bucaneers think they can rely on him. Then he will collapse. Because that’s the nature of Fitzmagic. Powerful but fleeting.

Saints look bad. I’m not pressing panic. They looked bad last year around this time.

Browns gonna Browns. If Belichick is coaching this team they are 2-0. I am confident of that.

The Rams look dominant for a second week.

Man, if the Lions brought Patricia in to fix the defense they must be disappointed. Hard to blame him though. There is no talent on that defense virtually anywhere. The Lions general manager – former Patriots pro scouting director Bob Quinn – is an absolute fool to not be on the line trying to trade one of their many talented receivers for some defense aid.