Since putting practice squad defensive lineman Bill Murray on the Reserve/Covid-19 list on Tuesday, the New England Patriots have now seen All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore receive a positive test. In addition to that, it was reported that several other players were already at home on Wednesday as they were “feeling under the weather.”
Now we will wait and see what happens going forward, not just with the Patriots but with the league. The Tennessee Titans saw two additional positive cases on Wednesday and the Las Vegas Raiders also saw their second positive test in as many days.
So that leads us to our first question in this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag, so lets get into it...
@BostonEvan11 What is the NFL doing?
If anyone entered this season with belief the NFL would make smart, rational decisions throughout this process, you were in for a treat. Forcing the Patriots to travel and play on Monday after watching what was happening in Tennessee was irresponsible and quite frankly, stupid. With three teams now uncertain about their games this weekend, it will be interesting to see what the league does.
ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio has been pushing to “bubble” teams in hotels to try to limit exposure. It would certainly be difficult however due to the size of NFL rosters and coaching staffs. One thought that came to my mind was perhaps the outbreaks early in the season could mirror the MLB season. The MLB did not keep players in a bubble and did travel throughout the year, similar to the current NFL set-up. The first month of the MLB season saw several team’s games delayed and postponed, but they were able to finish the season strong. There’s always the conspiracy they just did not report the positive tests, but perhaps the early outbreaks just forced the players to be more cautious.
If there was a similar ending to the NFL season, that would be considered a major victory. But for now, the show goes on:
@cghodo 1. When can Cam come back? 2. WHEN can Cam come back?
Originally, the NFL guidelines said a player who tested positive and is asymptomatic, as Newton (and Gilmore) reportedly are, can return after a mandatory five-day isolation followed by two negative tests results 24 hours apart. The return-to-play guidelines have since been changed, so a player who tested positive and is asymptomatic can return when the sooner of,
A. 10 days since the initial positive test, OR
B. 2 negative PCR tests separated by 24 hours, happens.
As for Newton, who tested positive the night of Friday, October 2nd, he’d have a window from now to Saturday to test negative twice if he wants to play on Sunday. Due to Murray and Gilmore testing positive, the Patriots facility is not even open to begin with, which could make it difficult for Newton to even get tested.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Tuesday night that it is “possible, but not likely” for Newton to return this weekend, hinting that it would be “far-fetched.” The most likely scenario for the next time we see Newton is after the Patriots’ Week 6 bye.
@kirb410 What are the chances of Hoyer getting demoted and cut? Seems cheaper to keep Stid and the guy on the practice squad. I’m not sure I’d like Hoyer running this offense if this situation happens again.
As we now prepare for Sunday’s game believing Newton will not be available, if the Patriots even play at all, it is under my impression that Brian Hoyer will be demoted. After getting benched for Jarrett Stidham against the Chiefs, it would make more sense in my opinion to start the second-year QB for the Denver game. Stidham is more talented than Hoyer, but the experience and veteran presence gave Hoyer the edge last week. That went out the window as Hoyer made several costly mistakes, so New England should just start the talent moving forward.
Now, I don't believe Hoyer will be released, as his knowledge of the system and the playbook can still be of value in the quarterback room. It just might be best he doesn't step on the field again, as that knowledge did not translate to production. Cutting him would also not do much to the Patriots cap situation, which isn't a problem to begin with.
@colin_470 Why did the staff decide to go with Hoyer over Stidham if Stidham was the “the guy” all off-season before signing Cam? Makes me think they weren’t upfront about how much they liked Stidham in the first place.
Building off the last question, the staff went with Hoyer because he did have the knowledge and experience in the system. Learning your starting quarterback is out just days before a game is not ideal, so going with the experienced veteran makes the most sense.
The Stidham hype is also interesting to look back on this offseason. There were, and still are, plenty of rumors firing away about the change of emotions with the coaching staff and Stidham. He was reportedly expected to just be handed the starting job and also attended a wedding in Texas during the offseason he was apparently told not to attend. Obviously we don't know the true answer, but it will be interesting to see who they let start this week if they play.
@cj_blake4 How do you think Stidham will do when he faces the Broncos as the pats starter. I’m assuming cam doesn’t have two negative tests back to back days this week.
Assuming it is Stidham, which I expect he will be, I would expect a much better performance than what we’ve seen. Coming in off the bench after the crazy week against the defending Super Bowl champs is not an easy task and I thought he handled it well. He made some solid throws, including the touchdown pass to N’Keal Harry, but did make some mistakes as expected.
With hopefully a full week of preparation, Stidham would be able to limit the mistakes and give the Patriots a strong chance to beat the injury-plagues Broncos.
@le_rosebae What’s our long term backup QB situation?
Okay, last question regarding quarterbacks. The long-term back job is Stidham’s to lose in my opinion. He’s young and under contract, so if he can show strong flashes on the field he should be the guy for that spot.
@NotJeffGroth Any timeline for uche coming back? Or is it a classic foxboro flu?
Josh Uche was placed on the injured reserve in Week 3, so he won't be back until at least Week 7. Based on how the defense has played, I'd be shocked if they “Foxboro Flu” him and keep him out for the season. His speed and versatility at the position is exactly what they need. When he does return, it will interesting to see how much they do play him after being sidelined all season. He could be a key rotational piece or his role could depend on specific matchups, like last week against Kansas City where his speed on the field would have been a big boost. Only time will tell.
@armchairgminNH Where were Asiasi and Keene?
Two other Patriot rookies who have not made a splash this year are tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. Keene, has been an inactive every week, while Asiasi has played every game but has not even seen a target in the pass game.
The tight end position is the hardest non-QB spot to learn in the Patriots’ offense, so leaning on two rookies to heavily contribute is not the best recipe for success. But, it would be interesting to see what they could bring to the table. Asiasi has shown flashes in the run game, but made his presence felt in college with the ball in his hand. The UCLA Bruin was a versatile option in the pass game with strong ability to run after the catch, so seeing some of that in New England would absolutely boost their offense.
Keene is another extremely versatile player, who lined up all over the field Virgina Tech. He was a healthy scratch the last two games so it would be a surprise if he contributed much this season. Belichick said himself that Keene didn't do many things in college that the Patriots do offensively, so his development is taking time.
@textuffdaddy With the injuries mounting on the OL and the way the rookies are progressing/playing well, do you see any concerns of a back slide in the coming weeks?
Honestly, no. Things can always turn in a heartbeat but i just think these Patriot rookies and young players are really good. Players like Michael Onwenu (who was my favorite pick of the draft not to brag), who wasn't even projected to see the field this season, has played from the start and has dominated this season. Just last week Onwenu posted an elite 91.3 overall PFF grade and didn't allow a single pressure at right guard. He’s also played right tackle and jumbo tight end for the Patriots, proving to be just a good player.
I’ve run out of things to say. Michael Onwenu is fantastic. pic.twitter.com/7GIHSQn1ZU— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) October 7, 2020
The Patriots haven't relied too heavily on rookies this season. Other than Onwenu, Kyle Dugger is the only other rookie to really have consistent playing time and he has also impressed mightily. New England has to be thrilled with the progression of other young players like Chase Winovich, Damien Harris, and Isaiah Wynn too, so I would not expect much slide in their production.
@richg6567 Are we seeing the rapid decline of Julian Edelman, or is it just a byproduct of new QBs and system? I know he had the one great game with Cam, but he’s looked out of sorts in the other 3 games.
Watching Edelman with the naked eye, something just looks off. My best guess would be an injury as he has been listed on the injury report with a knee injury practically all season. But, this also could just be him declining (wipes away tears). Edelman is now 34 years of age with tons of wear-and-tear on his body, so obviously his best days on the field are behind him.
His Week 2 performance against Seattle was dominant, but those high-production games just won't be a weekly occurrence anymore. The drops are an issue however. He led the league in drops last year and the brutal drop on Monday night, which lead to a Stidham pick-six, was his fifth on the year already. According to Pro Football Reference, Edelman has dropped 24 total targets in his last 26 games, not a great stat. The lower production is expected, but the drops are the biggest issue.
@eghirarduzzi #Postpulpit Am I wrong in being extremely optimistic about this years team’s potential ? To me this post Brady team doesn’t look much different from our GOAT years, and is flashing an equal amount of potential.
I think everyone is optimistic about this years team. They have shown strong potential over four weeks with different identities on offense and the defense played an amazing game against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Both of their losses this season came on the road to the undefeated Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs. They had their shot to win both of those games as well. The Seahawks game ended on the one-yard line and its hard to be convinced New England would have lost to Kansas City last week if Cam Newton was under center. Through four weeks, the 2-2 record while showing their potential feels like some old Tom Brady lead team. Many of those teams just so happened to go on to win the Super Bowl.
That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!