With the NFL preseason in full swing, there is a lot going on around the New England Patriots and the rest of the league. Let’s use this forum right here to go through some of the stories that have emerged over the last few days: time for our Sunday Patriots Notes.
1. His shoulder injury further complicates N’Keal Harry’s future in New England. Patriots wide receiver N’Keal Harry avoided serious injury to his shoulder during Thursday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. However, a recent report by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network indicates he could still miss some time: Harry is expected to be out four weeks.
In turn, his availability for the Patriots’ regular season opener on September 12 is very much in question. New England will therefore have some decisions to make when it comes to the former first-round draft pick.
The first is about his injury status. Depending on whether that timeline turns out to be accurate, sending Harry to injured reserve would make sense. He would have to remain on the 53-team through cutdown day in order to be eligible for a return later during the regular season, but would free up a roster spot for the first three (or more) weeks of the season, giving the team some flexibility.
There also is the question about his agent’s trade request earlier during the offseason. Jamal Tooson publicly demanded the Patriots move his client, but the shoulder ailment possibly hurts his value and complicates the search for a potential trade partner — if the organization even wants to find one in the first place.
Either way, Harry’s future in New England remains unclear. He did have a solid training camp so far, but the injury threatens to halt his momentum.
2. Chase Winovich is very happy to be back on the field. While N’Keal Harry will be sidelines for the foreseeable future, another third-year Patriot returned to the practice fields recently and played his first game of the season against the Eagles: linebacker Chase Winovich, who arrived in New England in the third-round of the 2019 NFL Draft, made his preseason debut in Philadelphia.
Needless to say that the 26-year-old is happy that he is back.
“It felt great,” he said during a postgame press conference on Thursday. “It was a lot of fun being out there with my teammates, and just the opportunity to be able to compete at the pinnacle of anything is truly a blessing. To come out and have a great victory, and for so many people to do such an awesome job, it was a lot of fun. I missed it.”
Why exactly Winovich was forced to miss time during the offseason and start training camp on the physically unable to perform list is not known, but he apparently was able to find some realization during his time away. A visibly emotional Winovich mentioned accountability and the support system he has in New England.
“It’s a you-versus-you thing, and each individual person has to take accountability for their own process and development,” he said. “But it’s great to have a very supportive team around you. I’ve been using the word ‘Feng shui’ a lot. Things make sense, people know what they’re doing, they know their assignments, and they are committed to doing whatever it takes to perform those assignments.”
3. Cam Newton, man of the people. During his time with the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton started giving footballs to fans in the stands every time the offense scored. After joining New England last summer, he was unable to continue the tradition: Covid-19 banned fans from the Patriots’ games in 2020, meaning Newton was unable to play in front of his new home crowd.
Things look different this year, and Thursday’s game against the Eagles was a reminder of that:
After the game, Newton spoke about his “Sunday Giveaways.”
“It’s my thing,” he said. “That’s my way of appreciation to the fans. Hopefully, there will be a lot of ‘Sunday Giveaways’ to look forward to in the upcoming season.”
4. Quinn Nordin’s resiliency. With Nick Folk having missed the last 10 days of training camp work, undrafted rookie Quinn Nordin has received plenty of opportunities to prove himself and potentially challenge the Patriots’ incumbent place kicker. Early on it looked as if he might have a chance, but the game in Philadelphia brought the Nordin Hype Train™ to a quick halt.
The Michigan product missed a 36-yard field goal attempt, and also shanked a pair of extra points. With head coach Bill Belichick repeatedly mentioning consistency as a key skill for players at the position, one was left wondering whether or not Nordin’s performance on Thursday sealed his fate.
However, Belichick had some positive words to say about the 23-year-old on the day after the game.
“I thought Quinn did a good job of rebounding there in the second half, came back and hit the ball well, but obviously a big part of everybody’s game and certainly the specialists game is consistency and so, let’s say that we’ve seen a little bit of that from all the specialists in the first two preseason games,” Belichick said.
“We’re all obviously working for more consistency and especially when you have a three-man operation there with a snapper, a holder and a kicker, then there’s an element of that. We’ll keep working through it and see where it goes.”
5. Bill Belichick releases a statement on the passing of Floyd Reese. Long-time Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese ended his career as an executive with the Patriots. For four seasons between 2009 and 2013, Reese was part of Bill Belichick’s staff as a senior football advisor.
Reese passed away at the age of 73 on Saturday, with Belichick releasing the following statement about his former co-worker:
I am saddened by Floyd’s passing and am forever grateful for the impact he made on my professional development. Floyd was one of the most influential people on my NFL career when we were together on the Detroit Lions staff. Floyd was one of the pioneer coaches in strength training at a time when strength coaches did not exist in the NFL. As terrific a coach, football mind and team builder as he became, and as tough a person he was, when I think of Floyd I will remember a great human being and one of the most positive, friendly people I have ever known. Floyd made a significant impact on my career, he was a friend of nearly half a century and he will be missed greatly. My thoughts and prayers are with Sally, the Reese family and the Titans organization.
6. The Patriots could be a candidate for Hard Knocks in 2022. HBO’s Hard Knocks is back, chronicling the Dallas Cowboys’ journey through training camp and the preseason. The show gives Patriots fans an opportunity to get an inside look at an upcoming opponent — the Cowboys will travel to New England in Week 6 — but it could theoretically also be a preview of what lies ahead for the team as well.
In case the Patriots miss the playoffs this year and make no change at head coaches — which is a near-certainty even with Bill Belichick already 69 years old — they become eligible to be featured on the show for the first time since its inception in the early 2000s. If that indeed happens, they would be the most popular candidate regardless of the other teams.
7. Comparing Mac Jones to other first-round rookie quarterbacks. Two weeks into his first preseason one thing has become clear: Mac Jones has adapted very well to the Patriots’ system and is already living up to his first-round status. Obviously, preseason performance has to be taken with a grain of salt, but it is hard not to feel good about Jones.
How does he compare to the four other first-round rookie passers, though? Let’s take a quick look at the numbers to find out:
- Trevor Lawrence: 1 games (1 start), 15 snaps; 6-for-9 (66.7%), 71 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 2 sacks
- Zach Wilson: 2 games (2 starts), 44 snaps; 15-for-20 (75%), 191 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 0 sacks
- Trey Lance: 1 game (0 starts), 29 snaps; 5-for-14 (35.7%), 128 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 4 sacks
- Justin Fields: 2 games (0 starts), 71 snaps; 23-for-39 (59%), 222 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 2 sacks; 9 carries, 79 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble
- Mac Jones: 2 games (0 starts), 75 snaps; 26-for-38 (68.4%), 233 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 1 sacks; 2 carries, 4 yards
Among the rookie QBs who appeared in two games so far, Wilson stands out but both Fields and Jones have looked good too. The same goes for Lawrence and, although he showed more inconsistencies than the others, Lance as well.
Will all five continue to find similar success when “real” football gets kicked during the regular season (be it in 2021 or 2022)? That seems doubtful. At this point in time, however, all five teams who invested this spring should be happy about what they have seen.
8. The Patriots’ locker room is divided. To end on a lighter note, there has been some disagreement among Patriots veterans David Andrews and Brandon Bolden on social media this weekend. What had happened?
Andrews, New England’s starting center, had taken to social media to claim that “pineapple belongs on pizza.” Running back Brandon Bolden took exception to that statement:
We will keep a close eye on how the great pizza controversy of 2021 will end — and how it might impact New England’s success during the upcoming season. Until then, let’s hear from you: Does pineapple belong on pizza or not?