Week 7 of the NFL season is upon us, and it will see the New England Patriots welcome the Chicago Bears for a prime time matchup. The biggest question heading into the Monday night game between the two clubs is obviously the status of Patriots starting quarterback Mac Jones.
There were plenty of other stories that have emerged over the last week, though, that we did not have time to cover elsewhere. Welcome to this week’s Sunday Patriots Notes.
Jakobi Meyers is in some pretty good company. Six weeks into the season, there is no question about Jakobi Meyers’ position in the Patriots offense. He is the team’s most reliable receiving weapon, and the team leader in targets (31), receptions (24) and receiving yards (321) as well as tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns (1).
Meyers has been good when compared to his teammates. He also has been quite productive when compared to the rest of the NFL as a graphic shared by ESPN’s Seth Walder illustrates:
If we drop YAC Score we can color by team, which I think is a little nicer for finding who you are looking for. Here's that version. pic.twitter.com/sgWo7CFzNE— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 19, 2022
ESPN looks at openness and production on a scale from 0 to 99, where 50 is roughly the league average. As can be seen, Jakobi Meyers is clearly above that average in both categories: he has been getting open, and has been able to complete catches whenever passes were coming his way.
His abilities in both areas put him in some elite company, with the likes of Cooper Kupp, Adam Thielen and Tyreek Hill surrounding him. Those three are among the best pass catchers in the NFL, and while Meyers does not have the same all-around skillset than they do he has been able to turn into a massively productive player — and one of the most reliable receiving targets in all of football so far this season.
The impending unrestricted free agent is therefore setting himself up nicely for his trip to the open market, or a payday from the Patriots.
Jakobi Meyers not surprised by Tyquan Thornton making an immediate impact. While Jakobi Meyers’ long-term outlook in New England is in question given his contract status, the same cannot be said for Tyquan Thornton. A second-round pick by the Patriots earlier this year, the rookie wideout projects as a key member of the team’s passing attack for the foreseeable future.
That is especially true after Thornton showcased his intriguing skillset last week against the Cleveland Browns. In his second game removed from a fractured collarbone, the Baylor product touched the football seven times for 53 yards and two touchdowns — one each as a receiver and a runner.
Thornton’s attributes were on full display that day: his game-breaking speed and impressive quickness. Both also caught Meyers’ eye, even though the resulting production was no surprise to him.
“I’m not surprised. Definitely impressed, but not surprised,” Meyers told reporters this week. “He loves to be around. He loves the guys, loves the game. So, it was just a matter of time. As soon as he got healthy, we knew he would step out there and make plays. Too much talent, honestly. He’s a great player that will be in the game for a long time.”
The man behind the Patriots’ defensive line deserves some praise. Led by one of the most productive pass-rush duos in the entire NFL — Matthew Judon and Deatrich Wise Jr. — the New England defensive line has played a major part in the team’s return to .500 over the last two weeks. The players obviously deserve praise for making the turnaround happen, but so does the coaching staff.
In the D-line’s case, that coach is DeMarcus Covington. Earlier this week, his boss — head coach Bill Belichick — spoke about Covington’s journey and contributions.
“DeMarcus does a really good job,” Belichick said. “I met him at Chattanooga and kind of got to know him there. We hired him that spring after that, if I remember correctly, later in that spring. He’s coached linebackers, coached defensive line, really understands the entire defense. I’m sure he could coach a lot of positions on defense.
“Young guy that’s really smart, works hard. Has worked with, again, a lot of different types of players, even on our defensive line. That difference between our interior guys and our outside guys is quite distinct. Pass rush, pass coverage, interior run play, so forth. We played a number of different fronts, as we know, some odd fronts, some even fronts, so forth. Pass rush, multiple fronts there. It’s a lot of different techniques to coach. He’s very well-versed in the fundamentals and schemes. He does a good job.”
After serving in various roles at Alabama-Birmingham, Mississippi, UT Martin and Eastern Illinois, Covington joined the Patriots in 2017. He served as a coaching assistant his first two seasons before moving to outside linebackers in 2018 and eventually his current job one year later.
“Really glad we have him,” added Belichick. “I mean, we have a good defensive staff, but he does an excellent job and he’s had multiple different roles over the few years we’ve had him.”
Bailey Zappe’s deep-ball accuracy stands out. Bailey Zappe’s stint as New England starting quarterback is expected to come to an end sooner rather than later, but it was a successful one so far. One could look at several statistics to illustrate this, but one number that stands out among them is his deep-ball accuracy.
As pointed out by fantasy football expert JJ Zachariason, Zappe is leading the league in completion percentage on throws traveling more than 15 yards:
This shows how frequently each quarterback has thrown it 15 or more air yards, and their completion percentage on those throws.— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) October 18, 2022
Bailey. Zappe. pic.twitter.com/iCP523wluy
Zappe entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick by the Patriots this offseason, with questions about his arm talent a main reason why he slid down the boards despite a record-breaking season at Western Kentucky. His arm, however, has looked adequate in his three games so far — and it has been able to give him a 66.7 percent completion rate on his nine attempts of 15-plus yards.
N’Keal Harry the latest first-rounder to return to Foxborough. The 32nd overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, N’Keal Harry was traded from the Patriots to the Bears earlier this year. Three months after the move, he is set to return to his old stomping grounds on Monday night.
According to research by 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Alex Barth, Harry will be the seventh first-round draft pick under head coach Bill Belichick to return to New England and face his former team. The others are as follows:
- 2021: DT Malcom Brown, Jacksonville Jaguars
- 2019: OT Nate Solder, New York Giants
- 2016: DT Dominique Easley, Los Angeles Rams
- 2016: DT Vince Wilfork, Houston Texans (2x)
- 2013: TE Benjamin Watson, New Orleans Saints
- 2008: TE Daniel Graham, Denver Broncos
In case you are wondering, the Patriots won all of those games.
Patriots preach ‘team defense’ with Justin Fields coming to town. Four weeks after facing Baltimore Ravens dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Patriots defense is in for a similar test. While sophomore QB Justin Fields is not on Jackson’s level and does not have the same support system around him, New England knows he is a big-play threat.
So, how do you stop him? According to defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, it will take the entire defense working in unison.
“All 11 have to fly to the ball, kind of like Lamar Jackson,” Godchaux said. “Very explosive, can break a 60-yard run at any moment. Very fast, so you have to make sure all 11 guys are on the ball. I think we’ve been doing a great job at practice this week, making sure all 11 effort to the ball. One guy probably can’t get him down, all 11 have to get the ball.”
So far this season, Fields has had his ups and downs. He has completed 63 of 115 pass attempts (54.8%) for 869 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. However, he has looked good as a runner and has gained 285 yards on 50 non-kneel-down carries; he also has scored one rushing touchdown.
The Bears are not quite as healthy as their injury report makes it seem. Chicago is entering the game against the Patriots remarkably healthy: the club of head coach Matt Eberflus had no players listed on any injury report this week. However, that does not necessarily mean the Bears are at full strength.
They are still missing two starters plus another starter-caliber player on injured reserve. Guard Cody Whitehair and wide receiver Byron Pringle will both miss the game in New England on IR, while offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood — another former first-rounder acquired via trade this year — is in his three-week practice window. He could be activated before the contest versus the Patriots, but no such move happened as of Sunday morning.