Week 8 of the NFL season is upon us, and it will see the New England Patriots take on the New York Jets. The game will be the final one before the trade deadline on Nov. 1, so naturally there is a lot going on around the league right now.
To keep you up to date with some of the stories that have emerged over the last week that we did not have time to cover elsewhere, make sure to check out this week’s Sunday Patriots Notes.
Kendrick Bourne addresses the trade rumors. The trade wins are blowing in the NFL and New England, and one of the players repeatedly mentioned to possibly be on the move is Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. In the middle of a disappointing second campaign as a Patriot, teams have called about the 27-year-old’s availability.
Bourne, however, is not concerned about the rumors. Speaking to Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald earlier this week, he shared his feelings on being in New England.
“I want to be here. There’s no doubt about it,” he said.
“Yeah, it hasn’t been my best year so far or whatever the naysayers say, but I’m happy here. I’m just playing my role, like I said in the beginning, it’s about being patient. I’m not looking to be the stat guy, just trying to be in a position to help the team win, and I’ve always been that way. So, I’m just sticking to that motto and not getting too caught up in trying to get paid or whatever it may be.”
Bourne had a productive first season with the Patriots, but has since slipped down the depth chart. A disappointing summer that included him getting tossed from one practice and subsequently arriving late for the preseason game against the Carolina Panthers paved the way for a quiet season.
Now behind Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker and Nelson Agholor on the depth chart, and with rookie Tyquan Thornton emerging as well, the Patriots might be open to moving Bourne. They would create $2.4 million in cap space if doing so.
“Just really not focusing on it. Just whatever happens, happens,” Bourne said. “If that’s what the coaches think they want to do and they think that’s what’s best, I’m on that wave. I would be cool with anything. Just really focusing on what I need to do and improving.
“Hopefully, it’s more of other teams wanting me rather than my team not wanting me, so just thinking about it that way, also. Just focusing on getting better and the team and what’s going forward, instead of trying to fall into that trap.”
Bourne is not the only Patriots wide receiver currently rumored to be on the trade block. Teams have also called about Nelson Agholor, who arrived as a free agent last year as well and has had an up-and-down season so far.
While Agholor has shown some good chemistry with quarterback Mac Jones, he also has two fumbles on his season résumé and also let a ball go through his hands for an interception. Additionally, moving on from the veteran wideout would create $5 million worth of cap savings.
Yodny Cajuste’s return factors into the Isaiah Wynn decision. Bourne is not the only Patriot currently rumored to be on the move. Starting right tackle Isaiah Wynn, a first-round draft pick in 2018 currently in the final year of his contract, is in the same boat. As with the wide receiver position, the depth at offensive tackle also factors into potential moves being made.
New England just bolstered that depth by activating Yodny Cajuste off injured reserve. The former third-round draft pick had originally been the team’s OT3 behind Wynn and left tackle Trent Brown, but a thumb injury sidelined him since early October. In his place, Marcus Cannon stepped up; he started in place of an injured Wynn against the Bears.
With Cajuste back and Cannon also on the 53-man roster, the Patriots might be more willing to part ways with Wynn via trade if an attractive offer comes along.
The Patriots are hungry to bounce back in Week 8. New England suffered its worst defeat of the season on Monday, getting blown out 33-14 by the Chicago Bears. Needless to say that the team is eager to get its season back on track, as was verbalized by cornerback Jonathan Jones earlier this week.
“There’s a hunger,” Jones told reporters. “Obviously, we didn’t display our best ball on Monday. So, we have a hunger to get back out there and put good tape out there.”
Entering Week 8 at 3-4, the Patriots will face a 5-2 Jets team — the first time since 2001 that New York has a better record entering a meeting between the two division rivals. Past success, however, matters little to Jones and his team.
The goal is to improve to 4-4 on the year, and 1-1 in the AFC East this season.
“It’s a division game, so you want to dominate within your division. We haven’t done that this year, we’re 0-1 within the division. We want to turn that table,” Jones said. “They’re looking forward to turning around their 12 straight losses against us and we want to keep that streak going.”
Patriots can tie the longest active winning against a single opponent in the NFL. The Patriots are entering Week 8 having won 12 straight games over the Jets. Their last loss was a 26-20 overtime defeat in December 2015, meaning that the team is coming off six straight season-sweeps over its division rivals.
This also means that New England is in a position to tie the longest active winning streak versus one opponent in the league right now. The Kansas City Chiefs have beaten the Denver Broncos in 13 straight games, a number the Patriots could tie on Sunday.
The Chiefs and Broncos still have two games against one another on their schedule, though. The Patriots setting the new mark this year would therefore depend on a Kansas City loss in one of those contests (let alone New England sweeping New York again).
J.C. Jackson’s season-ending injury will impact the Patriots as well. After four years in New England, cornerback J.C. Jackson signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. His tenure with his new club started in rocky fashion before coming to a disappointing end in Week 7.
Jackson ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee against the Seattle Seahawks, and will miss the remainder of the season. The injury is obviously a tough development for the former rookie free agent and his new club; it also will impact his old one, though.
Losing Jackson in free agency, after all, will now likely not result in the Patriots getting a third-round pick out of the NFL’s compensatory process. Instead, they are looking at a fourth-rounder being added to their 2023 tally.
NFL kickoff return numbers speak a clear language. During the first seven weeks of the season, a trend has started to emerge in the NFL. Statistically speaking, teams should prefer not to run back kickoffs when fielding them inside their own end zone.
The following graphics shared by Joseph Jefe on Twitter illustrate this:
Only five teams in the league have gone beyond the touchback line on an average return from their own end zone, with the Patriots not among them: they have crossed the 25-yard line on just four of nine runbacks in such a situation, reaching the 24-yard line on average. Meanwhile, they are among the worst teams in the league covering such kickoff returns.
Admittedly, the sample size for all teams is a rather small one — the average team had just 4.3 such returns this year — but it shows that the risk oftentimes outweighs the potential reward when fielding the ball in such a situation.
Matthew Slater shares his thoughts on surpassing Bruce Armstrong’s 212 games. The longest-tenured current Patriot, special teams captain Matthew Slater, appeared in his 213th regular season game on Monday. He now stands alone is second place all time behind only Tom Brady’s 285 — surpassing Patriots Hall of Famer Bruce Armstrong along the way.
Speaking to Steve Burton earlier this week, Slater reflected on the accomplishment while deflecting praise to those around him.
“It’s pretty crazy. Certainly never dreamed of playing that many games,” he said. “I’ve been very, very blessed. When I think about that accomplishment, certainly it’s not a reflection on me. I think it’s a reflection on the people that have supported me and propped me up over the course of my career.
“Obviously, my wife and my family; my parents; our training staff, teammates, just so many people that have gone out of their way to support me and allow me to pursue my dream. So, I thank them. All the credit goes to them.”
Slater arrived in New England as a fifth-round draft pick in 2008. He has missed just 19 possible games through his career and has appeared in every contest going back to the 2017 playoffs.
Mike Pennel receives a laughably small fine for his blindside tackle on David Andrews. The Patriots’ game against the Chicago Bears on Monday was a disappointment from top to bottom, with one of the worst moments coming in the fourth quarter. With the game already out of hand, starting center David Andrews absorbed a blindside hit on an interception and had to leave the field with a concussion.
The player tackling him, former Patriot Mike Pennel, was ejected from the game. He later also was fined by the league, even though the eventual number is arguably too small given the outcome: Pennel has to pay $6,222.
For comparison, as was pointed out by Miguel Benzan, Andrews will lose at least one $58,824 active roster bonus and possibly a $250,000 playing-time incentive as well as a result of the play. The 30-year-old remains in concussion protocol and has been ruled out for the game against the Jets.