Being four weeks into the NFL season now, we can start to see some character flaws in most of the teams around the league. This Sunday, the Patriots face the Detroit Lions. The Lions’ character flaw, defense, as they rank dead last in almost every category in the league. Defense has been an issue facing the Lions all season. As the NFL’s highest scoring team one would think their 1-3 record would be more like 3-1 or 2-2 but their inability to stop their opponents from scoring has been their Achilles heel.
Defensively for New England
Let’s start on the defensive side of the ball for New England. Stats do not lie when it comes to this Lions offense so far; although one can make an argument that they cannot keep this pace up for the entirety of the season. Jared Goff statistically is the fifth best quarterback in the NFL this season. He’s thrown for 1,126 yards (3rd in NFL), 11 touchdowns (1st in NFL), and is seventh in QBR and Passer rating. Knowing that the Patriots need to have a similar defensive mindset defending this week as they did last week in Green Bay.
With all four of Detroit’s main receivers not practicing on Wednesday (T.J. Hockenson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, and D.J. Chark) the Patriots may catch a break with a few of them not being at full health.
Focusing on a consistent pass rush and a safety heavy defense in coverage will most likely be how the Patriots will defend again this week. With 3 safeties on the field for over 50% of the plays last week I expect that same approach again. The Patriots have been a heavy 4-3 team this year but only use two linebackers and a safety in the box. Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Jabril Peppers all performed well last week and with another week of a healthy Kyle Dugger the Patriots seem to be looking to that depth to help out their cornerbacks. Dugger and Peppers are expected to play that outside linebacker position again as the Patriots have been using them there in practice all week.
When speaking of the cornerbacks it’s almost impossible to overlook the Jones’s. Jack and Jonathan Jones have played solid and with Myles Bryant contributing as well this Patriots secondary has seemed to answer all the question marks regarding them coming into the season.
The Patriots upfront need to put pressure on a banged up offensive line. Matthew Judon and Deatrich Wise need to dominate on the edge again this week. Both of them are tied for fifth in the NFL in sacks and with a banged up O-Line for Detroit they may have a few more coming their way this weekend.
The signing this week of Jamie Collins is interesting as well. Belichick won’t be outwardly critical of his linebackers but as they have struggled to tackle and there is no true leader in the group the signing of Collins is really fascinating. Obviously, Belichick is keen to him as this is his third stint with the team so a signing like this is more for consistency at the position as opposed to anything else.
Patriots Offensive Keys
Bailey Zappe, after shaking off the nerves in the second quarter last week, looked capable of winning football games in the NFL. Thinking that he was playing scout team quarterback for three weeks and hasn’t had offensive reps since training camp he proved himself as a competitor. Even though Matt Patricia was wise in keeping things simple for him as he had a few reps in practice heading into Green Bay, it will be interesting to see how they handle him.
For one it may be better to keep things simple for Zappe but is that beneficial for the Patriots receivers? It’s obviously not so Praticia needs to create a game plan that allows the Patriots to press more offensively and not play so tentatively.
Rhamondre Stevenson has been getting more and more touches in the run game, and as the main receiving back for the Patriots now he could be someone to watch out for. Damien Harris is going to out touch him running the ball but in the passing game he won’t. If the Patriots plan is to run the ball and keep it simple throwing the ball Stevenson could have just as many touches as Harris overall.
The Patriots game plan will be to possess the clock and have long drives. Running the ball eleven times and throwing three or four times on long drives will be key for them as the Lions seem to not be able to stop anything. So by running the ball and throwing sparingly the Patriots can put up points and have the Lions play right into their hands.
Mac Jones Update
Mac was a limited participant Wednesday at practice as the Patriots were in helmets and shorts. Even though this is promising it was a glorified walk through as Belichick spoke about taking the intensity off a bit in practice in his Monday press conference. I would be shocked if Jones dressed this week and even next week. He has progressed but with high ankle sprains one twist and he could aggravate it even more.
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