As the New England Patriots prepare to take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, September 30 at Gillette Stadium, the Staff of FPC Patriots sat down to discuss the importance of this game to the outcome of the 2018 season.
Question for Week Four:
Although the Patriots have been prone to slow starts for the past few seasons, is there a cause for concern that poor execution we have seen thus far could linger throughout the 2018 season?
David Albiani, FPC Patriots Staff Writer
As the question states the Patriots have been prone to slow starts as they try to figure out where all the pieces fit best and this year seems to be no different. The one thing to me that stands out is the lack of execution from a team that prides itself on always being engaged and prepared. I think most of the issues thus far are just executing better such as run blocking, a more diverse play-calling on offense, and wrapping up on tackles. That is all stuff that should be much improved as we continue on this year.
The one thing that will not get better though is the speed at linebacker, something that was glaring last year and was not addressed. That is one thing I feel the Patriots need to address going forward from a player acquisition perspective or moving pieces around. I still see this team as a playoff one so nobody should panic. I think this week we see a much more passionate effort by all phases of the team and an offensive outburst.
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Ethan Roy, FPC Patriots Staff Writer
My gut tells me that the September Patriots are a notoriously bad reflection of the Patriots later in the season. However, with the Patriots coming off two ugly losses to two clearly inferior teams, it’s hard to not be concerned a little bit. Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger, and the offense simply hasn’t produced up to their expectations so far.
The defense is not any better, as quarterbacks like Blake Bortles and Matthew Stafford had no problem moving the ball down the field, and their inability to get off the field on third down is, to put it simply, alarming. So yes, I am a little concerned, but I will stick to the mantra of “In Bill We Trust” until he gives me a reason to think otherwise. A slow start hasn’t deterred this team in the past, and I don’t think it will this year. This week’s tilt against the Dolphins will be a good indicator of how concerned we really should be.
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Luke O’Brien, FPC Patriots Staff Writer
I’m going to state for the record before I answer this question that I believe that the coaching staff and Tom Brady will turn this around. However, I have to say I am more concerned than I have been in seasons past. The Patriots made it difficult against what looks to be a poor Houston team and were generally uncompetitive against Jacksonville and Detroit.
The talent drain is obvious on Offense. The players that were brought in to effectively replace Cooks and Amendola have not worked out. Jordan Matthews, Eric Decker, Corey Coleman, Bennie Fowler, Amara Darboh, Kenny Britt, Malcolm Mitchell, Riley McCarron, and Braxton Berrios were all brought in over the course of the summer and none of them are on the active roster.
The “trickle down” effect is fully in place in New England. Patterson is a gadget player, Dorsett and Hogan would all be more comfortable as 2/3 Receivers than as a primary option. James White and the unfortunate Rex Burkhead are good receiving options out of the backfield but they are not slot receivers. The return of Julian Edelman in Week 5 will go some way to pushing the receivers back into familiar spots but what the Offense needs is an infusion of talent.
The trade for Josh Gordon would normally be seen as the type of “Belichickian” move to add a complimentary piece to take his team even higher. Gordon has now become the White Knight of the Patriots and that in itself is worrying.
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Hal Bent, FPC Patriots Staff Writer
Yes, this is a legitimate concern. It is easy to make excuses for each game: in week one, it was the offense was rusty and that explained the second half of drives that ended as a turnover (fumble), two red zone stall-outs and field goals, and two punts; week two it was the ultra-motivated Jaguars and their “September Super Bowl” creating a road stinker and a garbage-time touchdown making it look better than the beatdown was; and finally last week was the “Matt Patricia Factor” as the former defensive coordinator used his intimate knowledge of the offensive and defensive personnel to craft a perfect game plan on both sides of the ball.
Well, I am not buying those excuses. I see total yards on offense going from 389 yards to 302 yards to 209 yards. I see total yards on defense going from 325 total yards to 480 yards to 414 yards (although the Lions ran the ball nine of their last 13 plays in the fourth quarter content with their two-score lead). How is this defense going to slow Kansas City in week six? How is this offense going to move the ball against Chicago in week seven? This week, Miami has allowed the sixth-fewest points through three weeks and have seven touchdown passes 18 yards or more through three weeks.
This is a must-win for the Patriots (yes, in week four). Last year was a 2-2 start and then an eight-game winning streak; 2014 was a seven-game winning streak after a 2-2 start; 2012 the team was 1-2 and then 3-3 and then won seven straight. The Patriots could surprise and blast off a big winning streak, but with a 41-year old quarterback, 11 players on injured reserve, another dozen on the injury report and their top wide receiver suspended until week five it seems this week there may be just too much to overcome.
Last year's Vikings free agency was a time of action. Rick Spielman made multiple significant moves that inspired confidence and excitement in the 2018 Vikings. He threw money at Kirk Cousins to lock down the quarterback position. He strengthened the defensive line with Sheldon Richardson. For the first time in some time, Spielman did not sit on his hands when it came time to make deals. That is, with one area of exception.