Just when you thought the Patriots defense couldn’t be more impressive they get an impressive up-and-coming starter to admit that he was, “Seeing ghosts”. The Patriots continue to force turnovers at a staggering rate and have now collected a league-leading 22 turnovers, including an insane 18 interceptions. For context, the next closest in turnovers forced has 15, and the next closest in interceptions has just half the amount of the Patriots at nine thus far. Furthermore the Patriots have 3 players in the top 10 spots with Devin McCourty leading the NFL with five intercepts, and Jamie Collins and Stephon Gilmore each tied for second with three each. That could be an important note this week as the Cleveland Browns lead the league with 11 interceptions thrown thus far.
A lot has been made of Baker Mayfield’s struggles this year, and for good reason. Mayfield has thrown 11 interceptions in just six games, whereas he had 14 last year, but in 14 games. Mayfield has also had two fumbles as well. The struggles with Mayfield have led to a downtick in the offensive numbers as the Browns are scoring just 20 points per game, ninth-worst in the entire league.
Baker has also struggled with his accuracy, a defining trait of his coming out of college. His first year he connected on 63.8 percent of his passes and this year is down to just 56.6 percent placing him 31st of a possible 32 qualified quarterbacks. None of this is to say he won’t figure it out or pick it up from this point forward, but with the way Nick Chubb is running the ball it figures Belichick will be attempting to prevent a big rushing game rather than playing coverage.
A lot has been made about that trade for Mohammed Sanu and that a second rounder was far too much for a receiver of his quality. However, no one trade is the same as another as there are always variables in play. For instance, trading for Josh Gordon or Randy Moss in the past were both better values at the time because there wasn’t as much demand and both were on the outs with their respective team. This time, the Patriots were far from the only team interested in Sanu. Throw in the fact the Patriots are always expected to pick in the 28-32 range and their picks are worth less in a pick to pick comparison.
A couple of other things to consider with the move: The Patriots know how they want to use Sanu, and he is likely to produce at a higher level than his contract dictates giving him extra value. Moreover, Sanu also has an extra year on his contract at a lower value than free agency would give him. Lastly, Sanu is likely to sign a deal good enough for a third or fourth round compensatory pick when he leaves in two years if things go as Belichick plans. For all those reasons this is a solid move for the Pats and gives them another reliable option and bigger possession receiver.
On the other side of the ledger the Patriots traded Michael Bennett to the Cowboys for a seventh-round pick, which could become a sixth-round pick. Obviously when looking at it, this is not the value the Patriots envisioned when they made the trade for Bennett this offseason, but in sports, everything is fluid. When acquired the Patriot looked like they would need a pass rusher from the interior, but more importantly would be using more of a 4-3 base, rather than the 3-4 base unit they have been going with. Again, no defense is strictly just 4-3 or 3-4, there are finite details, but throw in the fact that Bennett is more of an upfield, rusher without as much discipline in rush lanes and this wasn’t a great fit. Bennett eventually was passed by Deatrich Wise.
The trade gives the Patriots some much needed breathing room against the salary cap, but also leaves them a big body short in the rotation because as we all know it is a long season. The trade was still one you make every time because Bennett, although not a great scheme fit anymore, would still have added a lot of value, but he longer was following the true “Patriot Way” and that combined with him being the only true player they could move to open any significant amount of cap space seal his fate.
With the trade deadline fast approaching (Tuesday October 29th, 4PM EST) the Patriots are likely done, but are never out completely. With the Michael Bennett trade, they are now up to $2.812 in room according to PatsCap. The problem is they will need to save a little room. Because of that I definitely do not see any big moves coming, and most likely I think they keep with the roster they have now barring someone like OJ Howard shaking free or someone in the ballpark of a 1.5M cap hit. Overall the Patriots have what they need to win and keep the train moving. Could they upgrade? Sure. Any team could, but don’t expect any fireworks.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Browns 10
The Browns just are not the team we thought they would be going into the season. Of course, Nick Chubb is one of the few positives that have come from that as he has been fantastic.
Unfortunately I think they work to take the run game away and make Baker Mayfield read this defense and throw against man coverage, a defense where you have to be accurate and on time with reads and throws. The Patriots are one of the few teams that can man up on the outside and not be worried about giving up a big play. Belichick does respect Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. a lot so don’t be surprised to see them double covered a bunch each. In the end, the Patriots correct some problems with their offense, get a couple turnovers with their defense and ho-hum deliver another big win.
–David Albiani is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @david_albiani