What We Saw: Week 2 2018
Patriots vs. Jaguars
As the Patriots writer, I will not sugar coat this game for us, instead focusing on what upside we can possibly gleam in the fantasy routine, from week to week. The Patriots traveled to Jacksonville, and in the 90 plus degree weather, wilted away in front of the Jaguars stout defensive onslaught, coming out of this game with the loss, 20-31. Jake Jortles (the Good Place QB) simply put a clinic on against the Pats. Let’s dive in and see if we can get ahead of the leagues were in, as the Patriots travel to Detroit to face off against their old defensive coordinator turned Lions coach, Matt Patricia.
Will the addition of Sony Michel into the backfield help find an identity?
Sony Michel was the prize offensive draft pickup for the Patriots, taking him in the first round when other sinking draft stock players were available (Lamar Jackson, anyone?). The first round pick out of Georgia, Michel’s value dropped a bit overall due to injury woes, and he spent the preseason resting up after having a knee drained out. This was the first game coverage we got to see him in, and he showed some flashes while attempting to figure out his game again, albeit in an awful intro to the league, against what many call the best defense in the league. Michel ripped off one long run of fifteen yards, but mostly this was his way of easing back into the team, and the biggest piece we can gather from this game is the immediate entry of Michel in as the team’s lead back. While Rex Burkhead still lingers and lurks, and may have had a light game’s work given he came in to the day as questionable coming out of the concussion protocol, the goal here is what I would imagine being a split of Michel half the game’s carries, while the other half are divided up between Burkhead and James White (an amazing blocker and pass catcher, but less relied on for runs). No one rusher tallied over 34 yards, so let’s focus on the writing on the wall going forward here, as I’d imagine none of us started a Patriots rusher in this matchup, and let’s move along to the other facets.
Can Tom Brady find any traction against the best secondary in football?
In short, no. Tom Brady looked weathered and winded for most of this game, and in fact it was a bit off-putting for a fellow that at so many times in his career has defied age, that he has a popular Facebook series highlighting just how he retains his youth at the ripe age of 41. During the game, it was highlighted that in his career, only once out of the six games played in temperatures over 90 degrees has he won a start for the Patriots. Maybe the heat is his kryptonite? The Jaguars were no slouches, either, and while random factoids like the heat above are always fun to read, I’d be more inclined for us to look at that Jaguars defense as most of the reason Brady looked distraught and unnerved for most of the game. His offensive line did him no favors, but he spent the majority of the game rushed out of the pocket, searching all of his weapons available on most plays before making a pass. While finishing the game with a passer rating over 100, with 2 touchdowns and 0 picks, he didn’t much look like himself. Battling the sun and the Jaguars excellent pass rush, he made the most of what was given to him, albeit in a losing effort. Not much will change here with Brady going forward, you’re going to roll with him in most matchups, other than elite defenses if you have a better streamer option, and you absolutely roll with him in a week 3 matchup against Patricia’s Lions.
Is there anyone value play or riser from the Patriots on the receiving side of the game?
James White was the centerpiece to the Patriots passing game today, as they rolled through this matchup on his hands. The weapon most used when the pocket is breaking down, or a short out route is needed, White is and always will be one of the best PPR weapons you can possibly own, as Tom Brady and his rapport has become somewhat of a no-doubter for a flex player. White finished the game with the most receptions, going 7 for 73 on 8 targets. The remainder of the targets were a total mixed bag, as no one player really broke out from this core of receivers. Julian Edelman continues to be the prize the Patriots will be waiting for in return in week 5. They have found some players that Brady has built some trust with, as Phillip Dorsett ended his day 5 for 44 on 7 targets, continuing to show he can make the most of his targets. Dorsett was a lottery ticket when the Patriots traded Jacoby Brissett for him, as he’s had almost as much upside as any other wide receiver yet to break in the league, but hadn’t yet fulfilled it. When Edelman returns, expectations of WR2 out of Julian Edelman, and seeing Dorsett sneaking up into a WR3 isn’t out of the realm of possibility
Can the Patriots defense sneak a win out in Jacksonville, putting the pressure on Bortles?
Sadly, the Patriots defense couldn’t maintain much traction, garnering a quick deficit in the first quarter, and never fully getting on the rails. The defense that looked fast, dangerous and on point didn’t travel to Jacksonville, as Blake Bortles fired off 4 touchdown passes on their squad, employing a mixed bag of all their weapons, notably finding the new hotness in Keelan Cole (thanks Keelan, my Prodigy League team thanks you), making an amazing one-handed grab in coverage, and then finishing the same drive with a pretty corner of the end zone grab for a touchdown. While Kyle Van Noy picked off a ball in the middle of the field on a tipped ball, there wasn’t much going on for this defensive squad today. Trey Flowers, one of the more notable names on the Patriots defense, and someone who has been known to pressure left the game early and went into the concussion protocol. “The usual suspects” are the ones this defense will revolve around, and Jason McCourty, Kyle Van Noy, and once burned on a touchdown Stephon Gilmore lead the team in tackles (6,6,5). While the defense has plenty of upside players, this is not a defense I would want to start on a weekly basis. They could end the season as a top ten defense, but there is too much volatility. Let’s err on the side of caution here.
That game was incredible. I’m in no way a Patriot hater by any measure, but that was very impressive. From how QB Blake Bortles played to how the defense kept QB Tom Brady and Co. in check, it was a game plan executed to perfection. Anytime Tom Brady struggles to make a game super close or turn the game in his favor, my mind is boggled. Give credit to Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett. Going into the game knowing they’d probably be without RB Leonard Fournette, Hackett had little choice but to have Blake Bortles play a bit more assertive. And boy, did he deliver – Bortles ended the day with 29 completions for 377 yards and four touchdowns! It could have been an even better day had WR DJ Chark not fumbled and had TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins not tipped a ball right to the Patriots. Going up against a defense that simply dominated the Texans a week ago, Blake Bortles had it all working, hitting nine different receivers, four of whom had at least four catches. This isn’t a hot take, after seeing it plenty on social media, but RB Leonard Fournette might be a hindrance to their game plans. Now, going forward this might change due to the results of this impressive victory.
WR Keelan Cole really had a coming out party with seven grabs for 116 yards and a score. Dede Westbrook had 4/83 with a score, RB Corey Grant finished with 6/65 and Donte Moncrief had 4/34 and found the end zone. This is not the most imposing group of wideouts, but they are certainly coached well and can burn corners in space. The interesting takeaway from this game was that the receivers seemed to be wide open on most completions. That’s either fantastic scouting and execution or the Patriots’ defense might be overrated.
The other interesting piece was that TJ Yeldon, who is usually used in the passing game, gave way to Corey Grant and it paid big dividends. Yeldon only rushed 10 times for 58 yards, but Bortles made up for the rest by rushing for 35 very important yards, as he converted multiple 3rd downs to keep the New England defense on the field.
In the NFC there are the Rams and Vikings, when speaking about elite defense. In the AFC, it’s just the Jaguars. They are experts at communicating and clearly prepare extremely well. Sure, they have the names and athletes, but containing QB Tom Brady and TE Rob Gronkowski is one of the more impressive things to do over the course of a season if you have the opportunity. Gronk was held to 15 TOTAL YARDS. The leading receiver was RB James White and no actual wideout had more than 50 yards. RB Sonny Michel finished as the Patriots’ leader in rushing with 34 yards. Look, it’s regular season – we get it. We’re not penciling the Jaguars into a playoff spot, but this is certainly one of the more impressive wins and could be very valuable for a potential rematch in the winter.