Patriots fans seem to be in an eternal state of unrest recently. I’m not sure if it’s due to last years debacle of a season or the local media poisoning the innocent minds of Patriots Nation. It may even be some left over vitriol in regards to the departure of a certain GOAT quarterback, who knows. But it’s reaching epidemic levels at this point. It seems like every decision this team makes is met with more unwarranted criticism than usual nowadays. Let me tell you one thing though, the Patriots staying silent during the trade deadline was the right move.
I’ll give you some time to curse your computer/phone screen and call me a ‘homer’ or a ‘blind Belichick follower’ or whatever else you want to shout at me.
Okay, now that you’ve got that out of your system, hear me out. Like I said, the Pats were in no need whatsoever to make a trade before 4 pm today. Of course, that’s not to say it wouldn’t have been nice to add a piece or two though. You always want to add talent if you can get some, but there was no need to feel like you had to. Even though they’re currently saddled with a 4-4 record, the New England Patriots are a top team in the AFC.
GASP! I know, I know, I’m throwing a lot at you guys right now. But there’s solid reasoning behind my statements and, while you’re here, I’d be more than happy to tell you why I feel the way I do. It’s important to know where the Pats are at right now, though. According to PatsCap on Twitter (you HAVE to give him a follow if you’re a Patriots fan) New England currently has $2,663,503 in cap space. Not a lot. Anyway, let’s break it down.
The Offensive Line:
What was spoken about as a major strength coming into the year quickly devolved into a glaring weakness. Over the first few weeks, Mac Jones was getting hit at a rate so alarming that it had people wondering if the rookie would even last the season. Trent Brown getting hurt early in the first game of the year started the spiral. In a position group that so heavily relies on knowing each others tendencies and trust, it’s tough to lose arguably the most crucial person from that group. Add to it an injury to Shaq Mason while Isaiah Wynn and Mike Onwenu spent time on the COVID list and you have a recipe for disaster.
But the chaos has subsided and things seem to be on the up and up. With Mason, Onwenu and Wynn back (the first two being 2 of the highest rated Patriots this season according to PFF) the offensive line is back to being a strength. Ted Karras and Justin Herron have both filled in admirably as well. You can’t forget the looming return of Brown either. While this unit initially looked like they’d need help from outside the organization, they’ve proved that they don’t need any help.
The Running Backs:
It took a couple weeks to find their footing, but they’ve done so in spades now. Damien Harris is a top running back in the league ranking 3rd in TD’s and 6th in yards. Rhamondre Stevenson is a budding star and Brandon Bolden has surprised almost everyone and emerged as a threat both running and catching the ball. Oh, and JJ Taylor is still out there who provides a nice change of pace and pad level. This unit needs no help, not that there’s any names that jump out at you to begin with. Oh, and they’re pretty good at blocking too…
RB Damien Harris ends up taking on a looping Joey Bosa and ends up winning with the shoulder block! pic.twitter.com/Bnyx5FhTDg
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) November 1, 2021
Picked-up piece in review: Brandon Bolden barrels over Joey Bosa; this is one way to slow down the edge rush (which Patriots did often). pic.twitter.com/sRC4Ki9DkO
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) November 1, 2021
This has been a buzzword for the last few years and likely will be until Pats fans stop listening to 98.5 and WEEI. Offensive weapons are great to have…and the Patriots have plenty. Just because they don’t have the weapons YOU want, doesn’t mean the weapons they have aren’t good. I could end this section right there, but I got time today. Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Five players who are capable of producing any given week. That’s not to mention how the running backs come into play either.
With guys like Cooks, Jackson, Robinson and OBJ available, I’ve seen fans salivate over the possibility of one of those guys ending up here. And to that I ask…why? Who are you bumping down for any of those guys? Meyers has been the most consistent receiving threat on the entire offense. Henry has shown a growing connection with Mac and Smith has shown his playmaking abilities the last few weeks. Additionally, every one of those guys (except for Meyers) were brought in this offseason on multi-year deals. Belichick isn’t going to bring in another guy halfway through the year just to shoehorn in the offense and push one of those guys to the side.
Cooks would be the only guy who could come in here and immediately produce, but where would he fit? The Patriots don’t need a deep threat and you’re not going to sign a guy to have him be the 3rd option at best. If they decided to bring anyone else in, you run the risk of that player not grasping the offense in time and you essentially wasted a trade. And with under $3 mil in cap space, bringing in a receiver would be financially impossible (again, save for Cooks, but I already went over why you don’t need him).
The Patriots offense has finally found it’s groove and it starting to show signs of what it can be. Bringing in an outside player to disrupt that would be irresponsibly idiotic.
This is the only side of the ball where the team actually could use some help. With Gilmore being traded and Jonathan Jones out for the year, they’re thin at CB. But that’s really the only spot where they would even need any help. The defensive line is more than capable with what they have now and the linebacking crew is the same. Safety is all set as well with McCourty, Phillips and Dugger with Mills filling in if need be. So this brings me back to corner.
Myles Bryant has filled in admirably for the Patriots so far. In fact, he’s played better than Mills the last 2 weeks. And against the Chargers, he was as good as you could hope for!
Patriots coverage stats vs. Chargers
Jackson: 1/4, 41 yards
Mills: 3/4, 56 yards, TD, PBU
Bryant: 2/3, 21 yards, PBU
Williams: 1/1, 5 yards
Bentley: 1/2, 12 yards
Van Noy: 1/1 6 yards, PBU
Dugger: 1/1, 13 yards
Phillips: 1/3, 5 yards, TD, 2 INT
McCourty: 0/2, 2 PBUs
— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) November 1, 2021
Bryant has solidified his role in the offense playing just as many snaps as players like Mills, Jackson or any other DB on the team. His emergence lessened the need to go out and sign a corner. Then you add Shaun Wade to the equation. Wade is a guy the players and coaches expect good things from. Everyone from JC Jackson to Belichick himself have had nothing but praise to throw his way, so it’s safe to say when he’s back from his concussion, he’ll see a fair amount of playing time.
With a cornerback group of Jackson, Williams, Bryant, Mills and Wade, you can’t blame Belichick for not signing anyone. Especially when you realize that this defense has been pretty good so far. Team chemistry is a huge thing and with the defense trending in the right direction, why mess that up? And it’s not like there were many options out there anyway. Kyle Fuller and Steve Nelson were thrown around, but are they really upgrades over what you have currently? Not really. And you’d have to send away a player to clear cap space for either of those guys anyway. This defense will be fine regardless. I mean, they just shut down a top passing attack in the league so let’s all calm down.
It’s not coincidence that hardly any teams made any notable splashes before this years trade deadline. There were multiple reasons it was so quite this season. For starters, the majority of teams are strapped for cap space right now. So bringing on a guy OR trading one and suffering dead cap money isn’t good business. Then you add on the fact that there are so many teams right now who don’t know if they are buyers or sellers. Other than a few top teams, the majority of the league won’t know the way their season is trending for a couple more weeks.
There are currently 10 teams who have a .500 record or are a game away from being even. And a handful more that are still in the hunt for that. It’s simply too early to make any major splash or find a trade partner to do so. This season seems more wide open than any in recent memory and teams seem comfortable riding with what they have for the time being. And with the way the Patriots have been playing, they should be more than confident with what they have going on up in Foxboro.
P.S. I said I’d explain my “Patriots are a top team in the AFC’ statement, so here you go. The Bills and Ravens are better, sure. But can you say the Bengals, Raiders, Titans, Chargers or Steelers are better? Not at all. In fact, every one of those teams except the Steelers are trending down. And those 7 teams are the only ones ahead of New England right now. So yes, the Patriots are a top AFC team.
(Featured Photo Credit www.sportingnews.com)
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Mike Sullivan (@msully5433 on Twitter)