1 – Mac Jones faced a lot of questions this week.
Did the Patriots third-year QB hit Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner in a rather sensitive area coming out of a pile up in last Sunday’s win over the Jets in New York?
Why didn’t New England teammates seem to come to Jones’ defense when he was thrown to the turf by New York’s defense?
Is Jones a dirty player?
As he continues to try to find his way on the season and his career, Jones didn’t even try to answer the questions this week. He ran from them verbally as he might run from an oncoming pass rusher on the field.
Facing questions is really nothing new for Jones, who’s dealt with critics and doubters since before he was taken by Bill Belichick with the No. 15 overall pick back in 2021. Does he have a strong enough arm? Was he worthy of a first-round pick? Is he a franchise NFL QB?
It’s been almost nothing but questions for two-plus seasons for Jones.
Really, the only way he can answer them is with actions.
Winning cures all and it certainly answers a lot more questions than words can. Right now Jones is a .500 QB for his career, a 17-17 record as a starter. But his team is 1-2 this season following up a losing campaign a year ago in which it when 7-8 in games Jones started.
Is Jones good enough?
If he wins, he is.
Is Jones a dirty player?
If he wins, those questions will die down, as we’ve seen firsthand in New England.
Was Tom Brady a dirty player when he would slide in cleats high on opposing defenders? Barely a murmur of such questions would be asked.
Is Bill Belichick a sore loser, skulking around after his team came up short in a rather unprofessional way toward opponents, media members and anyone else who crossed his path?
Don’t hear too much about that.
Because for whatever faults they had, Brady and Belichick won way more often than not. Winning covers up a lot and controls the narrative.
How can Mac Jones answer all the questions surrounding him? Simple, he just needs to win.
And on the road this Sunday afternoon in Dallas against the favored Cowboy would probably be a great start to the potential win-washing of Jones’ reputation. Because we all know, in New England as much as anywhere, that everyone loves a winner.
2 – Patriots first-round cornerback Christian Gonzalez was more than worthy of his NFL Rookie of the Month honor this week. The No. 17 overall pick has more than held his own as New England’s No. 1 cornerback through four games of tough matchups. And that’s been key for the Patriots who have been decimated by injuries at an already questionable cornerback depth chart. Gonzalez has already established himself to the point that his matchup with Cowboys star CeeDee Lamb already feels like a winnable one. But as Belichick noted, Gonzalez has a long way to go in his development and even simply in terms of his rookie season. “Of course, getting a recognition like that is probably a good sign that things are going fairly well, but there’s still a lot to work on. Every week’s a new challenge,” Belichick said. And while some overzealous fans and media projected that the monthly award might be a precursor to a defensive Rookie of the Year honor for Gonzalez, Eagles stud defensive lineman Jalen Carter probably will have something to say about that.
3 – While Gonzalez is off to a great start on his NFL career, Patriots’ veteran running back Rhamondre Stevenson is off to a pretty slow start to his third season. Stevenson is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry on the year. He’s averaged 3.3 yards per carry or worse in each of the first three games despite logging at least 12 carries in each matchup. Sure his offensive line has been unsettled and part of the problem against some pretty impressive defensive fronts. But if the Patriots’ offense is going to start clicking and putting up more production, Stevenson is going to have to be a part of the solution. And he knows it, saying this week that he just has “to get back to making people miss and breaking some more tackles.” He should have a chance to do that Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium against a Dallas defense that’s ranked 25th in the NFL after allowing the Cardinals to rush for 222 yards and 7.4 yards per carry in the upset last week.
4 – Speaking of slow starts, JuJu Smith-Schuster’s first three games as New England’s supposed new No. 1 receiver have been forgettable, at best. The former Steelers’ star and Super Bowl champion with the Chiefs a year ago has been non-factor for the Patriots in three games. He has 16 targets through three games, tied for 60th in the league. That’s led to 10 catches for 66 yards and a miserable 6.6-yard average, numbers that rank tied for 68th, 119th and 130th in the NFL, ,respectively. Making matters worse, Jakobi Meyers has more production – 16 catches for 166 yards with two scores – after being dismissed to Las Vegas despite missing one game to a concussion. It’s only three games, but there is already seemingly the potential for significant buyer’s remorse regarding what was supposed to be the big free agent addition of the New England offseason.
5 – Elsewhere on the offense, newcomer Mike Gesicki is also still looking to make much of an impact. The tight got plenty of hype this spring and summer upon his arrival from Miami, described by some as a “weapon” for Bill O’Brien’s new offense. To date, Gesicki has just nine catches for 87 yards and no touchdowns. Gesicki certainly has athleticism and the ability to be a complementary option on an offense, but there was a reason he fell out of favor with the Dolphins last season despite playing on the franchise tag. He can and should help Jones at times as the season wears on in New England, but Gesicki is what he is at this point in his career. He’s a No. 2 tight end at best, and clearly not as consistently capable of contributing as Hunter Henry is.
6 – One player who is contributing and playing a bigger role on the New England defense is safety Jabrill Peppers. The veteran has seen his playing time and overall impact increase significantly in his second season in a Patriots uniform. Not only does he rank second on the team with 19 tackles in three games, including an impressive forced fumble on Jalen Hurts in the opener, but Peppers brings a unique physicality and energy to the field. Once one of the most versatile players in college football and a first-round pick in Cleveland, Peppers is reminding people just how big an impact athlete he can be on the football field, now a full year removed from a serious knee injury. And in a modern world where hitting and physicality are a lost art in football at times, Peppers is a lot of fun to watch in his throwback style of play at the second and third levels, even if it cost him a questionable $43k fine by the NFL this week for unnecessary roughness.
7 – Prediction Time!: Starting an NFL season 1-3 is not ideal but it’s also not necessarily a death blow. Heck, the Patriots are actually used to starting 1-3, which has been the case for the team each of the last two seasons. One of those ended with a trip to the playoffs, one of those ended with a losing record. So it is that New England’s heads to Dallas this week sitting at 1-2 on the year looking to avoid a third-straight 1-3 start. To be real, it’s a tough spot for the Patriots, one probably made tougher by the fact that the Cowboys got upset and somewhat embarrassed by the lowly Cardinals last weekend. If Jerry Jones’ team has any grit, fight and professional pride, they are very much looking to bounce back this week. Sure they are still learning to play without star No. 1 corner Trevon Diggs and still are dealing with injuries on the offensive line. But this is still an overall talented team on both sides of the ball. That said, New England should have some areas of perceived advantage in this one. First, the Patriots defense and impressive front seven should be able to at least cause some problems for Dak Prescott behind his banged up line. Offensively, New England’s own line is beginning to get healthy and find some cohesion, which could be a foundation to get Stevenson and the ground game going against a suspect Cowboys run defense. And Gonzalez has already done enough to earn the benefit of the doubt in terms of at least hanging with Lamb. New England obviously has to find a way to deal with Micah Parsons, who can ruin a game. New England’s offense needs to run the ball, hit a few big plays and not give them up (i.e. turnovers). If it can accomplish that it might be able to hang with the home team. But, Dallas has something to prove to itself and the football world this week, looking to get back on track as a supposed NFC contender. The expectation here is that it will do just that, playing the game from in front and on its terms on the way to the 27-13 Cowboys' win. And even if the Patriots drop to 1-3 on the young season, that doesn’t mean it will be time to panic just yet.
Thank you to MacFarlane Energy, a Mitsubishi Diamond Elite contractor, and the home heating oil and HVAC company that greater Boston and Cape Cod depend on at MacFarlaneEnergy.com.