New England Patriots: Geno Smith

Quick-hit thoughts after first quarter

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
9:25
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After 15 minutes of play, the New England Patriots lead the New York Jets 10-3. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the first quarter:

1. Offense starts fast. No Amendola, Gronk and Vereen? No problem, at least to start, as Tom Brady found rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson for a 39-yard touchdown on the team's opening drive. Dobson was untouched and uncovered on the play, taking his first career catch for a score. The offense started with two backs and two receivers on the field, with fullback James Develin getting some early offensive run.

2. Talib forces Hill fumble. The Jets looked to have a big play on their hands when quarterback Geno Smith hooked up with Stephen Hill up the seam, but New England cornerback Aqib Talib saved his defense by forcing a fumble that was scooped up by Devin McCourty and returned deep into Jets territory. The end result: a chip-shot field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to put the Patriots up 10-0.

3. Jets claw back. The Jets, briefly, cut the lead to 10-6, though a touchdown throw from Smith to Clyde Gates was called an incompletion after a video review. Smith deserves credit for putting together an impressive drive, standing tall in the pocket and delivering a couple of solid throws.

4. Connolly, Gregory each banged up. Both eventually returned to the game, but right guard Dan Connolly and safety Steve Gregory had to receive medical attention during the first quarter. Hard to tell specifically what they were dealing with, but it looked like a left-hand issue for Connolly. Marcus Cannon stepped in for Connolly, while rookie Duron Harmon took Gregory's place.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties during the first quarter: offensive tackle Nate Solder (holding; declined) and defensive end Chandler Jones (roughing the passer).

A statistical glance at Patriots-Jets

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
11:10
AM ET
Some statistical nuggets to tide you over until kickoff for tonight’s game between the Patriots and Jets at Gillette Stadium:

• The Jets have lost five straight games to the Patriots, the third-longest losing streak versus New England in franchise history (7 from 2003-06, 6 from 1994-97).

Geno Smith takes his 1-0 record into New England, where rookie QBs have gone 0-4 against Bill Belichick teams and have lost by an average of 23.5 points per game:

• Like Mark Sanchez before him, Smith started and won in Week 1 as a rookie for the Jets in 2009. And like Sanchez before him, he’ll oppose Tom Brady and the Patriots in Week 2. Some may recall that Sanchez won that game, too.

• Smith seemed to get more comfortable with the flow of the game as it went on, as evidenced by his Total QBR. In the first quarter it was 31.2. It rose to 28.1 in the second quarter, 60.3 in the third and 76.0 in the fourth.

• Smith left the pocket 17 times in Week 1, most of any quarterback. On those plays Smith went 6-of-9 passing for 60 yards, scrambled six times for 47 yards and was sacked twice.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Patriots are the first team since the merger in 1970 to face rookie quarterbacks in Weeks 1 and 2 of a season. They beat EJ Manuel in Buffalo last week.

• Brady enjoys playing on Thursdays, as he’s 5-0 and has the best record on that day among quarterbacks who have made at least five starts.

• With Shane Vereen ruled out and Danny Amendola likely to join him, Brady will be without two of his top three targets from Week 1 this Thursday. When targeting those two and Julian Edelman in Week 1, Brady went 24-of-33 with two TDs. When targeting all other Patriots receivers, Brady went 5-of-19 with an interception.

• Amendola had 10 receptions, including nine for first downs in Week 1. Since the start of 2008, Wes Welker had at least nine first downs in a game twice in 77 games:

Stevan Ridley was limited to 13 snaps in Week 1, his lowest output since the 2011 season, after being benched for an early fumble. Ridley averaged 33.1 snaps per game last season, including playoffs. With Vereen out, Ridley will likely play more than in Week 1 as long as he hangs on to the ball.

• Brady has thrown a TD pass in 49 straight games, the second-longest streak in NFL history and he’s four shy of tying the record. The mark is held by Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who had his 54-game streak snapped in 2012.

W2W4: Five things we'll be focused on

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
3:49
PM ET
Things turned around fast for the Patriots after their season-opening win over the Bills on Sunday. The coaching staff graded the film on the plane ride home from Western New York in anticipation of fast-forwarding to this week’s opponent, the Jets.

Whenever the Patriots and Jets square off there’s going to be a layer of intrigue. The teams have had no shortage of dramatic moments in the recent past, both during games and in the days leading up to them.

To the surprise of many, the Jets got the job done narrowly at home over the Bucs in Week 1, sparked by a late scramble by quarterback Geno Smith and subsequent personal foul penalty that pushed them into game-winning field goal range.

With a chance to jump out in front of the rest of the division at stake, here are five items we’ll be watching for on Thursday night.

1. Who catches passes? With Danny Amendola (groin) likely to sit out Thursday’s game, the Patriots must go back to the drawing board to find their top receiver. The presumptive top target this week is Julian Edelman, a Week 1 star who has long held the trust of Tom Brady. Behind Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins will hold down the perimeter targets, with Josh Boyce as a candidate to step into a third receiver role. Fellow rookie Aaron Dobson (hamstring) could be active this week, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he doesn’t play a major offensive role even if he suits up. He’s still in the development stages. Tight end Zach Sudfeld (hamstring) might be out, catapulting Michael Hoomanawanui into a starting role.

2. Ridley the bell-cow back? After being benched in the second quarter due to a fumble, might running back Stevan Ridley be put right back into his starting role in the backfield? The team needs him with Shane Vereen now on the short-term injured reserve list, and Ridley has bounced back from fumbling woes before. Consider this: In the four games following his fumbles in 2012, Ridley averaged 17.75 carries. In the other 12 games, he averaged 18.25. Don’t be surprised if he takes on a leading role again this week. Veteran Leon Washington, if healthy, could be used to replace Vereen.

Geno Smith
(AP Photo/Bill KostrounThe pressure will be on the Patriots' defensive line to get to Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
3. Pressuring Geno. Sacks don’t always tell the story as it relates to generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but Thursday night would be a good time for the Patriots to register their first sack of the season after being shut out against Buffalo. They’ll face another rookie quarterback. One way to knock Geno Smith off of his game is to make him uncomfortable in the pocket. The Patriots' defensive ends and edge players will be under the microscope in this department.

4. Wilfork vs. Mangold. We don’t often dig into individual matchups for our items to watch for, but this one is too good to ignore. When the Patriots play the Jets, it means two of the very best at their craft go head-to-head, as nose tackle Vince Wilfork will often align over Jets center Nick Mangold. Mangold left Week 1 with an elbow issue but later returned and should be good to go on Thursday. The Jets love to run the football, but Mangold will have his hands full in trying to generate movement against Wilfork.

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5. Jets DL in focus. In reviewing the Jets' first game of the season, it was clear that the defensive line is an explosive and disruptive group that won’t make things easy on Brady. Muhammad Wilkerson is a star already, while first-round pick Sheldon Richardson had an active afternoon against both the run and pass, totaling seven tackles and a half sack. Veteran Antwan Barnes adds edge pressure and the Jets' front seven will be a big test even without 2012 first-round pick Quinton Coples. The Patriots' offensive line picked it up down the stretch against Buffalo, but it must be ready again when the Jets take the field. This defense will find ways to manufacture pressure through both schemes and individual rushers.

A walkthrough week for Patriots

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
10:45
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With a quick turnaround to prepare for Thursday night's home opener against the New York Jets, the New England Patriots will hold only walkthrough practices this week.

A walkthrough is a slower-paced practice in which players are usually in shorts and T-shirts, and is focused more on the mental side of the game. This isn't anything out of the norm for a Bill Belichick-coached team when facing a short week of preparation.

"We feel like this is the best way to do it," Belichick said.

A few other soundbites from Belichick:

How he handles Stevan Ridley's fumbling issue and if he talks to him: "I've talked to Stevan. Look, every player has the same responsibility every week -- be ready to play, be ready to go. That's their job. They can't control coaching decisions. They control their preparation and they control their performance when they're in the game."

Impressions of Jets quarterback Geno Smith: "I thought he played well in the preseason, limited opportunity, and I thought he played very well against Tampa last week. He ran well, he threw well, made good decisions, and moved the team at critical points in the game. That's the most important thing; made the plays that he needed to make to win."

His plans on handling the loss of Shane Vereen: "Whatever players are active for the game, I expect them all to be prepared and ready to play. We'll see how it all turns out."

Getting to know the Jets

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
5:00
AM ET
The Patriots and Jets made headlines this offseason for a variety of reasons, with each team happy to get back to football in Week 1.

The teams also had similar outcomes during their season-opening games, as the Patriots marched to a narrow road victory over the Bills, while the Jets squeaked past the Buccaneers at home, with each team winning with a field goal in the closing seconds.

Neither team has had much time to think about their Week 1 victory, however, as they are each preparing on a short week, with the Patriots hosting the Jets this Thursday night in a nationally televised game.

Though the Jets are perhaps the Patriots' most familiar opponent, below is an overview on names and notes for Gang Green.

Record: 1-0 (t-1st in AFC East)
Head coach: Rex Ryan (fifth season)
Offensive coordinator: Marty Mornhinweg
Defensive coordinator: Dennis Thurman

THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, OFFENSE
1. QB Geno Smith. The player some thought could be the first man taken in this year’s draft ended up sliding to the Jets at pick 39 in Round 2, and now he’s the team’s starting QB. Incumbent starter Mark Sanchez went down with an injury during the preseason, putting an end to a bizarre competition that Smith may have won by default as much as anything else. The rookie fared pretty well in his first NFL action, completing 24-of-38 attempts for 256 yards and a touchdown. He turned the ball over twice and had some uneven moments during the game, but Smith’s second-half contributions were important in the dramatic win.

2. C Nick Mangold. The Patriots got a look at a terrific center last week in Eric Wood for Buffalo, but Mangold may well set the standard league-wide among interior linemen. He’s dependable, strong, smart, athletic and a leader for an offense that needs it. Mangold and Vince Wilfork have shared glowing praise for each other previously, and that’s a one-on-one battle worth watching. He left the team’s season opener with an elbow injury, but later returned.

3. RB Bilal Powell/RB Chris Ivory. Ivory was acquired through a draft day trade in New Orleans, and though his poor Week 1 production (just 15 yards on 10 carries) has some wondering what to make of his prospects, he’s a gifted runner who can smash through traffic. Powell, meanwhile, was the starter in Week 1 and the Jets’ leading carrier with 12 rushes, though he too was held in check by the Bucs’ run D.

THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, DEFENSE
1. DL Muhammad Wilkerson. Versatile, strong, disruptive and tough, Wilkerson is one of the best young defensive linemen in the NFL. He’s been everything the Jets had hoped when they snatched him with the 30th pick in the 2011 draft. He’s been productive as a pro (he had 69 tackles and 5.0 sacks last season), but the numbers don’t tell the whole story on Wilkerson. He has the ability to move around the line if needed and he’s the type of player the Patriots’ offensive line will seek out before every snap and identify where he’s aligned.

2. CB Antonio Cromartie. When he’s at his best, Cromartie is an incredibly difficult cornerback to throw at. He’s long, fast and has good ball skills, something the Jets have relied on since acquiring him in a trade with the Chargers in 2010. He’s never been afraid to speak his mind and has a short memory on the field -- a good thing for a defensive back. With Darrelle Revis now in Tampa Bay, Cromartie is the leader of the Jets secondary.

3. LB David Harris. Our take on Harris? An underrated rock in the middle of the Jets defense. He was an All-Pro pick in 2009, but that’s the extent of his individual player honors, despite the fact that he’s had three seasons with 123 or more tackles and has 22.5 sacks in six years. The Jets rely heavily on Harris as a defensive quarterback, working closely with head coach Rex Ryan and new defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman.

Other notes: The Jets had a pair of first-round picks this year, using both on defensive players. Cornerback Dee Milliner made a couple of tackles in Week 1, while defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson shined with seven stops and a half sack. ... 2012 first-round pick Quinton Coples, whom the team moved from defensive end to outside linebacker this offseason, remains out with a hairline fracture in his ankle. ... The Jets exchanged Landrys at safety this offseason, losing LaRon in free agency while signing his brother, Dawan. He made an interception in his Jets debut. ... Veteran receiver Santonio Holmes was active in Week 1 after a long recovery from a Lisfranc injury, totaling one catch on three targets.

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