Giants pass rush worrisome for Brady

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Giants pass rush worrisome for Brady

FOXBORO -- If you dig in to the Giants' 5-2 record, you'll find Eli Manning has a lot to do with the success. The quarterback is having one of the best seasons of his career, sitting behind just Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady on the league's list with a 102.1 rating.

Good for Eli.

Going into Sunday's game, Brady's still plenty worried about New York's defense, no matter how inconsistent it's been.

"They get pressure probably better than anybody in the league. They lead the league in sacks," he said Wednesday. "Damn near every guy on that D-line can rush the quarterback. Jason Pierre-Paul's got eight sacks 8.5, Osi Umenyiora's got six, Justin Tuck hasn't been in there a whole lot this year but he's still getting them. They've got a whole group of pass rushers.

"We've got to be able to be balanced. We've go to be able to go out and certainly execute better than we did last week."

New England scored just 17 points in Week 8's loss to Pittsburgh. Brady had two touchdowns but struggled to get the offense into a rhythm. His 198-yards are a season low. The Patriots got the ball nine times and scored on three drives. Brady was sacked three times.

But is he really jumping from nightmare to nightmare? The Giants have suffered a host of defensive injuries this season: Tuck's playing time has been limited by a neck issue; Umenyiora had arthroscopic knee surgery after the Redskins game; they lost cornerbacks Terrell Thomas to a season-ending torn knee ligament and rookie Prince Amukamara to a broken foot.

The personnel hits have landed Tom Coughlin's club in the middle of the pack on total defense (355.3 average yards surrendered).

Pittsburgh boasted the NFL's best pass-D; New York ranks 13th. And the Giants give up 130.1 yards per game on the rush. Surely, the Patriots will have an easier time moving down the field this week.

Not necessarily, says Brady. The pass rush is solid; he's worried about that front seven no matter who's in it.

"They have a whole group of D-linemen that rush, so, if Tuck's not in there -- he was only in there for about half the game last week -- they put other guys in there and they get after the quarterback, too. They can rush Tuck, Osi, and JPP, and Dave Tollefson."

"They've got a whole group and they've had that there for quite a while now. So when you play them, you've got to understand that you're not going to have all to throw. You can't drop back and stand in the pocket. You've got to find someone and get rid of the ball."

The troubled Patriots defense will have its hands full with Manning this weekend. Consequently, more pressure falls on the offense to extend drives and pile up points. That won't happen unless guys get open.

And it won't happen if, as Brady warns, he ends up on the ground.

Report: Belichick may be called to testify in Hernandez trial

Report: Belichick may be called to testify in Hernandez trial

Bill Belichick, identified as "William Belichick," has been added to the list of potential defense witnesses who could testify during the upcoming double-homicide trial of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, according to the Boston Herald.

Per the Herald, the new list of potential witnesses for the defense also includes Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who was Hernandez's teammate at the University of Florida. 

Belichick, McDaniels and Pouncey aren't guaranteed to testify, but their presence on the civilian witness list makes their presence in court a possibility. 

Hernandez's trial is scheduled to start next Wednesday. He's accused of killing Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Furtado back in July of 2012. Hernandez is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of the murder Odin Lloyd in 2013.

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Patriots To-Do List: Figure out what’s up with Cyrus Jones

Personally, I would buy a crapload of stock in Cyrus Jones. In part because – after his nightmarish rookie season – stock can be bought on the cheap. But also because he’s too talented, too committed and too smart to suck like he did in 2016 when he handled punts like they were coated in uranium and never made a big contribution in the secondary.

(Listen above to hear Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discuss Cyrus Jones on the Quick Slants podcast.)

Because of his disappointing year, Jones is an overlooked player on the Patriots roster, but he’s in a pivotal spot. With Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon approaching free agency, Malcolm Butler’s contract expiring after 2017, Pat Chung on the edge of 30 and a free agent after 2018 and the other corners being Justin Coleman, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones is going to get his shot.

The reason I included safeties Harmon and Chung in the discussion is that when the Patriots go to six DBs, roles are less stringently defined. And because of Jones’ size (5-10, 200), powerful build and short-area quickness, he can be the kind of versatile player who covers inside against quicker slot receivers as well as being on the outside if necessary. Kind of like Chung can cover on the back end or drop down to cover tight ends.

The Patriots are confident that Jones will get it right. His teammates in the secondary are unanimous in saying he’s got all the talent he needs.  

PATRIOTS TO-DO LIST:

But as 2016 wore on, it was apparent that Jones was miserable and let his failures consume him. Jones muffed or fumbled five kicks in the 2016 season.
 
By the time the Patriots played the Ravens on a Monday night in December, he was so inside his own head that he stalked a bouncing punt he had no business being near (for the second time that game) and had it bounce off his foot setting up a Ravens touchdown. That night, Jones exited the Patriots locker room and made his way to the players parking lot before the field was even clear of equipment.

Jones either expected things to come as easily in the NFL as they did at Alabama and wasn’t prepared to deal with adversity. Or the mistakes he made caused him to wonder if he really was good enough to play in the league.

Either way, Cyrus Jones was all about Cyrus Jones in 2016. And his comments to the Baltimore Sun over the weekend were evidence that the world he’s concerned with ends at the end of his nose. 

"I honestly felt cursed," he said. "I reached a point where I didn't even want to play. I just didn't have it...What I did this year was not me," he said. "I don't care how anybody tries to sugarcoat it. Yes, I was a rookie. But I feel I should always be one of the best players on the field, no matter where I am.
 
"But honestly, it was hell for me," he said. "That's the only way I can describe it. I didn't feel I deserved to be part of anything that was happening with the team. I felt embarrassed that these people probably thought they wasted a pick on me."

The first thing Jones needs to do this offseason is get over himself. He can look one locker down and talk to Devin McCourty about getting crushed for shaky play in 2012, battling through it and then turning into a Pro Bowl-level safety. He can talk to fellow Alabama product Dont'a Hightower about Hightower’s being benched in the 2013 season against the Broncos and labeled a bust before flipping his season around and being the team’s best defender by the end of that year.

But he’s going to have to figure it out. Draft status means nothing to New England and, as it now stands, undrafted corner Jonathan Jones out of Auburn has more demonstrated value to the team that Cyrus Jones does. In two months, the Patriots are damn sure going to add more secondary players.

This offseason, Jones needs to check his ego, simplify his game and simply ban outside perceptions from fans, media or coaches from infect his on-field decision-making.

His conversation with the Sun didn’t really indicate he’s ready to do that. Asked about criticism, Jones said, “It pisses me off. You can say shut it out or don't listen, but I know people are talking, and it's negative. I'm not a dumb guy. It definitely affects me. What it should do is piss me off in a way that I want to shut them all up."

From the limited number of times I spoke with him and from his teammates regard for him, I can confirm Jones isn’t a dumb guy. That doesn’t necessarily make life easier though. In 2016, Cyrus Jones’ brain got in the way. The Patriots need him to shut that thing off in 2017.