Brady preps for Texans: 'They have a damn good defense'

Brady preps for Texans: 'They have a damn good defense'

Even without JJ Watt in the lineup -- he's on injured reserve after undergoing back surgery earlier this season -- Tom Brady won't be taking the Texans defense lightly.

They ranked No. 1 in yards allowed during the regular season (301.3 per game), and they checked in at No. 11 in points allowed (20.5). They were behind only Denver when it came to passing yards allowed this season (201.6). 

"They have the No. 1 defense in the league. I studied them all day yesterday," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan on Monday. "They have a damn good defense."

On the list of priorities for the Patriots offense this week will be figuring out how to neutralize edge defender Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in 2014, who recorded two pass-breakups in Saturday's Wild Card Round win over the Raiders -- one of which he picked off.

"Not only that, [Whitney Mercilus] is a damn good player," Brady said of the pass-rusher who typically lines up opposite Clowney. "They have two very good linebackers and then they have one of the best secondary’s that we’ll face in terms of coverage corners. They have three guys who can cover. 

"Also, playing against [coach Bill O’Brien's] team, and he has [defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel], who we know how great of a coach Romeo is. [Linebackers coach Mike Vrabel], how well prepared he keeps those guys on defense. [Larry] Izzo on special teams. You have a lot of guys who know how to win football games down there. They know how to prepare their team. I think that is why they are in the position they are in."

Clowney and Mercilus both earned Second-Team All-Pro honors this season, while linebacker Bernardrick McKinney was also named to the Second-Team.

Bill Belichick liked what Cyrus Jones brought as a returner vs. Texans

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Bill Belichick liked what Cyrus Jones brought as a returner vs. Texans

Cyrus Jones brought back four punts for 58 yards during Saturday's preseason game with the Texans, showing the vision and burst that made him a dynamic return man at Alabama and helped make him Bill Belichick's second-round draft pick in 2016.

Two of those four returns -- he also had one kickoff return for 17 yards -- stood out as Jones made "something out of nothing," as Belichick put it after the game. 

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On the first, Jones caught a Shane Lechler boot at the Patriots 27-yard line with three Texans bearing down on him. He sidestepped Dylan Cole with a subtle move to his left, then turned on his speed. Using good blocks from Jordan Richards, Duron Harmon and Justin Coleman, Jones had himself a 32-yard gain. 

After the fact, Jones was congratulated by a large swath of his teammates on the Patriots bench. Jonathan Freeny, Jonathan Jones, Elandon Roberts, Brandin Cooks, Nate Ebner, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, James White and special teams coordinator Joe Judge all happily patted Jones on the helmet or shoulder pads to encourage the second-year corner. 

Jones has been open about how the difficulties he had holding onto the football as a rookie impacted him, but in the early going this year, ball-security has not seemed to be an issue. He muffed one punt on the first practice of training camp, he double caught another in West Virginia last week, but other than, he has handled his return responsibilities well. 

Defensively, he was involved on two long Jaguars touchdowns last week and opted not to speak with reporters afterward. Had his confidence been impacted, it didn't seem to last long. Belichick noted he liked the aggressiveness Jones showed as a returner, despite fielding one that turned into a loss of three deep in Patriots territory. 

"I though Cyrus did a good job in the return game, both in punts and kickoffs," Belichick said. "Ran hard. Ran aggressively. Made good decisions with and without the ball. Had a couple of situations where the ball either hit the ground or was going out of bounds. I thought he did a nice job."

The Patriots seem to have a solid top-four at corner with Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones. Cyrus Jones would seem to fall outside that group in competition for the fifth spot alongside players like Justin Coleman, Kenny Moore and DJ Killings.

But if Jones continues to show positive results in the return game, he could earn a roster spot for his abilities in that regard. Not only do the Patriots place a premium on the kicking game and the importance of field position, but if Jones could help take some of the load off of other returners like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, there would be value in that as well.