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Sunday 7: Despite tough start with Patriots, Eric Decker should make team

Ryan Hannable
August 19, 2018 - 6:00 am
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1. There’s no doubt the start of Eric Decker’s career with the Patriots hasn’t gone as smooth as he would like. It’s taking him some time to pick up the offense and in turn that is forcing him to miss on some fundamentals like route-running and just catching the ball. While it’s tough to watch at times, this can be normal for some veteran players when joining the organization. Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, who spent some time with the Patriots last summer before retiring, noted this week often times new receivers’ minds are so focused on the playbook and everything that comes with that, they forget how to do the routine things. Since Decker has been in the league for so long and is a smart player, it would seem this will turn at some point and things will eventually click. It’s clear he has the work ethic to make it work and the Patriots want to make it work. Decker and Tom Brady have had numerous 1-on-1 sessions during training camp practices and even in Thursday’s preseason game, the two threw passes together on the field well before Brady's warmup, which is unusual for him to do. And then the two spent extensive time talking on the sideline late in the game. It’s evident the team and Decker are doing everything they can to make it work. For all the questions about him making the team, why would Brady do all this if it wasn't a likely possibility? It was worth noting Decker was above Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios, Devin Lucien and Paul Turner on the depth chart for Thursday’s game. Based on that, he will make the team. Although, Kenny Britt is the ultimate wild card since he hasn’t participated in a full practice yet. Decker was also out with James White, Jacob Hollister, Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett for the two-minute drill late in the first half — another good sign. So while it hasn’t been a perfect fit so far, it seems like both the Patriots and Decker want things to work out and in the end it ultimately should given his talent and history.

2. It is somewhat interesting we haven’t seen Cordarrelle Patterson return a kickoff in a preseason game and also not in practice since the first few days. This is his best skill, so it would seem the Patriots will be utilizing it. It’s just been a strange occurrence, especially since he’s seen extensive time at receiver in the games, so he is healthy. Bill Belichick was asked about it on a conference call Friday morning, but didn’t give much on the subject. “Again, all of the things that we do in preseason games are based on a combination of factors and we put it all together and do what we feel is best,” he said. “That's an individual player, the unit that he's in, what he's done on the practice field, who the other people are that are involved and what's best for the team. When you combine all of those things, that's what leads to most of the decisions in preseason games and so forth.”

3. The 2018 Patriots rookie class hasn’t got off to the best of starts and injuries are the reason why. Of course, Isaiah Wynn, selected No. 23 overall, was lost for the season due to a torn Achilles suffered Thursday against the Eagles. Then, running back Sony Michel, who the team took No. 31 overall, isn’t expected to play in the preseason and maybe beyond following reportedly getting his knee drained a few weeks back. The first-round picks aren’t the only ones on the shelf with injuries, as second-round cornerback Duke Dawson missed Thursday’s game with an unknown injury. It would be a real bummer to see more than Wynn miss extended time this year, but it’s worth pointing out there were a lot of concerns with Michel’s knee around the draft, which is likely why he slipped to the very end of the first round.

4. A lot was made of Jason McCourty allowing a touchdown in his first action of the preseason Thursday, but NFL Media’s Mike Giardi made a good point. McCourty was targeted just once in 30 snaps. Isn’t that pretty good for a No. 2 or 3 corner? Still, McCourty acknowledged he needs to be better. “I’ve just got to make that play, got to do better,” he said. “[Gibson] ran an inside move, I broke hard to it. Just got to do a better job of staying on my man and being able to get a hand in there to try to make a play.”

5. While fantasy football advice isn’t really our thing, don’t hesitate when drafting James White this season. The Patriots running back is one of the most underrated in the entire league and should be seeing a ton of touches in Weeks 1-4 with Julian Edelman out of the lineup. One thing that stood out Thursday was more of an effort to get him carries, something we didn’t see much of in the past. This is something he’s worked hard at over the last few seasons and it appears it is paying off. In previous years it was a case of where whenever he was in the game, defenses could have a good idea that it would be a passing play.

6. Night games should be fun at Gillette Stadium this year as with the new lights installed in the offseason, the team will flash them on and off when the team runs out onto the field right before the game. It was done Thursday night, but since sunset was well into the first quarter, it didn’t get its true feel. That will change come Week 5 when the Patriots host the Colts on Thursday Night Football, which is also Edelman’s first game back from his suspension. It should look very cool and is just another feature to be upgraded this offseason.

7. Friday’s third preseason game, which of course the starters typically play the most in, should be a great night for the Patriots defense as it prepares for the Texans in Week 1. New England will be going up against Cam Newton, one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the NFL, and then will face Deshaun Watson and the Texans in Week 1. It will be worth watching how defacto defensive coordinator Brian Flores approaches things against mobile quarterbacks as he’s been aggressive with his calls so far, but that could come back to hurt when facing a quarterback who can escape the pocket and make plays with his legs. The Patriots really couldn’t have asked for a better opponent in Week 3 of the preseason when facing Houston in Week 1.

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