With an off day on tap for the Patriots as they get set to resume their preparations for the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend, here are some thoughts on what so far seems to be a pretty quiet Tuesday:
1) The loss of Wilfork will likely have additional offseason implications - When you have a player like Vince Wilfork anchoring your defensive line, the Patriots have found themselves in relatively good shape up front thanks to the fact that Wilfork has been one of the most consistent players they've ever had at that position. The Patriots went into this season relatively thin on the defensive line, and part of their ability to deal with their lack of depth somewhat hinged on having Wilfork in the line-up. His presence forced other teams to spend time game-planning on how to handle him, with Erik Frenz of the Boston Globe pointing out that Wilfork drew double teams on 25 of his 51 snaps against the Buccaneers two weeks ago. The only fortunate thing about this situation is the fact that it happened now and not later in the season, which gives him the additional time to hopefully recover by the time training camp starts next year. However, expect the Patriots to now make defensive tackle a priority heading into April's draft and start planning for the future. One would hope that he'll come back strong, but Wilfork is set to be a free agent after next season and how he performs in 2014 will likely determine whether or not he's here beyond that. He's the only remaining defensive player from New England's championship years, and it's just another reminder of the fact that things can change at any moment.
2) The Patriots passing game made their biggest plays of the season Sunday night - Coming into Sunday's game against the Falcons the Patriots offense hadn't broken the 40 yard reception mark in the passing game all season, but they managed to do it twice in Atlanta. Kenbrell Thompkins had a 49-yard pass in the second quarter, while Julian Edelman had a key 44-yard grab on 3rd down in the fourth quarter. Their longest pass play prior to that game had been Aaron Dobson's 39-yard touchdown reception back in week two against the Jets.
3) No Rob Gronkowski talk this week - After last week's circus surrounding whether or not Gronkowski would be back for Sunday night's game against the Falcons, this week will be a little different. We'll be using the "we're only talking about the players who are here" mentality as it's safe to say at this point that there appears to be issues with the timeline surrounding his return, and some indications seem to point to the fact that he's targeting the New Orleans game as his potential return date. Either way, you won't see him mentioned here again after today until there's a definitive answer surrounding his availability to play. Especially after all the back and forth we saw last week with all the different reports that came out that ultimately proved meaningless.
4) Aaron Dobson's injury could open things up for Josh Boyce - According to Nick Underhill of MassLive, Dobson reportedly underwent an MRI on his neck on Monday, although there weren't any details released surrounding the severity of his injury. Should he be unable to play this weekend, that would be a tough loss for a Patriots offense that has already been thin at the receiver position thus far. However, as we mentioned yesterday it could force New England to get Boyce a little more involved in the passing game. Boyce showed the most promise we've seen from him all season, having hauled in two passes from Tom Brady, albeit one was nullified by a penalty. He spent most of the offseason coming back from a foot injury, which likely cost him a bit in terms of getting acclimated with the offense during the offseason. Fortunately he's looked pretty good in recent weeks, so hopefully we see him finally emerge as a player in this offense.
5) Patriots need to lock up Aqib Talib - Talib opted to sign a one-year deal over the offseason hoping he could potentially cash in with a big year this season, and so far the plan is working well both for him and the Patriots. He's tied for the league lead in interceptions with four, and he's also a big reason why they're 4-0 at this point. Bill Belichick praised him after Sunday's win and again on Monday during his conference call, so hopefully they'll be able to get him signed for the long-term. The tough part is it will obviously take both sides to get something done. As we know the secondary has been an issue in recent years and Talib has done a good job of stabilizing a group that already had some potential and seemed to simply be missing a key piece to bring it all together. Now it's just going to be up to the Patriots front office to try and keep it that way, provided Talib doesn't try and break the bank after the season is over.
SAINTS IMPRESS, DOLPHINS NOT SO MUCH MONDAY NIGHT:
With the Patriots set to face both teams in the coming weeks, watching Monday night's game between the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins was definitely an interesting contrast between two very different quarterbacks. Drew Brees was once again masterful in his execution and accuracy, leading the Saints to an impressive 38-17 victory over Miami. He finished the evening 30-of-39 (77% accuracy) for 413 yards and four touchdown passes, and was completely fearless regardless of the situation. One thing that stood out was the fact that New Orleans was 6-of-13 on third down, but they converted 3-of-5 (excluding kneeldowns) on plays where they faced 3rd and longer than 10 yards. Meanwhile Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will likely be kicking himself after last night's performance. He was single-handedly a big part of the reason why the Dolphins head back to South Florida with their first loss, having been responsible for four turnovers. He threw three interceptions and also had a huge fumble that ended up being a game-changing play and handed the Saints the momentum. Had he played better, it may have been a completely different football game.
KRAFT'S GRANDSON LIGHTING IT UP ON THE GRIDIRON:
It appears that some day when Tom Brady retires, it appears the Patriots could one day replace him with a family member. According to Yahoo! Sports Ben Rohrbach, Robert Kraft's grandson Harry Kraft is the starting quarterback for Belmont Hill School in Massachusetts, and recently had a big performance. Kraft recently completed 17-of-27 for 254 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for another during a 38-11 win over Groton school in front of his family. Kraft is the son of Patriots vice chairman Jonathan Kraft, and while he may not necessarily be the next Brady or an NFL prospect (at least not yet), it should be interesting to see where he ends up in the years to come.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
In a fix, Patriots plug hole on line - Jeff Howe - Howe looks at how the Patriots handled the absence of Vince Wilfork during Sunday night's win, and how they may deal with it moving forward.
Vince Wilfork's season done - Jeff Howe - Howe files his notebook this morning, which leads off with the fact Wilfork's season is likely over.
Richard Seymour not an option - Ron Borges - Borges writes that for any fans hoping to see Richard Seymour return to Foxboro, don't count on it.
Patriots-Falcons: Five takeaways from the game - Jeff Howe - Howe has his five things from Sunday night's win over Atlanta, including the fact he believes that Aqib Talib is among the NFL's elite.
Don’t look for ex-Pats stepping in for Vince Wilfork - Gerry Callahan - Callhan has a snarky column this morning about the fact the Patriots won't be seeing guys like Seymour return anytime soon.
Tom Brady says Vince Wilfork will 'come back next year strong and as determined as ever' - Jeff Howe - Howe has comments from Brady, who believes his teammate will be back next season.
With Vince Wilfork out, Chris Jones fills huge void - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young files her notebook this morning and writes that rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones was active for the first time Sunday night and it ended up being a good thing he was available.
Belichick confirms Wilfork likely done for season - Robert Burgess - Burgess has quotes from Belichick's weekly WEEI appearance on "Salk & Holley" on Monday, with the coach confirming Wilfork's season is done.
Considering questions and concerns raised by Vince Wilfork's injury - Erik Frenz - Frenz looks at the loss of Wilfork, and what it means for the Patriots both from a schematic and personnel standpoint.
4-0 never looked so bleak for Patriots - Obnoxious Boston Fan - In this article despite the 4-0 start, injuries are certainly making the remainder of the season look challenging.
Brady: Wilfork's presence is unmatched - ESPN BOSTON - This piece has a transcription a portion of the interview Brady had on WEEI Monday, with comments on Wilfork, as well as some additional quotes about the status of Rob Gronkowski.
Patriots in good spot at 4-0 through quarter of season - Rich Garven - Garven writes that while not everything has been perfect for the Patriots through four games, their record is.
PATRIOTS: Looking at options with Wilfork out - Glen Farley - Farley looks at some of the personnel who could fill in for Wilfork now that he's likely lost for the season.
SouthCoastToday.com: Five things we learned from Sunday's Patriots game - Andrew Tornetta -Tornetta looks at the Patriots win over the Falcons and offers up his five thoughts, including the fact he believes New England's defense made a statement during the win.
PORTLAND PRESS HERALD:
Six points for Patriots, one big moment for Mainer - Mike Lowe - Lowe has an article this morning on Matthew Mulligan, pointing out that the University of Maine standout is believed to be the first Mainer to score a touchdown for the Patriots.
LAWRENCE EAGLE TRIBUNE:
Life without a legend begins today for Patriots - Hector Longo - Longo writes that fans likely looked to see what Ted Washington was up to upon learning that Wilfork was lost for the year.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s grandson is dominating as a high school quarterback - Ben Rohrbach - Rohrbach looks at Harry Kraft, the grandson of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who so far is having a great season for Belmont Hill School in Massachusetts.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:
Big blow to Patriots - Mark Farinella - Farinella writes that Belichick confirmed what everyone feared Monday afternoon, and has reactions from Wilfork's teammates.
Tom Brady Confidence Index, Week 4: Julian Edelman Approaching Wes Welker Territory - Christopher Price - Price has his edition of Brady's "confidence index" and writes that Edelman's 34 catches has him leading the team currently as he's been one of Brady's go to gus so far.
Tom Brady on Vince Wilfork: 'To Say We'll Miss Him is an Understatement - Christopher Price - Price has comments from Brady during the Monday night football broadcast, where Brady talked about the loss of his teammate.