FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
I discovered the answer when approaching him in the locker room to ask a question about the team’s wide receivers, who don’t appear to be as potent as they’ve been in the past. That’s when Brady relayed his confidence in the receivers, before sharing the story of how his 11-year-old son, Jack, was showing him his fantasy football team (he has Atlanta's Matt Ryan as his quarterback) and was disappointed. Brady asked him why, and that’s when Jack pointed to the projections that indicated he would lose his Week 1 matchup.
Brady told his son the projections shouldn’t affect his optimism, because no one truly knows what will happen -- not him, not the coaches, not the reporters covering the game. He added that the projections overlook, among other things, the essence of competition.
One could say that’s also the mindset Brady has as the real football season begins.
2. From the media department: One week after ending his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI early after multiple questions about his athletic trainer, Alex Guerrero, Brady did not go on the station in the days leading up to Sunday’s opener against the Texans. The obvious follow-up question: Was it a one-week break or something more permanent? Brady has been expressing relentless positivity in recent weeks and said he thinks he might continue doing the interview, but isn't sure.
3a. Did You Know, Part I: Brady has a 12-3 record as a starting quarterback on opening day (including 2008, despite being knocked out with an injury in the first quarter), and he can tie Peyton Manning for the most opening-day wins by an NFL quarterback at 13.
3b. Did You Know, Part II: Bill Belichick enters 2018 tied with Tom Landry for third place on the all-time list with 250 career regular-season wins. A win on Sunday would move Belichick into sole possession of third place, behind Don Shula (328) and George Halas (318).
The Patriots had trouble corralling Deshaun Watson last year. Here's the first drill their D-linemen ran today, with CB Keion Crossen playing the role of Watson. pic.twitter.com/gS1Unj0ZjV— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) September 4, 2018
4. Zack Cox of NESN.com was first to capture the video of the week, a snapshot from practice that shows what the Patriots were focusing on most as they prepared to face Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. That’s ultra-athletic seventh-round pick Keion Crossen -- a cornerback from Western Carolina -- playing the role of Watson as defensive linemen had to find him, mirror him, and shuffle their feet while maintaining gap discipline in hopefully keeping him in the pocket. While some wonder how elusive Watson might be coming back from a torn ACL, as the video shows, the Patriots were preparing for his best all week. When Watson breaks the pocket, watch out.
5. In a sign that Belichick seems pleased with the work that pass-rush consultant Joe Kim has done since joining the team in the spring, Kim has stuck around now that the team is in regular-season mode. Second-year defensive end Derek Rivers credited Kim, a martial-arts expert, with helping the team’s rush become more consistent as well as defensive line coach Brendan Daly. “He’s definitely brought something new to a lot of our games,” he said. Kim has worked with 11 different NFL teams over his career, beginning with Belichick’s Browns in 1992.
6. Former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, in his first year as Lions head coach, often talked about his appreciation for football history during his time in New England, so it’s no surprise he’s taken that approach to Detroit. An example of this: One of the main hallways in the team’s facility was turned into a decade-by-decade historical timeline of Lions football, starting from when the franchise joined the NFL in 1930.
7. One of the Patriots’ more challenging roster cuts from 2016 was front and center in Thursday’s NFL opener, as linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill has emerged as a captain and starter for the Eagles. Grugier-Hill was a sixth-round pick of the Patriots three seasons ago out of Eastern Illinois, and as a tweener-type safety/linebacker, he didn’t have a traditional fit on defense but was projected to be a special-teams demon. He ended up being the 54th player that preseason, narrowly beaten out by fellow sixth-round pick Elandon Roberts at linebacker. The Eagles, whose 4-3 defense probably fits Grugier-Hill better, made a shrewd waiver claim.
8. One story that has piqued the interest of a few special-teams coaches around the NFL was how the Bills claimed rookie punter Corey Bojorquez on waivers from the Patriots, despite Bojorquez never punting in a preseason game (or in warmups of others, when scouts are often watching). One theory was that the Patriots were hiding Bojorquez in hopes he would clear waivers and return to their practice squad. In an interview with The Athletic, Bojorquez seemed to support that theory when he said to reporter Tim Graham: “The Patriots told me they had a plan they were executing, and I said, ‘All right, I’m not going to be worried about it,’ and just focused on my punting and tried to be the best I could every day so that when my name was called, I’d be ready.”
That might be me mike https://t.co/nZa9ldkXVz— danny woodhead (@danny__woodhead) September 4, 2018
9. One leftover nugget from the Patriots’ signing of slot receiver Jace Billingsley to the practice squad: This wasn’t the first time the team attempted to woo him. Last year, when Billingsley was waived by the Lions, the Patriots tried to sell him on joining their practice squad (he elected to stay in Detroit on the practice squad). That background contributed to Billingsley being more willing to make the jump this year, with one coach familiar with his style of play comparing him to Danny Amendola when Amendola was in the early stages of his career and bouncing from team to team. Talking to Billingsley also sparked flashbacks to Danny Woodhead in 2010, something Woodhead -- in a fun example of how social media can connect people -- seemed to enjoy.
10. Belichick often makes the point that a team’s depth comes from both the 53-man roster and practice squad, and offensive tackle Eric Smith is a good example to highlight on the latter point. The Patriots carried four offensive tackles last year and ultimately needed them all to play at different points, but they enter this season with just Trent Brown, Marcus Cannon and LaAdrian Waddle on the 53-man roster. So they pursued Smith with aggressiveness to join their practice squad, agreeing to pay him $20,000 per week instead of the standard $7,600 per week. They needed to give Smith a compelling reason not to return to the Dolphins (on their practice squad), and opened their checkbook to do it.
EXTRA POINT: As Robert Kraft and his family enter their 25th year of ownership, they surprised season-ticket members who have been with them from Day 1 by sending them personalized footballs this week. A nice touch, no doubt, as the season is set to kick off.