The 2018 NFL season is finally upon us – who’s excited???
There are so many questions going into the season and, as always, so few answers far! Will Tom Brady surpass Peyton Manning to become the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl? Will Gronk get a third ring to spike? Will the Pats have the opportunity to throw an even more blowout celebration bash in Atlanta in February? (We’ve gotta admit, J-Lo, Gucci Mane and Florida Georgia Line were pretty epic in Minneapolis even after a tough loss …)
While there are tons of things we don’t know -- this is what we do know before the 2018 season that kicks off Sunday against the Houston Texans, when the Pats are favored by seven at home. Sunday marks the fourth straight year the teams have faced off, with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Brandin Cooks securing a 36-33 win last year. The Pats are 6-0 against Houston at Gillette, and Brady is 12-3 against any team on opening day.
At 41, Brady is matching up against 22-year-old QB Deshaun Watson, coming off a torn ACL last season. Despite Watson’s lack of NFL playing experience, no one in New England is underestimating his talent. “Getting this guy on the ground is one of the more difficult things out there,” defensive line coach Brendan Daly said, according to NESN. “You can’t let him have free access around the perimeter obviously. But even when you do a good job there, he’s so elusive in the pocket in terms of making people miss, we had a major issue with that in our game last year and people continued to have an issue with that through last year and into the preseason this year. He’s very elusive.”
Oh yeah, then they have that other Watt back and healthy as J.J. returns from a broken leg after not playing a regular season game since October. “He’s very talented. He’s got a great motor. He’s very instinctive. He’s a very smart player as well as one who has outstanding physical skill,” Belichick said of the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
With both Watt and Jadeveon Clowney (who sacked Brady twice last year) together on defense, Gronk knows he might have to use his own monster size and strength to block them.
“I mean, they’re unreal talents. They’re great players and you definitely need help to block those guys,” he said of Watt and Clowney, USA Patriots Wirereported. “I mean, if that’s what the coaches ask me to do, if that’s the play call, I’ve got to go in there and I’ve got to get my nose dirty.
“I’ve got to do what they need me to do for this team, and it’s to block whoever, it’s to maybe help out an offensive lineman, help out a tackle before I go out on a route. No matter what it is, just got to get out there and get dirty with it.”
Gronk took 80 snaps as a pass blocking tight end last year, but his 410 snaps as a run blocker was the third-most by a tight end all season.
Once they get past the Texans, the Pats head south to Jacksonville for another formidable defense led by three-time Pro Baller Calais Campbell – with that other cornerback who talks a lot.
Check out the rest of the regular season schedule below:
Comings and goings:
Every NFL team underwent offseason moving and shaking, and the Patriots were no different. While we’re not going to debate the whys, hows and what ifs, here’s who we bid farewell to since Super Bowl LII – and where they are now.
Nate Solder to the New York Giants (we hope you caught the heartfelt reunion between him and Brady at MetLife before the last the preseason game)
Danny Amendola to the Miami Dolphins (see ya' in Week 4, Danny Boy!)
Malcolm Butler and Dion Lewis to the Tennessee Titans (that reunion is Week 10 in Nashville)
Brandin Cooks to the L.A. Rams (maybe we’ll see him in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII???)
Jordan Richards traded to the Atlanta Falcons
As the Pats front office made the necessary cuts to reach the 53-man roster limit (they actually went one further and went to 52 players, as they’re always over-achievers), see who received bad news over Labor Day weekend:
Wide receivers Devin Lucien, Paul Turner, K.J. Maye and Riley McCarron
Running backs Mike Gillislee (then picked up by the New Orleans Saints), Khalfani Muhammad, Brandon Bolden, Kenneth Farrow and Ralph Webb
Tight end Will Tye, safeties Damarius Travis and A.J. Moore
Linebackers Marquis Flowers and Harvey Langi, offensive linemen Luke Bowanko, Cole Croston, Matt Tobin, Jason King and James Ferentz
Defensive linemen Vincent Valentine, Eric Lee, Frank Herron, John Atkins and Trent Harris
Cornerbacks Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis and Jomal Wiltz
Quarterback Danny Etling (but he was added to the Pats practice squad the next day following last week’s impressive run)
Fullback Henry Poggi
Punter Corey Bojorquez
New editions - Welcome to Foxboro, the class of 2018!
Adrian Clayborn - DE from the Atlanta Falcons
Sony Michel – RB, 31st overall draft pick out of Georgia
Trent Brown - LT from San Francisco 49ers
Isaiah Wynn – RT, 23rd overall draft pick out of Georgia (but will miss the season with torn Achilles)
Duke Dawson – CB Florida, 53rd overall draft pick out of Florida
Amara Darboh – WR out of Michigan acquired from the Seahawks
Chad Hansen – WR out of Cal acquired from the New York Jets