FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. What the Jimmy G pick turned into: The Patriots' trade of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round pick on Oct. 31, 2017, has been a hot topic of discussion this week, with Garoppolo returning to town for the first time to face his former team (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).
What did the Patriots ultimately get in return? Because the team traded the acquired second-rounder for additional picks, which they kept parlaying into other picks, it's a complicated analysis.
But to drill down on it, here are the players acquired as a direct result of the pick acquired from the Garoppolo deal:
Duke Dawson Jr., CB: A 2018 second-round draft pick out of Florida, he never emerged and was traded along with a seventh-round pick to Denver in 2019 for a 2020 sixth-round pick.
Christian Sam, LB: A 2018 sixth-round pick, he never played a game for the team.
Joejuan Williams, CB: The Patriots traded up for the Vanderbilt defensive back in the 2019 second round (45th overall), and after a quiet rookie year, he has carved out a niche role in his second season playing on special teams and occasionally on defense.
Damien Harris, RB: The 2019 third-round pick from Alabama had a quiet rookie season, but now looks primed to contribute.
Yodny Cajuste, OT: A late third-round pick in 2019 out of West Virginia, he remains a developmental prospect who has yet to play in a game.
Jarrett Stidham, QB: The 2019 fourth-round pick spent his rookie season as the No. 2 option behind Tom Brady, slipped to the No. 3 spot for the first quarter of the 2020 season, and is now back in the No. 2 role.
Dalton Keene, TE: The 2020 third-round pick from Virginia Tech has been inactive for every game this season.
Justin Herron, OT: A 2020 sixth-round pick out of Wake Forest, he has started two games this season and looks like he has a chance to be a notable cog up front.
Brian Hoyer, QB: With the 49ers landing Garoppolo, they released Hoyer, who promptly returned to New England. Though the Patriots didn’t land Hoyer as a result of the draft pick acquired from dealing Garoppolo, they knew he would be part of their plans when making the trade.
2. Timing of trade: Some people were revisiting history on local sports radio throughout the week, asking the question: Where would the Patriots be if they had held on to Garoppolo?
Considering the Patriots won the Super Bowl the following season with Brady, conventional wisdom seemed to be the franchise made the right decision, with the larger issue the timing of the deal. Had they been willing to trade Garoppolo sooner, the return likely would have been greater because they would have been dealing from a better position of leverage. It's a fair point.
My opinion is coach Bill Belichick was holding out as long as he could -- with some level of belief Garoppolo might be willing to accept a "bridge"-type contract -- only to realize in the end that was never going to be tenable for him. Perhaps he should have seen that coming, but if that was indeed the rationale, it makes more sense to me how things ultimately unfolded.
Meanwhile, Garoppolo still has some of his own questions to answer in San Francisco.
3. Playoff leverage: ESPN sports analytics expert Brian Burke highlighted how important Sunday's game is for the Patriots in the big picture, rating it among the highest percentage in the AFC in terms of "playoff leverage." In other words, the Patriots (2-3) are rated to have one of the biggest swings in terms of making/missing the playoffs based on whether they beat the 49ers (3-3). It's easy to understand why, with a road game against the Bills (4-2) next on the schedule, and a home date with the Ravens three weeks away. Buffalo visits the hapless New York Jets on Sunday.
Playoff leverage going into week 7. pic.twitter.com/t4LCP3jS3L— Brian Burke (@bburkeESPN) October 22, 2020
4. Cam's gems: It has been a while since a Patriots player filled up reporters' notebooks the way quarterback Cam Newton does. In one radio interview last week, for example, he said the following:
"I don't point fingers, I point thumbs."
"We have no room to look through a telescope. Our focus should be with a microscope."
"The sky may be falling the next couple of days. I'll bring my raincoat and my umbrella to get the job done."
It has been fun stuff, and as he noted previously, no different than anything he has said or done previously. It just seems more people might be listening because he's now in a bigger media market. Now he needs to back it up on the field with a better performance than he had last Sunday in the loss to the Broncos.
Why Rex Ryan has serious doubts about Cam, Patriots' offense
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5. Penalty-free Patriots: In the midst of a two-game losing streak the Patriots have plenty to clean up, but one decisive area they are getting the job done is with penalties. They have been called for 12 accepted penalties through five games, which is easily an NFL low. It's hard to imagine that pace continuing, but if it does, the Patriots would project to finish the season with 38. The 2012 Falcons hold the record for fewest penalties in a 16-game season, with 55.
6. What JMac learned: Some in the NFL have said the teams that are most disciplined regarding COVID-19 will give themselves the best chance to win -- a message Chargers coach Anthony Lynn delivered on HBO's "Hard Knocks," for example. And veteran Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty sounds like he's on board with that line of thinking more than ever after a disruptive first two weeks of October.
"Not making excuses. We have to get back on the [practice] field and we have to start to improve. That's what we take away from [losing to Denver]," McCourty said on his "Double Coverage" podcast with twin brother Devin. "We have to do what we need to do outside the building and all those things to make sure we're being as safe as possible so we give ourselves opportunity to be able to practice. Each and every week, to continue to build as a team. You can't just show up Sunday and think you're going to play well. We need that time. We need that practice."
7. Kittle's blocking: With at least 112 receiving yards against the Patriots on Sunday, 49ers tight end George Kittle would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka (3,436) for the most receiving yards by a tight end through his first 50 NFL games. That's great, but a tip of the helmet to Patriots safety Adrian Phillips for an unfiltered response to what truly separates Kittle from two of the game's other top tight ends -- Kansas City's Travis Kelce and Oakland's Darren Waller.
"He blocks way better than those guys," Phillips said. "He's not afraid to block. I mean, those guys aren't either, but you just call a spade a spade. He's a dog when it comes to blocking. Kelce is probably the best route runner in the league at tight end. Waller is probably one of the fastest. So you kind of get a combination of both of those guys [with] Kittle, who's really balanced overall."
8a. Brady vs. Patriots, Part 1: When the NFL moved the Buccaneers-Raiders game from Sunday night to 4:05 p.m. ET -- as part of an abundance of caution to ensure there would be a prime-time game (Cardinals-Seahawks) with the Raiders dealing with COVID-19 issues -- it created the first head-to-head TV matchup of the season between Brady's new team and his old one. As part of the original schedule, that wasn't supposed to be until Week 15.
8b. Steve Belichick’s role: Bill Belichick was miked up for the Patriots’ Week 6 loss to the Broncos, and in a segment for Showtime’s “Inside the NFL”, there was one notable exchange that confirmed his son -- outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick -- is calling the defense. This has been widely assumed, although neither Belichick has said so publicly. On the show, after the Broncos had taken over possession in Patriots territory, Bill Belichick was heard saying, “Let’s hold them to three here, Steve.”
9. What links Herbert and Newton: Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has put up some big numbers since taking over for Tyrod Taylor, and he has a chance to join some elite company led by Newton this week. Herbert has 1,195 passing yards in his first four games, a total bested by only five others in NFL history. Newton's 1,610 yards are the most in a quarterback's first five games. The chances Herbert throws for 416 yards Sunday against the visiting Jaguars, to best Newton, are remote. But he could catch Marc Bulger (1,496) and Andrew Luck (1,488), who are No. 2 and No. 3 on the list, respectively.
10. Did You Know: The last time the Patriots had back-to-back regular-season home losses was in the 2008 season when they dropped games to the Jets (34-31, OT) and Steelers (33-10). After losing to the visiting Broncos last Sunday, the Patriots will look to keep that streak alive by beating the 49ers on Sunday.