Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) attempts a pass against the New York Giants during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Transitioning Patriots, Saints look for more offense

As the NFL’s highest-scoring teams over the past decade, the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints are in unfamiliar territory these days as they prepare to meet Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Mass.

Since 2010 they are the only teams to score more than 5,000 points, as the Patriots have scored 5,087 and the Saints have scored 5,021.

But both teams are going through an offensive transition, most notably at quarterback, and in this young season both teams are in the bottom half of the league in scoring.

The Patriots (1-1), in their second season since Tom Brady departed for Tampa Bay, are led by rookie Mac Jones and rank 23rd in scoring (20.5 points per game).

The Saints (1-1), in their first season since Drew Brees’ retirement, have turned to Jameis Winston and are tied for 18th in scoring (22.5). Winston, notably, was released by the Buccaneers to make room for Brady, and became the first quarterback other than Brees to be New Orleans’ Week 1 starter since 2005.

Jones has been more efficient than bold in his first two games. He has completed 73.9 percent of his passes for 467 yards with just one touchdown but no interceptions, as New England ranks 25th in passing offense (213.5 yards per game, including sacks).

“There are some times that I watch the film and wish I threw the ball down the field more,” Jones admitted.

But ball security made a big difference last Sunday when Jones competed against fellow first-round pick Zach Wilson, who threw four interceptions as the Patriots beat the Jets 25-6.

“Sometimes, you need to know when to call it quits (on a play),” Jones said. “It’s all about trial and error … stick to my reads. Plays will come.”

Winston threw five touchdowns and no interceptions as New Orleans began the season with a 38-3 thrashing of Green Bay in Jacksonville, Fla., when Hurricane Ida forced the game to be moved from New Orleans.

But last week, Winston and the entire Saints team were overwhelmed in a 26-7 loss at Carolina. Winston completed 11 of 22 for 111 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was pressured throughout the game and was sacked four times.

“The biggest thing is being better in first-down and second-down efficiency,” Winston said. “Understanding just because you’re capable of making a play doesn’t mean you should make it.”

Despite the high-scoring game against the Packers, New Orleans ranks last in the NFL in passing offense (115.5).

“It’s the group in its entirety,” head coach Sean Payton said of the passing shortcomings. “It’s our offensive line, our quarterback. It’s also us, relative to a gameplan of having good answers. We need to have a better plan and that starts with me.”

The Saints were missing nine players due to injury against the Panthers, but center Erik McCoy (calf) was the only player to miss practice entirely Wednesday.

The Patriots got back linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who missed the game against the Jets because of a throat condition, but linebacker Matt Judon missed practice Wednesday because of a knee injury.

The Saints were missing eight assistant coaches against Carolina due to NFL coronavirus protocols. They stayed behind in Fort Worth, Texas, where the team has been practicing since evacuating ahead of Ida.

It’s unclear how many of them will be available for the game against the Patriots, though Payton said Wednesday that several of them will be available because they will be beyond the 10-day infectious period by game day.

The team is scheduled to return to their home practice facility in Metairie, La., after Sunday’s game and play their first game actual home game of the season in the Superdome on the following Sunday, Oct. 3, against the New York Giants.

–Field Level Media

Jul 28, 2021; Foxborough, MA, United States; New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer (5) during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Patriots sign QB Brian Hoyer to 1-year deal

The New England Patriots signed quarterback Brian Hoyer to a one-year contract and promoted the veteran backup from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, ESPN reported Saturday.

Hoyer and rookie starter Mac Jones are the only QBs on the active roster for Sunday’s game between the Patriots (0-1) and host New York Jets (0-1).

Hoyer, 35, is in his seventh season with New England. He played with the Patriots from 2009-11, then again in 2018 and 2020. He was also with the team for part of 2017.

This is his 13th NFL season, having also played for Arizona (2012), Cleveland (2013-14), Houston (2015), Chicago (2016), San Francisco (2017) and Indianapolis (2019).

Hoyer has played in 70 regular-season games (39 starts), completing 59.2 percent of his 1,501 pass attempts for 10,404 yards, 52 touchdowns and 35 interceptions.

The Patriots released veteran quarterback Cam Newton, a former league MVP, on Aug. 31.

Jones, the first-round pick from Alabama, completed 29 of 39 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown in last week’s season-opening 17-16 loss to the visiting Miami Dolphins.

–Field Level Media

Aug 21, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) drops back to attempt a pass against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama QBs square off as Patriots meet Dolphins

A pair of championship-winning quarterbacks from Alabama will meet for the first time on an NFL field as Mac Jones and the New England Patriots play host to Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins in the season opener for both teams on Sunday afternoon.

Jones, who was selected at No. 15 overall by the Patriots in this year’s draft, is set to make his NFL debut after guiding the Crimson Tide to their 18th national title in a 52-24 rout of Ohio State a season ago.

To get the starting job in New England, the 23-year-old beat out former NFL MVP Cam Newton, whom the Patriots released Aug. 31.

Tagovailoa is entering his second NFL season after being drafted No. 5 overall in 2020. He started nine of his 10 games for the Dolphins as a rookie last season. As a freshman at Alabama in 2017, Tagovailoa helped lead the Crimson Tide to a national championship with a 26-23 overtime victory against Georgia.

Jones and Tagovailoa were teammates at Alabama during the 2019 season. A then-junior Tagovailoa began the year as the starter before a season-ending hip injury made Jones the starter.

“Tua’s an awesome guy. He’s really a good, talented football player,” Jones told Boston radio station WEEI about his Week 1 matchup. “Learning from him and (Eagles quarterback) Jalen (Hurts) was great, obviously. Now that we’re all getting a chance here in the NFL, I think it’ll be cool to go up against each other.”

Jones will be surrounded be a revamped offense after the Patriots finished 7-9 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

The Patriots reloaded this offseason with the signings of tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne and the re-acquisition of Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Brown.

Henry, who missed time during the preseason with a shoulder injury, said he expects to play on Sunday.

New England’s defense will also get a boost from returning two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who opted out of the 2020 season, as well as linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who re-signed with the Patriots after being cut by the Dolphins in March. The Patriots also brought in two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Matt Judon to bolster their front seven.

Tagovailoa will look to build on an up-and-down rookie campaign in which he threw for 1,814 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Miami narrowly missed the playoffs, going 10-6 under second-year coach and former Patriots assistant Brian Flores.

“Good fundamentals, good technique, good communication, good decisions, and that he has fun playing his game that he loves to play,” Flores said when asked about his second-year expectations for Tagovailoa. “I love coaching football. I’m going to be having fun on Sunday.”

Flores said the Dolphins are preparing to be without tackle Austin Jackson and tight end Adam Shaheen on Sunday. Both are currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

The game will feature the reunion of the McCourty brothers – Devin and Jason – who will be on opposite sidelines after spending the past three seasons together in New England. Jason McCourty was voted a team captain in his first season with Miami while Devin McCourty was named a captain in New England for the 11th time.

Agholor (ankle) was one of three Patriots players listed as limited in Wednesday’s practice report. Tackle Yodny Cajuste (hamstring) and safety Jalen Mills (ankle) also were limited. Miami tackle Liam Eichenberg (thigh) and wide receiver Preston Williams (foot) were limited participants for the Dolphins.

–Field Level Media

–Field Level Media

Jun 15, 2021; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) participates in a drill during the New England Patriots mini camp at the New England Patriots practice complex. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Newton says no extra motivation from Mac Jones’ presence

Cam Newton says he understands.

When the Patriots drafted Alabama quarterback Mac Jones in the first round in April, many wondered if Newton would feel slighted as New England’s incumbent at the position.

Newton said he doesn’t see it that way.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “He was the right pick in my opinion. He was the best player available, and that’s what the NFL draft is for.”

Newton was speaking to the media for the first time since re-signing in March.

“As far as having any chip on the shoulder, you’re stating the obvious,” he added. “I don’t need too much to get myself going. It’s no disrespect to Mac. It’s no disrespect to (coach) Bill (Belichick) and his decision. I support it 110 percent, because you still have to do what’s right for the organization, for the long haul.”

Belichick said after the draft that Newton is the team’s quarterback, and Newton has taken the first-team reps so far in minicamp.

Newton has given the young quarterback the nickname “Mac and Cheese,” as Newton is wont to toss nicknames around for many teammates, and he said Jones is going through what every rookie does.

“Mac and Cheese, he’s pretty cool. He’s quiet. I think he’s trying to figure everybody out,” the 32-year-old former NFL Most Valuable Player said. “I’ve been there before. I’ve been a rookie and I’ve been a first-round pick, where so much is asked from you.

“He’s doing a great job with being everything that’s advertised — from a leadership perspective, he’s holding himself accountable. That’s all you can ask from a young player.”

With quarterbacks Jarret Stidham and Brian Hoyer also on the roster, Newton said every one of the four wants to be the starter, and he’s just happy he has more time to absorb the team’s intricate offense after not signing until July of last year.

“In the latter part of the season, it just caught up to me,” Newton said. “I was thinking too much. There just wasn’t enough hours in the day.

“You can’t simulate real, live bullets and that’s what it came down to.”

The Patriots struggled through a 7-9 season in 2020 and missed the playoffs in their first year without superstar quarterback Tom Brady, who played for the team from 2000-19 and won six Super Bowls for New England. He won his seventh Super Bowl championship last season after joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

–Field Level Media

Oct 5, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer (2) throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second quarter of a NFL game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots re-sign QB Brian Hoyer on 1-year deal

Quarterback Brian Hoyer re-signed with the New England Patriots, his representatives announced Monday.

NFL.com reported that it was a one-year deal with financial terms not disclosed.

Hoyer is lined up to enter his 13th NFL season by extending his third career stint with the Patriots. He also played for New England from 2009-2011 and 2017-18.

As the second-string quarterback in 2020, Hoyer ended up starting one game for the Patriots and went 15-for-24 for 130 yards and an interception in a 26-10 Week 4 defeat at Kansas City.

The Patriots’ quarterback room also will feature 2021 first-round draft pick Mac Jones, Jarrett Stidham and former NFL MVP Cam Newton, who also re-signed with New England on a one-year contract this offseason. Hoyer, 35, figures to be a veteran back up and possible mentor for the rookie Jones.

In 12 seasons with the Patriots, Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers, Hoyer has appeared in 70 games, while he amassed a 16-23 record as a starter. He has thrown for 10,404 yards and 52 touchdowns with 35 interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Nov 29, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (20) against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Free agent CB Dre Kirkpatrick visiting Pats

Veteran cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is visiting the New England Patriots, NFL Network reported Thursday.

The 31-year-old free agent started 11 of his 14 games with the Arizona Cardinals in 2020 following an eight-year run with the Cincinnati Bengals.

He registered 56 tackles and three interceptions with the Cardinals, boosting his career totals to 358 tackles, 13 picks and three sacks in 113 games (78 starts).

He has returned two interceptions for touchdowns in his career, one against Baltimore’s Joe Flacco in 2013 and another against Denver’s Peyton Manning in 2014.

Cincinnati selected Kirkpatrick in the first round (17th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Alabama.

–Field Level Media

Oct 18, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman (11) warms up prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots release WR Julian Edelman after 11 seasons

Dec 27, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) runs the ball against Houston Texans linebacker Jonathan Greenard (52) during the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots terminated the contract of former Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman on Monday.

The 34-year-old wide receiver is listed with a “failed physical” designation on the NFL’s transaction wire, and there were reports that he is mulling retirement.

A three-time Super Bowl winner, Edelman ranks second in Patriots history in receptions (620), fourth in receiving yards (6,822) and ninth in touchdown receptions (36).

A quarterback in college at Kent State, Edelman was drafted in the seventh round (232nd overall) by New England in 2009 and wound up playing in 137 regular season games and 19 postseason games.

Edelman posted three 1,000-yard seasons and two 100-catch campaigns. He missed the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL suffered in the preseason.

He was named the MVP of Super Bowl LIII after catching 10 passes for 141 yards in the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

Edelman’s release frees up $3.4 million in salary cap space for the Patriots, per Spotrac.

–Field Level Media