Examining the roster ties between Patriots, Cowboys ahead of Week 6


Pats Pulpit 13 October, 2021 - 07:00am

How good is the Patriots’ defense really?

Boston.com 14 October, 2021 - 06:00am

Related: What we learned about the Patriots and the NFL in Week 5

Dallas has been one of the best looking teams in football as of late, winning its last four games and playing some good football on both sides of the ball. The offense is productive, the defense opportunistic, and the results speak for themselves: at the moment, the Cowboys are ranked second in the NFC playoff picture behind only the 5-0 Arizona Cardinals.

With all that being said, let’s take a closer look at New England’s upcoming opponent.

Yards gained: 2,198 (2nd)

Passing: 123-for-166, 1,334 yards, 13 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 0.259 EPA (5th)

Rushing: 163 carries, 864 yards, 6 touchdowns, 0.026 EPA (4th)

Dallas features one of the most potent offensive attacks in football. The passing game led by Dak Prescott has been impressive despite ranking only 23rd in the league in attempts. While not all of those points came courtesy of the offense — two pick-sixes need to be added to the equation — the team managed to score 36-plus in three straight games.

Points against: 23.4/game (14th)

Yards given up: 1,952 (25th)

Passing defense: 135-for-208, 1,555 yards, 10 touchdown, 10 interceptions, -0.016 EPA (7th)

Rushing defense: 94 carries, 397 yards, 3 touchdowns, -0.093 EPA (17th)

Led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Trevon Diggs, Dallas’ defense has been pretty good as well. While not making as much headlines as the other side of the ball it has been stout against both the run and the pass. Most importantly it has been opportunistic: the Cowboys defense has picked off ten passes and recovered a pair of fumbles.

Week 2 at Los Angeles Chargers: W 20-17

Week 3 vs Philadelphia Eagles: W 41-21

Week 4 vs Carolina Panthers: W 36-28

Week 5 vs New York Giants: W 44-20

After starting the season with a loss against Tom Brady and the reigning world champions, the Cowboys went on a four-game winning streak that saw them outscore their opponents with an average score of 35-22. While the victorious against Philadelphia and New York were impressive, the team’s biggest win of the season so far arguably came in Week 2 against the Chargers: the loss is Los Angeles’ only one of the season.

What does stand out about the Cowboys’ schedule so far is that the last three games all happened at home. When forced to leave Texas so far, the team has been just 1-1 — some hope for the 2-3 Patriots.

Led by veteran quarterback and potential NFL Comeback Player of the Year Dak Prescott, the Cowboys have talent all over the board on the offensive side of the ball. Ezekiel Elliot leads the team in yards from scrimmage (507), while the receiving duo of CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper is one of the best in the business. The tight ends have proven themselves as productive players as well, with the offensive line anchored by Tyron Smith and Zack Martin still among the premier units in the game.

DE Randy Gregory, DT Osa Odighizuwa*, DE Tarell Basham, DE Brent Urban; LB Micah Parsons*, LB Leighton Vander Esch; CB Trevon Diggs, CB Anthony Brown, CB Jourdan Lewis; SS Jayron Kearse, FS Damontae Kazee

While Trevon Diggs stands out, the Cowboys field some other big names on defense as well. Micah Parsons and Leighton Vander Esch are former first-round draft picks in the linebacker room, while Randy Gregory and Tarell Basham are also well-established. The biggest surprise so far this season might actually be third-round rookie Osa Odighizuwa, who has established himself as a starting defensive tackle.

K Greg Zuerlein, P Bryan Anger, LS Jacob McQuaide; KR Tony Pollard, PR CeeDee Lamb

Dallas features plenty of experience in the kicking game, even though the unit has seen its ups and downs so far this season. Greg Zuerlein has made just 81.8 percent of his field goal tries (9 of 11) as well as 89.5 percent of his point-after kicks (17 of 19). Opposing teams, meanwhile, gain significantly more yards on kickoff returns than Dallas’ Tony Pollard does — 29.2 versus 21.3. That said, CeeDee Lamb has been productive returning punts as his 12.3-yard average shows.

WR CeeDee Lamb: While not the most productive player on Dallas’ offense — an honor that belongs to the aforementioned Ezekiel Elliott — Lamb is a player worth keeping an eye on. After all, he has gained 14.5 yards per reception so far this season and is leading the club with 348 receiving yards on 24 catches. Lamb also has caught a pair of touchdowns and will be a challenging matchup for a New England secondary that struggled in Week 5 against the Houston Texans.

RB Tony Pollard: While Ezekiel Elliot is still the Cowboys’ undisputed RB1, Tony Pollard has been a productive player for them as well. Serving as a rotational option alongside the superstar runner, Pollard is second on the team with 418 scrimmage yards. On a per-play basis, he is even more productive than Elliot: Pollard is gaining 6.4 yards per rushing attempt and 7.8 yards per reception compared to Elliot’s 5.3 and 6.1, respectively.

CB Trevon Diggs: Only one player in the NFL has more than three interceptions so far this season. That player is Trevon Diggs, who has picked off six throws in five games. The former second-round draft pick has been impressive so far, running one of his interceptions back for a touchdown and generally finding himself around the football on a regular basis. While Diggs has also given up 19 catches for 335 yards, his playmaking ability makes him a dangerous defender to challenge.

Coordinators: Kellen Moore (offense), Dan Quinn (defense), John Fassel (special teams)

Now in his second season in Dallas, long-time Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has a 10-11 record. However, he spent the majority of his first season with the team without injured quarterback Dak Prescott; the Cowboys went just 6-10 in McCarthy’s first year at the helm.

The 57-year-old retained some parts of the previous coaching staff, most prominently offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. He did add new coordinators responsible for the defense and special teams operations; both ex-Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and long-time NFL assistant John Fassel bring considerable experience to the table.

The team’s coaching staff also has some ties to the Patriots. Fassel’s assistant, Ben McDaniels, is the brother of New England’s offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels. Strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash, meanwhile, spent 11 seasons with the club before his departure after the 2015 season.

While Dallas leads the series after winning the first seven meetings between the two organizations, the Patriots have won the last six games going all the way back to the late 1990s. Along the way, the Cowboys went 0-4 when traveling to Foxborough.

OU Chief COVID Officer stresses steady presence of virus in youth populations, potential approval of further booster options

Patriots Wire 14 October, 2021 - 06:00am

The state currently ranks 27th in the U.S. in daily case averages, with 31 cases per 100,000 people, according to the New York Times. The seven-day case average sits at 1,222 cases, which is 56 cases lower than the Oct. 8 1,278 seven-day average.

Although cases remain stagnant, Bratzler said the seven-day average was three cases per 100,000 people on June 7, according to the New York Times. He said Oklahoma’s case average is still ten times higher than it was in June.

Colors beyond bright red — which depict high transmission rates — are returning to Oklahoma’s counties on the CDC COVID Data Tracker. Bratzler said, if cases go down, Oklahomans might experience reduced masking recommendations in some settings.

Nationwide, child COVID-19 cases remain exceptionally high, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as the U.S. experienced over 148,000 new cases in the past week, as of Oct. 11. Bratzler said, last month, children accounted for 25 percent of the nation’s COVID-19 cases

“Children are still at risk and, while they tend to have fewer complications of the disease, they do at times develop long haul symptoms, and some do end up in the hospital,” Bratzler said.

A CDC study conducted on Arizona school systems notes that COVID-19 outbreaks were 3.5 times higher in schools with no masking requirement than those with a mandate. A nationwide study also found that universal mask usage in school environments decreases infectivity by 50 percent. 

Secondary COVID-19 cases — which occur through transmission — were also proven to be reduced by masks, according to a study from the Iowa Department of Health. Exposure rates can be reduced from 26.5 percent to 12.5 percent if both parties wear masks. The 12.5 percent can also be avoided by quarantining, according to the study. 

“I know it's politically charged, but I also know that the data (is) very clear now, and (it) continues to grow that masks are very effective at preventing the transmission of COVID-19,” Bratzler said.

As Oklahomans consider getting COVID-19 booster shots, Bratzler said, “You shouldn’t be surprised that you will need another dose.” Bratzler used the example of the hepatitis vaccine, which required an initial dose, a second dose a month later and the third dose after three months. He said the COVID-19 vaccine is no different. 

“The two doses primed your system, but it's very likely that you'll need a booster to actually enhance protection,” Bratzler said. 

Although the Pfizer booster shot is available to individuals who are 65 and older, 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe COVID-19 or whose jobs put them at risk of infection, Moderna has yet to receive clearance on its additional shot. The FDA will meet on Thursday and Friday to discuss Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s booster shots.

Drugmaker Merck also requested FDA approval for its antiviral pill to combat COVID-19. Bratzler said, if you tested positive for COVID-19, you could take one pill twice a day for five days. A study conducted by the pharmaceutical company found the pill resulted in a 50 percent decrease in hospitalizations. 

Bratzler said this “sounds very good” but, in the U.S., people would rather have a “magic bullet” to treat someone with when they are infected versus preventing the infection. 

“I simply want to highlight (that) vaccinations of all people, right now, 12 and over, is recommended to prevent the transmission of COVID-19,” Bratzler said. “We know that the vaccines are very effective at preventing the complications of disease. If you get COVID, you have a substantial risk of getting long haul symptoms.” 

As Oklahoma enters its flu season, Bratzler reminded that although influenza death rates are lower than COVID-19 rates, around 36,000 people die each year. He said he attributes lower influenza death rates from 2020 to masking in indoor spaces. He said he is concerned about what the rates will look like this year. 

“COVID is not gone yet. We do still have quite a few people in the hospital with COVID, and if we saw a big outbreak of influenza, it could make it very, very difficult for the hospitals again,” Bratzler said.

Jillian Taylor is a journalism junior and assistant news managing editor at The Daily. Previously, she served as a summer editor-in-chief, news editor, senior culture reporter and senior news reporter.

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Patriots vs. Cowboys Wednesday injury report: Damien Harris, Shaq Mason listed as non-participants

Pats Pulpit 13 October, 2021 - 03:41pm

The initial prognosis heading into Week 6 at Gillette Stadium.

Shaq Mason was again sidelined for Wednesday’s practice after missing all of last week due to an abdomen issue. Prior to his absence, the right guard had played every offensive snap on the season.

Lead running back Damien Harris would also be listed as a non-participant in team drills for New England.

Here’s the first injury report heading into Sunday’s 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff at Gillette Stadium.

Patriots right tackle Trent Brown now stands on injured reserve. And eight days after being placed on the Covid-19 reserve list, both left tackle Isaiah Wynn and left guard Mike Onwenu remain removed from practice. As does a rookie cornerback in Wade, who recently suffered a concussion and counts on the current active roster along with Mason and Harris. Harris twice exited against the Houston Texans with chest and ribs injuries that left him questionable to return. NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the starting back “checked out OK” after undergoing further tests. Through 70 touches this fall, Harris has totaled 230 rushing yards, 46 receiving yards, two touchdowns and two fumbles.

Nine Patriots practiced in a partial capacity on Wednesday. Both Perkins and Mills had been downgraded from questionable to out prior to New England’s trip to NRG Stadium in Week 5. The rookie outside linebacker and the veteran cornerback continue to manage ankle and hamstring issues, respectively. The lone new arrival among the limited for the Patriots would be Herron. The two-game starter at right tackle and one-game starter at left tackle has an abdomen injury.

No members of the Patriots’ 53-man roster graduated to full participation for Wednesday’s session, while one member of the Cowboys’ 53-man roster did so.

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