John Simon a good fit for Patriots defense
John Simon has played in the NFL since 2013, but it didn’t take long before the Patriots threw something new at him. Simon was part of the amoeba-like defense New England used against the Vikings, milling around behind the line of scrimmage on certain plays, including a third-down stop where Trey Flowers was the Patriots’ only down lineman.
“It was a lot of moving around,” Simon said Thursday. “I’ve done some things similar before in the past but it’s very tough to stop as an offense because you don’t know where anyone’s going to line up or what anyone’s doing. I think it helped us a lot last week.”
Since the Patriots signed him on Sept. 26, Simon has carved out a role on the team as a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker. He played a season-high 42.2 percent of defensive snaps two weeks ago against the Jets and was on the field just a little bit less, 37.7 percent of the time, against the Vikings.
The fact that Simon is playing a decent amount of snaps indicates that his physical ability is still good. Simon, 28, hadn’t played since Week 13 of last season when the Patriots signed him. It also indicates that he’s been able to keep up with the week-to-week nature of Patriots defensive game plans.
“I like to feel like I’m one of the guys who’s got some football IQ, but we’ve got a lot of guys,” Simon said. “I think they want smart guys here and I think it shows.”
Simon is still living out of a hotel and wasn’t sure what he’d do for the holidays, but said he was enjoying playing for the Patriots and de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores.
“Very intelligent guy, goes about his work like a pro,” Simon said. “Happy to play for him, I’m enjoying myself here, definitely.”
Allen to sit out
Patriots tight end Dwayne Allen will miss a third-straight game. New England downgraded him to out Saturday evening ahead of the team’s game against the Dolphins.
Without Allen, the Patriots will rely on Rob Gronkowski and Jacob Hollister as available tight ends. Hollister is more of a pass-catcher while Allen’s blocking will be missed most. Gronkowski is the top option, of course.
Allen has made progress in his return from the knee injury he suffered against the Titans. He was a full participant in practice Friday, the first time since the injury that he hadn’t been at minimum limited, but apparently needs more time before he’s ready to play again.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who popped up on the injury report as a limited participant Friday, wasn’t downgraded, which indicates that Gilmore made the trip to Miami.
Flores gets job done
Back in training camp, it was noted that linebacker Dont’a Hightower said the Patriots defense felt “easier” and more straightforward under Flores.
“It helps everybody else on the field when everybody knows what they’re doing. You can play faster and do different things,” Hightower said. “Whatever he’s doing is working.”
Earlier this week, Devin McCourty was asked if that remained true 14 weeks into the season with the Patriots having shown a high variety of defensive looks up to this point. McCourty laughed and said he didn’t really agree that anything had changed in the first place.
“Nah, our stuff is the same,” he said.
McCourty wasn’t being critical of Hightower — his point was mainly that the Patriots are a game-plan team with a thick playbook.
Just because they were focusing on certain fundamental elements in July didn’t mean that their defense was now limited to those things. That wasn’t really what Hightower was saying anyway, the read here was that he was hyping up the mentality of a trusted position coach more than saying something definitive about the team’s scheme.
As McCourty reminded, the defense is Bill Belichick’s anyway. The Patriots coach has seen so much football that the team might use an idea once, then not go back to it for years, but it’s still not a brand new thing.
“I think everything is just dusted off because Bill has 43 years of coaching,” McCourty said.
“There’s no offensive scheme, defensive scheme, special-teams scheme that he hasn’t seen.”
The weather report calls for temperatures in the 80’s and high humidity on Sunday, so the Patriots will be sure to stay hydrated.
“Our training staff, they’re always testing our hydration,” Julian Edelman said. “Obviously it’s going to be a little different, a little hotter. You have to stay on top of that and get ready for it, a little warmer.”
One thing Edelman won’t do in the name of keeping cool? Shave his beard, which is getting thick and bushy.
“I’m a little busy, we’ve got to travel and stuff,” he laughed, asked if going clean-shaven might be a good idea.