The Patriots defense is off to a white hot start, but the challenges will only get harder as the season progresses. This weekend will be a good test against a mobile young quarterback who can make plays with both his arm and his legs.
It might be easy for some defenses to read their praise and get caught up in themselves, but veteran Duron Harmon says the team isn't focused on the stats they're wracking up.
"The only challenge we have is getting better each week," said Harmon in the locker room on Thursday. "We control our effort, our communication and our execution. So if we're doing those things the right way, good things usually happen."
Kyle Van Noy echoed Harmon's perspective and said the coaches wouldn't let them get complacent.
"They've been complimentary of us, but at the same time, they're always going to coach us hard," said Van Noy. "We know we can get better, we're going to do everything in our power to do that each and every week. At the same time we're having fun, we're enjoying these moments together and we're going to continue to work hard and play Patriot football."
There's no question the focus and preparation for the defense begins with second-year quarterback Josh Allen. A big key for the Patriots defense is hiding their intentions pre-snap for every quarterback they face, but especially the young and less experienced ones like Allen.
"He's going to be prepared," said Harmon. "[Brian] Daboll's been here for some time, he kind of understands what we're going to try to do.
"Disguise is a critical part of our defense and we know that not giving a quarterback an easy read so that he can know exactly where to put the ball, so we want to make it hard on Josh Allen, whoever we play because it's been given us good success so far."
Van Noy, a linebacker who will be charged with preventing Allen from making big plays with his feet, said it will take a total effort from the defense.
"When you have a quarterback that's able to scramble and run, scramble and throw, it puts pressure on everybody and it's going to take all 11 of us to defend him," said Van Noy.
But most of all, the Patriots continued to express their excitement to play in front of a rabid fan base like the Bills'.
"This is what we play the game for, to compete against good football teams in hostile environments," said Harmon. "You can't get games like this anywhere else besides the NFL."
On Wednesday a lengthy injury report did not translate into any practice absences, however that changed on Thursday with starting left tackle Marshall Newhouse absent from the team’s session. He was joined by practice squad members Nick Thurman and Obi Melifonwu.
Newhouse was listed on Wednesday’s injury report with an illness but had still been able to practice. Now, we wait to see if he’s able to return on Friday. If not, it could put his availability for Sunday’s game in jeopardy. The team has already been scrambling all season at left tackle and this would require more shuffling. Could Marcus Cannon slide over to the left side? Could Joe Thuney slide out from left guard? Or would it be Korey Cunningham or last week’s swing back up Jermaine Eluemanor to take the reins?
There’s no easy answer and, for an offensive line still searching for their identity, the loss of Newhouse would be another setback and one that could further hamper the team in Buffalo.
In news that will help everyone breathe a little easier, Tom Brady was removed from the injury report.
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
T Marshall Newhouse, Illness
DE Michael Bennett, Shoulder
RB Rex Burkhead, Foot
S Nate Ebner, Groin
WR Julian Edelman, Chest
LB Dont'a Hightower, Shoulder
TE Ryan Izzo, Calf
TE Matt LaCosse, Ankle
T Marcus Cannon, Shoulder
G Joe Thuney, Shoulder
Locker Room Sound Bites
Kyle Van Noy on playing with fellow linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins.
"Those two are pretty elite football players. What they've done over their careers is pretty impressive. When you're able to be on the field with those two guys, to where they've played a while together and now I can throw myself in there I've played a while together with them, it just shows if you watch the film, we're able to do things that other teams cant. We take pride in that. We feel like we're a smart group. And we just want to win games. I think the mentality when you have those two and myself, as well as the other eight that are out there, is pretty impressive when you look at it as a whole as everybody being on the same page, with the same goal in mind."