FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — The Patriots will play their second straight game on the road this weekend when they travel down to Carolina.
Perhaps the biggest storyline this week is the reunion between the Patriots and All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was traded to the Panthers last month.
“Ton of respect for him,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of Gilmore.
“A dog is going to be a dog. Steph is definitely going to be a dog,” said Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers.
Speaking of cornerbacks — since Gilmore’s departure, Jonathan Jones suffered a season-ending injury. The Patriots are relatively thin at the position, so it was of concern when the team’s current top cornerback J.C. Jackson was not spotted at the media portion of Wednesday or Thursday’s practice. He was listed as “did not participate” on the practice report both days with an illness.
Otherwise, the Patriots had perfect attendance. The list of players who were limited was lengthy. It included defensive tackle Christian Barmore (foot), linebacker Ju’Whaun Bentley (ribs), defensive lineman Carl Davis (hand), safety Cody Davis (hand), safety Kyle Duggar (neck), kicker Nick Folk (knee), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (ankle), guard Shaq Mason (abdomen), tight end Jonnu Smith (shoulder), linebacker Josh Uche (shoulder), and linebacker Kyle Van Noy (groin).
The Patriots are entering the second half of their season after making no moves at Tuesday’s trade deadline.
“Just working on trying to get ready for Carolina,” Belichick said when he was asked Wednesday about the team’s lack of moves.
One particular player that was talked about as a potential trade candidate was WR N’Keal Harry. There had been speculation since his agent publicly requested a trade this past summer.
Harry addressed the topic on Wednesday.
“I wasn’t worried about anything trade-wise,” he said. “I’m a Patriot. I said earlier I wanted to do anything I can to help this team win. That’s my focus.”
The Patriots and Panthers are 4-4 on the season and both teams are coming off wins in Week 8.
“At this point of the season, it’s kind of like a horse race, with everybody kind of bunched in there together,” said Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith.
“I think the one thing we can’t do is become complacent. Four wins isn’t going to get you anything,” said Patriots team captain Matthew Slater.
The Panthers have the second-best total defense in the league, which offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels expects to be the toughest challenge of the season so far.
“You can see it on the film, they’re coming to hit…this is definitely one of the top defenses in the NFL,” said quarterback Mac Jones.
Jones and the offense will look to improve from last week, where he completed just 52 percent of his passes.
“The moral of the story is just complete the ball,” Jones said.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, who coached Jones at the Senior Bowl, had high praise for the rookie. His teammates can understand why.
“He’s a young guy, but he doesn’t play like it, doesn’t act like it,” Smith said.
“He’s got a hunger that doesn’t stop,” Slater said.
The quarterback on the other side is a bit of a question mark. The Patriots defense is preparing for both Sam Darnold and PJ Walker.
“We’ve got to do a great job of keeping them in the pocket, making him beat us with his arm… either quarterback,” said Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon.
Judon leads the Patriots in sacks. He’s also top five in the league.
“Glory to God, then my teammates and thirdly my coaches. They put me in good spots so I can have success,” he said.