FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Mac and Herbert: Tight end Hunter Henry shared a huddle with then-rookie quarterback Justin Herbert last season with the Los Angeles Chargers. This year, he's doing the same with rookie Mac Jones in New England.
So it was a natural question to ask him this past week about a connection between them, and if his Chargers experience provided a framework for how he has meshed so quickly with Jones.
Henry, 26, smiled as he considered his answer, measuring his words carefully knowing anything he said could become a bigger storyline leading into Sunday's matchup when the Patriots visit the Chargers at SoFi Stadium (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).
Henry ultimately settled on two words: Continuous growth.
That's what he saw from Herbert over time in 2020, and it's what is evolving with Jones. Few have had the same level of success as rookie quarterbacks as they have, and it's timely to highlight a few of the notable links between them.
Jones enters Sunday with 174 completions, joining Cincinnati's Joe Burrow (195) and Herbert (181) as the only rookies in NFL history with 170 completions within their first seven starts.
Jones has also tossed at least one touchdown pass in five straight games, joining Dallas' Dak Prescott (eight, 2016), Herbert (seven, 2020) and Houston's Deshaun Watson (five, 2017) as the only other rookies to do that.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley said this week that Jones is an "outstanding decision-maker" and his "processor is at a premium" in the sense that he is seeing the game at a veteran-type level, and throwing with anticipation and accuracy.
Those are QB traits the Patriots have prioritized under coordinator Josh McDaniels, and why McDaniels had rated Herbert -- who is also viewed as advanced as a processor and anticipatory thrower -- highly coming out of college for the 2020 NFL draft.
Said Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill of Jones: "Obviously, you know the quarterback is always connected to McDaniels, they're tied at the hip, and you see it [with Jones]. He's making all the checks. He's getting those guys in and out of the huddle. He knows where to go with the ball and gets it out quick. He's doing a good job operating with that offense."
One area where Jones won't catch Herbert is in consecutive games with 20 or more completions. Herbert has completed at least 20 passes in each of his first 21 starts, the longest streak by a quarterback since at least 1950.
But Jones has a chance to separate himself in a different area: He has completed more than 70% of his passes in five of his first seven games, the only rookie to ever do so. The rookie record is nine games, set by Prescott in 2016.
2. Standing 'Pat' at deadline? Tuesday marks the NFL's trade deadline, and how the Patriots fare Sunday against the Chargers might determine if they fall more into the "buyer" or "seller" category. Even if they win, things would have to line up financially for a deal to happen, as they have only about $3 million in cap space and need most of it to get through the season. That's why I put the odds of an acquisition at less than 30%. It also shouldn't be forgotten that the team dealt a fifth-round pick for rookie cornerback Shaun Wade, and he has yet to play in a game. So getting Wade on the field at a high-need position, in a sense, would be like a trade acquisition at this point.
3. Jakobi's dad: There was a fun moment during last week's CBS broadcast when announcers Andrew Catalon and James Lofton shared a conversation they had with Patriots receiver Jakobi Meyers, about how Meyers' father, James, keeps talking to him about catching his first career TD pass. Meyers has played the most games (36) and totaled the most receptions (126) without a TD catch of any player since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.
The CBS broadcast showed a man in the stands who looked like Meyers' dad, but Jakobi said it actually wasn't him. Nonetheless, it was a neat moment and provided a springboard for Jakobi to point out that his dad has traveled to every game this season (and is planning to be in Los Angeles on Sunday), which means a lot to him.
As for the possibility of his first TD catch, Jakobi relayed: "He probably wants it more than I do. That's like the last thing he says to me before I get out of the car to go into the stadium -- 'Let's get that touchdown this game.'"
4. Rhamondre's lesson: One of the Patriots' surprises last week was making rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson a healthy scratch after his best game of the season the week prior against Dallas (five carries, 23 yards, TD and three catches for 39 yards). J.J. Taylor got the nod in his place. Those decisions are made by coach Bill Belichick, and veteran running backs coach Ivan Fears hinted that Stevenson didn't have a great week of practice/preparation and is still learning what it means to be a pro (e.g. the decision to deactivate him was discipline-based). Stevenson's potential reemergence is one notable storyline against the Chargers, who have allowed the most rushing yards per game (162.5) and yards per rush (5.5) this season.
5. Friday travel: The Patriots usually travel on Saturday to road games, but when playing an early contest on the West Coast, they have traditionally departed on Friday. That's what they did this week, which cornerback J.C. Jackson believes helps him. "It's a little different," he said of adjusting to the three-hour gap between the Eastern and Pacific time zones. "It kind of messes up my sleep a little bit, but it doesn't really affect my body or the way I play." In a change from the norm, the Patriots are staying in California after the game and will return home Monday.
6. Every yard counts: Successfully defending four run plays at the goal line against the Cowboys in Week 6, and then turning back the Jets on fourth-and-1 last week, reflects how the Patriots' short-yardage run defense has been on the upswing. Opponents might want to reconsider between-the-tackles run plays in those situations against big-bodied Patriots defensive tackles like Carl Davis, Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Christian Barmore & Co. "It's a mindset," Godchaux said. "One yard to go is about 'They're not knocking me back. I'm knocking him in the backfield.' Talent goes out the window."
7. Chargers' unis: Los Angeles will be in its navy color rush uniforms for Sunday's game, which puts the Patriots in their traditional white road uniforms. That's a sharp look for the Chargers, but nothing tops their powder blues. So in the spirit of having a little fun, my updated top five NFL jerseys:
Chargers' powder blues (white pants)
49ers' white (white pants)
Raiders' black (silver pants)
Saints' black (black pants)
Cowboys' navy blue (silver pants)
For those keeping track, that's the Cowboys sneaking in over the Lions (blue jersey/white pants) and Colts (white on white), who had been tied at the No. 5 spot.
8. Uche's mission: Second-year Patriots pass-rusher Josh Uche is developing a mental health app for athletes, which he said is a result of experiencing depression after suffering an injury in college at Michigan. "It kind of took me to a dark place," Uche said this week. "In that process, I thought 'this is a hard way for athletes to live.' Athletes need a very accessible way to therapy." Uche credited Michigan teammates/best friends Khaleke Hudson and Chris Evans for helping him get through his challenges.
9. Mindset on Munson: The Patriots didn't just sign linebacker Calvin Munson off the Dolphins' practice squad on Wednesday with the short term in mind. They had eyes on the future, as the deal extends into the 2022 season and included a financial bump that enticed Munson to sign it. With off-the-ball linebackers Ja'Whaun Bentley, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Harvey Langi all having contracts that expire after the season, the team has now built some future depth into its planning with Munson (and two weeks prior with Jahlani Tavai).
10. Did you know? This marks the second straight week the Patriots face a team coming off its bye week. The Patriots are an NFL-best 9-2 against teams coming off byes over the previous 10 seasons entering 2021.