Jalen Mills or bust for 2021 Pats

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Nov. 3—If you spent a lot of money on beer, wings, chips and salsa on your New England Patriots Trade Deadline Party on Tuesday you are not alone.

The New England Patriots Draft Party people of the last two decades know your pain.

The NFL trade deadline came and passed at 4 p.m.

And your Patriots held on to their 4th, 5th and 6th round picks. And, maybe even a bigger surprise, they held onto first-round wide receiving "bust" N'Keal Harry.

For those of us — dumb, stupid me — that thought Sunday's impressive and gritty win over the L.A. Chargers might be an eye-opener for Patriots coach Bill Belichick going forward, we were wrong. Again.

The 4-4 Patriots team that played on Sunday, for the most part, will be the team that New England will go to war with the final nine games.

The Patriots appear to have one, glaring need — starting cornerback.

J.C. Jackson, who became the No. 1 cornerback after Stephon Gilmore was injured and later dealt away to Carolina, is fine and dandy.

Jackson looks the part, with some of the prerequisite arrogance.

The problem is CB2 and, as of now, Jalen Mills.

The free agent via the Eagles has played that position, earning a guaranteed $6 million this year and next, and hasn't done it well.

Pro Football Focus, the best analytics you can get from NFL performers, has Mills ranked 87th out of 130 cornerbacks, which is not good (2/3rd ranked better).

Of course, I haven't seen the coaches' film, which is where the "truth" really is, but I've seen Mills around a lot of bad stuff on the Patriots defense during big moments.

Mills was brought in as, we surmised, a semi-expensive hybrid cornerback-safety.

On Mills behalf, it's not easy to play for the Patriots, particularly defensive backs, which seem to have more responsibilities than on other teams.

And as a newbie, this takes time. As we're seeing all around the Patriot roster, with 12 new starters from 2020, the jelling seems to have finally begun.

There might be another option if Mills doesn't pick it up a notch or two. Undrafted free agent (2020) Myles Bryant seems to have made some plays recently.

Also Joejuan Williams, a second-rounder from 2019, has done OK as a second-stringer. But Mills was paid handsomely for a reason.

There is another issue that might have been permeating in the Belichick's head:

The Patriots, at 4-4, are a Damien Harris fumble against Miami and a Nick Folk "doink!" off the goal post against Tampa Bay from being 6-2 ... and a top seed.

Maybe the defense, which played an outstanding overall game other than two "big" gainers in the first quarter, is becoming more what Belichick expected.

The Patriots schedule is an interesting one the rest of the way. There are, in my opinion, eight potential wins (at Buffalo ... no!). But there are also, if the Patriots looks like they did most of September, five losses out there.

As for Tuesday, the Patriots and Belichick gave New England a day to talk about the "What ifs."

Same old Patriots.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.