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Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 2.0


Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has some tough decisions to make as the 2014 season rapidly approaches. (USA TODAY Images)

With training camp and preseason complete, the Patriots roster is taking shape. While there is more clarity at some positions, the roster is by no means a finished product.

After the first round of cuts, the team must trim their roster yet again. There’s 53 spots, along with an additional¬†10 for the practice squad.¬†New England has some tough decisions to make across the board.

While I expect some changes to be made even after Saturday’s 4 p.m. EST deadline, here is my final 53-man projection. –

Quarterback: 3

Tom Brady
Ryan Mallett
Jimmy Garoppolo

Brady is the face of the franchise, so the question has been who will be the backup? Garoppolo has impressed and shown growth, but Mallett remains on the team as well.

Running Back: 3

Steven Ridley
Shane Vereen
James White

Vereen and White are¬†locks to make the roster. Some have speculated Ridley could be on the outside looking in, but I believe he’s safe. Brandon Bolden and Jonas Gray might not carry enough weight to earn a spot on the team’s roster. Roy Finch could be an intriguing guy to keep around on the practice squad.

Full Back: 1

James Develin 

Last season, Develin carved out a solid role within the offense. He brings toughness in short-yardage situations and performs on special teams. The Pats experimented moving him around, even lining up at tight end. Could we see an expanded role this year?

Wide Receiver: 5

Julian Edelman
Aaron Dobson
Brandon LaFell
Danny Amendola
Kenbrell Thompkins

As of now, five wide receivers seem like they have a legitimate shot at making the roster.¬†Josh Boyce has underwhelmed and I don’t believe he’s earned a spot to this point unless the team values his special teams ability enough. Brian Tyms, suspended for the first four games of the season, could be around the team in some way when he’s available.

Tight End (3)

Rob Gronkowski
Michael Hoomanawanui
Tim Wright

The surprise trade for former Tampa Bay Buccaneers player, Tim Wright, added some depth as a pass catching tight end. Essentially, it’s been Gronkowski or bust for the tight end position. It still seems possible he returns week one, but it’s not a guarantee. “Hooman”¬†has missed time with an injury, but he seems like a better player than converted tackle, Steve Maneri.

Tackle: 4

Nate Solder
Sebastian Vollmer

Marcus Cannon
Cameron Fleming

While I see Solder and Vollmer as the set starters, both Cannon and Fleming have the versatility the Pats covet in lineman.

Guard: 3

Dan Connolly
Josh Kline
Jon Halapio 

The number of three guards is somewhat misleading because of the versatility on the Patriots roster. This position has little clarity after Logan Mankins was dealt earlier this week. It’s almost impossible to predict who will be starting at left guard, center and right guard week 1 in Miami. Despite playing a tremendous amount of snaps during the preseason, Jordan Devey was somewhat underwhelming.

Center: 2

Ryan Wendell
Bryan Stork

Wendell¬†had a very good season two years ago, but came up small in 2013. Stork missed a good amount of time during training camp, which hurt his ability to compete for the starting role. I see both making the team, but if Wendell isn’t the starter at center he’ll be cut.

Defensive Ends: 4

Chandler Jones
Rob Ninkovich

Michael Buchanan
Zach Moore

After Jones and Ninkovich, there’s a noticeable drop off. The depth is very concerning at the defensive end position. Buchanan offers intriguing upside, but the injury sustained in Thursday’s preseason finale will need to be monitored closely. Moore might need some time to develop, but had a good preseason and shown versatility. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team look for some veteran help when the dust settles from Saturday’s league-wide cutdown deadline.

Defensive Tackles: 5

Vince Wilfork
Dominique Easley
Chris Jones
Sealver Siligia 
Joe Vellano

The cut of Tommy Kelly was a surprise, but it also speaks to the confidence in the young players on the roster. Wilfork appears ready to go and poised for a big bounce-back year. How quickly Easley, Jones and Siliga can return from their injuries will be key, but all have a spot. Vellano impressed over the past few weeks, edging out  Jerel Worthy.

Linebackers: 6

Jerod Mayo
Dont’a Hightower
Jamie Collins
Steve Beauharnais
Darius Fleming
James Morris

Mayo, Hightower and Collins are locks. After that, the depth is a little shaky. Beauharnais looks to make an impact after a quiet rookie year. The release of veteran James Anderson opens the door for Darius Fleming, who has a similar skill-set. Bill Belichick has spoken highly of James Morris, he could be a nice developmental player if he can stay healthy.

Cornerbacks: 5

Darrelle Revis
Alfonzo Dennard
Kyle Arrington
Logan Ryan

Malcolm Butler

The surprise big name throughout preseason was undrafted rookie, Malcolm Butler. All five listed cornerbacks should find a spot on the team’s 53-man roster, giving New England a deep group. Brandon Browner, suspended for the first four games of the season, should have a role when he returns in week five.

Safeties: 5

Devin McCourty
Duron Harmon
Patrick Chung
Nate Ebner
Tavon Wilson

Similar to the interior offensive line, there has been little clarity at the safety position. We know McCourty will be one of the starters. Harmon, Chung, Ebner and Wilson — along with many of the team’s cornerbacks — have spent time rotating at safety over the past few weeks. Chung could have a valued role as an in-the-box safety. Ebner and Wilson make the team for their ability on special teams.

Special Teams: 4

Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski
Punter: Ryan Allen
Long Snapper: Danny Aiken
Specialist: Matthew Slater

No surprises here, all four players are locks. Aiken beat out rookie Tyler Ott for the long snapping duties and Slater, a special team standout and team captain, also earns a spot on the roster.

Breakdown –¬†Offense: 24 ¬† Defense: 25 ¬†Special Teams: 4

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Patriots Announce Several Roster Transactions, Including Mankins Trade to Buccaneers


The Patriots made a surprising move Tuesday, trading Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots traded Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tuesday afternoon in exchange for Tim Wright and a fourth-round draft pick in 2015.

The trade was not the only transaction New England made Tuesday. The Patriots placed two players on Injured-Reserve and released six players to get down to the NFL mandatory 75 roster limit by the 4 p.m deadline.

WR Wilson Van Hooser, DL Ben Bass, DB Travis Hawkins, WR Derrick Johnson, LB Deontae Skinner and DB Jemea Thomas were released. RB Tyler Gaffney and LB Cameron Gordon were both placed on Injured-Reserve. 

Bill Belichick released this statement on Logan Mankins:

“Logan Mankins is everything we would ever want in a football player. It is hard to imagine a better player at his position, a tougher competitor or a person to represent our program. He is one of the all-time great Patriots and the best guard I ever coached. Logan brought a quiet but unmistakable presence and leadership that will be impossible to duplicate. Unfortunately, this is the time of year when difficult decisions have to be made – and this is one of the most difficult we will ever make – but like every other decision it was made for what we feel is in the best interests of the team.”¬†

Analysis: 

Mankins, a first-round pick in 2005, spent his entire career with the Patriots. The six-time Pro Bowl guard was a leader in the locker room and a fixture on the offensive line.

Pats players were told of the Mankins trade before practice. Cornerback Darrelle Revis said, “the atmosphere was a little down.”

Mankins was set to count $10.5 million against the cap in 2014. With this move, the trade saves about $5.775 million this season. There will also be another $4 million cap charge for 2015.

Wright is coming into his second season in the NFL. The 24-year-old –listed at 6’4, 220 — is a converted wide receiver and played at Rutgers before signing with the Buccaneers last year.

Wright caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. He appears to fit in a similar role to former player Aaron Hernandez.

The Patriots selected defensive back Jemea Thomas in the sixth-round only a few months ago, so it was a little surprising seeing them move on this quickly. He could find himself on the practice squad, but not making it past the first round of cuts says a lot. He never stood out in training camp practices I attended or in preseason contests.

The Patriots must trim their roster from 75 to 53 in four days, Aug. 30 at 4 p.m. Stay tuned.

Panthers vs Patriots: Five Thoughts on Friday’s Preseason Victory


Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich turned up the heat Friday night, combining for three sacks in the Patriots 30-7 win over the Panthers. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots hosted the Carolina Panthers on Friday night.

Friday¬†night’s game gave fans and analysts the chance to get an in-depth look at some of these players¬†in a more competitive setting than on the practice field.¬†Here are five takeaways from the 30-7 victory. -

1) Strong Team Performance:¬†It’s the preseason, so the score doesn’t really matter. What you should be looking (and hoping) for is week-to-week progression as the team gears up for the upcoming season. Overall, I thought the Patriots had a solid, well-rounded performance Friday. It wasn’t perfect, but you have to like what you saw in all three phases of the game.

2) Defense Makes a Statement: The run defense was suffocating tonight. Carolina likes to run the ball, but the Patriots were all over the ground attack. New England controlled their gaps well, set the edge and had control more often than not. The secondary was upgraded during the offseason, but the front seven could be very dangerous if healthy. The unit looks poised for a strong season and played with a lot of confidence throughout the contest.

3) Offense Without Gronk Shows Promise: Tight end Rob Gronkowski did not play Friday night, but there is still optimism he will be able to take the field when the season kicks off in Miami. Obviously, he’s a huge factor in the offense and we hope he can play a full season, but we have seen the offense struggle when he’s missed time.

Friday night showcased some of the other players offensively and offered hope if Gronk wasn’t able to suit up at any point during the upcoming season. Julian Edelman had a very productive night (8 catches, 99 yards), Danny Amendola also got into the mix. We’ve also seen Kenbrell Thompkins and Brandon LaFell make progress in development, but both struggle with consistency at times. Nevertheless, it’s a good sign Brady has several weapons to distribute the ball to during the season.

4) Preparing for Browner’s Suspension: With cornerback, Brandon Browner, suspended for the first four games of the season, it appeared the team was getting ready for his absence. While he isn’t a lock for a starting role, Browner should be in the mix at defensive back, but did not take the field for a defensive snap until the fourth quarter. Malcolm Butler started across from Darrelle Revis, with Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington getting involved as well. When active and healthy, this could be the best — and deepest — cornerback group we’ve seen from New England in many years.

5) Last Look at Some Players: The NFL’s first round of cuts is rapidly approaching. On Tuesday (Aug. 26), all 32 teams must trim their rosters to 75 players by 4 p.m EST. Right now the Patriots roster has 87 players, so at least 12 will not make it to the fourth and final preseason game next week. The coaching staff has a lot to digest and some tough decisions to make in the coming days.

Three Stars:

Chandler Jones¬†–¬†The¬†defensive end was all over the field Friday. He registered two sacks and made plays for the Pats in key situations. His continued growth going into his third season would be huge for this defense. So far this year he’s off to a nice start.

Tom Brady РThe offense started slow, but the franchise QB got the unit in gear. Brady spread the ball around and put points on the board. He finished 17 of 21 for 204 yards and two touchdowns.

Shane Vereen РThe tailback had a good night, highlighted by a 40-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Vereen displayed what he can bring to the offense and Pats fans should hope to see him on the field the entire year. His playmaking ability is incredible and he adds a dynamic presence that opposing teams will struggle to defend.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Patriots Risers and Fallers: Which Direction are Some Players Trending?


Undrafted rookie cornerback, Malcolm Butler, has stood out for the Patriots this summer. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots have gotten back to work in recent weeks, preparing for their 2014 season.

The current 90-man roster has players battling each other for jobs heading into the regular season. With first cuts looming (Aug. 26 to 75) the intensity has picked up. With training camp and two exhibition games under their belt, which players have been trending up and which players have seemingly declined?

Trending Up:

Jimmy Garoppolo – When the Patriots took the rookie signal-caller in the second round, it sparked some debate in New England. Heading into training camp, many were fixated on what the Eastern Illinois prospect could do on the field and if he could challenge fourth-year QB, Ryan Mallett, for the backup job. It hasn’t been perfect, but Garoppolo has shown steady improvement from week-to-week and has shown promise moving forward.

James Develin – Last year, Develin was on the bubble and fighting for a job. As of now, however, he looks like a key contributor. I’m not expecting huge statistical production, but a tough, versatile and reliable player often finds himself a job with Bill Belichick. His physical, tone-setting style of play could bring some much-needed attitude in certain situations.

Brandon LaFell – The former Carolina Panthers wideout had a rough start to camp, but has looked much better as of late. He came with the reputation of dropping too many passes, which has been on display at times, but his large frame gives the Patriots a needed element to the offense and has begun to develop a rapport with Tom Brady. If he continues to grow within the offense, he could (and hopefully will be) a key contributor in the passing game.

Vince Wilfork – The¬†32-year-old defensive lineman, coming off a season-ending achilles injury, has been under scrutiny throughout the offseason. It’s fair to speculate whether he can return to the probowl player he was before getting hurt earlier in 2013. But throughout camp and to this point, the defensive captain has looked healthy and poised for a strong comeback. His presence on the interior will have a huge ripple effect on the entire defense.

Darrelle Revis – The All-Pro defensive back was the highlight of the offseason and expectations have been high since no. 24 took the field for the first time a few weeks ago. But “Revis Island” has looked spectacular on the field thus far and his ability to blanket opponent’s¬†top receivers could bring tremendous value to the defense in the upcoming season.

Malcolm Butler – Every year there seems to be an undrafted player that sneaks onto New England’s roster. This year the Western Alabama cornerback has stood out and looks like an NFL caliber player. Cornerback is one of — if not the — hardest positions to play at the professional level and the Patriots have some quality depth on the roster. Butler’s competitive nature has flashed on the practice field and in games over the past few weeks.

Trending Down:

Aaron Dobson/Dominique Easley/Bryan Stork – Fair or not, these young players are in the down category. While I think all can return to field and contribute this year, injuries have limited their time on the field to the point. Dobson (foot), Easley (knee) and Stork (leg) all could have roles if they can return relatively soon.

Dobson may be hurt the most by his missed time on the field, because often a player’s most significant “jump” happens between year one and year two. I’m still holding out hope Easley can return to action soon and add depth to the pass rush.

Will Smith – The veteran defensive end has been almost invisible on the field and does not look like he’ll be on the roster at the end of the month. The idea of a veteran adding situational pass rush ability is intriguing, but Smith does not seem like he possess the same explosiveness on the edge since returning from his knee injury that ended his 2013 season.

Josh Boyce – The second-year receiver has been disappointing over the past few weeks. While his timed speed and dynamic ability displayed in college is known, it has yet to be displayed on a consistent basis since being drafted last May. Simply put, he is being out-played by other receivers on the roster.

Duron Harmon – Going into training camp, the consensus was Harmon would be the starting safety next to Devin McCourty. Since camp as opened, though, he has been very quiet while other players continue to see a high number of snaps played at the position. Figuring out what the Patriots want to do in the secondary is almost impossible without any inside knowledge, but Harmon seems less and less like a guy poised for a starting role and more like a player fighting to keep a spot on the active roster for 2014.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Eagles vs Patriots: Five Thoughts on Friday’s Preseason Victory


All three Patriots quarterbacks played well Friday night, carving up the Eagles in a 42-35 victory. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots hosted the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday night.

Friday¬†night’s game gave fans and analysts the chance to get an in-depth look at some of these players¬†in a more competitive setting than on the practice field.¬†Here are five takeaways from the 42-35 victory. -

1) Improved performance:¬†Last week’s game was ugly, but the Patriots put together a better outing Friday night. It wasn’t perfect, but there were a lot more positives than the first exhibition contest. The offense was well-rounded and the defense made some plays. The score doesn’t really matter in preseason, but you want to see improvement and development from week-to-week. No apparent injuries is one of the biggest positives from the night.

2) Quarterbacks Played Well: Tom Brady started, Jimmy Garoppolo followed and Ryan Mallett finished the game. All three signal-callers played well and put points on the board. I love what Garoppolo has shown through two contests, a lot of poise in the pocket and keeps his eyes downfield. Mallett was really impressive, putting some nice touch on his passes. The QB competition seems to be pushing all three players, even though the starter is set in stone.

3) Safety Position Still Unclear: If there’s one position I wish we could have some clarity on, it would be the safety spot opposite of Devin McCourty. Throughout training camp and into the preseason there has been a rotation of several players.

Friday night wasn’t much different. Pat Chung, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Nate Ebner and Jemea Thomas all saw time at safety. Tavon Wilson, whose also gotten reps at the position, did not dress for the game. If I had to pick a “starter” for week one right now, I might say Chung, but it’s by no means a certainty. It makes you wonder how much of a personnel rotation we’ll see in the regular season.

4) Darkhorses Make a Push for the 53: Every year there’s a player or two who sneak onto New England’s roster. This year cornerback, Malcolm Butler, stands out as a guy who looks like a strong candidate. He continues to make plays in practice and in the preseason, taking advantage of his opportunities.

Wide receiver, Brian Tyms, is also starting to make a case for a roster spot. Second-year wideout, Josh Boyce, has struggled and Tyms has shown the ability to make plays downfield. I would like to see him get more opportunities with the first-team offense, particularly Brady at QB, to see if he can compete with more talented players. Something to monitor moving forward.

5) Special Teams Units Struggle: One of the biggest negatives from Friday night’s game was the Patriots’ special teams performance. A missed blocking assignment by rookie long snapper, Tyler Ott, led to a Ryan Allen blocked punt. Stephen Gostkowski later missed a 43-yard attempt wide left.¬†Needless to say the unit has a tough week of practice ahead of them, starting with coach Scott O’Brien in the film room.

Three Stars:

CB Malcolm Butler –¬†The rookie defensive back gets the start across from Darrelle Revis, forces two fumbles and recovers one of them. He continues to stand out on the practice field and in games. The undrafted cornerback has shown the willingness and ability to tackle as well as perform adequately¬†in coverage. He looks like he belongs on an NFL field.

QB Ryan Mallett¬†–¬†With rookie, Jimmy Garoppolo, getting most of the attention coming into the contest, Mallett stepped up and delivered a big performance. He went 7-11, for 92 yards and a touchdown. Mallett’s touch on his intermediate – deep passes was great to see.

RB Jonas Gray¬†–¬†The Patriots wanted to establish the run and Gray carried the rock well. He rushed for 98 yards on 12 attempts, finding the holes well and finishing runs with authority. Last week he looked tentative, but he displayed some nice¬†burst and assertiveness in this contest.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Trade: Patriots Send Green to Cowboys, Acquire Defensive End

The New England Patriots traded defensive back, Justin Green, to the Dallas Cowboys for defensive end, Ben Bass.

Dallascowboys.com broke the news of the player-for-player swap Tuesday evening. Green was signed as an undrafted free agent by New England last summer. He was facing an uphill battle to make the team’s 53-man roster this season.

Bass is a third-year defensive lineman out of Texas A&M. The 24-year-old is listed at 6’5, 294 and recorded one tackle in two games last year for Dallas. With the Patriots interior lineman banged up and Cowboys cornerback, Orlando Scandrick, suspended four games, the move makes sense for both sides.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Tuesday Patriots Training Camp Observations: 8/12/14



Patriots rookie QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, looks to build of his first preseason game this week. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots hosted the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday afternoon. The two teams had a two and a half hour, full-padded session on the fields outside Gillette Stadium. The competition level was high as they gear up for their Friday night exhibition game.

Here are my observations:

- I can’t remember a practice that had as many fans in attendance as Tuesday. The Patriots announced 25,317 came to watch the joint practice, which shattered the previous single-season record. The crowds came pouring in and brought a ton of energy. The atmosphere was great.

- Patriots defensive captain, Jerod Mayo, was not present at practice Tuesday. It’s the first session he’s missed this season.¬†Defensive back¬†Tavon Wilson and linebacker Ja’Gared Davis were present, but not wearing pads.

Good news on the Patriots injury front. Backup quarterback Ryan Mallett returned to practice Tuesday after missing Sunday and Monday. Receiver Aaron Dobson (foot) and rookie defensive lineman Dominique Easley (knee) — taken off PUP on Monday — were both in full pads for the joint practice, but practiced on a limited basis.

TE D.J. Williams, LB Cameron Gordon, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, OL Bryan Stork, OL Chris Martin, WR Jeremy Gallon, DL Chris Jones and DT Sealver Siliga were not spotted.

 - Tom Brady looked really sharp Tuesday. He was throwing lasers at every level of the defense, winning nearly every matchup. Best throw of the day was deep down the left sideline to Kenbrell Thompkins. Despite two Eagles defenders in the area, the throw was perfect and Thompkins made a great play.

As good as Brady was — and usually is — Eagles QB Nick Foles was on par with no. 12 Tuesday. Foles carved up the Pats defense without much resistance, which was disappointing. At one point he connected with wideout Jeremy Maclin for a deep touchdown over Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty.

- Some of my favorite moments at training camp are when receivers go one-on-one with cornerbacks. The Patriots and Eagles had some great battles throughout the first session. Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman put on a clinic. They stood out and had their way with whoever lined up across from them.

- I continue to wonder what will happen at the safety position next to Devin McCourty. We have seen several players get work with the perceived first-team defense: Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Logan Ryan and even Kyle Arrington.

You would think the sooner the starters could play alongside eachother the better it would be in terms of communication and continuity, but it appears the coaches have not made a decision. I’ll be focusing on this battle moving forward in preseason.

- ¬†After practice the Patriots completed the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, raining awareness for ALS. With owner Robert Kraft and Belichick in the center of a group huddle, the team lifted up their buckets and dumped the icy water all over themselves.

Not sure how he got the honors, but rookie Zach Moore dumped the bucket on Belichick. The Pats then challenged the other AFC East teams to do the same. Great moment.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Patriots vs Redskins: Five Thoughts on Preseason Opener


Patriots rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo impressed in the 23-6 loss to the Redskins Thursday night.   (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots opened the preseason Thursday night against the Washington Redskins.

Thursday night’s game gave fans and analysts the chance to get an in-depth look at some of these players¬†in a more competitive setting than on the practice field.¬†Here are five takeaways from the 23-6 loss. -

1) Ugly Team Performance:¬†If you watched the whole game, it wasn’t pretty. Overall, way more negatives than positives. It was disappointing to see the Patriots perform so poorly after some strong showings in training camp.

In all three phases of the game, the team had too many mistakes. Head coach, Bill Belichick summed it up after saying the team has “a lot of work to do” Don’t cancel the season just yet, though, it’s only the first preseason game. With so many unknown commodities on the field for the majority of the contest, it’s a learning experience.

2)Offensive line Struggles: Throughout the game the offensive line struggled to protect quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo. New England was not winning the one-on-one matchups.

Jordan Devey (starting at left guard in place of Logan Mankins) and Josh Kline at right guard both gave up some inside pressures and did not look in control. Something to monitor moving forward as they reshuffle the personnel up front.

3) Chris Jones Injury a Concern: Chris Jones carved out a nice role for himself last year and looked like a nice rotational contributor for the upcoming season. Late in the second quarter, however, he was rolled up on and limped off the field under his own power.

With fellow defensive lineman, Sealver Siliga, injuring his hand earlier in the week, it would be a shame if Jones’ injury caused him to miss a significant period of time. He left the game with what the team called an ankle injury and did not return.

4) Mallett Struggles, While Garoppolo Shines: Tom Brady watched from the sideline tonight giving Mallett the opportunity to start. The fourth-year backup was very inconsistent, which is what we have seen from him far too often at this point in his career. The offense as a whole looked abysmal and could not move the ball.

Rookie signal-caller Garoppolo stepped in for the second half and looked much better. So far in training camp Mallett had out-performed the rookie, but that was not the case Thursday night. Garoppolo did a good job keeping his eyes downfield, showing poise in the pocket and connected with wide receiver Brian Tyms on a few occasions. I liked his touch on the ball and hopefully he can build off this moving forward.

5) Depth an Issue: Throughout the game I thought running back, tight end, defensive end, linebacker and safety all looked thoroughly unimpressive. With many starters observing from the sidelines, it makes me question the quality of depth at each of those positions.

None of the tailbacks flashed, the tight ends were nearly invisible, the front seven struggled whether it was run or pass and several safeties took some bad angles. The opportunity was there for many of the players to take advantage and very few of them did. I will be focusing on those positions very closely next week. A lot of room for improvement.

Three Stars:

CB Malcolm Butler –¬†Cornerback is one of the deepest positions on the roster, but don’t count out Butler just yet. The undrafted rookie from West Alabama responded well after being targeted early in the game. He plays with confidence and a good competitive edge. He could be someone to watch as a darkhorse to make the 53-man roster with Brandon Browner suspended the first quarter of the season.

QB Jimmy Garoppolo –¬†The rookie QB threw a few dimes on the evening, finishing up 9-of-13 for 157 yards a touchdown. After a rough start to training camp, Garoppolo showed he has some promise moving forward.

WR Brian Tyms — ¬†He was targeted six times, hauling in 5 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. The third-year receiver stood out, albeit against mostly third string opponents, but looked like he deserves more of an opportunity to prove himself as the preseason continues. He and Garoppolo showed great chemistry throughout the evening.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Tuesday Patriots Training Camp Observations: 7/29/14


Wide receiver Julian Edelman has been terrific throughout training camp. (USA TODAY Images)

The New England Patriots held their fifth practice of training camp on Tuesday. The team got a much-deserved day off Monday, but had their first of four practices this week on Tuesday.

The Patriots were in pads and it was a beautiful day for practice. While the temperature was rising, so was the physicality.

Here are my notes from Tuesday’s practice:

- Wide receiver Aaron Dobson, Jeremy Gallon, defensive lineman Dominique Easley, linebacker Deontae Skinner, Matthew Slater were present, but did not participate. Offensive lineman Dan Connolly, Chris Martin and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui were not spotted.

Cornerback, Alfonzo Dennard, was cleared off the Physically Unable to Perform list and did participate in practice. He rotated between drills and doing some conditioning work on the side. Working his way back into the mix.

Rookie center Bryan Stork appeared to suffer a minor lower-leg injury and walked off the field on his own, but did not finish the session.

-¬†This was the most physical session of camp. Offensive and defensive lineman we’re going at it, there was some live tackling and the defensive backs really got in the faces of wide outs.¬†

- With the NFL focusing more on defensive holding and illegal contact for the upcoming year, the first five yards are going to be even more crucial for defensive backs. I think we will see the Patriots cornerbacks play a lot more press and try to disrupt opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage. 

-¬†It was a big day for wide receivers and cornerbacks to go head-to-head. Whether it was one-on-one, and seven-on-seven or 11-on-11 drills. It’s always fun to focus in on the action as the players battle it out. During a one-on-one session with Brady at quarterback, Julian Edelman was dominant and had some beautiful catches. His route running is superior to everyone else on the roster. He beat Revis, had a terrific one-handed catch over Kyle Arrington and won just about every matchup. He has been one of the most impressive players in camp this year.¬†

- I’m not sure what it means, if anything, but we have seen Darrelle Revis lined up solely on the left side throughout camp. At first glance I thought it was about him, but then I thought it could be Brandon Browner. With Browner spending the last few seasons in Seattle playing across from Richard Sherman, perhaps he is only comfortable on the right side. Sherman never moves from the left, so Browner might not be able to be moved around as much. We’ll have to wait-and-see, something to monitor moving forward.

- At one point Tuesday, Tom Brady was working with Rob Gronkowski and Darrelle Revis off to the side. Tight end coach, Brian Daboll, was right in the middle of the action. Revis, intentionally playing loose in coverage, was shadowing Gronkowski as Brady was throwing him passes. It’s the first time I have seen any defender line up against Gronk and while it wasn’t true coverage, it seems like a step in the right direction as they ease no. 87 back in the mix.

Brady and Revis spent some time after talking about what each other are seeing in certain situations. One of the best in the game at both of their respective positions, no doubt learning from the other as the compete everyday in practice. Very cool to watch the two interact.

- It’s cool to see how far James Develin has come. He’s battled for a spot on this team, earned playing time and now it seems like he is a lock to make the roster. He shows versatility and sets the tone in the run game. He threw a block for Stevan Ridley Tuesday that you could hear from 120 yards away.

- Play of the day happened during 11-on-11 drills towards the end of practice. Ryan Mallett threw a lateral pass to his left to Edelman. Once Edelman caught the ball, he faked like he was running and then threw a deep bomb to Danny Amendola down the left side line. It was a great throw and catch, the crowd went crazy. Keep that in mind for late in the season.

Another highlight was during seven-on-seven drills, when Tom Brady threw a very deep pass down the middle of the field to receiver Brandon LaFell. LaFell beat the rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler and a fast-closing Nate Ebner to make a great catch in traffic. Brady was very fired up and you could see him celebrating and screaming with Mallet. Best play LaFell has made so far in camp.

- After practice was over, former Patriots players were on the field talking to each other. Offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi, Dan Koppen, linebacker Matt Chatham and former coach Charlier Weis was also in attendance Tuesday. It was awesome seeing some of the former members of the team back on the field.

Overall, it was long and physical day for New England. The team has a session on Wednesday and Thursday morning, followed up by an in-stadium practice for season ticket holders on Friday. The Patriots head to Richmond, VA this weekend before their joint practices with the Washington Redskins.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!

Sunday Patriots Training Camp Observations: 7/27/14


So far James White has looked solid, which could put pressure on Brandon Bolden (pictured).

The New England Patriots held their second padded practice of training camp on Sunday. The sound of crashing pads and the more physical element of practice emphasized football is just around the corner.

The first two days of practice were spent focusing on how players look, moved and the reps each were getting at their respective positions. Adding pads to the practice made the two-hour session a lot more interesting and made it easier to evaluate not only the lineman, but defensive players and running backs too.

Here are my notes from Sunday’s practice:

- Wide receiver Aaron Dobson, Jeremy Gallon, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, defensive lineman Dominique Easley and linebacker Deontae Skinner did not participate. Offensive lineman Chris Martin and special teamer Matthew Slater were not spotted.

- The skies were threatening all morning, but the rain held off until about five minutes left to go in Sunday’s session. Practice was cut short, but still more intense than what we saw the previous three days. There was a big emphasis on the run game and the Pats were very physical.

- The play of the day happened about an hour into Sunday’s practice. Rookie tailback, James White, was running off tackle to the left side. Cornerback Brandon Browner delivered a huge shot, taking the running back off his feet and onto his back. Browner screamed towards the sky and the other defensive players went crazy. The defense played with a lot of attitude in team drills.

- Tom Brady had a very light workload Sunday. He participated throughout the day, but left the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills mostly to Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo. Mallett threw the ball great and looked sharp. He hit second-year receiver, Josh Boyce, on a bomb down the left side leaving the coverage far behind.

Garoppolo took a penalty lap after fumbling a snap for the third straight day. The rookie has struggled with decision-making and accuracy the first few days, but there’s no need to panic. He spent some time working with offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, one-on-one.

- As aforementioned, Sunday was spent with an emphasis in the run game. It gave the offensive and defensive lineman an opportunity to get more contact. During these padded sessions, it’s much easier to evaluate the running backs as well. I’ve been really impressed with rookie, James White. He’s had nice catches, broken some big runs and bursts through the hole. He received some praise from Bill Belichick after a nice run Sunday.

Another name to keep in mind is undrafted running back, Roy Finch. The UDFA has received a fair amount of opportunities and flashed a few times. He has a very small frame — listed at 5’7, 180 — but his speed and elusiveness make him fun to watch. Whether it’s the return game or catching a pass out of the backfield, he’s caught my eye a few times.

- The return game was also in focus for the Patriots. Boyce, Finch, Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman have been a few guys in the mix. The team worked on kick coverage as well, even putting Revis and Browner in for some reps on special teams.

- Funny moment towards the end of practice: Despite not participating, Dennard and Dobson were throwing the football back-and-forth at the end of the day. Dobson dropped an easy pass, which prompted a fan to yell “Way to go, Dobson!” in a sarcastic tone. Dobson stared at the heckler, then Dennard threw him another pass and the rookie wideout caught the ball with one hand. The same fan said, “There ya go!” The surrounding crowd laughed and Dobson enjoyed it as well.

Here’s a photo taken by our friend Fred Skott (@fskott):

Overall, the practice was more intense than the previous three days. Certainly more physical and now the team gets a much deserved day off on Monday.

Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!