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New England Patriots News 12-27 and AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
6 years ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

New England Patriots News 12-27 and AFC East NotesDavid Butler II - USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news notes and what’s happening around the division. We all here at PatsFans.com hope that your Christmas was a happy and safe one. We look forward to ushering in an even happier New Year next week.

Roster Moves, Smith In, Cleveland Out:  Bill Belichick has shown he will tinker with a roster right up until the night before a Super Bowl, so tinkering on Christmas Day isn’t that big a shock. The team signed free agent cornerback Troy Hill off of waivers from the Bengals.

Smith spent time on the Cincy practice squad before being signed to the active roster and being active for three games. He was released this week and quickly scooped up by the Patriots. The 5’10, 182 feisty corner played at Oregon.

He’s best suited for the slot where his short area quickness (6.81- 3-Cone time) is a benefit. His lack of bulk makes him vulnerable to being out-muscled by bigger wide receivers. He’s very aggressive and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He also has a nice closing burst, where his agility and fluidity makes him good in man coverage.

He’s known as a hard worker and led the Pac-12 with 19 passes defensed in 2014. His draft stock (4th – 5th Rd prospect) dropped after a domestic off-field incident in 2013.

To make room for Smith, the Patriots released TE Asante Cleveland.

Hankerson Also Out, Harper in?: On Saturday morning the Patriots announced WR Leonard Hankerson. The WR from the Falcons was signed on December 16, so it was probably a case of him not picking up the offense quickly enough for him to be a viable option against the Jets.

With Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola unlikely to play today against the Jets, and Brandon LaFell and Scott Chandler 50/50 to suit up, the team’s depth will once again be tested. This may open the door for Chris Harper who was active earlier this season and was demoted to the PS after fumbling a punt against Denver. Also look for James White to play more of a receiver role today, and expect to see the team to put him in motion and play him outside more to ease the burden on a beat-up receiver core.

Harper has been with the team since training camp and has shown flashes of solid play. He’ll be a better short-term option than Hankerson at this point. Ian Rapopport of NFL Network reported if Hankerson clears waivers, he’ll likely be resigned on Monday.

Belichick the GM reaps Seven Pro-Bowlers: Seven members of the New England Patriots have been selected to the 2015 NFL Pro Bowl. QB Tom Brady, CB Malcolm Butler, LB Jamie Collins, K Stephen Gostkowski, TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Chandler Jones and WR Matthew Slater (STs) have been selected to represent the Patriots in the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl on Sun., Jan. 31, 2016, in Hawaii. Of course the Patriots players and Bill Belichick hope to be preparing to play in another game that day.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was particularly proud of the fact that all seven Pro Bowlers were ‘home-grown’ talent that the Patriots developed. And he spoke of the balance of the team with two players from the offense, two from special teams and three from the defense.

“I’m proud of the fact that all seven of those players are homegrown — they all came in as Patriots, spent their whole career as Patriots, developed as Patriots one way or another, but that’s what they all are,” Belichick said. “I think there is something to be said for that.”

Reading the tea leaves, Belichick seems to be taking a subtle shot at those who have constantly harped about “GM Belichick hamstringing Coach Belichick” and his inability to draft well. Always choosing at the bottom of the 1st rounds, Belichick HAS done a remarkable job of not only keeping the Patriots competitive but on top of the AFC year after year.

Jackson Has Brady’s Admiration…now to build trust: Patriots QB Tom Brady was quick to welcome the newest running back to the fold, Steven Jackson to the team this week. Brady was also quick to complement his new weapon in the backfield as someone he’s admired.

“I’ve always watched from afar and seen how tremendous of a player he is, what kind of a professional he is, so it’s great to have players like that,” Brady said on Thursday. “Hopefully, he can add a lot to our team and we’ll see, obviously how things pan out. But he’s come in here and worked hard.”

Jackson hasn’t had much practice time so his contributions may be somewhat limited during today’s game but he’s always been known as a hard worker and a sure-handed one as well. How quick he can catch on to the Patriots offense will be a big question. Being in that Brady circle of trust is a crucial component to getting the ball in key situations. Jackson has had less time than other established vets that have come to NE and failed to click with the future HOF QB.

With LaGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis on IR, Jackson, Joey Iosefa and Brandon Bolden will be tasked with the bulk of the carries. James White will remain as the third down passing option for the Patriots backfield.

East Bound and Down…Notes Around the AFC East:

Jets’ Thompkins Make Most of Opportunity: The Patriots found WR Kenbrell Thompkins off the street in 2013 and the UDFA rookie had a good season catching 32 passes from Tom Brady including a huge game-winner against New Orleans for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

After being jettisoned by the Pats last season, he was brought back by the team onto the practice squad for a few weeks but was again let go in October. But Thompson has found a home with the Jets. He was signed by New York in October and has had to fight for snaps with Jeremy Kerley, Devin Smith and Quincy Enunwa.

Once Smith went down on IR with an injury last week, Thompson got plenty of work as the Jets 4th WR. He’s caught 13 passes for 128 yards but none was bigger than his 43-yard reception with time waning in the fourth quarter. That set up the game winning field goal for New York. If anyone is surprised it wasn’t QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“He has provided a great example for everybody, especially the young guys in this locker room,” Fitzpatrick said. “A guy that is just the same person every day, he works harder than everybody and hopefully we’ll continue to see some results from him”

Thompson would love to show his stuff against his former team today, “I feel like I’ve got a lot more to show,” he said.

The State of the Bills according to Polian: The Buffalo Bills may be ready to turn again to Bill Polian to attempt to right the ship and get the team to the playoffs.

Polian has said he’d accept a consultant position with the Bills and gave his take on the roster as it now stands to beat writer Vic Carucci. Among the tidbits he stated the “Bills need to find a franchise QB” in 2016.

“You can win with Tyrod if the other pieces are good,” Polian said. “If there are six or seven Pro Bowlers at other positions, you can win with Tyrod. But he’s not the quarterback of the future. He’s not Jim Kelly, and, although he doesn’t have the same track record, he’s probably comparable to Frank Reich. But he’s not 6-feet-4 like Frank Reich. He’s small and he’s going to get hurt, and he did.

“Now, you have to find his backup and the quarterback of the future.”

That can’t be music to the ears of one Tyrod Taylor or coach Rex Ryan. Comparing Taylor to Frank Reich may be overstepping it a little bit.

He also stated the OL needs fixing and the Bills need to cut ties with “too many 30-year olds” on the roster. But in the next breath he stated that the Bills need veterans to run Rex Ryan’s defense….

Either way it looks like the Bills have a lot of decisions to make once their season is over next week.

Dolphins – Colts Two of the season’s disappointments: When the Dolphins and Colts take the field this week, the two teams will be two of the most underachieving teams of 2015. The Colts (6-8) were widely picked by some of the major pundits to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this season. Miami (5-9) was thought to challenge New England for the AFC East for the division.

Indy still has a glimmer of hope to win the woeful AFC South. They’ll need to win and get help in the form of Houston losing. But the Dolphins season imploded early. Now they’re left to pick up the pieces and start the re-building process again.

Two key veterans that may find themselves out of a job are CB Brent Grimes and WR Greg Jennings. Grimes came over from Atlanta a few years ago and put up back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons. But at 33, he’s in the midst of a very tough season and has been getting beat regularly.

Jennings was supposed to be the leader of the Dolphins WR core. He’s been a big disappointment both on the field with just 15 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown and as a mentor to the young receivers.

When they start their house cleaning in a few weeks, those two might be among the first players to be cut loose.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]


Listen to our 
Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news notes and what’s happening around the division. We all here at PatsFans.com hope that your Christmas was a happy and safe one. We look forward to ushering in an even happier New Year next week.

Roster Moves, Smith In, Cleveland Out:  Bill Belichick has shown he will tinker with a roster right up until the night before a Super Bowl, so tinkering on Christmas Day isn’t that big a shock. The team signed free agent cornerback Troy Hill off of waivers from the Bengals.

Smith spent time on the Cincy practice squad before being signed to the active roster and being active for three games. He was released this week and quickly scooped up by the Patriots. The 5’10, 182 feisty corner played at Oregon.

He’s best suited for the slot where his short area quickness (6.81- 3-Cone time) is a benefit. His lack of bulk makes him vulnerable to being out-muscled by bigger wide receivers. He’s very aggressive and plays with a chip on his shoulder. He also has a nice closing burst, where his agility and fluidity makes him good in man coverage.

He’s known as a hard worker and led the Pac-12 with 19 passes defensed in 2014. His draft stock (4th – 5th Rd prospect) dropped after a domestic off-field incident in 2013.

To make room for Smith, the Patriots released TE Asante Cleveland.

Hankerson Also Out, Harper in?: On Saturday morning the Patriots announced WR Leonard Hankerson. The WR from the Falcons was signed on December 16, so it was probably a case of him not picking up the offense quickly enough for him to be a viable option against the Jets.

With Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola unlikely to play today against the Jets, and Brandon LaFell and Scott Chandler 50/50 to suit up, the team’s depth will once again be tested. This may open the door for Chris Harper who was active earlier this season and was demoted to the PS after fumbling a punt against Denver. Also look for James White to play more of a receiver role today, and expect to see the team to put him in motion and play him outside more to ease the burden on a beat-up receiver core.

Harper has been with the team since training camp and has shown flashes of solid play. He’ll be a better short-term option than Hankerson at this point. Ian Rapopport of NFL Network reported if Hankerson clears waivers, he’ll likely be resigned on Monday.

Belichick the GM reaps Seven Pro-Bowlers: Seven members of the New England Patriots have been selected to the 2015 NFL Pro Bowl. QB Tom Brady, CB Malcolm Butler, LB Jamie Collins, K Stephen Gostkowski, TE Rob Gronkowski, DE Chandler Jones and WR Matthew Slater (STs) have been selected to represent the Patriots in the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl on Sun., Jan. 31, 2016, in Hawaii. Of course the Patriots players and Bill Belichick hope to be preparing to play in another game that day.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was particularly proud of the fact that all seven were ‘home-grown’ talent that the Patriots developed. And he spoke of the balance of the team with two players from the offense, two from special teams and three from the defense.

“I’m proud of the fact that all seven of those players are homegrown — they all came in as Patriots, spent their whole career as Patriots, developed as Patriots one way or another, but that’s what they all are,” Belichick said. “I think there is something to be said for that.”

Reading the tea leaves, Belichick seems to be taking a subtle shot at those who have constantly harped about “GM Belichick hamstringing Coach Belichick” and his inability to draft well. Always choosing at the bottom of the 1st rounds, Belichick HAS done a remarkable job of not only keeping the Patriots competitive but on top of the AFC year after year.

Jackson Has Brady’s Admiration…now to build trust: Patriots QB Tom Brady was quick to welcome the newest running back to the fold, Steven Jackson to the team this week. Brady was also quick to complement his new weapon in the backfield as someone he’s admired.

“I’ve always watched from afar and seen how tremendous of a player he is, what kind of a professional he is, so it’s great to have players like that,” Brady said on Thursday. “Hopefully, he can add a lot to our team and we’ll see, obviously how things pan out. But he’s come in here and worked hard.”

Jackson hasn’t had much practice time so his contributions may be somewhat limited during today’s game but he’s always been known as a hard worker and a sure-handed one as well. How quick he can catch on to the Patriots offense will be a big question. Being in that Brady circle of trust is a crucial component to getting the ball in key situations. Jackson has had less time than other established vets that have come to NE and failed to click with the future HOF QB.

With LaGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis on IR, Jackson, Joey Iosefa and Brandon Bolden will be tasked with the bulk of the carries. James White will remain as the third down passing option for the Patriots backfield.

East Bound and Down…Notes Around the AFC East:

Jets’ Thompkins Make Most of Opportunity: The Patriots found WR Kenbrell Thompkins off the street in 2013 and the UDFA rookie had a good season catching 32 passes from Tom Brady including a huge game-winner against New Orleans for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

After being jettisoned by the Pats last season, he was brought back by the team onto the practice squad for a few weeks but was again let go in October. But Thompson has found a home with the Jets. He was signed by New York in October and has had to fight for snaps with Jeremy Kerley, Devin Smith and Quincy Enunwa.

Once Smith went down on IR with an injury last week, Thompson got plenty of work as the Jets 4th WR. He’s caught 13 passes for 128 yards but none was bigger than his 43-yard reception with time waning in the fourth quarter. That set up the game winning field goal for New York. If anyone is surprised it wasn’t QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

“He has provided a great example for everybody, especially the young guys in this locker room,” Fitzpatrick said. “A guy that is just the same person every day, he works harder than everybody and hopefully we’ll continue to see some results from him”

Thompson would love to show his stuff against his former team today, “I feel like I’ve got a lot more to show,” he said.

The State of the Bills according to Polian: The Buffalo Bills may be ready to turn again to Bill Polian to attempt to right the ship and get the team to the playoffs.

Polian has said he’d accept a consultant position with the Bills and gave his take on the roster as it now stands to beat writer Vic Carucci. Among the tidbits he stated the “Bills need to find a franchise QB” in 2016.

“You can win with Tyrod if the other pieces are good,” Polian said. “If there are six or seven Pro Bowlers at other positions, you can win with Tyrod. But he’s not the quarterback of the future. He’s not Jim Kelly, and, although he doesn’t have the same track record, he’s probably comparable to Frank Reich. But he’s not 6-feet-4 like Frank Reich. He’s small and he’s going to get hurt, and he did.

“Now, you have to find his backup and the quarterback of the future.”

That can’t be music to the ears of one Tyrod Taylor or coach Rex Ryan. Comparing Taylor to Frank Reich may be overstepping it a little bit.

He also stated the OL needs fixing and the Bills need to cut ties with “too many 30-year olds” on the roster. But in the next breath he stated that the Bills need veterans to run Rex Ryan’s defense….

Either way it looks like the Bills have a lot of decisions to make once their season is over next week.

Dolphins – Colts Two of the season’s disappointments: When the Dolphins and Colts take the field this week, the two teams will be two of the most underachieving teams of 2015. The Colts (6-8) were widely picked by some of the major pundits to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this season. Miami (5-9) was thought to challenge New England for the AFC East for the division.

Indy still has a glimmer of hope to win the woeful AFC South. They’ll need to win and get help in the form of Houston losing. But the Dolphins season imploded early. Now they’re left to pick up the pieces and start the re-building process again.

Two key veterans that may find themselves out of a job are CB Brent Grimes and WR Greg Jennings. Grimes came over from Atlanta a few years ago and put up back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons. But at 33, he’s in the midst of a very tough season and has been getting beat regularly.

Jennings was supposed to be the leader of the Dolphins WR core. He’s been a big disappointment both on the field with just 15 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown and as a mentor to the young receivers.

When they start their house cleaning in a few weeks, those two might be among the first players to be cut loose.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]


Listen to our 
Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Season Bill Belichick Brandon LaFell Buffalo Bills Jabaal Sheard Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets Patriots Patriots edge rushers predictions Pro Bowl Roster Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Seven Patriots to Pro Bowl Tom Brady


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