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New England Patriots News 8-14, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 8-14 and notes on what’s happening around the AFC East.

The Patriots dodged three potential very serious injuries this week as it was learned that those suffered by Julian Edelman, Rob Ninkovich, and rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell weren’t as severe as originally thought and all three will be back in action sooner rather than later.

Gaffney’s Wait Has Been a Long Time Coming:
Patriots running back Tyler Gaffney finally got to play in an NFL game on Thursday night after waiting 2 ½ years for the opportunity.

He led all rushers with 64 yards on nine carries including a 44-yard touchdown in the third quarter.


The big, 6’2, 220-pound running back was drafted by Carolina out of Stanford in 2014 but suffered a knee injury early in training camp. The Panthers tried to waive him prior to putting him on IR and the Pats swooped in and grabbed him where he rehabbed for that year.

He was re-injured again early in training camp a year ago and once again never saw the field. But he’s healthy in 2016 and his play has been emerging thru the first two weeks of camp. He saw extensive work in the team’s scrimmages and he began to rediscover his game.

On Thursday night against the Saints, he said that at first, “that first half was quite the blur of stuff just flying everywhere. Things were moving so fast, man,” he said.

But as he acclimated to game conditions after a 900+ day wait, he showed nice vision and good burst heading into the line. On his touchdown run, Ted Karras and Cameron Fleming provided a huge cutback lane where the big back easily rolled thru on his way to his first professional touchdown. It was worth the wait Gaffney said.

With his play and ability to run between the tackles, he has a shot to make the 53-man roster. It won’t be an easy road, but after what he’s been through, it is just a walk in the park.

Patriots Corners Having a Strong Camp:
The team entered camp with all three starters returning, something that hasn’t happened much in Foxboro as well as adding a 2nd-Round Draft Pick, Cyrus Jones, three athletic UDFAs Jonathan Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc, V’Angelo Bentley and a veteran E.J. Biggers as well as returning 2nd-year player Darryl Roberts.

The competition has been intense and fun to watch thru the first two weeks of camp, two team scrimmages, joint work with the Saints and one preseason game. And the depth, a question mark a year ago, looks to be one of the top areas of strength in 2016.

LeBlanc extends for the ball

LeBlanc extends for the ball

An interesting note from the joint practices was the reporting that Drew Brees was 21 of 25 during the 11-on-11 portion of practice making those at home thinking that the Patriots corners were getting routinely roasted. Nothing could be further from the truth. The majority of those passes were of the check-down variety to the running backs. After practice, the combined media of the Saints and Patriots asked New Orleans coach Sean Payton if getting the backs involved was the plan. He nixed that with a wry smile.

“I thought, by and large, we struggled at the line of scrimmage,” Payton said. “New England does a really good job with their press techniques and disrupting the timing and routes of the passing game.”

“Whether it was the TEs or WRs, we have to do a better job of separating with the man-to-man coverages we get. I think the QBs go thru their progressions, 1-2 and then check down when time runs out.”

The play of the young corners definitely had some intriguing production on Thursday. Cyrus Jones had a fumble recovery on the Saints first possession. Jonathan Jones had two solid plays in breaking up passes, one in the end zone. And LeBlanc had a nifty, one-armed interception in the end zone of a Luke McCown pass.

The play of the corners thus far has to be one of the bright spots of camp and will be an area to watch once the Bears come in this week.

Kraft Still Has Strong Feelings on Brady Decision:
With the Patriots about to open the preseason against the New Orleans Saints, Jonathan Kraft appeared on 98.5 The Sports Hub and spoke about a couple of matters, the biggest, and still a sore spot was the suspension of Tom Brady.

The younger Kraft minced no words how he continues to feel about this subject.

“For us, seeing him treated him in a way that we don’t perceive to be fair eats at us greatly,” (emphasis mine) Kraft said on the Patriots pregame show. “And there’s still a tremendous amount of, there’s frustration around how the pure facts of science and lack of any type of tangible, hard evidence that certain people can look at those circumstances and then try to taint him or his legacy without that type of evidence.”

Brady serves his four-game suspension starting Week 1 but was excused from the Saints preseason game to attend the memorial service of a family member.

Kraft also shared his thoughts on the Chandler Jones’ comments that “the Patriots don’t pay their players” mantra which is always a hot topic around Boston. But as correctly pointed out, the team spends to the cap every year and what he didn’t point out is the team doesn’t “over-pay” its players. Which is why they’ve had an unprecedented run of success under Belichick’s watch.

Scarnecchia Has Plenty of Work to Do with OL:
After a season where the Patriots offensive line thru injuries and poor play hurt the team down the stretch and into the playoffs, we saw many of the same issues cropping up in the preseason opener. The first quarter against the Saints wasn’t the start the unit was looking for.

By bringing back Dante Scarnecchia out of retirement, the long-time Patriots coach is supposed to be a panacea for a group that struggled mightily in 2015. Well, the good news is, that most of the problems are fixable.

Coach Scar doesn't look happy with that effort

Coach Scar doesn’t look happy with that effort

Scarnecchia is a hard man to please, so he won’t be the happiest guy in the world after Thursday night’s game but after re-watching the game tape, he’ll have some positive teaching points as well. The overall play did improve as the night wore on and one important aspect is getting everyone to buy in. So when you have receivers like Aaron Dobson and Martellus Bennett sticking with their blocks downfield on James White’s 56-yard screen pass catch and run, it’s a good sign.

Two of the more impressive players thus far have been the rookies. Joe Thuney has been very impressive at left guard and Ted Karras, the right guard/center brings a Logan Mankins type of toughness to the table. Karras helped spring Tyler Gaffney on his long touchdown run with a nice seal block to the inside.

NFL is Family? Think Again: The NFL made the decision this week to stop the Dallas Cowboys from wearing a decal on their helmets that they’ve been sporting since the beginning of training camp. The Cowboys have been wearing an “Arm-in-Arm” decal supporting the slain police officers from the Dallas PD that were gunned down in a terrorist attack that occurred when officers were detailed to a Black Lives Matter protest on July 7.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and players drew notice for opening training camp July 30 by walking onto the field with Dallas Police Chief David Brown, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, and relatives of the slain officers. After all the police officers of not only Dallas but in 31 other cities protect the fans every week when the enter and leave the stadium.  But apparently supporting those who risk their lives to protect the very game and fans of the NFL every week is “too controversial.”

“I understand that the NFL has uniform rules and guidelines that they’ve got to follow,” said Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who helped organize the tribute, in a statement. “But that still doesn’t mean we’re not going to support and honor our community and stand arm-in-arm with them — now and in the future. It still doesn’t stop us from supporting them.”

Shame on the NFL…again.

Final Public Training Camp Schedule:
Practices and parking are free during training camp but as a word to the wise. Arrive early. Parking is in the P6 or P8 parking lots. It is first come, first served and the crowds at the joint practices are normally very, very large.

Sunday, August 14: 2:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. — Afternoon Practice Session

Monday, August 15: 1:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. Joint Practice Session with the Bears

Tuesday, August 16: 1:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. Joint Practice Session with the Bears

Wednesday, August 17: 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Joint Practice Session with the Bears

Wednesday will be the final open practice open to the public for 2016’s Training Camp.

Remember the schedule is subject to change and that in the case of inclement weather, should the team move inside the practice bubble, fans are not allowed inside.

During the day while practice sessions are ongoing, the Patriots Pro Shop, the Hall, the team’s Hall of Fame and the Fan Zone will all be open. There are concessions open behind the bleachers during practice.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins Offense Struggles Against Giants:
The Patriots didn’t have the only OL that struggled in their preseason opener. The Dolphins unit under new coach Adam Gase which has a new look and new blood seemed like the unit that’s given up 184 sacks of Ryan Tannehill against the Giants.

Playing against his former team, Olivier Vernon had a couple of big hits on Tannehill including one where he chased his former teammate thru the end zone. But as bad as things looked at the outset, it was only game 1 of the preseason and Gase has plenty of time to get things ironed out.

Jets Preseason Opener, Fitz Sharp, Milliner Not in Win over Jax:
After a prolonged battle in the offseason about a new contract, Ryan Fitzpatrick was back on the field and looked sharp in a cameo during the Jets 17-13 win over Jacksonville on Thursday.

Fitzpatrick completed 3-4 for 72 yards including two receptions to WR Quincy Enunwa for 26 and 43 yards respectively on the Jets opening drive. Enunwa is vying for the third WR position behind Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall.

Dee Milliner, on the other hand, had a tough first outing giving up two big plays to Allen Robinson, one of them for 45-yards. Milliner has suffered a slew of injuries and hasn’t played since October of 2014 and is still shaking off the rust.

Bills Have their man at QB, Sign Taylor for 6 Years:
The Buffalo Bills ended their back and forth negotiations with QB Tyrod Taylor and have inked their starting QB to a six-year extension.

According to NFL insider Ian Rapoport the deal is for $92 million over six years plus incentives, per sources. Rapoport added that Taylor will make $9.5 million in 2016, all of which is “fully guaranteed, but after that, there is a lot of prove-it in the deal.”

The Bills have the option to pick up the contract in 2017, and if they do, he’ll make $27.5 million ($15.5 million with team options, $12M base salary) if they do. Taylor came to the Bills in 2015 after spending four years backing up Joe Flacco in Baltimore. He posted the 2nd highest QB rating (99.4) in Bills history behind Jim Kelly.

In 14 starts a year ago, Taylor threw for 3,035 yards, with 20 TDs and just six INTs.  He completed 63.7 of his passes. He also rushed for 568 yards on the ground, with four TDs.

No offense to the good folks at New Era Cap, but that stadium will forever be “The Ralph” to me.
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

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

Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 Patriots Roster 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Jabaal Sheard Jimmy Garoppolo Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Patriots Training Camp Photos Rob Ninkovich Tom Brady Trey Flowers

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