Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 8-6, & AFC East Notes.
The Patriots have the first week + of camp in the books, the team will have today off as they prepare for the joint practices with the Jacksonville Jaguars that begins tomorrow morning. The two teams will open their preseason schedules on Thursday night with a game at Gillette Stadium.
We will be looking forward to the two teams getting some good work in this week. It is always a valuable tool for the coaches and players to practice against someone else after going against just your teammates all spring and thru the first week or so of training camp.
A Healthy Gronkowski Has Been a Big if Rarely Mentioned Factor:
The Patriots got a healthy Rob Gronkowski back for training camp this season and although the team is limiting his reps a bit, he’s fully healthy and ready to go this summer. Gronkowski and Bill Belichick earlier during training camp both said that Gronkowski is under no limitations whatsoever, which is great news for the offense this year. The big man was limited to just eight games a year ago and none during the Patriots Super Bowl run.
Having a healthy Gronkowski for the 2017 season with the stacked wide receiver group and running back options in the passing game makes the Patriots offense an even more dangerous one than averaged over 30 points per game in the playoffs last year.
He looks to be his normal, athletic self at tight end so far and is a load for any safety to cover and is a mismatch against any linebacker. Tom Brady also has one of his two most trusted receivers in the passing game.
Gronkowski still has that exuberance for the game, even in training camp that brings out the kid in all of us. He takes great delight in scoring touchdowns even in practice and even when he makes a mistake, he makes the most out of it. Yesterday he jumped offside and get going and looked like his penalty lap was still fun while most guys act like they’re going to the gallows.
Rex Burkhead Looks to be A Valuable Pickup For the Patriots Offense:
The Patriots picked up Rex Burkhead this spring and on the surface, the move made very good sense. Burkhead is a valued special teams’ performer and was a productive backup running back for the Bengals.
But in New England the 27-year old looks to have a much larger role. He has the ability to run between the tackles and is showing a nice knack for finding open real estate in the passing game. This versatility with his ability to run or catch is something the team lacked last year. When James White was in the game, opponents knew they would probably pass. When LeGarrette Blount was on the field, it was considered a run. Now they can keep opponents guessing.
“Hopefully, this year, we’ll have a little more balance between the running game and passing game,” Bill Belichick said. “Again, (Blount) was primarily a runner. He didn’t have a lot of receiving production. The reverse is true of James White. So hopefully with our backs this year we’ll have a little more balance and be a little less predictable from that spot.”
With a return of health of Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee handling the majority of short yardage situations, the team is in a good position to keep things mixed up. And Burkhead thus far looks to be much more than a backup and a STs player.
Wise Has Been One of the Biggest Surprises of Camp So Far:
On the flip side of the coin, the surprise for the defense may be DE Deatrich Wise. The Patriots drafted a couple of edge players in Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise in the 2017 NFL Draft and both are expected to produce in the future but Wise may be pushing the envelope a bit earlier than expected.
The rookie who has a large wingspan at 6’5, 271 pounds and seems much more mature than his years may just be a steal in the 4th round of the draft. After a stellar junior season in 2015, Wise’s senior campaign was a frustrating one filled with a couple of injuries that limited his production. But as we said in the spring, if you want to see what he can do watch the 2015 tape.
So far, the big man is playing both inside and outside and has shown the ability to not only set the edge in the running game but beat the offensive linemen using a nice array of moves. He’s shown good explosion off the line. Wise credits the veterans on the team for helping him with the many questions and tips for him and the other young players on the team.
Can he continue to do so? He’ll be a key player to watch during the joint practices with the Jaguars and even more so once the preseason games begin.
Tom Brady Is Still The Hardest Working Man on the Field:
Hard to believe that the Patriots quarterback just turned 40 on Thursday. It is safe to say that no one is better prepared than Brady is and his work ethic despite his many accolades is second to none.
One of the things that all of the new players on the roster marvel about is how hard Brady prepares and works during practice. When he’s off the field, rarely does he sit on the side and chat with the other players. He’s usually working on his mechanics or his chemistry with some of the other players.
While some in the national media are always looking for a sinister reason why Brady continues to battle Father Time, they should come down to Gillette and watch him work. Brady hates to waste even a rep in practice. He has the incessant desire to improve, his drive, his fire and passion for the game remain as strong as ever. That’s the biggest reason for his success
Training Camp Dustups Are Not New:
Much was made about the shoving and wrestling match between Julian Edelman and Stephon Gilmore early this week but in reality, those things happen in every training camp. And in true Belichick form, both players were ejected from practice. The coach has zero tolerance for that and while he understands that it happens, the players know he won’t tolerate it.
The heat and humidity and the constantly going against the same people will cut tempers a bit short and all it takes for one player to give another a little extra push or feel like the other guy is holding on a bit too tight and that’s it. Last year both Malcolm Butler and Bryan Stork were given five for fighting and sent to the showers. Let’s hope that we don’t see any more of it with the Jaguars are in town. But if it does it wouldn’t be shocking.
After practice on Tuesday, wide receiver Brandin Cooks spoke with the media and said that it is just training camp.
Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Depth at Defensive End Tested on Friday:
The Buffalo Bills practiced in New Era Field on Friday but lost two of their defensive ends early in the session. Shaq Lawson tweaked his groin and was shut down for precautionary reasons. Lawson later reported to the media that it was nothing serious. Fellow DE Ryan Davis suffered a concussion and was helped off the field. Neither is expected to be sidelined long and Lawson may even practice today.
Charles Clay had his best day of camp on Friday night and he reportedly is looking completely healthy. With the Bills still searching for WR help for QB Tyrod Taylor, having a productive season for Clay is essential. While it is still early in training camp, Taylor has looked very inconsistent according to the Buffalo media. Having Clay heat up would certainly help that.
Tannehill Injury May Be a Rallying Point for the Dolphins:
The Miami Dolphins had pretty high hopes for the 2017 season after a 10-6 campaign last year and a playoff berth. But then a non-contact injury to starting QB Ryan Tannehill is the nightmare no team wants to face. But when faced with a similar situation during the stretch run in 2016, the team rallied behind Matt Moore to win three of four to secure a playoff spot.
With Tannehill possibly looking at season-ending surgery, Moore is the man for now. And forget the haters, Moore is a very solid backup QB. Is he the answer for the Miami Dolphins for this year? They have reached out to Jay Cutler to see if he’s interested. If he’s signed, I would be surprised if Adam Gase just handed the job to him. Especially the way Moore rallied the Fins last season.
Don’t count them out yet. Miami dropped four of their first five and rallied. Then regrouped again after Tannehill went down last year. Gase has his work cut out for him, that is clear. But as we pointed out a year ago, Miami hired the right guy this time.
Jets Seem To Be Going With McCown at QB:
The New York Jets have their first week of training camp in the books and there is no QB controversy this season. According to reports by the Jets media beat writers, Josh McCown is getting nearly all of the first team reps. One piece in the New York Post said the number was almost 99 percent. Christian Hackenberg is solidly locked into the 2nd team slot. Bryce Petty? In the same report, he was reported to get only four reps total during Friday’s session.
McCown certainly has his work cut out for him. Only Quincy Enunwa is a bona fide NFL wide receiver with any kind of experience. The Post reported that the Jets WRs are running the wrong routes and making all of the QBs look bad.
The good news for Gang Green is the play of their top draft picks Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams. Both are having solid camps and appear to be the starting safety tandem for the Jets when the season opens.
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