New England Patriots News 7-22, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 22, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 7-22, & AFC East Notes. This is our last Sunday before football is back among us until 2019. It seems like a long time has passed since the Super Bowl. Three days and a wake up until football returns.

Quick Hitters:
Tom Brady has made it clear that he’ll not only be on time but report early for training camp. Brady is expected to arrive at Foxboro today for the beginning of the 2018 season. Brady missed all of the voluntary spring workouts but did attend minicamp.

Darrelle Revis has now voted himself off the island. The veteran cornerback has decided to call it a career and retire. The future Hall of Famer was on another plane for many years with the Jets and came to the Patriots for the Super Bowl season of 2014. He returned to the Jets before ending up with the Chiefs last year. He was one of the very best to ever play cornerback. And his countdown to Canton has already begun.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft was among those who went to pay respects to the family of fallen Weymouth police officer Michael Chesna at his wake this week. Chesna was killed in the line of duty by a man who then killed an old woman. He leaves behind a wife and two young children.

Smart move. Julian Edelman announced that he will not take his appeal of his PED suspension to Federal Court. As we all saw in the Tom Brady case, the league and the commissioner have the ability to hand out punishment as they see fit.

Andrew Jelks is stepping away from football and announced his retirement on Friday. He hasn’t played since his sophomore year at college and has had ACL injuries. The Patriots took a flyer on him in 2017 and it appears that his knees will not allow him to play again. Sadly we’ll never get to see what they valued so highly.

Things you just shake your head at… just a few hours after the Miami Dolphins announced that they would take discipline on players protesting the national anthem, the NFL and NFLPA issue a joint statement regarding the new rules. Sadly, they’ll never get it.

You know it is summer time when Jimmy Garoppolo’s date with a porn star is top news.  

Veterans Who Will Be Fighting For Their Jobs in Camp:

Every summer, we always take stock of the 90-man roster and try to make sense of the comings and goings without the benefit of sitting in the coach’s offices. We report on what we see on the field, but what they see may differ radically.

But, the one constant in the Patriots roster thru the Belichick years is change, the roster is always changing and evolving and this summer will be no different. Several veterans are looking at fighting for their jobs this summer. They include:

Dwayne Allen: Allen was hoped to replace the blocking and production in the passing game of Martellus Bennett. And he only was successful in the former, not the latter. Allen was a complete afterthought in the passing game, something the Patriots really needed considering Rob Gronkowski has had injury problems in his career.

Allen this summer will have to show much more in the passing game. With the seeming emergence of Jacob Hollister in the passing game this summer, the 2nd year TE seems poised for a much bigger role and if he shows he’s better in the blocking game this year, Allen’s days in a Patriots uniform may be numbered, despite Belichick being in his corner.

His salary for 2018 is $5 million dollars which is very steep for a blocking tight end. Consider this, the Patriots balked at paying Danny Amendola $6 million and think about all of the clutch plays he produced in his time in New England.

If Gronkowski gets a new deal during training camp, Allen’s salary cap situation will bear even closer watching. The Patriots brought in blocking tight ends Troy Niklas from the Cardinals, Ryan Izzo in the NFL Draft (7th Round) and small school Shane Wimann as a UDFA. Those three will bear close watching as well.

Elandon Roberts: Roberts, the undersized but downhill thumper at linebacker was thrust into a starting role for much of 2017. And a lot of it didn’t go well. Several times Roberts burst into the wrong hole in the running game or was caught up in the wash at the second level.

While he’s showed effectiveness as a blitzer up the A-gaps, he’s also a liability in coverage. The Patriots drafted two linebackers this spring, one of them, Ja’Whaun Bentley is a bigger more physical presence on the inside. His drafting doesn’t show great confidence in Roberts’ ability to get the job done.

The battle in the middle will also include Harvey Langi and Dont’a Hightower as well and bear close watching this summer.

Mike Gillislee: Gillislee was signed last year and promptly scored three TDs against KC in the blowout loss in the opener. But his star quickly lost its shine as he was a healthy scratch more often than not down the later stretches of the season.

Gillislee ran fairly well when he was in the game, however, his lack of production in the passing game became an issue. Because when he was in the game, the Patriots offense became what they hated to be: predictable.

Dion Lewis took over Gillislee’s role and the offense took off. This year, with Lewis gone, the team used a 1st round draft pick for Sony Michel and he has the versatility in the running and passing games to easily become a threat like Lewis was.

Gillislee and Jeremy Hill, who is looking to resurrect his career in New England are probably fighting for one roster spot. Hill, in the past, has been more productive in the passing game while with the Bengals. This battle will bear watching, as another player in the backfield.

Brandon Bolden: Every summer it seems Brandon Bolden is put on the list of those to get cut…even here. But then every fall, he’s on the roster, giving very valuable reps as a Special Teams standout, a core member of all four units.

That’s because Bolden has a hard-nosed, goes all out when he’s on the field, is an outstanding teammate who is very popular in the locker and has the versatility to do many things.

As a runner and pass receiver, he’s a .260 hitter, not bad, not great but will fill in as the fourth option when his number is called. He has Tom Brady’s trust as a blocker, runner, and receiver.

So yes, he’s in a roster battle to keep his job. It is nothing new for him. He’ll approach this as he does every summer. And with the new rules on special teams, guys like Bolden, Matthew Slater, and Cordarrelle Patterson may be even more valuable. Don’t be surprised if he’s around for one more season. And we’ll revisit it again next summer.

Jordan Richards: Everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Richards finds himself annually on this list as well. Like Bolden, he’s a standout special teams player, but unlike the running back when he’s asked to play defense, he’s a disaster.

Every summer in preseason we watch him take poor angles in the secondary and turn small plays into big ones. That carries over into the regular season. Replay the end of the Pittsburgh game and Richards takes a brutal angle which turned a 3-yard Roethlisberger slant into nearly a 79-yard touchdown (tackled at the 10). That carried over into the Super Bowl where when he was on the field, Nick Foles and the Eagles went right after him.

So, will this summer be any different? I liked what I saw from David Jones last year but he was cut, brought back to the practice squad for the entire season. He was the Patriots practice player of the week six times in 2017, so perhaps the bigger and more athletic (also a punt returner) will push Richards.

Cyrus Jones: Jones is in a make or break season for the Patriots. After a disastrous rookie campaign in 2016 after being the team’s top draft pick, he was lost to a torn ACL and meniscus in the preseason of 2017.

He looked better (after forgetting how to cleanly field a punt in 2016) before his injury last summer and in the secondary as well. We’ll see how that transpires this summer. With Julian Edelman’s looming suspension, the punt returner slot is an instant roster spot ripe for the taking. There may be several punt returners vying for the position this summer and should be a lot of fun to watch.

But he wasn’t all the way back this spring, and that may force him to begin camp on the PUP. This will bear watching.

James Harrison Talks Belichick/Tomlin and Tom Brady:

Harrison who spent just a brief amount of time in New England after being released by Pittsburgh before Week 17, got the Western Pennsylvania population riled up this week when asked about the differences between Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin on the Fox show “Undisputed”.

Asked if Belichick is a better coach “by far”, he answered, “to me, yes.” He stressed Belichick’s discipline and the coaching staff which takes a page out of his book.

“The big thing with Belichick is he’s very regimented,” Harrison said. “He’s disciplined, everyone is going to be on the same page, there’s not going to be anything as far as someone doing their own thing. And I think over there [in New England] their whole coaching staff is like that.”

Harrison then added the kicker, “Man, I’ve seen Tom Brady run into a meeting scared to be late. I don’t even know what happens if you’re late to a meeting over there.”

On the subject of Brady, Harrison told the hosts, he at first wanted to hate him but added that he was “the ultimate teammate and person.”

“Tom is a great QB — the best ever. I’ve never seen anyone with his study habits, his preparation. He’s filling up a whole notebook of notes with each game.”

Patriots Preseason Broadcast Team Changes:

The radio duo of Bob Socci and Scott Zolak who do the Patriots’ games on the flagship radio station of 98.5 are moving to the television broadcast booth for the four preseason games. Joining the popular duo as always is Steve Burton who does the sidelines reporting and interviews while Andy Hart and Paul Perillo will provide commentary again from in the studio. Former Patriot Rob Ninkovich joins the broadcast team as the veteran sideline reporter.

The radio duties will fall to Dan Roche who called the games for the past several years on television and former SB champion Matt Chatham who moves from the sidelines to the color position for the preseason.  

Training Camp 2018, Dates and Times:

The Patriots training camp sessions begin this coming week and as a reminder:

Practices are free of charge and will be open to the public. Entrances will open about one hour before practice begins.

The schedule as of right now (and subject to change) is as follows:

Thursday, July 26: Practice Time – 9:15 a.m.

Friday, July 27: Practice Time – 9:15 a.m.

Saturday, July 28: Practice Time – 9:15 a.m.

Sunday, July 29: Practice Time – 9:15 a.m.

Check in periodically on the Patriots website for any changes on the scheduling of practices and fan events.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes: No AFC East Notes this week, we’ll be back with those next Sunday.

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.



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