Here’s a look at this morning’s top stories.
Mitchell Gone – What seemed to be looming for a while came to fruition on Monday when the Patriots opted to part ways with wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, ending what seemed like a promising future in New England.
The former fourth-round pick out of Georgia in 2016 had a terrific year after finishing with 32 receptions for 401 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season, but his clutch performance down the stretch in the Super Bowl was instrumental during the team’s historic comeback against the Falcons.
Mitchell also finished that season fourth on the team in second-half receptions with 16 receptions and two touchdowns, even finishing ahead of both Chris Hogan (14 receptions, 1TD) and Danny Amendola (12 receptions, 1 TD).
But a knee injury suffered during last year’s preseason kept him out of action last year and he seemingly aggravated it again during the offseason, with the receiver reportedly still having continued to experience pain during camp.
As a result, the team opted to part ways and move on, which is disappointing. He joins former Patriot Aaron Dobson as another young receiver who saw his tenure cut short due to injury, although Mitchell’s is even more disappointing given how well he performed, especially in crunch time, in his first season.
The only constant here in New England is change and the Patriots are already moving on, with Eric Decker having joined the team last week. With Julian Edelman sidelined to begin the year, receiver remains one of the most interesting positions to watch and we’ll have to see who stands out when the team plays their first preseason game Thursday night against Washington.
Hogan Under Pressure – Speaking of the Redskins, one player who seems to be under the microscope there is third-string quarterback Kevin Hogan, who is a player that fans in Washington are hoping can prove himself by putting together some solid preseason performances.
One of the more interesting parts of these preseason games for the die-hard fans is seeing how some of the lower guys on the depth chart perform with their NFL lives on the line. We’ve certainly seen some interesting ones here in New England, going all the way back to the days of former quarterback Michael Bishop and scrappy receiver Sean Morey. Bishop didn’t pan out as a quarterback, but Morey eventually became a solid special teams performer in the league and it’s moments like those that cause teams to take notice.
For Hogan, he’s behind starter Alex Smith and back-up Colt McCoy and one area he’s spent quite a bit of time has been helping the younger receivers get comfortable in the offense. He knows that while he won’t necessarily become a starter, that shouldn’t stop any of those guys from getting that opportunity.
“We spend a lot of time together and I think that it goes to show the character of the guys in the QB room and the receivers room,” Hogan said via Redskins.com. “Those guys are always asking us questions, what they can do better and we’re giving them feedback. Everyone’s willing to learn and listen and I think that goes very well because we’re able to communicate, take coaching and apply it.”
Hogan joined Washington after being traded from Cleveland and is battling with McCoy for the backup position. He’ll get his first opportunity to show what he can do when his team visits Foxboro Thursday night.
Former Patriots QB Huard Speaks Fondly of Brady – Former Patriots QB Damon Huard has an honor that most fans may not be aware of, and that’s the fact that he was the first back up Brady ever had.
Huard, who joined Michael Bishop and Brady behind then quarterback Drew Bledsoe to begin the 2001 preseason, spoke to Boston.com’s Hayden Bird, who put together a terrific interview with the former quarterback.
Brady, who ultimately surpassed Huard into the back-up role ahead of both he and Bishop that preseason, left Huard with quite an impression. Huard said that Brady’s competitive nature was something that definitely stood out and he just loved his approach and enthusiasm.
“I just remember him being super, super competitive,” Huard said in the interview. “He loved to practice, loved to compete, and was a great dude. He had no ego, was a great listener, just a good friend. We just connected right away, made it real easy. But he was really competitive. He would get excited over completing a first down pass in 7-on-7. He just had that same enthusiasm you see from him today. He brought that in practice every day way back when. Really sharp guy.”
Huard recalled the meeting he had with Belichick where he learned that he would be the third-string guy that season, and he acknowledged that it certainly ended up being the right move as Brady surprised everyone as he went on to win five Super Bowls and is now a future Hall of Fame quarterback.
“I remember Bill bringing me in at the end of the preseason telling, ‘You had a good camp, but we’re going to make you the No. 3,” said Huard. “We just feel like Brady has a better feel for the offense right now.’ And he was right. Tom had been in it for a year, and he was really sharp.”
“I just look back on the moment and think if Bill hadn’t gotten it right and made him the No. 2, just think where he might be today?”
Odds and Ends: The news about Jerod Mayo’s dog is heart-breaking, with reports since coming out about his trainer being the one responsible for the dog’s death and then hiding the body of the animal inside his home. Mayo wrote on his Instagram account that the trainer hid the dog in a trash bag and lead his family “on a wild goose hunt and our kids on an emotional roller coaster.” Anyone who has owned a dog can only imagine how hard this must have been and our thoughts go out to Mayo and his family … rookie Braxton Berrios told Mark Farinella of the Sun Chronicle that he feels he’s improved so far, having not made the same mistake twice as he continues trying to improve and earn a roster spot. “Yeah, I think each day I’ve made corrections,” he said last week at training camp. “I looked at the film, saw my mistakes and made those corrections. I don’t think I’ve made the same mistake twice in back-to-back days at least. And, again, that’s the process of it. Just day to day, get one inch, one foot, one percent better.” … A fun quote from Kyle Van Noy revealed what the Patriots defense has planned for this season, with the linebacker telling Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald “We’re going to be sneaky quiet,” Van Noy said. “We’re going to be smooth violent.” Van Noy and the defense know they have a lot to prove after finishing 20th against the run and 30th against the pass last season … Duron Harmon echoed Van Noy’s sentiments and is confident they’ll be better this season. “We’re excited . . . we’re in a great place. We have a lot to play for. We’ve been coming out each day, bringing good energy, bringing confidence,” said Harmon. “I’ll tell you what, we have a good group of guys who are working their tails off right now. We want to be a good defense. We plan to be a good defense.” Let’s hope he’s right.
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