New England Patriots News 7-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 28, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-28 and AFC East notes this week. 

Training Camp is back and the Patriots begin their quest for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady – got a maintenance day off on Day 2 of training camp which set tongues to wagging…However, Brady was on the field and lending a hand with the QB which lent itself to Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham getting more work. Stidham has a long, long way to go, but looks pretty good so far. (more to that below)

Rodney Harrison – was trying on his red Patriots Hall of Fame jacket and spoke with the media after practice on Thursday and pooh-poohed the idea that Colts could push the Patriots in the AFC this year. 

“Everyone’s talking about the Colts,” Harrison said. “You think I’m taking Andrew Luck over Tom Brady? You think I’m taking that young, inexperienced team that went into Kansas City and got their butts kicked? No. The Patriots went up there and did their thing.

“I’m taking the veteran-laced team with the best quarterback — I don’t care what they say on TV — with the best general manager and head coach in Coach Bill Belichick. There’s no reason (they can’t win). The only thing that can stop them is complacency.”

J.J.Dielman – Was signed by the Patriots and was at practice on Friday, there was an open roster spot after Chris Schwenke abruptly retired just before training camp began. Dielman was originally a 5th round draft pick of the Bengals and spent time on their practice squad. He also spent time with the Rams and Denver, but has never appeared in an NFL game. He played right tackle and center in college.

Deatrich Wise – was on the PUP for all of one day and was removed from it and back to work on Friday. That is good news for the defense who hasn’t had Michael Bennett who was excused for the first few days at camp for personal reasons.

Player/Coaching Turnover? Not a Problem For Belichick:

With the Patriots roster, like all 32 teams, one expects that because of free agency, trades, retirement, etc. that the roster will have a healthy amount of turnover from year to year. But unless a team is making wholesale changes or hiring an entirely new staff, one doesn’t expect a large turnover in the coaching staff. But the Patriots lost a large amount of their staff this spring.

De facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores was hired by the Miami Dolphins as their new head coach and he brought a large amount of the staff with him. Is the sky falling? Panic in the streets? Maybe on sports radio where they treat every bump in the road as the iceberg heading toward the Titanic, but if you’ve been to the Patriots training camp thus far, you won’t see any difference. And that is classic Bill Belichick. 

Belichick has seen it all in his career and starting his 45 training camp. Bill puts his stamp on everything, and he ensures that nothing is different. Belichick says every spring that turnover is unavoidable but the fact that the Patriots’ practices on Day 1 of 2019 look exactly the same as they did in 2003. 

Looking at the first practice of the year on Thursday, it was as if this staff had been doing this for years. Just another one of those things that Belichick does that goes under the radar but is so, so important. 

Stidham Making Strides at QB In the Patriots System:

With training camp underway, rookie QB Jarrett Stidham has firmly entrenched himself as the #3 QB. Danny Etling has been moved to WR. What that means from the Auburn rookie is that he’ll get more reps in training camp moving forward. On Friday, the Patriots gave Tom Brady a maintenance day which allowed both Stidham and Brian Hoyer to get a lot more work in. 

Being a rookie and having to learn a new offense is a daunting task. On Thursday’s session, he had some rough moments. He struggled to make his reads in a timely fashion and frequently held the ball too long, something that rookie QBs are apt to do. Friday, however, was a different story. 

Stidham struggled a bit early, but finished strong, completing his final five passes in red-zone work and tossed three touchdowns to three different receivers, fellow rookie WR Jakobi Meyers, RB James White, and WR Phillip Dorsett. These are the small building blocks that rookie QBs have to learn from as they try to digest the offense.

Hoyer is well versed in this, having been a rookie here in 2009. “I’ve been in that position, especially in this system,” Hoyer said. “We ask a lot of the quarterback and there’s a lot on your plate. You just try to take as much as you can, digest it and keep on moving forward.”

“It’s a day-by-day thing,” Hoyer said. “You just try to focus on what you can control, focus on what’s going in that day and just keep stacking it on top of each other. The one thing is — you move on. What we did today, we probably won’t do half the plays we did today tomorrow. You just gotta cook, put them in that memory bank and someday we’re gonna come back to it and you’ve just got to be able to pick up where you left off.”

Stidham will struggle more, it is part of the learning process but these small steps are part of the journey. The good thing is, no one is expecting anything out of him in 2019. This is an extended red-shirt season where the team wants him to learn as much as possible about being able to run the offense. And having Brady and Josh McDaniels there in the room, as well as Hoyer is not the worst place for him to be. 

Bentley Poised to Return To a Meaningful Role in 2019:

Training camp is underway and the 2nd year linebacker is back after suffering a torn biceps during Week 3 of last season. Bentley had an outstanding summer in 2018 and earned himself not just a roster spot but starting reps. He played very well but his season was cut short after getting hurt in Detroit. 

On Thursday, Bentley spoke with the media after the opening day of training camp practice and he’s ready to pick right up where he left off. He spoke about trying to soak up and learn as much as possible during his injury. 

Ja’Whaun Bentley after Day of training camp. (SBalestrieri)

“I feel like one of the big ways of learning is observing, whether it’s watching film or watching how guys do things,” Bentley said. “I’m really blessed to have a lot of guys who’ve been playing for many years to learn from those guys… soaking things up, learning different techniques. It’s just good to have the kind of guys we have on this team.

“So you just find a new role on the team, whether it’s being a good observer — just being ready, period, no matter what the situation may be. You’ve just got to roll with the punches.”

Even with Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins on the roster, You can expect Bentley to have a sizable role this year in the defense. His fellow LBs believe that his upside is huge and has a rosy future. Van Noy was on NFL.com and raving about his potential. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Begin Camp, Getting All the New Offensive Pieces to Mesh: 

When the Buffalo Bills began training camp, they had a lot of new faces on offense. And in the first few days of camp, they were working on getting those players all on the same page. QB Josh Allen has a lot of new players to utilize and building trust and chemistry on the field is a process for everyone.

It was obvious in the first few days (as we’ve been reporting) that the Bills are planning of using Cole Beasley a lot in their offense. He and Allen are putting the time in trying to get their timing down. After practice on Friday, Beasley spoke with the media and said it shouldn’t take very long. “It won’t take us too long,” Beasley said. “I’d say give us about a week, man.”

Head coach Sean McDermott had a interesting observation about the Bills WR corps which isn’t the biggest in the league and he equated them with Smurfs. “I would say with all of our wide receivers, they’re kind of like Smurfs. If you ever watched the Smurfs, they live in like a small village so they can separate in small spaces,” he said.

Fitzpatrick Getting Early Reps as #1 QB at Dolphins TC:

The Miami Dolphins began training camp and thus far Ryan Fitzpatrick is getting the most reps as the starting QB. Josh Rosen and Jake Rudock are evenly split with #2 and #3 reps. Fitzpatrick’s experience is a big factor as he’s acclimated to the offense faster. But this will bear watching as the camp wears on and the preseason games begin.

The wide receiver position got a shot in the arm with the addition of Allen Hurns on Friday. This group is already deep and thus far, the group is working well together as well as with their quarterback group. Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, and Jakeem Grant have seamlessly learned the new offense and once Albert Wilson is fully back from offseason surgery as well as adding Hurns, this should be a very good group.

True to form, Brian Flores’ defense will be multiple just like he ran with the Patriots. The Dolphins are asking several players, including Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and T.J. McDonald to play varied roles. And training camp is the time where the coaches see what they do best and put them in positions to succeed. Then they’ll have to find ways to get them all on the field at the same time. 

Jets Quinnen Williams Signs Contract and Misses Just 1 Practice:

The New York Jets signed top draft pick Quinnen Williams who missed only one day of training camp as his agent and the Jets worked out some details of his contract. And now he’s in the fold and itching to get to work.

“It was a huge relief just to be back with my brothers, be back with my team, be back in New York, New Jersey,” Williams said, just after he signed his contract. “It’s just an amazing feeling to get everything done and get everything situated so I can focus on football and ball out with my team. It’s just a blessing, an amazing feeling, to be out here and be able to sweat and grind with your brothers again.”

Williams, widely considered the best overall player in the draft this spring was on-hand on Friday and passed his conditioning run, but head coach Adam Gase is planning on easing him into camp and that was the extent of his participation on Friday. Williams first practice was the full-pads practice on Saturday.

The Jets plan on moving the 300-pounder both inside and outside to present matchup problems for the opponent.  “He’s in the backfield a lot. He’s a good player,” Gase said. “[His intelligence] just helps him. That helps get another extra step outside of his athletic ability. You look at the guys that have a lot of success like Aaron Donald – he’s smart and he’s a freak athletically. If you put those two things together, it makes it tough to stop.”

________________

“I think that we’ll continue to try to look at ourselves in the mirror and see where we can do a better job, maybe where we can improve the process. But I think the fundamentals of the process will remain the same.” Bill Belichick

“So, how was your week?”

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

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