New England Patriots News 2-23, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 23, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-23 and AFC East notes this week. The NFL Scouting Combine 2020, is taking place this week. As always it should be interesting.

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, the Super Bowl, and the NFL:

Ben Affleck – The actor (and Tom Brady fan) from Boston had a funny clip while appearing on ESPN’s Get Up Tuesday, regarding Brady. Affleck said that he and fellow Boston fan Matt Damon texted Brady to ask if he’s coming back to the Patriots. 

“This is what we got back: an emoji,” he said, raising his arms to show his version of the shrug emoji. “So I have no information for you.” 

NFL Combine: This begins always with what is a favorite time of year for us when the young players coming out of college begin to get their first look from the fans and much of the media.
Tentative Combine workout schedule:

» Thursday, Feb 27: TE, QB, WR

» Friday, Feb 28: PK, ST, OL, RB

» Saturday, Feb 29: DL, LB

» Sunday, Mar 1: DB

NFL Combine 2: Nothing against the guys who are on the broadcast, it is a very tough job to be speaking about players non-stop for 4 days, and heaven knows they do a great job there. But personally, I miss Mike Mayock (now the Raiders GM). Mayock was phenomenal during the Combine and made it even more interesting with his keen eye.  

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, check it out. Last week we took another look at the team’s free agents and how we think it will play out.

Combine, Who Are the TE’s You Are Interested In? Lots of Options:

The Patriots really need to upgrade both the wide receiver and tight end position. The tight end position we have already looked at a bit two weeks ago breaking down how it looks right now (pretty barren), and how it could be addressed in free agency if the team is so inclined. Some of those players include Tyler Eifert, Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper, Eric Ebron, and perhaps a trade scenario involving O.J. Howard (however unlikely). 

Now with the Combine and the NFL Draft talk beginning to heat up, who might the team look at in Indy this week? A couple of the players we highlighted were Vanderbilt’s Jared Pinkney, LSU’s Thaddeus Moss, (son of Randy),  and Dayton’s Adam Trautman. But there are several others.

Included in there are Stephen Sullivan from LSU, who is a hybrid TE/WR with a lot of upside, Harrison Bryant from Florida Atlantic and the nation’s Mackey Award winner for the top TE in the country, and Sam McKeon from Michigan who is a better blocker than those listed above but isn’t quite the same threat in the passing game. He’ll be a mid-to-late round pick (Rounds 4-5).

Seven Teams Make the Playoffs? Not a Fan:

The NFL may be looking at some big changes in the playoff format as well as with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which expires at the end of the 2020 season. Negotiations between the owners and the Players’ Association are on-going but at first glance, it doesn’t look like the two sides are close to any agreement. 

Under the current owner’s proposal, the playoff field would be expanded to seven teams from each conference. In addition, only one team from each conference would receive a first-round bye.

The league is also wanting to switch to a 17-game regular season while eliminating one of the preseason games. This isn’t anything new, it has been something that the league has discussed for a few years now. Why? Because fans stay away from preseason games and it would be a bigger piece of cash for the owners.

There was nothing wrong with the playoff format as is, but this adds two Wild Card weekend games with teams that generally don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. There are the occasional 11-5 teams (New England and Denver come to mind) that didn’t get in, but by and large, the system worked without nearly half the teams making the postseason. If there was one issue that fans may have been wanting the league to look at, it is that some wild card teams with better records wind up playing road games against lesser division winners. That issue wasn’t addressed in the new proposal

A quick look at the past decade and which team would have been the biggest beneficiary to the new rule, the Pittsburgh Steelers who would have made the postseason four more times. Hmm, but Robert Kraft has the Commissioner in his pocket right? 

If the players vote to accept this, the new playoff format will begin in 2020, while the 17-game regular season will take a year to three to take effect. 

“Bill Can’t Draft” And Other Myths Every Spring:

Around this time of year, each and every spring we get the inevitable lament that Bill Belichick can’t draft and some media members will cherry-pick certain selections or trades to show how “awful” the team is at drafting. And yet, despite the early playoff exit this past season, the Patriots were in three of the four previous Super Bowls and a record eight conference championship games in a row. The past three Super Bowl winners were also heavily built through the draft, but it doesn’t matter. It is what it is.

Belichick is the first to admit that the draft is a crapshoot and no one knows if a highly touted college player will continue to develop in the pros. He’s had plenty of swings and misses, but two things that people forget (or ignore) is that the Patriots are always picking at the bottom of rounds. This year, they pick all the way up to #23. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. And the other thing is, that the draft is just a piece of team building, which no one does better than Belichick. Which is why they’ve been to eight of the last nine conference championships. 

This week I saw another thread on Twitter where the subject was how “Belichick blew the Brandin Cooks trade” and I had to chuckle at that one. Look if you’re going to cherry-pick the misses (and many do every spring), feel free, but this was one they nailed. The Patriots traded the #32 pick in the draft (for a Super Bowl win …again) to the Saints for Cooks. 

They then had Cooks for an entire season where he caught 65 passes for nearly 1100 yards and a career-high 16.6 yards per reception. They then traded Cooks to the Rams for the #23 pick in the draft. That is a win-win. But “yes caller #2, Bill dropped the ball on that one.” 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Going to Let Phillips Walk Away in Free Agency :

The Buffalo Bills are going to let free agent defensive tackle Jordan Phillips test free agency this spring according to John Wawrow of the Associated Press. He reported that while both sides “enjoyed his two seasons in Buffalo”, they don’t expect to stay together for a third.

“The thinking behind the decision is a question of how much Bills can spend because they have to focus on re-signing others,” added Wawrow.

Phillips was signed by the Bills off of waivers in 2018 and signed a one-year deal for the 2019 season. He played in all 16 games, and started in nine, registering  9.5 sacks along with 31 tackles. With that kind of production, he should have no problem finding the next suitor for his services. 

The cupboard will hardly be bare for the Bills, however. They have Ed Oliver waiting in the wings and he should step right in and become the lead 3-technique of the team for the next several years. Would the Patriots be interested in the 27-year old Phillips? If the money was right, he’d be a really nice addition to the defense, however, he’ll probably be priced out of the Patriots’ range. 

Dolphins Eying QB (Tua?) and Tackle in the 1st Round:

The Miami Dolphins have three 1st round draft picks in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. Miami picks at #5, #18, and #26 in the 1st round. It is an exciting time at South Beach. Most pundits expect Miami to take a quarterback with the #5 pick. Smart money is on Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa. But after that? Miami may start looking for a tackle to protect their next franchise QB.

NFL Draft authority,  Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller reported that, “Much time and space has been spent discussing the Miami Dolphins moving up from No. 5 overall to select quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, but there hasn’t been as much talk about the team’s second of three picks in Round 1. I’m told by many evaluators connected to the Dolphins that general manager Chris Grier will want to keep No. 18 overall to land an offensive tackle. Said one scout, “Don’t be surprised if they ultimately move up from 5 and 18 to get Tua and a tackle.””

The Dolphins have a lot of draft capital and have the ability to be movers and shakers in the draft. They also have the most available cap space in the league with over $89 million where they can sign a lot of players. Good times for B-Flo this spring.

Jets Sign Former 1st Round Pick WR Josh Doctson:

The New York Jets have signed former 1st round pick, veteran free agent WR Josh Doctson.

Doctson, who has good size at  6’2″, 205 was a first-round pick by the Redskins, #. 22 overall, during the 2016 draft after an impressive career at TCU. However, in three seasons with the Redskins, he played in just 33 games with 26 starts and caught 81 passes for 1,100 yards,  for an average of 13.6 yards/catch, and 8 touchdowns.

He was a final cut by Washington at the end of 2019 training camp and signed as a free agent with Minnesota  He was placed on IR with a hamstring injury right after signing with the Vikings but was released in November. He played in only one game with stats.

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“So, how was your week?”

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