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New England Patriots News 3-01, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
March 1, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

New England Patriots News 3-01, AFC East Notes(PHOTO: Steve Balestrieri -

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Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-01 and AFC East notes this week. 

Has everyone been watching the Scouting Combine this week? Any surprises that stood out?

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, the Scouting Combine, and the NFL:

Xavier McKinney – The outstanding safety for Alabama, played for Bill Belichick’s close friend Nick Saban and the two share a similar outlook on many things. But that still didn’t stop the young man from feeling a bit out of sorts after meeting with the Patriots.

“That was one of the harder meetings that I had,” McKinney said. It was a little tough, a little awkward. Just toward the end, I wasn’t sure if they enjoyed the meeting or if I did well,” he said. “You kind of walk out of these meetings, kind of uncertain sometimes. But I think that’s just how it goes. You just try to do the best you can.”

Jared Pinkney – The stud TE from Vanderbilt was also taken back a bit, when in a meeting with the Patriots, they accused him of having a “loser’s mentality.” OOOPS.

“I gave a kind of wonky answer, and it was like, ‘No, that’s a loser’s mentality.’ And I was like, ‘OK, my bad.’ (raises hands) They were like, ‘You need to be like this and that and that,’ and I was like, ‘Yes, sir. I’m better.”

Combine Tight Ends –  As most people have Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet as the top tight end in this year’s class, he was impressive with his straight-line speed, but he struggled with his agility, something his tape showed. Adam Trautman of Dayton is my personal favorite of the class and while his straight-line speed was a tad slower, he blew away the competition in the 3-Cone Drill with a very impressive time of 6.78. And we know how the Bill Belichick and the Patriots like the 3-Cone. And his sled drill, was reported to be outstanding, but I didn’t see that.

Marcus Mariota – has reported that “with all the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady, the New England Patriots are showing interest in soon to be free-agent quarterback Marcus Mariota. The former first-round pick is being courted by several teams who may have an open competition at quarterback. I’m told the Indianapolis Colts have also shown interest in Mariota – just in case.”

What exactly is “showing interest”? Anyone’s guess, but if TB12 wasn’t to return, I’d want either Stidham or another young QB…just my dos centavos.

Denzel Mims – While the football world (and many NE fans) went gaga over the 40-time of Henry Ruggs, (who wouldn’t?), the chances of the team snagging Ruggs is pretty remote. I think he’ll be long gone by the time the Patriots were to pick at #23. 

Doug Kyed from NESN, however, highlighted a very intriguing WR, Mims from Baylor who checks all of the blocks the Patriots usually look for in a WR. Said Kyed, “At 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, Mims ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash with a 38.5-inch vertical leap, 10-feet, 11-inch broad jump, 4.43-second short shuttle and — most importantly — a 6.66-second three-cone drill. Mims isn’t just an athletic anomaly either. He caught 66 passes for 1,020 yards with 12 touchdowns in 2019 with the Bears. Mims finished his three-year college career with 182 catches for 2,901 yards and 28 touchdowns.”

Oh, and BTW in case you missed it, Mims ran a 6.66 time in the 3-Cone Drill tops in the group on Thursday night, we’ll see what the Patriots think of him down the road.

Media Eating Their Own – Was it just me or did all of this Tom Brady hysteria turn into the beat writers just attacking each other. Things got a little bit on the ugly side this week. Time for everyone to step back. 

Combine Interviews – We usually hear about most of the interviews that the Patriots conduct during the Scouting Combine. And hearing that they are meeting with Player A or B, usually gets the interest piqued. However, did you know… that over the last five years, the Patriots have only drafted two out of the 154 players they met with at the combine? This great bit was written to Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal. The two players? Sony Michel and Tre’ Jackson.

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, check it out. We are hoping to get our third amigo, co-host Russ Goldman back in the fold soon, as his schedule may allow him the time to rejoin the show. Coming into our ninth year together, he’s definitely been missed. 

Mohamed Sanu Needs Ankle Surgery:

The Patriots were expecting big things from Mohamed Sanu when they traded a 2nd round draft pick to the Atlanta Falcons for him last season. Initially, things definitely seemed to be tracking that way. In the blowout loss to the Ravens, Sanu, in just his second game in a Patriots uniform caught 10 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.

Then the following week, while trying to make an Eagles defender miss on a punt return, he twisted awkwardly while going to the ground as he was being tackled. He missed the monsoon game against the Dallas Cowboys, but when he returned from that high ankle sprain, he hardly resembled the same player.

Sanu struggled badly down the stretch, now we know the reason why. We don’t know the timetable for his surgery and rehab, but this will be a very important off-season for Sanu, who is due to make $6.5 million dollars this season. 

Still Hunting For a Smoking Gun? NFL Wrapping Up NE/Cin Fiasco:

The NFL may finally be wrapping up their investigation of the Patriots taping issue at Cincinnati. The league has been at this for three months, think about that for a second…and Pro Football Talk reported several weeks ago that the league was “frustrated” by their lack of ability to link the film crew with football operations. 

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reported from the Combine that, “Last week, NFL Security completed what was believed to be the final interview with a Patriots employee. Now the security officials must write up their report, then hand it up the chain of command, where it will eventually land on the desk of commissioner Roger Goodell, who will approve of a final course of action. There is still no precise timetable for a release of the findings, but it is drawing close. The NFL declined to comment on the investigation.”

Volin speculated that the Patriots could be in-line for a fine of up to $500,000 and a mid-to-late round draft pick. But don’t be too sure. They suspended Tom Brady for a quarter of the season for playing in cold weather. 

Patriots Exploring a Deal for Hayden Hurst With Ravens? A Possibility:

The Patriots have a need at tight end, where the production was woeful in 2019. However, according to the Florida Times-Union’s Eugene Frenette, the Patriots are kicking the tires for a pre-draft trade for Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst. 

Of course, it all depends on the compensation; and the Patriots aren’t alone, Jacksonville is supposedly also interested in Hurst as well. Hurst was a 1st round pick in 2018 out of South Carolina, but he’s been stuck behind Mark Andrews on the Ravens depth chart. He caught 30 passes for 349 yards last season. 

The Patriots have a glaring need at tight end, as they never truly addressed the loss of Rob Gronkowski and blocker Dwayne Allen a year ago. They brought in Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse but neither was able to produce. Ryan Izzo was supposed to check the block on the running game blocking but he was hurt and then a healthy scratch for much of the season. 

The big questions are, would Baltimore trade Hurst to New England and what would it cost them in compensation? 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Draft Will Determine Where Cody Ford Plays on Bills OL:

The Buffalo Bills are going to wait and see where they stand after the draft to determine where versatile OL Cody Ford is playing this season. Head coach Sean McDermott spoke to the media at the Combine this week and was asked if there is a possibility of Ford playing either guard or tackle this season, depending on how the Bills draft. 

 “Absolutely”, he said. “Cody’s position flexibility was very apparent year one. There was a learning curve there as well just adjusting to the NFL, but being able to play two positions throughout preseason and also in the season at times I thought really spoke for who Cody is and his versatility. And now, you know, we’ll see how things fall into place through this process with both free agency and the draft and then we will go from there.”

“I don’t want to say he’s going to be this position or that position because of the flexibility. You know, we’re going to put it together like we do every season and the great part about it whether it’s Cody or Jon [Feliciano], Ty [Nsekhe], they’ve got some flexibility with not only playing right or left side but also guard or tackle. Some guys are guard and center flex like [Ryan] Bates was flex last year and you look at what Spencer [Long] was able to do. I think that’s all good for us.”

Asked if the Bills have a preference, McDermott said, “Well I think we have a feel for where he is best but at the same time he has a history of playing both, really. So we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves,” McDermott said. “It wouldn’t be smart strategically to do that right now with where we are, with where Cody is in his development. It wouldn’t be a smart move for us as an organization right now to say ‘well he’s just this’ because he’s a lot more than that potentially.”

Dolphins Playing Coy With Tua or Not Interested?

The Miami Dolphins left Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa wondering whether the team is the right fit for him after they treated him a bit coldly in their meeting. Tagovailoa said, they didn’t give any indication that he was their guy or that they were remotely interested in bringing him on board. 

However, it could be just a way for Miami to see how the players react to that, or to throw other teams off what their true intentions are. The Sun-Sentinel reported:

Dolphins coach Brian Flores is spearheading a stealthy operation with regards to the franchise’s thoughts and movements throughout the upcoming draft and free agency, and does not want the result of Miami’s meetings to divulge any of the team’s intentions.

Also, Flores has also been known to create adversity in a variety of ways to see how players respond in an effort to gauge their character and mental toughness, which could have been a tactic he used to test Tagovailoa during their first meeting together.

This just could be a smoke screen, but for Miami fans who much of last season were chanting “Tank for Tua”, this news has to be a bit disconcerting.

Jets Need to Hit on a WR in the Draft:

The Patriots aren’t the only ones who need help at WR. The New York Jets already had a middling passing attack and with Quincy Enunwa’s future questionable over a neck injury and Robby Anderson hitting free agency, the Jets need help at wide receiver in a big way. They have a very good slot WR in Jamison Crowder but Josh Doctson, a free agent they signed last week, is a depth guy, not a difference maker.

Amari Cooper is a possibility in free agency, but he may end up staying in Dallas. So, they need to hit on one at the draft. And they’ll be in a great position to nail one of the top WRs with Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, or CeeDee Lamb all slated to be available when the Jets pick. 

Sam Darnold would love having one of those three being available when the Jets’ number in called in the draft. 


“So, how was your week?”

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at, as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Miami Dolphins Mohamed Sanu New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady

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