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New England Patriots News 7-26, RB Primer For Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
3 years ago at 5:00 am ET

New England Patriots News 7-26, RB Primer For Training CampThomas B. Shea - USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-26 and AFC East notes this week. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL:

Training Camp Rosters Set at 80: That news was “released” this week, but if you’ve been a frequent reader of our Sunday column, you’d remember that we reported that two weeks ago. Now there is a way around that number (more below), but if the team decides to keep it at 80 some decisions have to be made.

Jamal Adams Trade: The Jets got themselves quite a coup by packaging Adams and a fourth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for safety Bradley McDougald, a first-round pick as well as a third-round draft pick in 2021, and another first-round draft pick in 2022. The Jets rid themselves of a massive, but very talented headache and got a lot of draft capital in return.

Seattle inherited a disaster-in-waiting of their own design. Adams has been a very talented player, but one who is as outspoken as he is talented. There was no long-term deal in place with Adams at the time of the trade reported ESPN’s, Dan Graziano. The Seahawks felt comfortable to wait until next offseason to extend his contract, They’ll regret that move. Given what they gave up to land Adams, he will not sign unless he’s one of the top-paid players (not safeties) in football. Now he’s going to feel even more entitled.

Chalk this one up as a very good move for the Jets. They will definitely miss him on the field this year, but two firsts, a third, and a player for him is good business.

Washington “Football” Team: There is an original name, however, as the free-falling franchise struggles to come up with a new team name, which is reported to be happening in the next 50 days, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, they’ll go with bland no-name moniker for the time being. 

The team’s color scheme will remain intact with the burgundy and gold. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson suggested the team nickname themselves the “Ballers” after his television show. 

Tyreek Hill ‘in your head’: With the statement by Chiefs WR Hill on ESPN’s “First Take” show Thursday about his team creating a dynasty is one thing. But his statement showed that New England is firmly in his head. 

Hill said the Chiefs are chasing Michael Jordan, and that they should go for seven rings to eclipse the six NBA titles that MJ won with the Chicago Bulls. He apparently (conveniently?), forgot that the Patriots and Tom Brady had six Super Bowl championships in his own sport. It was a troll job on NE. And the Steelers faithful may have something to say about that as well. 

But as Brady goes for #7 (with TB), he perfectly trolled the troller. With tongue-in-cheek sarcasm, Brady responded on Twitter “Totally agree @cheetah. Why not go 7 rings…”

Well played Tom… Hill, is a piece of work.

Patriots Salary Cap: Here is your Public Service Announcement (PSA) for the week/season. When it comes to the Patriots salary cap and trying to make sense of all of the nuances of it, there is Miguel (@PatsCap) and there is everyone else. Any questions about it are usually right on his timeline. And one of the great guys out there too. 

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. We recorded a video podcast last week about the QB position and how we see different scenarios playing out.  Please give it a listen. 

Russ Francis/ Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Training Camp Primer – Running Backs:

With a rash of injuries at fullback and along the offensive line in 2019, the Patriots running backs didn’t produce the way they were expected to nor the team was hoping for. But they’ve added some veteran help at fullback and the offensive line, on paper, seems healthy and ready to go. This is one of the two strongest positional groups of the team entering the 2020 NFL season. 

Current Roster: 

Sony Michel
Rex Burkhead
James White
Damien Harris
Brandon Bolden
Danny Vitale
Jakob Johnson
J.J. Taylor

Projected 53-man Roster:

Sony Michel
James White
Damien Harris
Rex Burkhead
Brandon Bolden
Danny Vitale

The same core backfield returns, although Michel had offseason surgery and may not be ready for the start of camp. But this group is very deep and has the talent to be a force for the team in 2020. And if Cam Newton is indeed the starter, it should make them even better as he’ll take a lot of onus off of them in the running game.

The loss of James Develin to a neck injury that ultimately ended his career was a big, big loss both last year and moving forward. Jakob Johnson played well all through camp and into the beginning of the season before he too went down with a season-ending injury. However, the team signed Danny Vitale who should be able to step right in and contribute right away. He’s a really solid veteran and should fit right in. 

The first three players (Michel, White, and Harris) are all locks, and Burkhead, Vitale, and Bolden are all close being locked in. Vitale will compete with Johnson for the starting FB spot, but Johnson has an automatic roster exemption for being an NFL Europe player. Bolden is invaluable in the kicking game and the team saw the folly of their ways when they tried to sneak him onto the roster and he spent a year in Miami. 

The biggest questions surrounding Michel are, can he bounce back to his form from his rookie season? And will he be ready to go once camp begins? With a healthy offensive line in front of him and having two FBs back on the roster are good signs.

But even if he is, Michel should be pushed this season by Damien Harris, the 2nd year back from Alabama. Like Burkhead, Harris is a good back with the ball in his hands in both the running and passing games. He’s got good vision, hits the hole well, and runs with his pad level low. He’s got soft hands in the passing game and pass protects well. But like many RBs in the Patriots system, he had kind of a red-shirt rookie season. He didn’t make inroads in the kicking game, however, to supplant Burkhead on the game-day roster.

Burkhead and Harris are the most versatile backs in the regard that they can be productive runners or receivers. Michel is the workhorse running back and White is invaluable as the third-down receiving back. 

With these players all nearly locked in, it will be hard for Taylor to make the roster. He’s diminutive in size but electric with the ball in his hands. But he could force his way on the roster if he shows up in the kicking return game. 

This should be an exciting group to watch in 2020, I still believe Harris will push Michel for starting reps this summer. What he does with them is anyone’s guess, but if there are questions about his value…watch his tape at Alabama. 

Training Camp Roster Set at 80 (or is it?) PS Numbers Increased:

The Patriots training camp is set to open on July 28, and after an agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association things will change. Rosters, usually start with 90 personnel have been cut to 80 and all preseason games are canceled.

Training camps will now consist of a 20-day ramp-up period with the objective of minimizing injuries. The first eight days will consist of strength and conditioning training only following required coronavirus testing and physicals. 

Non-contact practices will begin on the 16th day of camp. The first padded practices will begin on day 21 (August 16).

An all-too-familiar scene in training camp. Edelman with a nice grab. (SBalestrieri photo)

Although the rules allow only 80 men in training camp per team, teams can, however, get around that 80 man limit to retain 90 if they hold a split-squad setup during camp; ESPN has reported, that some teams already have plans to divide the rosters and use both stadium and practice facilities for camp. 

For the Patriots, who conduct training camp at the team facilities at Gillette Stadium, that could mean some or up to half of the 90-man roster using the visiting team facilities while using the stadium surface or the lower practice fields while the other half uses the traditional upper practice fields for training camp.

This is under the assumption that the team will opt to keep 90 players for camp, which is unknown at this time (Friday evening). Otherwise, they’d have to cut 10 players before Aug. 16, when padded practices are slated to begin.

The agreement with the league and players association has also expanded each team’s practice squad for the 2020 regular season to 16 players, four of which can be protected from other teams on a weekly basis. The NFL had already increased the practice squad roster from 10 to 12 players as part of the initial new CBA, but they have added an additional four players per team. That is expected to give clubs added roster insurance in the event of active-roster members testing positive for COVID-19 during the season.

And… as per @Patscap, our friend on Twitter, a team can promote a player from the practice squad to the active roster twice without that player going through the waiver process. Source – Article 33. Section 5.

Salary Cap Changing in 2021…Thanks to COVID-19: 

The salary cap for the 2021 NFL season is changing too, thanks to the coronavirus. As part of the agreement between the league and the players association, the 2021 salary cap floor will be set at a minimum of $175 million, up from the initial $165 million. That would be the starting point if NFL revenues are as far below projections as some are predicting. 

Many analysts believe that the league could see a flat cap situation and remain at $198 million for 2021 if revenues increase. It is a very fluid situation. However, if the cap were to remain at $175 million, it would adversely affect every team. That means a much conservative approach to free agency and not much of the annual feeding frenzy that we’re used to seeing. 

But the Patriots, who were scheduled to have nearly $100 million in cap space, would be in a much better position than other teams such as the Saints (over by $34 million), the Eagles (over by $54 million), and the Chiefs (over by $25.7 million).  

Speaking with Miguel aka @PatsCap on Saturday, his projection is that the salary cap in 2021 will remain at $175 million. That would still give the Patriots between $45-50 million in cap space but with a lot of unrestricted free agents next year. Bill Belichick has always done a masterful job of managing the cap. They should be in terrific shape next spring financially, and that may send up some alarm signals around the league. 

Ron Rivera Is Confident Cam Newton Will Turn It Around:

The Patriots’ new QB certainly is known by his former head coach Ron Rivera, who is now the head coach of the Washington football team…And Rivera believes Newton is in a great spot to succeed in New England. 

As a guest on the Dan Patrick Show, ‘Riverboat Ron’ said, Newton, is in a great place to succeed. 

“I was excited,” Rivera said to Patrick. “I really was, because I thought all along that there were a couple of teams that would have been really good for him, and I always felt the Patriots were one of them. When Tom Brady went to Tampa Bay, I thought, ‘You know what? That might not be a bad spot for him,’ because of the style of offense, because of the things they ask the quarterback to do.”

“The one thing I’ve always said is don’t bet against Cam, especially when he has something to prove,” Rivera added. “Coming off the 2014 season – even though we got into the playoffs in 2014 – he didn’t play his best. In 2015, he played unbelievably. In 2016, he had an off-year. He was hurt. He came back in 2017 and had just a great year that got us into the playoffs. And then ‘18 and ‘19, he was hurt. So, I think he has something to prove. I think he’s going to prove something.”

“Coach Belichick and what they want to do offensively – I think that’s going to suit him,” Rivera said. “And plus, I think Josh McDaniels is creative enough to use Cam’s skillset to the best of his abilities. I’ll watch them. I’ll be excited about watching them.”

If there is one question that I’d love to ask Rivera on his take with Newton is that, why didn’t Washington sign him or even attempt to? Washington instead went after Newton’s backup in Carolina, Kyle Allen. Things that make you go hmm.


“The Bears traded a fourth-round pick for Nick Foles. The Raiders made Marcus Mariota the highest-paid new backup at any position. Bill Belichick? He signed Cam Newton for $550,000 guaranteed on June 28. The move was the latest in a long-running trend. As the rest of the league ties itself up into knots trying to catch up with the Patriots, Belichick makes staying on top look easy.”

“Belichick is not perfect, especially as a general manager. His roster failings are often wielded against him as a weapon as if he is supposed to bat 1.000. A GM who does not make frequent, annual mistakes is a GM who does not exist. It is how you work around them that bakes the cake.”

“Belichick never focuses on what he doesn’t have. He takes his best shot at putting together a 53-man roster then molds and manipulates it as needed. It’s never flawless, but there are no excuses. Only Bill.”

Rotoworld’s Patrick Daugherty who voted Bill Belichick his top GM for the 7th season in a row. All of the “GM Bill is hurting Coach Bill” dolts need to read this… But we digress


“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 Stitcher as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Posted Under: 2020 Patriots 53-man Roster Projection
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Brandon Bolden Damien Harris Danny Vitale J.J. Taylor Jakob Johnson James White Julian Edelman New England Patriots NFL Patriots Rex Burkhead Sony Michel Tom Brady

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