Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-30 and AFC East notes this week.
The Patriots are, believe it or not, only two weeks away from the season-opening game against the Miami Dolphins.
They held a simulated game situation inside of Gillette Stadium on Friday and welcomed Sony Michel off of PUP. The players were off on Saturday but there remains much to be done before the opener. And we’ll look at some of those issues but first…
Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL:
Roster Wide Receiver Movement: The Patriots released UDFA WR Will Hastings on Friday and signed UDFA WR Andre Baccellia from Washington. He was signed as a UDFA by the KC Chiefs but was released a few weeks ago. He worked out for the Patriots earlier and now joins the team with just two weeks to go before the start of the 2020 regular season.
Baccellia possesses blazing speed, (4:28 in the 40) but it didn’t translate into big production (29 catches, 314 yards, 4 TDs) for the Huskies last year. At this late juncture, he’ll have a tough time making the 53-man roster, but if he shows enough promise, he could find himself on the extended practice squad. He’s not big (5’10, 179) but he has the wheels to be intriguing with the ball in his hands.
Nick Folk Back, But Kicking Competition Open: The Patriots brought back kicker Nick Folk after it was learned that rookie Justin Rohrwasser has been injured, but that may be an emergency option just in case. Rohrwasser has been inconsistent in camp…when he’s been out there. However, to all the people jumping on the Folk bandwagon, it may be a bit premature. I remember a young rookie kicker struggle in camp years ago…Adam Vinatieri. So, I wouldn’t write the kid off just yet… and I wasn’t a fan of his being drafted.
Joejuan Williams Moving to Safety? A Possibility: NFL Network’s Mike Giardi reported late this week that 2nd-year cornerback Joejuan Williams was attending meetings with the safeties this week as well as working with them during individual drills this week.
Williams is a big corner at 6’3, 212 and we’ve frequently commented that he could be used as a matchup against big WRs or TEs. With a very deep group of corners on the team, being versatile, a Bill Belichick mantra, is one way of getting on the field.
It certainly isn’t above the realm of possibility to see Williams covering some of the big tight ends that the team will face in 2020 (KC’s Travis Kelce etc) and he’s had a good summer thus far. He’s a talented kid and this might be all he needs to get on the field and show what he can do.
4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. We recorded a podcast recently with our great supporter and die-hard Patriots fan @clazzyclare from the UK. She’s an aspiring novelist and always tunes in the 4th & 2, Patriots Unfiltered, and One Patriots Place podcasts. Check it out.
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.
Welker doesn’t get enough credit for how good he really was during his time as a Patriot.
An Appreciation For Wes Welker:
The former Patriot wide receiver has gotten a bit of a raw deal since leaving the Patriots in 2013. Many fans and others have forgotten just how good Welker was and how productive he was during his tenure here.
Of course, having been ably replaced by Julian Edelman may have had a bearing on that. Even Josh McDaniels, the Patriots offensive coordinator chimed in this past week stating that Edelman, “is a different player”, and not just a slot receiver.
But when comparing the two, most people like to remember, perhaps unfairly, two plays. The one that Edelman made in the Super Bowl, and the one that Welker did not. And perhaps the place where Welker went after he left may have something to do with the animosity that some fans feel.
Edelman’s catch against the Falcons was one of the great catches in Super Bowl history. That was in the midst of the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. Welker dropped a pass that wasn’t perfectly thrown by any stretch of the imagination but it was a catch that he had made in the past. That dropped pass may have sealed a Super Bowl win against the Giants. Instead, they came back late and won.
But Welker shouldn’t be judged from that one play from his time here. He was incredibly productive and logged five (5) 100+ catch seasons in his six years in a Patriots uniform. In his six seasons with the Patriots, he logged 672 catches for 7459 yards (11.1 yds per reception) and 37 TDs. He caught a pass in an amazing 93 games in a row. He led the NFL in receptions three times, was a five-time Pro Bowl selection, and made All-Pro four times.
He more often than not was Tom Brady’s safety valve when he had to get rid of the ball quickly. On a Monday night in Miami, Tom Brady was backed up at the one-half yard line. Miami came with a blitz, rushing six and Brady hit Welker streaking down the left sideline for a 99-yard touchdown.
In the two Super Bowls that he appeared in with the Patriots, he made 18 catches for 163 yards. So, let’s not pull a Red Sox move and continue to throw shade on what was a fantastic Patriots career.
Newton Seems to Be Ahead, But the QB Competition Isn’t Over Yet, BB:
When the injury to Jarrett Stidham occurred it was a given that the Patriots QB competition was over and Cam Newton would be the starting QB when the Patriots take the field against Miami, two weeks from today in Gillette Stadium.
Head coach Bill Belichick had spoken very highly of Newton’s work ethic and the time he had been putting in trying to learn the Patriots system. He’s made great strides in learning the intricate Patriots offense and already looks more comfortable out there and appears to be on the same page with the players on the roster as well. But the most overriding factor we heard about Newton was “the energy” he brings to the team on the field. To a man, the players all love the positive vibe that Newton is bringing to the field.
However, Belichick also said that he wasn’t ready to name Newton the starter just yet. Belichick told Rich Eisen that it “was still a very competitive camp” still going on.
“I have learned a lot about Cam,” he said. “I had never really had much interaction with Cam, and then when we signed him, we had some phone calls and WebEx meetings and stuff like that. Being with him every day, he’s an extremely hard-working player. ‘First guy in, the last one out’ type of guy. He’s really studied hard and he has spent a lot of extra time trying to learn our offense and our communication and our calls, nomenclature, and so forth. I have been very impressed with that. He’s done a good job of picking it up. He’s a very skilled athlete and we’re just working through it day-by-day.”
But then Belichick added the caveat. “We have a long way to go, but we’re taking steps and we have a very competitive competition at a very competitive position at the quarterback spot. It’ll be interesting to see how everybody does.”
This could be nothing more than a BB smokescreen making Brian Flores prepare for two different QBs, but in truth, as much as he’s made great strides in learning the offense and appears to be in excellent health, he still hasn’t played great yet in camp, none of the QBs have… so stay tuned.
Former LB Jerod Mayo now faces the challenge as a coach to help some newcomers hopefully solidify the position.
Linebackers, Younger, More Athletic, Possibly More Aggressive:
We have been harping on the opposite of what Bill Belichick normally does, we’ve been talking about who isn’t here (Hightower, Van Noy, Collins, and Roberts) rather than who IS here, which is exactly what Belichick always does.
While the fact remains that this group is going to look very different this season and may experience some growing pains, the Patriots got much younger and athletic at the position. The two veterans with the most time in the Patriots system, Ja’Whaun Bentley and John Simon, will be counted upon heavily to help the transition of the newer guys.
Linebacker coaches Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick have a lot of intriguing young players to tinker with. Shalique Calhoun is getting a lot of work in the camp, 2nd-year player Chase Winovich is going to be leaned on to provide a lot of valuable production.
Veteran Brandon Copeland who came over from the Jets said this week that he’s finally beginning to feel what his role will be on the defense (ILB?), while rookies Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, and Cassh (me outside) Maluia give the team some young talent that is athletic and already contributing valuable reps.
One factor that can slow down younger players is having to think too much while learning the system. Dont’a Hightower spoke about that at training camp a couple of years ago. One way around that would be to simplify the system a bit with the younger players and that may entail being a little bit more aggressive and letting these younger guys pin their ears back and use that athleticism to attack the offense.
It will be interesting to see how they approach the Dolphins in this regard in two weeks.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Ban Reporter for Violating the Team’s Media Policy :
The NFL teams this summer are really getting strict on media members adhering to the stated media policy of not reporting on game strategy, snap counts, and players participating in personnel groupings, etc. And this week, the Bills came down on team radio host and web reporter Chris Brown for violating those rules.
Brown was on One Bills Live, which is aired on WGR 550 in Buffalo, MSG Network, and the Bills’ YouTube page, where he violated the media policy. Brown spoke to co-host Steve Tasker about what he saw at practice. Inside a transcript of that discussion shows that Brown discussed specific positions of where players were lining up and naming those who were being rotated in and out with the starters.
After the show with Tasker, Brown hasn’t been at any of the practices since and has had guest hosts on the One Bills Live show. It is a tough situation but where Brown is employed by the team, there is little margin for error. Tim Graham of the Athletic was the first to report his ban.
Dolphins Trade Raekwon McMillan, to the Raiders:
The Miami Dolphins have traded former 2nd round pick, linebacker Raekwon McMillan and a 2021 5th-round draft pick to the Las Vegas Raiders for a 2021 4th-round draft pick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Raiders are getting a run-stuffing linebacker who can compete for playing time in a position group where they need depth while trading down one round in draft picks. And essentially getting a starting-caliber player who didn’t fit his team’s plans for 2020.
McMillan started 28 games for the Dolphins over the last two seasons but was on the outside looking in after the team added Elandon Roberts and Kamu Grugier-Hill. He didn’t appear to fit in what Brian Flores was doing with their 3-4 hybrid defense and his playing time during training camp was cut way back. He was definitely on the bubble and by trading him now, the Dolphins get a 4th round pick out of the swap.
“Raekwon is somebody I had a lot of respect for, talented player,” Flores said. “People are going to say what they want to say. He’s a good football player. He’s going to have a long career. But there’s a lot of depth in that room. Like a lot of decisions we make, there are a lot of things that go into it that… we’re not going to tell you. Every decision we make is in the best interests of the Miami Dolphins. I wish him all the best. He’s a good kid.”
Jets Sign Donte Moncrief, LaVeon Bell Struggles:
The New York Jets have signed another veteran wide receiver, agreeing to a deal with Donte Moncrief according to the NFL Network. The team recently signed Chris Hogan as well. The current starters, Breshard Perriman and Jamison Crowder aren’t keeping many opposing defensive coordinators up at night. And Perriman has missed time lately with knee swelling. Rookie 2nd round pick Denzel Mims hasn’t practiced yet because of a hamstring injury. Moncrief and Hogan may be counted upon much more than at first glance.
The other not-so-good news for Gang Green is reportedly LeVeon Bell is struggling in camp this summer. NY Post writer Brian Costello reported the following:
Bell has lacked explosiveness in practice, looks slow to hit holes, and seems to now lack the vision that once made him arguably the best running back in football. This information is not being gathered from anonymous sources, but two sources I trust implicitly – my left and right eyes. Ouch.
Bell reportedly arrived at training camp in great shape and was primed, in his own words to have the best year of his career. Week 1 at Buffalo against that excellent defense will be an early test.
“Yeah, well, I’ll keep the things that happened within the team private within the team. That’s kind of the forum that we had, so I’ll maintain the integrity of that. But, I’ve certainly learned a lot, continue to learn a lot and we have an incredible group of players. I’m so proud of this team and the players that we have on it – the way that they’re involved in each other’s lives as teammates, the way that they raise their families, and are involved in the community on a number of different levels. We’ve always prided ourselves in doing things right and not only being a good football team but being a pillar in the community. That continues to be our goal and our expectation, and I’m so proud of what our players do on all those levels..”
Bill Belichick on being asked about his opening the floor for players on the team to discuss issues of race and inequality.
“So, how was your week?”
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Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Training Camp
Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Dont'a Hightower Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots