Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 8-8, with training camp well underway, there are several areas where the Patriots are already having some positional battles that are worth watching. We’ll have more of those below.
The Patriots had Saturday off and return to action, later this morning.
Be sure to check out our early 53-man roster projection and see how it compares to our latest one below.
Have you checked out our team news feature for all 32 teams yet? It is a great resource to keep up with what is going on all across the NFL.
Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL:
Quinn Nordin: The Patriots’ new kicker was considered a dark horse to make the team when the Patriots made him their only UDFA this spring. It was widely considered that the team’s run of 17 straight years with a UDFA making the 53-man roster was done.
Maybe that was premature. Nordin has a tremendous leg has had issues with consistency, while Nick Folk, who has much less range is very accurate and had arguably his best season a year ago. But as we spoke about on our podcast earlier this week, Nordin is much younger and the strength of his leg, if he can get his consistency down would make him a weapon.
Remember, the Patriots added punter Jake Bailey right after Ryan Allen could have been the MVP of the Super Bowl win against the Rams because of his power.
At the Patriots in-stadium practice, Nordin was a perfect 10-10 including two field goals one from 57-yards that would have been good from 65, and a 55-yarder to finish off practice. This earned a smile and handshake from Bill Belichick.
With Folk missing some time from practice, Nordin is making the most of his opportunities. There is still a long way to go, but don’t automatically write off the rookie from Michigan.
Carmen Bricillo: The Patriots’ offensive line coach was not sparing the rod when giving his assessment of his charges this week. And even after the retirement of long-time Patriots legend Dante Scarnecchia, it shouldn’t be a shock as Scarnecchia was a hard grader when it came to the offensive line.
The Patriots are considered to have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, arguably a Top 5 unit entering the 2021 season. But according to Bricillo, they haven’t shown it yet.
During a meeting with the Patriots media personnel, Bricillo was asked specifically about the performance of 2nd-year offensive lineman Justin Herron. But, Bricillo used that question as a springboard to speak about the entire unit.
“I’ll be honest,” Bricillo said. “We are seven days in, and I don’t think we’re happy with where anyone is at.”
That’s some refreshing honesty and shows that the OL continues to be a hard place for the players to earn praise from the coaching staff.
Dont’a Hightower: The Patriots’ linebacker and a team captain was missed last season after opting out due to COVID-19. Now, he’s not only excited to be back but excited about the potential of the defense after adding some big pieces in the offseason.
Besides getting Hightower back this season, the team signed linebacker Kyle Van Noy, edge rusher Matt Judon, defensive tackles Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Montravius Adams as well as defensive back Jalen Mills. They also used draft picks on DL Christian Barmore and edge rusher Ronnie Perkins.
“Obviously, I feel like we have the right pieces, obviously, with Bill (Belichick) bringing in the guys that he brought back and the way he drafted and stuff,” Hightower said. “The pieces have been set up for us. It’s really up to us to go out and execute and build that chemistry and that camaraderie and all that good stuff.
“I’m excited to be back. I’m excited to play with the guys that I’ve been playing with. It’s been a different journey, but it’s been a fun journey.”
Stanley Morgan: The Patriots’ great WR, in a very run-heavy era for the team deserves more consideration from Canton. With the election (finally) of the great Drew Pearson of the Cowboys, it is something to consider. Both played in the same era.
Pearson logged 489 catches, 7822 yards for an impressive 16.0 yards per reception with 48 TDs, and none as famous as the famous “Hail Mary” from Roger Staubach against the Vikings in the playoffs which gave the play its name.
But Morgan’s stats are certainly worthy of another look. 557 receptions, 10,716 yards for an incredible 19.2 yards per reception, and 72 TDs. Will Morgan ever get the call? It is doubtful, but from his era, he’s certainly worthy…
Tom Brady: In a great show of respect for a friend and rival, Brady is flying to Canton on Saturday (this was written on Friday night) to watch Peyton Manning be elected to the Hall of Fame. Brady joked that “I am in his HOF corner, making sure he stays retired.” But Manning’s comment during the HOF Game on Thursday night was a great one.
Manning said that Tom Brady’s not only flying in to attend his Hall of Fame induction but sitting in his personal section. “I’m not sure how my Colts teammates are going to handle that…” Manning said.
4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Our latest was a video podcast with Derek Havens and I, (Russ Goldman was unavailable) discussing the roster battles.
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.
53-Man Roster Projection 2.0:
With the first ten days of training camp in the books, let’s not waste any time and get right to it. As Bill Belichick is so fond of saying, there is a long way to go.
Cam Newton, Mac Jones (no change)
CUT: Jake Dolega
PUP: Jarrett Stidham
PS: Brian Hoyer, Hoyer could be released once Stidham returns but much will depend on how healthy he is. The two QBs at the top are competing but Newton remains the guy to beat.
RUNNING BACK (5):
James White, Damien Harris, Sony Michel, Rhamondre Stevenson, Brandon Bolden
PS: J.J. Taylor
In the final year of his rookie contract, we had Michel as being traded but with him being healthy in training camp for the first time, he’s putting together an impressive start to the camp thus far. Taylor could still move up and earn a spot if someone gets dinged up.
WIDE RECEIVER (4):
Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Gunner Olszewski
Trade: N’Keal Harry
CUT: Isaiah Zuber, Tre Nixon, Kristian Wilkerson, Marvin Hall, Devin Smith
Four isn’t enough here so expect that to change, which means changes elsewhere on the roster. Harry showed up to camp with head on straight and is having a good start to camp. And the fact of the matter is, there IS a role he can carve out but I expect the team to showcase him during the preseason and get what they can. I expect a couple of these players to go to the PS (right now Wilkerson with his STs play and Nixon) but it is wide open here.
TIGHT END/FULLBACK (4):
Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Devin Asiasi, Matt LaCosse
PUP: Dalton Keene
CUT: Troy Fumagalli, Jakob Johnson
We liked Keene to have a leg up on Johnson as a FB/HB/TE hybrid, but you “can’t make the club from the tub”
****Update**** On Saturday afternoon Keene was placed on IR which effectively ends his season unless the Patriots release him with an injury settlement and he signs on with another team.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8):
David Andrews, Trent Brown, Shaq Mason, Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu, Justin Herron, Ted Karras, Marcus Martin
PS: William Sherman, James Ferentz
CUT: Korey Cunningham, Yodny Cajuste, Alex Redmond, R.J. Prince
Nine still seems like maybe one too many, so we cut it down to eight and swapped out Martin for Sherman and Ferentz here who move to the PS.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6):
Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Christian Barmore, Carl Davis
CUTS: Montravius Adams, Byron Cowart, Akeem Spence, Nick Thurman, Bill Murray
Added a player here (Davis) but in reality, Davis, Adams, or Cowart will be competing for a spot until the final preseason. All of the cuts are PS candidates.
EDGE/OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (4):
Matthew Judon, Chase Winovich, Anfernee Jennings, Ronnie Perkins (no change)
CUT: Rashod Berry, Tashawn Bower
Judon has come as advertised as he’s versatile, where he can set the edge in the running game…(a needed addition after 2020) and can after the QB. The pass rush should be much improved in 2021.
OFF-BALL/INSIDE LINEBACKER (5):
Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Josh Uche, Terez Hall, Ja’Whaun Bentley
IR: Raekwon McMillan
CUT: Cassh Maluia, Harvey Langi
We had originally added McMillan on this projection, prior to getting hurt in camp, he was a factor at both linebacker and on STs, which is where he was injured. But on Saturday the Patriots placed him on IR with a torn ACL, ending his season. Bentley has had a very nice start to camp. After a big spring, Uche has gotten off to a quiet start to camp.
Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills, Joejuan Williams (no change)
CUT: D’Angelo Ross, Michael Jackson Sr., Dee Virgin
Obviously, Gilmore’s situation (PUP/contract) remains one to monitor. Williams remains on the roster for now…in pencil. Jackson and Virgin have both gotten off to very good starts in camp. The joint practices and preseason games will ultimately decide it here.
Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, Myles Bryant (no changes)
CUT: Adrian Colbert
IR: Joshuah Bledsoe
No surprises here, Colbert go to the PS, and Bledsoe (NFI) waits for 2022 for a chance to show his versatility.
SPECIAL TEAMS (6):
P Jake Bailey, LS Joe Cardona, K Nick Folk, Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, Cody Davis
PS: Quinn Nordin, Brandon King
Although Nordin had a terrific in-stadium practice, (See above), we’re not quite ready to hand him the kicking job yet. But preseason will tell the tale. If he’s out there, it is a fight to the finish. If only Folk kicks, then they’re trying to sneak Nordin through waivers to the PS. King has missed two years and faces an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster.
Defense Looks to Be Very Much Improved:
The Patriots have made a lot of changes during the offseason and the defense has gotten an injection of a lot of talent. While everyone has been focusing on the offense with the additions at QB, TE, WR, it is the defense where we’ll discuss today.
The Patriots’ defense took a big step backward in 2020. After being #1 in DVOA according to Pro Football Outsiders in 2019, they plummeted all the way to 26th a year ago. And a big part of that had to do with the run defense which was …at times, actually all season long awful in 2020.
The run defense with no true nose tackle and the inability to set the edge was a big reason why they fell from #8 in 2019 to #32 in the league last season. The pass defense suffered from the lack of a run defense as well as a pass rush that went from 47 sacks (tied for 7th) to just 24, the least in the Bill Belichick era which was tied for 26th.
The team addressed their deficiencies by adding Matthew Judon at the edge. As we mentioned above, he’s outstanding at setting the edge in the running game. Getting Kyle Van Noy back after a year in Miami will help that as well. And that is the strength of Dont’a Hightower. Raekwon McMillan is adept at that as well. As for interior run stuffers, the team added Henry Anderson, Davon Godchaux, and Montravius Adams in free agency, and the team drafted Christian Barmore who was considered the best DT in the draft. And so far in camp, he’s playing that way. After resigning Lawrence Guy, the run defense looks to be greatly improved.
The pass rush was pretty anemic in 2020. Chase Winovich and Deatrich Wise were okay but Josh Uche was a rookie and didn’t make a big splash. But in getting the aforementioned Judon, Van Noy, and Hightower as well as drafting Ronnie Perkins, the team looks much better in that department. Uche is expected to make a big jump in Year 2. Anderson, Wise, and Barmore can provide a big push from the interior.
As we mentioned above, a lot of the pass defense depends on having a healthy (and happy) Stephon Gilmore back in the fold, but a good pass rush can help out immensely in that regard.
On Thursday the team plays its first preseason game against the Washington football team…while many starters won’t play it will be our first chance to see some of the new faces. Let’s go…
“Nancy’s one of those unique individuals that kind of makes everything work. She interacts with virtually everybody – scouts, coaches, players, and other support staff. She puts a lot of things together, and her job description of what she actually does is probably 50 pages long, and there are so many little things that wouldn’t even make that list, but they would come up from day to day, or maybe not even day-to-day, it might be once a year that she handles because of her experience and thoroughness and preparation.
It really would be impossible for me to go through with her a whole list of things, and that changes from the regular season to the draft to the offseason program to if we’re on an extended away trip and things like that, so it’s a very lengthy and comprehensive set of things that she handles and that includes not only the players and staff and so forth, but also families and things that are related to those individuals as well, and that would also extend into some logistics and travel and so forth. She’s great to work with. She’s got a great attitude, a great temperament.
She deals with all the people and all the personalities, thousands of them, coaches, players, and other people through the course of her career. I think everyone probably has kind of the same feeling for her, which is pretty remarkable that she could have that type of positive relationship with so many people on so many different levels. I extend all that to multiple family members and so forth that are involved in the game day things and travel and tickets and relocation and so forth and so on. She never forgets a name. Doesn’t forget a face. Knows how everybody’s connected to everybody else. It’s very remarkable.
She’s very unique, and as I said, a very comprehensive group of things she does, but then on the real football side of it, a lot of transactions and things that go on with the league, which on the player personnel end can be complex, have to be timely, have to do at certain times or by certain times or all those kind of things. She doesn’t make the final decisions obviously. She has to manage all the transactions, league communication, player communication, the medical, like all the things that have to happen in the acquisition or release of a player, especially at the nature of cut down dates and things like that, or post-draft when free-agent signing days and those type of things, the wheel can get spinning pretty fast, but amazingly she can stay on it or slow it down however you want to look at it, so yeah.
Thanks for the question, that’s great. She’s a very important person to any organization.”
Bill Belichick’s comments when asked about Nancy Meier who is beginning her 47th year with the team in the front office.
“So, how was your week?”
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Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Training Camp
Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Cam Newton Devin McCourty Dont'a Hightower James White Kyle Van Noy N'Keal Harry New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Sony Michel Stephon Gilmore