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Patriots News 08-28, AFC East Notes, Final Roster Projection

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
1 month ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Patriots News 08-28, AFC East Notes, Final Roster ProjectionKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning; here are your weekly Patriots news 08-28, and some NFL notes this week. The Patriots and Raiders wrapped up two days of productive workouts in the “dry” Las Vegas heat, followed by Friday’s final preseason game. 

The game (more below) was an ugly 23-6 loss compounded by the fact that the Patriots starters were dominated by the Raiders’ backups. After two productive days of joint practices, this was a very disappointing showing. 

“We didn’t have a good night in any phase of the game — that’s obvious,” head coach Bill Belichick said in his post-game presser. “It’s disappointing because we did things a lot better in practice this week.”

After the roster cutdown is complete, the team and the coaches have a lot of work to do before they take on the Dolphins in Miami on September 11.

Patriots Have Plenty of Bad and Few Good Moments in PS Game #3: 

The Patriots and Raiders finished the preseason, although in very different ways. The Raiders looked crisp, fast and continuously made plays. The Patriots, on the other hand, were coming up short constantly, both offensively and defensively. When Jarrett Stidham shreds you, there aren’t a ton of positives to crow about. 

So some observations from the game on Friday night (midnight… thanks for nothing, NFL+) are as follows:

The Offensive Continues to Struggle This has been a theme since Day 1 of training camp. The offense has started slow, seemingly at every session, and it carried through to all three preseason games. It seems that the only time they look in sync is when they go to a hurry mode. 

The offensive line is not on the same page, especially in the running game. They just can’t seem to get a consistent push across the line. There always seems to be at least one breakdown. The pass protection is spotty, and they allowed four sacks (two on Mac Jones with the starting OL in) against the Raiders’ backups.

Worse still, because of a new coaching staff, a revamped offensive system, and an OL that is not gelling right now, it appeared Jones was hesitant to pull the trigger or unloading it too soon. That’s not the way to enter the season. But with many fans wringing their hands at who the play caller is, he isn’t the issue here. 

One bright spot for the offense on an otherwise dismal night was the play of rookie running back Kevin Harris. He had four rushing attempts for 54 yards, including a really nice 33-yard scamper that he nearly took to the house following a power scheme led by James Ferentz. Their best runs were out of the traditional power scheme. 

The OL keeps getting pre-snap penalties and they had two touchdowns wiped out by penalties. That is not Patriot football. The offense’s two biggest come back to fundamentals and proper execution.

Ty Montgomery’s Injury Puts the 3rd Down Back Slot in Flux   Ty Montgomery went down with an ankle injury early in the game, and it appeared that he couldn’t put any weight on his foot. Montgomery seemed poised to take over James White’s 3rd down back role. Now we’ll have to wait until today or Monday to learn if it is serious or an injury that will allow him to return relatively quickly.

The Patriots drafted Pierre Strong for that role eventually, but the Patriots have traditionally liked to ease their receiving backs into the mix. At least initially, I’d expect to see Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson get the majority of the reps as the 3rd down back. 

If Montgomery is out for a long spell or (worst case scenario) has to go on IR, it would open the door for either Kevin Harris or J.J. Taylor to make the active roster. More to that below.

Tavai Gets the Start, But McMillan and Wilson Should be Sharing Reps Jahlani Tavai once again got the start, but Raekwon McMillan came in, and his sideline-to-sideline speed and his sure tackling, at least from this view, should push him into starting next to JaWhaun Bentley. Having two thumpers inside is fine in short yardage or the goal line, but the team has been victimized in the past by linebackers in coverage. 

Mack Wilson is another backer who should be seeing extended reps for his coverage and tackling ability. That’s not to denigrate Tavai, but going back to last season, the Patriots linebackers were an Achilles heel in coverage. 

Young Players on Defense Show Promise   Despite the overall lackluster play of the defense, there were some bright spots, and some of those were the younger players.

Cornerback Jack Jones continues to impress in his first preseason. He’s very aggressive, can recognize and read routes by the opposing WRs, and possesses that kind of closing speed that all good corners seem to have. He should push for some playing time sooner rather than later. 

Anfernee Jennings continues to look like a starter opposite Matthew Judon. He dropped Raiders’ QB, Chase Garbers, for a sack, registered a QB hit, and had a tackle for a loss; he’s got good size, and moves well, setting the edge or rushing the QB. 

Marcus Jones showed some nice punt return ability notching two nice returns of 17 and 15 yards. Jake Bailey had a good night punting, he boomed six punts for a 54.2-yard average, putting two inside the 20, with a long of 65.  

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and the NFL:  

Bill Belichick: The Patriots head coach minced no words on what he feels about the Raiders practice facility, which he believes is without peer. “I’ve been to a lot of good facilities, and there have been some amazing college facilities, but I’d put this up there against any of them,” Belichick said. “I mean, forget about the amenities, just the field, the weight room, the offices, the indoor facility, the proximity, the ease of everything, yeah, this is as good I’ve seen.

“It is better than any I’ve seen, not as good, it’s better than anything I’ve seen. It’s outstanding. It’s great for us to be able to work here.”

The Raiders have three practice fields outside and a field and a half indoors in a practice bubble in the case of inclement weather. 

Mac Jones: The Patriots QB was visibly frustrated during the game, at one point spiking the tablet that the players use. After the game, he said, “I have to do a better job of getting the ball out and stepping up in the pocket instead of running around and stop putting my line in a bad position.” 

“I pride myself in being right here behind the center, and you guys block for me.”

Julian Edelman: The former Patriot slot receiver said on a podcast this week that when he watched the film of himself playing and practicing, that was all the impetus he needed to decide to retire. 

Edelman joined the Ryen Russillo podcast he spared himself no slack. “Atrocious. That’s honestly why I retired,” he said. 

“When you start looking old — it’s not even just the games, it’s the practices, the body language. I mean, I wanted to throw up. That’s why I had to retire.”

“When you’re a younger player – I remember you play a couple of guys, and they’re in their absolute prime when you’re still trying to figure things out,” Edelman said. “And then you figure things out, and it’s like four or five years later, and that guy that you still are battling who was a badass dude has diminished – that’s blood in the water. I’m going to embarrass him every time. I’m going to try to light him up, because I remember how hard it was and how he used to embarrass me.

“The blood was in the water. Guys were going to come after me. I had to get out.”

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Derek and I looked at the first preseason game last week, and who stood out, be sure to 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, and the fact that especially Francis isn’t is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Final 53-Man Roster Projection 3.0:

With preseason and training camp now in the books, it is time for our final 53-man Roster Projection 3.0, with who we believe will make the initial roster before the team travels to Miami for Week 1 of the regular season. 

One change that stands out is the status of Tyquan Thornton. It is expected that the team will place him on IR shortly after the first 53-man roster is finalized. He is expected to miss anywhere between 4-8 weeks. However, if the team places him on IR before the cutdown, he’d be lost for the season. Ty Montgomery’s situation will deem a very close look after his injury on Friday night.

Quarterback (3):
Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Bailey Zappe
One of the pleasant surprises of training camp has been the development of rookie QB Bailey Zappe. He is probably in line to be the team’s #2 heading into the 2023 season. But for now, Brian Hoyer remains Mac Jones’ mentor and backup. 

Running Back (4):
Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Pierre Strong, Jr., Kevin Harris
CUT: J.J. Taylor,
IR (?): Ty Montgomery
Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are locked for the roster, as is Pierre Strong due to his draft position (4th round this spring). But Ty Montgomery’s injury could possibly open the door for either rookie Kevin Harris or J.J. Taylor to make the 53-man roster, albeit in different ways. Bill Belichick said earlier last week that he could see Damien Harris and Stevenson take third down reps as the 3rd down back. 

Taylor could certainly fill that role, but he hasn’t flashed much in earlier opportunities, and his pass blocking is still a work in progress. Kevin Harris would spell Damien Harris and Stevenson as a power back and short-yardage specialist. I’m going with Harris as I’ve been a fan of his for some time. So there could be some bias there.

Wide Receiver (6):
DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Lil’Jordan Humphrey
CUT: Tre Nixon, Josh Hammond, Kristian Wilkerson
Humphrey is a big, “tight-endish WR, according to Bill Belichick. His size (6’4, 225) could place him as a WR/“move” tight end as most of his production has been across the middle or down the seams. Thornton will ultimately head to IR, but he has to be on the 53-man roster first; otherwise, he will be lost for the season. That will open the door for Nixon or Wilkerson to make it from the practice squad.

Tight End (2):
Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith
CUT: Devin Asiasi, Matt Sokol, Jalen Wydermyer
Smith and Henry are locked to make the roster, but Asiasi and Sokol haven’t done enough to make the roster and revert to the practice squad. (See Humphrey above)

Offensive Line (8):
Trent Brown, Cole Strange, David Andrews, Michael Onwenu, Isaiah Wynn, Yodny Cajuste, Kody Russey, Will Sherman
NFI: Andrew Stueber
CUT: Yasir Durant, Drew Desjarlais, Justin Herron, Chasen Hines, James Ferentz, Bill Murray, Arlington Hambright,
Can Kody Russey fill in at guard in a pinch? That is the question for him instead of James Ferentz or Hambright. With the injury history of Brown and Wynn, several of the players let go will revert to the practice squad. I like that Sherman can play guard or tackle. And I like what I’ve seen from Chasen Hines; hopefully, they can sneak him onto the PS.

Defensive Tackle (6):
Christian Barmore, Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise, Carl Davis, Sam Roberts
CUT: LaBryan Ray, Jeremiah Pharms, Jr., Henry Anderson
Suspended: Daniel Ekuale

This group performed well this summer. Davis edges out Ray for the roster spot, Ray and Anderson revert to the practice squad, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Ray makes the roster. Godchaux had an impressive summer after receiving high praise (and an extension) from Bill Belichick

Linebacker (7):
Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Mack Wilson, Raekwon McMillan, Anfernee Jennings, DaMarcus Mitchell
CUT: Cameron McGrone, Harvey Langi, Nate Wieland, Jahlani Tavai
IR: Ronnie Perkins
I know Belichick loves Tavai, who is big and plays hard on every snap. But he’s proved to be a liability in coverage. Mitchell has shown good ability off the edge, but he gets the edge here because he’s shown very good STs potential and got plenty of run with the top STs units. McGrone, who got a lot tons of hype this spring, underwhelmed this summer, Langi and Tavai revert to the practice squad.

Cornerback (6):
Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, Shaun Wade, Myles Bryant
IR: Joejuan Williams
CUT: Terrance Mitchell
Veteran Myles Bryant makes the squad as the top slot corner, with Jonathan Jones moving outside. But he’ll be looking over his shoulder with Marcus Jones (too many Jones’ on the roster).looking to take over, which could happen sometime this season. Plus, he’s really flashed as a returner. After a really good start to the summer, Mitchell’s play has cooled off. 

Safety (5):
Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, Joshuah Bledsoe
CUT: Brad Hawkins
With McCourty, Dugger, Phillips, Peppers, and Bledsoe all showing that they can play, the safety position is arguably the deepest position on the team. Finding playing time for all of them may prove to be difficult. However, it is a good problem to have.

Special Teams (6):
Matthew Slater, Brendan Schooler, Justin Bethel, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona, Nick Folk
CUT: Tristan Vizcaino, Cody Davis
Cody Davis is the tough cut here, but the way that Schooler has played and the fact that he can play safety makes the decision a tad easier. The rest of the STs (could slot Mitchell here) makes this group a no-brainer.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Punter Matt Araiza Released: Buffalo’s rookie punter was released by the Bills after accusations of sexual assault were levied against him last week. Araiza and San Diego State teammates Zavier Leonard and Pa’a Ewaliko were accused of gang-raping a 17-year-old high school student back in October 2021 in a civil suit filed Thursday in California. 

Buffalo did not know about the allegations when they drafted Araiza with the 180th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft in April and didn’t learn about the rape allegations until July. But the puzzling part is that after the Bills learned of this, they released veteran punter Matt Haack in July, basically handing the job to Araiza. 

Bills head coach Sean McDermott, and general manager Brandon Beane addressed the media in announcing that Araiza was released. “This afternoon, we decided that releasing Matt Araiza was the best thing to do,” Beane said. “Our culture in Buffalo is more important than winning football games.”

The alleged victim’s lawyer then posted pages of her diary that dealt with the night in question. Why he would do that is a question for another time. But for the time being, the Bills are without a punter, but as soon as rosters are cut down they should fix that issue.

Dolphins WR Coach Wes Welker Unloads on the NFL:

The Dolphins’ WR coach was a player not afraid to do the dirty work in his 11-year NFL career with the Chargers, Dolphins, Patriots, Broncos, and Rams. He constantly went over the middle and took some big shots while excelling as a slot receiver while chalking up 903 career receptions for 9924 yards and 50 TDs. He was named to the Pro Bowl five times as a member of the Patriots. 

However, the blows he took resulted in numerous concussions, and he even wore an extra shell on his helmet in Denver. So when he applied for “line-of-duty disability” and upon hearing that the league tabled his application, he was rightfully incensed. 

He posted on Twitter: ⁦

@NFL, I don’t have the time or patience for this. Been an employee of the NFL for 18 years and still going. This is bush league stuff! And included the letter from the league.

Jets’ Mims Requests Trade: 

The New York Jets’ former 2nd round pick from the 2020 NFL Draft, WR Denzel Mims, has requested a trade. Citing his client’s lack of opportunities, Mims’ agent Ron Slavin formally requested the trade. 

“It’s just time,” Slavin said. “Denzel has tried in good faith, but it is clear he does not have a future with the Jets. Denzel vowed to come back better than ever this season, and he worked extremely hard in the offseason to make that happen. Still, he has been given very few opportunities to work with the starting offense and get into a groove with them.

“We feel at this point, a trade is our only option since the Jets have repeatedly told us they will not be releasing him. Joe Douglas has always done right by Denzel, and we trust that he will make every effort to find him a new home where he can be a contributor.”

_______________

“I thought we competed well with the Raiders in all areas. They have a lot of good players. It wasn’t perfect, and I won’t say anybody dominated anything, but we were competitive with them. We made a lot of good plays, they made good plays. But tonight, we just didn’t do much of anything right. So like I said, maybe we left if on the practice field. I don’t know, but I’ve just got to get our team to a more consistent, higher competitive level than we were tonight. So, that’s what we will do.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the joint practices with the Raiders and then Friday night’s game which was a much poorer effort.

_______________

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

 


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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Damien Harris Devin McCourty Julian Edelman Mac Jones Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots

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