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MORSE: Last Two Patriots Practices, Leftover Notes from 1st Pre-season game, Missed Opportunity

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
4 months ago at 10:51 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

MORSE: Last Two Patriots Practices, Leftover Notes from 1st Pre-season game, Missed OpportunityEric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Video Review of 1st Pre-Season Game

Bailey Zappe was under duress constantly with the poor play of the Offensive line.  Despite this, he was 12 of 14 passing and his two incompletions were actually throwaways.  He had no turnovers.  There was also no running game as the runningbacks averaged 1.9 yards per carry.  Again the O-line couldn’t open any holes for the backs.

Malik Cunnigham was 3-4 and his only incompletion was actually his best throw.  It was third and 2 and he rolled right, and on the run, threw a dart to Tre Nixon in the back of the end zone.  The ball went off Nixon’s hands.  Nixon should have made a catch any Pro NFL player will make.  The next thing I want to see in Cunningham’s progression is competing on Special Teams.  Let’s see him as a gunner and as a punt returner.  He is a Swiss army knife that Belichick could use in multiple ways.

Keion White played on the punt coverage team.  He was a former TE at Old Dominion and had 11 catches for 124 yards as a redshirt freshman.  Don’t be surprised to see him there in a game.  He didn’t run the 40 at the combine or Pro Day but his estimated time of 4.79 is excellent for a 290 lb. edge player.

This is from Henry McKenna formerly the USA Today beat writer for the Patriots and now covering AFC East reporter for Fox Sports.

OLB/DE Keion White is a beast.

Showing he can bull rush with POWER

Lining up on and off the line of scrimmage (hand in the dirt or up in a three-point stance).

Holding up on the edge against the run (and still fighting back inside to make tackles).

Helped generate a fumble recovery by tackling the running back and preventing him from getting back to the ball.

Watched a little of Chasen Hines late in the game and thought he looked pretty good.  A little trouble in the run game but overall he didn’t play badly.  I think there is something to work with there.

Welcome to the NFL Christian Gonzalez.  On his 1st play, he got trucked by Houston Wide Receiver Nico Collins.  Gonzalez didn’t come up and initiate the hit and sat back a bit.  Collins is a big receiver at 6’4” and 215 lbs and he just ran over Gonzalez.  This was the big knock on him that he wasn’t aggressive and a bit too passive.  Later in that 1st series he also got shoved around by Houston TE.  His play in Green Bay should be monitored.

Comings and Goings

Welcome Ezekiel Elliott.  Great signing for the Patriots.  At age 28, Elliott still has gas in the tank and will be the perfect complement to Rhamondre Stevenson.  Elliott still runs hard, especially in short yardage.  He is a reliable blocker in pass protection and could get 10-15 runs a game spelling Stevenson.  I don’t know why this took so long to be finalized.  There will need to be a corresponding transaction to open a spot for Elliott, who will be ineligible to participate in the joint practice with Green Bay.  Elliott will need three days of conditioning practice without pads.  He may be in Green Bay to attend meetings and get acclimated to the playbook, but he can’t be allowed to hit yet.

The Patriots signed CJ Marable RB from the back-to-back champion USFL Birmingham Stallions which I brought up as a possibility last week.  Pierre Strong appeared to injure himself during the game against Houston and missed the last two practices, which may have hastened the signing of Marable. The Patriots also added Micah Vanterpool a 6’6” Offensive Guard from the USFL New Jersey Generals.  The former three-year starter for Hawaii didn’t give up a sack as a senior in college in over 500 passing snaps.  He went undrafted in this spring’s draft.

The consequential moves by the Patriots to make room on the roster were to waive LB/ST Jourdan Heilig and LB Olakunie Fatukasi.  The Heilig experiment is over.  This was one of the most bizarre signings of the Bill Belichick era.  Heilig entered his name in the college football transfer portal and was planning on playing another year of college football.  He never worked out for a draft combine or Pro Day.  Heilig never got a sniff from any other D1 football program and was ready to retire and get a real job.  That’s when the Patriots came calling with an offer for a UDFA contract.

Two Practices Before the Joint Practice with Green Bay

Malik Cunningham took snaps at Quarterback in practice on both days.  On Sunday it was in the middle of 11 on 11 subbing in for Mac Jones with the 1st team.  It was 5 snaps and they were all QB runs.  He was not wearing the red No Contact jersey.  Prior to the QB snaps he continued to practice at WR.  On Monday he got 5 more snaps and they were split up with 2 QB runs, 2 handoffs, and 1 incomplete pass.  Trace McSorley did not get any reps either day.  Also on Monday Cunningham worked at Kick-Off Return, Wide Receiver, and as a Gunner on punt coverage.  It appears to me that Cunningham has a real shot of making the 53-man roster as 3rd QB, ST, WR.     I would not be surprised to see Cunningham as the 2nd QB on gameday with Bailey Zappe dressed as the Emergency QB.  Cunningham’s most valuable contribution to the team might be as a scout team QB mimicking Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, or Pat Mahomes.  I don’t see him getting through waivers at the final cutdown.

Mac Jones has been really good during both of these practices with the exception of a late Sunday practice interception grabbed by rookie Christian Gonzalez.

Kendrick Bourne was the star of Monday’s practice with 6 targets and a highlight reel one-handed catch for a TD.

Mike Gesicki came down with a shoulder/ arm injury and was in considerable pain.  He left with the training staff.  This may be why Bourne was targeted so much.  Gesecki is not really a TE, but a big WR.  He never lines up inside.  If Gesicki misses any considerable time it may change the Patriots offense from a personnel grouping.  They would not be using the 12 personnel group so much.  Rather they would just go 3 wide receivers with either Bourne or Douglas filling his role in the slot.

Changes along the Offensive line.  It appears that Conor McDermott is playing himself out of a role with the team.  Sidy Sow is now the RT.  Rewatching the game and concentrating on Sow’s play.  He got beat on an outside move early in the game but it wasn’t his fault.  James Ferentz was making the line calls and failed to work with RG Kody Russey.  Russey whiffed on his man which was inside Sow.  It was impossible to block two men at the same time and as he was taught you take the inside man who has the shortest path to the QB.  On the outside 3rd overall pick Will Anderson blew past the outreached arm of Sow.  Ferentz completely missed the delayed blitz by the Inside LB and blocked nobody.  For the remainder of the game, you never heard Anderson’s name again.

Reilly Reiff was moved to RG.  Is this an indication of his slow foot speed at age 35 or a need to sure up the RG position after the poor play of Russey?  Don’t be surprised if Michael Owenu moves to RT when he comes back.  Greg Bedard of Boston Sports Journal indicated it shouldn’t be too much longer that Owenu is out.

Trent Brown was a full participant in Monday’s padded practice.  That was the first hitting that Brown has done this year.  It will be very interesting how he does in the one-on-ones vs Green Bay.

Shaun Wade had an interception on Monday.  It was on a screen pass.  Excellent recognition and execution on his part.  He has played well in these two practices.

Missed Opportunity

The Patriots passed on Ohio State’s massive Right Tackle Dawand Jones in the draft.  The 6’ 8” north of 374 lb tackle started two years at Ohio State and was selected as an All-American.  He lasted until pick 111 of the 4th round.  The Patriots selected Center Jake Andrews at pick number 107 (a big mistake).    According to Bucknuts, an Ohio State fan site, Jones dropped in the draft because of these concerns.  “Heading into the NFL Draft, there were reports that Jones was overweight during NFL meetings. He also didn’t take part in the Senior Bowl after accepting an invitation and didn’t work out at Ohio State’s pro day, which may have raised flags to NFL personnel.”  Well not in Cleveland!  They selected the giant and all he has done in two games so far was allow one QB pressure on 76 snaps.

Raekwon McMillan Contract Extension

The Patriots announced they have signed a 1-year extension with LB Raekwon McMillan who is on IR.  The extension is worth $2.245 Million.  They must really like McMillan.  The real reason is that they are just pushing forward money tied to incentives that he can no longer earn this year into next year.  This also gives McMillan a team with which he can continue his long rehab past the current season.

Posted Under: Patriots News

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