Good morning, and here are our Sunday Patriots news 9-3 and notes for this week and what a busy week it has been. Today will be the last Sunday without the NFL until the Super Bowl.
It has also been great seeing Chris Price back on the Patriots beat for the Globe. Chris is a super writer and author and an even better person. Welcome back!
The Patriots have set their initial 53-man roster and 16-player practice squad, and there are sure to be changes to both in the coming days/weeks, but for now, they have the core of players that will take the field against the Eagles.
But before we get to the Patriots, the NFL lost a giant this week as Gil Brandt passed away at the age of 91. Brandt is widely considered the father of modern scouting, and his talent evaluations, along with Tex Schramm and Tom Landry, helped build the Cowboys powerhouse teams of the 1970s.
Brandt was the first to put detailed personal data on a computer to properly evaluate prospects for the Cowboys, long before the word analytics was even thought of. He continued that after his career with Dallas, from their inception in 1960 until he was fired by Jerry Jones in 1989, with NFL.com. His columns and Twitter account were always sought out.
He also had a photographic memory. He could recall everything about prospects that Dallas had scouted, down to the minutest details. Greg Aiello, who worked with Brandt in Dallas, recalled to NFL.com, “One of the stories they liked to tell from the Cowboys days was that some fairly obscure player name came up, and Gil said, ‘His father sells eggs in Albuquerque.’ ”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of Brandt back in 2017, “Looking at Gil Brandt and the job that he did with the personnel, he certainly should be in the Hall of Fame based on his contributions to this game and contributions to the personnel and scouting side of it.
“He’d probably be the first guy I would put in there.” Brandt was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019. RIP.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News:
Matt Corral: The former Panthers QB has been plucked off of the practice squad by the Patriots. And with Tyquan Thornton on short-term IR, there was an open spot on the 53-man roster.
So, at least on paper, the Patriots now have their #2 QB. On Tuesday, after releasing Bailey Zappe and Malik Cunningham, the Patriots only had Mac Jones on the roster. Many local and national media ran with that story for 24 hours until the team resigned both QBs to the practice squad. Corral’s addition now makes the QB room a robust four players…and everyone can calm down.
What is intriguing about Corral is that he thrived in an RPO-heavy system with Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss. In two years in that system, he completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 6,686 yards and 49 touchdowns in 23 games. The Patriots, under Bill O’Brien, will run a similar scheme, something that the Patriots hope that Corral should pick up rather quickly.
For the first few weeks, at least, Zappe should be the backup until Corral has a chance to learn the new offense. Then we’ll see if they have something in Corral and if he will truly be the #2 QB behind Jones.
Kendrick Bourne: The wide receiver was the subject of many phone calls during the final cutdown days, as several teams inquired about wanting to trade for him. But the Patriots told them that Bourne wasn’t available. Something that resonated with Bourne, especially after the tumultuous year the WR had with Matt Patricia last season.
“I appreciate Bill [Belichick]. Bill stuck with me. I struggled last year personally. He’s always pushed me to be better,” Bourne said. “I feel like Bill encourages me every day what I can get better on. I appreciate that personally because he could have just been like, ‘whatever.’ But he’s always pushing me, and this year, I want to go my hardest I’ve ever gone. And it feels good.”
“I’m glad to be here,” Bourne added. “This is where I’m supposed to be.”
T.J. Luther: The Patriots signed Luther to the practice squad while releasing Thyrick Pitts. Luther spent the offseason with the Jets practice squad. A UDFA, Luther caught 55 passes for Gardner-Webb last year for 1,035 yards and seven TDs. He averaged 25.6 yards per kickoff return in 2021.
Jalen Reagor: The Patriots signed the WR to the practice squad on Thursday. Reagor is a former 1st-round draft pick (21st overall) of the 2020 draft of the Philadelphia Eagles. But he has never lived up to those lofty expectations.
He’s caught 73 passes in his first three seasons and has been plagued by drops and inconsistent route-running. Yet he is only 24 and brings the speed element to the Patriots. He also returns kicks and punts, something that could earn him some playing time if he is able to learn the offense and gain the trust of the coaching staff.
Nick Folk: The Patriots traded the very consistent kicker to the Tennessee Titans earlier last week for a 2025 7th-round draft pick. Folk was picked up by the Patriots in 2019 when Stephen Gostkowski was injured. Since then, he has been remarkably consistent, making 89.3 percent of his field goal attempts, fifth best in the NFL, including 58 straight from inside of 40 yards.
But after the Patriots drafted Chad Ryland this spring in the 4th round of the draft, the handwriting was on the wall for Folk. The team was going with a younger kicker with a much longer range. Plus, the fact that Folk’s consistency tapered off late last season, something that might have to do with his age (38), but he had a strong training camp.
Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t listened to our PatsFans.com podcast, Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Patriots 4th & 2 has expanded.
Derek Havens and I spoke about the initial 53-man roster and practice squad this week. Be sure to check out Russ Goldman’s solo shows. He has been recording some of his own takes in short 15-20-minute podcasts this summer. He has also added me on his Sunday podcast to talk about this column.
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 Francis isn’t in 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.
Roster Breakdown —
The Patriots have finished with their initial 53-man roster and 16-player practice squad, although there have already been changes, as we’ve seen.
However, despite what Boston sports radio tells you, this isn’t a dumpster fire of a roster. Remember this: the Patriots won eight games a year with a dumpster fire of an offense and could have won two to three more. This team has a health problem on offense, specifically the offensive line, which we’ll hopefully see at least four starters next week.
With Bill O’Brien and improved weapons on offense, this unit is going to be much better than people expect. Defensively, they will be better than a year or two ago and have the tools to be a Top-10 defensive team.
Quarterback (4): Mac Jones, Matt Corral, (PS) Bailey Zappe, Malik Cunningham
Can you believe that on Tuesday, many in the local and national media, as well as fans, were decrying Belichick for only having one? (They only have ONE Quartah-back, Mike!). Just two days later, they have four, bringing back Zappe and Cunningham to the PS and poaching Corral off of Carolina’s PS.
With Jones firmly in the #1 QB slot, Zappe is insurance (for now) until Corral can learn the offense, which, in O’Brien’s scheme, he’s a much better fit than Zappe, it is similar but not the same as he ran in Ole Miss. Cunningham is a developmental/Scout Team QB.
Running back (4): Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott, (PS) Kevin Harris, Ty Montgomery
Stevenson and Elliott are a very good 1a-1b tandem. Depending on the opponent or game plan, they can activate Harris or Montgomery on game days.
Wide receiver (7): JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Demario Douglas, Kayshon Boutte, (PS) T.J Luther, Jalen Reagor
The “stink, stank, stunk” crew has a collective chip on their shoulder and has some good depth and potential at the position. I believe Bourne may end up being the team’s best receiver this year, better than he was in 2021.
The team purposely kept Douglas under wraps in the preseason, and I can’t wait to see what he can do in this offense. Boutte came on late in the preseason, and Reagor is a reclamation project.
The team also had WRs Shi Smith, South Carolina (a player from the draft that I had an interest in), and Cody Chrest in for workouts.
Tight end (4): Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, (PS) Matt Sokol, Pharoah Brown
Having only two TEs on the active roster won’t fly in the opener. They’ll probably activate Sokol for the Eagles until Brown gets up to speed. I think that Henry and Gesicki are (on paper) one of the best TE duos in the league.
Offensive Line (14): Trent Brown, Riley Reiff, Sidy Sow, Tyrone Wheatley Jr., Vederian Lowe, Calvin Anderson, Cole Strange, David Andrews, Michael Onwenu, Atonio Mafi, Jake Andrews, (PS) James Ferentz, Andrew Steuber, Kody Russey
Fourteen O-Linemen? It’s all about health, and they have several guys trying to work their way back into playing shape. But if they can start the season with Trent Brown, Cole Strange, David Andrews, and Michael Onwenu healthy and ready to go, they can work through any issues with RT. Riley Reiff is banged up, and Calvin Anderson just returned from a serious illness.
The team traded for Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and Vederian Lowe. Health is the key to this unit. We’ll see how this plays out this week in preparation for Week 1.
Interior defensive line (7): Davon Godchaux, Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise Jr., Lawrence Guy Sr., Keion White, Daniel Ekuale, Sam Roberts
There are no surprises for this unit, which looks to be very solid. One interesting tidbit came last week from Evan Lazar of Patriots.com. Lazar, who is outstanding in breaking down Xs and Os, wrote that the Patriots may be planning on playing less of their traditional two-gapping style up front.
He wrote, “The defensive line might be one-gapping or playing a gap-and-a-half technique to ‘spill’ runs to the perimeter rather than building a wall as a two-gapping front. If that’s the case, more explosive upfield defenders such as Roberts and rookie Keion White make more sense in the scheme over two-gapping kings like (Carl) Davis.”
Linebacker (11): Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jahlani Tavai, Marte Mapu, Mack Wilson Sr., Chris Board, (PS) Calvin Munson, Ronnie Perkins, Joe Giles-Harris
The Patriots returned a strong group of linebackers from a year ago and made it better with the addition of Marte Mapu and the continued progression of Anfernee Jennings. Calvin Munson may be an addition to the 53-man roster soon, and Ronnie Perkins, finally healthy, showed signs of putting it together.
Cornerback (6): Christian Gonzalez, Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, Myles Bryant, Shaun Wade
The big question at cornerback remains about Jack Jones’s availability due to his upcoming court appearance in September. The corner position with Jack Jones and Gonzalez on the boundaries with Jonathan Jones in the slot is their best bet. Marcus Jones, Myles Bryant, and Shaun Wade round out the position.
Wade has made strides in putting it all together. He’s got good size, 6’1, 195, and has played outside, in the slot, and a few snaps at safety.
Safety (5): Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, Jalen Mills, (PS) Joshuah Bledsoe
The Patriots were able to retain the top five safeties on the roster after bringing Joshuah Bledsoe back to the practice squad after the cutdown.
They are deep and talented, but who plays the deep safety position that has been filled by Devin McCourty for so many years? They may opt to rotate players there, but Jalen Mills seems like a natural fit there.
Specialists (7): K Chad Ryland, P/H Bryce Baringer, LS Joe Cardona, Gunners Matthew Slater, Brendan Schooler Ameer Speed, (PS) P Corliss Waitman
The Patriots are going for a youth movement on STs with rookies Chad Ryland at kicker and Bryce Barringer at punter. Add in rookie Ameer Speed and Chris Board, and the STs will look quite different this year. Matthew Slater returns, as does Brendan Schooler and Joe Cardona.
PUP (2): Cody Davis, Trey Flowers
IR Short Term(1): Tyquan Thornton
“Well yeah, it’s a tough day for everyone. We have relationships with players, some over an extended period of time, some less. But we talked about it the other day, and it’s difficult for everyone. It’s difficult on relationships. But we all knew this day was coming, and this is part of the process.
“It’s a very competitive league. There’s a lot of very talented players, and they compete, and not everybody can have a spot. So, that’s difficult. Again, like I always do, I would caution you against thinking things are over when they’re not necessarily over on a lot of levels. They might not be over here. They might not be over somewhere else.
“Players have certainly left here and gone and had careers, and players have been released by other teams and come here. The Rob Ninkovich’s of the world or whatever, tough day for him, and it’s the end of his line – and it definitely wasn’t. So, the stories aren’t over here. It’s just one step in the process for us and the players, for some, it will be, and for others, it won’t be. Some players that we release will come back and play for us to be on the practice squad, and some won’t.
“Again, we all knew those numbers and the math when we started. We don’t know exactly what they’ll be, but we have a general idea, so that’s the way it is every year. But yeah, it’s always difficult to even have to tell a player that he’s not going to be on the roster, he’s going to be on the practice squad, or he’s not going to be here at all, or whatever it is. But like I said, unfortunately, that’s part of the process. It’s what we all signed up for. That’s what it is. This is one of the days that it happens.
Bill Belichick, when asked about the process of communication between the coaching staff and players when the team does the cutdowns from 90 players to 53.
“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots Patriots Patriots offensive line