Author Archives: Ian Logue

Ian Logue

About Ian Logue

Ian Logue is a Seacoast native and owner and senior writer for, an independent media site covering the New England Patriots and has been running this site in one form or another since 1997.

For Gordon, Joining the Patriots Potentially Gives Him a Much-Needed Fresh Start

Ian Logue
September 18, 2018 at 10:43 am ET

Bill Belichick is never one to shy away from a player if he feels he can help his football team and Monday saw him acquire one who will hopefully improve their offense coming off of Sunday’s loss in Jacksonville.

The team acquired Josh Gordon in a trade from the Browns and Gordon comes in as a talented player who is likely looking for a little more than just success as he looks to make an impact here in New England. For those who know anything about Gordon, the numbers on paper from what he’s done on the field certainly don’t tell the whole story in terms of who he is off of it. When you take into consideration what’s been a really rough tenure since Gordon came out of college, the fact he’s even made it this far is surprising. He was a mess then personally and he’s been an even bigger mess during his time in the NFL.

He’s a player who has dealt with multiple suspensions since reaching the NFL after being selected in round 2 of the 2012 supplemental draft, which has plagued him. His problems have, unfortunately, been self-inflicted and he’s remained on the losing end of his long battle with substance abuse.

On the outside, it’s easy to criticize players who put themselves in this position. With a league full of players who do things the right way and flourish, it seems like a given that everyone else should fall in line. But what people forget is the road from where they each started and the support systems they have behind them vary greatly, allowing some to stay on the right path while others fall off of it.

The worst part for Gordon is the fact his on-field stats aren’t even the most impressive thing we can take from what he’s done so far, it’s the fact that he’s fortunately managed to not hurt anyone else by his bad decision making is somewhat of a miracle, something he’d probably even admit himself if given the opportunity.

Gordon admitted as much in an interview with GQ last year when he talked about his battle with addiction and the close calls he’s already been through. He cited one from 2016 where he narrowly walked away after wrapping his car around a telephone pole.

“I was in a car accident, totaled the car, wrapped it around a telephone pole,” Gordon told the magazine. “[We were] speeding. Me and another passenger, both [explective]-faced, thinking it’s fun. Sideswiping cars on the street. Putting other people in danger. And then ultimately, it’s like: How the hell did I walk out of that without a scratch? Cause the car is blown to [expletive].”

The veteran receiver said at the time that his motivation to get sober revolved around his family, expressing his desire for “the normal things”. Fast-forward one-year later and his problems continue, with Gordon now entering into an opportunity that could either resurrect his career, or just be the final chapter for a player with untapped potential.

Hopefully a fresh start will be just what Gordon needs. (USA TODAY Images)

If you take a step back and think about it, it’s hard not to wonder how frustrating it has to be to play in Cleveland. As a player, one has to wonder how even the most conscientious of players manages to deal with sacrificing everything week in and week out only to come up empty time and time again.

As a region, Cleveland has already given Gordon problems. The receiver admitted that it’s a city where the fans have taken things too far, which gives a little insight into why players tend to stay away, while those who are there struggle to thrive and don’t seem to stay with the team.

“Living in Cleveland, sometimes it could be a nightmare,” said Gordon. “I’ve been harassed, had drinks thrown at me. I’ve been [followed] in the grocery store, heckled everywhere. At the games, people harassed and heckled my brothers and my mom. [My] brothers got into fights in the stands. Cars [have] been jumped on. Somebody dented the hood of the car. Had to sue a guy and get the money back cause he damaged the car. People are throwing money, pennies, to break the windows. So Cleveland was rough, man.”

He’s certainly about to be in for a little different change in culture. Fans here in New England, even for the most damaged of players, tend to be supportive as long as they buy in and perform well. In the locker room, the environment and atmosphere have proven in many cases to be enough for these types of players to turn their careers around. With a quarterback like Tom Brady, Gordon will likely find himself initially with the benefit of the doubt, but with big expectations once the work begins.

Brady told Jim Gray during his appearance on Monday night football that he’s withholding his expectations until he sees how Gordon performs on the field.

“You know, I hate to make projections and expectations,” said Brady via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. “That’s not fair. I’ve never met Josh personally, just like I hadn’t met some of the guys that have come in the last couple weeks. So we’ll see how it goes this week and hopefully he can work hard, put the team first and end up helping us in any role that he can find for himself on the team.”

On paper, the acquisition definitely seems to be a good one. All you need to do is go back to 2013 where Gordon piled up 1646 yards receiving and 9 touchdowns over 14 games to realize the talent is there. The 27-year old has the physical attributes to be a dangerous player in this offense if he can get it together. The cost was definitely low enough for the Patriots (a conditional 5th) where it was worth a shot to give him an opportunity, with the risk/reward scale tipping dramatically in their favor.

For Gordon, his actions landed him an opportunity to showcase himself and experience being part of a franchise that demands the best from every player in the locker room, giving him a potential distraction to help him in his struggle to stay sober. Winning tends to cure a lot of things and if he’s productive, it may hopefully be enough to give him some confidence to even potentially overcome his issues.

If he plays well, it gives the Patriots an explosive player in an offense that so far is 26th in the NFL on third down having converted just 8-of-26 (30.8%) and is 20th in the league in points-per-game (345.5) and offensive yards (691).

If he doesn’t, he simply joins a long list of players who didn’t pan out in an offense that Brady recently explained was “graduate level” and demands quite a bit from the players who are a part of it.

For Gordon, it’s an opportunity as a fresh start to resurrect not only his career, but his life as well. Everyone loves deals that are win-win for both sides and hopefully for Gordon’s sake, this will be just the one he needed to finally get him to where he needs to be.

Five Things We Learned From Sunday’s Loss In Jacksonville

Ian Logue
September 17, 2018 at 10:02 am ET

Sunday’s “rematch” against the Jaguars on Sunday didn’t go well but the good news is, while Jacksonville fans don’t seem to realize it, games lost in September are certainly a little easier to deal with than ones lost after December.  For now, they get to gloat about their 2-0 start while enjoying the feeling of a little redemption, but Sunday’s loss for New England will simply go down as a tough lesson that will likely make them better in the coming months.

With the team now sitting at 1-1, here are a few things that stood out in this one:

1) September games in Florida never bode well – The Patriots haven’t had much luck in September games in Florida and their trip to Jacksonville on Sunday proved to be another tough one.

Having lost the opener in 2014 when the temperature was 89 degrees and humid in Miami, they faced one of the worst environments again Sunday in North Florida as the heat index reached 107 degrees. It marked the hottest game ever for the Jaguars and proved to be an additional adversary New England had to overcome in addition to a Jacksonville team that put the pressure on early and didn’t let up. The Jaguars put together two straight scoring drives on their opening two possessions, the first of which saw them get the ball at their own 44-yard line after Stephen Gostkowski missed a 54-yard field goal on New England’s opening drive.

They punted just once in the first half, building a 21-3 advantage that was just too big to overcome as the Patriots clearly looked gassed and struggled to keep up with a Jaguars club who kept the pressure on.  When the sun began to go down and clouds rolled in during the third quarter, the temperature finally dropped and that was about the time New England’s come back attempt started.  Unfortunately, by then the mountain was too big to climb and it proved to be too late.

Tom Brady downplayed the heat after the game, saying he didn’t notice it and credited the Jaguars’ execution as the real reason for the loss.

“You know, I actually don’t think it was that bad—at least I didn’t feel it,” said Brady.  “I mean, it was definitely warm—warmer than what we’ve had—but it was a lot like training camp this year. I think it was more the execution. [The Jaguars] executed really well; we didn’t. I think it’s really that simple, and if we want the outcomes to change, we’ve got to do things a lot differently.”

Needless to say, chalk this one up as another early season game where, fortunately, any potential rematch down there weather-wise hopefully won’t be as bad.

2) Early in the season is when the Patriots seem to be at their most vulnerable – This was mentioned heading into the opener, but it seems to be even more relevant after Sunday’s loss, and fortunately, what happens early in the season isn’t necessarily an indication of what the rest of the season holds.

The first four weeks of the season tends to be when teams are able to get the jump on Bill Belichick’s club, as that’s usually when the team hasn’t quite gotten their roster to where it needs to be and they lack film on opposing teams, who have also added their own new personnel.

Since 2014, the Patriots were 2-2 in season openers and 11-5 overall in Weeks 1-4.  While that 11-5 record may not seem that bad, they’re actually a total of 40-8 over the remaining twelve weeks over that same span, which shows you how much better they get as the season goes on in three times as many games.

Between the heat, the absence of Julian Edelman and the fact Jaguars coach Doug Marrone put together a terrific game plan, it was the recipe for another one of those frustrating losses that will likely motivate this team in the coming weeks after they get the opportunity to take another look at this one.

Flowers’ loss was a tough one for the Patriots’ defense Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)

3) Losing two key players on defense and seeing another get hurt didn’t help – One of the things that stood out was the fact that Blake Bortles had the freedom to do whatever he wanted and the loss of Trey Flowers early in the game likely played a role in New England’s issues on defense.  Flowers, who seemingly suffered a concussion early in the contest after being taken into the blue medical tent and then later to the locker room, is a key part of the Patriots’ pass rush and his absence hurt their ability to disrupt Jacksonville’s passing game.  Also injured was Deatrich Wise, who reportedly suffered a hand injury.

Couple the loss of Patrick Chung, who also suffered a concussion, it left the Patriots’ secondary even more of a mess as the communication appeared to suffer even further.  That group will have a fair amount of soul-searching to do on Monday after allowing Bortles to put up 377-yards passing along with four touchdowns as they try and rebound from a rough afternoon.

4) Patterson still not clicking with Brady – With Edelman out, the Patriots are still figuring things out offensively and it’s obvious at this point that Cordarelle Patterson is still struggling to get into a rhythm with Brady.  Brady targeted him five times Sunday with three completions, two of which came on third down and saw them come up short.  But one came during a critical drive where the team could have pulled to within one score and Patterson fell down on a quick throw on a 3rd-and-4 for a 2-yard loss and forced the Patriots to instead settle for a field goal and they trailed 24-13.

It’s obvious at this point that they’re still in need of adding someone who can beat one-on-one coverage to open things up for Gronkowski along with receivers Philip Dorsett and Chris Hogan.  While James White lead the team in receptions with 7 catches for 73-yards, they’re still clearly missing a piece.  Edelman’s return will help, but until it’s figured out, it remains a giant question mark heading into the rest of the season.

Sony Michel played well in his debut. (USA TODAY Images)

5) Not a bad start for Michel – In his first game action for the Patriots, rookie Sony Michel showed some good moments in his debut in Jacksonville Sunday.  He finished the day with 10 carries for 34-yards (3.4 avg) and also caught a seven-yard pass.

The rookie was big on the Patriots’ first scoring drive, picking up a big 15-yard gain from the Jaguars 25-yard line that got them down to the 10.  Two plays later, Brady hit Chris Hogan from 15-yards out for the touchdown, pulling them back within two touchdowns at 24-10 toward the end of the third quarter.

Brady said after the game that it was good to see Michel out there.

“Yeah, Sony always works hard, and he had a tough injury during camp and had some opportunities today, and he’ll learn from them. [He] ran hard when he had some chances. He’s got some great mentors in James White and Rex [Burkhead]—those guys to learn from. So, hopefully, he can keep building on what he has done.”

His development over the remainder of the season will be interesting to watch and his next opportunity will come next Sunday night when the Patriots try to get back on track in Detroit against the Lions.

7 Things We Learned From the Patriots Win Over The Texans

Ian Logue
September 10, 2018 at 9:19 am ET

One thing we learned right away on Sunday is the fact there’s nothing like the start of the regular season, which saw the Patriots open up the 2018 campaign with a hard-fought win over the Texans at Gillette Stadium.

Fans who were on hand for this one were treated to some big plays and players who emerged with some terrific moments on Sunday and here’s a quick rundown of what we came away with.

1) Defense Did a Great Job of Getting Pressure on Watson – If Sunday’s match-up against Houston is any indication, Patriots fans should be feeling pretty good about what the 2018 season has in store for this football team defensively.  They held the Texans to a dismal 2-of-11 (18%) on third down and did a great job of getting pressure from the outside, with Deatrich Wise and Trey Flowers each putting the heat on Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson.  They sacked him three times but forced a fair amount of errant throws, which saw Watson finish just 3-of-12 (25%) on first down and kept them in long yardage situations.

Overall, Watson finished the afternoon completing 17-of-34 (50%) for 176yds with 1TD and 1INT.  That’s a significant change from how he fared last year, which saw him pass for 301 yards along with 2 touchdowns and credit New England’s defense for doing a much better job this time around.

Watson downplayed New England’s pass rush after Sunday’s win, blaming himself for not getting rid of it quicker and not on the offensive line.

“Really nowhere, I was just holding the ball too long,” Watson told reporters after the game when asked where he sensed most of the pressure the Patriots were putting on him.  “So that was on me, not the offensive line. You can’t block forever so I have to get the ball out quick and continue to try to get the ball into the skill players’ hands and let them make plays.”

2) A Breakout Game For Dorsett – With Julian Edelman sidelined, one of the biggest questions coming into Sunday’s match-up was whether or not someone other than Rob Gronkowski or Chris Hogan would step up and make the key plays to keep the offense moving.  Phillip Dorsett ended up being that guy and it’s amazing the difference a year makes in seeing Dorsett in the offense.

The veteran wideout, who New England acquired last season in the Jacoby Brissett trade, played extremely well, looking smooth and running incredibly precise routes as he and Tom Brady put on a clinic against Houston’s defense.  It was a nice change from last season when many of the passes thrown his way were fruitless deep attempts down the field that often came up empty.

The two were a perfect 7-of-7 when Brady targeted Dorsett, with the receiver finishing with 66-yards along with a touchdown.  One other impressive total was the fact 6 of those 7 receptions (including the touchdown) were all first downs including a perfect 2-of-2 in the red area.

“Yeah, Phillip did a great job, got some opportunity and then came up with the plays, came up with the catches,” Brady told the media after the game. It’s kind of what he’s been doing all camp, all spring and it was good to see it show up today. So, we needed it. We need everybody who’s out there to make plays. We’re not out there to punt, but we’ve got to string more good plays together in order to score more points.”

3) Nice Start For Rob Gronkowski – With Edelman sidelined, one of the obvious choices for Brady to lean on is Rob Gronkowski and the veteran tight end came up big on Sunday, including in a couple of big situations.

The big tight end finished the day with 7 receptions on 8 targets for 123-yards and made some noise early, with Brady hitting him on a beautiful back-shoulder throw on 3rd-and-12 from the Texans’ 21-yard line, which saw Gronkowski make a tremendous leaping grab in-between two defenders while showing some incredible body-control after he managed to turn around as he landed and then crossed the pylon for the touchdown.

It was a nice way to kick off the season and Gronk told reporters after the game that he was surprised to see the ball coming, but was happy with how it turned out.

“Yeah, when I was running up the seam I had two guys on me and when I saw the ball in the air I literally thought first thing, ‘What is Tom [Brady] thinking?'”, said Gronkowski after the game. “When that ball was in the air I had a guy grabbing me and I was just like, “I’ve just got to go for it.” I can’t let them make a play on it, so just went up for it, made the catch. I did make the catch. I don’t know how. When I went to the ground I had it stable in my hand, so it was definitely a catch, but Tom went up to the line really quick just to make sure. We got the play off, which was nice.”

Gronkowski also made another big play late in the first half when he made a diving grab for 28-yards, which replays showed was close after the ball appeared to move around but Brady brought the offense to the line and snapped the football before the officials had a chance to potentially review the play.  Five plays later, the Patriots punched it when Brady hit Dorsett in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, putting them up 21-6 at the end of the half.

That’s exactly what you like to see from the star tight end and hopefully, it’s the start of another productive season for him.

Brady took some decent shots from the Texans Sunday.

4) Brady Doesn’t Get Enough Credit For His Toughness – While New England’s offensive line did a good job of keeping J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney away from Brady, when they did get to him, he took some tremendous shots.

Brady saw a couple of big hits, including one that saw him land on his head after getting rid of the football (which saw him shake his head after the play), along with another huge hit on a quarterback sneak where he got hit hard as he pushed up the middle and Houston’s defense dove in to try and drive him back.

This might not sound like a big deal, but all you need to do is look around the league at the number of quarterbacks who were knocked out of action on Sunday to appreciate the type of consistency Brady has provided over the entire course of his career.  Brady can talk all he wants about the things he eats and drinks in terms of preparing his body for those impacts, but it doesn’t change how impressive it is that he’s still able to gut them out and weather them after they happen.

Granted, Brady’s never created the drama we saw last night with Aaron Rodgers.  Rodgers rode off the field in the passenger seat of a cart after getting banged up thanks to a Bears defender landing on his leg, only to take the field in the second half and lead Green Bay to a come-from-behind win over a Chicago team that spent the entire second half trying not to lose instead of keeping their foot on the gas.  Rodgers is being praised for his heroic performance, while Brady has quietly just played through whatever ailments he’s dealt with that many likely don’t even know were there.

Given that many people outside of New England view him as a “pretty boy” and don’t understand what he really brings from this standpoint, he really doesn’t get enough credit for his toughness, along with the ability to not lose his concentration following those hits.  Several moments we saw Sunday tend to derail lesser players, which fortunately for fans in New England, doesn’t happen thanks to this key intangible that fortunately, Brady possesses.

5) Allen Remains Clutch – One of the stories during training camp was the punting battle between Ryan Allen and newcomer Corey Bojorquez, which became one of the more interesting storylines of the preseason.

Bojorquez was impressive at times but never saw action during the exhibition games and ultimately was waived and ended up in Buffalo.  It worked out in a big way for the Patriots, who saw Allen come through again as the Patriots benefitted from his ability to consistently keep Houston starting drives deep in their own territory.

However, it was Allen’s punt at the end of the game where he pinned the Texans in at their own 1-yard line with 0:43 seconds left to play that proved crucial as it prevented Watson from being able to attempt a Hail Mary to tie the game as his final throw never reached the end zone.

As for Belichick’s decision to let Bojorquez go, Allen’s performance stands out and as usual he remained as consistent as ever.  Meanwhile, Bojorquez, who played Sunday for Buffalo, made a critical fumble on a punt Sunday that the Ravens recovered and capitalized on during their 47-3 blowout victory over the Bills.

6) Not a good day for McCarron – Given the Patriots current situation at receiver, Riley McCarron saw himself get activated this week onto the active roster and Sunday left him likely frustrated after he muffed a punt and put his team in a tough situation.

Prior to the play in question, McCarron fair caught three straight punts but it was the fourth attempt where it all came apart.  The receiver saw the ball bounce off his facemask, with former Patriot Johnson Bademosi recovering the football at New England’s 16-yard line.  Houston would go on to capitalize on the miscue with a touchdown and suddenly were now within 7-points with just over 2-minutes left in the game.

McCarron was rightfully frustrated after the game, wishing he could have that one back.

“I made a stupid play,” said McCarron via “I should have handled the ball. It’s as simple as that. I did not make the decision on a fair catch, obviously, but I know the one I should have made now.”

“I just dropped the ball,” added McCarron. “It’s not a good feeling. I would like that not to happen anymore this season.”

7) Tough Break For Hill – Sunday was also bad for the Patriots from a medical standpoint, with running back Jeremy Hill suffering what appeared to be a serious injury.

Hill fell victim to friendly fire after Rob Gronkowski fumbled following a 25-yard reception and Houston recovered, but not before James Develin came in to try and make the tackle on Texans defensive back Kareem Jackson, who had recovered the football.

As Develin dove to attempt the tackle, he caught Hill in the back of his leg and Hill immediately started writhing around on the ground, grabbing his leg and the replay showed that his knee bent extremely awkwardly, which signaled it may have been serious.

Hill left the game and went into the blue medical tent before later being taken to the locker room.

To take it a step further, Hill Tweeted “God’s Plan”, which while cryptic, certainly shouldn’t have fans feeling confident that we’ll see him again this season.  It’s one of those things you never like to see, especially early in the season, but best wishes to Hill in his recovery.

The Patriots will now just have to regroup and move on as they get set to head down to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars next Sunday at 4:30pm ET.

Week One Has Been An Issue Recently For the Patriots

Ian Logue
September 7, 2018 at 10:39 am ET

When the coaching staff has plenty of film to review on the opposition, good things tend to happen to the Patriots.

However, when they don’t, things tend to be a little more challenging.

Last season was a perfect example of how teams are able to get the jump on this team and take them by surprise, which ended in a blowout loss to begin the season against a coach in Andy Reid who Bill Belichick previously had success against.

In that game, the Chiefs confused the Patriots on offense and had success against New England’s defense, with Alex Smith missing just three passes in the first half as Kansas City kept it close while trailing by just three points at 17-14 at halftime. From there, they pulled away with 21 fourth-quarter points that blew things wide open and left the Patriots stunned with their first loss of the season.

But the big thing that stands out is the fact the Chiefs managed to come up with ways to move players around to pull off big plays. Both Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill each scored on touchdowns of over 70-yards, which is clearly very unusual for a Belichick team that typically doesn’t get beat for big scoring strikes.

That kind of craziness really seems to be a problem in week one.  Since 2014, the Patriots are currently just 2-2 to begin the season and none of those contests were easy.  Each one was a battle and even in their two wins, the largest margin of victory was just seven points (a 28-21 victory over Pittsburgh in 2015).

You have to go all the way back to 2012 for the last time the Patriots went out and opened strong against an opponent, beating the Titans soundly, 34-13.

Patriots Opening Day Results Since 2012:

2012 – Patriots at Titans: Win 34-13
2013 – Patriots at Bills: Win 23-21
2014 – Patriots at Dolphins: Loss 33-20
2015 – Patriots vs Steelers: Win 28-21
2016 – Patriots at Cardinals: Win 23-21
2017 – Patriots vs Chiefs: Loss 42-27

Otherwise, teams are able to hide a bit without any current film for New England’s coaching staff to pour over.  Last year’s opener started that discussion after a surprisingly good job by Reid and with that in mind, it’s hard not to wonder if Bill O’Brien’s Texans might pull off another surprise in a similar fashion to how the 2017 match-up went against Houston.

Last year when the Patriots faced the Texans in Week 3, New England escaped with a 36-33 win at home against a Houston team that sacked Brady five times and had they not played it safe at the end of the game, they could have potentially pulled off the upset and dropped the Patriots to 1-2.  That was another case of the team seemingly not knowing much about DeShaun Watson, who passed for over 300-yards and despite picking him off twice, it felt like they spent most of the game trying to adjust and figure out how to deal with him.

Belichick’s teams have had trouble in Week 1 over the past four seasons. (USA TODAY Images)

With not much to go on film-wise early in the year, it’s these types of games that seem to cause them problems.  In fact, the first four games have been challenging for the Patriots in recent years.  They’ve lost two games twice and only finished 4-0 once, which was back in 2015. They’re still 11-5 since 2014 but to put it in perspective, after four games over that same span, they’ve piled up an astonishing 40-8 record.

Historically, the Patriots have had success against the Texans but the advantage Houston has this year is the element of surprise, which could potentially be a problem.  Bill O’Brien is a good coach and he’s got enough talent on both sides of the football to help his team pull off what Reid managed to do in last year’s opener.

Belichick talked on Wednesday about the challenges that come up because of the fact they’re facing a team with new personnel, which is always one of the more difficult things to deal with to begin a season.

“Opening Day is always a challenge because the amount, the volume of all three phases and all the situations and all the things that have come up between last year, this year and new personnel and so forth,” said Belichick.  “The Texans have quite a few new players. Everybody has new players on their roster. They have quite a few – I bet a third of their team has been turned over. So, we’ve got a lot of new people there to prepare for, get ready for and some of their best and most important players look like they’re ready to go. So, that’s where we’re at this week.”

It’s an interesting dilemma from a coach who normally is the one who does a good job of coming up with ways to confuse opponents.  But looking at their recent history, it’s interesting to see how the openers have gone.  Whether or not that trend changes this year remains to be seen and Belichick knows they have their work cut out for them.

“Like I said, we still have quite a bit of work to do,” said Belichick.  “We’re well underway, so we’ll work through it here this week and hopefully clean things up by the end of the week and be ready to go.”

Wednesday Patriots Notebook 8/29: Belichick Offers Some Insight on Cuts; Cardona Earns Prestigious Honor

Ian Logue
August 29, 2018 at 9:51 am ET

We’re on the eve of the final preseason game of 2018 and here’s a look at this morning’s top stories.

With Final Cuts Looming, Belichick Offers Some Insight – Tomorrow night’s game could potentially be the last opportunity for players with uncertain futures to give themselves an opportunity to either earn a roster spot here in New England, or put enough on tape to give themselves a chance to latch on elsewhere.

It’s a difficult time of year, not only for the players but also for the coaches.  Making the wrong decision when it comes to letting an up-and-coming player go in favor of an incumbent who may be starting to drop off can be costly.  These are the types of things that keep coaches up at night, because while coaching is obviously important, it’s the players who, as long as the execution is there, are the ones who make the difference on game day.

Belichick talked about that process on Tuesday, explaining how difficult it is to mold a roster.  It’s a tough process, with the more difficult part of it coming down to making a decision between incumbent players and younger players who show potential.  But the biggest point of emphasis was on the word “improvement”, which Belichick said applies to both sides of this argument.  If an older player has plateaued and the younger player has shown he can reach or exceed that level, it’s situations like that which can spark an opportunity for them.

“Yeah, well, the most important thing in evaluating players is their improvement,” explained Belichick.  “So, if a player’s improving, then you’re most likely to take the high water mark as opposed to where he was three weeks ago when you feel like he’s passed that and he’s shown that that wasn’t the player that he was. He’s taken the experience, the coaching, the reps that he’s had, and he’s become more efficient at those things, whatever the position is and so forth. So, when you see that improvement, then you start to weigh what happened most recently over mistakes that were made a month ago if you feel like those have been corrected and that we’ve moved past those. So, that’s the most important word for any player, young or old.”

The biggest thing Belichick said they look for is an upward trend based on what they’ve seen recently.  The faster they seem to be trending, the better their chances of making the team.

“But, especially players with less experience, if they’re improving, then you’re most likely to look at what they’ve done most recently,” explained Belichick. “If they’re not improving, then you’re most likely to look at what they’ve done most recently, which is less than what it was before, and that’s usually not a good thing. It could be alright if it’s high enough. I mean, if the guy’s a really good player and he’s just not as good as he used to be but still better than everybody else, then that’s good. But, when a player starts at a lower level and is moving up, then if he’s moving up and he’s moving up at a good rate and you think that rate is going to continue, then that carries a lot of weight. Even though he’s not there yet, if you think he’s going to get there, a lot of times you bank on that.”

With one game to go, the goal now is for those players who are battling for a spot to try and make enough of an impression to sway things in their favor.  But if they can show improvement just one more time, their chances might increase significantly and that’s exactly what Belichick said they’ll be looking for.

“We evaluate everything, but if there’s a rising trend, that carries a lot of weight,” said Belichick. “So, this is the last opportunity. If guys that have been improving the last couple weeks can add onto that, it will absolutely help them. It could help them a lot.”

Vollmer was one of the Patriots’ most consistent players during his career.

Vollmer Earns Praise – One player whose name came up during this discussion on Tuesday is former right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who Belichick said really impressed them during the early part of his career.

The former standout from the University of Houston was selected in the second-round of 2009 by the Patriots (58th overall) and started out as a tight end in college before moving to left tackle.  But when he came to New England, one of the things that impressed Belichick was how well Vollmer handled himself on both sides of the line, including going toe-to-toe against Dwight Freeney in camp and holding his own.

“Yeah, well, I mean, I think [Sebastian] Vollmer did a good job of that, especially early in his career when he played I think it was left tackle at Houston, then right tackle in the East-West game,” said Belichick.  “Then we worked him at right tackle in training camp, then he played left tackle against [Dwight] Freeney. So, for a player that didn’t have a lot of experience as a football player and didn’t have a lot of experience in the NFL when that happened to him his rookie year, he ended up playing both sides. Yeah, that was pretty good.”

The match-up against Freeney stood out to Belichick, but the other thing that also surprised him was the level of improvement Vollmer made over such a short period of time, which Belichick admitted happened much faster than they expected.

“He sure did, yeah,” said Belichick when asked about Vollmer holding his own against Freeney. “Sebastian is a player that improved tremendously in a very short period of time. He had trouble at Houston. He had trouble in the East-West game, in the All-Star games. When we drafted him, we thought this was going to be a multi-year project. [We] loved everything about him – his intelligence, his length, his athleticism, his toughness, his work ethic – we just thought it would take a while. So yeah, he had a long way to go and he closed the gap very, very quickly, I think quicker than any of us could have realistically expected.”

“But, I’d say by the time we got to this point in training camp, he’d made some pretty big strides. So, I’d say it was more surprising early and then less surprising as we got into the season because he jumped over a lot of landmarks or measuring sticks early in his career in the first training camp.”

And that’s what the other players will continue keep trying to do tomorrow night.

Cardona earned a prestigious award Tuesday night.

Cardona Wins Ron Burton Award – The Patriots announced the 2018 Ron Burton Award winner on Tuesday night and long-snapper Joe Cardona was the player who this year came away with the honor.

The award honors players who go above and beyond for their contributions in the community, with the team noting in their release that Cardona is also the first to earn the honor while also serving as a lieutenant junior grade in the United States Navy.

“Joe is a Patriot in the highest sense of the word, on and off the field,” said Kraft via the team’s release.  “Service to others is of principal importance to him, first to our country, as well as to our team and to our community.  This past offseason, Joe went on a two-week training session to South Korea with the United States Navy Reserves.  He serves his country and his team honorably and still manages to contribute by volunteering to serve and support many of our team’s community initiatives.”

The former fifth-round draft pick out of Navy in 2015 has been a key part of New England’s special teams unit, solidifying the long-snapper position as he’s quietly been a key component of the success of punter Ryan Allen and kicker Stephen Gostkowski.  Things like that tend to fly under the radar and it’s a position that Bill Belichick has emphasized over the years as being an important one.  Cardona has clearly earned the respect and admiration of his coach and the team, and also earned a 4-year extension this offseason.

Belichick praised him just last week when talking about him.

“Joe’s a very impressive person on a lot of levels,” said Belichick just last week.  “He’s just an outstanding example for all of us. His contributions and service to our country, his commitment to our football team and just his overall personal character and how good of a friend and teammate he is to everybody on the team. He’s a tremendous individual and I’m glad we have him, glad we were able to work out an agreement with him to extend it.”

Odds and Ends:

– Belichick was asked about the challenges of making decisions on the fly as a head coach and said that while preparation is important, what they do on game day is obviously even more important.  “Yeah, well, preparation is a lot of that, but then once the game starts, then that trumps the preparation,” said Belichick.  “So, that’s what [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower said, right? Before the battle, everything is about preparation. Once the battle starts, preparation doesn’t mean anything. You’ve got to adjust to what the battle is. So, I think there’s a lot of truth to that.”

– Rob Gronkowski said on Tuesday he’s feeling better at this time of year than he did last year, which has him looking forward to this season.  “I just love playing the game. I feel good right now,” said Gronkowski.  “I definitely feel like 100 times better than I did last year during training camp. When you’re feeling good, you love playing the game. I feel good enough to where I thought I could come back, go throughout the whole season, go throughout camp and just keep playing the game and be enjoying it. That’s how it’s been and when you’re enjoying the game, when you’re feeling good, you just love playing the game. It’s just something when you’re out on the field, like your mind is just in another place because you’re just focusing on what you got to do.”

– Gronk also had some advice for those players who are trying to stick around.  “Just go hard, play hard,” said Gronkowski.  “Give it all you got this game. I mean, you’re not just showcasing for the Patriots but you could possibly be showcasing for around the league. So just play hard, do the best you can and finish plays.”  He also had some praise for fellow offensive player Shaq Mason, who just signed a long-term extension with the team.  “Oh yeah, I mean he’s a great player,” said Gronkowski. “His speed is unreal, the way he can close the gap on a small defender and just block him is unbelievable. He’s a great player and it’s always great to see guys like him get a deal like that.”

– Rookie running back Sony Michel and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon were both on the field on Tuesday for their second practice as they each continue coming back from injuries, which is a positive sign as the regular season looms closer.  Their statuses for tomorrow night aren’t certain, but one would have to believe that the team will continue taking their time and focus instead on making sure they’re both healthy enough to contribute this season.

– Several players who most likely will see time are newcomers receiver K.J. Maye and running backs Kenneth Farrow and Khalfani Muhammad, who were each spotted on the practice field Tuesday.  It’s hard to imagine any of them sticking around, but with each player trying to earn an opportunity in the league, every snap could be a difference-maker as each one looks to put something on film to bolster their case, even if it’s just on someone’s practice squad.  But for one night, they’ll get to showcase their skills at Gillette Stadium.

– One harsh reality that fans are having to deal with is the future of Julian Edelman, who will be sidelined to begin the regular season as he serves his four-game suspension.  But as disappointed as fans will be to not see #11 each Sunday, Edelman is coming to the realization that he’s about to begin his exile away from the team, which he admitted is going to be tough to deal with.  “Real football starts soon, so it’s definitely been a reality check,” Edelman said via Mike Reiss of ESPN. “I’m not going to sit here and worry about things I can’t control. Ultimately, I put myself in this situation, so it’s more of ‘let’s go and get myself ready for when I can play.'”  His return will likely be well-hyped given that he’ll be returning on a national stage, returning just in time for the team’s Thursday night match-up at home against the Indianapolis at Gillette Stadium on October 4th.

Monday Patriots Notebook 8/27: Patterson Leading in Key Stat; Ninkovich Makes Case to Ditch Turf

Ian Logue
August 27, 2018 at 9:25 am ET

It’s the start of a new week and with the final preseason game of 2018 just days away, here’s a look at this morning’s top stories.

Decker Calls it a Career – After a preseason that hasn’t quite gone to plan, it appears Eric Decker’s days in New England are over after the veteran receiver announced his retirement on Instagram on Sunday.

“It has been my childhood dream and my passion to play the game of football,” wrote Decker.  “I was very fortunate and blessed to have had the opportunity to have those dreams fulfilled and to have played with such extremely talented and hard-working teammates, coaches and staff.  This has been a passion inside of me since I was a little boy but I know now it is time to hang my helmet up and start a new chapter in my life.”

“I love football and always will.  It will continue to be a part of my life.  I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wife and kids.  I want to give a special thank you to my family, friends and fans for all your support on this incredible journey.  It’s been an amazing chapter in my life.  I look forward to the future and the many adventures ahead!”

Decker has had a rough run since joining the team, enduring a fair number of drops and hasn’t quite been able to seemingly get comfortable in the offense.  He hasn’t seen any real time with the first offense and has been targeted seven times, all by Brian Hoyer, with just two receptions for 12 yards.  Four of those targets came on third down, with Decker catching just one pass for 1-yard and failing to move the chains.

His decision further thins out a receiving group that is already in tough shape heading into the regular season.  With Julian Edleman set to be sidelined for the first four games, the team is currently left with Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett at the top of the depth chart, but from there it gets a little foggy. Cordarrelle Patterson appears poised to be third option, with Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios or Devin Lucien potentially being in the running for the final spot.  Lucien is an interesting prospect as he’s had another good preseason, catching 4 passes, 3 of which have gone for first downs after totaling 71-yards and a team-best 17.8 yards per reception.

As for Decker, he finishes his NFL career with 439 receptions for 5816 yards and 53 touchdowns.

Patterson Leads All Receivers By a Wide Margin So Far in First Downs – After three preseason games, it was interesting to look at the totals after updating our stats database and looking at the receiving totals through three games, there was one number that stood out.

Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson currently leads all receivers in first downs by a wide margin, with Patterson totaling 7-first downs, more than double the next closest receiver in that category.

The majority of receptions for Patterson have come with Brian Hoyer (9 receptions, 5 first downs and a touchdown), while Brady has connected with him twice, both of which were first downs.

The team so far has spent time moving him around and he’s done well when he’s been able to use his athleticism and move the chains and is currently second on the team behind Devin Lucien in yards per reception with 11.5.

He remains an interesting player to watch and so far he’s doing the right things. Whether that success can translate into the regular season remains to be seen but if it does, the team’s success offensively will definitely benefit from it.

Ninkovich Makes Plea For Natural Grass – During Sunday’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich expressed his frustrations on Twitter after seeing Bills quarterback Josh Allen suffer a head injury after his helmet struck the turf in Sunday’s game.

Rookie Josh Allen suffered a scare in the first half after he was slammed to the turf and his head bounced, with the quarterback lasting one more play before spotters alerted officials to take him out for evaluation.

Ninkovich was watching the game and later pointed out that with the league trying to focus on player safety while reducing head injuries, one big step that would make sense would be for them to strongly consider going back to natural grass.

Our own Robert Alvarez pointed out an article from November 16, 2016 by Dave Brown of The Concord Monitor that looked at the Patriots’ own transition away from grass, which happened in 2006 after the team suffered an ugly loss to the Jets where the field was in bad shape, with players sliding around after the field was reduced to mostly mud.

That loss stung even more since it came against then Jets coach Eric Mangini, with Bill Belichick then reportedly asking Robert Kraft to swap out the field.  Belichick reflected on the decision two years ago, which he felt at the time was necessary.

“If you have a competitive team, you want to give them a chance to play,” Belichick said in November of 2016, recalling the decision to change to FieldTurf. “You don’t want to go out there and slop around every week and play in a mud bowl. … Those are hard conditions for players to play on because it’s not consistent within the play, or it’s frozen on part of the field and it’s not frozen on the other part of the field. It’s tough to put the players in those situations. At that time, that’s what we thought. I talked to Robert about it. At that time, we felt like it was the best thing to do and we did it.”

But players like Ninkovich seem to disagree and Brady appeared to echo that sentiment when asked about it two years ago.

“We practice on grass every day,” Brady said at the time. “I think we as players go out there on grass practice fields every day, so you get used to the grass. Growing up, I played on all grass. I think it’s easier to land on the grass than landing on the (turf).”

Brady even went so far as to indirectly express some frustration about the fact that when the team has held major soccer events at the stadium, the turf is taken out and replaced with grass, which he appeared to feel didn’t seem quite right.

“All of those (international) soccer teams get all the grass when they come to this stadium,” Brady said, and then paused to make sure everyone had recognized the weight of his argument. “That’s a good point, right?”

One of the challenges that prompted the change was the fact that Jonathan Kraft cited the lack of sunlight reaching the field in the later months thanks to the high walls of the stadium made it tough for the field to properly recover after each game.  According to the newspaper, the team had also installed a better drainage system and underground heating system, but it didn’t change the fact that mother nature couldn’t do the rest of the job.

Belichick did go on to point out two years ago that after seeing other teams in cold weather cities have success maintaining grass fields in recent years that it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the team could re-examine things at some point.

“Look, the reality of it is it’s just hard to grow grass,” Belichick said. “The technology’s changed in the last 10 years relative to grass growing. Not that I’m a big expert on that but that’s what’s been represented to me and I think that’s true. … I think there are more of those in this northern area and they all seem to be doing pretty well from our experience in the past two to three years on them. … Maybe there will be another point where we’ll make a different decision.”

Given the sentiments of former players like Ninkovich and current players who prefer a natural surface, coupled with the league trying to reduce head injuries, it will be interesting if we’ll see a shift back to natural grass league-wide at some point.  Between head injuries and the number of ACL injuries, it’s becoming more obvious that shifting away from turf may be a point of emphasis at some point and clearly Ninkovich believes if it happened, it would certainly be a benefit for the players.

11 Things We Learned From the Patriots Loss at Carolina

Ian Logue
August 25, 2018 at 12:22 pm ET

One of the best parts about the preseason is that it’s really only the experience and not the final score that matters, which is good news for the Patriots after losing 25-14 down in Carolina Friday night.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we came away with from this game.

1) Deatrich Wise brought down a notch – After what had been a pretty impressive preseason to this point, Wise had a rough outing against a very physical Panthers offensive line Friday night.

Wise got pushed around quite a bit on Carolina’s opening drive, which saw the Panthers have a fair amount of success as Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton combined for 53-yards on the ground during that series.  A third down run late in that series by Newton saw Wise get pushed out of the play as Newton took off for an 11-yard run on a 3rd-and-9. but Panthers quarterback got upended by Jonathan Jones.  Newton flipped in the air and landed on his head, which saw him leave the game and head to the medical tent to be evaluated.  He eventually returned.

Fortunately New England’s defense eventually held Carolina to a field goal, but it was surprising to see Wise struggle after what had been an impressive preseason.  He finished the night having played 25 snaps with two tackles, but the good news for Wise is since this one doesn’t count, it will hopefully be just a bad memory that he can simply chalk up to being nothing more than a learning experience.

2) An up and down night for Gilmore – Stephon Gilmore had a tough night Thursday night, with the veteran making some plays but also struggling at times during this one.

Gilmore came up with a big third down stop to force the incompletion from Newton to rookie receiver D.J. Moore, which was key as it killed the drive and forced Carolina to settle for a field goal.  Unfortunately, the next series didn’t work out quite as well after Gilmore gave up back-to-back gains of 28-yards on the Panthers’ second offensive series.  The first was just a great back shoulder throw by Newton to Devin Funchess that arrived before Gilmore turned around.  However, the second was just a bad play that saw Gilmore get turned after Curtis Samuel cut inside and then broke out, with Gilmore having to chase him down.  Looking back on that play, it didn’t help that the Patriots tried to get pressure after sending Patrick Chung on a blitz, but Chung was cut down in the backfield by running back Christian McCaffrey before he had a chance to disrupt the play.

Many will likely remember that Gilmore didn’t play well against the Panthers last season and that contest ended up being the turning point in his season, which saw him play well down the stretch.  Fortunately, with this game happening during the preseason, maybe he’ll get started a little sooner in 2018.

Brady and the offense had a tough night. (USA TODAY Images)

3) Tough Night for Brady and the offense – Brady and the offense had an off night against the Panthers, with the quarterback not enjoying the same success he had last week.  They scored just 3 points during the first half of play with Brady at the helm, with Carolina’s defense making things difficiult.

The opening series saw the offense go three-and-out, with Brady opting to try and hit Rob Gronkowski on a 2nd-and-4 play where both Gronkowski and Julian Edelman ran double outs but were both well covered.  The pass was batted after left tackle Trent Brown fell down and defensive end, Mario Addison, got his hands on the football.  It was a quick play, but Brady had James White uncovered to his right and just didn’t see him.

Brady would find himself under pressure on the next throw on 3rd down and somehow managed to fire a fairly good throw to White, but the running back was immediately cut down by speedy defensive back Donte Jackson just short of the first down marker.

The next drive saw the Patriots put together a 14-play, 67 yard drive that led to a 27-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.  That drive was frustrating because the Patriots managed to get down to the Panthers’ 4-yard line but LaAdrian Waddle made a serious mental mistake when he allowed himself to get called for an unnecessary roughness penalty, moving the Patriots back 15-yards which essentially ruined what was a terrific scoring opportunity and forced New England to settle for a field goal.

Brady also put together another drive on New England’s next possession where they took over with 7:05 left in the half and marched from their own 28 down to the Panthers’ 28 as they chewed up over 5-minutes of the clock.

On that drive, Brady even managed to convert a 4th-and-3 at the Panthers’ 39 after Brady looked left but then turned back and fired a strike to Phillip Dorsett (see above).

But the drive stalled again on a 3rd-and-5 where Brady targeted tight end Will Tye up the right sideline, with Tye leaping up and nearly making the completion.  Unfortunately, that would be Brady’s final pass of the night as Gostkowski would push the kick wide right on the 46-yard attempt.

Overall, Brady finished 12-of-18 for 102 yards on a night where it just came down to the fact he had limited options against a Panthers defense that simply played really played well while New England needed perfect play but saw mental mistakes cost them.

4) Edelman Looked Good – While Edelman won’t be out there for the first four weeks, he showed enough on Friday night to make fans believe he’ll be an impact player when he returns.

The veteran wideout looked solid against Carolina, making quick cuts and finishing the night as the team’s leading receiver on third down after being targeted three times with two receptions, both of which moved the chains.

Overall, he looked just as elusive and ran great routes, which is impressive for a player coming back from a serious ACL injury.  It’s frustrating knowing they’ll have to make it through without him, but he appears to be fully recovered and hasn’t shown any drop off during what little time we’ve seen him.

5) Patriots Ground Game Struggled – The Patriots offensive line had a rough time against Carolina’s defense and as a result, the ground game suffered.

Mike Gillislee got the lion’s share of the snaps Friday night, carrying 10 times for 35-yards including a touchdown.  But at one point things were pretty grim as Gillislee and Jeremy Hill had combined for more rushes for no gains or a loss than they had positive carries.

Carolina arguably has one of the better groups of linebackers in the league and they were just brutal Friday night, wreaking havoc and making things difficult on New England’s offensive line.  As a result, there will likely be a lot to discuss when the team looks at the film after what was certainly a frustrating night.

6) Better Night for Hoyer – Hoyer’s final stat line may not show it, but he actually had a better night Friday night down in Carolina.

He finished 16-of-24 for 109 yards, but was actually 12-of-15 before the offense’s final possession of the game where he finished 4-of-9 after he started heaving it up to try and make plays.

Hoyer looked more under control and had more zip on his throws Friday night, leading the offense to 11 second half points to at least have them make it somewhat of a contest after the Panthers at one point mounted a 25-3 lead.

He’s gradually improved over the last couple of weeks after a dismal first outing, with Belichick opting to keep Danny Etling on the sideline for this week as Hoyer played the entire second half and finished the game.  While there’s still reason to be concerned should he be forced into the starting line-up during the regular season, it’s good to at least see him making progress.

7) Nice outing for Elandon Roberts – Roberts had a good game Friday night, with the linebacker showing tremendous lateral speed and some good instincts.

He finished with three tackles, one of which came on a nice play where he made a terrific read and stopped C.J. Anderson short of the goal line on a 3rd-and-4 from the Panthers’ 4-yard line early in the 3rd quarter.

Unfortunately, Eric Lee was beat on the next play after he let quarterback Taylor Heinicke get around him and then couldn’t track him down as Heinicke ran it in on a bootleg to extend the Panthers’ lead to 15-3.

But still, it was a nice showing on a night where the defense faced a tough challenge and Roberts was one of the bright spots.

8) Time running out for McCourty – Any shot at seeing the McCourty brothers together on defense this season seems to be slipping away after Jason McCourty saw himself see time at safety after some less than stellar cornerback play this preseason.

He didn’t take the field until the second-half Friday night, but saw time at safety and along with Keion Crossen, was beat on a 31-yard strike from Heinicke to Chris Samuel early in the third quarter.

However, McCourty did make a nice play down on the goal line after he came up and made a tackle for a loss on a 2nd-and-3, meeting Cameron Artis-Payne near the sideline and dropping him behind the line of scrimmage.

But the fact he’s seeing time at safety is clearly Bill Belichick’s attempt to see if he can provide some depth in the secondary.  That doesn’t bode well for a player many thought could become a solid starter at corner for the team this season.

9) Decker Continues to Struggle – It was another rough night for Eric Decker, who was targeted five times with just two receptions.

The veteran receiver has yet to see a target from Brady and he made a critical mistake on Friday night where he blew a first down opportunity for the offense after he negated what would have been a first down on a 3rd-and-7 after Hoyer hit Devin Lucien but Decker was called for a false start.

But he then didn’t help his cause on the next play when Hoyer went deep to him on a 3rd-and-12 and he failed to watch where his feet were on the play.  Granted, Hoyer should have thrown it more inside but Decker had a shot to keep the ball in bounds but seemingly lost track of where he was.  Catching it and finding a way to keep his feet in bounds could have been a nice moment for him, but unfortunately, it didn’t happen.

With the release of Kenny Britt, it seems like Decker’s chances to stick around appear to be there, but so far this preseason, it certainly hasn’t gone well.  Between his drops and issues like what transpired again Friday night, there continues to be reasons to be concerned with his play.

10)  Jones gets back into it – One bright spot for the Patriots was the play of Cyrus Jones, who saw some time returning kicks down in Carolina.

Jones finished the night with three kickoff returns for 38-yards and also fielded two punts, making a fair catch on one while returning another for one-yard.  But the big thing was the fact he looked much more confident and comfortable back there and showed some pretty good burst each time he caught the ball, which is encouraging.

Either way, not a bad night for a player who had a rough start and it would certainly be advantageous for the Patriots if Jones can contribute both in the return game and on defense for them this season.

11) Hill Seemingly Escapes Injury – A scary moment happened late in the game after running back Jeremy Hill seemingly suffered an injury with just over 3-minutes left in the contest.

Hill was yanked down with a horse collar tackle following a 6-yard run on a 2nd-and-2, where Sterling Bailey decided to pull him down despite the fact Hill was near the sideline.

The running back limped off the field and looked to be in serious discomfort, which was frustrating given that he’s worked hard and seemed poised for a roster spot and it’s never a good thing seeing a player like that get hurt at that point in the game.

Fortunately, he told reporters after the game that he’s “good” and didn’t appear to be limping in the locker room, which thankfully means he avoided serious injury.

At the end of the day, while the game goes down as a loss, it will hopefully be a wake up call for a group that had been riding high after two nice wins to open the preseason.  They’ll now return home to prepare to close out the preseason next week against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

Tuesday Patriots Notebook 8/21: Richards Still Confused By Penalty; Belichick Not Tech Savvy

Ian Logue
August 21, 2018 at 10:28 am ET

Here’s a look at today’s top stories

Richards remains confused by new helmet penalty – Patriots safety Jordan Richards learned first-hand that the way NFL officials may end up calling this new helmet penalty this season will likely remain a work in progress after being flagged for it Thursday night against Philadelphia.

Richards came in and seemingly put a hit on tight end Dallas Goedert and wrapped him up, dropping him to the ground.  However, he apparently lowered his head a little too much and instead was flagged, giving up another 15-yards.

Looking at some of those penalties over the first couple of weeks, the only thing we know so far is that there will likely be some unexpected and possibly frustrating moments this season as there has yet to be any consistency to those calls.  Richards said on Monday that it’s just something players are going to have to adjust to.

“I think it’s going to be one of those things, similar to crews that are more proactive to OPI, DPI and some crews let the guys on the outside play a little bit more,” Richards said via “Some crews will be pretty strict on the holding on the offensive line. I feel like this call will be something similar to that. You just have to play the game how it’s being officiated. In that case, that’s how they felt so the penalty came afterwards.”

It sets up a potentially annoying future when it comes to NFL defenders making tackles.  The notion of defensive players having to hit guys standing straight up would be a frustrating thought, yet re-watching Richard’s tackle, it’s hard to try and figure out how he couldn’t have done things much different when going up against a player with Goedert’s 6’5″ frame.

At the end of the day, Richards was just trying to do his job but now that moment will likely stick in his mind moving forward until this new rule starts to make a little more sense.

‘Obviously, I’m trying to get the guy on the ground,” said Richards.  “I felt like I kept my head up, but he felt otherwise.”

Belichick Doesn’t Know How to Use Netflix – For any fans who are familiar with Bill Belichick’s struggles with technology, it appears they extend well beyond the social media networks that he’s scoffed at over the years.

While making his weekly appearance on WEEI, Belichick told Ordway, Merloni and Fauria when asked about whether or not he had a Netflix account to watch in his spare time that it’s not something he’s familiar with.

“Linda does,” he said of his significant other, Linda Holliday, via WEEI. “I don’t have one. I’m not very tech savvy.”

“Getting it on the screen would be very challenging for me. You’ve got to go to a certain thing, have a pass code. It’s not like you can just flip from Ch. 53 to Ch. 108. I can handle that. But yeah, we have it.”

Belichick went on to say that without help, “Netflix, Snapface and Pandarama” would be a challenge.  Given that he’s coined the phrases, “Snapface”, “InstaChat”, it appears you can now add “Pandarama” to the list of Belichick-isms.

Just when you thought you heard all of them, Belichick, as usual, comes through again.

High praise for Cardona – Long-snapper Joe Cardona has been one of New England’s most consistent players and a favorite with Belichick, with Cardona being a model player and citizen in the locker room.

The former fifth-round pick and Navy reserve was entering the final year of his contract and received a four-year extension this offseason thanks to his body of work.  But Belichick said on Monday that he’s not just a good player, but also a great person.

“Yeah, Joe’s a very impressive person on a lot of levels. He’s just an outstanding example for all of us. His contributions and service to our country, his commitment to our football team and just his overall personal character and how good of a friend and teammate he is to everybody on the team.”

With Cardona now part of the team for the foreseeable future, Belichick is glad he’s in the fold.

“He’s a tremendous individual and I’m glad we have him,” said Belichick.  “Glad we were able to work out an agreement with him to extend it.”

Odds and Ends:

After spending time with the first-team defense against the Eagles last week, Keionta Davis feels confident his time has come and that things are going well so far this season. “It’s going good. It’s my first time doing it but I work on it every day in practice,’’ said Davis via the Boston Globe. “Just trying to be versatile. Anything I can do to help the team — whether it’s rushing outside, rushing inside — playing inside on early downs. Just trying to be reliable and versatile.”

– Following a season where he was placed on injured reserve, Vincent Valentine credits his faith in helping him push through after what he said was “a dark time” during his rehab.  “It was hard; a tough time in my life, a dark time, but I was able to press through,” Valentine told the Boston Herald. “My faith pushed me through.”  The defensive tackle also admitted that the whole experience makes him view things differently.  “I’m thinking different, my mind is clearer, my vision is clearer,” Valentine said. “I already knew what I wanted, but you know how from your first year to your second year you can get a little comfortable, especially from the year we had, winning the Super Bowl, so I think that whole year just changed my whole perspective on everything.”

– After sitting out the first two preseason games, Rob Gronkowski admitted that it’s not up to him whether he’s out there but if the coaching staff needs him to be on the field, he’ll be ready.  “It’s always a coach’s decision on whether or not I’m playing in these games or not,” Gronkowski said via “I’m ready at all times. Whatever it is this week, I don’t know the situation, but I’m ready to play. If I have to play, I’m ready to do whatever I get asked. I’ll prepare all week like I’m going to play, like I do every other week.”

The Patriots will take on Carolina on the road this Friday night at 7:30pm.

Monday Patriots Notebook 8/20 – Patriots Hiding Punter?; Some Interesting Stats

Ian Logue
August 20, 2018 at 9:11 am ET

It’s the start of another week and here are some news and notes as we begin this Monday.

Patriots trying to Hide Punter? – One interesting bit of information from Mike Reiss’ Sunday notes was the fact that Reiss believes there may be a reason why we have yet to see punter Corey Bojorquez get any action during a game this preseason.

Bojorquez, who is seemingly in a competition with incumbent Ryan Allen, has been active for both contests against the Redskins and Eagles but hasn’t seen the field.  Over that span Allen has had 13 punts, including four inside the 20-yard line.

While Bill Belichick has downplayed the situation, saying players have to earn their opportunities, Reiss believes Belichick may be keeping Bojorquez on the sideline to prevent other teams from getting tape on him in the hopes Belichick can potentially stash him on the practice squad should he clear wavers at the end of the preseason.

The Patriots find themselves in a tough situation after this season with Allen heading into the final year of his contract.  By keeping Bojorquez in the fold, they would at least give themselves a contingency plan if Allen were to move on to another team.

It’s an interesting notion and will certainly be something to watch over the final two weeks.

Britt Making Progress – The Patriots obviously still have questions at the receiving position heading into the regular season, but it appears despite being out of action, Kenny Britt may be on the verge of providing some help as the season approaches.

The receiver appeared to be in good spirits Sunday and said his hamstring is getting better, although he’s still taking things one day at a time.

“Each day. Every day, I’m doing something different. Feeling better,” he said via Boston Sports Journal. “Right now? My focus is just being able to get out there tomorrow.

“I went out there today. It felt good a little bit,” he added. “(I’m) just doing what they asked me to do. That’s it. Tomorrow is the same thing.”

Getting out there would certainly be an improvement, especially with Julian Edelman sidelined for the first four weeks, as well as the fact the team jettisoned Malcolm Mitchell from the roster after he couldn’t get healthy.  The biggest problem Britt likely faces is the difficulty of getting on the same page with quarterback Tom Brady before the beginning of the regular season after having missed this much time while sidelined due to his hamstring injury.

Britt appeared in the final three games of the regular season in 2017 after being acquired from Cleveland and had two receptions for 23 yards on five targets, four of which came from Brady.  He was inactive for all three postseason games, including the Super Bowl.

Quarterbacks Solid Inside the Red Zone – After putting together the preseason totals over the weekend, there were some interesting totals that stand out after New Engalnd’s first two preseason match-ups.

One thing that was notable was the fact New England’s quarterbacks right now have combined for 5-of-6 (83%) down in the red zone, including two touchdowns.

Brady was a perfect 2-of-2 last week against the Eagles, with one of those completions being a touchdown to Chris Hogan.

As for Brian Hoyer, he’s 3-of-4 (75%) including a touchdown, which also came Thursday night when Cordarrelle Patterson left a defender on the ground as he juked around him and beat three more defensive backs on his way to the end zone.

Meanwhile, looking at another area, the overall third down totals for each quarterback are noticeably different.  Hoyer has completed just 4-of-13 (31%) for 44-yards, while Brady was 4-of-6 (67%) with a touchdown during his start Thursday night.  Danny Etling, who hasn’t seen much action this preseason, is 0-for-1.  Inside the red zone, both Brady and Hoyer are 1-of-1 on third down, with Brady’s pass being Hogan’s TD.

One final stat of note is the fact the running backs have done a good job on third down, combining for 10 carries while converting 7 first downs including a touchdown.  They carried four times with three first downs Thursday night against Philadelphia.

Patriots’ Locker Room Not the Only State of the Art Facility – While the Patriots’ locker room got a huge upgrade this offseason, it looks like there was another that is similarly impressive, albeit at the college ranks.

Business Insider posted a video of the inside of the Texas Longhorn’s locker room, which shows some similarities to what the Patriots did at Gillette Stadium.  Like the Patriots, there are video screens above the lockers and it’s obvious that it’s a state of the art upgrade compared to what most universities and pro stadiums have.  One slight difference is the fact the Longhorn’s lockers are made of stainless steel and have cooling fans for the helmets, along with vents along the bottom to deal with the the orders from their equipment.

The Patriots’ lockers do have folding doors that slide in and were well-designed from an organizational standpoint, but it was surprising to see this type of upgrade at the college level.  The university reportedly spent $7 million on the project.

One thing that stood out was the “Core Values” that are prominently featured for all players to see, which stress, “Honesty, Treat Women With Respect, No Drugs, No Stealing, No Weapons.”

The Longhorns will have to wait a bit to enjoy their new digs on game day.  They open their regular season on the road on September 1st against Maryland and will play their first home game on 9/8 at 8pm against Tulsa.

11 Things We Learned from the Patriots Win Over The Eagles

Ian Logue
August 17, 2018 at 12:03 pm ET

For a game that held a lot of hype by the media because of the match-up, the Patriots were the ones who made this one memorable after making plenty of plays while winning their second preseason game of the year with a 37-20 victory over Philadelphia.

Here’s a quick rundown of somethings we took away from last night’s game.

1) Solid Outing For Brady – Tom Brady saw his first preseason action of 2018 and played well after spending the entire first half on the field.

He opened the game a perfect 5-for-5, leading the team to a touchdown on just seven plays after driving the offense from their own 38-yard line and firing a 4-yard strike to Chris Hogan in the back of the end zone.

Overall, he finished the night 19-of-26 for 172 yards with two touchdowns and had good command of the offense, with the team moving up and down the field fairly consistently as they put up 20 offensive points, which included two field goals by Stephen Gostkowski.

He played 39 snaps (51%) and after the game admitted that while they did some good things, there’s still some work to be done.

“You know, it was good – [we were] challenged by a good team, a good defense, good front,” said Brady. “You know, we did some good things, but I’m sure there’s things, a lot of things, we didn’t do very well. So, I mean, I think this is all just part of the building process. It feels good to win, but you know, there’s certainly a lot of things we’ve got to do better.”

But for anyone concerned after watching Brian Hoyer for most of last week, seeing Brady back out there should hopefully put their minds at ease.

2) Flores a Perfect Fit – One thing that was noticeable about new defensive coordinator Brian Flores is the fact he has a calm yet intense presence on the sideline, which is different from what we saw in previous years from Matt Patricia and that energy seems to be carrying over to the field.

The Patriots’ defense did a good job all night of getting pressure on Philadelphia in key situations and you can see just by watching the meetings with his players on the sideline that he clearly already has the respect of this group.

It’s been great to see and hopefully that same intensity and success carries over into the regular season.

3) New Leading With the Head Penalty Is Confusing – For the first time this preseason we saw the new penalty called frequently Thursday night, with the penalty being called on both teams. New England was called for it once, while the Eagles were flagged for it three times.  There were some confusing moments, one of which saw Patriots defensive back Jordan Richards lead more with his shoulder than his head with contact occurring more in the middle of the player’s body.

There were other plays that seemed to be good calls, including one where Julian Edelman and Cordarelle Patterson each took a couple of head shots, while another occurred when there was seemingly incidental contact after a defender collided heads with a running back who lowered his head in anticipation of the hit.

Either way, this game left us with more questions than answers and it’s scary to think about the implications this may have during the regular season in key moments if they don’t come up with a more consistent way to call it.

Bentley had another strong outing.

4) Another Great Game For Bentley – JA’Whaun Bentley had another big night, flying around on defense while making a huge play where he scooped up a fumble and returned it 54-yards for a touchdown.

Bentley’s athleticism has been something that has really stood out and he was terrific again Thursday night.  He finished tied with Patrick Chung for third with five tackles, but he also had a pass defended in addition to his fumble recovery.

For a team that’s needed to get a little faster at the linebacker position, Bentley appears to be a player who can give them that and what he’s done thus far has been impressive.  With two games to go, if Bentley can keep it going, he may be poised to earn a starting role given what we’ve seen.

5) An Up-and-Down Performance For Crossen – Keion Crossen may not have had his best night, but he showed enough where he’s still a player who could develop a role for himself.

Crossen was flagged for three penalties on the night, including two defensive pass interference calls on one drive that lead to Philadelphia’s first touchdown of the game in the second quarter.

But what’s the most impressive about Crossen is the fact that he appears to have a short memory and doesn’t let a mistake slow him down.  He doesn’t hang his head, he doesn’t point fingers or flail his arms, etc.  He just gets back out there like it didn’t happen and gets back to work.  In fact, with just under a minute left, Crossen was flagged for a defensive holding call on a 2nd-and-8 that put the Eagles at the 4, but then came up with a nice play on 4th down where he nearly picked off a desperation shovel-pass by Nate Sudfeld.

To be able to not get down and keep battling is a trait that not a lot of young guys have and it’s pretty obvious that the coaches like what they see.  In fact, Flores was spotted on the sideline working with Crossen, showing him photos on the tablet, with Crossen looking very engaged in what seemed to be a pretty productive conversation.

Crossen, who was taken in the 7th round out of Western Carolina in this year’s draft, finished the night as the team leader in tackles with 8, including one pass defended.

This is the time to make the mistakes rather than during the regular season and we’ll have to see over the final two games how this plays out.

Patterson looked great Thursday night.

6) Patterson is going to be fun to watch – Cordarrelle Patterson has already been one of the more exciting players we’ve seen in camp and he went out and had a pretty good game Thursday night.

He finished the contest with 4 receptions for 51-yards and a touchdown, with the latter play being one for the highlight reel.  He made a nifty move against Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones, who after a quick pass to Patterson dove and came up empty, with Patterson cutting and leaving him on the ground as he scooted by him and then beat three other defenders on his way to the end zone for the 11yd touchdown.  It was a great play and it put the Patriots up 34-7 with 10:27 left to play in the 3rd quarter.

Brady, who targeted Patterson once while he was out there (an incompletion), said after the game he thought the receiver had a good night.

“I thought he did a great job tonight,” said Brady. “He’s so dangerous when he gets the ball in his hands, and obviously over the course of his entire career, that’s the way it’s been. You know, he had a good touchdown there. He almost had the one at the sideline that I threw it to him, but he’s done a great job.”

7) Solid Night for Clayborn – Adrian Clayborn had his first big game as a Patriot, finishing with a forced fumble that Bentley recovered for his touchdown and was extremely disruptive.

The veteran defensive end, who also finished with a sack, didn’t register much on the stat sheet but he got into the backfield on several occasions and helped create opportunities for other players.  Adam Butler was the beneficiary of another one of those moments after he picked up a drive-stopping sack early in the game.  Clayborn drove up the right side and pushed his guy back, collapsing the pocket while allowing Butler to make the sack.

It was great to see and he seems like he’s gained quite a bit of confidence compared to where he was prior to this game.  This is a group that really seems poised to do some big things this year and the former Falcon showed some reasons Thursday night why he’ll likely be a part of that.

8) Bad break for Wynn – Rookie Tackle Isaiah Wynn finally got some playing time Thursday night but it didn’t end well after suffering what reports initially seemed to believe was an ankle injury early in the game.

It was a strange play, with Wynn being driven back while pass blocking before his leg collided with Brady’s and he immediately went down.  He appeared to be in a lot of pain and they immediately erected the blue medical tent for him, where he was evaluated by trainers.  But the more concerning part was the fact he was later carted off the field, which was a bad sign.

Unfortunately, the news got worse on Monday after reports say he suffered a torn Achilles, which will end his season before it ever got started.

It’s a bad break for an offensive line that is already thin at tackle with Marcus Cannon still dealing with an injury and will be something to keep an eye on heading into the season.

Despite taking a shot, Gostkowski was perfect Thursday night. (USA TODAY Images)

9) Great Night For Gostkowski, but he took a shot – One of the last things you want is for your kicker to be involved in a tackle and that’s exactly what happened to Stephen Gostkowski Thursday night.  Following Hogan’s touchdown, the Eagles answered with a 46-yard return after AJ Moore missed containment on the outside and allowed Shelton Gibson to break outside and get upfield.

From there, Gostkowski ended up being the one to track him down and as he dove at Gibson, he got kicked in the head and seemed a little woozy after the play.

Fortunately, he ended up being O.K. and had a solid night, hitting all three of his field goals including one from 49-yards.  He also hit all four of his extra point attempts.

One of the more entertaining moments of the night came late in the game when Gostowski made a terrific catch on an out of bounds pass by Sudfeld that he leaped up and snagged and then got fired up after the play.  Gostkowski showed some great hands and let his teammates know it, which had several players laughing afterwards.

10) Another Good Night For Rivers – Derek Rivers quietly had another great game as he continues having a solid preseason.

Rivers played 29 snaps Thursday night and had some great moments including where he showed great quickness on back-to-back plays just before the 2-minute warning as he dropped Sudfield for the sack on a 2nd-and-8, and then helped flush him out where Kyle Van Noy swooped in and dropped him for a 13-yard loss.

This group seems to have some guys who look like they’re going to be able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback.  It’s obviously a little too early to get too excited, but there appears to at least plenty of reasons to feel optimistic like they’ll improve in that area this season.

McCourty was beat badly for a TD Thursday night. (USA TODAY Images)

11) Not a Great Night for Jason McCourty – This was the first work we saw McCourty get and it didn’t exactly go as well as he probably hoped.

McCourty, who finished the night having played 31 snaps, looked slow and confused, with one play that will likely haunt him after this game.

He got beat badly on a touchdown pass to Gibson, where Gibson broke in and then back out and McCourty wasn’t even close on the play.  But it was more or less his entire body of work that was the more concerning part and the next question is whether or not its a physical limitation or the fact he’s thinking too much and not playing as fast as he’s capable of.

Unfortunately, with only two games left he’s got a limited opportunity to pull things together because as it stands right now, his chances of making this team could be in jeopardy if this continues.

The Patriots will now turn the page as they start preparing for their next preseason game, which takes place on the road next Friday night down in Carolina at 7:30pm ET.