A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and writes as an Editor at SpecialOperations.com and as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)
The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks and there should no shortage of competition at several spots, especially at the back end of the roster. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. Next up are the running backs.
The running back position will look very different in 2018. Dion Lewis is gone, He got a nice deal in free agency and will be in Tennessee this year. The team got back Rex Burkhead, James White returns but the big news is that the team invested a first-round draft pick to select Sony Michel (31st Overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The team is deep, talented and have four good players battling for two roster spots.
So… who’s locked in and who’s on the bubble?
Roster Locks: Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, James Develin
The Patriots did the very unPatriot-like decision to draft a running back in the first round under Bill Belichick. But the selection of Sony Michel proves to be a very intriguing choice. He split the carries at Georgia with Nick Chubb, so playing in a New England backfield by committee won’t be a big exercise in adapting to the way the Patriots play.
But what stands out about Michel is that he’s a big-time playmaker and should be able to step in and contribute in both the running and passing games right away. He’s a different type of player than Lewis but the chiseled 5’11, 215-pound back has a boatload of potential.
Sony Michel after practice. (SBalestrieri photo)
Burkhead had a very good season in 2017 but appeared in only 10 games due to injuries. He’s back and can contribute in the running game, the passing game and on special teams. He’s a guy who will get about 500-600 combined yards rushing and receiving while being a solid contributor.
James Develin was just resigned to a two-year extension worth about $3.8 million with a $600,000 signing bonus. Develin played in about 30 percent of the Patriots offensive snaps a year ago and his value lies in his blocking. Rewatch the AFC Championship Game and look at the hole Develin blew open for Dion Lewis in the 4th quarter. That kind of smash-mouth football is invaluable in the running game.
Near Roster Locks: James White
White remains the Patriots go-to third-down running back, especially in the passing game. In 2017, White only had 43 carries but caught 56 passes for 429 yards with 3 touchdowns. His Super Bowl performance against the Falcons shows how hot he can get when getting the favored matchups (6 carries 29 yards 2 TDs, 14 catches 110 yards 1 TD and a 2PT conversion).
James White hauls in a pass during practice. (SBalestrieri photo)
On the Bubble: Jeremy Hill, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden
The Patriots invested in Gillislee last year and he ran okay but his lack of production in the passing game made him predictable while on the field and he was a healthy scratch in seven games.
Jeremy Hill was brought in because a change of scenery seemed like was needed for the veteran. He was an extremely productive running back in his first three seasons in the league, tallying up 27 TDs and 2700 yards rushing. But he fell out of favor in Cincinnati and is trying to restart his career here.
The Patriots could use a big physical back to churn up short yardage and be the closer in games. Could he be that guy? Possibly, but he’ll have to have a good summer and show that he still has some tread left on the tires.
Every year it seems, everyone has Brandon Bolden getting cut and every year, he’s back on the team and contributes a tremendous amount on Special Teams where he is a force out there. As a running back, he is a .260 hitter, he can run a bit and catch the odd pass here or there but is an excellent pass blocker. He will be either the 53rd player on the roster or the last guy cut.
Outside Looking in…. Longshots: Ralph Webb
The Patriots signed undrafted free agent Ralph Webb out of Vanderbilt. Webb is a straight-ahead power back with a lack of speed but with excellent vision to see where openings are. Webb is a lunch pail guy who is extremely durable, tough and consistent.
He’s not the biggest guy or the fastest but won’t be outworked. He was productive with 23 touchdowns the past two seasons. With a good summer, Webb could be looking at a practice squad slot and a chance to carve out a role for himself in the case of an injury in 2018 or in 2019.
He reminds one of a slightly smaller BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He won’t make a lot of people miss but his feet never stop and you’ll get 100 percent on every snap.
Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-24, & AFC East Notes …
Quick Hitters: Isaiah Wynn was signed to a contract by the Patriots, it was announced on Friday. Wynn was one of two Patriots 1st round draft picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, #23 overall. He and Sony Michel were taken by the team in the first round.
Wynn is a 6-foot-2, 302-pounder who played both guard and tackle during at Georgia. As a senior in 2017, he was named a team captain and started all 15 games that he played at left tackle. He was named to the 2017 Associated Press All-America Second Team.
2018 Training Camp will begin on Thursday, July 26, the Patriots have announced. The team will give further details once the dates get closer but expect large crowds and if you want to get a good vantage point, plan to arrive early.
In accordance with the NFL’s rules, here are some of the training camp ones to remember for the beginning of camp:
Day 1: Physicals, meetings, classroom work, running/conditioning Day 2/3: On-field practices allowed without pads and without contact Day 4 – UTC: Two-a-day practices authorized
No more than 4 hours per day
No more than 1 practice with pads per day; no more than 3 hours per day;
Padded practice defined as any practice with helmets and shoulder pads worn
Minimum 3 hours between practices if the team elects for two-a-day; second practice limited to “walk-through”
Quarterbacks, punters, kickers, and long snappers may elect to wear a helmet and/or shoulder pads during non-padded practices
Players with head injuries may be directed to wear a helmet by team medical staff as a precaution during non-padded practices
Quarterbacks and defensive player who receives signals from coaching staff may wear helmets to receive communications from sidelines
Teams are required to video all activities and retain film for at least 30 days after the start of the regular season; the NFLPA will be allowed to view the films of practice if a complaint is made about the team’s workouts
Players aren’t paid during training camp. Instead, receiving room and board from the team and are paid per diem for their time spent at camp.
Tom Brady and his wife Gisele attended the U2 concert recently and like everyone else, Brady sang along with the song (just like all of us do while driving). However, when it comes to singing along with Bono, Brady isn’t the GOAT, he is just as bad as the rest of us in the singing department. But hey, it never stopped me from singing….loudly in traffic or at concerts. Looks like fun was had by all… OOPS! There’s that pesky fun word again.
Eric Decker, the free agent WR said on Sirius XM Radio that he’d be open to going to New England and reuniting with Josh McDaniels who drafted him in Denver in 2010.
“At this point in my career I want to go somewhere where I have a chance to compete for a Super Bowl, be in a good system, be with a quarterback that my skill set would be an addition to the team,” Decker said.
“I talked with New England actually last year when I was going through the free agency process, late there in June,” Decker said. “We’ll see once GMs and coaches have kind of regrouped after minicamp and we’ll see what the needs are going into training camp.”
Brandon Browner, who won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Patriots and Seahawks was sentenced to 60 days in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic battery case. He was released after just two days due to jail overcrowding.
Browner spent three years with the Seahawks and one with the Saints. In 2014, he played in nine regular-season games with the Patriots but played in a key role in their Super Bowl win over his former team the Seahawks.
Jameis Winston is looking at a three-game suspension and once again the league has leaked out the punishment before the player was even notified. And the case, much like the Edelman case, feels like the league has to delve much deeper before issuing a suspension on him.
So is the suspension for failure to report an incident, in which the player’s take is, that the incident in question never happened?
Bentley an Early Down Run Stuffer: We post our early summer 53-Man Roster Projection 1.0 earlier this week and one of the early winners we projected which got some questions was with the rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley over the incumbent, inside linebacker Elandon Roberts.
Roberts is a favorite of Bill Belichick and his game is built similar to that of Bentley, as an early-down run stuffer. However, Bentley has got a distinct size advantage being 6’2, 260 pounds while Roberts is listed at 6’0, 235 by the Patriots.
Both players’ strengths are playing downhill in the running game, neither is particular adept in coverage or running laterally. But Bentley also brings with him that coveted leadership mantle that he earned at Purdue.
The Patriots run defense was pretty leaky when defending the run last season allowing 4.7 yards per rush, tied with the Rams for the 2nd worst in the entire league. Although that was a combination of things, one of the things which must improve was the play of the linebackers, which included Roberts.
The feeling here is that the Patriots drafted Bentley is a bit of a statement saying they expected more from Roberts.
Two other selections that got a lot of comments were the keeping of RB Jeremy Hill over Brandon Bolden and the UDFA rookie punter Corey Bojorquez. One thing is for certain, it is still very early and nothing is written in stone. But competition is always a good thing and training camp should prove to be interesting.
Patriots Wide Receivers Will Be Fighting For Reps In Camp: One of the key areas to watch during training camp will be the Pats wide receivers. After losing both Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks from the 2017 team, the team gets back Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell and has added Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson as well as Braxton Berrios during the 2018 NFL Draft.
Edelman’s looming suspension and the health of Mitchell, Berrios who are coming off injuries and Kenny Britt who was dinged up in minicamp are the key things to watch for at the position this summer once camp begins. If Edelman’s suspension does not get reduced or removed during his appeal, it will at least give the team another four weeks to get a look at the WRs vying for a roster spot.
There are 11 WRs vying for about 6 spots on the roster. That makes for great competition especially when considering that only a few (Edelman and Hogan) are locks to make the roster. There will have to be some tough decisions made. Guys like Berrios and Mitchell, who are expected to make strong pushes for the roster both missed most of the spring workouts. July 26th can’t get here fast enough.
Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Legend Kelly Undergoes Another Cancer Surgery: TheBuffalo Bills’ former QB Jim Kelly and his wife Jill were in New York City for a follow up procedure from his recent cancer surgery. This one was planned far in advance for the former Bills’ great.
“The plan at this point is that he will have surgery in mid-June to lessen the “skin flap” bulk in his mouth, as well as put implants into his upper jaw,” wrote Jill Kelly. “And then there will be more healing and waiting and then another surgery and possibly upper teeth sometime in September.”
Jill Kelly jumped on Instagram to keep Bills’ fans appraised of the situation. “Out of surgery and in recovery,” she wrote. “Still in a lot of pain, but everything went well. Thank GOD! No teeth yet, but 5 implants were inserted into the new bone in Jim’s upper jaw. More technical than I can explain…”
Kelly will receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2018 ESPYs.
Dolphins Announce Training Camp Start Date: The Miami Dolphins veterans will report to training camp on July 25. Under the NFL’s rules teams cannot have veterans report to training camp earlier than either July 15 or 15 days prior to their first preseason game, whichever is later.
With their first preseason game slated for August 9, Miami will have all 15 days to prepare for their first action of the 2018 season. Miami rookies will report on July 18.
The Dolphins are expecting big things out of Kenyan Drake in 2018, the 3rd year RB will be the featured back in the Dolphins offense. He started six of 16 games a year ago and really found a rhythm once he got into his groove. Patriots fans will remember his big night in the Fins win over NE where he ran for 114 yards and caught passes out of the backfield for 79 more.
I’d expect Adam Gase to use him a lot like the Patriots used Dion Lewis last year and with the ageless Frank Gore in the backfield, it should keep Drake fresh for the crunch time in games.
Jets Could Dangle Teddy Bridgewater For an Edge Rusher: The New York Jets need an edge rusher and ESPN’s Rich Cimini laid out a couple of interesting options for Gang-Green to possibly pursue.
The two names he was writing about was the Broncos’ Shane Ray and the Jaguars Dante Fowler. While Ray is coming off of wrist surgery which may delay his start of the 2018 regular season, Fowler was a very impressive young player on a team that is stacked on defense.
Cimini states that Fowler may be in the position where the Jaguars won’t be able to pay him in 2019 and is coming off a very solid 2017 year where he notched eight sacks. He was originally picked by Jacksonville 3rd overall in the 2015 NFL Draft and won’t come cheap. He’s just 24 years old and while the Jags front office won’t be able to get what he’s worth, they won’t be giving him away either.
Cimini writes: “Teddy Bridgewater could be trade bait, but I don’t see that happening unless Darnold wins the starting job during the preseason. There’s also the matter of his surgically repaired knee. He looked fine in OTAs and minicamp, but there’s still skepticism around the league about his knee. He’d have to quiet the doubters in the preseason to get teams interested. He probably wouldn’t interest the Jaguars unless something happens to Blake Bortles. If there’s a quarterback-needy team out there willing to part with a pass rusher … now you’re talking.”
The Jets have made it clear, that Sam Darnold will be given every opportunity to win and become the starting QB by Week 1 of the 2018 season. The feeling here is that the Jets are making a mistake. The team has a solid veteran in Josh McCown who played very well in 2017 as well as Bridgewater who was playing very well before getting hurt.
Don’t risk damaging Darnold’s confidence, if he indeed is your QB of the future by throwing him to the wolves too soon. The Jets fans and front office have been waiting for their franchise QB since Joe Namath left. We’ll see how it all works out once training camps and preseason games begin this summer.
The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks, the OTAs and minicamp are over and the team has a 90-man roster ready to go. They’ll tweak this a bit as we go on but this group should remain pretty intact to start thru the beginning of training camp. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. So first up are the quarterbacks
Sorry to say, this column is strictly football, so if you’re looking for analysis of body language, the subliminal messages by Gisele or TB12 that may have been sent on social media or the butterfly effect that the Dalai Lama breaking wind in Tibet and the effect it will have on the Patriots this season, you can save yourself the time now.
So… who is locked in and who is on the bubble?
Roster Locks: Tom Brady The Patriots are so fortunate that every year since early in the 2001 season, they know who their starting QB is and have the luxury of knowing that he is more than capable enough to take them to the promised land.
In 2017, the 40-year old quarterback had an MVP season, completing 385 of 581 passes, (66.3 %), for 32 TDs and just 8 INTs. He led the Patriots offense to 394.2 yards per game, #1 in the NFL and to 28.6 points per game, #2 in the league.
In the playoffs, Brady went 89 of 139 (64%) for 1132 yards with 8 TDs and 0 INTs. He brought the Patriots back in another big 4th quarter comeback in the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars leading to a third Super Bowl appearance in four years. Against the Eagles, Brady went 28-48 (58.3%) for a Super Bowl record 505 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs.
However, every season we deal with the inevitable question of “when will Brady begin to show his age and slow down? Answer: It doesn’t look like it anytime soon. Which is why I have zero issues with Brady taking the OTAs off this season.
Consequently, lost in the all the “Hatfield – McCoy Feud” storyline is the fact that perhaps Brady feels at his age that he wants to limit the wear and tear on his arm and may have been feeling fatigued at the end of last season. That very possible scenario got little to no play this spring.
If that is the case, I have zero problems with it and neither should anyone else. He’s more than earned that right. But for the record, would I rather see #12 QBing the team during the spring workouts? Of course, especially with the new faces here on the roster. So, we’ll see how all of this works out, but if you’re expecting (hoping) to see a significant drop off in Brady’s production, you may be disappointed.
However, there are some legitimate questions to ask this year. How will Brady deal with the loss of
his top two wide receiver targets from last season, (Cooks, Amendola)
New England’s top running back option from last season (Dion Lewis), and finally
his starting left tackle of the past six years, (Nate Solder)
Unlike nearly every other quarterback in league history, Brady has shown an ability to adapt to change. 2018 will likely not be any different. On a positive side, the Patriots get back Julian Edelman (albeit after a possible 4-game suspension), picked by Jordan Matthews this spring and drafted the dynamic Sony Michel who should be a big factor in both the running and passing games. And the best tight end in the game Rob Gronkowski is healthy and ready to go.
I watched Brady at minicamp and saw no drop off in his game, nor any indications that he was “mailing it in”, (a familiar question this spring). He looked like the Tom Brady we’ve all come to expect and to see and he looked like Tom Brady….meaning excellent.
Near Roster Locks: Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling
Hoyer came back to New England in the fallout from the Jimmy Garoppolo trade with the 49ers last fall. He was released to make room for Jimmy G. and then quickly signed back with New England as Brady’s backup.
Hoyer is who he is at this point in his career. He’s not a great QB and is limited in the things that he can do. But he knows the offense very well and he has the confidence of the coaches that he can get the job done if the situation arises where he has to step in. .
Etling is a rookie who is still trying to learn the Patriots offense and find his rhythm with it. He has a long way to go. With his limited snap load in training camp, do we expect him to push Hoyer for the backup spot on the roster? Very doubtful.
But the Patriots made an investment in him this spring, albeit a 7th rounder (219th overall). His job this summer is to show enough progress to justify keeping him around this season and to learn the offense enough to push Hoyer out next summer as the backup. I think he’s already shown enough to justify that. He’ll probably get very acquainted with the clipboard this fall, but I think he’ll stick.
With Brady sitting out the majority of the spring workouts, Hoyer was getting a ton of reps and looked a bit arm fatigued by minicamp. With both he and Brady getting up there in age, having Etling around will help him learn the system and keep their workloads down to an acceptable amount.
With minicamp over, it is time to a very early look at a New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. We got a brief glimpse of what the players can do in the Bill Belichick system during the spring workouts and although no one was wearing pads, it was as close to actual football activities as the players will get prior to training camp beginning in about five weeks.
We’ll start posting training camp primers by position very soon to break down the current 90 man roster to a workable 53-man roster. Offense – Quarterbacks: (3) Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling The Patriots will probably go with three QBs this year. Etling has shown enough in the spring to earn that much moving into camp. Will he push Hoyer for the backup job this summer? Very doubtful. Hoyer has a comfort level in the system and the confidence in the coaches that he can step up and play well in an emergency. Etling has a long way to go in that regard. Running backs: (5) Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Jeremy Hill, James Develin Sony Michel looked like a rookie at times this spring, making mistakes, blowing assignments…all the things that rookies do in assimilating into a new system. That’s part of the learning process but shouldn’t affect his availability at all.
Sony Michel after practice. (SBalestrieri photo)
However, his upside was also there for all to see. He’s a threat to run or receive and showed a smoothness in the passing game with good hands. Along with Rex Burkhead and James White, the Patriots passing offense using their running backs should be very difficult to stop in 2018.
But that learning process may give the coaches pause enough to carry the veteran Hill to make the comeback attempt with the Patriots in the early going of the season. That may be bad news for Mike Gillislee and veteran ST presence, Brandon Bolden. I know, we cut Bolden every year and every year he’s out there making big plays on the special teams, which he’s known for. Tight ends: (3) Rob Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister, Dwayne Allen The fact that Hollister had a great spring shouldn’t surprise anyone. He made the team a year ago as a UDFA and played, although sparingly during the season. He needed to bulk up and get stronger, and it appears he has. Allen has the firm backing of the head coach and is like an extra tackle out there as a blocker. If he can get anything going in the passing game, it is a bonus.
Jacob Hollister beefed up in the offseason and had an excellent spring. (SBalestrieri photo of 2017 training camp)
Wide Receivers: (6) Chris Hogan, Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kenny Britt, Matthew Slater, Malcolm Mitchell (Suspended: Julian Edelman) Edelman’s looming suspension, unless his appeal is successful will give one Patriots WR at least a month’s reprieve. In this case, it is Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell’s status has zero to do with ability but everything to do with availability. He missed the majority of the spring but the good news was, the Patriots were taking a cautious approach with him.
Can he stay on the field this summer? If he does, he’s a lock, if he can’t then difficult decisions will have to be made by the coaches. There is a lot of competition to be had here at this position this summer, Philip Dorsett, Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios will all be vying for spots. And other than Hogan, and Edelman, everything is on the table. And that includes Slater who is a WR in name only. Offensive line: (8) Trent Brown, Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, Cole Croston, LaAdrian Waddle The state of the offensive line, if everyone was healthy would be very bright. But injuries abound and because of that, there are plenty of questions right now. Thuney hasn’t made an appearance yet, Wynn and Brown are coming off of shoulder injuries, Cannon is still hurt after going on IR last year. This position will bear watching this summer.
Defense Defensive line: (8) Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Derek Rivers No big surprises here, the Patriots really liked Valentine in his rookie season and if he’s healthy (a big if), he noses out Butler who played well last year on the inside. If Valentine doesn’t have the same impact, Butler or one of the other edge players Eric Lee, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris may be able to step up and be noticed. Linebacker: (7) Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Christian Sam, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Marquis Flowers, Harvey Langi, Brandon King Roberts got a lot of reps with the “starters” this spring, Bill Belichick hates the term 1st and 2nd team during OTAs but the fact they drafted Bentley speaks volumes. I’m going out on a limb here and say Langi beats him out for an inside LB spot. King is an ST maven but practices with the LBs.
Harvey Langi (SBalestrieri photo)
Cornerback: (6) Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson, Keion Crosson (PUP: Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones) Jackson, the UDFA got quite a few looks opposite Gilmore this spring and looked pretty solid. Eric Rowe didn’t have a great spring and McCourty was…unused. Neither is a worrisome development yet. But with Gilmore looking outstanding thus far and a young crop of corners entering the picture, this position looks in good shape. Safety: (4) Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner
Once again I go to minicamp and watch Gronkowski and Hollister smoke Jordan Richards in coverage and say, “surely the coaches see this too….right?” But when the smoke clears, we’ll see what happens. Ebner and King are STs first and safety/hybrid LB second. So the depth could use a jolt. Two words: Kenny Vaccaro. Specialists: (3) Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Corey Bojorquez, long-snapper Joe Cardona Jumping the gun here but UDFA rookie punter Corey Bojorquez can really put a charge into the ball. We watched him during minicamp and were thoroughly impressed with his leg strength and hang time. He has a long way to go to beat out Ryan Allen and needs work on his directional punting and pinning opponents deep, things that Allen is very good at. But for the simple fact of competition, we’ll give him the early edge. The other two will sleep well during camp as no one has been brought in to challenge them. That must feel nice.
Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-17, & AFC East Notes … Happy Fathers Day to all the great dads who make a difference in their kid’s lives. While many will point to football and the NFL as being part of what has been labeled “toxic masculinity”, we prefer the idea that a strong father figure in children’s raising is a sign for a good, stable upbringing.
Quick Hitters: Robert Kraft showed why Patriots Nation is a special group of people. A fan posted on Twitter and asked for Patriots Nation to reach out to their Dad who unfortunately is very ill and not expected to live long. Not only did her request get re-tweeted numerous times but it reached the ears of Robert Kraft and he spoke to the man and the fans in general with a very nice video message. Well done…
Thank you again to EVERYONE. To everyone who RTd and made this happen. To the entire Patriots organization. To Mr. Robert Kraft. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. pic.twitter.com/7UR4TTP8Vv
Tom Brady, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, said that he respected his teammates who chose to kneel during the national anthem and the reasons that they were doing it.
“I’ve been playing sports long enough, everyone comes from something different, and I think showing respect for everybody, in a locker room, with a team of guys trying to go in the same direction … you better have that empathy for everybody. That’s what sports are about,” Brady said.
The entire interview can be seen on Winfrey’s OWN Network.
Brady’s better half, his wife Gisele Bundchen did an interview with Vogue magazine and was asked about the most romantic thing Brady ever did for her. The quick-hitting “73 Questions” video segment was filmed at the couple’s home in Massachusetts while the QB was practicing his golf swing. So what was the most romantic deed by Brady? The way he proposed.
“He made up this whole story (about) how my apartment was flooding and I ran over there to try to fix the situation when I got there. The whole apartment had candles and rose petals everywhere,” Bundchen said. And then he went down on his knees to propose. And I’m like “GET UP!” because he just had surgery and had three staph infections. I’m like, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” “I gotta go on my knees,” (he said). I’m like, “No no! Get up, please!”
James Develin was given a two-year contract extension this week. (SBalestrieri photo)
The team signed fullback James Develin to a two-year extension worth $3.8 million with a $600,000 signing bonus. The tough, hard-nosed and versatile Develin was named to his first Pro-Bowl last season. While he’s only had a handful of carries and catches in his five-year career, his STs ability as well as his opening holes as a lead blocker in the running game can’t be overlooked.
Bill Belichick was effusive in his praise for him when he was announced on the Pro-Bowl roster last December.
“Nobody has worked hard than James has,” Belichick said. [He] has the last couple of years fallen into a very consistent and productive role in the kicking game and offensively. His play time has increased. His production has increased. “As hard as he works in the weight room, on the field, off the field, preparation. I mean, whenever you see James, you see him working. He’s got a role. He’s very good at it. It’s a very important role and so it’s great to see him recognized for it. I’m happy for him.”
James Harrison was interviewed on CBS and was asked how he enjoyed (everything revolves around fun lately) his short time with New England at the end of the season and his opinion on why the Patriots are so successful.
“Discipline. That’s the big thing,” Harrison said. “They’re not going to ask you to do anything that is outside of what they feel you are capable of doing. You learn the system and you go out there and you play it and like I said, very regimented. So if you’re a guy that’s not used to regimented discipline, you’re not going to like it there.”
“I didn’t have a problem with it. I enjoyed my time there. I thanked them for the opportunity they gave me to play there.”
The Patriots hosted free agent QB Christian Hackenberg on Thursday. The former Jets draft pick who was traded to the Raiders this offseason and then released by Oakland recently never really got a chance for reps in either place.
While this move for Bill Belichick raised eyebrows around Patriots Nation, it shouldn’t. This is nothing more than the Patriots doing their due diligence and kicking the tires on a player. Sometimes it results in a player being signed, others it is just compiling of a list for players who would fit in the event of injuries. And for many others, it is simply keeping a book on potential opponents down the road.
Very disturbing news of former NFL tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. is charged with rape and kidnapping of several women in the Southern California area. Winslow was charged with two counts of kidnapping with the intent to commit rape, two counts of forcible rape, one count of forcible sodomy, one count of forcible oral copulation, two counts of residential burglary and one count of indecent exposure.
Winslow spent four seasons in Cleveland, three in Tampa Bay and one with the Jets. He played one game with the Patriots in 2012 after being signed in mid-September and then asked for and was given his release. But many of the headlines read…what? “Former Patriots TE….
Standard Operating Procedure – Belichick Cancels Final Two OTAs: The Patriots last week during “voluntary” OTAs ended with a team-bonding trip to Fenway Park and the cancellation of the final two sessions to wrap up the spring on a low-key note. For those who are trying to read something into this….don’t.
This move by Bill Belichick is SOP (standing operating procedure) for the team under his watch. Belichick has always said the spring was a time for teaching and the summer during training camp was a time for competition and evaluation of the roster.
If Belichick is pleased with the way the spring practice sessions have gone, he’ll give the players some free time to get on with their summer break before training camp and the 2018 preseason begins in earnest.
The Patriots always have special guests visit the team during the spring, this year was Kobe Bryant, the team bonding trips are also SOP as well. Don’t read too much into the way events played out this week with the end of the spring workouts. There is nothing new or different in the way that the Patriots or Bill Belichick does business.
Patriots Taking Cautious Approach With Malcolm Mitchell: One of the things that stood out during OTAs and minicamp was the absence of Malcolm Mitchell on the field for the vast majority of it.
Mitchell missed all of 2017 after a promising 2016 rookie season where he heated up down the stretch. He caught 32 passes for 406 yards as a rookie with most of them coming in the second half of the season. He hauled in 5 passes for 70 yards in the Patriots big comeback win in the Super Bowl over the Falcons.
However, Mitchell’s absence this spring, obviously a big one for the 3rd-year WR may not be as disconcerting as originally thought. Mark Daniels from the Providence Journal said sources inside the team relayed that the team is opting for a cautious approach with Mitchell and that the team is going to bring him along slowly so that he’s ready for training camp and beyond.
With Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola gone this season, the turnover in the WR position will be something to monitor as newer players to the system try to carve out a role and find a comfort level with QB Tom Brady that Mitchell already has.
If he’s ready to go once training camp opens in late July, it will be a big plus not only for Mitchell but for the offense as well. With the looming suspension for WR Julian Edelman (depending upon his appeal) it will also open up another roster spot for the first month of the season. It will bear close watching this summer.
Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:
McCarron Quietly Turning Heads at Bills Minicamp: TheBuffalo Bills have three QBs competing for reps this spring and that will continue into training camp and while normally that is viewed as a negative, that isn’t the case for the Bills this spring.
The Bills moved up to draft the talented but still raw Josh Allen with the 7th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s the QB of the future but not necessarily the one of the present. Most NFL pundits believe Allen will need time to fully develop into the QB the Bills believe that they have in the rookie from Wyoming. Bills head coach Sean McDermott is taking the correct approach in taking their time with Allen, leaving him as firmly in the #3 on the depth chart, allowing him to learn the NFL game.
But the emergence of veteran QB A.J. McCarron, acquired from the Bengals this spring has impressed the Bills coaches. While McCarron and Nathan Peterman have both had very strong springs, McDermott has been impressed the most by McCarron’s demeanor calling him “a heck of a teammate”.
The former Alabama QB looks like the starting gig at Buffalo is his to lose. Peterman is going to push him this summer, but competition is always a good thing.
Tannehill Finishes Strong Spring and is in Control of the Dolphins Offense: The Miami Dolphins quarterback of 2018 is definitely Ryan Tannehill. Whether he is in 2019 and beyond remains to be seen. But after missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL, Tannehill had a strong spring and seems poised to enter training camp and the 2018 season with high hopes.
He was impressive at the end of the spring sessions, including firing a bullet to Danny Amendola for a 30-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field. Tannehill has always had the potential but has never been able to string everything together, being the QB he was being paid to be.
This is a huge season for him, but he’ll also need much, much better play from his tackles, Laremy Tunsil had an awful 2017 and his teammate, RT Ja’waun James is now the top paid right tackle in the NFL. If Tannehill is going to have success in 2018, he’s going to need his tackles keeping him upright. Of course, having a safety blanket like Amendola helps loads in running the hot routes.
Jets Sign DL Courtney Upshaw. Waive Former Patriot Chris Jones: The New York Jets have signed veteran free agent defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw and have waived defensive lineman Chris Jones.
Upshaw, 6’2, 272-pounds was originally drafted by the Baltimore Ravens with the 35th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He spent four years in Baltimore (2012-2015) before signing as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016. Upshaw played the past two seasons with Atlanta and was invited to the Jets’ spring sessions on a try-out basis.
In his six-year career, Upshaw has played in 90 regular-season games (56 starts) with 7.0 sacks, five forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, and 215 tackles. He played in two Super Bowls, XLVII where Baltimore defeated San Francisco and LI with the Falcons as Atlanta dropped the first overtime loss in Super Bowl history to New England. He registered a sack of Tom Brady in that game.
Jones had signed with the Jets as a sixth-year veteran free agent on June 5. He was drafted by Houston in the sixth round in 2013 and spent time with the Buccaneers, Patriots, Dolphins and 49ers. Most of his career was spent (28 games, 22 starts) as a DE, DT and special teamer with New England in 2013-14.
Jones had the key field goal block of a last second 58-yard game-winning attempt for the Patriots against the Jets in October 2014 getting his hand up and blocking Nick Folk’s attempt.
Jones was also the recipient of a never-before-called rule which cost the Patriots an overtime victory, also against the Jets in 2013. Jones was called for “pushing” one of his teammates into the line on Nick Folk’s 56-yard field goal attempt in overtime, which Folk shanked wide to the left. The penalty, a 15-yarder incorrectly called for unsportsmanlike conduct, gave the Jets another game-winning possession and this time Folk hit a 42-yarder for the 30-27 overtime victory minutes later.
Incidentally, the pushing call has never been called since. That call cost New England home field advantage in the playoffs.
Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-10, & AFC East Notes … No AFC East notes this week, they’ll be back next Sunday as this week we’ll focus on the Patriots minicamp
Quick Hitters: It was good to see some of the injured players from last year, back on the field, in varying amounts of work. But one player, Harvey Langi, who was injured in a car wreck while stopped at a light in Foxboro along with his wife in October. Langi was thankful to just survive and spoke about how blessed he was to just to see her okay. The two were sent to different hospitals in Rhode Island and Massachusetts on the night of the accident where the fire department had to use the “Jaws of Life” to cut them out. He’s never had a surgery in regards to football but ended up on IR after being rear-ended.
Langi after minicamp practice. (SBalestrieri photo)
The media asked all the players about the “fun” angle and most laughed it off. Running back Rex Burkhead, said he wasn’t even going there but having great fun at minicamp, as everyone in attendance laughed with him.
Chris Hogan is fully healthy after lingering shoulder issues cut back on his production last season. He spoke about the intensity ramping up a bit in minicamp and spoke about the team energy taking a step up with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski being back.
RIP to the 49ers Dwight Clark who passed away this week after a long battle with ALS. Clark was famous for “The Catch” from Joe Montana in the NFC Championship Game against Dallas. By all accounts was as classy off the field as he was on it. We still remember that catch like it was yesterday and recall watching the game in a crowded dayroom on Ft. Bragg long ago.
For the third time since 2010, the Ravens and coach John Harbaugh have been fined by the league for excessive contact during OTAs/Minicamp. Harbaugh claimed that the league singled out Baltimore for what other teams all do. Baltimore had to forfeit their last two OTAs, while Harbaugh was fined $50,000 and the team assessed a $100,000 fine for the latest infraction.
Terrell Owens Snubs HOF Ceremony: Owens has decided to skip his own induction ceremony into the NFL Hall of Fame. Owens, the uber-talented and even more disruptive influence during his time in the NFL gives the NFL the petulant brush for not inducting him earlier. In a statement he wrote:
“I am so grateful for all of the support my family, friends, and certainly my fans, have shown me throughout my entire career in the National Football League. When it was announced that I was going to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the response received from my fans was overwhelming, and I am truly humbled. I am honored to be included among this group of fellow inducted individuals. “While I am incredibly appreciative of this opportunity, I have made the decision to publicly decline my invitation to attend the induction ceremony in Canton. I have already shared this information with the Hall. After visiting Canton earlier this year, I came to the realization that I wish to celebrate what will be one of the most memorable days of my life, elsewhere. At a later date, I will announce where and when I will celebrate my induction. “I would also like to thank the San Francisco 49ers, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys, the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals for the time I was granted with each organization. I am thankful for the relationships forged and the lessons learned while part of each team. “I wish to congratulate all past, current and future inductees. It is quite an honor to be part of such elite company. This honor is something that I will cherish forever.”
This is unchartered territory, no living Hall of Fame member has ever declined his invitation for enshrinement. “We are disappointed by will respect Terrell’s decision not to participate in the Enshrinement,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement.
“As we do not want to detract from this great honor being enjoyed by the seven other members of the Class of 2018 (Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher), their family, friends, and fans; the Pro Football Hall of Fame will have no further comment on the decision made by Terrell Owens.”
Something tells me he’ll change his mind, being in the limelight is too big an opportunity to pass up.
Gronkowski Rumors Fuel Wild Friday: How times have we said, the Patriots are many things but never boring. Rumors were swirling around the Patriots on Friday. Barstool Sports posted that Pats TE Rob Gronkowski was rumored to be on the trading block and they were writing a “pre-emptive blog post or what might be, if true, the most stunning move of the Bradichick Dynasty. Stay tuned” Which sent many fans overboard.
Several of the regular beat writers chimed in trying to read the tea leaves and glean any indication that the rumors could be true. Tom E. Curran posted about an hour later that the Patriots weren’t trading Gronkowski and fans could resume their weekend fun.
But about 5 p.m. former Herald Pats beat writer Adam Kurkjian posted that he had multiple sources that there were deals on the table but Robert Kraft nixed them.
That set off a firestorm of activity on social media, and Patriots Media VP Stacey James, normally one to stay off social media quickly tweeted out that “I would say with the utmost confidence that none of that is true. None of it.”
Others in the media quickly squashed it as well. Former Patriots QB and now the team color man on the radio broadcast Scott Zolak posted that someone high up in the organization was ashamed of the buzz on what was a false story.
Edelman Suspension A Big Blow to the NE Offense: Julian Edelman is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. In appealing the decision, Edelman released the following statement on his Instagram account.
“I am very sorry — I don’t know what happened,” Edelman posted on his Instagram page. “I’ve taken many, many tests obviously over the course of my career, and nothing like this has ever happened. I apologize to the Kraft family, my coaches, teammates, and fans. As this matter is being appealed, I can’t say anymore but no matter what, I will be ready to play and pursue another championship with our team and for Patriots fans around the world.”
Apparently, Edelman and the Patriots as they exited the practice fields for the final day of minicamp on Thursday, they were unaware of the ruling coming down from the league, where someone leaked it to Field Yates and Adam Schefter of ESPN. While no one knows on what grounds Edelman will base his appeal, those normally do not as a rule fare well.
Edelman would miss the first four games against the Texans at home, on the road at Jacksonville and Detroit and home against the Dolphins. He’d also forfeit over $400,000 in base salary alone during his suspension.
While many point out, and correctly so, that the Patriots went to the Super Bowl without Edelman a year ago, they’re also dealing with the losses of Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks as well as Nate Solder at left tackle from last year’s team.
While this season’s offense looks even better on paper than 2017, with so many new faces on the team this season, it may take them some time to find their comfort level and their roles in the offense. And having no Edelman there for the first quarter of the season is definitely a big blow. Especially without Amendola there to take up his slack.
On the flip side, it will give one wide receiver an extra four weeks to make an impression and possibly carve out a role for himself. We shall see.
Punter Competition at Camp is a Good Thing: Ryan Allen is most definitely facing some competition at punter this year during training camp and if Wednesday’s minicamp practice session is any indication, it should be quite a good one to watch. Solid camp competition is always a good thing for the team.
We were in attendance for minicamp and the first thing that jumped out to us was that UDFA rookie punter Corey Bojorquez from New Mexico has a tremendous leg. He was booming punts with tremendous height and hang time and had a distinct advantage over the veteran incumbent…for now. But it is all about consistency and whether he can do it all the time.
Allen is in the last year of his contract and beat out incumbent Zoltan Mesko who coincidentally was in the last year of his contract in 2013. Bojorquez, the left-footed punter not only have to continue his hot start punting but do the holding for Stephen Gostkowski’s extra points and field goals, something Allen has been very solid at.
Patterson Turns Heads Early in Camp: Minicamp was also the first time we’ve gotten to see Cordarrelle Patterson up close and his speed is something that just leaps out. He showcased that during the return part of the session as he eats up yardage…fast.
With the new kickoff rules in effect, the Patriots ST coaches Joe Judge and Bret Bielema are working on new packages to get Patterson free to get to that next level. He already has averaged over 30 yards per return with 5 TDs in his career and he smiled when asked about the new rules.
Cordarrelle Patterson after minicamp practice on knowing his role. (SBalestrieri photo)
“If they kick it to me, we might get more yards,” Patterson said. “That’s the game. Every year, they stop trying to kick it to me. It doesn’t matter.”
One area where he’s struggled is finding a consistent role on offense. He’s known as a gadget-type of player, running reverses, screens and such. But thus far the Patriots seem intent on trying a number of different things with him and he’s open to whatever the coaches decide.
“It’s challenging, but you have to know your role and embrace it” Patterson said. “Every offense. New England, Oakland, Minnesota, no matter where you are, it’s going to be a challenging offense. … There’s always something you can learn.”
“I mean, my film don’t lie,” Patterson said. “I can do whatever I put my mind to. That’s something I’ve been blessed with from the man above since I was born.”
Asked about the difficulties in learning the Patriots playbook he said,“I feel like I know the playbook more than I did yesterday,” Patterson said. “Each day, I’m trying to improve to get better. Let all three quarterbacks out there trust me so I am in the right place where I need to be every time.”
Many had Patterson as a bubble player or as a cut going into the season. Forget that. He’s a lock, for his STs ability alone, and if he can work his way into the Patriots offense for just 10-15 snaps a game? That is a win-win for the Patriots.
Three Up and Three Down For the Pats Minicamp: With the Patriots finished up until training camp begins in late July, we compiled a quick list of who helped themselves during the spring and who didn’t. After three pretty intense days (albeit without pads) of practice, the team looks in pretty good shape. Besides the usual stars (Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman, Stephon Gilmore) who all looked very good to outstanding during minicamp, we’ll focus on some of the lesser-known players for this segment.
Jacob Hollister: The second-year tight end added some muscle and still looks like he can threaten the seams against just about anyone on the field. He was already a pretty athletic tight end, but now he seems even more so.
Hollister was not only giving the second team guys fits but consistently got open against the likes of Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, and Pat Chung. That was most impressive. If his newfound muscle translates into improved play in the blocking game, then he’s way ahead of the pack to be the #2 tight end on the depth chart.
Training camp and preseason will be interesting to watch. Once the pads come on, if Hollister can still get open from the jams at the line, then he’ll be a key player to watch in the offense. He had an outstanding spring…now he needs to have a better summer.
J.C. Jackson: The UDFA rookie out of Maryland had the potential to be a top-tier CB and prospect but had off-field issues in college that had him dropped from Florida. But he’s turned his life around and he certainly turned some heads this week.
The Patriots liked what they’ve seen with the rookie and gave him plenty of reps with the first team unit. While Bill Belichick pooh-poohs first or second team designations at this time of year, Jackson was out there often times facing the top WRs in the Patriots offense. And didn’t look at lost out there.
We wrote about him six weeks ago and it seems that he’s in a good spot to secure a roster spot heading into training camp. He’ll have to beat out CBs Keion Crossen and Cyrus Jones for a CB slot. He had a very good head start on things while the other two were relegated to the lower practice fields working back from injuries.
J.C. Jackson was impressive in his first minicamp. (SBalestrieri photo)
Sony Michel: The Patriots have very high expectations from the first round draft pick and it is easy to see what they like. Michel has good size, is quick to the hole in the running game and is a smooth runner who looks really good in the passing game with very good hands.
The coaches are working on him with his route-running and ensuring he’s precise in that manner and they’re ensuring his work on STs is up to par, he drew the ire of the coaches when he whiffed on a block during a kickoff return by Patterson.
With an albeit limited look this spring, he looks dynamic in the Patriots offense. He and Rex Burkhead have the inside edge as being the two starters …right now.
Sony Michel looks to be a nice weapon in the Patriots offense. (SBalestrieri photo)
Three Down: Malcolm Mitchell: After missing all of 2017 with lingering knee issues, those appear to be chronic. Expectations were also high for Mitchell who had a very solid 2016 rookie season.
Mitchell missed all of the minicamp and most of the earlier OTAs although during Thursday’s minicamp session he was spotted on the lower field working out with the training staff with some of the other hurt players.
With a very crowded field at WR, it isn’t going to be easy for Mitchell to make the team unless he’s a healthy go for nearly all of the training camp this summer. Ditto for 6th round WR Braxton Berrios. He suffered an injury at the NFL Combine and is slowly working his way back.
Eric Rowe: Rowe wasn’t sharp at any of the sessions this week and was beaten on occasion by every WR on the roster as the week wore on. During the Wednesday session, we watched Edelman get separation on him for a long gain, but he regularly does that to everyone he goes against.
But as the week wore on, Rowe was losing reps to the rookie Jackson with the starting unit. Hardly the spring Rowe was looking forward to. We’ll see once the pads come on if that helps his coverage as he can jam more at the line.
Jason McCourty: The McCourty twins didn’t see the field much this week, in one of the more puzzling moves. Jason was barely on the field during team activities. He spent most of it as a spectator just watching from the sidelines.
We don’t believe it to be injury related as he didn’t go down to the lower fields to work with the training staff but stayed with the team on the upper field but as an observer. This will be an area to watch once camp begins.
It is really hard to judge any of the linemen, offensive or defensive during minicamp since the players don’t wear pads. Those big guys plus the big running backs, (Mike Gillislee, Jeremy Hill, and Ralph Webb) plus blocking tight ends Dwayne Allen and Troy Niklas will get closer looks then.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, ESPN’s Field Yates has reported.
Edelman missed the entire 2017 season after suffering a torn ACL last year during the preseason. If the suspension holds, Edelman will miss the Patriots’ first four games against the Texans, Jaguars, Lions, and Dolphins.
Edelman has been a regular attendee this spring during the Patriots OTAs and minicamp and has looked like his normal self thus far. This will be a huge blow to the Patriots offense who missed Edelman last year and was hoping to get him back and healthy for the regular season.
We’ve heard that he will appeal but for now, he’s gone for the first four games.
Day 2 of the Patriots minicamp is in the books and the pace was quick with the team moving from different drills at a good clip. We got the chance to go today to see the 2018 team firsthand for the first time on the field.
While the players are practicing without pads, one must take things with a grain of salt, however, this is as close as we’ll get to actual football until training camp begins. Most people describe minicamp and the OTAs as “passing camps” as the teams spend a lot of time working on their timing in the passing game, today’s session was no different.
Here are our observations from camp today:
Here’s a name to circle and remember…. Corey Bojorquez. The UDFA rookie punter from New Mexico has a big leg. He was right down in front of us and was consistently hitting 45-55 yard punts with incredible height and hang time. Training camp is going to be an interesting battle between him and veteran Ryan Allen. The rookie looked really good today.
The tight ends seemed to have a really good day in the passing camp. Rob Gronkowski was as animated as in the regular season. With limited to no contact, it was no contest as Gronk dominated whenever he was on the field.
He looked fit and fast and was moving very well. He ran an out pattern and Tom Brady’s pass was low. Gronk had to dive to pick it up. Afterward, he came up to one knee and was animatedly signaling first down. Later he smoked Jordan Richards on a deep ball and did the Gronk high step into the end zone. Troy Niklas is a much bigger target in the passing game than I thought previously. He looked good in positional drills but I thought disappeared a bit in 7-7s and full team drills..Something to watch.
Speaking of looking like himself, Julian Edelman was very sharp today. He looks like the Julian Edelman we’re accustomed to. I watched him closely when he cut to the left and right seeing if there was any semblance of difference and there was none. That’s a big hurdle passed. Contact will be next.
Jacob Hollister had a nice day, he was consistently making things happen down the seam and had a beautiful catch over Duron Harmon where they were both fighting for position on the ball. He had another nice catch on a deep cross down the middle.
Will Tye made a nice grab on perhaps the best ball thrown by Brian Hoyer on the day. Hoyer displayed nice touch and lofted it just over the hands of Pat Chung and Tye was able to bring it down.
Tom Brady got a bit animated after hooking up on a deep fly to James White down the right sideline. The team attempted those often and Rex Burkhead had a very good day catching the ball out of the backfield.
Seeing him up close for the first time, Cordarrelle Patterson is really fast. Like really, really fast. If he gets a crack in the return game, he’s gone. He eats up yardage really fast.
Patterson, it seems is going to be given every opportunity to be more than a “gadget player” in the Patriots offense. I expected to see him run some slants and bubble screens and he didn’t. He was running some deep outs, deep slants and being used to stretch the top of the defense.
He spoke with the assembled media after the session and he’s totally bought in to the Patriots way of doing things. He must have said several times that a player, “has to know his role” and “strive to get better in all facets of his game.” He was asked if he does everything fast, even going to the bathroom. Patterson laughed and said, that is one time he likes to go really slow. Everyone cracked up.
Stephon Gilmore had a really strong day; everyone he covered he smothered in blanket coverage. The QBs were staying away from him. Brady tested the waters once on a deep post to Hogan and Gilmore at the last moment reached in and broke it up.
Wide receiver is going to be a really interesting position to watch. With Kenny Britt and Malcolm Mitchell out today and Braxton Berrios limited, Riley McCarron was looking pretty good. The 2nd year PS player was getting plenty of looks in the passing game and was getting second-team reps at both kick and punt returner.
Chris Hogan had a good day and was running routes and getting open all over the field.
Jordan Richards got burned a few times but then made an interception on a deep Hoyer pass where he overthrew McCarron deep down the field. Richards moved over and easily picked it off.
Sony Michel looks like he will fit in seamlessly into the passing game with the offense. He looks smooth with good hands coming out of the backfield. But the rookie drew the ire of running back coach Ivan Fears after he whiffed on a block during kickoff return drills.
Harvey Langi spoke with the media after the session and talked about good it felt to be back on the field. He spoke about the transition for both he and his wife after their terrible accident last fall after the couple was rear-ended at a stop light.
Former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema continues to work with the coaching staff on Special Teams along with Joe Judge.
Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-03, & AFC East Notes and congratulations to the high school classes of 2018, many of whom held their graduations this weekend. Go out and make your mark in the world.
Quick Hitters: Many of the national sports sites have been completely silent following the news that Al Jazeera released information that stated that Peyton Manning’s attorneys backed up the video made with Charlie Sly, who says in the Al Jazeera documentary he worked for an anti-aging clinic in Indianapolis and sent HGH to Manning’s house under his wife’s name.
The Hollywood Reporter first published the story of the release of court documents stating this, as they related to a defamation suit brought by baseball players Ryan Howard and Ryan Zimmerman. From the Reporter story:
Sly created a short, homemade video in which he recanted every word he had ever said to Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter,” states Al Jazeera’s court brief. “Sly’s recantation rang hollow. As explained in Defendants’ Motion to Compel against Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Sly’s last-minute denials followed a visit to his family’s home by investigators hired by lawyers for National Football League player Peyton Manning … which prompted Sly’s sister to call 911. On the video, Sly appeared to be reading a statement that was prepared for him while sweating profusely, and his statements about Liam Collins’ character were clearly based on information that had been supplied to Sly.
But since this came to light, not a peep from the NFL, nor the “network” or several other national sites. Does one have to ask… why is that?
Kobe Bryant was a guest at the Patriots OTAs this week and he spent some time talking with the players in the meeting room as well as on the field. Bill Belichick has always been an admirer of Bryant as is Tom Brady, but the QB has been a no-show thus far in the offseason workouts.
“I have a ton of respect for Kobe. Obviously, a great player, had a great career,” said Belichick. “Spent the day with him yesterday. He had a lot of great observations and things we could learn from. He’s a tremendous guy.”
On a good note for OTAs, has to be the news that Dont’a Hightower has been out there and by all reports moving very well. Some media members feel that he’s slimmed down a bit and it is showing in his ability to fly around the field. Something else of note, unlike last spring/summer, Hightower seems to be taking most of his reps back in the middle linebacker position rather than the edge.
The not-so-good news? Malcolm Mitchell continues to be a no-show after an early appearance at OTAs. Mitchell was at only the first OTA session and hasn’t been seen on the field since. After missing all of 2017, Mitchell himself proclaimed just after the Super Bowl that this offseason will be a very important one for him.
We don’t know whether his absence is just the case of the team taking a cautious approach with him or the fact that his injury woes continue to pile up. It will be an area to watch closely for minicamp this week and once training camp begins in July. Ditto for fellow third-year player Cyrus Jones.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”: That quote by Thomas Edison is an apt one this week because the Patriots, not the league are now the poster children for the “No Fun Zone”. Cassius Marsh made some comments and said that he considered quitting the NFL because of his lack of fun playing under the Bill Belichick system.
And the Philadelphia Eagles, perhaps the sorest winners in Super Bowl history, have now had two players, linemen Brandon Booker and Lane Johnson, neither of whom spent a day with the Patriots, say how the Patriots don’t have fun. Oh, my.
The essence of fun is subjective. What is fun for you may not seem fun to me and vice versa. I used to think it was fun to launch myself out of an aircraft in flight with a parachute and over 100 pounds of “lightweight” gear with weapons strapped to my body. Others may find that less “fun”. And experiences will definitely temper those feelings.
Marsh was traded for because he showed an ability to rush the passer. Fine. But in the Patriots system, as we well know, an edge player has to first set that edge and will be asked to drop into the flats and cover running backs on occasion as well. Marsh struggled at those things. He’s hardly the first and will definitely not be the last. It certainly doesn’t make Marsh either a bad person or a bad player. It was simply a bad fit. Not everyone will fit in any system around the NFL.
Marsh’s comments were born from frustration. No one likes to fail at anything. Had he taken to the added responsibilities like a duck to water, do you think we’d be hearing about his lack of “fun” playing the game today? Doubtful.
Nothing worth accomplishing comes easily. It takes hard work and gallons of sweat to accomplish great things. It is the finished product, the winning of championships or achieving a goal that is the ultimate prize. And when everyone on board pulls in the same direction, the camaraderie, the closeness of the unit as a whole is the “fun” part of things.
You know what two things AREN’T fun? Losing and playing against the Patriots.
Brady Back on the Field Friday Night For Best Buddies: While it wasn’t the appearance everyone was wanting to see this week, QB Tom Brady was back on the field for his “Best Buddies” charity touch football game on Friday night at Harvard Stadium.
Brady has been erroneously reported (in some circles) as having been throwing to Julian Edelman in the Foxboro practice bubble, having worked out regularly at the TB12 clinic with Alex Guerrero, and acting like a diva by staying away from OTAs as the rift between him and Bill Belichick remains real. Did we miss anything?
But Friday night was all about fun and touchdowns. Brady was flinging scores for both teams as his charity game ended in a “defensive struggle” in a 112-112 tie. Included in these was an 80-yard strike to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Schefter also was the recipient of a 40-yard TD and looked gassed upon arriving in the end zone. He’s sure to hear some smack talk from Rich Eisen about that.
This week we’ll expect to see Brady throwing the ball to Patriots wide receivers in Foxboro during the minicamp rather than in Harvard or Monaco. Then maybe some of this craziness will subside…then again, maybe it won’t.
Wide Receiver Jordan Matthews Making the Most of Early Opportunities: This will be an interesting summer for veteran wide receiver Jordan Matthews. One area we’ll be watching once training camp begins is seeing how the newer members of the team on offense learn the Patriots offense and create some chemistry with Tom Brady. Obviously, the second part of that will have to wait. But one player we feel is going to make an impact here is off to a good start.
Jordan Matthews has been a productive receiver when he’s been healthy on the field in the NFL. With a crowded positional field at WR this summer, it is imperative that the receivers, especially the new guys learn the offense and have a good feel for it.
Andy Hart of Patriots Football Weekly wrote on Thursday how Matthews made a good play in the back of the end zone on a spot throw by Brian Hoyer. It is small right now, but the fact that he’s catching on to the offense is a great sign.
Brian Flores has the Pieces to Make the Patriots Defense Solid Again: With the aforementioned Dont’a Hightower back in the fold, along with top 2017 draft choice Derek Rivers and Harvey Langi back from injuries, the addition of Adrian Clayborn in free agency and some additions via the draft and UDFAs the Patriots defense should be already better than the unit that took the field in the Super Bowl.
It will be up to Brian Flores to put the right pieces on the field and assure that the unit is ready for the task. It won’t be an easy transition taking over the defensive coordinator’s duties without actually having the title. However, if we’ve seen anything out of Flores thus far, the title means little, the job is more important to him.
He’s learned his lessons well under Belichick. Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about having an impact on the players and the game plan. Influencing those players and putting the players in the best possible position to succeed. His impact will ultimately be judged by his results. It should be quite a ride, although I believe he’ll not be long for the job. Another team will probably quickly give him a chance to be a head coach. Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Love What They See in Edwards, Wood is Released: TheBuffalo Bills lost Preston Brown during free agency but have seemed to have filled that hole nicely with the 10th overall pick Tremaine Edwards in the NFL Draft. Edwards entered the draft heavily favored to be a top half of the 1st round talent and that is exactly what he was.
Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier has been enamored with what he’s seen so far in the young 20-year old MLB. He’s a tremendous talent and should be the face of their defense for the next decade-plus.
The Bills also released Center Eric Wood after nine years after it was revealed in January, that Wood’s injured neck had a disk dangerously close to his spinal cord. Wood is expected to retire now that he’s been released. By releasing Wood before June 1 means the remaining guaranteed portion of his contract, which was extended through 2019, would count against Buffalo’s salary cap this season.
Dolphins Make McCain NFL’s Richest Nickel Back, Sign Four Draft Picks: The Miami Dolphins have signed slot corner Bobby McCain to a four-year extension worth $27 million with $13 million guaranteed, making him the highest paid slot or nickel corner in the NFL.
McCain was originally a 5th Round Draft choice in 2015 and has quickly earned the trust of his coaches. The plan in 2018 is to play him both inside or outside. Head Coach Adam Gase has been a fan of McCain’s since his arrival. “The spot that he plays, there’s so much nickel personnel that’s being played that he probably played 600-plus snaps last year,” Gase said to the Palm Beach Post. “That’s just the way the game is. If he had to play outside, then slot inside and do things like that, it’s a lot of plays.”
Miami also announced that they have signed four of their 2018 draft picks: safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, cornerback Cornell Armstrong, linebacker Quentin Poling and kicker Jason Sanders. Fitzpatrick was Miami’s first-round pick, being drafted at # 11 overall. He played in 42 games with 38 starts as a three-year starter (2015-17) at Alabama. As a junior in 2017, Fitzpatrick won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player and the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back.
Jets Adams Taking A Page out of Lebron, and Brady’s Books Is Serious About Healthy Living: The New York Jets safety Jamal Adams had a very solid rookie season and is looking to get better in his sophomore season. And a big part of it he believes is taking better care of his body now as he’s learned from Lebron James and Tom Brady.
Rich Cimini of ESPN spoke with Adams last week and the safety hired a chef to make him healthy food, which meant cutting out all kinds of fried food and eating more fish and everything grilled now. After seeing an interview with James he decided to make the switch. His weight is now down to 208 from 2014 and Adams is already feeling the benefits of it. But is he ready to go to the extreme of a Tom Brady diet? Not just yet.
“His diet is on another level,” Adams said. “I just wanted to help myself. Anything I can to help myself get better on the field, to help this team out, is what I wanted to do.”
“I’m taking care of my body a little more,” he added. “It’s those little things that, hopefully, help me get that edge on my competitors. I’m just trying to do the little things the right way at all times.”
File this one under Brady and Alex Guerrero having more and more influence over not just New England Patriots but over more NFL players now.
Good morning, Here is your Sunday’s Patriots news 5-27, & AFC East Notes
Quick Hitters: Can’t say enough about the league’s “compromise” in regards to the national anthem. Compromise with who? The league and the owners, that’s who. The players, who are the ones most affected by this new policy, weren’t even consulted and involved in the discussions. Bad move NFL.
The NFL loves to throw around the word “partners” when discussing the players. So how in the world can they NOT involve them in the process? Baffling would be the politically correct answer. The Players Association should take note and remind the league about it when the new CBA comes around.
Bill Belichick loves to find new ways to build team cohesion…and to tweak the NFL. Belichick traditionally used the old Chuck Noll tactic of using numberless jerseys for OTAs and minicamp in have the players get to know one another and communicate better on the field.
But the massive uptick in media coverage in the modern game had the league force the Patriots and Belichick to ban that tactic. So, Belichick, this spring had the rookies wear non-traditional numbers for OTAs. Examples? RB Sony Michel wore #51, CB Duke Dawson wore #52, QB Danny Etling wore #58, Braxton Berrios wore #55.
One can expect the league to address this soon as well.
There have been rumors of a contract extension for Rob Gronkowski for awhile now, getting a new deal done will be relief no doubt for the team and the player to keep him around Foxboro a bit longer. Gronk released a shot of him swimming with sharks as part of a Discovery Channel special
All the amateur psychologists were out in force to try to decipher the meaning of Tom Brady’s Instagram post this week. Brady posted a picture of himself practicing and added the caption, “Dreamworks”. Brady was rumored to be working out at the TB12 clinic but that was quickly shot down by Scott Zolak and others.
This weekend we know that he and his wife are in Monaco at the invitation of the prince. It is good to be the King…er the Goat. As to when he’ll be on the field, look for mandatory minicamp June 5-7. I wouldn’t expect to see him out there on May 30-31.
So what about the players on the field?
Wide Receiver Will Be a Great Position to Watch This Summer: This will be a prime position to watch at both minicamp and training camp this summer. Julian Edelman has been on the field for the OTAs and looks like he hasn’t lost a bit of his quickness. Coming off of a serious ACL injury that caused him to miss all of 2017, that is good news. He and Chris Hogan seemed to be locked into the top two spots on the depth chart. There, things get really interesting and that’s where the camp competition will be fun to watch.
Malcolm Mitchell who had such a promising end to his rookie season, also missed the entire season a year ago with knee woes that are looking chronic. He was at Monday’s session and then missed Tuesday’s on-field work. Whether it was injury related or the team just taking a cautious approach will bear watching.
Two guys the team brought in last year will be looking to assert themselves after a full offseason in the Patriots system. Phillip Dorsett was something of a disappointment last year as he didn’t contribute much. He has the advantage of being able to line up inside or outside and with his spot far from guaranteed, he’ll be going all out this spring and summer.
Kenny Britt is a sleeper here. Brought in at the tail end of last year after a miserable 2017 with the Browns, Britt had 1000 yards receiving with the Rams in 2016. He has good size, (6’3, 225) and still runs well. The Patriots need some size at the position and Britt could be a productive player in the system with a solid summer.
Jordan Matthews is a guy that I’m going to make an early prediction and say makes the team. We haven’t seen him play in the Patriots system yet, but he’s learned several different systems already in his career and despite an injury-riddled season in Buffalo, he’s been a very productive receiver in Philadelphia where he averaged 70+ catches over three years there. He too has good size (6’3, 205) and can operate out of the slot.
Cordarrelle Patterson is probably the most intriguing guy in the group. Patterson has good size, (6’2, 220) and has tremendous speed. He’s the best kick returner in the business right now and a very effective gunner. That alone should make him a near roster lock. With the Patriots ability to insert him in the lineup for some specifically tailored plays designed for him, end-arounds, quick slants, screens, his ability to make something in the open field should be fun to watch.
Braxton Berrios arrives in New England with a ton of hype as the “next Wes Welker” in the Pats offense. He’s small with a very limited catch radius but he has the quickness and better top end speed than Welker did. Where he can secure a spot is in the punt return game. He was working with Julian Edelman on that this week, which is a good sign. He and Riley McCarron will no doubt be competing for a spot either on the roster or the practice squad. Don’t go to sleep on the second year McCarron. He offers much the same value as Berrios without the hype and spent all of last year on the practice squad. He can return punts and is built similar to recently departed Danny Amendola.
Cody Hollister is a super long shot to make the roster and would have to turn heads this summer to remain on the practice squad for another year. He has the versatility to play in different spots on the field as well as special teams.
Matthew Slater is a wide receiver truly in name only. He’s one of the best special teams players in the league, year in and year out. But with so many qualified wide receivers on the squad this year, the team will have to decide whether to keep an extra WR or make some difficult decisions in regards to who to release.
The wide receiver position will be a fun one to watch this summer. With Tom Brady not at OTAs, it gives the younger players an opportunity to gain some level of comfort and build some chemistry with Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling. Why is that important? Because they’ll be mostly getting reps with them once Brady gets to camp and is taking reps with the top WRs on the depth chart.
Helmet Maker with the NFL is Trying to Make Soldiers Helmets Safer: Not Patriots-related news but on Memorial Day weekend, we salute anything that can make our troops a bit safer.
VICIS, the makers of the new Zero1 football helmet has partnered with the US Army to make the ballistic helmet safer for the men and women in the military. They plan on replacing the foam pads inside the existing helmets with technology from the Zero1 helmet.
While the primary purpose of the military’s helmet is ballistic protection, four out of five traumatic brain injuries occur from blunt impact during training and/or other events. The company believes it will take a year or two of research and testing to begin fielding a new military helmet that makes the troops safer.
Military ballistic helmet
Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills: WR Zay Jones Knee Surgery Will Not Sideline Him During Season: TheBuffalo Bills appeared to have dodged a major bullet when WR Zay Jones was forced to have knee surgery last week, but although he’ll miss the remainder of the spring, head coach Sean McDermott said it will not force Jones to miss the season.
“At this point, we aren’t concerned this injury will jeopardize his season,” McDermott told the media. When pressed for return timetable McDermott deferred and , said it was “best for us to get this done now.”
Jones who had 27 catches for 316 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2017 is expected to be a starter opposite Kelvin Benjamin in 2018. He also had a bizarre episode in Los Angeles this off-season where he appeared naked in an apartment corridor and argued with his brother before he broke a few glass doors and windows. He was not charged with a crime in that incident as the DA declined to pursue charges.
Dolphins Bolster OL Depth, Sign Center Mike Matthews: The Miami Dolphins announced on Friday that they have signed center Mike Matthews. Matthews spent the 2017 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Injured Reserve after suffering a season-ending injury during training camp. He tore his patella tendon with the Steelers and then spent the 2016 offseason and training camp with the Cleveland Browns after originally signing with them as an undrafted college free agent on May 5, 2016. Matthews was a three-year starter (2013-15) at Texas A&M, where he played in 40 games with 33 starts.
Matthews comes from a football family; he’s the son of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, brother of Atlanta Falcons 2014 6th-overall pick Jake Matthews, and cousin of six-time Pro Bowl Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.
Matthews isn’t expected to compete for a starting job but to provide depth along the offensive line.
Jets Owner Johnson Says He’ll Pay the Fines For Players in New Anthem Policy: It isn’t often when you’ll read about us here complimenting the New York Jets on their actions off the field. But this one is the exception.
The NFL on Wednesday approved a new policy that could fine teams if players don’t stand for the national anthem, but the New York Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson told the media that he would pay any fine handed down by the NFL, allowing players to freely kneel during the national anthem with no repercussions or backlash from the team.
“If somebody on the Jets takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players,” Johnson said. “I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines. I don’t want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won’t. There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”