The Patriots have been much more active it seems in the May portion of Free Agency than they were earlier this spring. They signed DT Danny Shelton to a one-year which will add depth to their defensive line, first reported by Field Yates of ESPN.
A 6’2, 345-pound run-stuffing interior lineman, Shelton was acquired by the Patriots in trade in March of 2018 for a fifth-round draft pick. He played in 13 games and had 21 tackles. He was a healthy scratch for three straight games in Weeks 13-15, where the Patriots struggled to contain the run.
He appeared in two of the Patriots post-season games (scratched against KC), and made two tackles and generally played very well. The Patriots declined the fifth-year option for Shelton which made him a free agent. That would have paid him over $5 million.
He was drafted by the Browns in the 1st round of the 2015 NFL Draft (12th overall) out of Washington. He never blossomed into the player Cleveland hoped he would and was considered expendable and was dealt to the Patriots. In his three seasons with the Browns, he appeared in 46 games, starting 45, and notched 128 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Shelton’s addition gives the Patriots two large run-stuffing tackles (he and Mike Pennel) and two interior disruptors Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler. The team also has David Parry and this year’s fifth-round draft choice Byron Cowart. He was brought in by Cincinnati early in free agency for a visit but wasn’t offered a contract.
In a corresponding move, the Patriots released OL Jake Eldrenkamp who they signed earlier this season. Originally an UDFA signed by the Rams in 2017, the 6’5, 305-pound Eldrenkamp spent time on the Rams and Browns practice squads the past two years.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-19 and AFC East notes this week.
Patriots Plane Makeover – The Patriots team plane got a makeover recently and the results were pretty impressive. The tail now has six Lombardi trophies on it while the fuselage sports the “6X Champions” lettering.
Hardly subtle, but the fans of the team will love the new look for the “AirKraft 767”. At this rate, the painters for the Patriots plane and Bill Belichick’s boat are going to get put on a full-time basis. See the pics below, courtesy of the Patriots.
Brandon King was the recipient of a 2-year contract extension this week. Although he practices with the linebackers, King hasn’t played a snap of defense in his career. The Special Teams stalwart should be pretty much a lock for the roster now. King has had the most STs snaps beside Nate Ebner
Scott Pioli, the former Patriot front-office exec and the assistant GM in Atlanta, resigned his position “to pursue other opportunities”. One potential suitor could be the Jets now that their GM position is semi-open. Adam Gase was named the interim GM as well as holding down the head coach position….more below.
N’Keal Harry and Damien Harris, are representing the Patriots at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere this weekend. According to the NFLPA press release, the rookie premiere is the first major business and marketing event featuring NFL players since becoming professionals. The 40 rookies that are there can get a jump start on their endorsement careers by meeting and signing on with some big-name brands for marketing purposes.
Speaking of N’Keal Harry, he signed his first professional contract this week. Harry is been signed to a 4-year, $10,098,348 deal that includes a $5,364,252 signing bonus, per Adam Schefter
After the NBA Draft Lottery situation played out, many people are now clamoring for an NFL Draft Lottery. Count me totally out on that. Don’t need it, don’t want it. The NFL has already turned everything into an event. Now we’ll have non-stop coverage of the pre-Draft Lottery? No thanks, the current system works just fine.
Jamie Collins Contract Low-Risk Move By the Patriots:
The Patriots have brought linebacker, Jamie Collins, back in the fold, but they hardly threw down the gauntlet of a ton of money to bring the former 2nd round draft pick back. The actual guaranteed money amount is rather small. The team-friendly deal was reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The total amount of guaranteed money is just $250,000 and a base salary of only $1.05 million dollars. Collins has bonuses tied up with incentives and he’d receive $500,000 for making either the Pro Bowl or an All-Pro. He can also earn $100,000 in workout bonuses and $850,000 in roster bonuses.
Collins can make an additional $250,000 for playing 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, another $250,000 for playing 60 percent, another $250,000 for playing 70 percent, and another $250,000 for playing 80 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He can make another $500,000 by playing 91 percent, and then another $500,000 by playing 95 percent of the Patriots defensive snaps.
Last season, as a member of the Cleveland Browns, Collins was on the field for nearly 91 percent of the Browns defensive snaps. He registered 104 total tackles, four sacks, seven quarterback hits, one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
Collins cap number is $3,000,000 with a maximum possible cap number of $5 million. It is a low-risk, possibly high reward scenario by the Patriots who also have Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, and Ja’Whaun Bentley at linebacker from last year. Christian Sam was on IR, and they also have Terez Hall and Calvin Munson. John Simon and 3rd round draft pick Chase Winovich can play both DE or OLB. So the depth is very high at the position. Which makes competition at training camp something to watch.
Running Back Position is Strong and Will Play A Bigger Role:
In typical fashion, while we were all lamenting the lack of depth at wide receiver and tight end this spring, Bill Belichick went out and found another running back. The Patriots selected Alabama running back Damien Harris in the 3rd round. A classic case of zigging while the rest of us were zagging.
Now, the team did go out and draft WR N’Keal Harry in the first round and signed Demaryius Thomas, and Dominique Inman at wide receiver and Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Watson at tight end but the selection of Harris was a very intriguing one.
Harris and second-year back Sony Michel are both very good at running the ball between the tackles. And the Patriots at the end of the 2018 season made a decision to put an emphasis on running the ball. In the Patriots’ three playoff games they rushed for 485 yards or an average of 161.6 yards per game against the Chargers, Chiefs, and Rams. It was after the Pittsburgh game that the team made their choice to lean more on the running game and if you add in those two games, in the team’s final five games of the season, they averaged 177.8 yards per game.
With Shaq Mason, David Andrews, and Joe Thuney inside, the Patriots running game has thrived. Add in the devastating blocking of fullback James Devlin and they are set up well for success again. They will miss the outstanding blocking of Rob Gronkowski who retired, however.
When Michel ran the ball between the tackles in 2018, he averaged more yards per carry than both Ezekial Elliot and Todd Gurley. Harris will certainly add to that. He and Michel can be a very effective 1-2 punch in the running game. Harris is also an underrated pass catcher with good hands and is a very good pass blocker.
But the backfield also has James White and Rex Burkhead who can run as well but are both very good out of the backfield in the passing game. With Gronkowski retired, look for the offense to place White and Burkhead out wide more often to put pressure on the linebackers with mismatches.
The NFL and the Patriots are still pass-first offensively. However, look for the team to be even more balanced between pass and run in 2019.
The Decision to Remain With the Patriots, A No-Brainer for Gostkowski:
For Stephen Gostkowski, the decision to remain with the Patriots in free agency wasn’t that hard. The 13-year vet was brought in when Adam Vinatieri left in 2006 and has spent his entire career with the Patriots. He re-signed with New England this spring on a two-year deal worth a reported $8.5 million dollars, numbers he could have probably bettered by going elsewhere. But to hear the 35-year old tell it, he’s quite content here.
“To be able to have a chance to do it on one of the most high-pressure teams in the history of sports and have a chance to continue to do it — I think it would be tough to go somewhere else,” Gostkowski said. “The grass might seem greener on the other side, but it’s not always that way. I kind of like the challenge of being here, the bad weather, the pressure of the big games.”
Gostkowski has converted on better than 87 percent of his field goals in his career, third-best in NFL history. He’s also appeared in six Super Bowls, the most for any kicker in league history. After Justin Tucker, it is easy to make the argument that Gostkowski is the best kicker in the league. Last year he converted 49 of 50 extra point attempts and 27 of 32 field goal attempts.
He has been named to four Pro Bowls and twice been named All-Pro.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Gaining Momentum With Pundits for a Playoff Berth:
The Buffalo Bills, as we wrote here earlier weren’t getting a lot of love from ESPN in their preseason rankings, putting the over/under for wins at 6.5, which is pretty low. However, the same piece put the Patriots win total over/under at 10.5 and some of the media are looking at them in a much more positive light.
Adam Schein said he’d take the over for the Bills at 8.5 if it were that high. NFL.com’s senior analyst and former scout and VP of player personnel Gil Brandt thinks that Buffalo had the 3rd best offseason in the league this spring. Brandt wrote:
All of Buffalo’s moves, combined with rebuilding projects going on with the Dolphins and Jets, mean anything less than a playoff appearance will count as a disappointment.
Also at NFL.com Michael Robinson puts the Bills at 11-5 and slotted as a Wildcard participant in the 2019 season. Pete Prisco from CBS said on the Pick Six podcast that the Bills will earn a Wildcard berth this year with better things happening in 2020.
“They’re not gonna win the division this year,” said Prisco. “They’re gonna push for a Wild Card spot (this season), but in 2020 the Buffalo Bills will finally take over and win that division. How about that?”
Prisco was then asked if he believed that Tom Brady would still be playing?
“Yeah, but the Bills are gonna take the division next year.”
Dolphins Have to go With Rosen This Year:
The Miami Dolphins made a huge splash by trading for QB Josh Rosen for a 2nd round draft pick (#62 overall) during this year’s NFL Draft. Rosen was selected with the #10 overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Cardinals.
It was a shrewd move by Miami where nearly all of Rosen’s guaranteed cash was already paid and they can see what they have in Rosen before deciding to move on or put their trust in him as their franchise QB. But he needs to be the man starting in Week 1. Miami signed journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick as a stop-gap measure after trading Ryan Tannehill earlier this spring. Fitzpatrick is a known commodity, he’s fully capable of lighting it up for a number of games but then being dreadful right behind it. The time to evaluate Rosen should begin right away.
Head coach Brian Flores is saying all the right things, stating before the recent rookie minicamp that the QB position is an open competition, a may-the-best-man-win scenario. But that isn’t really what’s in the best interest for the team in the short or long term. They need to see if Rosen is going to be the man for Miami and if they decide that he is not, then they’ll have plenty of opportunities to move on from him next spring.
With Miami in a complete makeover with a new regime in Flores this year, handing the keys to Fitzpatrick doesn’t really make any sense. They have to know if Rosen can indeed be their franchise QB and the best way to see that is on the field.
The worst-case scenario for Miami is to sit Rosen while going with Fitzpatrick and then having Fitzy go on one of his hot streaks garnering enough wins to knock the Dolphins out of a prime drafting spot. Then they’ll still not know what they have.
Jets – What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been:
The New York Jets have had a coup in the palace and the new head coach Adam Gase has won. GM Mike Maccagnan is out. Just months after hiring the new head coach, the inner workings of the Jets showed that they are a disjointed, hot mess. Right from ownership on down, this is truly the gang green that can’t shoot straight.
After hiring Gase, Maccagnan didn’t want Gase’s input on players that the scouting department was looking at. According to reports from Jets media, Gase wanted (and rightfully so) to give his take on players that he feels will fit his philosophy for playing on the field.
Not having the scouts on the same page with the head coach is a ludicrous exercise in futility for the scouting department. That is the fault with the GM, but Chris Johnson, the head of football operations was ready to fire Maccagnan in January but didn’t feel he or his staff could handle finding a new coach and GM. Wow.
So, Gase distanced himself from the draft process by moving his chair from next to the owner in the draft room to the corner where he was out of camera sight. Gase was apparently PO’d that ownership overpaid for Le’Veon Bell, in essence bidding against themselves.
So after the draft, Gase put a word in the owners’ ear and Maccagnan is out. Gase and Johnson will work on bringing in a GM (Pioli?) who they’ll both agree is a better fit for Gase’s philosophies. After the upheaval at the palace, the pressure, already and always high in New York will be magnified x 10.
And later reports (made up?) began surfacing that the Jets are pursuing Peyton Manning for the vacant GM job. Of course, it may all be a bunch of hooey but nothing would ignite the Jets fan base and some of the more hysterical media members than throwing another Manning in NY.
“Sometimes the lights are shining on me….other times I can barely see.”
The Patriots roster looks really loaded so training camp competition should be excellent this summer before the Patriots begin “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door”. Can’t wait.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-12 and AFC East notes this week. And a very Happy Mothers Day to all those great Moms out there, not only in Patriots Nation but worldwide as well.
Rodney Harrison was the 2019 fans’ choice for induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame, he’ll join the veteran selection Leon Gray in being inducted this summer. That is scheduled for Monday, July 29, which should coincide with the first weekend of training camp. Circle the date folks, this ought to be a good one to attend.
Julian Edelman is finishing off his college degree this weekend at Kent State, something he began in 2006 and after nearly a decade in the NFL, he’s going to graduate. Edelman said on social media that he wanted to be a positive role model for his daughter and to finish something he started. Congrats.
Jarvis Green, the former Patriot defensive end is now a CEO of a shrimp company, Oceans 97, a salute to his uniform number. Green learned about the shrimping business from a friend and now his gourmet line is available all across New England and features easy-to-cook meals of shrimp packaged in bags with four sauce flavors to choose from, New Orleans Style BBQ, Cajun Curry, Chimichurri, and Garlic Butter.
Rookie Mini-camp for the Patriots begins tomorrow. The most recent draft picks and UDFAs will report to Foxboro, get physical examinations, meet the coaching staff, get down the daily routine and be introduced to the Patriots’ schemes that they’ll be expected to learn and quickly. These on-field sessions are not padded and no contact is allowed. For the 21 newest Patriots it is their first day of work in the NFL.
OBJ – caught a lot of flak last week for saying “I plan on being there for the next five years and trying to bring as many championships there as possible. Turning (the Browns) into the new Patriots,” There is nothing wrong with that at all. That SHOULD be the team’s goal, not just his.
I did poke some fun at him on Twitter for saying “I” instead of “we”, for failing to get the entire team thing mantra that is New England, but honestly, no one should have any problem with it. Tempering expectations, a least early? Sure, but as the old saying goes, “fortune favors the bold.” The Browns have a legitimate reason to be excited this year. When was the last time that happened.
White House Visit upcoming? The Patriots didn’t get a chance to visit the White House as is the tradition because of conflicts with dates, usually, it is done right after the NFL Draft. But there should be a date coming soon for the team to visit the White House and be recognized by the President soon.
Some Big Changes in the Coaching Staff, Joe Judge Gets Added Responsibility:
The Patriots have had a lot of turnover in the coaching ranks this offseason. Brian Flores is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, taking with him WR coach Chad O’Shea, CB coach Josh Boyer, and assistant QB coach Jerry Schuplinksi. DL coach Brendan Daly went to Kansas City in a lateral move.
With a smaller staff in 2019, the Patriots always have one of the smaller staffs in the NFL, the Patriots coaching staff now consists of the following:
Head coach: Bill Belichick Offensive coordinator/Quarterbacks coach: Josh McDaniels Special teams coordinator/wide receivers coach: Joe Judge Running backs coach: Ivan Fears Tight ends coach: Nick Caley Offensive line coach: Dante Scarnecchia Defensive line coach: Bret Bielema Inside linebackers coach: Jerod Mayo Outside linebackers coach: DeMarcus Covington Safeties coach: Steve Belichick Defensive backs coach: Mike Pellegrino Assistant special teams coordinator: Cameron Achord
The biggest changes occur on the defensive side of the ball. Bielema was primarily working with the defense last year and he takes over the DL and will probably inherit the job of making the calls. He’s been a defensive coordinator and head coach in the college ranks. Jerod Mayo has been brought in to coach the inside linebackers while Demarcus Covington takes over the outside linebackers. Mike Pellegrino is listed as a “defensive backs” coach but will probably coach the cornerbacks only. The only returning defensive coach is Steve Belichick who remains the safeties coach.
Joe Judge gets more on his plate as he retains his Special Teams coordinator position but also picks up the new title of WR coach as well. But with OC Josh McDaniels, OL coach Dante Scarnecchia, and RB coach Ivan Fears to return, the offense should be in really good shape.
Patriots Welcome N’Keal Harry Finally to New England:
The Patriots brought in N’Keal Harry to meet with the media on Friday and he was finally officially introduced as the Patriots first draft pick of 2019, (32nd overall in the first round). He posed for pictures with Robert and Jonathan Kraft and spoke with the press. Some of the highlights included:
On being drafted by the Patriots: “It means the world to me. This is a great organization. I feel like I couldn’t have been put in a better situation. I’m learning from the best of the best and I’m just excited to get to work and soak in as much information as possible.”
Asked about Tom Brady being hard on his WRs, Harry embraced the challenge. “That’s something I’m looking forward to. I’m the type of player that wants to get better, I want to get coached hard, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Harry spoke about giving back to his home on Saint Vincent and how much of an influence his grandmother was in his life. “She’s been everything. There’s no way I would have been in this position if my grandmother wasn’t a part of my life. She’s been a great role model. That’s where I get my work ethic from, just seeing how hard she works, seeing her come from a different country and having to start over. I really do know there’s no way I would be in this position without that woman.”
And asked what’s he’s been doing since being drafted, how he answered should be music to Patriots’ fans ears. “These past couple of weeks, my biggest things have been making sure I stay in shape and just making sure I’m studying a lot, watching a lot of film. I want to be the type of player that comes in and can be accountable from day one… with this transition, it’s all the work you put in, the time you put in, the effort you put in. So that’s what I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
Patriots Sign Watson and Several Draft Picks:
Ben Watson is returning to the place where his NFL career began with the Patriots. The team announced the signing of the 15-year NFL veteran who spent the first six seasons in the NFL with the Patriots before signing with Cleveland. He also played for the Ravens and Saints. Watson has played in 195 games with 135 starts and has 530 catches, for 5885 yards and 44 TDs.
The Patriots also announced the signings of second-round draft pick DB JoeJuan Williams, third-round draft pick OL Yodny Cajuste, fourth-round draft pick OL Hjalte Froholdt, fourth-round draft pick QB Jarrett Stidham, fifth-round draft pick DL Byron Cowart, fifth-round draft pick P Jake Bailey and seventh-round draft pick DB Ken Webster.
Only three draft picks remain unsigned, top draft pick N’Keal Harry, and third-round picks Chase Winovich and Damien Harris. Those shouldn’t be too long in coming
Adjustments Are Just a Walk in the Park for the Patriots:
For the past couple of months, the fans and media have been discussing how the team will handle so many losses thru free agency, coach-poaching, and retirement.
“No Josh Gordon, Hogan, Patterson at WR…Who will Brady throw to?” “RobGronkowski retired and the top three tight ends from last year are gone…how will the team adjust?” “The team lost Trent Brown and LaAdrian Waddle at tackle…who’s going to protect Brady?” “All of these changes at the coaching staff, does the rest of the AFC catchup in 2019?”
These are just a few of some of the questions we’ve all been hearing, or asking ourselves this spring. But as always, if there is one thing the Patriots do better than anyone is to adjust. No team has been better than adjusting to changing personnel, coaches, situations …whatever. They always figure it out. It has been a hallmark of this team for the past two decades is that they always figure it out.
So, while we’re all lamenting the loss of Gronk and openly wondering (as I did here) if they’re going to put an emphasis elsewhere, Belichick, McDaniels and don’t forget Brady will figure out a way to get this done. And until they don’t figure it out, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.
I found it intriguing this week that the Patriots were omitted from the NFL.com’s predicted “Top 10” offenses of 2019. I can think of nothing that will motivate Brady more. The Patriots love to play the role of the underdog and something tells me, the same people who omitted them from the list will be ridiculing New England for playing the underdog role next winter.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Get No Love from ESPN, Network Predicts a Losing Season:
The Buffalo Bills had a strong offseason in free agency and followed that up with a strong 2019 NFL Draft. There they landed DL Ed Oliver, OT Cody Ford, RB Devin Singletary, and TE Dawson Knox in the first three rounds but are picked by the experts at ESPN to win just six games.
Buffalo fans are used to the media pundits taking shots at their team but from a perspective standpoint, the same experts had the Kansas City Chiefs as the best in the league with a probability of just 10.3 wins.
While much of how the season unfolds will depend on the 2nd year jump by QB Josh Allen, at first glance this doesn’t look like a six-win team.
Dolphins Defense Looking For a Hybrid Identity:
The Miami Dolphins are trying to build a defense that looks at times like a 4-3. At other times a 3-4. The base defense may have five defensive backs on the field. Their plan is to run a hybrid defense that morphs into whatever their opponents struggle against. I
If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should. That is the kind of defense Brian Flores ran with the Patriots and he and Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham plan on running with the Dolphins.
But both Graham and Flores know that if the defense is going to be successful, then they’ll have to improve a woeful 2018 run defense. Miami allowed a whopping 2325 yards on the ground and 4.8 yards per rush. And in playing in a hybrid front, the players will have to set the edge, something that Graham is well aware of.
“There will be a bunch of guys who will learn to set the edge,” Graham said to the Sun Sentinel this week. “The edge comes down to this. You’ve got to get a feel for it. The traditional edge we grew up knowing, where [the offense] lines up with two tight ends and they are going to run outside, that doesn’t happen that often (anymore).
“Setting the edge is really getting a feel for it, and being physical at the point, using proper angles with our body. We’re teaching a bunch of guys to learn how to do it. It can be a safety. It can be a defensive end and outside linebacker…
Polite Getting a Fresh Start with the Jets:
The New York Jets picked up Jachai Polite in the 3rd Round of the 2019 NFL Draft after the very talented edge player from Florida began to fall in the draft. Polite seemed like a sure-fire 1st rounder after a 2018 season that saw him produce 17.5 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks and six forced fumbles.
But he tested poorly at the NFL Combine and again at Florida’s Pro Day, prior to the draft. This, coupled with what was perceived as several poor interviews caused his draft stock to plummet.
But Jets coach Adam Gase isn’t worried about any of that. He said, “Well right now, we have a guy with pretty much a fresh start. What happened in the past is irrelevant to me.”
Gase added, “Moving forward it’s going to be about doing the right things, worrying about what he can control which is showing up every day, being on time, practice hard. If he does that, it’ll be smooth sailing for him.”
PThe Patriots brought in free agent WR Dontrelle Inman for a visit and despite the player reportedly having offers from four other teams on the table has agreed to sign with New England.
Inman, 30, has plenty of experience. After having gone undrafted after the 2011 draft, played two years in the CFL and won a Grey Cup with Toronto. He also played with the Chargers, Bears, and lastly with the Colts. He appeared in nine games with Indy in 2018 and had 28 catches for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns. He added eight more catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in the Colts two playoff games.
His best season was in 2016 with the Chargers where he caught 58 passes for 810 yards and 4 touchdowns. Like many of the new additions to the Patriots receiving corps, Inman brings good size at 6’3, 205 pounds.
Inman got positive reviews from Colts head coach Frank Reich who also worked with Inman with the Chargers for his work ethic, leadership, and his football I.Q. Added in midseason, he developed good chemistry with QB Andrew Luck and he quickly became a trusted target in the Colts offense.
In the final four games of the year for the Colts, Inman notched 17 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns. He locked down the Indy #2 WR position behind T.Y. Hilton
After the Patriots jettisoned Bruce Ellington earlier this week, bringing Inman in on a one-year deal makes sense. We mentioned a few times this week, that we could see an additional veteran WR being added to the team would make sense and Inman will have an opportunity to create a role for himself.
He now joins Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Demaryius Thomas, Josh Gordon, Braxton Berrios, Jakobi Meyers, Xavier Ubosi, Ryan Davis, Maurice Harris, Damoun Patterson and Matthew Slater as the current wide receivers in the offense.
How they plan on using him as of yet is unknown but they have brought in plenty of players who can compete. Especially with Thomas coming off a serious injury and probably is not going to be ready for the season and with Gordon being indefinitely suspended
At the stroke of midnight, all remaining free agents will no longer count against the compensatory pick formula for the 2020 season. So one can expect a minor flurry of free agent signings to occur.
The Patriots are reportedly going to sign OT JaredVeldheer according to the NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. The one-year deal is said to be worth up to $6.5 million dollars and will add the needed depth the Patriots lack at the tackle position.
The 6-foot-8, 321-pound Veldheer who turns 32 in June has played in 118 career games with 113 starts. His nine-year career has been spent with the Oakland Raiders (2010-13), Arizona Cardinals (2014-17) and Denver Broncos (2018). He brings along a ton of versatility as well; Veldheer can play either tackle position, center or guard.
After losing LT Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle in free agency, the team is expected to get back last year’s top draft pick Isaiah Wynn who missed the season due to injury as well as this year’s draft pick Yodny Cajuste. Marcus Cannon remains at right tackle. With the tackle position now seemingly in good shape entering OTAs, where else would the Patriots like to shore up their depth in free agency?
There are a couple of names still out there that could be intriguing to the team, depending on the amount of money that they’re looking for.
Allen Bailey – Bailey is an eight-year veteran with the Chiefs and was a defensive end in their 3-4 defense. With the Patriots he could bring that inside/outside versatility that Bill Belichick likes where he can play on the edge or kick inside as an interior pass rusher.
Bailey, 30, is listed at 6’3, 288 but was up to as much as 300 pounds at times last season according to media reports. With the Chiefs last year, he posted a career high 6.0 sacks along with 38 tackles and 2 forced fumbles.
Corey Liuget – Liuget spent the first eight years of his career with the Chargers and has been a very solid player. He missed the first four games of the 2018 season with a PED suspension. And only played in six games during the season after tearing a quariceps during a game against Denver in November. He was limited to just 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
In case anyone was keeping score at home former Patriots Ricky Jean-Francois, Danny Shelton and Dominque Easley are still available as well. But the biggest name out there is DT Ndamukong Suh. I just don’t think the Patriots are interested in Suh, despite his talent. He doesn’t seem like a Belichick-type player.He’s never played for less than $10 million APY according to SI, so he won’t come cheap. But never say never.
The Patriots have Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Matt Lacosse, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, Jakob Johnson and the recently signed UDFA Andrew Beck on the roster. Potential trade candidates are Kyle Rudolph from the Vikings and the Bucs Cameron Brate if they cut their ties with him.
Ben Watson – The aging but still viable 38-year old retired in January but after the birth of his twins recently has said that he’d like to return to the NFL for one last season. Watson began his career with the Patriots as a first round draft pick in the 2004 season. ESPN’s Adam Schefter believes Watson may end up his career back in Foxboro.
Other free agents include Lance Kendrick and Jermaine Gresham.
The Patriots aren’t as needy depth wise after drafting N’Keal Harry in the 1st round and signing three UDFAs but adding another veteran wide receiver may not be the worst decision they ever make.
Michael Crabtree – Crabtree is being linked to the Packers by CBS Sports so we’ll have to see how this development plays out. However, Crabtree had decent production with a Ravens team that wasn’t great at throwing the football in 2018.
Crabtree caught 54 passes for 607 yards 3 TDs with Baltimore and has been very durable, missing just two games total in the past five years.
Other notable players include Pierre Garcon, Seth Roberts, Jermaine Kearse, and Rishard Matthews.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-5 although no AFC East notes this week. They’ll be back next week.
Bill Belichick is always zigging while the others in the league are zagging. Everyone (including here) thought the Patriots would take one, possibly two tight ends in the draft. Eight were taken in the Top 100 picks and 16 overall. The Patriots took zero.
Does this omission mean that the team didn’t like any of the tight ends available in this class? That they planned on picking up another in a trade? Or that the team is moving in a different direction and they plan on putting the emphasis elsewhere and going to stick with what they have?
Tom Brady’s appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show was a must watch clip. Brady was asked about his contract which is “only paying him” to be the 20th highest paid player in the NFL this year. “I want to win,” he answered, stating that the money the team saved on him allowed them to surround him with good players. He also added, “my wife makes a lot of money.”
Brady took part in the ongoing “feud” between Kimmel and actor Matt Damon. Brady has been in LA working out on his own and was a guest on Kimmel’s show. And the two with Kimmel sidekick Guillermo went to Damon’s house where you can imagine the rest.
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Three Games to Glory – the 5-hour DVD set that sets the tone for the Patriots’ three playoff games culminating in the Super Bowl victory over the Rams is available for order thru the Patriots Pro Shop.
In a video produced to promote the release had players Kyle Van Noy, Jason McCourty, Rex Burkhead, and Stephon Gilmore watch some of the videos and offer some commentary on the game.
DuJuan Daniels is leaving the Patriots “to pursue other opportunities” in the news that was first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates. Daniels joined the staff as a scouting assistant in 2006, and worked his way up to area scout and then for the past three years as a National Scout. The only member of the staff, that holds that title.
Steve DeOssie – former Patriot and Super Bowl XXV winner with the Giants took part in the annual Patriots/Patriots Alumni charity basketball game against a team from the Grafton Police Department. During the halftime break, where fans get to meet and greet current and former members of the team which included Elandon Roberts, Keion Crossen, Brandon King and local Grafton alum Obi Melifonwu, DeOssie was approached by a fan whose father played with him on that Giants SB winner.
Reyna Thompson was a reserve defensive back and Pro Bowl STs player who started the game on defense. For those who don’t remember or were too young to recall, Belichick was the defensive coordinator on the Giants and he started just two DL, three LBs and six DBs including four CBs to slow down the Bills’ offense. Belichick’s game plan now is on display in the Pro Football HOF in Canton.
DeOssie and Thompson’s son had a long conversation about his father and some memories of that Giants team. It was a very cool moment.
DeOssie and Thompson speak about the SB XXV Giants
Some Interesting Players in the 2019 Patriots UDFA Class:
The Patriots have signed several key UDFAs to the team thus far. Let’s take a quick look at each of the new members of the 2019 UDFA Class.
Jakobi Meyers, WR, NC State: Meyers was originally a QB and switched to WR in his freshman year. The last two seasons he’s had tremendous production and developed quite the chemistry factor with QB Ryan Finley.
Meyers has good size at 6’2, 203 and while not fast at all, he’s shown that he can make contested catches from the slot. He has great hands and a very high football I.Q. Last year in Raleigh, he caught 92 passes for 1047 yards with 4 TDs.
Xavier Ubosi, WR, UAB: Ubosi wasn’t on the list of signed players but we’ve heard and read from multiple media members that he intends to sign here. His route tree is a straight line…he ran go-routes, a lot of them in college. But he also averaged 23.9 yards per reception. This should prove interesting.
Ryan Davis, WR, Auburn: Davis was the Auburn slot machine the past two years. He set a school record for receptions in 2017 and led the team again last year. He’s not big, (5’10, 189) but is quick enough to be a good addition to the slot. He also returned punts which could get him a roster spot.
Andrew Beck, TE, Texas: Beck was originally a LB who converted to TE. He’s got good size (6’4, 260) and is known primarily as a blocking tight end. He’s average athletically and in the passing game, he can function reliably as a safety valve underneath.
Nick Brossette, RB, LSU: Brossette had a big year in 2018 at LSU, as he led the team with 240 carries, 1,039 yards, and 14 touchdowns. He has a compact muscular frame and excels at short-yardage. He doesn’t have much of a burst but is solid, reliable and gets better as the game wears on. Keep an eye on him this summer if anyone shows up hurt in training camp.
Malik Gant, SS, Marshall: Gant is a good sized (6’0, 209) very physical strong safety. He thrives in the box where he loves and seeks out contact. He wasn’t tested much in coverage against top competition. But he could provide a favorable matchup against tight ends and running backs. He would be a candidate for the Patriots “Big Nickel” role.
Terez Hall, LB, Missouri: Hall is an undersized, aggressive, downhill linebacker who could provide depth and special teams production. He’s tough and plays with good speed but his aggression frequently caught him out of position. With some coaching and discipline, he has the speed and athleticism to be a good defender in coverage.
D’Angelo Ross, CB, New Mexico: Was a productive corner for the Lobos despite measuring at just 5’8, 185. He is an uber-athletic player who ran a 4.32 at his Pro Day with a 39” vertical leap. He led the Lobos with 54 tackles and 15 passes defensed, but his size…or lack of it will bear watching.
Tyler Gauthier, OL, Miami: Gauthier was the starting center for the last two years at Miami and has good size at 6’5, 300. He is considered very solid in pass protection and allowed no sacks in 2018. He has the versatility to move over to guard.
Calvin Anderson, OT, Texas: Anderson played three years at Rice and graduated before transferring to Texas to get a masters in economics. He’s a bit raw and undersized (6’5, 292). He has good quickness and mirroring skills but requires time to get more strength and power at the NFL level.
Tyree St. Louis, OT, Miami: St. Louis has the size at 6’5, 314 to play in the NFL but is probably just a right tackle at the next level. He started in 34 straight games, so his experience level is excellent. But he’s not the most athletic player and a move inside could be in his future. It will be interesting to see how these last three prospects work out with Dante Scarnecchia.
Winovich is Arguably the Most Intriguing Additions to NE:
Chase Winovich was one of the Patriots’ selections in the 3rd Round (77th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. And he is one of the more intriguing characters they selected. He plays with a non-stop motor on the field and exhibits just as much passion off of it.
Don Brown, a Central Mass. native and Michigan’s Defensive Coordinator spoke with the Boston Herald early last week and had several very interesting quotes about Winovich and how he feels he’ll fit in the Patriots system.
“He’s a trip, no question, but he’s a very serious football player,” Brown said. “He’s one of those guys who love the game and plays the game the right way all the time. You never have to worry about his effort. He’s going to give you everything he’s got . . . I think him going into Coach Belichick’s system, this is probably a match made in heaven for him.”
In Michigan’s system, Winovich was asked to rush the QB from the edge but Brown believes he’s capable of much more and thinks the Patriots will use him in multiple ways.
“We stood him up as an outside linebacker. His primary goal was to go hunt the quarterback. But there’s no question, he can drop back and cover,” Brown said. “He has tight end in his background. He has good hands, he can catch. This offseason, getting ready for the combine, he trained a lot standing up, dropping into the flat, playing coverage, working on his hands. So he can do those things. We just didn’t ask him. The priority for us was to get him around the quarterback. But he can do it all. There’s no doubt about that.”
Pro Football Focus had Winovich as their 29th highest rated player going into the draft, so the Pats bringing him in at #77 is pretty good value. It was interesting to see how the board played out. The Jets were picking at #68 and reportedly looking for help on the edge. But they opted for Jachai Polite from Florida and Winovich was there for the Patriots to take at #77.
Here is his phone call from Bill Belichick telling him he’s going to New England.
Colts Finding the Right Players with Ballard/Decker:
One other AFC team that has drafted much better recently is the Indianapolis Colts. While new GM Chris Ballard is the guy who will (and should) get most of the credit, one name that won’t get much airspace is Brian Decker. But Decker is the guy ensuring that the Colts not only draft good players but the right ones.
Decker was hired by Ballard right off and is the Colts Director of Player Development. If you’ve never heard of him, you should. Analytics are becoming more and more important across all of sports and Decker has a unique career path. While Ballard and the staff scout football players, Decker’s job is finding the right ones.
A few years ago Decker was a Green Beret major and was tasked to find out why there was a marked increase in the number of candidates that were washing out of Green Beret training.
He totally revamped the system on how the Army, identifies, assesses, and evaluates prospective Green Berets. He then took his system of evaluating the “right people” with the NFL. In speaking with the Colts.com, he said it simply about finding character among the successful Special Forces candidates and NFL people.
“When you take the sport away and you look at the mindset of the people we’re dealing with, they’re the same people.”
What the Colts are doing now is what the Patriots under Belichick have done for the past two decades. They’re building a team and no longer just trying to collect talent. And from the gist of things, it would seem like the Colts draft board is much smaller these days much like New England’s.
“We try to learn as much as we can about a player by answering five questions,” he said. And those questions are:
Does he have a favorable development profile
Does he have a favorable profile that will predict performance under pressure
Does he have an intellectual profile that will allow him to learn and make decisions on the field
Background data, does his background pose any risks to his development
Selecting people who are a good fit with what the team is trying to do. Character matters, players have to buy in.
Under Decker’s watch, his system identified potential Green Berets and now Colts players by learning that each successful candidate responded to stress in their lives with a heightened sense of motivation.
The biggest character trait he looks for is desire. “Desire is the one thing, you can’t coach and can’t teach,” he said. “It is the desire that ultimately fuels the motivation.” He pointed out that desire will make a prospect develop great work habits that lend itself to great performance on the field.
They are trying to implement a system where they identify smart players who thrive in a pressure-packed environment. The successful player won’t be looking for external solutions to problems but internally within the group. They’ll have excellent work habits, be mentally and physically tough, have confidence which comes from practice and preparation and the optimism and belief that they can achieve anything together.
Keep your eye on the Colts this season and moving forward. Right now, I’d put them as the #2 team in the AFC and they’re getting an identity.
Two years ago, I did a couple of interviews with Decker for SpecialOperations.com and spoke about the process of identifying, assessing and evaluating Green Berets, but the same process applies equally.
The NFL is revamping the overtime rule to allow each team a possession. It is expected to pass when the league brings it up for a vote. Of course, this is because the Patriots defeated the Chiefs in O.T. during the AFC Championship Game where the Chiefs never touched the ball.
Cowboys C.O.O. Stephen Jones was firmly behind the Chiefs’ proposal.
“I certainly tend to lean toward the new rule,” Jones said. “I certainly watched every play of that Kansas City-New England game, and you kind of would have liked to have seen what would have happened if Kansas City got another shot at it, and then how the thing would have ended up. It was football, in my mind, the game at its best. I certainly don’t have a problem with guaranteeing each team a shot at it. … It’s certainly something that had some traction there in the room, and certainly saw some people who were very interested in it. But we’ll get on a call there, take a long, hard look at it, and I’m sure membership’s gonna get to see it.”
One has to truly wonder if Jones would have wanted to see the rule changed if the opposite had happened or wanted to see Brady get a chance at the ball.
This just reeks of sour grapes. Kansas City had the Patriots at third and long three times in that overtime drive. They didn’t stop them, hold them to a FG or even bothered to use one of their timeouts when their atrocious defense was obviously gassed in OT.
Are you surprised? You should be. Let’s look at some of the other New England rules after playoffs and Super Bowl wins.
“Point of emphasis” on contact with WRs
No more leaping FG or extra point blocks
No more tricky formations with ineligible WRs
Medical Spotters added in case a player is concussed
PSI checks, that went the way of the dinosaur quickly
Catch rules (which happened to be changed in the SB LII
But what happens when the Patriots have one of these rules work in their favor? “Put an asterisk on that one!” Child please.
“Rob Gronkowski was a presenter at the Billboard Music Awards last week and confirmed he was retired…then left the door open for a return. Hmm. So, how was your week?”
This weekend’s draft was certainly one of the more interesting ones in recent memory, with the team making 10 selections, many of which seemed to address quite a few key needs heading into the 2019 season.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we came away with after everything that went down this weekend:
1 ) The addition of receiver N’Keal Harry was a selection that essentially let everyone know that Bill Belichick is aware of the fact that there was plenty of uncertainty surrounding the wide receiver position this year, leaving the club obviously prioritizing the position in round one. What’s interesting is the fact that Harry was clearly on their radar and when he ended up being available with the 32nd overall selection, with the Patriots obviously feeling he was too good of a value to pass up.
If the Patriots have the same success they had when they took a skill position player in the first-round last year, they’ll likely be pretty happy. Last year’s selection of Sony Michel in round one ended up being one of the more talked about moves once the draft was over but the results from last season are indisputable. While some in the media still beat the drum that any running back could have accomplished what Michel did last season, that seems a little off base after the former Georgia standout exceeded expectations and more than lived up to his first-round billing. If Harry can become the same type of gem that Michel did, fans should end up being pretty thrilled with this pick.
1a) Looking back at film of Harry, along with listening to his comments after being drafted, he seems to perfectly fit the mold of what this team usually covets when it comes to the players they like to bring in. He’s hard-working, loves to fight for the football and just loves the game, all great attributes for someone like him at his position. More importantly, he told the media that he met with the team prior to the draft and handled what they threw at him well, which speaks volumes given how difficult other previous players have struggled coming in. At 6’2″ 228-pounds, he’s a big athletic target who could be poised to make an immediate impact and at 21-years old gives them some much needed youth for the foreseeable future alongside veteran Julian Edelman.
Williams’ size should make him a solid asset in the Patriots’ secondary.
2 ) The selection of Vanderbilt defensive back Joejuan Williams was another move that was interesting as he was a player who many touted as a first-round talent, yet New England was able to get him with their second round selection.
What’s surprising about Williams is he’s a big player, standing at 6’3″ and gives the Patriots someone in their secondary who should be able to handle covering some of the bigger receivers around the league, which is something Belichick talked about during his pre-draft press conference.
Williams said during his conference call that he met with the team prior to the draft and it went well. While he doesn’t know what his role will be just yet, he’s ready to do whatever he’s asked as he gets to work with his new team.
“He said he saw me as a corner,” Williams said of his conversation with Belichick before the draft. “But at the end of the day, I’ll play wherever he sees me to fit and I trust in the system. I trust in him and I trust in the system and I just want to contribute to the team.”
While some may not realize it, New England’s secondary was already pretty deep going into the draft, but his addition adds size and athleticism to a group that is now pretty stacked heading into training camp. The scouting reports on Williams are positive, with the defensive back not afraid to compete for the football and he plays physical, while many believe he’s got what it takes to be an NFL starter.
Granted, it’s hard to make a real evaluation until we see him in action but if he ends up being as he appears to be advertised, it appears the Patriots could have snagged themselves a pretty good player for the foreseeable future in their secondary.
Chase Winovich is one of those hard-working players you can’t help but root for. (USA TODAY Images)
3 ) There’s no better type of player than a gritty hard-working guy who loves to work hard and the Patriots seemingly got just that when they selected defensive end Chase Winovich with their first selection of Round 3.
A lot of people are comparing Winovich to former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich as there definitely appears to be some similar attributes when looking at the film. But at the same time, he’s got a Rob Gronkowski-like personality when it comes to how he handles himself off the field. He’s a fun-loving guy who likes to have a good time and spends a lot of time with charities away from the game. So like Gronk, definitely an out of the box type of guy (he said during his press conference after being drafted that he once ate a live fish for $20 when he was in 5th or 6th grade). He’s similar in that off the field he enjoys having a little fun while focusing on helping people, but on the field he’s simply doing everything he can to help his team win football games.
He was a big contributor to Michigan’s defense and finished his final season with 69 tackles, including 17 for a loss along with 5 sacks. He finished with 79 tackles the previous year, including 18.5 for a loss and 8 sacks. He’s got an opportunity to potentially compete for playing time right away with Deatrich Wise, John Simon and Derek Rivers each as players who have yet to establish themselves as full-time contributors.
What’s also interesting about Winovich is that he’s not afraid to do the little things. He spent some time back in 2017 learning ballet to work on his agility and while looking for ways to always keep improving himself. One of the things he said after he was drafted was that he’s not afraid to do whatever it takes and his goal is “to outwork everybody” as he looks to be establish himself in the NFL.
“That’s kind of always been my mantra – just to outwork everybody,” said Winovich. “That’s always been my goal, and obviously at the next level with someone like the New England Patriots, hard work is a fundamental key component and they’ve done a great job I think of making that a cultural thing.”
“I’m just lucky to be a part of it. I take that as a big compliment. Not everybody can do that and go as hard as I can on every play. That’s definitely a bonus for me.”
Harris is a tough RB who should be a good compliment to Sony Michel.
4 ) For anyone who follows college football, third-round pick Damien Harris was one of the key contributors during Alabama’s success last season. Over 15 games he rushed for 876-yards on 150 carries along with 9 touchdowns, while averaging 5.84 yards per carry.
His addition is interesting because he adds youth and talent alongside last year’s standout in Michel, who was absolutely terrific all season. Given the injury history with Rex Burkhead, Harris provides some additional depth to take some of the load off of Michel as he heads into his sophomore season.
What stood out about Harris in watching him play is that he’s a strong back who doesn’t go down on first contact and does a great job of accelerating as he gets up field, while making it even tougher on defenders when they do finally try and bring him down.
Some were surprised with the selection because many expected the Patriots to address the tight end position, which never occurred. The problem was, four tight ends were selected in that round, three of which came off the board before the Patriots had a chance to pick. As a result, the Patriots jumped at the chance to add another big talented player to their backfield.
The expectations will be high for Harris, who played in a tough SEC conference yet still averaged 1,000-yards each season despite facing some of the toughest competition in the country. He’s now coming to a team who, like Alabama, is battling every season for a championship and he’ll need to bring the same type of effort with his new team.
“I think I’m just a dependable player, somebody that whenever you ask me to do something, I’ll do it,” said Harris after he was selected. “I think I just show a lot of great attributes on the field, things that help me be a great running back and they can help the team be successful.”
“There’s a lot of things that I can do well, there’s a lot of things I can still improve on, so I’m just ready to come in and be my best me and get to work Day 1. “
If Harris can be as productive at the NFL level, it will definitely be a nice 1-2 punch for this offense.
5) The Patriots certainly have a need at tackle after seeing Trent Brown depart during free agency and the selection of Yodny Cajuste out of West Virginia in round 3 appears like it could be a quality one for the Patriots.
He’ll join last year’s first round draft pick Isaiah Wynn, who is coming off of an Achilles injury as he tries to establish a role for himself. Wynn’s season came to an end before it ever got started last season after the rookie suffered the injury during training camp and ended up on injured reserve. He was playing right tackle with the first offense and battling against, ironically enough, then Eagles defensive tackle and new Patriot Michael Bennett when he suffered the injury on a seemingly innocuous play. He walked off the field but was carted back to the locker room from the sidelines shortly after.
Wynn was thought to compete for playing time at left tackle last season, but offseason addition Trent Brown ended up handling the role well early in preseason and grabbed a foothold on the job. He ended up as pleasant surprise and a was definitely a key addition during the team’s championship run. His performance ultimately resulted in a big payday, with Brown departing via free agency after signing a massive $66-million deal with the Raiders.
Cajuste is a raw talent who the Patriots will look to develop. (USA TODAY Images)
With the job back up for grabs, it will be interesting to see where Wynn’s at this season and Cajuste’s addition should also be fun to watch. The former West Virginia standout is huge, coming in at 6’5″ 312 pounds. He redshirted his first year but played left tackle during most of his career with the Mountaineers, although two seasons (2015 and 2016) were both marred by knee injuries. But he was healthy the following year in 2017 and started 13 games. He finished with a solid final season in 2018 while sharing the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year award with two other draft prospects.
It’s hard not to like this selection given his size and the fact that most scouting reports say that he has the talent to be a starting tackle as well as the ability to be successful inside. Given the success we’ve seen offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia have with players, it should be fun to see what he can do with Cajuste. Where he’ll ultimately end up playing will be interesting and the rookie said during his conference call he’s excited to learn as much as he can.
“I know he’s one of the greatest football coaches in the NFL right now,” said Cajuste of Scarnecchia. “I’m just ready to learn as much as I can from him, soak up as much as I can from him.”
Froholdt has some versatility, which may help him earn a roster spot.
6 ) One of the things that has made the Patriots so successful has been their ability to adjust on the fly when it comes to injuries, especially along the offensive line. They love guys who can do multiple things and that’s essentially the role fourth-round selection Hjalte Froholdt will likely take on.
Froholdt is about as versatile as it gets, having started his career on the defensive side of the football as a defensive lineman where he managed to find himself ranked among the top 20 defensive linemen in the country. He instead moved to the other side of the football and became a solid contributor at both center and right and left guard.
While many won’t view this as much of a pick, he appears to be a smart player and watching some film of him reveals that he’s strong and athletic and should be a nice addition to a group that can never have too many good offensive lineman. We’ll have to wait and see where he ends up after he starts working with Scarnecchia, which like his new teammates, he’s also looking forward to seeing where he fits in.
“You know, my first two years I started at left guard all of the games, and I played at some center and some right guard last year, said Froholdt. “But I feel pretty comfortable with all of them. It doesn’t really matter – I I’ll play wherever Coach Scar [Dante Scarnecchia] will put me and I’m excited to get to work with him and see where this goes.”
Like any QB drafted while Brady is here, all eyes will be on Stidham. (USA TODAY Images)
7 ) One of the most interesting picks of day 3, of course, will likely center around Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who the Patriots selected in the fourth round.
Given Tom Brady’s age and the team’s obvious need at the position should Brady decide to hang it up at any point in the foreseeable future, any quarterback who is brought in will immediately be placed in the crosshairs by those wondering if he’s potentially the guy who can step into Brady’s irreplaceable role with the team.
Last year’s selection of Danny Etling was relatively uneventful after he did little last preseason to open anyone’s eyes. After a full season with the team, it will be interesting to see if he’s able to take a step forward from where he was when we last saw him in preseason.
With fans already having forgotten about Etling, that puts Stidham in the spotlight to find out if he’s potentially got what it takes to someday take over the starting role. The Patriots are no stranger to doing their due diligence and they clearly felt confident enough to take him at that spot.
Stidham had an up and down collegiate career, starting out at Baylor before a sexual assualt scandal there that led to the firing of then coach Art Briles caused Stidham to decide to transfer. After sitting out 2016 while taking classes at a community college, he ended up at Auburn. In his first year, he completed 66.5 percent of his throws along with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. He took a step backward as a junior, completing just 60.7 percent of his passes while again throwing 18 touchdowns and five interceptions as his team finished 8-5.
That’s what caused him to drop as far as he did. Scouting reports seem to question his intangibles, believing that a better performance may have seen him go earlier in the draft. That being said, it now sets the Patriots up for potentially finding good value with where they took him. Josh McDaniels has had success when it comes to developing quarterbacks in recent years, which could see them iron out whatever kinks they may find he has.
Stidham said during his conference call that he met with the Patriots during his top-30 visit and actually spent some time chatting with Etling, also a fellow former SEC quarterback, who talked about some of the expectations and gave him a little insight into things. He knows he’s got his work cut out for him, and also acknowledged some of the problems he had last season during his press conference and admitted that he’s spent quite a bit of time leading up to the draft trying to correct them.
“I told Coach McDaniels and Coach Belichick, there were definitely times last year where for whatever reason, I just decided to get out of the pocket when I shouldn’t have or just didn’t trust my eyes at a certain point or my feet,” explained Stidham. “That’s something I’ve obviously been working on this spring up to the draft and it’s something I’m going to have to continue to work at in order to get better at the quarterback position.”
“I’m really looking forward to doing that, and there’s no one better to learn from than Coach McDaniels and Coach Belichick and those guys in the quarterback room.”
Cowart will be interesting to watch this training camp. (USA TODAY Images)
8) Coming out of this weekend, fifth-round pick, Byron Cowart, is somewhat of a wild card when it comes to where he’ll fit in.
According to scouting reports, the defensive tackle out of Maryland is a strong, tough player who at 6’3″, 298 pounds possesses a lot of size and has the physical attributes to be an NFL defender. One of his strengths has been his ability to set the edge, which he told reporters was something that Belichick spoke to him about after selecting him.
“They’ve just told me I have the ability to play to set the edge or go inside,” said Cowart. “So, they’re going to throw it at me, I believe, and give me the opportunity to show them where do I need to be within the defense.”
Once one of the top recruits in the country, he took a step back after first attending Auburn where he struggled and was faced with somewhat of a reality check. Three games into his junior season he transferred to a community college before eventually landing at Maryland where he started 12 games and totaled 38 tackles including 5 for a loss, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions. He also forced a fumble.
Needless to say, it’s been a long road for Cowart and after turning things around, he comes into the NFL with plenty of potential. Whether or not he can become the diamond in the rough the Patriots might feel he can be remains to be seen, but he’s certainly going to be an intriguing player to watch in camp.
Bailey’s addition sets up another punting battle in camp.
9 ) With Ryan Allen back on just a one-year deal, the Patriots made a move during the draft to select Jake Bailey out of Stanford.
They actually traded up in the fifth round to get him, which was a bit of an eye-opener considering how key Allen was during the Super Bowl and for most of last season. During the historic defensive battle against the Rams where the Patriots held Los Angeles to 3 points, Allen played a massive part in that as he consistently flipped the field position each time New England’s offense faltered. It kept the Rams with a long field, forcing them to consistently have to put long drives together against a Patriots defense who played one of their best games of the year when it mattered most.
While Allen would seemingly be the clear-cut starter, the Patriots look as though they’re making sure they at least have some sort of a back-up plan and will push him again for the second straight year in training camp after Bailey’s addition.
Bailey’s not a left-footed punter, which is a little unusal given Belichick’s affinity for non-right-footed punters. But he’s a talented player with a strong leg who, like Allen, also has experience holding on extra points.
Watching how the Super Bowl unfolded where the two clubs combined for 14 punts, it was something that Bailey got a kick out of it and it got him excited for what could someday be his future in the NFL.
“Oh, it got me fired up,” said Bailey. “I remember watching the game and all of my friends were kind of like, ‘What the heck is going on,’ and I was glued to the TV. It was one of my favorite football games of all time to watch.”
Replacing Allen is a tall order, but that’s what Bailey is now faced with as we get ready for yet another preseason battle at that position. Get your stopwatches ready.
Webster likely faces an uphill battle to make the roster.
10) Seventh-round pick Ken Webster is another player who had a rough go of things early on but came on strong during his final season at Ole Miss, with the defensive back finishing with 29 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss along with two pass break-ups.
Players taken in that round tend to be longshots, but there have been plenty of times where guys have surprised us and turned into solid contributors. Webster seems to be one of those players where it’s hard to really gauge what to expect given how his college career played out.
He missed the 2016 season due to a torn ligament in his knee, but recovered enough to return the next season and play in 10 games with five starts in 2017, along with nine games in 2018.
He’s played cornerback and safety and turned into one of the better cover corners in the SEC. As we know, Belichick favors players who can do multiple things and if he’s able to carry that over with his new team, the opportunity is certainly there. The downside for him is the fact New England’s secondary is pretty deep at this point so he faces an uphill battle to establish himself.
Overall, this was definitely one of the most interesting drafts we’ve seen in years and it sets up a training camp filled with storylines and things to keep an eye on. As a result, with minicamps and OTAs now looming, it’s hard not to be a little bit excited to see how things begin to come together as the 2019 season inches closer.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-28 and AFC East Notes.
“Havlicek Stole the Ball!” RIP to a Boston Celtics legend John Havlicek who passed away this week at age 79. Older Celtics fans will always remember that iconic call when he sealed a victory against the 76ers. An iconic member of the Celtics, he’ll be missed.
Draft Quick Hitters:
Patriots Draft Room has to be the sparsest populated room in the league this weekend. I kept seeing other teams’ inside of their “war room” and there were tons of people in each. The Patriots draft room looked like a pretty lonely place, with very select people inside.
Nashville did a tremendous job with the draft this year. People came out in droves and it was located right smack in the middle of everything. Setting the bar high
DJ Metcalf had the most emotional moment of being drafted, the clip of him weeping openly on the phone even got HC Pete Carroll misty
Pat McAfee’s spot during the draft was absolute gold….watch it again, you’ll be happy that you did.
Kyle Rudolph is reportedly on the trading block after the Vikings drafted Irv Smith Jr. from Alabama. Don’t know why, however, Rudolph, who turns 30 in late November had 64 catches a year ago….hmmm
Tyreek Hill was captured on audio tape by his fiance in a very disturbing turn of events in the case of Hill’s 3-year old son who allegedly had his arm broken by the Chiefs wide receiver. Initially, prosecutors declined to press charges even though they were convinced a crime had been committed. Now in light of the audio tape, they’re re-opening the investigation.
On the tape, Hill threatened his girlfriend Crystal Espinal Espinal told Hill their son is “terrified of you.”
Hill replied, “You need to be terrified of me, too, b***h”
Later, Espinal asks Hill, “What do you do when the child is bad? You make him open up his arms and you punch him in the chest.”
Because of this development, Hill has been barred from the Chiefs facility during their voluntary strength and conditioning workouts. He may have played his last game in a Chiefs uniform over this incident.
Dont’a Hightower and David Andrews made the Patriots first picks in the second round of the draft on Friday night. Hightower tweaked the crowd, who regardless of the venue likes to boo every Patriots mention, with the “THE CHAMPS select” …classic.
Apples and Oranges – When mentioning the Hill investigation, fans are jumping all over the NFL by stating that while Hill has still not been suspended, Josh Gordon remains indefinitely suspended. While the NFL’s discipline decisions are always skewed, comparing the two cases is not a good comparison. Whether we agree with the league’s choice of making marijuana suspendable, Gordon has violated the rule multiple times. Hill is going to be suspended, the league is still gathering the facts. His earlier transgression occurred before he was a member of the league. Now the only question will be, how soon another team rushes in to sign him once he’s released by KC. Which, while they’re “deeply disturbed”, they’ve yet to move on releasing him. Why is a good question at this point.
Meet the 2019 Patriots Draft Class:
The Patriots have made several key additions to the team thus far. Let’s take a quick look at each of the new members of the 2019 Draft Class.
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona St. – The Patriots needed a big, physical wide receiver and they went out and got one of the best ones in the class. Harry was very productive (213 catches in 37 games) and he’ll make those contested catches as well as use his body to box out defenders.
JoeJuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt – Williams played in the very competitive SEC and is a very big press corner who is physical and will make jarring tackles in run support and has the length to contest passes all over the field. While not a speed merchant, he moves well for a big corner and possesses good agility.
Chase Winovich, Edge, Michigan – Winovich is bound to be an early crowd favorite with his long flowing blonde locks, big personality, and non-stop motor. For a bigger man, he runs well, has good agility and is a disruptor behind the line of scrimmage.
Damien Harris, RB, Alabama – is a good, tough, run between the tackles kind of running back who keeps his pad level low and has the burst to get to the outside. He’s patient, and gets good yardage after contact. An excellent pass blocker and an underrated receiver with good hands.
Yodny Cajuste, T, West Virginia – Cajuste is a big left tackle that will probably move to the right side in the NFL. He has good balance, agility, and quickness for the position and will probably function as the team’s swing tackle in 2019.
Hjalte Froholdt, G, Arkansas – Froholdt is a 6’4, 306-pound guard/center who played under Pats coach Bret Bielema. He was one of the most highly graded interior offensive linemen in pass protection in 2018. Team captain.
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn – Stidham has a strong arm and mechanics and can make all of the NFL throws. NFL analyst Daniel Jerimiah said he throws the best ball in the draft. But his footwork is sloppy and he can often wait too long to pull the trigger. Struggled under pressure. Very much a developmental prospect. However, Danny Etling will have camp competition.
Byron Cowart, DE, Maryland – Cowart is 6’3, 298 interior defensive lineman who went to Auburn and then transferred to junior college before landing in Maryland. Played as a five-technique or can move to a three-technique. Has the potential to be an interior pocket pusher.
Jake Bailey, P, Stanford – The Patriots moved up in the draft to select a punter. Yes, we really said that. However, he had the best hang time in the country in 2018 and can also kickoff with about 60 percent touchback rate. And he is a right-footed punter, unlike the past few Pats punters who were lefties.
Ken Webster, CB, Ole Miss – The Patriots final draft pick is another corner from Ole Miss. Webster is athletic (4.43 in the 40, 43.0 vertical, 6.85 Three Cone). He’s aggressive and a good tackler, but after a good start at Ole Miss, he never made the leap. It’s going to be tough for him with seven other viable corners on the roster to make this team.
Now come the first of the undrafted free agents, look for about a dozen or more to make their way to Foxboro in the coming days.
Brady “Must” Be At OTAs Now? Child Please
Talk about your classic case of overreaction, no sooner than the Patriots had drafted one of the best wide receivers in the class, then the hot take artists immediately descended on the team to rain on the parade. In the latest example of “It’s never sunny in Foxboro”, the chatter is already starting on how N’Keal Harry’s development is going to “be stunted” if Tom Brady decides to skip OTAs again this spring.
“We don’t want you on that wall Tom, we NEED YOU on that wall.” Really?
Harry is coming in with a clean slate, he is a rookie and because of his draft standing here, there is going to be an insane amount expectations and production that fans and media will envision. Right now, he needs to learn the playbook and the route tree for the wide receivers. That is plenty of work right there in itself.
Thrusting him into the mix and then putting the onus on he and Brady getting chemistry on Day 1 will not be beneficial to either. He’ll have enough on his plate and by working with Josh McDaniels and backups Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling he can ease into the playbook and learn his responsibilities…first.
Brady skipped OTAs for a reason a year ago, and it had nothing to do with him feuding with Bill Belichick. As he’s aging, he needs to keep fresher for the season. Having him in good form in December and January is more important than him being here in April.
Brady will no doubt work very closely with Harry in the upcoming weeks and months. Would having him prove beneficial to both? Of course, but not at the expense of him losing his sharpness down the stretch or in the playoffs.
Early on Friday morning, I had this exact conversation with someone and they said, Brady and Josh Gordon struggled with their chemistry early in the process. And while true, my answer to that is Gordon entered in mid-season and first played in Week 4 against the Dolphins. That’s quite different with the team trying to prepare for a regular season opponent than it is working out in the spring.
There will be plenty of time for those two to work out and build their chemistry together. But this talk about Brady stunting Harry’s development is nothing more than to give the hot-take artists fodder for weeks.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Offensive Line Leads the Way for a Revamped Roster:
The Buffalo Bills have really done a roster do-over, where half of the team in 2019 may be actually new players. But nowhere will the roster appear different in 2019 than the offensive line. Buffalo identified a weakness a year ago in the poor play of the offensive line and they have aggressively set out to rectify it.
Buffalo signed six free agent offensive linemen including former Patriot LaAdrian Waddle and then drafted Cody Ford from Oklahoma. Ford will obviously get one of the tackle spots. At guard, they signed free agents Quinton Spain, Spencer Long, and Jon Feliciano. They moved up in the draft to get Dawson Knox from Ole Miss at TE and took Devin Singletary at running back.
They got Ed Oliver to anchor the heart of the defense, although I wasn’t a fan of the Vosean Joseph pick at linebacker. But the Bills had a very successful spring.
Dolphins Get the Steal of the Draft, Nab Rosen for Two Picks:
The Miami Dolphins now have their quarterback. Miami packaged a 2nd round draft pick, #62 overall and a 5th rounder in 2020 to get Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals. Rosen was in an uncomfortable situation as he was drafted with the #10 pick just a year ago.
But the Cardinals were enamored with Kyler Murray and jettisoned Rosen after just one year. Their loss is Miami’s gain. Miami got a steal and for a late 2nd rounder got a QB who a top ten pick and then saddled with a terrible team a year ago.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick onboard, the onus on Rosen right now will be to learn the playbook and find a comfort level in the offense. But rest assured, as soon as Fitzpatrick struggles…and he will, the calls will come for the Dolphins to put him in. This is a very low risk, high reward for the Dolphins. The AFC East now has Brady and three young players selected in the 1st round just a year ago.
Jets Add Quinnen Williams in the Draft:
The New York Jets added one of the best players (arguably the best IMHO) in the draft in Quinnen Williams. The Alabama star should be a fixture of the defensive line for many years to come. He is a dominant player and will immediately become a guy opposing teams will have to account for on every down.
I wasn’t a fan of Jachai Polite and was surprised the Jets took him over Chase Winovich, who the Patriots scooped up after the fact. But my favorite pick for the Jets after Williams is their 4th round TE Trevon Wesco. We raved about his blocking ability and versatility during the pre-draft process. He could become an emerging pass catcher as well.
“What was your impression of the draft in Nashville? So, how was your week?”
BThe Patriots were busy on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft in Rounds 2-3 and were making trades in addition to adding players. They entered Friday evening with five draft choices. When all was said and done, they maneuvered up and down around the board and made four selections.
The team addressed some areas of need and added players to positions that were already strong. On Friday night they added the following new players:
JoeJuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt Chase Winovich, DE, Michigan Damien Williams, RB, Alabama Yodny Cajuste, T, West Virginia
JoeJuan Williams, #45: Williams joins an already loaded cornerback position, so it most definitely wasn’t a position of need. But by moving up 11 spots in the draft, Williams is someone they definitely coveted. The Patriots got the #45 pick for #56 and #101 selections in the draft.
Williams is a big, nearly 6’4, 217-pound corner who is very aggressive and physical. He’ll obviously be used in matchups with big WRs or TEs. One can foresee the Patriots using Williams, who doesn’t have great speed as their corner with help over the top with a safety. People have been already projecting him, because of his size to be a Brandon Browner-type player.
But he joins a very crowded CB position with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Keion Crossen, and Duke Dawson. With so many quality corners, one has to wonder if someone is going to be moved in a trade.
The Patriots then traded down from #64 with Seattle and added two picks #77 and #118. Then they traded down again, moving picks #73 and #205 to the Bears for #87, #172 and a 2020 4th Round pick. Confused yet?
Chase Winovich, #77: The Patriots then selected the athletic and big personality Winovich from Michigan. Winovich runs well (4.59 in the 40), and has a penchant for making plays in the backfield with 15.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2018.
He’s very disruptive and asked to describe himself to the NE media said, “I like to think of myself as a junkyard dog…Tenacious.” To say he has a high motor is an understatement. He sets the edge very well and creates pressure on the QB.
He joins Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Umfomba Kamalu, and Trent Harris at the edge for the Patriots.
Damien Harris, #87: While again, not a position of need, the Patriots added the three-year starter from Alabama to the mix at running back. Harris is 5’11, 217 and a team captain, strong locker room presence and a very experienced special teams player. He’ll be an immediate fit.
Harris will immediately inject youth and a dose of physicality to the position. The team was hurting there in 2018 and had to move Cordarrelle Patterson to the position for a while. Harris is productive (ran for over 3000 yards at Alabama), runs low and hard between the tackles, is very good in short-yardage situations and is a reliable pass catcher. He’s also an excellent pass blocker.
Will the Patriots keep all five running backs, Harris, Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, and Brandon Bolden this year? We’ll have to see.
The team then traded back again with picks #97 and #162 going to the Rams getting their pick #101 back as well as #133.
Yodny Cajuste, #101: Cajuste from West Virginia is probably the Patriots swing tackle for 2019, and a replacement for LaAdrian Waddle who went to the Bills in free agency. He has prototypical size at 6’5, 312 pounds and was pretty nimble for a big man.
Cajuste was a starter for 2.5 years for the Mountaineers and is a very good pass blocker. His work in the running game is inconsistent as WV was a definite pass-first offense. He has excellent balance, agility, and quickness for the position.
Cajuste has an injury history but will have time to work on his craft with Dante Scarnecchia and could move into a starting role by Year 2. Pro Football Weekly had Cajuste as their #4 rated tackle in their pre-draft publication.
On Day 3 the Patriots have three fourth-round picks (#118, #133, #134) and four seventh-rounders (#239, #243, #246, #252). We would expect them to add a TE, S and another developmental QB at some point today. Stay tuned.
Before the NFL Draft, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady shared a good luck message over Instagram to all the 2019 college prospects.
“Good luck to all the players eager to have their name called at the @nfl draft. Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Practice good habits, on and off the field, day after day, and you can accomplish your dreams. This is a special time, but you’re only at the starting line. The real work starts next week, when the cameras stop, and nobody is watching. You wake up every day to decide what you want to become! What better of an opportunity is that? You have to earn it, EVERY DAY!”
Brady later poked fun at his selection on Twitter while also providing additional encouragement for players selected in later rounds.