The Patriots begin training camp later this week and like most people, I can’t wait as it seems like football has been missing for a long time. The weather is supposed to be much more manageable than the past few days, which makes the experience for the people in attendance and the players more enjoyable.
Today, we’re looking at the cornerbacks and the Patriots are loaded at this position. This is easily the deepest position on the team. There will be some players not making the roster (or traded), that are NFL quality corners. The old saying that “you can never have enough cornerbacks”? It seems the Patriots and Bill Belichick have taken that to heart.
This year’s roster is deeper and more talented than the group who held the Rams to just three points in the Super Bowl. Stephon Gilmore returns from an outstanding season and is joined by veterans Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and Keion Crossen. At this time last year, J.C. Jackson was an undrafted free agent and considered a long-shot to make the 53-man roster. Not only did he make the team, as the year went on, but he also contributed and was a starter. Duke Dawson was a 2nd round draft pick a year ago but was injured and on IR, but was activated near the end of the season. However, he didn’t dress for any of the games being an inactive scratch.
The team added Joejuan Williams in the 2nd round this spring, he’s a very big (6’4) corner who will provide some matchup possibilities with bigger WRs and TEs. They also added corners Ken Webster and D’Angelo Ross.
With nine corners, not all of them are going to make the 53-man roster, so the back end of the depth chart will have four players competing for two, possibly three roster spots.
Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25. And be sure to keep up with our coverage from training camp.
So, let’s take a look at the position as it unfolds as training camp begins this summer.
Current roster – Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen, Joejuan Williams, D’Angelo Ross, Ken Webster
Locks –Gilmore, Jackson, Williams
Near Locks – McCourty, Jones
Bubble – Crossen, Dawson
Long Shot – Ross, Webster
Discussion – With the return of their four main starters (Gilmore, Jackson, McCourty, Jones) from the Super Bowl team, this team is set up for continued success in 2019. In fact, this may just be the deepest set of cornerbacks the Patriots have had… ever. Five of their corners played significant roles last year (Crossen on Special Teams) and getting a 2nd round pick back from an injury that didn’t play at all in 2018 and adding another intriguing 2nd rounder gives them an embarrassment of riches.
Gilmore cemented himself as one of the best corners in the league with a fantastic 2018 season. He played in all 16 games, notched 2 interceptions along with 20 passes defended. Opposing QBs targeting him had just a 56.3 passer rating. Pro Football Focus had him as the top corner in the league last year. And btw, the All-Pro sealed the Super Bowl with an interception deep in Patriots territory.
Jackson made the team after a very impressive training camp where it seemed like he was making highlight-reel plays daily. He made the team and played in 13 games, garnering more and more playing time as the season wore on with 5 starts. In the final five regular-season games and the playoffs, he played in nearly 80 percent of the defensive snaps. Jackson notched three interceptions and opposing QBs had just a 42.0 passer rating when targeting him. Some NFL insiders believe that Jackson has the potential to be an All-Pro and could even surpass Gilmore as the top Patriots corner at some point in the future.
McCourty came to the Patriots last season coming from a winless Browns team to winning a Super Bowl. He’s versatile and can line up as a corner or safety. He played very well last year and logged 80 percent of the defensive snaps. He’s nearly a lock this year but will still have to show he can produce on the wrong side of 30. However, his veteran savvy and leadership, as well as his versatility, bode well for him sticking around for the 2019 season.
Williams is a lock just by virtue of his draft status but his potential is very intriguing. Many people questioned why Belichick would take a corner with their second pick, #45 overall. And the answer is matchups and versatility. Williams is a very big corner (6’4, 211 lbs) who is a big, physical presence. Some people compared him to the Patriots 2014 team’s Brandon Browner and after watching him at minicamp it is easy to see why. He won’t be lining up on small, shifty slot receivers but against the bigger WRs and TEs, Williams gives them matchups that they can roll out depending on the opponent.
Jonathan Jones was a former UDFA who has gradually worked his way into being a very solid and dependable slot corner. He began working on special teams (Crossen) and gradually worked his way up and has improved every year. The Patriots drafted Dawson last year with the possibility of replacing Jones in the slot. But his injury and Jones’ play made Dawson inactive down the stretch.
Dawson has a long way to go if he wants to supplant Jones in the slot, however, Jones is also in a contract year, becoming a free agent in 2020 at the age of just 26. This will be a battle to watch. If the Patriots decide to keep Jones for the long-term, this could put them in a position to possibly trade Dawson rather than risk losing him on the waiver wire. But with camp and preseason ahead, there is a long way to go.
Crossen was a 7th round draft pick (243rd overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s got speed and athleticism and carved out a role as a special teams’ gunner, with nine tackles. He saw the field very sparingly on defense where he was picked on a bit, not uncommon for a rookie.
However, with the addition of the very athletic but very raw Webster, his role on STs may be pushed. Webster is one of those intriguing 7th round picks (252nd overall), where he has the athleticism and potential to be a viable corner at some point, it may not be right away on this roster. He may battle Crossen for that coveted STs gunner/backup corner role. This will be another battle to monitor as camp progresses.
Ross has a tough road in front of him. It is simply a numbers game. The small (5’9) but fast corner from New Mexico ran a 4:32 at his Pro Day in the 40-yard dash. In other years he may have been a potential player to crack the 53-man roster as a UDFA. But with the limited amount of snaps he may see this summer, he is a candidate for the practice squad heading into camp.
The Patriots are stacked at corner heading into training camp. One potential boon of this is that the wide receivers will all be going against some excellent competition this summer, which should prove to help them when the games begin in earnest.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-21 and AFC East notes this week.
Just 4 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”
Tony Romo- was effusive in his praise of Bill Belichick this week while doing an interview on 105.3 the Fan in Dallas. Romo called the Patriots Super Bowl LIII game plan as “one of the greatest defensive performances I have ever seen in football.”
“He genuinely is not scared to go outside the box,” Romo said. “And I find in the NFL very few teams vary from what they do. So what he does then, is he drafts people that he believes can adapt from week-to-week.”
Patriots Cheerleaders – were doing their annual calendar shoot in St. Lucia this week, catch up on that on Patriots.com
Tom Brady – was cliff diving with his daughter in Costa Rica, then went horseback riding with his wife Gisele in his last family getaway before training camp starts next week. But his shot at Max Kellerman was the stuff of gold…
Mike Lombardi – Former Patriots front office person and friend of Bill Belichick was a guest on VSIN’s “A Number’s Game” and said he believes the Patriots defense will be better than the 2018 version.
“I think they are better on defense,” Lombardi said. “I think New England is better on defense this year. I think Jamie Collins wanted to come back to New England. He wanted to play. I think he will make them a better team and allow (Dont’a) Hightower to play more on the edge, which is what he’s more suited for than playing in the base. Then, there’s Kyle Van Noy. I think Michael Bennett still has some gas left in the tank, so I do think they will be better on defense. I think the guy that is coaching the defense is a Hall of Fame defensive coach — forget the fact that he’s a Hall of Fame head coach. I do think they will be better.”
Gordon Not In Patriots Plans, But Would Be Welcomed Back:
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and NFL.com was on WEEI this week and addressed the Josh Gordon situation with the Patriots. He stated that the team would most certainly welcome the troubled but very talented wide receiver back, but that they were not counting on him in 2019 and have no idea when or if he’ll even be reinstated.
“Josh Gordon, I don’t know,” Rapoport said. “It’s not a guy who’s in their plans right now. I think that they would certainly welcome him back if he showed that he’s going to be a better version — as a person, I’m talking about — a better version of the one they got last year. I just don’t know that he’s actually going to get reinstated, prove to the Patriots that he has turned the corner, that he’s a different person, show that he’s in the right frame of mind.”
“As always with Josh Gordon, the talent is incredible. We’ve seen probably one-tenth of it, honestly,” Rapoport added. “But there’s always so much that goes into it. I think the Patriots know better than to say this is a guy we’re counting on for next season.”
Hill Situation Highlights Lack of Consistency with NFL:
The NFL decided that Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill will not be disciplined under the league’s personal conduct policy. Whenever an NFL player is accused of off-field wrongdoing, the conduct policy is detailed in Article 46 of the league’s collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the National Football League Players’ Association is brought into play.
Back in March Hill’s son who is just three years old suffered a broken arm and was removed from the home of Hill and fiancee Crystal Espinal by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF).
The District Attorney declined to press charges against either which prompted Hill’s attorneys to write the NFL that it was an accident and that he played no role in his son’s injuries.
After doing an investigation, Park Avenue decided not to punish Hill saying it “cannot conclude” that Hill, whom the Chiefs ordered to stay away from the team pending the NFL’s investigation, violated the personal conduct policy.
This is the same Hill who still proclaims his innocence of beating Espinal while she was pregnant four years ago. He pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery charges that he hit Espinal in the face and stomach while she was eight weeks pregnant. He also strangled her. Despite his repeated claims of innocence of those charges, he admitted to them in court.
Then there is the taped phone conversation. In it, Espinal says their son is terrified of his father, Hill responds with a threat.
“A 3-year-old is not going to lie about what happened to his arm,” Crystal Espinal tells Hill in the recording, adding, “He is terrified of you.”
Hill responds, “You need to be terrified of me, too, dumb bitch.”
So while the NFL says that the child’s safety is their priority, it rings with insincerity.
It cannot conclude Hill caused the child’s injuries…Really? The same man who punched his pregnant girlfriend in the face and stomach, strangled her and threatens her on the phone. Someone broke the child’s arm. So, they have to consider that Espinal is guilty?
The utter lack of consistency is plain to see. Less than a year ago, the NFL suspended Ravens CB Jimmy Smith for threatening and abusive behavior.
New England fans began to harp on this latest fiasco from Park Ave. Of course, this entailed some people stating it doesn’t apply. to this case. To that, we reply… respectfully, “Bull excrement”.
The NFL in the Wells report, (Pg 228) it stated that the league couldn’t conclude with certainty that anyone did or did not tamper with a football, but their analysis is “dependent on assumptions and information that is not certain.” There was a total lack of evidence that anyone even attempted to deflate a football, when in fact a reasonable scientific explanation was right at hand.
But in this case, a player with a history of abuse suddenly has a child with a broken arm and threatens his fiancee openly. And … nada. “There isn’t evidence?” It never stopped them before. One has to conclude that the child’s safety takes a backseat to the fantasy points that will be generated by Hill in the highest-scoring offense in the league.
“You do not have to be convicted or even charged of a crime to be able to demonstrate that you’ve violated a personal conduct policy, and reflect poorly not only on themselves, but all of their teammates, every NFL player in the league, and everyone associated with the NFL.” Roger Goodell
Joe Thuney Enters Pivotal Contract Year:
With training camp set to begin later this week, one player who will be garnering a lot of attention this season will be guard Joe Thuney. Thuney is entering a contract year and is part of arguably the best guard tandem in the league with Shaq Mason.
He is slotted to make about $2 million dollars in 2019 in the final year of his rookie contract and is in line to make much more in 2020. Will it be with the Patriots? Time will tell, but if he plays it out until free agency, the chances of him making significantly more cash will be available to him. The Patriots locked up center David Andrews this spring with a three-year $9 million dollar deal. Last summer, Mason signed a five-year contract worth a total of $50 million with $23.5 million of it guaranteed. Will the Patriots make Thuney as big an offer as he’ll get on the open market? Doubtful.
Thuney’s versatility, he can play anywhere along the offensive line was apparent this spring. With both Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste out of minicamp due to offseason surgery, Thuney was taking all of the first-team reps at left tackle. If for any reason Wynn and Cajuste aren’t ready for training camp, look for Thuney to continue to fill in. That will further drive up his already considerable …and growing value.
He has been remarkably durable, not only playing in all 48 games of his NFL career but in every one of the Patriots 1119 offensive snaps in 2018. Since entering the league, he’s been constantly improving under the tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia. Last year he was the NFL’s 7th rated guard by Pro Football Focus (PFF).
If you make it down to training camp this week, be sure to check out big #63. It may just be his last season in a Patriots uniform. And he’s been one of their better performers.
Patriots Players Needing to Rebound in 2019:
Training camp is the time for the young players to show what they can do to earn a roster spot. It is also time for some of the veterans to show that they can still perform at a high level. Here are a couple of players who will be looking to ignite their production in 2019 on the eve of training camp.
Demaryius Thomas – The former Broncos and Texans wide receiver was once one of the most productive WRs in the game but his game has been in steady decline for several years. He’s gone from 1619, 1304,1083, 949 to 677 in the past five years. Then he tore his Achilles with the Texans late last season.
Thomas may not even be ready for training camp, having not taken part in any activities this spring. He may begin camp (and we suspect he will) on the PUP list. While no one expects him to return to his glory years with Denver, there is some hope that he can still be a viable target in the Patriots offense…time will tell.
Derek Rivers – We already identified 2019 as a make or break season for the Patriots top draft pick in 2017. He tore his ACL in preseason of his rookie season but was still not looking 100 percent last year. While he did make the team in 2018, he played very sparingly in six games and registered just two tackles and one sack. That isn’t the kind of production the team was looking for out of him.
He’ll get the opportunity to show what he’s got this summer and he’ll have to shine. With a much more crowded front seven this year, we currently have Rivers on the outside looking in. He’ll have to leapfrog some players and show he can produce at the NFL level.
Ryan Allen – If it seems strange to you for a player who could’ve been named the MVP of the Super Bowl to need “to rebound” in 2019, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, it is true. The 2018 season wasn’t the most consistent of Allen’s career. But he did turn it on for the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, he was outstanding, out-punting the Rams Johnny Hekker who is among the best in the game.
But for the second year in a row, the Patriots have brought in competition for Allen. This year they moved up in the draft to take Jake Bailey from Stanford. The reports about the strength of Bailey’s leg are well-founded. After watching him at minicamp he puts an absolute charge into the ball. Plus he’s more versatile and can kickoff as well as fill in as a field goal kicker in an emergency. His issue has been consistency as well.
But with the Patriots possibly relying more on the running game this year, especially early in the year, they may be looking for a punter with more range and hang time in the event they’re punting more from their own side of the field and deeper than in year’s past. Allen will be on watch this summer.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Cole Beasley Looks to Be the Top Target in Bills Passing Game:
When the Buffalo Bills throw the ball this season, they will have a new and revamped passing attack. When we wrote about the changes forthcoming here a while back, we mentioned that Brian Daboll who used to be on the Patriots staff could be looking to replicate a lot of what the Patriots do with Julian Edelman. And that player on Buffalo would be Cole Beasley.
Beasley left Dallas and complained that he wasn’t getting enough looks in the passing game. And he’d have a point. In 2016, he led the Cowboys with 75 catches, 833 yards, and 5 TDs. The Cowboys went 13-3. In 2017, Dallas’ offense went away from Beasley, in 15 games he had just 36 catches for 314 yards and 4TDs. Dallas went 9-7. Last year, he was second on the team with 65 catches for 672 yards and 3 TDs, with Dallas going 10-6. But once Amari Cooper came onboard, Beasley’s numbers and targets went down. In the playoff loss to the Rams in the Divisional Round, he was targeted just twice.
With Buffalo and Daboll as the Offensive Coordinator, he has a chance to be the safety blanket, the chains mover and 2nd-year QB Josh Allen’s favorite target. Like Edelman, he excels in the short-area quickness part of the field. Buffalo threw the ball down the field too often in 2018. Look for them to utilize the short areas of the field more this year. And with the sure-handed Beasley in the mix, he should be the boon of his QB’s throws, especially on a team that had more than their share of drops.
Rosen or Fitzpatrick? The Dolphins TC Will Answer That:
The Miami Dolphins have (finally) moved away from QB Ryan Tannehill, who got more than a fair shake as their team’s QB. Now with a new coach and staff, new QBs and a fresh attitude, they’re going to attempt to turn things around.
With a full rebuild going on, no one is expecting Miami to be very competitive this season for a playoff spot. But with new coach Brian Flores and new signal callers under center, the Fins will be intriguing to watch.
After signing Ryan Fitzpatrick as their bridge QB, Miami swooped after the Arizona Cardinals simply had to have QB Kyler Murray after drafting Josh Rosen with a Top 10 pick just a year ago. This could prove to be highway robbery.
While no one knows how this will play out, Flores is going to let the players decide on who starts and who sits. But at some point, he’ll have to let Rosen show what he can do so that they can either stick with him as a potential franchise quarterback or that they have to address the situation next year in the NFL Draft.
Our money here is on Rosen; he was awful last year, but he was a rookie saddled with an even more awful team. It was a total lose-lose situation. The games in the AFC East this year within the division are much more compelling with all of the new quarterbacks in place.
Jets Williams Still Unsigned, May Miss the Beginning of Training Camp:
The New York Jets rookie players were scheduled to report for training camp on Friday. Quinnen Williams was not to be one of them. Williams still hasn’t signed his contract, making it the second year in a row that the team has had its top draft pick not show up on time for training camp. Last year, Sam Darnold missed the first three days of training camp while getting his deal finalized.
Williams took part in all of the Jets’ spring workouts and the hold on his contract isn’t about his salary, which is mandated by the league. The Jets took Williams with the #3 pick in the NFL Draft this spring. What the holdup is, probably centers around offsets and cash flow.
Is it a big worry? No, but the team never likes having their top draft pick miss any time during his first training camp. This is something that should be worked out fairly quickly and then Williams, who is considered one of the top picks in the draft, should be ready to go.
“I no longer listen to what people say, I just watch what they do. Behavior never lies” Winston Churchill
The Patriots have many questions heading into the 2019 season at wide receiver. Julian Edelman returns, the Super Bowl LIII MVP is still at the top of his game but at 33, one has to wonder how much longer he can perform at a high level.
After him, the situation gets murkier. Phillip Dorsett has been fine whenever his number has been called but his production really could use an increase. Demaryius Thomas’s numbers have been steadily going down the past several years and now he’s coming off of an Achilles injury. Josh Gordon is suspended indefinitely and no one knows if he’ll be allowed to play this year.
The Patriots drafted N’Keal Harry in the first round of the draft this spring and expectations with him are high. But rookie wide receivers have struggled to make an impact here in the past. Braxton Berrios had a very strong spring but spent his entire rookie season on IR. Maurice Harris and Dontrelle Inman are coming on to try to carve out roles for themselves after playing for the Redskins and Colts respectively.
So, the opportunities are there for several players to carve out roles for themselves once training camp opens. There are 12 players that should be vying for reps, and possibly 13 if Thomas is ready to go. Gordon is forbidden to enter the facility or work out with the team during his suspension. Let’s take a look at who is in good shape and who has a lot of work to do at the wide receiver position
Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.
Current roster – Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry, Matthew Slater, Demaryius Thomas, Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Jakobi Meyers, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, Josh Gordon (suspended)
Locks – Edelman, Dorsett, Harry, Slater
Bubble – Berrios, Thomas, Harris, Inman, Meyers
Long Shot – Patterson, Davis, Olszewski, Gordon
Discussion – Edelman, Dorsett, Slater, and Harry are all locks. Obviously, the conversation starts with Julian Edelman. Yes, Edelman is 33 but if you watched him in the Super Bowl he was uncoverable. The Rams threw several different defensive backs on him and nobody could lock him down. I watched him thru all three days of minicamp and he looks ready to go again.
Dorsett was getting plenty of reps early last year but lost those after Gordon was brought in. The hope here is that he’ll be able to replicate what he did last year, and with an additional year in the system, be able to add to it.
Slater is a WR in name only but is a Special Teams’ captain and one of the best at what he does both on and off the field. Harry is a first-round draft pick who has incredible upside but is just a rookie. With a first-round draft pedigree, he’s automatically on the 53-man roster.
This is where it gets interesting. Berrios had a very strong spring but is in no way a lock at this point. He has a long way to go but is definitely trending in the right direction. The smaller but quick slot receiver recognizes the opportunity in front of him. Mike Reiss of ESPN has written that Berrios has already reported into camp. The hope is that he could fit into that Danny Amendola role in the Patriots offense.
Harris likewise had a very strong spring, catching nearly everything thrown his way with a few nice highlight-reel catches during minicamp. Can he do it again when the secondary players are allowed contact? Inman, on the other hand, didn’t have a good week at minicamp. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills during the three sessions. He has a lot of ground to make up.
Meyers is an interesting addition. A former QB turned WR, Meyers has good size for the position, (6’2, 203) with very good hands, tight route-running and the willingness to go into contested areas. He doesn’t have great top-end speed but could be an oversized slot receiver. What was intriguing about him was that during a side session with Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Josh McDaniels, during minicamp, Meyers was brought in with Harry to work on route selection. May end being nothing, but it could mean they have a plan in mind for him.
Patterson was on the practice squad a year ago but along with Davis, and Olszewski are all facing long odds of making the roster.
In a perfect world, Gordon would get reinstated and Thomas would come back better than new. But we don’t live in a perfect world and the fact is, the Patriots can’t rely on Gordon being reinstated any time soon, if at all. And Thomas may end up on PUP to begin the season. That means other players will have to step up….Questions, questions. This will make training camp and the preseason so compelling this summer.
The Patriots have one of the deepest and varied sets of running backs in the NFL. It became a position of strength down the stretch and the team rode it to a Super Bowl title.
The Patriots had the league’s fifth-best running attack in 2018 and averaged 4.3 yards per rushing attempt. However, early in the year, injuries to Jeremy Hill, Sony Michel, and Rex Burkhead thinned out their depth considerably. That forced the team to use Cordarrelle Patterson as a running back for a time.
While Hill ended up on IR, Michel and Burkhead returned and the running game got better as the year progressed. Michel, in particular, was immense in the postseason rushing for 336 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per rushing attempt with six touchdowns in three postseason games.
With Michel, James White, and Burkhead all returning, the team drafted the versatile Damien Harris from Alabama and brought back former Patriot special teams’ ace Brandon Bolden after a year’s hiatus in Miami. Outstanding fullback James Develin also returns.
So, let’s take a brief snapshot of the position and see who stays, who goes and who is on the bubble as the team begins training camp in 2019.
Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.
Current roster – Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris, Nick Brossette, Fullbacks James Develin, Jakob Johnson*
Locks – Michel, White, Harris, Develin
Near Lock – Burkhead, Bolden
Long Shot – Brossette, Johnson*
Discussion – When it comes to the running back position, the Patriots are in great shape entering training camp before the 2019 season. There are, however, some question marks. Michel has had knee woes dating back to college, he missed some time last season and missed the mandatory minicamp in June after having another procedure. Burkhead has also had injury concerns in his career.
Having both a full-go for training camp will go a long way to alleviate those concerns. Adding Harris is a huge step in that direction. Harris is an excellent between the tackles runner, he is quick to the hole and runs with his pad level low. He’s outstanding after contact and is used to working in a running back by committee approach at Alabama. He’s very good in pass protection and underrated as a pass-catcher with soft hands.
With Michel, Burkhead, and Harris the Patriots have three running backs who can all run the ball well between the tackles where they like to run. Burkhead is also a good receiver out of the backfield, something they are hoping to see more of from Michel this year as well as Harris, who got a lot of reps in minicamp.
James White is outstanding in his third-down receiving back role and can handle a few carries of his own during any given game. This gives the team outstanding versatility and unpredictability. They can go with a two-back set (21 Personnel) and then split the backs out wide if the defense stacks the box, forcing linebackers into coverage.
Michel, White, Develin, and Harris due to his draft status are absolute locks. Burkhead and Bolden are as close to locks as one can get. Bolden is a super-sub who can contribute offensively when his number is called but is most valuable on special teams where he was missed last year. By the way, the Patriots never emptied his locker.
It is going to be difficult for Brossette, the rookie from LSU to crack the 53-man roster unless there are some injuries there. Brossette is a typical LSU running back. Compact, with a solid build, runs low to the ground with power. He’s not overly athletic and with such a crowded backfield He’s a candidate for the practice squad.
Jakob Johnson is a former University of Tennessee tight end and German football league player who is part of the International Player Pathway Program which was instituted in 2017 and whose goal is to provide international athletes the opportunity to compete at the NFL level, and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster.
If Johnson doesn’t make the Patriots 53-man roster out of training camp, (doubtful), he will automatically be placed on the practice squad. And as an international player, that will automatically give the Patriots an exception, an 11th player allowed on the practice squad. However, that will render him ineligible for an active roster spot in 2019.
The Patriots are in terrific shape at the running back position with training camp…just 10 days away as we go to publication here. They will lean heavily on their running game and running backs for production in the passing game as well.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-14 and AFC East notes this week.
Just 11 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”
Devin & Jason McCourty- continue their work in the community. The twins spent time with both We Belong and the Peace Unit, which are initiatives dedicated to helping the youth and young adults of the area.
Rob Gronkowski – was honored at the ESPYs in LA this week and spoke about being a good teammate. “When I look back on my career, what I look back on, what I’m most proud of was the teammate I am,” he said. “My teammates knew I would do anything for them, and I knew they’d do anything for me. I know the relationships we formed will stay with us for the rest of our lives, so thank you to all the guys I played with and thank you for making the ride so much more fun and so much more memorable.”
Melvin Gordon – the Chargers running back will be the latest RB to test market for RB value. Gordon has informed the team that he wants a new contract or be traded. Gordon is scheduled to make $5.605 million this year but is looking for much more or he won’t report to training camp. His agent said it could sit into the regular season
Allen Bailey – Former NFL GM Gil Brandt wrote on the NFL.com site that the Patriots are still the best landing spot for the free-agent DL. Bailey, 30, visited the Patriots on March 14 and reportedly had contract discussions. But he left without signing anything. The former Chiefs’ DL also visited with the Panthers, Falcons, and Seahawks.
Nick Caserio – was back in the news for the wrong reason. The Texans, who have been pursuing him for their GM job for two years, announced they aren’t going to have a GM for the 2019 season. The plan is to share the responsibilities between several men including Jack Easterby, who is now on the outs with the Krafts. All signs point to them coming hard after Caserio again in 2020 when his current deal expires. It may be time to give the man a title and pay him to keep him around…if he wants to remain.
Brady NFL Best at Throws 10+ Yards Downfield:
Pro Football Focus (PFF) Steve Palazzolo put out some startling stats on Friday which got social media aflame, especially those who consider Tom Brady a “dink and dunk” QB. According to the stats that Palazzolo posted, not only did Brady have the best percentage of passes completed of 10+ yards downfield, he attempted the most in the past three seasons.
Of course, this ignited the troll population who then wanted to know who led the league in short passes. Well, Palazzolo’s stats showed that Brady wasn’t even in the Top 10 of passes thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage.
This won’t stop the Brady-haters who were already flooding Palazzolo’s mentions about his data being biased, but it was funny to watch the questions spew forth and answered. Well, it isn’t “dink and dunk”, it must be that dreaded Patriots “system”…
18 Game Schedule? This is a Ridiculous Scenario:
We were thinking that this was a satire piece when we first saw it but unfortunately that was not the case and someone at the NFL front office actually believes this to be a good idea. The NFL has been pushing an 18-game schedule for quite some time now, that isn’t new, but what they’re proposing is…
The league is proposing that there will be only two exhibition games and expand the regular season slate to 18 games. But the kicker is, that the league knowing the NFLPA (NFL Players Association) will certain dig their heels in over this, wants to limit each player can only dress for 16 of those games.
I have no idea what is on the menu at Park Avenue, but please feel free to share some.
Fans will not be happy, imagine a fan from another city knowing that say the Patriots or Chiefs are coming to town, shelling out big money for tickets only to find out that Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes is sitting this week?
This one doesn’t even sound good on paper, it will never pass with the NFLPA but just shows two things. The owners aren’t going to stop pushing for an 18-game schedule and the bargaining agreement with the league and NFLPA is not going to be pretty.
Gronk and Brady Play Catch While Social Media Melts Down :
Slow your roll folks, there is no reason to lose your mind over a game of catch between Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. And no, it does not point to Gronkowski coming back in mid-season this year.
Gronkowski was in LA for the Monster Energy $50K Charity Challenge Celebrity Basketball Game Monday night at UCLA. So, once he found out Brady was doing a private workout at UCLA with his personal trainer Alex Guererro it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the two would link up.
“He saw I was in town for this basketball game,” Gronkowski said in an interview on Monday. “He was like, ‘Yo, Gronk, man, yo, Gronk, come throw with me in the morning.’ So I was like, ‘No problem. It’ll give me a warm-up to this basketball game tonight.’”
Getting together in shorts and tossing the football around is hardly proof he’s returning. It had more to do with good friends taking advantage of being in close proximity to one another when each has a busy, demanding schedule.
This week I went to a shooting range with an old Special Forces buddy to catch up. It doesn’t mean Mrs. Balestrieri’s bouncing baby boy is heading to Afghanistan anytime this century.
Elandon Roberts Traffic Stop Wasn’t About Race, Sheriff Says:
Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts was pulled over by Sheriff’s Deputies back on March 10 in the Pecan Grove neighborhood of Richmond, Texas outside of Houston. Roberts has charged that the deputy in question acted unprofessionally because of Roberts’ race.
The sheriff’s deputy, Adam Watkins tried to pull over Roberts for doing 59 mph in a 35 mph zone, but things went south from there. Roberts assertation that he was harassed “because he is a big black guy” (Deputy’s words), was frightening and unprofessional.
Roberts tried to exit his vehicle with his hands up and was ordered back into the vehicle. Roberts tried to tell the deputy that he lived there. The deputy called for backup because he had “ a large black guy who wouldn’t obey his commands.”
Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said that the stop wasn’t based on race but that his deputy didn’t act as professionally as he should and received a verbal reprimand. Roberts received citations for speeding and not having proof of insurance (Roberts couldn’t find it during the stop).
When the Buffalo Bills were looking to revamp their tight end position during free agency, they gambled that Tyler Kroft was destined for big things in their offense in 2019. They paid Kroft handsomely, with a three-year, $18.75 million dollar deal. Outside of 2017, when he filled in for the oft-injured Tyler Eifert, Kroft has just 25 catches over three seasons. It was in 2017, that Bills are hoping for when he caught 42 passes. In 2018, he played only five games before breaking his foot.
But in the first practices this spring Kroft broke his foot and that leaves them with questions. They drafted Dawson Knox in the third round of the draft and Tommy Sweeney in the 7th round. Knox has good size and is athletic but has suspect hands. The knock on him in college was he was always double catching passes. Sweeney is a very physical presence and a good blocker but limited athletically and in the passing game.
Jason Croom was the lone holdover from the 2018 Bills, catching 22 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown. Which was more than starter Charles Clay who was let go. Croom isn’t a lock for the roster but if Kroft is out for the beginning of camp he will get a chance to carve out a nice role for himself.
Lee Smith who spent the first four years of his career in Buffalo was also brought back this spring.
Dolphins Norton Cited For Crash That Cost Him His Arm:
The Miami Dolphins Kendrick Norton was cited for the accident last week that caused emergency personnel to amputate his left arm at the scene, police officials said this week.
Norton, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, made an improper lane change prior to the two-car crash on State Road 836 near Miami in the early morning hours of July 4. Police officials said his black 2017 Ford F250 cut off a gray 2015 Maserati Quattroporte, driven by Jessie Pena and sideswiped the vehicle.
Neither Norton, nor his passenger, identified as Shakira Williams were wearing seatbelts. Williams wasn’t hurt. Norton however, was focusing on the positive rather than what he has lost.
“I am alive,” he said. “To be here, I am alive. One thing keeps me going and that is that I am still able to be here. Seeing my family is so important. It is very good that I have this support system. It keeps me strong and it keeps me tall.
“But I realize that I will not be able to play for anyone. We are working past that, you know. That reality is sinking in. I am alive and I am grateful. Now I want to organize a blood drive.”
Jets Herndon Suspended for First Four Games of 2019:
The New York Jets TE Chris Herndon will be suspended for the first four games of their 2019 season in the aftermath of a DUI arrest. The Jets first four games are at home against the Bills and the Browns; on the road at New England against the Patriots and Week 5 in Philadelphia against the Eagles. The Jets have a bye week early in Week 4 this season.
Herndon developed very good chemistry with QB Sam Darnold in 2018 and was second on the team with 39 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns. He is expected to be an even more important piece of the offense in 2019.
With Herndon out, the Jets have journeymen Daniel Brown, Eric Tomlinson, and rookie Trevon Wesco on the roster.
“There is an old saying about the strength of the wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that. On a football team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.” Bill Belichick
The Patriots have been blessed to have the same quarterback under center since Week 3 of the 2001 NFL season. Tom Brady has been remarkably durable and productive, in the 19 seasons he’s been with the Patriots, they’ve made the Super Bowl nine times and won six of them.
At a time where so many teams are searching for a franchise QB, the Patriots have had theirs under center every year. But what about his backups in 2019?
So, let’s take a brief snapshot of the position and see who stays, who goes and who is on the bubble as the team begins training camp in 2019.
Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.
Current roster – Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham, Danny Etling
Locks – Brady, Stidham
Near Lock – Hoyer
Long Shot – Etling
Discussion – Well it comes as no surprise that Brady is a lock, as he has been every year since 2002. As we mentioned above, Brady has been remarkably durable and productive in his career. Other than 2008, when a low hit blew out his ACL, he hasn’t missed a game due to injury. (Note: He did miss four games due to weather conditions as they related to football air pressure)
The Patriots have been to the last three Super Bowls with the team winning two of them. Brady has started 267 regular-season games for the Patriots and won 207 of them. He’s won 30 of 40 playoff games. Last year he threw for 4355 yards and 29 TDs.
Every year since his injury in 2008 the hot-take artists tell you “this is the year Brady falls back” and every year the Patriots either make it to the conference championship game or the Super Bowl.
Stidham by nature of his draft status is a lock for the 2019 season. There is a lot to like in his game, and there is also a long way to go for him as a rookie QB. He throws a very nice, tight spiral and has a nice blend of size, arm strength, and athleticism. He blends well with a quick read offense, which should help him in New England.
His issues in college centered around the Auburn offense which makes for a horrible transition to the pro game. They ran a one-read only offense which stifles a QB’s development. In the spring Stidham got a lot of snaps and looked alternately good and awful at times, which is expected for a rookie QB trying to learn a new system and language. He’s a developmental prospect.
Hoyer should be safe this summer. He’s a long-time veteran with a veteran’s savvy and knowledge of the opponents around the league. So he’s a good sounding board for Brady on the sidelines as well as help the team prepare the week before games.
He can be counted on to come on in the case of emergency and it is doubtful, at least at this point that Stidham will progress enough to push him this summer for the backup role. If everything falls into place for Stidham, he’ll push Hoyer for the backup role next summer. But for now, Hoyer should be considered a near-lock.
Etling is the odd man out. With the drafting of Stidham, the writing was on the wall for the 2nd year QB. He wasn’t getting any team’s 11-on-11 work in mini-camp. And he was acting as the personal punt protector in his only work in full-team drills. So, with the exception of an injury to someone, Etling is a real long shot to stick around.
Frankly, we were a little surprised that he wasn’t released after mini-camp, so perhaps he can still work his way onto the practice squad this summer. But for a 53-man roster slot? The chances of that appear mighty slim.
The 2019 Patriots are set at quarterback with Brady once again at the helm. Will they commit to him beyond this season? That is something we heard…and reported as a done deal back in the spring. But it has not happened; perhaps they’ll get it done once camp gets underway.
However, after Brady the Patriots choices at quarterback, at least for now are uninspiring. That will be up to Mr. Stidham to change.
What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, Jackson was an undrafted rookie cornerback from Maryland and a longshot to make the roster. But not only did he make the roster out of training camp but he developed into a starter opposite of Stephon Gilmore for the Patriots.
After a very impressive spring and summer where he shined at training camp, Jackson played in only about 16 percent of the defensive snaps for the first nearly three-quarters of the season. But from Week 12 onwards, he played in nearly 80 percent of the defensive snaps, starting in both the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl where the Patriots held the Rams to just three points.
In the last several years, Jackson is the third CB plucked by the Patriots as an UDFA to become a starter or regular contributor. Malcolm Butler in 2014 and Jonathan Jones in 2016 before him also were undrafted.
He shined in man coverage and was able to stick with and mirror opposing wide receivers. He also has shown extremely good ball skills with three interceptions and six passes defensed. As we have seen countless times, covering the opponent is one thing. But having the awareness and skills when the ball is in the air is another. Jackson has been able to do that.
Jackson posted the best passer rating allowed on cornerbacks who played 200 or more snaps in 2018 with an outstanding 42.0 when opposing QBs targeted him. According to PFF (Pro Football Focus), Jackson allowed only 22 receptions on 42 targets for a combined 262 yards as well as zero touchdowns to go along with his three picks. He also allowed 0.80 yards per coverage snap according to PFF. Gilmore’s was 0.72.
He also had an outstanding 21.4 percent forced incompletion rate, good for 7th overall in the league. Overall, he finished 2018 as PFF’s 12th best-rated corner. Perhaps Jackson’s best game was in Pittsburgh in Week 15. Matched up with the very dangerous JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jackson was extremely competitive. Smith-Schuster was targeted 10 times in the game and had just four catches for 40 yards, the second least productive games he had (catch percentage wise) in 2018 where he caught 111 passes for 1426 yards.
The Patriots are primarily a man-coverage team but Jackson showed he can play some zone as well. In the Week 16 game against Buffalo, he played underneath and undercut the route getting one of his three picks against Josh Allen.
If there is one area of weakness in Jackson’s game it could be playing against bigger wide receivers. Jackson who is generously listed as 6’1, 198 (he measured 5’10 at the NFL Combine) had a rough AFC Championship Game against the bigger Sammy Watkins and against Travis Kelce, however, the Chiefs ran roughshod over nearly every defense they faced in 2018.
But the Patriots, as they nearly always do, had a plan in place. They drafted a very big corner in Joejuan Williams (6’4) who can cover those bigger wideouts they’ll face. Flashback to 2014, the Patriots had Revis (lockdown) and Brandon Browner in those roles. Now with Williams in the fold, they’ll be able to mix and match against nearly anyone.
However, there are some in the Patriots front office who believe that Jackson will one day surpass Gilmore as the top corner of the team. And at just 23-years old, Jackson has yet to hit his peak. In fact, he’s just scratching the surface of his potential.
He and Gilmore are the locked down starters for a very talented group of corners that includes Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Williams, Keion Crossen, Duke Dawson and rookies Ken Webster as well as D’Angelo Ross.
The future appears bright for Jackson and he is our first choice as the 2019 Breakout Player of the Year.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-07 and AFC East notes this week.
We hope that everyone had a happy and safe Independence Day celebration. Just 18 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”
Bernard Pollard – is the latest, “look at me” ex-player who is trying to get himself a gig on television or radio. If you think otherwise, you’re kidding yourself, but there is never a shortage of people who feed the monster and fall all over themselves giving these hot take artists their air time.
Rob Gronkowski – told Rich Eisen in an interview this week, that he reserves the right to change his mind about returning to the NFL once the season starts. In the interview, Gronkowski said this will be the first August in 15 years that he won’t be playing football. But judging from his leaned out frame recently, I still say that the chances of the big guy returning this year are remote.
Jerod Mayo – may not be calling the defensive plays just yet for the Patriots this year. Jeff Howe of the Athletic wrote that Bill Belichick will be calling the plays. Mayo who was seen calling the plays in minicamp this June.
N’Keal Harry – leads the Patriots rookies with a 74 grade on Madden 2019 that was released recently. Cornerback Jojuan Williams was second with a score of 70 while Damien Harris and Chase Winovich were next, tied with a grade of 69.
Tom Brady – is preparing for training camp and continues to defy Father Time. He posted a video of his workouts where he was running sprints. While Brady will never be considered remotely anything close to a sprinter, he did, however, beat his own time at the NFL Combine, which is pretty impressive for a player about to be 42 in less than a month from now.
Tom Brady Pt2 – With all of the talk centering around Brady from the hot take artists every summer, one has to dig thru many oysters to find a pearl. Or in this case, I didn’t have to do anything at all since it was handed to me. Our good bud, @PatriotsSBLIII has always shared great stuff with us, and he never fails to use common sense in a frequently senseless debate when it comes to #12. He sent me this a few weeks ago but right now seems a perfect time to share this.
Tom Brady’s last 16 playoff games (2013-18) 13-3 (.813) 3SBs 452/702 (64.4%) 5,230 yards 7.45 Y/A 43.9* Att/gm @CSimmsQB 31 TD 12 INT 94.4 PR
Only 3 players in NFL history have had a 16-game regular season on this level. (Brady, Brees 2011; Manning 2013)
And for those anti-Brady types out there, not one of those games was against any team from the AFC East but all against playoff teams in the Divisional Round and beyond which makes those numbers even more impressive. Thanks again to @PatriotsSBLIII for the always great stuff and being a sounding board for constructive criticism.
Tedy Bruschi Suffered a Stroke on July 4:
The former Patriots linebacker who has been a regular on ESPN was just given a promotion this week, being added to their pregame broadcast. It was reported that Bruschi, who had a stroke after the Super Bowl in Feb. 2005, recognized his own symptoms and reported it right away. Robert Kraft and the Patriots released the following statement:
“While shocked to hear of his recent stroke … we are relieved to learn that he recognized the early symptoms and immediately sought and received treatment,” the statement says. “On behalf of the entire Patriots organization, we extend our love, thoughts and prays to Tedy and the Bruschi family while we wish him godspeed in a complete recovery.”
Bruschi created a runners club called Tedy’s Team to raise awareness for the American Stroke Association. He has run the Boston Marathon three times, including in this spring. He is expected to make a complete recovery.
Damien Harris Could Be a Big Contributor For the Offense in 2019:
We were quite excited with the possibilities for the offense after the selection of Damien Harris in the 3rd round of the draft this spring by the Patriots. Harris was locked up for four years with a $3.6 million dollar deal.
Harris should fit in extremely well in the Patriots running back by committee positional group. While in Alabama, he played with a multitude of very talented running backs that are now in the NFL. Alabama also played with RB committee under Nick Saban and Harris played with the likes of Derrick Henry, Bo Scarborough, Kenyan Drake, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs while with the Tide.
With Sony Michel coming off of a minor but another knee procedure, Harris can more than fit the bill for the Patriots penchant for running the ball between the tackles. A couple of key numbers should be remembered when thinking about Harris:
2 (Two)– The number of fumbles Harris had in 477 career carries at Alabama. Bill Belichick loves sure-handed running backs and Harris is definitely that.
6.4 – The average yards per carry Harris had at Alabama. That kind of average always puts the offense in a position to succeed.
3.2 – Yards Harris averaged after contact. This number can’t be overstated and when the offense needs to pick up those 3rd and 4th and short-yardage situations, it helps to have a back that can easily do that.
Harris isn’t a threat to take the ball to the house on every carry, he doesn’t have that breakaway speed but he is a perfect fit for the Patriots offense. He hits the hole quickly and has very good vision and will follow his blockers thru the point of attack. He then shows the ability and confidence to make a cut and go.
With a thickly built lower body, he’s tough to bring down, will get the yards after contact and has little wear on his tires after playing in a similar committee approach at ‘Bama. He’s a very good and willing pass blocker, something the Patriots insist on for their backs. And he is a good if underrated pass catcher out of the backfield with soft hands and the ability to move outside into the slot if needed.
With Michel out of the picture during minicamp, Harris and Brandon Bolden got quite a few snaps in the running game. Look for that to continue thru training camp and into the preseason. He could be a very valuable addition to the offense as a rookie.
Patriots Coaches Learn The Old Fashioned Way Under Belichick:
One of the ways that Bill Belichick likes to fill out his coaching staff is by hiring young coaching assistants. Then molding, training and develop them by increasing their responsibility by putting more and more on their plates.
This is the way everyone is trained, including Nick Caserio, Josh McDaniels, and Joe Judge who started at the bottom and worked their way up. It also includes his two sons who it seems always get mentioned it seems as benefits of nepotism more so than hard work. If one can remember back to the early days of Belichick’s reign as head coach in New England, they’ll see his sons on the sideline, charting plays and soaking in the experience, very much like Belichick learned from his father at Navy.
And one of the things at all of the young coaches get tasked to do is to learn by “padding games.” So, what the heck is “padding games” and what does it entail, you ask? Nothing nefarious (sorry BB haters).
Padding of games for Bill Belichick is about not only learning the game inside and out but more importantly for the assistants, it is learning the game thru the prism of the head coach’s eye. They learn the way that Belichick views the game and therefore they’ll be able to better support him in his game planning. That includes his sons.
Steve Belichick, the Patriots safeties coach, calls it his father’s “Football 101.”
Belichick will assign young assistants one or several games of an upcoming opponent. Then, watching the All-22 coaches tape, they will chart every snap on paper. The assistants have to chart the movement of every single player on the offense and defense on separate pieces of paper.
They must identify each player’s responsibility as well as formations, splits, routes from receivers, protection schemes and what each team is attempting to accomplish on each given play. Given that the length of games will involve so many plays, padding a single game will take from several hours (for someone who has been doing it) to several days for one game.
McDaniels, in an interview during Super Bowl week with Yahoo cited padding games for three years as instrumental in learning the intricacies of the game. “I think the most important thing young people have got to understand is, it’s not punishment,” McDaniels said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to learn how important everything is at this level.”
Thus, the assistants learn what concepts, both offensive and defensively will work against an opponent. The younger Belichick has charted hundreds of games by his own account and sees the value in it.
“You get to learn about football, different schemes, different styles of play. You understand how different and creative you can be to win … I used to get excited to pad the good teams and I learned what not to do from the bad teams.”
This is the way the assistants learn how Belichick breaks down tape and how they all get on the same sheet of music. Bill’s famous attention to detail will invariably entail numerous sticky notes on each page, identifying things missed or wrong and what the assistant has gotten right.
It is the way that the younger coaches grow and develop and gives them the attention to detail and exhaustiveness that Bill Belichick demands from himself and his assistants. There is no secret formula, it is just hard work…and doing your job.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Sticking With McCoy (for now) as Starting RB:
When the Buffalo Bills entered the offseason, many thought RB Shady McCoy had played his last game in a Bills uniform. After suffering his worst season as a pro, on the wrong side of 30 and with a lot of wear on his tires, it seemed McCoy’s days were numbered for Buffalo.
The Bills then brought in the ageless Frank Gore, to go along with T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary and fullback Patrick DeMarco. And things seemed, on the surface that McCoy was soon to be phased out. But not so fast…
GM Brandon Beane has stated all spring that entering the season, McCoy was the starting running back. Something McCoy has been quick to echo.
Perhaps with a move to the quick passing game utilizing Cole Beasley, the Bills are hoping with the addition of Gore, Yeldon, and Singletary that McCoy, with less work will rediscover his game. Holding onto him for trade value doesn’t make much sense at this point. Training camp will be interesting to watch this summer.
Dolphins’ Kendrick Norton Loses Arm in Horrific Car Crash:
The Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Kendrick Norton was seriously injured in a car crash early Thursday morning when his pickup truck crashed into a concrete barrier and ended up on its roof.
EMTs reportedly had to amputate Norton’s arm before taking him to the hospital. He also reportedly suffered head injuries but while the damage to him was very serious, he is expected to survive. His condition was upgraded to good on Saturday morning. Norton was a 7th round draft pick of the Panthers in 2018, Miami scooped him off of Carolina’s practice squad last year and was expected to compete for a roster spot with Miami in training camp.
Sources from Norton’s family said on social media that another driver, behind the wheel of a 2015 Maserati cut off Norton and caused the accident. But that hasn’t been confirmed from the Florida Highway Patrol. They have yet to issue a report. That driver who has been identified as Jessie Pena, 30, was not injured in the crash. And her car sustained minor damage.
Jets Hoping For a Big Year From Robby Anderson:
The New York Jets are hoping for bigger things from 2nd year QB Sam Darnold this fall. Adding RB LeVeon Bell to the Jets stable should definitely help take some of the pressure off of him. But beyond that, they’ll need better production from their wide receivers in 2019.
The Jets current WR depth chart includes Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jamison Crowder, Josh Bellamy, Charone Peake, Deontay Burnett, Greg Dortch, Valentine Holmes, Quadree Henderson, J.J. Jones, Jeff Smith, Tim White, and Deonte Thompson.
The first three players are locks to make the roster and they’ll need those and some of the latter wideouts to step it up this year. Barring a trade or a signing for an established wide receiver, these players, especially Robby Anderson will have to increase their production.
Both Anderson and Enunwa suffered injuries last year but should be fine come the beginning of training camp. One area where Anderson is expected to increase his production is in his usage. The Jets have used him as a deep threat mainly, however that is expected to change under Adam Gase.
With Crowder and Enunwa’s injury history, depth may be an issue, but the biggest question this summer will be, can Anderson produce in a contract year and stay out of trouble? As the #1, he’ll draw the opponent’s often best cover corner.
“There are no shortcuts to building a team each season. You build the foundation brick by brick.”Bill Belichick
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-30 and AFC East notes this week.
Jared Veldheer – retired shortly after signing with the Patriots on May 13. He recently came out and stated why in an interview he did earlier last week with MLive.
“It was easy (decision) because of knowing what my body was telling me, but it was hard because I was leaving a very good situation being with the Patriots,” Veldheer said. “(Belichick) understood, and everyone in the NFL building understands that the sport can do a number on your body and different guys have different timelines on how long they can make it through.”
Veldheer said that his hips, “Particularly my left one, was in pretty bad shape (after the season).”
DeAngelo Hall – former NFL DB was a guest on Good Morning Football and stated that Tom Brady was the best QB he ever faced and added that he didn’t have many regrets in his NFL career but one was not signing with the Patriots when they offered him a good deal but less money than he eventually signed for. The Patriots offered him 3 years and $27 million and the Redskins offered 3 years and $30 million. Hall said he now regrets not taking a little less and having a chance at a Super Bowl.
Isaiah Wynn – Is running at full speed and should be ready for training camp according to Jeff Howe of the Athletic. He reported that Wynn should be a full go at training camp which is a very good sign for the 23rd player selected in 2018 NFL Draft. And the Pats offensive line.
Patriots Charitable Foundation – Patriot Place and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care are teaming up to build an adaptive home for an American veteran. Chelsea resident Brandon Korona lost a leg to an IED in Afghanistan. On Friday morning, the Patriots invited Korona and his family to Patriot Place to break the news that the three organizations will donate $50,000 to adapt his home for his needs. WCVB Channel 5 was the first to break the news.
Rob Gronkowski – has really trimmed down since announcing his retirement from the NFL. After seeing pictures of him recently, anyone harboring hopes of a comeback from the big guy and not being realistic. And any thoughts of him joining the WWE seem far-fetched as well.
Jonah Williams – Tough to see arguably, the best OL in this year’s draft go down with an injury before training camp starts and be lost for the season. Williams tore the labrum in his shoulder and required surgery which will sideline him for the entire 2019 season. The Bengals drafted Williams in the 1st round, 11th overall in the recent draft.
Julian Edelman’s Story Goes to Showtime:
The documentary “100% Julian Edelman” went live on Showtime on Friday night and was mostly filmed during the 2017-2018 timeframe when the Patriots WR was rehabbing from his ACL surgery.
There is a lot of humor in the hour-plus long video but some serious items as well. Edelman grew up terrified of his dad, who was a demanding taskmaster of a coach and demanded the best out of his son every day. The story goes over some of the drills that his father made him perform and they weren’t easy and were designed to make him tougher mentally.
There is also a bit where Edelman talked about only being five feet tall until his senior year of high school, where he went thru a growth spurt where he grew eight inches and his football career, thanks to the hard work with his father paid off.
It delves into some interesting subjects like his PED suspension where he and his Dad didn’t speak for 81 days. Edelman says the pair speak every day and the two disagreed over how it was handled.
Edelman – Welker, Is it Really Necessary to Compare?:
We realize that it is the summer doldrums where there isn’t much shaking…news-wise for the Patriots and these things are just exercises for discussion. We get it but there comes a time when it really doesn’t do either player justice when comparing players and their production to the team.
Which brings us to the Julian Edelman – Wes Welker debate that is all over social media. Edelman, is an icon in New England now, after playing a huge roll in the last three Super Bowl wins, including Super Bowl MVP honors for SB LIII. He’s Tom Brady’s best friend and most trusted receiver.
Welker is now, unfairly remembered mostly for the one that got away. The SB XLVI catch that could have closed out the Giants. And the fact that the Patriots didn’t re-sign him in 2013 and he bolted for Denver to play for the Broncos and Peyton Manning while wearing that ginormous “Dark Helmet” piece of headgear.
But in his six years in New England, Welker was beyond productive catching 112, 111, 123, 86, 122, and 118 passes. The only season he didn’t catch over 100 passes was the 2010 season, where after tearing his ACL in January in a game against the Texans, he returned in September and still put up very good numbers; 86 passes, 848 yards with seven touchdowns.
If there was a knock on Welker, it is that his post-season numbers didn’t quite match up to his regular season excellence. But make no mistake, the numbers were still very good. But if one cares to recall, the Patriots were perhaps, too reliant on Welker, something Bill Belichick himself was recorded as saying on the sidelines. Welker in reality, despite the one pass in Super Bowl XLVI, had better hands than Edelman.
Edelman has upped his game in the post-season, especially in the Super Bowl. His three games, 9-109 and the game-winning touchdown against Seattle, in addition to that mammoth hit he took from Kam Chancellor down the middle, was the stuff of legend.
Against the Falcons, he had five catches for 87 yards, including that incredible catch in traffic at crunch time where he snagged the ball just before it hit the turf. It is one of the more iconic Super Bowl catches ever, up there with the Lynn Swann catch of the 70s.
And of course, the SB MVP game against the Rams (10 catches, 141 yards) where he was basically uncoverable the entire game. The Rams tried everyone to slow him down and no one could. For a guy who doesn’t fit the poster image as a dominant wide receiver, it was one of the most dominant wide receiver performances in the history of the Super Bowl.
Welker should receive his red jacket and his rightful place in the Hall soon. If you don’t remember how good he was, play back his very first game in a Patriots uniform. Belichick was called out by the bobos on talk radio for giving up multiple draft picks for a guy who couldn’t hack it with the Dolphins and Bolts. That first game against the Jets answered all of those questions. You could see it happening right before your eyes.
Do we really have to go thru these mental gymnastics that are all the rage over, “Is so-and-so the best ever?” Be thankful we had both, and a seamless transition between when Welker left and Edelman truly took over. The offense was different then, it evolved and has become even better than it was then. In a big game, give me either in his prime and I’m confident that I’ll win.
Attention Belichick GM Haters…PFF Has the Patriots With the Best Roster in the NFL:
The site Pro Football Focus (PFF) is bound to be taking heat amongst the Bill Belichick haters, especially among the ones that are always beating the drum that “GM Bill is hurting, Coach Bill” and that “Belichick can’t draft.” Sound familiar?
PFF put together a piece for ESPN where they compared every roster in the NFL and despite losing Trey Flowers, Trent Brown, and Adrian Clayborn in free agency and Rob Gronkowski to retirement, the Patriots still have the best roster in the league.
PFF cited the Pats strength down the middle and it begins with QB Tom Brady. Brady, according to PFF had his fourth “elite” season in a row, (oopsie to the Simms, Kellerman trolls).
Despite always picking at the bottom of every round in the NFL Draft, Belichick has put together the top roster of the league. The Rams, Saints, and Eagles round out the Top 4. PFF listed, not tight end but the pass rush as a potential weak spot…more below.
Is the Patriots Pass Rush a Worrisome Spot? Not Presently:
In the ESPN piece that was referenced above, as we said the Patriots pass rush was listed as a potential problem spot. After losing Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn during free agency, the Patriots who finished 31st in sacks in 2018 could be conceivably on the short end of the pass rush totals again this season.
Trey Flowers had 7.5 sacks but was very versatile, fulfilling a variety of roles for the defense. Clayborn had just 2.5 sacks during the regular season but upped his play in the post-season.
The post-season was a different story. The Patriots were much more aggressive and after logging just 30 sacks in 16 regular season games, they logged 10 in just three playoff tilts. And it wasn’t from one player, they got contributions from everyone. Kyle Van Noy led the team with three, while Dont’a Hightower and Flowers each had two apiece.
In the Super Bowl, quite a difference from the year before, the pass rush hounded Jared Goff all game long. The defense had 13 QB hurries, eight QB hits, and four sacks. One of the pressures on Goff resulted in Stephon Gillmore’s interception at the end of the game.
But the team didn’t stand pat and signed free agent Michael Bennett from the Eagles and then drafted Chase Winovich in the 3rd round. And if the spring workouts with the unpadded workouts and no contact are any indication, LB Jamie Collins should be in-line for some quality playing time.
Bennett, despite being 33 is still a quality pass rusher and like Flowers, has the ability to move inside and bring pressure up the middle. Winovich was somewhat of a steal, with the Patriots snagging him with the 77th overall pick. While neither has played a snap with pads on yet, this isn’t to suggest that either is a cure-all but the cupboard isn’t bare either.
Deatrich Wise can kick inside and will have to up his play this season, while John Simon, Hightower, and Van Noy all have shown the ability to rush the QB on occasion. Collins is the wild card, having had a very good spring. Will the Patriots ever reap any reward out of Derek Rivers? He lost his rookie year to a torn ACL. Last year, he didn’t show much and will be under the microscope in Year 3.
So, this will be an area to watch for sure during training camp, especially when the one-on-one battles take place between the OL and the DL. But the scheme will play a huge role as well. Will the defense continue their aggressive ways after a very successful playoff run in 2018-19?
We aren’t predicting a Top 5 sack season, but we aren’t looking for them being near the bottom either. As always, the defense will no doubt start off slowly. Bill Belichick, as always, adds elements to it as the year progresses. A weakness? Not right now it isn’t. But like every year, we’ll have to watch for injuries and players to step up first. Our view here is that the 2019 version of the defense should be much better in the pass rush department….we’ll see.
AFC East Notes will return soon….
Julian Edelman’s motto for 2019? “Just got to keep it going.” That is a good motto for the team as they try to keep “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-23 and AFC East notes this week.
Bill Belichick – and his long-time girlfriend Linda Holliday took advantage of the downtime before training camp and vacationed on one of the islands of Greece. Ms.Holiday posted some pics on her Instagram account.
Kenjon Barner – a reserve running back had three different stints with the Patriots last season before being released by the team for good in November. So, Barner was surprised when a note from Robert Kraft arrived with his Super Bowl ring.
Barner was shocked, and on his Instagram account posted this: “Just want to send out a huge thank you to everyone at the Patriots organization again for the opportunity that was given!” Barner wrote on Instagram. “Wasn’t expecting this when I got the call and still wasn’t expecting it when the ring was in my hands! Thank you, thank you, thank you, God is good!” #BacktoBack #2X
Tom Brady – and Josh Gordon took the social media pages by storm last week when the two were photographed tossing a football around at Brady’s home. With Gordon still suspended by the league, this led many to question if this was allowable under the league rules…More on these two will follow below.
Brady was also #1 in NFL royalty cash as his NFL merchandise was the top seller across the league. Not bad for a soon-to-be 42-year old “dink and dunk” QB.
Eagles – will open only one training camp practice to the public this season. They’ve been trending down the past few years and this summer will only allow fans in to see one session. Personally, I see that as a bad move. When the two teams met at Gillette for joint practices a few years ago, the place was packed and thousands of Eagles fans made the trip up for those. With the NFL pricing itself out of the range for many fans, training camp is the only time many of the fans get to see their teams up close and in person.
Bills-Patriots – Game in Buffalo this year will be the scene of a wedding. The Bills are going to host a wedding for a couple of their fans to take place at halftime when the Pats visit. That is a good move and will be a memorable way for a pair of Bills’ fans to tie the knot.
Caserio Story Takes On a Life of its Own:
The on-going saga of whether or not Nick Caserio, the Patriots Director of Player Personnel, would leave this season, seems to be over. The Houston Texans have been courting Caserio to take their GM position for some time now. But the story refuses to die and in fact has grown more legs.
As is typical for this and most stories today, a ton of people, fans and media began to comment on the story without ever reading it. Nowhere in it did Volin quote Caserio, his agent or any sources close to Caserio or the situation. He wrote it and came to his conclusions by going over the facts as he knew them and made his own analysis.
Part of the confusion was in Volin himself. His lede for the story didn’t sound like an opinion piece but rather a statement of fact. When Volin went on Houston radio the next day, he stated that it was his opinion and not a report. A firestorm erupted on social media and Volin, who is a favorite target for Patriots’ fans wrath, was being roasted.
This caused him to do a 180 and appear on WEEI on Wednesday and reverse course, stating that his piece wasn’t an opinion but in fact a report.
“Absolutely. I stand by everything that is written there. It’s all, I think, 100 percent true. Yes,” Volin said. “There’s no other way to interpret this story. The facts speak for themselves. And I know things on background. I know things about the relationship among the guys in the front office. I don’t think this will affect Nick Caserio’s job performance this year. I think he’s good at his job and doesn’t want to affect his reputation and things of that nature. But he looks around the league and he sees all these guys who are less accomplished than him getting general manager jobs, probably making more money than him. He’s been here 19 years, he’s restless. He wants to go be a general manager. And the Houston job, while I do think it’s a lateral move, is obviously a good setup for him.”
The bottom line is Volin is free to believe and write whatever he wants. No one knows more than he does, that whatever he does write will be faced with a healthy dose of skepticism by the fanbase.
But the question now is, “does Caserio truly want out?” Most people tend to believe that the answer is yes. Houston is going to carry on the 2019 season (at least for now), with no general manager, ostensibly waiting for Caserio’s contract to be over with New England in 2020.
One local radio host was so incensed at Volin’s remarks on a Houston talk show that he lambasted him for printing opinion but then decided that they would take it at face value as the “real truth” and openly called for the Patriots to trade Caserio’s rights to Houston.
And yet we still haven’t heard yet from Caserio, (the Patriots probably won’t make him available for a while) nor Caserio’s agent stating that his intent was to sign with Houston. Or that he was planning on remaining in New England. It is very surprising that neither Volin nor anyone else reached out to either the man or his agent while preparing their stories.
This much is for sure, this story, like the in-fighting supposedly between Belichick and Brady won’t die. And it will probably continue until we see either the Patriots to lock up Caserio long-term or he does indeed walk next year.
Touchdown in Israel Trip:
Patriots owner Robert Kraft has taken several more players, this year all Patriots either current or former ones on another trip to Israel. It is a unique opportunity for the players who are religious or just lovers of history, maybe both to experience all that the Holy Land has to offer.
From someone who has been there (several times), it is a beautiful and magical place. The players visited all of the well-known sites, and for the 15 players and their wives, it will no doubt be an experience they won’t soon forget.
On Thursday evening, Kraft was awarded the Genesis Prize in Jerusalem. It is known as the “Jewish Nobel” and was given to Kraft for his philanthropy and commitment to combatting anti-Semitism. Along with the award, Kraft was also awarded $1,000,000 which he further pledged to fight anti-semitism.
The players also got to see youth football up close at the fields that Kraft built in conjunction with the football officials in Israel.
Brady-Gordon Dynamic Is More About the People, Not the Players:
The pictures and a short video of Tom Brady and Josh Gordon tossing a football around last week in Brookline set social media afire for awhile. And then the story by ESPN’s Jeff Darlington which came out about the levels that Brady went to last year to help Gordon get acclimated and feel part of the team was, while intriguing, not unexpected.
Darlington on the network’s NFL Live show spoke about the commitment by Brady to help Gordon not just on the field but off of it as well.
“He recognized that Josh Gordon made the team better and recognized that he was going to need some attention,” Darlington said. “Josh Gordon was going out to dinner with Tom Brady and Gisele at times because Tom recognized that he needs to bring this guy in, foster him, make him feel like he is at home, recognizing some of the issues that Josh Gordon goes through.”
“While that is, in part, a guy just trying to get better, it’s also Tom Brady being a really good person, continuing to try to help out and manifest Josh Gordon …Tom Brady, to this day, really respects Josh Gordon and would love to see him live a better life,” Darlington added.
Recently retired QB Josh McCown echoed similar thoughts on Gordon later this week.
“I like Josh, quiet, great… guys like him,” McCown said. “Guys like to be around him, fun guy to be around. Obviously, he’s had his battles. But obviously, when you get to know him… like you’re saying Tom gets to know him… you go, ‘This is a worthy investment.’ He’s a good guy. He just has a fight that he’s fighting. I think the league and New England, they’re trying to rally around to give him the right support.”
While Gordon remains suspended by the league and there is no timetable for his reinstatement, the Patriots offered Gordon a restricted free agent tender this spring and he remains a possibility for the team to add once again this season. If the league reinstates him and he serves any penalties that they hand down.
But what this week’s story really shows that despite the fact that the player being suspended and the very real possibility that he may not play at all in 2019, the Patriots …and Brady are investing in the person. Gordon’s long-term health and well-being outweigh everything else. And that is cause for optimism.
Simms’ Ignites Social Media Over Clickbait QB Piece:
We’d be remiss without mentioning Pro Football Talk’s Chris Simms who penned his annual Top 40 QBs of the NFL. And Simms who’s made a habit out of dismissing Tom Brady out of his Top 5 NFL QBs, this year added to his annual Brady dismissal by dropping #12 all the way to #9 and with Drew Brees at #10.
And while fans went haywire, (shocked face), even Kurt Warner, a former rival, took exception to this latest drivel with “ Are u kidding me???”
Simms of course, rushed to Twitter to proclaim that this wasn’t clickbait….Um, “child please.”
So, in trying to track down all of the Simms past QB lists, I came across Mike Dussault’s column (aka @PatsPropaganda) who cataloged several of these. (Thanks Mike!)
November 2014: Tom Brady is not a Top-5 Quarterback “Tom Brady’s not in my top five. I mean, he’s still really good, but I like other guys better. I’d go Aaron Rodgers one, Andrew Luck two, Ben Roethlisberger three, Russell Wilson four and Peyton five.”
Simms went on Boston radio to explain and became the unintentionally funniest Tweet of 2014: “If Andrew Luck doesn’t throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns, they can’t win a game. He doesn’t have Jonas Gray (emphasis mine)and the offensive line the New England Patriots do where they can run for 250 yards in a game. … I don’t think anybody bears the weight of the organization on their shoulders week in and week out more than Andrew Luck.”
March 2015: Brady shouldn’t have won the Super Bowl MVP
“I don’t think he should have won the MVP, either. That’s just the way I think about it. He had a really good game against a really good defense, but he threw like 35 five-yard passes the whole game. I think in my estimation, (Julian) Edelman should have been the MVP.”
2015? Nope. Simms claimed that ever since his knee injury of 2008 his mechanics had changed and couldn’t throw deep…SMH
2016? Nope. “To say that Tom Brady is still one of the five best quarterbacks at 39 years old is a little crazy.”And this…“I do think as a sports fan, communities, all of us, people have a hard time putting these fairy tale endings to bed. Mickey Mouse isn’t real.”
So, word of advice to PatsFans out there…Ignore the noise, every year when this comes out I get a chuckle out of it, when reading the reactions on social media. Clicking on it? Nope, Simms isn’t on my list of Top 40 sportswriters/commentators to read.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Daboll/Beasley Key to the Success of Bills/Allen in 2019:
When the Buffalo Bills signed WR Cole Beasley this spring, I immediately thought of how Bills Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll would try to utilize him. The Bills are looking for much better things with both their offense as a whole and with QB Josh Allen in 2019. And the key to a big, big part of it, will probably rest with how successful and how Daboll decides to use the former Cowboys’ slot receiver.
Daboll saw firsthand how the Patriots used Julian Edelman and how Tom Brady continues to get his presnap reads with Edelman. Look for Allen to put Beasley in motion a lot this season. This will accomplish two things.
First, it will help Allen to recognize the defensive alignment. This will make his reads easier and get the ball out of his hands faster. The second thing it will do is to get Beasley a freer release, where he can become a focal point of the Bills offense, much like Edelman is here.
If Allen and Beasley can develop their chemistry and timing, much like Brady/Edelman, the Bills offense will be able to utilize the quick passing game that works the underside and middle areas of the field. I think Beasley is poised to have a really good year.
If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride – and never quit, you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards. Bear Bryant