Category Archives: Patriots Commentary

VIDEO: @FitzyGFY Presents “P.A.T.S.”

Robert Alvarez
August 22, 2017 at 11:17 pm ET

New England Patriots superfan Fitzy recaps the teams offseason acquisitions in the most informative way possible, through a parody video based upon a really bad 1980’s cartoon show entitled “M.A.S.K.”

As stated on his website townienews.com “If you love the New England Patriots and 1980s cartoons then you’ll love this retro mashup.”

Also be sure to check out Fitzy’s new Facebook Live football talk show with Mike Dussault of Pats Propaganda, the first episode of which can be found HERE.

PHOTOS: Tom Brady And Teammates View Solar Eclipse After Practice, Belichick Not Impressed

Robert Alvarez
at 12:15 pm ET

Despite the NFL’s regular season kickoff closing in at three weekends away, football took a back seat to science on Monday as the first total solar eclipse occurred across parts to North America for the first time in 39 years. Of course, unless you are living under a rock or had no access to the internet, you already knew this.

What you might not have known, was that some of your favorite members of the New England Patriots took a serious fascination to the rare space phenomenon.

After practice on Monday, the Patriots team Twitter account shared photographs of Tom Brady and a few teammates taking some time to look up at the sky and witness the moons crossing in front of the sun first hand with their own pairs of special viewing glasses.

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/899738911827689473

When asked about the eclipse, Mark Daniels of The Providence Journal stated Brady, “knew facts about the event and knew the exact time he wanted to be outside to see the moon get close to the center of the sun.”

Head Coach Bill Belichick also expressed his thoughts on the event in a way only he could, with a laugh and shrug included.

Of course, whats an eclipse without a few more 28-3 jokes?

ICYMI PHOTO: Leftover Super Bowl Confetti Discovered In Houston

Robert Alvarez
at 8:14 am ET

The New England Patriots team may be fully “on to 2017” but the cleaning crew at NRG Stadium appeared to be still stuck in February.

Over the weekend before Saturday nights game with the Texans, the Patriots team Twitter account shared the following picture of a sideline phone bank that appeared to contain leftover Super Bowl championship confetti that rained down on the stadium following James White’s winning touchdown.

As of this posting, the Super Bowl was 198 days ago so hopefully the tweet altered the attention of the Texans, and they can have that cleaned up before the season begins because those are likely some dusty phones.

In the meantime, the discovery served as one final reminder to yet another memorable championship moment for the Patriots franchise in the city of Houston. Maybe they can mail the pieces to The Hall at Patriot place?

Texans Down Patriots 27-23 in Preseason Week 2, Observations

Steve Balestrieri
August 20, 2017 at 8:15 am ET

Belichick, Patriots Playing it Close to the Vest

The Patriots wrapped up their week with the Houston Texans with a preseason game at the site where they triumphed in the Super Bowl just over six months ago. The two teams had a couple of spirited joint practices in West Virginia, a good competitive football game and they’ll meet again, for real in Week 3 of the NFL season.

There were a couple of surprises at the outset of this one. Rob Gronkowski played in a preseason game for the first time since 2012. The big man was used mainly as a blocker in the running game but as Bill Belichick said, they all need the work. Trey Flowers didn’t play, perhaps it was a coach’s decision since the team is so thin on the edge right now. Adding to that was the fact that Geneo Grissom didn’t dress, apparently suffering an injury during the joint practices on Wednesday. Our other observations from Saturday night:

  • Belichick and the team gave nothing away in this one. The offense was very conservative. No seam routes to Gronk, no deep shots to Brandin Cooks. Obviously, this has Week 3 in mind when the two teams meet again.
  • Tom Brady played a bit and looked good, completing 6-9 passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.On the Patriots second drive, he marched them down the field for a touchdown.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t have a great night, turning the ball over twice. Once on a sack where he fumbled and the other on his last pass of the night, a poor decision on the sideline that set up a Houston TD on the next snap. Overall he completed 15-23 for 145 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
  • On Garoppolo’s touchdown drive, he was sharp going 6-6 for 70 yards, topping it off with a nice 25-yard touchdown pass to  D.J. Foster.
  • Jacoby Brissett once again came on late with a chance to pull the game out and failed. He holds the ball too long (broken record here) and his accuracy is all over the place.
  • Matt Patricia’s defense had another rough game. For a team that prides itself on no big plays, they gave up plays of 33, 37 and 63 yards in Houston. Preseason or not, that is unacceptable and the defense has some work to do.
  • Malcolm Butler struggled in his first game action of the year. He gave up a deep pass on the Texans first possession where he had good coverage but when turning, didn’t jump for the ball. Later he slipped in the end zone and gave up an easy touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong.
  • Rex Burkhead had a very nice night, he was showing why the Patriots picked him up from the Bengals. On the touchdown drive with Brady, Burkhead accounted for 70 of the 75 yards. He rushed five times for 14 yards and caught four passes for 56 yards including a 22-yard touchdown.
  • Stephen Gostkowski was sharp, hitting three field goals (38, 42 and 51). The team had him kicking off out of the end zone last night, possibly to minimize the injury factor. Normally his pooch kickoffs die on about the 5-yard line.
  • The Patriots passing game is going to feature the running backs quite a bit this year as the talented wideouts clear out real estate underneath for them to operate. We’ve seen that all summer and it was in evidence last night, Burkhead, and D.J. Foster’s touchdowns were clear cases of this. Dion Lewis had some wiggle room too.
  • Fans on social media were piling on Kony Ealy on DeShaun Watson’s touchdown scamper, but that is a mismatch against a defensive lineman. Ealy had his moments but overall played well.
  • I love the way Harvey Langi plays, but he has to remain in control, a couple of times he got upfield too far and allowed the QBs to step up and run to the edge.
  • One Texan who won’t look forward to the film session for this one will be LB Zach Cunningham. He was victimized…twice on those passes to the backs and looked bad on each.
  • During the work up to the draft, I wrote about Texas now Texans running back D’Onta Foreman. I loved the physicality of the big guy and was anxious to see how he looked. He didn’t disappoint. Taking a screen pass, he easily shook off Elandon Roberts and rumbled 63 yards to set up a score. He has tremendous power inside and looks to be a nice pickup.
  • Alan Branch played a lot of snaps this week, the team obviously wanted to get him right up to speed quickly.
  • James O’Shaughnessy took over the primary 3rd TE role last night and was a frequent target of Jimmy Garoppolo. He had a good week of joint practices both on offense and STs.
  • Elandon Roberts took a shot to the ribs by teammate Jonathan Freeny on the Foreman 63-yard catch and was helped off the field. Vincent Valentine turned an ankle but was able to finish the game.

While the collective angst in New England rose perceptibly during the game because of the losing effort. It should be noted that Brady didn’t attempt a pass to Gronkowski and just one short quick out to Cooks.

The offensive line woes with Nate Solder, LaAdrian Waddle, and Tony Garcia out no doubt dictated that but it probably was more to the coaches not showing their cards too much before Week 3.

The defense, however, needs some tweaking, especially they need to improve their tackling in the open field.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 8-20, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Patriots news 8-20 and AFC East notes.  These are indeed some strange times we’re living in….nuff said.

Rivers Loss a Costly One in the Short Term: The loss of rookie Derek Rivers will be felt by the team this year, but it shouldn’t impact the team or the player long term. Most players who have ACL surgery return to being just as athletic as they were before the surgery. Rivers can use the time to be in all of the meetings and learning every nuance of the defense in the meantime. Once Wise returns from his concussion, it should help things along in the depth department. That and Dont’a Hightower once back at practice will help things immeasurably.

In the meantime, the team can look at either free agency or via a trade if they feel they have to address this loss immediately. We kicked around a few names on Friday night with our piece.  Mike Reiss also kicked around a few more names on Saturday in his regular column with a few other intriguing names.

Hold a Grudge? Bill Belichick? No Way…Unless it is the Jets:
Bill Belichick has a memory like an elephant, just sit in on one of his press conferences when the subject comes around to history and he’ll talk for a long while rattling off tidbits of information and stats that are at times…simply amazing.

He also has a long memory when it comes to people that have done him wrong. And he’s not the forgiving sort. This week during joint practices with the Texans, he was asked about his long relationship with Romeo Crennell.

“Romeo and I started together at the Giants in special teams, so he and I coached special teams together and then we coached defensively together through 1990,” he said. “We worked at the Patriots together, then another team, and then back with the Patriots in 2001.”

The other team? None other than the Jets. After he resigned as the Jets coach he was nearly accused by Jets President Steve Gutman of being off his rocker. “I think, I’m not a psychologist, but I think I just listened for an hour to a person who is in some turmoil and deserves our understanding and our consideration,” Gutman said.

Bill Belichick at Patriots training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)

That didn’t sit well with Belichick and the Eric Mangini and Spygate fiasco was the final straw. The Jets are Public Enemy #1, “He who shall not be named” and don’t forget it.

While some in the NY media think of it as petty, Belichick doesn’t care. They write about “another team.”

Former Patriot NT Lester Williams Passes Away at 58: Sad to note that former Patriots nose tackle Lester Williams has died, he was just 58. Williams played in 40 games for the Patriots from 1982-85 including a start in Super Bowl XX against the Bears. While with the Patriots, Williams logged 39 solo tackles, 60 assists, five sacks, three fumble recoveries and five passes defensed.

He was part of the deep Patriots draft class of 1982 with No. 1 overall pick, defensive end Kenneth Sims, running back Robert Weathers (second round), Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippett (second round), guard Darryl Haley (second round), wide receiver Cedric Jones (third round), linebacker Clayton Weishuhn (third round) and free safety Fred Marion (fifth round).

According to the Patriots.com, he passed away at his home. He was an All-American at Miami before joining New England.

Patriots Buy Two Planes, Air Kraft Takes Off:
The Patriots became the first NFL team to own private planes. And yes the team will travel in style, the paint job on the “Air Kraft” is phenomenal with five Lombardi trophies painted on the tail.

ESPN broke the story on Tuesday that Kraft bought two 767 Boeing wide-body jets for the  Super Bowl champions to fly in their own aircraft.

“One plane will be used as the main plane for the season, while the other will be the backup, with flight operations being run out of Providence, Rhode Island,” sources told ESPN.

The planes, which have reportedly been retrofitted with all first-class seats, will be run out of Rhode Island.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills McDermott Voices Confidence in Tyrod Taylor at QB:
After two weeks of the preseason, new Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott probably didn’t envision himself answering questions to who his starting quarterback is going to be, but after a slow, uneven start to the summer, Tyrod Taylor hasn’t been particularly impressive which adds to the questions. But after McDermott left open a potential QB competition on Thursday, a day later he rallied around his starter.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Tyrod,” McDermott said. “By no means was that meant to come across that way.”

“Tyrod’s going to start for us this week, and I look forward to him getting back on track. There’s plays that he wanted back from last night among other players as well. That said, there were good moments in the game. We continue to evolve as an offense. That’s the second game. Keeping big picture perspective in mind, we have to do some things to get the offense on track. There’s no doubt about it.”

Miami Adds Depth to Linebacking Core, Signs Rey Maualuga:
The Dolphins, needing depth at the LB position after Raekwon McMillan was lost to IR with an injury have signed veteran Rey Maualuga to a one-year deal. Maualuga, 30, spent the last eight years for the Cincinnati Bengals.

He signed a deal for the veteran minimum of $900,000 which means he’ll count only for $615,000 against the salary cap.

Maualuga will be counted on to be a two-down run-stuffing linebacker who will come off the field in obvious passing situations for the Dolphins defense. He brings a veteran’s savvy and an element of toughness with him which should help. Miami’s defensive coordinator Matt Burke was Maualuga’s position coach in Cincinnati.

Jets Sign WR Kenbrell Thompkins, Waive Safety Middleton:
The New York Jets, in need of depth at wide receiver, have brought back Kenbrell Thompkins who played for Gang Green in 2015. To make room for him, they waived/injured safety Doug Middleton.

Thompkins was signed by the Patriots as a UDFA in 2013 and played for them before being waived in 2014. He then played for the Jets in 2015 and caught 17 passes for 165 yards (9.7 yards per catch) in seven games.

The 6’0, 195-pound wide receiver from Cincinnati had his most memorable moment as a member of the Patriots in 2013. Trailing 27-23 with 10 seconds left on the New Orleans Saints 17-yard line, Thompkins beat Jabari Greer down the sideline and in the end zone, corralled Tom Brady’s throw with just 5 seconds on the clock for the game-winning score.

For his career, Thompkins has played in 33 games (17 starts) with 70 receptions for 893 yards (12.8 yards/catch) and four touchdowns.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Texans Preseason Game #2, What to Watch For

Steve Balestrieri
August 19, 2017 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots and Texans have finished their joint practices and meet in Houston on Saturday night at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. local time) for the second preseason game of the 2017 Patriots schedule.

The game will be broadcast on CBS with Dan Roche, Christian Fauria and Matt Chatham (sidelines) on the call. It will also be live on NFL Game Pass and on 98.5 the Sports Hub, the Patriots flagship station with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

After a couple of spirited and tough practices against the Texans this week in West Virginia, the teams meet in a preseason game before doing it for real in Week 3 in Foxboro. Here are some of the things we’ll be watching for.

Brady and the Healthy Starters Making an Appearance: Last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Patriots sat 40 of their veteran players as well as some hurt ones. It would be difficult to imagine them sitting again and then having to play two + quarters against the Lions next week in the tune-up for the regular season.

So this will be the first chance we get to see guys like Brandin Cooks and Rex Burkhead on the offense and established veterans like Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and James White will get to strut their stuff with Brady. I still don’t expect to see Rob Gronkowski this week.

On the defense, that means seeing Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler at corner this week with Pat Chung and Devin McCourty at safety. None of whom played a week ago. David Harris should see some action at middle linebacker tonight as well.

The Offensive Line Will Have Their Hands Full: The Patriots know full well how tough the Texans front seven on defense is. They gave them all they could handle in the divisional playoff game in Foxborough last year. The joint practices were much more of the same. On Tuesday, the Texans defense carried the day, leading Brady to get heated on the sidelines. They were better on Wednesday but look for Houston to get after whoever is under center.

Nate Solder, Tony Garcia, and LaAdrian Waddle are banged up and won’t play. That leaves Cameron Fleming protecting Brady’s blind side over left tackle. The team kept a running back in, right behind the left tackle to help out this week. When Brady is in, expect to see James White or Burkhead doing much the same thing.

Whitney Mercilus, J.J. Watt, Jadevon Clowney et.al had a good week going against the Patriots offensive line during the joint practices. They’ll be looking to set the tone early by doing the same. The offensive line will have to give Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo the time to find the receivers. With that in mind, our next key to watch…

Patriots Wide Receivers Keeping the Pressure On: During training camp thus far this summer, the Patriots wide receivers have looked like a pretty dominant group. The versatility and depth make this unit fun to watch. This week will be our first chance to see them on the field together. Brady already has great chemistry with the likes of Edelman, Hogan and Danny Amendola. He’s approaching that (in practice) with Cooks who has been explosive this summer.

While Houston’s front seven is a dominant type of group, the secondary has some question marks. At corner, they lost A.J. Boyue who effectively shut down half of the field in the divisional playoff game in January. And at safety is the Texans position of concern. They’re still searching for answers there besides Andre Hal who wasn’t terrific a year ago. If there is a chance to stretch the field tonight, look for Brady to do so with either Cooks or Hogan.

Once the starters give way, guys like Devin Lucien, Austin Carr and TE Jacob Hollister will be looking to continue their hot summers. All three would be, in a different time frame, in a great position to make the roster. With the depth in place, all three are having to make strides to make the 53-man cut down in two weeks.

Patriots Edge Pressure, Where Does It Come From: We’ve mentioned the Texans front seven which is excellent and now the flip side. With the injuries to the two rookie draft picks, the Patriots are thin on the edge. Dont’a Hightower won’t play, so that leaves the team even thinner. Where does the edge pressure come from?

This will probably be a question we’ll ask every week, but for now, veteran Trey Flowers who led the team down the stretch a year ago will be the guy who is expected to provide the most pressure. Look for the team to employ LBs Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin in more of a rush mode beginning this week. Rookie Harvey Langi, who is having a very solid camp will no doubt be tasked to do more of the same.

One area where the team can help the edge players is to push the pocket from the inside where the Texans QBs, Tom Savage and DeShaun Watson can’t step up. That will fall to guys like Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler, the rookie UDFA who is stepping up his game.

Bottom of the Roster Players Have a Great Chance to Shine: With the Patriots 90-man roster as deep as we’ve seen it in many years, the players who round out the Patriots roster will have a chance to strut their stuff against a playoff team from 2016 in the Texans. And that includes a couple of players who didn’t have their best moments against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.

Cyrus Jones struggled mightily on defense, and he’s clearly over-thinking things back there. That is something that has to be remedied. In essence, he’s the #5 corner, so he’s not expected to play much on defense. But he can’t let it affect his play in the return game. And he was lackluster there a week ago, tonight is a prime opportunity to erase those bad feelings.  If he fails there, the Patriots have options. Both Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis are waiting in the wings if called. Time to step it up.

Elandon Roberts and Jordan Richards both struggled a week ago, Roberts was reaching and filled the wrong gaps and Richards’ deficiencies in speed were put on display as well as taking a very poor angle on a 79-yard touchdown run. Both need to step up their game.

As we mentioned above, the young receivers, Lucien, Carr, and Jacob Hollister have another prime opportunity to impress the coaches. Adam Butler and Conor McDermott on the offensive and defensive lines, respectively are players to watch tonight.

 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Derek Rivers Injury Leaves Patriots Thinner On the Edge, Options?

Steve Balestrieri
August 18, 2017 at 8:39 pm ET

The Patriots got more bad news this summer as rookie edge player Derek Rivers has torn his ACL and will be lost for the season. It was a tough blow for the rookie who was injured conducting kickoff drills during joint practices with the Texans on Wednesday and was sent home for further evaluation.

Rivers was the Patriots top pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and up until his injury the other day, been coming on as he grew accustomed to the speed and physicality of the NFL. His play has been much better lately and now, like Trey Flowers in his rookie season, he’ll watch the season on the sideline.

But now the big question is, where does the team go from here? With the loss of Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich from last year’s team, they were thin on the edge. Now they’re dangerously so. With Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy and Geneo Grissom the only healthy players at the present with experience, the pressure on the edge will have to come from somewhere. The good news is that rookie edge player Deatrich Wise should be back to practice soon after the team returns from Houston. He was kicked in the head during the first preseason game and suffered a concussion. At the time of his injury, he was having a very impressive summer. The team is obviously hoping that this injury won’t set back his progress. The team can look for upgrades in three places. Internally, via free agency and also trades.

Internal Options: The Patriots like to operate out of flexible and changing front, which is why Bill Belichick doesn’t like to classify anything as a 4-3 or 3-4. Rivers was a good fit for this as he could switch between a standup OLB and a hand in the dirt DE. With David Harris on the roster at MLB, the Patriots could use Dont’a Hightower at OLB who could help with the pressure. He’s been very effective as that.

Other linebackers that the team picked up last year, Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin have both been defensive ends or blitzed off the edge. Each could be tasked to help in that area. This injury may open the door for a guy like Adam Butler, an interior player who has shown the ability to create some pressure inside. He and Lawrence Guy, are 300 pounders who can play anywhere along the line but may be used as interior pass rushers.

Another rookie who has been turning heads is Harvey Langi. The UDFA has been both a stand up inside LB and a blitzer off the edge. He played DE in his senior year of college. He’s another guy who could conceivably fit the bill as an edge rusher. The internal options point to more of a three-man front look or a 3-4. But they can also look elsewhere.

Free Agency and/or Trade: We’ve seen in the past that Bill Belichick isn’t shy about pulling off trades during the season, Akiem Hicks, Akeem Ayers, and Van Noy a year ago are just some of the players that he’s picked up who played big roles for the team.

One of the biggest names out there is Dwight Freeney the former Patriots nemesis with the Colts who played a nice role with the Falcons a year ago. Freeney still showed he had what it took as he had seven QB hurries and a sack of Tom Brady in Super Bowl LI. At age 37, he’s no spring chicken but could be a sub-package pass rusher where he could still be effective.

Jared Odrick is a guy the Pats had in this spring for a physical, which he passed after a shoulder injury shelved him in 2016. He’s another one of those interior type pass rushers though so it would be interesting if they kick the tires on him.

Another name surfacing on social media is Mario Williams. There’s never been a question about his talent. His desire is another matter. Williams’ drive and motivation have been called into question the last few years. I highly doubt that Belichick would take a chance on wasting time with Williams if he wasn’t going to go all in. That would take a selling job not seen since Seward bought Alaska for a song.

On the trade front, there are a couple of guys out there who would be intriguing. But perhaps the most would be Za’Darius Smith of the Ravens. This possibility was first mentioned by Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit and one we’d agree with…Baltimore is another question. Smith had a solid rookie season but is being phased out of the defense as the Ravens invested heavily in the edge this spring. Baltimore needs tight end help, could one of the three Patriots TEs competing for the #3 spot be of interest to Ozzie Newsome? It would be an interesting fit. He’s 6’4, 275-pounds and about the approximate size of Wise. With him on the outs in Baltimore, he may be available…if the price is right.

While I wouldn’t be surprised if they kicked the tires on a free agent, I think Belichick may decide to fill the position from within. One dark horse that we didn’t mention is DE Keionta Davis. Davis was signed just recently and the Patriots may be stashing him on the roster for down the road, future use. He’s an athletic 6-3, 271-pound edge rusher who, if healthy, can help the team out. But our best bet here….most of the slack they may try to fill internally.

Which probably means Freeney signs about two minutes after this is posted…

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 3.0 – More Questions Emerge

Steve Balestrieri
August 15, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 3.0 – More Questions Emerge

As we’ve been saying all summer, the New England Patriots will have many difficult decisions to make when the final 53-man cut down is due in September. There is still plenty of time, joint practices, and three preseason games to go before their hand is forced.

With some injuries cropping up and some uninspired play at some spots, there are a few more questions that are emerging, as it is always is, when dealing with training camp. Thru the first several weeks, we’ve seen some very good competition and some players are going to make Bill Belichick’s decision a very tough one.

So we’ll take our third crack at the roster here on Sunday night with time to digest and re-watch the Jaguars game.

First up is the offense…

OFFENSE (25)
QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

Bubble: None
New England has first world problems at QB, do they keep two or three. All three have won games for the franchise and the feeling here is they continue with the same trio.

The Patriots are set at QB with Tom Brady and Jimmy G. Jacoby Brissett is the insurance. (SBalestrieri photo)

Brady has had a typical Brady summer, that is, he’s been excellent. He’s sharp, always has laser focus and shows no sign of falling off that cliff everyone else in the NFL keeps predicting since 2008 and keeps praying for. His arm strength is still there and he has hummed in a few fastballs into tight coverage. No worries with #12.

Jimmy Garoppolo has had a typical Jimmy G. summer as well. Very inconsistent practices and a very solid, if not spectacular game performance against Jacksonville. He didn’t push Brady as some envisioned this summer, but the team is in good hands if disaster should befall Brady during the season. Brissett is a different story. He’s been a disappointment this summer. I expected a much bigger jump and despite what some of the media wrote about on Thursday, I thought his performance, going against many of the Jags who won’t make their team, was subpar. Could the Pats go with two QBs and save a guy like Carr? Maybe, but I think Brissett stays.

RUNNING BACK (5): James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James Develin

Bubble: D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden, Glenn Gronkowski, LeShun Daniels
No changes here, I really love the way the offense looks with the top four backs with White, Lewis, Gillislee, and Burkhead. Burkhead has been exciting to watch and with the additions at wide receiver, the Patriots will have lots of acreage for the backs to operate out of the backfield. There are a few minor injuries, Gillislee with a balky hamstring but it should be fine by the opener.

Brandon Bolden is on the bubble but has had a nice summer. (SBalestrieri photo)

Bolden has stepped in, in his absence and played well. He’s a core STs guy so, Belichick could make a cut somewhere else and keep him around. Ditto for D.J. Foster, a guy I really like. Daniels and Baby Gronk are practice squad candidates.

TIGHT END (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister

Bubble: Matt Lengel, Sam Cotton, James O’Shaughnessy
Just when you thought that Gronk may be hurting a little, he puts on a demonstration, like he did against Jax during joint practices. He was vintage Gronkowski and lit them up to the tune of seven TDs during practice.

Allen is an established veteran and the talk of his being cut earlier this summer, ….sorry I wasn’t buying it then or now. He’s an excellent blocker and can threaten the seams, he’s not a Gronkowski, but then again, who is?

Hollister steps up to the big table after a very impressive performance against the Jaguars. He’s not a big bodied blocker but as a move tight end, he showed he can go deep down the seams, has outstanding hands and can make plays even when taking some hits. He also needs to be better as a blocker but is getting a lot of STs reps. O’Shaughnessy and Lengel are by no means out by any means, and they’ll have to step up their game.

One thing to keep in mind, the two above players are more big blockers than receivers. Do the Patriots want another big body with the weapons they already have or another big target in the passing game? They could always keep a guy like LaAdrian Waddle around and let Hollister play more of a move-TE, in the mold of he who shall not be named.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Austin Carr

Bubble: Devin Lucien,Cody Hollister, Tony Washington, K.J. Maye
For the record, I love the job Austin Carr is doing so far in training camp. He’s done everything that they’ve asked from him and has outstanding hands. He doesn’t look like a rookie trying to earn his way onto the roster. But the problem is once again, do they keep a 6th WR plus Matthew Slater and make a cut elsewhere? As much as I like Lucien, he hasn’t done enough to unseat any of the veterans.

The only way I can see him being on the roster in September is if injuries occur. Slater is banged up right now, if he ends up on IR (who knows?), then it may open the door for these guys.

Julian Edelman has had an excellent training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)

But this WR group is going to be fun to watch. With this group, Gronkowski at TE and the backs in the passing game it will be a pick your poison type of game plan.

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (4): David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras
Bubble: Jason King, James Ferentz, Chase Farris

Center David Andrews and guards Mason and Thuney were all starters last year, are locked and playing well. Karras has outplayed Ferentz …so far but not by a lot. He may end up as being a primary practice squad candidate.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4):  Nate Solder, Antonio Garcia, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming

Bubble: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Max Rich, Andrew Jelks
Here’s where things get interesting. Solder has been hurt, and nobody filling in for him has done the job particularly well. And now Garcia is hurting. This will be something to monitor in the next two weeks to see if the injuries persist, then the team could make a move for a veteran.

But for now, I’m sticking with the same group. If the team decides to cut from elsewhere, Waddle could find his way onto the roster for sure. McDermott is a prime candidate for the practice squad. He’s done well in practice. But in the joint practices with the Jaguars and the preseason game, he didn’t fare well. It will be a big week for him in Houston.

Next up in the defense.

DEFENSE (22):
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, Lawrence Guy,

Bubble: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta, Adam Butler
With Alan Branch on PUP and probably coming off of that after this week, Lawrence Guy has stepped up and played very well. He’s an established veteran who is versatile and tough. He’s going to be a solid addition.

Butler has stepped up and played very well this summer showing good penetration and toughness on the inside. He’s a great candidate for the practice squad if he’s cut and for the 53 if someone were to go down with an injury. Hamilton and Kilgo have always played well but not enough to unseat anyone.

EDGE RUSHER (4): Kony Ealy, Trey Flowers, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise,

Bubble: Geneo Grissom, Caleb Kidder, Keionta Davis
Depth has become an issue here. Wise was stepping up and playing some outstanding football the first two weeks but now has a concussion. He’ll be out for the next week and we’ll see if this sets back his progression. Rivers started slowly but has picked up his game as he’s adjusted to NFL speed.

The Patriots will rely on young guys, such as Deatrich Wise and Kyle Van Noy to supply pressure from the edge. (SBalestrieri photo)

So what’s up with Ealy? Nearly everyone has him being cut. I don’t. And I’ll tell you why. Has he been disappointing so far? Yes. But the team has asked him to do a lot of different things, things he was never asked to do in Carolina. He’s by no means a lock but I don’t see them cutting him. Especially since Grissom, who is very athletic and a very good STs player can’t seem to make an impression at the edge.

I really liked Davis during the pre-draft process and had him to NE in one of our Mock Drafts. If he’s healthy I like him to compete for a practice squad spot.

LINEBACKER (6): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi

Bubble: Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates, Brooks Ellis
I’ve been intrigued with Langi who the team has moved around and asked to do a bunch of different things. So far, I’ve been very impressed and think he’s approaching a lock status. There are no worries about the top unless an injury crops up.

Roberts to me is firmly on the bubble and it is neck and neck between him and Freeny. I know fans are enamored with his downhill “thumper” style but he’s a liability in coverage and as shown as Jacksonville, frequently guesses the wrong gap or overplays the run and is out of position. See those big holes (79-yard TD run) the other night? That is from the Mike being out of position.

CORNERBACK (5): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones

Bubble: Justin Coleman, DJ Killings, William Likely, Kenny Moore
The top four are locked and cocked and ready for the season. Gilmore and Butler are a dynamic and intriguing duo. Rowe and Jones (Jonathan) have split the duties for the slot corner and all four have played very solidly this summer. No worries there. If someone goes down, would they trust Jones (Cyrus) back there? Not so much.

Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore have been excellent for the the team this summer. (SBalestrieri photo)

He’s hanging on to his roster slot by a sliver right now over Coleman and Moore who has been outstanding at times this camp. Jones only saving grace is the fact that he looks like the Patriots #1 return man right now. But he didn’t look good on Thursday night doing that either. Bill Belichick has never cut a guy before season 2 with his draft position. But the ice is getting mighty thin ….

SAFETY (3): Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon

Out:  Jordan Richards, David Jones, Damarius Travis, Jason Thompson
The top three of Chung, McCourty, and Harmon have been solid and are locked. The team has depth for those two with Nate Ebner and Brandon King who are mainly special teamers and will be carried down there.

Very disappointing summer for David Jones. When the team signed him, I thought he had a good chance to make an impact. His limited play in minicamp magnified that. But he’s yet to take the field. Jordan Richards? After a nice start to summer, he’s reverted to what he’s done in the first two years. His lack of top end speed and stiffness makes him a liability. His performance on Thursday was a harbinger of things to come. He’s not long for the roster.

Jordan Richards? After a nice start to summer, he’s reverted to what he’s done in the first two years. His lack of top end speed and stiffness makes him a liability. His performance on Thursday was a harbinger of things to come. He’s not long for the roster.

SPECIAL TEAMS (6): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Brandon King, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner

Out: None
A good solid group who have had a good camp thus far. Gostkowski still seems a tad shaky me on his field goals/extra points but his kickoffs are outstanding at getting the team great field position on defense. Allen has had a very strong camp. Slater is dinged up right now but the other three of Cardona, King and Ebner are outstanding STs performers.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 8-13, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 13, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 8-13, & AFC East Notes.

The Patriots signed former defensive lineman Vince Wilfork to a one-day contract so that he could retire as a Patriot. Or as Robert Kraft put it in his remarks, “A Patriot for Life.” The respect he has around these parts is off the charts, both on and off the field.

Wilfork and his wife Bianca (AKA Mrs 75) were great representatives not only for the team but for the region with their charitable endeavors and the interaction with the fans. The most emotional part of his retirement ceremony was his mention of his parents, who both passed away before they could see him live his dream of playing in the NFL. We hope to see lots of them around here in the future. Red and gold jackets await in the future…we’re calling it early.

Goodell Shows Up for the Preseason Opener in a Pre-emptive Strike:
How ‘bout dem apples? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell just took the drama out of his opening night appearance in Gillette Stadium by showing up at the Jaguars preseason game. The Commish then posed for pictures with a couple of surprised Patriots fans who probably seemed as shocked to see him as the rest of us that he was there.

It kinds of renders the entire clown-nose shirt thing moot. However, I’m sure that will still go on as planned but it seems like a day late and a dollar short now. Smart move by Goodell.

The backlash against the three guys who posed with Goodell has gone, predictably over the top with the reaction of many on social media. These guys were surprised as they were walking to their seats by an NFL staffer who asked them to take a picture. Less than 30 seconds later it is all over social media, posted by the league.

They were no doubt lubing up in the pregrame tailgate, got surprised and used as pawns by a slick NFL staffer in this deal and were taken advantage of, Case closed… We’re on to Houston.

Jerry Jones Furious…Over “no evidence” and Suspension of Elliott:
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is fighting mad and he isn’t going to take it anymore…or is he? When the ongoing fiasco with the investigation of Ezekiel Elliott a while back, there were serious questions about whether the alleged abuse ever happened. Jones, the Cowboys owner rushed to his RB’s defense and said there was “no evidence” that anything took place.

Ah, but the workings of the good folks at Park Avenue look at things differently. Evidence, schmevidence. The NFL slapped a six-game ban on Elliott for allegedly abusing his girlfriend. The fact that the same league only suspended Giants kicker Josh Brown for one game last year, when a mountain of evidence, including NFL security personnel who had to separate Brown from his wife at the Pro Bowl speaks volumes about the consistency of their punishments.

Jones won’t get any sympathy in these parts. He was practically giddy about the suspension of Tom Brady and spoke highly about the job Goodell was doing and he supported his decision-making in these matters…OOPS.

Patriots – Texans Joint Practice/Preseason Games to Have Different Vibe:
In a strange scheduling of events this summer, the Patriots and Texans meet in the second preseason game and then will lock horns for real in the third week of the NFL season on September 24 at Gillette Stadium.

As a result, the workouts and the preseason will look a bit different when the two teams meet this week. Expect both teams to be really cagey and play their cards close to their vest as they will have Week 3 in mind.

Defensive End Depth Addressed As Pats SIgn Keionta Davis:
The injury sustained by Deatrich Wise when he got kicked in the head on Thursday night against the Jaguars highlighted the need for some depth at defensive end. Wise suffered a concussion and is expected to miss at least a week. Kony Ealy has struggled somewhat in the early going, so the team went out and signed DE Keionta Davis, the UDFA from Chattanooga. In a corresponding move, the team released DB Dwayne Thomas.

Davis was an All-America defensive end who had 31 sacks in college, including 10.5 in 2016. He was thought to be a mid-to-late round draft selection before he was found to have a bulging disc in his neck that he never knew about or affected his play and went undrafted. We even had him in one of our Mock Drafts this spring.

The 6’3, 271-pound Davis, if healthy, he has good initial explosion, has the ability to shoot the gap inside and influence the play and has quick, violent hands that can free him from the offensive lineman’s grasp. He is still a bit raw but has the size and strength to play on the edge in a 4-3 scheme.

Hollister and Carr Make the Most of Their Opportunities Against Jax:
A couple of the bright spots for the Patriots this week against the Jaguars was the play of both WR Austin Carr and TE Jacob Hollister who took advantage of the starters resting to put forth some very solid efforts in their first NFL action.

Carr led the Big 10 in receiving last season but went undrafted. He’s had some very good moments during the early going of training camp, showing some outstanding hands and good quickness off the line.

We got the chance to interview Hollister in a one-on-one opportunity during the first week of training camp and you can take another look at that here: He’s more of a move tight end than a traditional inline blocker but he has good speed to attack the seams, has good hands and has been a productive player in college.

Both have uphill climbs to make the 53-man roster, the WR position is very deep and there are two tight ends already locked into the roster. Will Hollister have enough to unseat the others for the #3 TE spot? We’ll see but neither did anything to hurt their chances with solid performances on Thursday night.

The sequence of a Great Catch:
We normally look at a big play during practice or a game and watch the video of a player making a great catch or a run. On Monday, Chris Hogan had arguably the play of the day with a great catch down the sideline on a perfectly thrown ball by Tom Brady. Instead of video we had our sequence of still photos that show how Hogan gets just the slightest of separation and then leaps up to come down with the ball.

Just something a little different this week. Check them out.

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Trade Two of the Best Players Away:

The Buffalo Bills in a stunning move traded star WR Sammy Watkins and CB Ronald Darby in a three team deal with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Rams.

Watkins who is in the final year of his rookie contract and a 6th round draft pick goes to LA for CB E.J. Gaines and a 2nd rounder. Darby the starter at corner goes to the Eagles for WR Jordan Matthews, a versatile, productive WR, also in the final year of his rookie contract.

While these moves may potentially weaken the Bills in the short term, they look to be in better shape down the road, for 2018 and beyond. Matthews has made his living operating out of the slot the past three years and will automatically become the #1 target for QB Tyrod Taylor in the Bills offense.

Tannehill to Cutler Isn’t a Step Up for the Dolphins:
“Just when I thought I was out…they pulled me back in.” Michael Corleone GFIII The Miami Dolphins signed Jay Cutler after QB Ryan Tannehill was injured in a non-contact injury during training camp, in what will probably be an end to his time in Miami. Tannehill hasn’t become the QB that the Dolphins hoped he would, but after surrounding him with a lot of talent this season, the hopes were that he’d make a jump in play this year.

Tannehill has weathered a lot in his time, different offenses and offensive coordinators every year, a sieve of an offensive line at times, and even the barbs of social media from the wife of a teammate. We never thought he’d be the franchise QB there, but in our humble opinion, he’s a better deal than Cutler.

As soon as this deal was made, many in social media were lauding this move as Miami “making a step up” at the QB position. Over who? Matt Moore the backup? I could accept that, but Cutler isn’t a better QB than Tannehill in the Dolphin’s system. I’m not buying that…at all. If so, Miami had plenty of opportunities to make that move back in March and give Cutler (who played for Adam Gase) the benefit of an entire offseason program.

Cutler is the perennial tease. Everywhere he’s gone he’s hailed as a savior upon arriving and shown the door down the road with no one sad to see him go. Miami isn’t going to end any differently. Is he better than the scrappy Matt Moore? Maybe, and then only marginally so. Caveat emptor Miami, (Let the buyer beware). Come on, Rook. Show us that million-dollar arm, ’cause I got a good idea about that five-cent head of yours.” Crash Davis in Bull Durham.

Decker Returns to the Jets Stadium, in a Titans uniform:

The New York Jets released Eric Decker this spring in the Great Purge that hasn’t been seen since the days of Joseph Stalin and the USSR in the 1930s. The Jets cleaned house and let go a plethora of stars for the team. Decker who went thru OTAs with the team was coming off of an injury plagued season in 2016 that eventually landed him on IR requiring shoulder and back surgeries.

He was very productive in 2015 with 80 catches, for 1027 yards and 12 touchdowns as the #2 WR to Brandon Marshall, who was also released. Jace Amaro, the Jets 2nd round bust TE who was released in 2016 will also suit up for Tennessee.

Did the Jets cut Decker too soon? Looking at their current crop of WRs especially after the injury to Quincy Enunwa, it appears so. So we’ll be watching Decker this summer and into the regular season. If he’s healthy, he’ll help resurgent Titans team. And the Jets? They’ll be setting their sights on the #1 pick in the NFL Draft for 2018.

 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

After The Patriots Recent Success, It’s About Championships, Not Perfection

Bob George
August 12, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Of course you would love to see the Patriots shut up the 1972 Miami Dolphins and put a stop to those stupid parties they have when the last NFL team loses its first game in any given year.

The Super Bowl Champion Patriots came excruciatingly close ten years ago. Bringing an unthinkable 18-0 record into Super Bowl XLII against the six-seed New York Giants, the Patriots saw their perfect season go up in flames in Glendale, Arizona. A sick catch by David Tyree, an even sicker missed interception by Asante Samuel, arguably the worst game of Logan Mankins’ career, Ellis Hobbs being in man coverage at the worst possible time, all these factors added up to a 17-14 Giant win, and 18-0 became 18-1 for posterity.

It was revealed later in several reports that the Patriots were unusually tight for that game, with the pressure of finishing the year 19-0 seemingly getting to many of them. The fact that the two teams played a few weeks prior didn’t help the Patriots’ cause, as it was the Giants the Patriots beat to up their record to 16-0 in the regular season finale in the Meadowlands. Following that, the postseason wins over Jacksonville and San Diego were both sloppy and fraught with mistakes. The Chargers were without LaDainian Tomlinson and both Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers were hurt, but the Patriots only won by 9 at home to advance to the ill-fated Super Bowl.

The 2007 Patriots were fun to watch, until the rest of the league figured them out. It began with a tough Sunday night win at home against Philadelphia. The late Eagle defensive coordinator Jim Johnson showed how you could deal with the high octane Patriot offense. A backup quarterback, Jay Feely, showed how you could attack the Patriot secondary. The rest of the season from that point on was anything but dominating, but the team kept winning right up until the final game.

Sorry, but the one thing you remember from that team is not the fact that they went 16-0. The one thing you remember is the Super Bowl loss. It remains the most devastating loss in franchise history.

So, you really want to go through this again in 2017?

It took garrison finishes and history-making moments, but the Patriots have won two of the last three Super Bowls. They will try and duplicate their 2001-04 run of three titles in four seasons with a win this year. Malcolm Butler and James White made the plays that Rodney Harrison, Samuel and Hobbs could not. The Patriots now stand unchallenged as the best dynasty in NFL history, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are now unchallenged GOATs at their respective positions, and the two wins have more or less relegated the two Super Bowl losses to the Giants to the dustbin of Patriot history.


Brady and Belichick have achieved legendary status after two incredible careers.

In both the 2014 and 2016 seasons, the Patriots won the whole thing without going undefeated. There isn’t a Patriot fan claiming sanity that would trade these two title-winning seasons for a few more 16-0 seasons that go up in flames in the postseason. Winning the Super Bowl is what it’s all about, first and foremost.

Miami loves to continue to gloat over 1972. This writer saw that team live and firsthand, when they came to Schaefer Stadium on December 3, 1972 and beat the then-hapless Patriots, 37-21. Earlier in the season, on November 12, the Dolphins spanked the Patriots in the Orange Bowl, 52-0. The Dolphins ran up a 14-0 record against a schedule that was below .500 in aggregate strength of schedule. They won a Super Bowl against Washington that they almost gave away thanks to a hideous decision by kicker Garo Yepremian. But they did finish 17-0. There was no 19-0 in 1972.

Since then, Miami won the next year in Houston against Minnesota, and have won none since. They lost Super Bowl XIX to San Francisco in the heralded Dan Marino vs Joe Montana matchup. But that’s been it for the Fish. All these parties the 1972 Dolphins have look silly and ridiculous given that they have done next to nothing special in the ensuing years, while the Patriots are now looked at in a much better light than those undefeated clubs were then.

As Belichick loves to say, stats are for losers. 18-1 is one of them. One stat isn’t, that being their number of championships. How the Patriots get to that championship moment is immaterial, as long as they get there. Winning the Super Bowl is the only thing that matters. Going 19-0 in the process may be too much to ask for any team. The “any given Sunday” maxim is real. Some team will rise up and play out of their minds, or your team will simply hit a wall. But as long as you win in the end, the one or two hiccups along the way are completely irrelevant.

Now, if the Patriots should actually pull it off this year and run the table, that will really be something to cheer about. But it may be too hard to pull off, and Patriot Nation will gladly “settle” for a sixth Super Bowl title in an imperfect regular season. Watching Roger Goodell hand Bob Kraft still another Vince will be just as sweet, to quote the owner, whether the team lost four games, two games, or no games.

It all kicked off Thursday night. Nobody of consequence got hurt, everybody got their work in, and now they’ll move on to the second preseason game. Let’s see Brandin Cooks in a real game. Austin Carr gave us a glimpse of that guy that everyone was raving about. Can David Harris make up for the sudden retirement of Rob Ninkovich? And can Jimmy Garoppolo build off another strong night and continue to prove he could be the future?

Let’s keep the eye on the prize, and leave undefeated seasons for guys like Nick Saban and Geno Auriemma.