Category Archives: Patriots Commentary

Slow Your Roll on the Patriots WRs… There’s a Long Way to Go

Steve Balestrieri
August 21, 2019 at 8:34 am ET

Social media was abuzz yesterday after and many Patriots fans were as happy as Christmas morning when the images of Josh Gordon stretching at practice and Demaryius Thomas in full uniform, off of PUP. With Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry also back at practice, the wide receiver position and situation was now much rosier and many folks were already checking flight availability to Miami in early February. Let’s just pump the brakes on that just yet. 

We’re always glass-half-full types here and if there is anything that the past two decades have taught us is they always, always get things figured out. Which is why we weren’t in full-blown panic mode a week ago when the same social media mavens were decrying Bill Belichick for leaving the cupboard bare when Tom Brady was throwing to Gunner Olszewski early in the joint practice with the Titans.

Now with the risk of sounding like Debbie Downer here, we’ll try to explain our “cautious optimism” when it comes to the receiver group. Having Edelman, Gordon, Harry, Thomas, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Maurice Harris, and Braxton Berrios at the position is certainly cause for optimism, and if it were 2012, I’d be calling friends in Florida and preparing them for houseguests in February. But it isn’t and I’m not ready to do that… just yet.

Gordon The Most Physically Gifted But Flawed WR:

Gordon’s talent is still undeniable, he showed that last year where he came in and produced at a very good level. And there is no reason to doubt that at age 28 that physically he couldn’t produce the same or even more if he plays 16 games. But he hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year of 2012. 

His issues have always been off the field and even with a great deal of support from the Patriots last season, his demons resurfaced and he once again found himself suspended by the league. While we certainly don’t want to see him backslide, more from a personal than a football standpoint, counting on him for an entire season is something the team can’t afford to do.

The Patriots made it clear that although they’d welcome him back [and gave him a tender], they weren’t planning on having him around. Hence the signings of Harris, Dontrelle Inman [now with the Bolts], Thomas and drafting Harry while adding Meyers after the fact. 

Can Thomas Reinvent Himself?

With Thomas, the opposite questions are in-effect. His on-field regression with the Texans last year was evident after he was traded by the Broncos. He didn’t look like the same receiver before he tore his Achilles. But he’s been rehabbing hard with the training staff and seems as upbeat as one can be. 

So what can be reasonably expected from Thomas at this juncture of his career? We didn’t think he’d even make the team, which is why the timing of his coming off of PUP was so intriguing. With just two days of practice before the Carolina preseason game, and then just a week of practice and a final tuneup with the Giants, it leaves him precious little time to get on the same page with Brady and the offense. 

Perhaps Thomas is going to reinvent himself as a more of a possession type of wide receiver and become a chain mover rather than the game-breaker he was earlier in his career. That is a possibility, but until we watch him on the field and see him run, I’d err on the side of caution, and not count on him making the 53-man roster. 

Harry and Meyers Have Upside But Are Still Rookies:

Patriots fans are justifiably pleased and should be with the selection and performance of both Harry and Meyers. And Meyers, the UDFA QB turned WR from NC State has probably been more impressive this summer. He’s shown a quickness off the line where he’s been able to gain separation and catch everything that’s been thrown his way.

Former Patriot and now analyst Matt Chatham said he looks like a six-year veteran on the field. He’s developed quite a rapport and chemistry with Brady and the QB has been throwing to his spots on the field before Meyers makes his breaks. 

Harry has all of the tools and the size to be a very productive WR in the league for years to come. He’s the only WR that Belichick has ever taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. He’s the master of the contested catch. However, his development has been slowed by a few nagging injuries this summer.

But something to keep in mind with both of these players is that they are rookies. Their production may take some time to get going. The speed and physicality of the NFL game is something they’ll have to get used to. They won’t be facing the twos and threes of an opponent’s defense but their top-line players. Patience is the word of the day.

So, while we believe that the offense is going to be just fine [never had any doubts], let’s just slow the talk of the “best WR group since 2007” for a bit …As Belichick is so fond of saying… “they have a long way to go.”

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 and game analysis.

5 Monday Patriots Thoughts: Interesting Storylines Starting to Develop

Ian Logue
August 19, 2019 at 10:03 am ET

Here are some Patriots thoughts on this Monday morning:

1) One of the best stories coming out of this year’s training camp has certainly been the emergence of the defense, which seemingly appears like it could be one of the deeper and faster groups this team has had in quite a long time.

They’ve been impressive, with the ability to get after the quarterback having been a strength through two games. That success carried over again Saturday night down in Tennessee as New England put together another strong performance in their win over the Titans.

Overall, thus far, the’ve totaled 11 sacks, which is just 3 shy of what they finished with during last year’s preseason (14) and well ahead of 2017’s exhibition total (4). The only thing they haven’t done much of is force turnovers. They have just one interception so far, after having finished with five takeaways last preseason (3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries).

But it’s hard not to be a little excited at what could be in store for this football team this season and Saturday night’s game was yet another reminder of the potential this group has heading into the season.


Stidham’s fast development has been a pleasant surprise.

2) That being said, one of the more interesting situations may ultimately be what ends up happening with the quarterback position after Jarrett Stidham’s performances through two games.

The rookie is 28-of-43 throwing the football with 372-yards passing with 2 touchdowns and a QB rating of 107.9. The latter stat ranks him 2nd in the NFL and he’s averaging 8.7 yards per throw, which also ties him for 2nd this preseason.

While it’s too early to get too excited, the bigger issue now could potentially see the team opt to take a chance on playing him behind Brady and open up a roster spot to address the depth they have on both sides of the football. Bill Belichick knows better than anyone that it’s a long season and injuries certainly happen, but Stidham’s recent growth could have just changed the future of another player who might have been on the outside looking in had Stidham not played as well as he has this preseason.

3) Another player who has also been a nice surprise is Jakobi Meyers, who finds himself 2nd in the NFL in receptions with 12 and tied for the league lead in touchdowns with 2. His 151 receiving yards are third-best in the league behind Buccaneers receiver Tanner Hudson (177yds) and the Steelers James Washington (162yds) and he’s been explosive to watch.

This has been mentioned before but given what we’ve seen from N’Keal Harry and now Meyers, along with Julian Edelman set to hopefully be ready to go in week one and the return of Josh Gordon, the Patriots could have one of the deadliest receiving cores in quite some time.

For a position that had a lot of question marks heading into this season, all of a sudden, the answers should have most fans pretty excited about what could be in store for this group this season.


Winovich has had a terrific preseason so far.

4) Chase Winovich has been one of the most pleasant surprises this preseason and he’s certainly living up to the hype he received during the draft.

Watching film of him back then, even in college he was a player who plays with a ton of energy and emotion, which are two traits that make anyone at his position fun to watch.

He already has 2.5 sacks this preseason, which is second in the NFL behind Philadelphia’s Daeshon Hall (3.0). He’s essentially looked like the same player he was at Michigan and so far he’s carried his tenacity and explosiveness over to the NFL level. He’s worked hard this preseason and it’s obvious he’s going to be a player who the Patriots should be able to have success with. It may only still be August, but the future appears bright for the former Wolverine here in New England.

5) While the Patriots have spent the preseason with a punting battle going on between incumbent Ryan Allen and newcomer Jake Bailey, Saturday night’s game put the spotlight on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who missed another field goal in as many weeks.

While Belichick has been one of the kicker’s biggest supporters, Gostkowski really needs to start settling in as the season approaches. Some will remember his difficulties in the Super Bowl, but a loss in his family the day before helped provide some context with that performance.

However, seeing him struggle again this preseason raises a red flag and one would hope he can start turning things around. It’s easy to make the suggestion of finding another kicker, but it’s a completely different story to actually find a reliable, consistent bad-weather kicker.

After a relatively good 2018, Gostkowski brought enough currency into this year to believe the kicker position shouldn’t be a concern. However, one would think these next two weeks will be important for him to start building some positive momentum heading into the season as the Patriots will need Gostkowski to be at his best heading into 2019.

The Patriots will play their first home preseason game of the year this Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium.

Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 3.0, Several Vets Face the Axe

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:30 am ET

With the Patriots now halfway thru their preseason slate, we’re going to take stock of the roster once again and take a stab at predicting a 53-man roster projection. The preseason games in Detroit and Nashville along with several joint practices conducted with both teams have given the coaches much more information and play against an opponent to evaluate.

What is different about this particular projection is that several established veterans may now find themselves on the roster bubble as the coaches now find that the depth of this roster will make them face some really difficult decisions moving forward.

Offense –

Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
Out: none

No changes here. The Patriots could feel that Stidham can handle the backup duties for Brady, much like they did in 2009 when Brady was returning from his ACL injury and Brian Hoyer was a rookie backup. But Hoyer’s value lies in his experience, he is a sounding board for Brady and does a valuable and underrated job of running the scout team offense during the practice week. This could change, but for now we’re sticking with three QBs.

Running backs: (5)
Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Out: Rex Burkhead, Nick Brosette, Jakob Johnson* [NFL International Player]

A big change this time around. Develin could be lumped in with the tight ends but regardless of where he is, he’s not going anywhere. The Patriots are deep here and after the game in Nashville, Harris showed his versatility of being able to run the ball and made five catches out of the backfield. Something he shares with Burkhead. 

Could the increased versatility of Michel and now Harris, plus the return of Gordon mean that the Patriots cut Burkhead? Due to the depth and decisions, they have to make on the other side of the ball, [see more below], some very tough decisions will have to be made, and this one won’t be easy. Watch who is playing late in preseason games 3-4 and we may have our answer

Brosette has played well in limited action and lands on the practice squad. Johnson got a number of reps in Nashville who is automatically granted an extra spot on the PS due to his NFL International status

Tight ends: (2)
Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, **Ben Watson Suspended**
Out: Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck, Eric Saubert

This all depends on how serious LaCosse’s injury situation is. If he’s going to be out for a while, this could open the door for one of the other veterans to step in. LaCosse has had a solid summer. Izzo is a good inline blocker, remember he made the 53-man roster last year before landing on IR.

Wide Receivers: (6)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers,  Braxton Berrios
Out: Maurice Harris (IR), Dontrelle Inman [asked for and granted his release Sunday], Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, Demaryius Thomas [PUP], Cameron Meredith [PUP]

Edelman, Harry, and Gordon project to be the top three. Gordon’s reinstatement puts him right smack on the roster in a lock status. They know his value.   

Meyers has been extremely impressive all summer and is now a lock. Harris was having a terrific spring/summer but he got injured and Tom E. Curran from NBC Sports Boston has reported he could be out “for a while”. So this is where the Pats will place him on IR with the possibility of returning later this season. Dorsett is injured as well. His position seems a bit unsure right now as well.

Berrios goes from out in our last projection to making the roster by virtue of his ability to return kicks and punts. Although they could tag Dorsett/Bolden for that. Thomas, although seen running full speed this week, along with Meredith begins the year on PUP.  With Gordon’s addition, the team will have to carry an extra wide receiver to protect themselves in the event that Gordon’s inner demons resurface. 

Offensive line: (8)
Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, Dan Skipper, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt
Out: Yodny Cajuste [NFI], James Ferentz, Cedric Lang, Tyree St. Louis, Martez Ivey, Cole Croston

Wynn’s return to action and his performance in the game against the Titans has to be a big relief for the coaching staff. The team keeps Skipper as the swing tackle for now as Cajuste gets a red-shirt IR year. Froholdt and Ferentz battle it out for the final backup spot. But the team could opt for keeping just seven OL as they did at cut-down time a year ago.  

Defense –

Edge Players: (5)
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers
Out: Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Nick Thurman, Ufomba Kamalu

Rivers makes the cut this time around after very solid play this summer with a big caveat. He was hurt and helped off the field in Nashville. The severity of his injury may come into play here. Hopefully, he’s not injured badly this time around. 

Winovich has been very impressive this summer, Bennett, Simon, and Wise are established veterans. Harris has played well as a sub-rusher and could sneak in if Rivers is hurt more seriously.

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry

No changes. Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup nose tackle. Guy and Butler offer versatility in either inside DL in a 4-3 or as 3-4 DEs playing a five-technique. This is a solid group and Mike Pennel should be an immediate early downs producer. Cowart is playing really well and although pushing for a roster spot will end up on the practice squad. 

Linebacker: (5)
Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Shalique Calhoun
Out: Elandon Roberts, Brandon King, Christian Sam. Terez Hall, Calvin Munson,

Big changes here, once again difficult decisions force the team to part ways with Roberts and King who is a special teams ace. Sam and Munson have looked good in limited availability but are victims of the numbers crunch. Calhoun has gotten better all summer long and brings good pressure off the edge. 

Cornerback: (6)
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Keion Crossen
Out: Duke Dawson, Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross

Another area where changes are made. Gilmore, McCourty, and Jackson give the team three very good outside corners. Jones has clearly outperformed Dawson and will handle the slot. Williams has really come on and has played very well in the past few weeks. 

Will the Patriots cut ties with a 2nd round player [Dawson] who has never played a down? Unfortunately, that is the case.

Safety: (5)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks, Nate Ebner
Out: Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, AJ Howard

Ebner is back and edges out King for the STs slot. Toughest cut here is Melifonwu who has played well all summer long. The top three are locked in and Brooks has gotten a lot of work with the top unit. 

Specialists: (4)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Jake Bailey, long-snapper Joe Cardona, Gunner Matthew Slater
Out: Ryan Allen

No changes here. Gostkowski and  Cardona faced no camp competition, although Gostkowski has missed kicks in consecutive games. Bailey has a huge leg and also can kickoff, he still gets the edge over the established solid veteran in Allen, who won’t be unemployed for long. Slater is tremendous as the Patriots gunner. 

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 and game analysis.

New England Patriots News 8-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 18, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-18 and AFC East notes this week. 

The Patriots are returning home and will prepare for the upcoming preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. The joint practices are over as is the open public portions of training camp. The media will still be allowed in but their access will be shortened as well during practices 

Check back with us frequently on PatsFans.com as we’ll continue to post daily training camp updates as well as breaking news. 

 Quick Hitters:

Derek Rivers – Tough break for the Patriots 3rd year player who has been having a very good training camp and he went down with an injury and didn’t return. Hopefully, it isn’t a serious injury this time around.

Russell Wilson – Is now a part-owner of a sports franchise, [Seattle Sounders]. One has to wonder if another QB was to purchase a portion of a professional team, say Tom Brady buys a piece of the NE Revolution that just happened to be owned his own team owner, Robert Kraft, then the internet would implode…instead, crickets.

Tom Brady – playing elsewhere or retiring in 2020? The story that just won’t die but truthfully, yes it could conceivably happen. And it could snow for the Panthers game. Brady is playing for a basic one-year deal. So are Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees. But ask yourself this, the Patriots aren’t going to saddle themselves with deferred bonus payments in 2020 and 2021 if they didn’t believe that there isn’t a very good chance of his returning. Feelings here is, depending on how 2019 goes, it gets done. 

Chase Winovich – Was chastised by Brady on Instagram. Wino posted a clip from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” Act II, Scene I where he wrote:
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round.
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.

Brady responded with “Study your playbook”…savage

 Josh Gordon is Back, What Are Realistic Expectations?

The NFL has allowed Josh Gordon to be conditionally reinstated back to the team after a five-game hiatus [two regular-season games, three in the playoffs]. The league has to feel that he has his mental health and substance abuse issues in order. That is a good sign, for both the player and the person.

The Patriots kept a space open for him by offering a 2nd round tender on him and that wasn’t surprising, considering Gordon was a popular teammate and a productive one on the field. But now what? Where do the Patriots go with Gordon?

It isn’t as clear cut as one would think. During the entire offseason, NFL insiders were reporting that the Patriots would welcome Gordon back but they weren’t counting on his presence. Does that change now? As they already know, those demons that Gordon has battled don’t just magically disappear. It takes a life-long struggle against them. And just one slip-up now could mean the end of Gordon’s NFL career. 

Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick have to decide whether they just fully embrace Gordon’s return and insert him in the offense and risk losing a big piece of it somewhere down the road this season, or do they ease him in and give another wide receiver a roster spot…just in case he has issues again. 

With a healthy Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and a reacclimated Gordon at WR, all of a sudden the WR position projects to one of strength. Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Maurice Harris, and Braxton Berrios are there for depth. And they have both Demaryius Thomas and Cam Meredith on PUP. 

Dorsett and Harris are also banged up right now, which would thrust Meyers into a more prominent position, at least early in the season. How this plays out will be an intriguing story to watch. Everyone wants to see Gordon succeed in life first, football second, but the NFL is a business, which we’ve been told over and over. 

This development I believe means that they certainly have to keep an extra WR on the roster at cut down time. I’d also look for Gordon to be targeted as much as he merits this season. Brady has trust in him on the field, and with Edelman, Harry et al, it should prove to be a fun offense to watch. 

Brady and Vrabel Trash Talk Rooted In Deep Respect:

One of the more entertaining things about the joint practices this week with the Patriots and Titans was being able to witness the constant trash talk that emanated between Tom Brady and Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. 

The two were very close personal friends as teammates and remain so today, despite the fact that Vrabel now coaches another team. But their friendship was marked by constant playful jabs at one another. Brady is a Michigan man while Vrabel went to Ohio State. There were bets made before the ‘big game’ every year and frequently the winner of the bet would have his college jersey worn by the other. After one Ohio State win, Vrabel had his jersey hanging in Brady’s locker. 

This week was a continuation of that. It started on the first day as Brady strolled on to the practice field, Vrabel yelled at him for walking, where Brady retorted to basically mind his own business, but in more colorful language. 

Brady upped the ante on Vrabel’s birthday by handing him a small trophy inscribed with the score of last year’s game, where Tennessee ripped the Patriots 34-10, with the subliminal message that while Vrabel won the battle, the Patriots ultimately won the war with their sixth Super Bowl title. 

Brady spoke with the media after practice and couldn’t stop smiling while talking about his trash-talking with his former teammate. “I wouldn’t describe it as civil,” Brady said. “He’s been a good friend for a long time. Obviously, he’s done a great job leading his team. Proud of him and everything he’s accomplished. We all support him even though he’s coaching for another team.”

Vrabel, who had a reputation as a player who could even crack up Bill Belichick on occasion, gave Brady, even more razzing after he and Ben Watson failed on a connection in the red zone. “I never dropped one of those. Let me know if you need me to report.”

“It was fun. It brought back a lot of memories, just to be able to sit out there and have him make a play and he turns around and says, ‘Mikey, you know you better cover that. You guys need to do this,’” Vrabel said. “We had a lot of fun. We have a lot of respect for those guys and can learn a lot from them; how they practice and how they operate.”

The respect between the two is obvious, but it is also entertaining to watch those two jaw at each other constantly. The Patriots’ practices back then must have been something to behold. 

Michel, Harris Need to Factor More in the Passing Game:

The Patriots like to force opposing defenses to face an array of possibilities when they have the ball. That unpredictability was somewhat lost when Sony Michel was on the field in 2018. The Patriots ran the ball approximately 76 percent of the time when Sony was behind Brady. 

The plan this year is to get Michel and rookie Damien Harris involved more in the passing game out of the backfield. The benefit there would be two-fold. It would make the offense more unpredictable and would also boost the running game by keeping the opponent from loading up the box in an attempt to stuff the run. 

With injuries piling up at WR and TE, the running backs, a position of strength can really help in this regard. James White remains the primary 3rd-down pass-catching back but Rex Burkhead is the kind of versatile player they need in this scenario. Now Michel and Harris should begin to chip in more and more once the regular season begins. 

Part of Michel’s lack of productivity in the passing game last year was that he missed a significant amount of training camp with an injury and the coaches limited what they were putting on his plate as a rookie. That should change this year. 

Harris is an outstanding pass blocker and an underrated receiver out of the backfield. He was beginning to see more looks in the passing game in camp but has been slowed by a hand/wrist injury. 

Look for more passes going to the backs this season and for them to mix and match liberally to create matchup problems for the Patriots’ opposing defenses.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Josh Allen/Cole Beasley Connection Off and Running for the Bills:

The Buffalo Bills first-team offense looked extremely sharp in their preseason 27-14 win over the Carolina Panthers. Josh Allen was particularly impressive. In two drives, he completed 9-11 passes for 102 yards as the Bills’ offense put up 10 points. One of Allen’s two incompletions was a drop by Shady McCoy out in the flat. 

As we’ve posted here several times, Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll has decided to use Cole Beasley a lot in this offense. And he and Allen are thriving working together. On Allen’s 11 passes, five went to Beasley, all completions, for 44 yards. Beasley is loving this offense.

“I love Daboll so much, I have so much respect for him and I’m so appreciative for the opportunity and the belief that he has in his guys,” said Beasley. “You feel that and when you feel that from a coach you’re not afraid to go up to him and suggest things, give him some ideas. He likes to try things and have fun with it, and it makes it fun to come to work.”

Dolphins Rosen Gets the Start in PS Game vs Tampa Bay:

The Miami Dolphins started QB Josh Rosen over Ryan Fitzpatrick in their 16-14 loss to the Bucs on Friday night.  And while Rosen’s numbers were hardly eye-popping, 10-18 for 102 yards, they were much better than Fitzpatrick’s as the veteran was under pressure the entire time and could complete only 3-9 for 20 yards. Rosen was also the victim of several drops, including several by Preston Williams who, after shining in Week 1 was only able to make one catch for seven yards while getting starting reps. 

The offensive line struggled to protect their quarterbacks and to open holes in the running game. Rosen, and Fitzpatrick after him were under duress all game long. Fitzpatrick is slated to get the start next week against the Jaguars, but unless they get better OL play, it won’t matter who is under center.

Jets Lose LB Avery Williamson With Torn ACL For the Year:

New York Jets linebacker Avery Williamson is to undergo season-ending surgery after tearing the ACL in his right knee Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons. This was a huge blow for the Jets defense as he was one of the team’s most consistent and durable players a year ago, playing in all but five defensive snaps.

Williamson’s injury happened on a fluke play late in the second quarter. He and CB Tevaughn Campbell were in coverage defending running back Brian Hill in the end zone. Williamson and Campbell collided, as Campbell dove into Williamson’s knee as he tried to make a play on the ball.

He called the signals last year but turned those duties over to C.J. Mosely this season as well as moved to the weak side LB position.

________________

“Well, I have a ton of respect for Mike [Vrabel] as a person, as a coach. He’s been a friend for a long time and obviously did a great job last year in the game we played him. We really got handled down here. He’s got an excellent staff and I’m sure that he’s teaching these guys a lot of football. He was a really smart player, a very fundamental player, so I’m sure that you can see those strengths in the way he coaches his team.” Bill Belichick on joint practices with the Titans –  8-14

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

Patriots Young Guns Lead Team to 22-17 Victory Over the Titans

Steve Balestrieri
August 17, 2019 at 11:24 pm ET

It wasn’t as clean as last week, the Titans have a lot of depth, like the Patriots and this one wasn’t nearly the blowout that the opening week was. But in the end, the younger players that the Patriots have brought in were the difference in the win. The Patriots overcame a 17-8 halftime deficit enroute to a 22-17 win over Tennessee.

With a quick turnaround and the third preseason game on Thursday night with Carolina, nearly all of the starters sat this one out. Tom Brady, was a cheerleader on the sidelines for Brian Hoyer and rookie Jarrett Stidham. 

The Patriots were really sloppy on the penalty front, getting flagged 12 times, while the Titans had 10, a total of 22 accepted penalties. One of those flags cost the Patriots two points. Stidham came in for Brian Hoyer after the Titans downed a punt at the two-yard line. Lance Kendricks was called for hold in the end zone. 

Other quick observations include:

Brian Hoyer- a rough night for the veteran back up. He got absolutely hammered a few times and was slow to get up. He also threw a pick on the Patriots first series.

Jarrett Stidham – He got away with a couple of early throws that could have been intercepted for pick-sixes. But he settled in and played well, completing 14 of 19 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. 

He led two long scoring drives in the second half 81 yards in 10 plays and 99 yards in 11 plays capping off the game-winning drive with a nice 23-yard touchdown pass to Damoun Patterson.

Damien Harris – We’ve been singing his praises since the NFL Draft and in his first preseason action, the rookie running back from Alabama looked very good. He rushed 14 times for 80 yards and caught five passes for 23 yards. 

Harris is a patient runner who follows his blocks, makes one cut and goes. He’s tough after contact and runs with his pad level low and made the most of his opportunities. 

Isaiah Wynn – Ladies and gents, there’s your left tackle. Wynn looked very solid, if not outstanding in his debut.  There has been so much speculation and worrying about his availability and the Patriots have been taking it cautiously with him. But he looked and moved really well. Big exhale, he’s fine.

Chase Winovich – The rookie from Michigan who plays like his hair is on fire, had another really solid outing. After Derek Rivers and Shalique Calhoun went down with injuries, he stepped up. He had a sack, a QB hit, two tackles for a loss and drew a holding penalty by the end of the first half. His motor and solid play is going to make him a fan favorite this season. 

Jakobi Meyers – Was the best wide receiver on the Patriots side by a very, very wide margin. This kid gets better every time he hits the field. He was targeted six times and made six catches for 82 yards and a two-point conversion from Hoyer. Slow 40 time? The kid can flat out play and catch the ball.

Joejuan Williams – The rookie corner had another really solid game. He struggled early in camp but those days seem long ago and far away. Titans QBs were 0-3 when throwing at him as he had two pass breakups. He looks like he’s gaining confidence daily out there and with his size and physicality, can be a great matchup piece. 

Byron Cowart – the rookie DL from Maryland set the tone early. On the second snap of the game, he undressed veteran Roger Saffold and planted Marcus Mariots for a sack. Calvin Munson and Shalique Calhoun were also active out there again.

Some things need cleaning up: The backup safeties and linebackers weren’t covering the Titans tight ends well early in this one. They cleaned it up a bit later but the coaches will have something to say on that. Obi Melifonwu seemed late to react to an inside move by Delanie Walker and was easily beat for a touchdown. 

Penalties – The Patriots were getting flagged a lot especially in the first half, this will be a big issue with the coaches after they look at the film.

Injuries – Rivers and Calhoun went down, Calhoun was able to come back and play but Rivers, after being helped off the field was not seen again. That is a tough break for a kid in his third year who lost his rookie season to an ACL tear and spent last season trying to regain his form. He’s had a strong preseason and training camp. 

The road portion of preseason is over, the Patriots will play the Panthers on Thursday and then the Giants at home in the preseason finale before taking on the Steelers in Gillette for the 2019 season opener. 

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Postcards From the Edge – Patriots Front Seven Primed For 2019

Steve Balestrieri
at 7:30 am ET

What a difference a year makes. Last season at this time, there were major questions about the depth of their linebacking corps and who…besides Trey Flowers could rush the passer. Now, they enter their second preseason game and the front seven has depth galore and an entirely new outlook on things. 

Flowers was tough to see leave, he did so much and a lot of it under the radar for the Patriots. But the team addressed it in several ways this year. The big men in the middle Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Adam Butler, and Danny Shelton look better than they were a year ago inside. Rookie Byron Cowart is still a long shot for the roster but has come on after missing time early with an injury. He had a half-sack and a QB pressure last week in Detroit. 

Although Michael Bennett is 33 years old, as of today, he shows no sign of slowing down and has been dominant in our limited look at him so far. And Bennett is flashing some of the same versatility, lining up inside, outside and even over the nose.

He’s embracing his role and the defensive scheme and seems to have a healthy respect for the coaching staff. Deatrich Wise hasn’t been 100 percent yet but should now see some action. Consistency is the key for him in 2019.

Chase Winovich was picked up this spring in the third round of the draft and he’s been “exactly who we thought he was.” He has an incredible motor that goes non-stop, excellent hands [which will only get better with pass-rush consultant Joe Kim]. Winovich has looked terrific in his opportunities which included a 1.5 sack performance against the Lions last week. 

Derek Rivers keeps trending up. He too had a big game against Detroit [2 sacks], and put constant pressure on the QBs last week, both in practice and in the game. After being a total non-factor for his first two years, is he a shoo-in? No, but the way he’s playing has to be a huge confidence boost for not only him but the coaches. 

Shalique Calhoun is quickly becoming a steal. The veteran that came over from the Raiders this spring barely registered on the radar [here as well….], however, it seems like he’s another guy that wasn’t considered a nice pickup and who can pay big dividends for the team. His play was such that he was given reps with the starters. He responded in Detroit with a sack and a tackle for loss. 

And we haven’t even got to the linebackers. John Simon was the under the radar pickup last year.  He does a terrific job of setting the edge and had an interception last week. Jamie Collins was dynamic last week and has been a beast throughout training camp. He has the athleticism to be a movable chess piece anywhere they sense a mismatch to their advantage. He had a sack last week…. Are we sensing a pattern here?

Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are the linchpins for the front seven. They can rush off the edge or up in the A-gaps.  Hightower dropped weight this offseason and looks faster and a bit more athletic. He looked good back in his home state this week.

Van Noy was another Belichick highway robbery when they snatched him away from the Lions. He can do everything that Belichick and Mayo will ask of him. Elandon Roberts and Ja’Whaun Bentley hold down the middle. Two guys outside looking in are Calvin Munson and Christian Sam.  Munson has put back-to-back solid weeks together.

Last week, the Patriots had 17 QB pressures and nine sacks against the woefully unprepared Lions. This week against a better team, the front seven hounded Titans’ QBs in the joint practices. Can they do it again in the game on Saturday night? 

We shall see. But things are trending up for this defense in 2019. In about three weeks will be the first real test when they take on the Steelers in the season opener. Pittsburgh has one of the better offensive lines in the league. And this time around, there is growing confidence in the front seven.  

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As More Patriots WRs Go Down, It is Opportunity Time for the Remainder

Steve Balestrieri
August 15, 2019 at 7:33 am ET

At the conclusion of the first joint practice with the Titans on Tuesday, the state of the Patriots receiver corps was more notable on who wasn’t in attendance rather than who was. Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas, Cameron Meredith, Josh Gordon [still suspended] tight end Matt LaCosse and N’Keal Harry were not there for the beginning of practice, although Harry was in uniform, he didn’t take part in any activities and quickly moved off to work with members of the training staff. 

Then during the session, both Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris each left with various ailments. That left a thin wide receiver grouping even thinner. Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham were left with Jakobi Meyers, Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, Gunner Olszewski, Damoun Patterson, and Ryan Davis. 

It isn’t known if the dings that Dorsett and Harris took were heat-related or more serious. Dorsett was reported to have returned and rode a stationary bike at the end of the practice session. This is in addition to reports that running back Damien Harris is dealing with a wrist injury, which has limited his pass=catching ability.

But rather than looking at this as a red flag [as it would be during the regular season], this is a time of opportunity, a chance to earn more reps with the starting unit and carve out a role for themselves for the players on the field.

Meyers has been a very pleasant surprise as to how fast he’s caught on to the Patriots system as well as his versatility and production in the passing game. If there is an area where he could improve it would be in special teams. The coaches have been getting him some reps in the punt return game, which to date haven’t been all smooth. 

Berrios has thrived during joint sessions and the preseason game with the Lions and is carrying that momentum into this week in Tennessee. Berrios looked very good in the return game last week in Detroit and that alone may win him a spot among the final 53-man roster. Away from the smothering Jonathan Jones in team practices, Berrios has found room to move and made some nice plays in the passing game. 

Dontrelle Inman may be the biggest benefactor from the recent spate of injuries to the wide receivers. After a very forgettable spring, Inman found himself deep in the bowels of the depth chart at the beginning of training camp. He helped himself with some good work against the Detroit third teamers last week. 

Now he’ll get more reps with Brady and the first team unit today. If that means more playing time on Saturday night, then it is a chance to move up in the pecking order. If he can find the comfort level and chemistry with Brady that he showed late last season with Andrew Luck, he could force himself into a much better situation. Maurice Harris had a tremendous start to camp. But he had a couple of big drops in Detroit, [granted one was a clear defensive pass interference] and with him now possibly on the shelf, this allows Inman a chance to push him a bit. 

LaCosse’s ankle injury last week opened the door for the team to bring in the third-year tight end Eric Sauber that they picked up from the Falcons for a conditional 7th round draft pick. Sauber has the size, 6’5, 255 pounds and the athleticism to play special teams and to attack the seams of the defense. But the knock on him is his hands, “manos de piedra” which have precluded him from having any impact in the league.

Sauber should get more and more work in the passing game as the team tries to lighten the load on 38-year old Ben Watson. Ryan Izzo is known more as a blocker. Rookie Andrew Beck is being used more as a fullback/H-back and Stephen Anderson has seemingly become an afterthought in the passing game. 

But like anything else, opportunities arise and players have to take advantage of them. 

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Patriots Training Camp Observations 8-12, Defense Impressive Again

Steve Balestrieri
August 12, 2019 at 2:15 pm ET

The Patriots offensive players must miss Detroit. Because on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, the defense was very, very impressive today. After struggling somewhat against this loaded secondary, the New England wide receivers had very impressive weeks in Detroit. But not so much today.

In the next to last training camp session, the defense was ball-hawking everything in sight. Tom Brady threw back-to-back INTs during individual drills but in the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 portions of the session, the defense also picked off Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham …with seven on the day total

One of the more impressive players on the field today had to be rookie Joejuan Williams. The first-year cornerback had a bit of a rough go of it early in camp but he picked up his game last week and continued his upward climb today. He had a couple of nice interceptions and had a few pass breakups as well.

The team was in full pads.

Attendance:  

Nate Ebner and Ken Webster returned to practice. Lance Kendricks returned …in a red non-contact jersey. Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas, and Cameron Meredith were in attendance but not in uniform. Matt LaCosse, N’Keal Harry, and D’Angelo Ross were absent from this session. 

There was also a new offensive lineman [#74] present but no word yet on who that is…possibly Cole Croston returning? 

Other Observations Included: 

  • Good news on the Isaiah Wynn front. He was nearly 100 percent at participation today. He took part in 11-on-11 drills for the first time in camp.
  • Lots of drops, pass breakups, and interceptions in individual drills today.
  • First real scrap today. Michael Bennett and Dan “the Weatherman” Skipper got into during 1-on-1 blocking drills. Bennett slapped him upside his helmet and Skipper responded with a double-barrelled bird flip.
  • Pat Chung made a nice interception of Brady during 7-on7s. Brady attempted to go to Braxton Berrios on a drag route but Chung read it perfectly and jumped the route.
  • Others getting picks during the team portion of the session were Gilmore with a pair, Jamie Collins, and Williams
  • Jake Bailey was doing the holding during the field goal attempts today by Stephen Gostkowski…that is Gostkowski with two “k’s” 
  • During 1-on-1s Jonathan Jones flattened Berrios with a jolting hit but the WR came back and made a really nice over the shoulder catch after almost going down again on a hit from Duke Dawson. 
  • Berrios returned punts along with Rex Burkhead, Gunner Olszewski, and Jakobi Meyers
  • Berrios continued a strong showing in the return game as he and Phillip Dorsett returned kickoffs. 
  • Jakobi Meyers continues his rise in camp. He had another nice day, making several catches including a nice back-shoulder catch on a pass from Tom Brady and another where he dove and came up with a throw from Brian Hoyer on the sideline.
  • Maurice Harris had a drop during team drills and wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen this summer, but then made a really nice grab as he was able to wrest the ball away from Gilmore as he high-pointed it. 
  • QB turned WR Danny Etling had a tough morning. He had a drop in individual drills and was the target on both Stidham throws that were picked off. 
  • The Patriots tried a little trickery with a double pass from Meyers to James White. 
  • White also had a nice deep catch from Brady over his shoulder beating Christian Sam in coverage. 
  • Danny Shelton left practice and retreated to the lower practice fields but later returned.
  • Jon Bon Jovi was in attendance today, along with Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy who did a quick interview with 98.5 after the session

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Patriots Injuries Now Put Tight End In Murkier Territory

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:30 am ET

The tight end position for the Patriots has been an area of concern since the spring. Rob Gronkowski retired, Dwayne Allen is now a member of the Dolphins and Jacob Hollister was traded. The team brought back Ben Watson, but he’s 38 and suspended for the first four games of the season. 

They brought in Matt LaCosse from the Broncos and after a good spring, there was the hope that he could take his game to the next level with Tom Brady and the Patriots. Stephen Anderson, a move tight end was returning, as well as Ryan Izzo who missed his rookie season with an injury. 

They added UDFA Andrew Beck from Texas and the team gave him a guaranteed sum of $110,000, which isn’t a lot but it was the most of their undrafted free agents.  Then the team signed veteran Lance Kendricks who played for the Packers last year.

While this was far from optimal, with the players they have, it was considered possibly enough that they could get it figured out and that the team will be able to maybe surpass the production they had from the position in 2018. With Gronk et al. in 2018, Patriots tight ends caught 54 passes for 761 yards and three touchdowns. But the team took a hit where they could least afford it in the past few days. 

Kendricks left practice early with an injury while the team was still in Foxboro on July 28 and he didn’t practice or play during the time in Detroit. During the game, LaCosse was off to a good start and had two catches for 37 yards. But he suffered a lower leg injury in the game and went down in obvious pain. Members of the training staff had to help him off the field. An already thin group just got thinner.

No one knows the severity of the injuries to Kendricks or LaCosse. The upcoming practice this morning [Monday] will be telling. If neither is able to go and both miss considerable more time, then the team is between a rock and a hard place. 

Watson is still a quality tight end, but he’s going to miss the first four weeks of the season and they’ll still need another tight end to step up. They can’t expect Watson at 38 to carry the entire position. 

Anderson has flashed in small doses, and he only played a half dozen snaps [hurt also?] on Thursday, while Izzo is more of a blocking tight end than a true receiving threat. Beck has been getting more reps as a fullback or H-back than a true tight end, which may be his calling eventually. 

So, what do the Patriots do now? If Kendricks and LaCosse do indeed miss more time, then the team may have to make a deal to bring in another tight end. James Develin, the team’s fullback, can also help out there as he practices with the tight ends frequently during camp sessions. He’s an outstanding lead blocker but isn’t a great receiving threat.

Today won’t tell the tale but an absence of the two injured players puts this position into further question marks as time rolls along. In a perfect world, both Kendricks and LaCosse return to practice this morning and everything falls into place. 

But that perfect world doesn’t exist. Everyone in attendance [media and fans] will be watching today to see if those two players come up the steps and onto the practice fields. If not, the phone lines should be busy in Foxboro.

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New England Patriots News 8-11, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 11, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-11 and AFC East notes this week. 

The Patriots return home and are off today after they played their first preseason game of the year against the Lions. They’ll be back at practice tomorrow and Tuesday and then head off to Tennessee where they’ll conduct joint practices with the Titans before preseason number 2. 

Check back with us frequently on PatsFans.com as we’ll continue to post daily training camp updates as well as breaking news. 

 Quick Hitters:

Chase Winovich – “It felt good to have it all come together,” Winovich said. “Hopefully, I made my family a little proud today.” On his first NFL action [1.5 sacks] and having his family there to see it.

Tom Brady – celebrating more for Brian Hoyer than Jarrett Stidham on Thursday? Don’t laugh, it is true. In the deep dive to find any controversy in Foxboro, we now have people analyzing his body language. 

Damien Harris – Didn’t play a down in Detroit, causing some to wildly speculate on what was the reason. I’d put money down that the coaching staff already puts him with some of the other established veterans [James White, Sony Michel] and gave him the night off. He’ll get plenty of work in Tenn. this week. 

Matt Patricia – was hearing the boo birds in Detroit on Thursday night. Entering his second season as the head coach, he’s already feeling the heat. The Lions’ fans have endured 60 years of frustration and that awful showing in the first preseason game was not a good start. 

Bill Belichick – Was in midseason form on Friday. Asked if Jerod Mayo was calling the defensive plays, Belichick refused to confirm or deny it. Pressed on it, in typical clipped Belichickian, he said, “we do what’s best for the football team and will continue to do so.” Well…all righty then.

Dan Skipper – the huge 6’9 left tackle hasn’t exactly filled the coaches and fans with optimism this summer. However, in the Thursday preseason opener, we didn’t hear his name called once as Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham worked for the most part with clean pockets. Granted, the Lions didn’t have their top starters out there. But at this point, we’ll take what we can get… A much bigger test awaits in Tenn.

Belichick Doesn’t Use New Coach’s Challenge on DPI:

There has been a ton of buzz this offseason on the new coach’s challenge for defensive and offensive pass interference and how they will change the game, especially time-wise. 

During the Patriots game with the Lions this week, there were two plays that the Patriots could have challenged during the game. Both were long passes from Jarrett Stidham to Maurice Harris. Both passes went off Harris’ hands, however, both seemed to be classic cases for the coach to throw the flag. 

Belichick didn’t choose to challenge either play although there was sufficient video evidence to suggest that both plays were DPI.  He was asked why he chose not to challenge the plays during his presser on Friday and gave a very distinct un-Belichick response to those questions. 

“It’s just… I don’t know. Maybe I’ve got to get used to the new rules.” 

Matt Patricia did challenge one play but the official call on the field stood and his challenge was denied. He had this to say after the game.

 “I think right now with the preseason, I think a lot of us, coaching-wise, we’re just trying to figure out how this is all going to be officiated,” Patricia said. I thought that maybe would be an opportunity we can see how they officiate it and we want to take that situation. It doesn’t really matter what we think of it, either way, it’s just I want to know what they’re going to look at and how they’re going to evaluate it.”

Belichick’s comment was far from the norm with him. He is always on top of changing rules and for him to say what he did was very curious, to say the least. 

Jarrett Stidham Finishes Off Good Week With An Impressive Game:

Oh my, how perceptions can change quickly. When the Patriots drafted QB Jarrett Stidham in the spring, the Auburn signal-caller wasn’t on anyone’s hot list for QBs who were designated as future starters in the league. 

But the rookie landed in a perfect place. With Head Coach Bill Belichick, Offensive Coordinator/QBs Coach Josh McDaniels, he has the right people for him to teach the system, and language of the Patriots offense. Don’t discount Asst. QBs coach Mick Lombardi. Of course, it doesn’t hurt learning on how to run the Patriots offense from Tom Brady. 

Stidham was a mixed bag in minicamp and early in training camp as he was trying to learn the system and how everything works together. Contrast that to the poised, calm demeanor we saw on Thursday in the huddle for the Patriots.

Granted it is only one game and as Belichick is sound of saying, “we have a long way to go”, but the coaching staff has to be quite pleased with how far and fast he is progressing. His deep ball accuracy is something he’s shown all summer and he delivered two passes on the money to Maurice Harris, but he dropped both. 

While it is far too soon to be putting him in competition with Brian Hoyer for Brady’s backup QB job [Hoyer was equally, if not more impressive Thursday night], now the doubts about his ability are being replaced with cautious optimism.

Bill Belichick chimed in on his performance during his Friday presser.

“I think there were several plays that fell into all the categories – quick throws where the read was clear and the receiver was open, and then maybe a secondary read, and then there were a couple of times where he scrambled and extended the play,” Belichick said. “Ran a couple of times and completed a pass. There was a little bit of everything there and most important thing for the quarterback is not to turn the ball over make good decisions and throw accurately. He did all those at times.”

Meyers Continues A Stellar Camp With A Big Game Performance:

For a guy who caught 92 passes a year ago, it was a bit of a surprise to not see Jakobi Meyers get drafted in April. While he didn’t test well at the NFL Combine [4.6 time in the 40], watching him play at NC State was another thing. And he’s carried that over to the Patriots now.

We’ve been singing his praises for a bit now as he constantly shows up big in practice and joint practice. He’s developing a chemistry and trust factor with Tom Brady, that we wrote about last week. But he had yet to do it in a game, which the UDFA rookie says he heard too.

 ”I was getting a lot of texts about, ‘Oh I heard you were doing great in practice,”’ Meyers said. ”It doesn’t mean anything because we didn’t have a game yet. So just the fact that I can go out there and show that I deserve to be here, for now, I’m just trying to keep pushing forward.”

In his first game action, Meyers was very impressive catching six passes for 69 yards and two TDs. And the rookie has his feet firmly on the ground, he isn’t worried about who DIDN’T draft him, but working for who did.

”I have to keep proving to my coaches that I deserve to be here,” Meyers said. ”I’m not on the team yet. I’m trying to make sure I can stay here and continue to be here. That’s who I’m trying to prove a point to, not really to people who didn’t give me the call.”

After the game, he was asked about his ability to catch on with this offense so quickly, something several established [and very productive] WRs have been unable to do. His comments were spot on.

“Because I want to be great,” he said. “I want to be in a position where they can depend on me, trust on me in tough downs, and at the same time, we’ve got a lot of great players on our team. All I have to do is listen. If I’m doing what they tell them to do, then I’ll just stick around.”

Winovich, Unlike Samson May Get to Keep His Hair:

Rookie edge player Chase Winovich has had a good productive training camp. And on Thursday night in front of a lot of hometown fans and family where he played nearby at Michigan, they got to see him perform. And he was very impressive with 1.5 sacks and displaying his non-stop motor, very good hands and bend coming around the edge.

Winovich spoke to the media after the game and made sure to downplay his own accomplishments and speak about the team, like he’d been playing for Belichick for years…

“It was cool. But it’s like anything. I’ve talked about this before, and I’ve always felt this way, and it’s definitely emphasized here,” Winovich said. “You saw me make the play, maybe on a couple of occasions today. But really, there are so many guys up front – Nick [Thurman], David [Parry], Byron [Cowart], Trent [Harris], really all the linebackers making the calls, Terez [Hall], Christian [Sam], and I could go on and on. There are so many intricacies during the game itself, just making adjustments with Coach [DeMarcus] Covington and Coach [Joe] Kim and Coach [Jerod] Mayo. I could name everybody by name. Just everything that goes into there and then goes back to all the work that we put in, staying extra at times, going over stuff, and working with Willie McGinest on technique.”

Belichick had to like his next answer when he was asked about what has he learned the most since joining the team this spring. 

“That’s probably my biggest thing, is the physicality and the moves and stuff, you improve on that stuff, but I’m just getting a lot better at my awareness and that stuff,” Winovich said. “Just trying to get better. I’m a rookie. I’ve got a lot to improve on.”

Winovich’s trademark look is his long blonde flowing locks, and one of the Patriots rookie initiations is to give them horrible haircuts. The rookie considers his hair a “source of pride and strength”

Winovich took to Instagram after the game with a picture of himself during game action. And one of his comments came from Brady himself who chimed in “Maybe you get to keep your hair.”

If Winovich keeps progressing like he is, maybe some of the players will begin sporting blonde wigs with a flowing mane under their helmets…

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Trade Eli Harold to Philly For OL Ryan Bates:

The Buffalo Bills have already had a lot of injuries to their offensive line. So, they traded DE Eli Harold to the Eagles for UDFA Ryan Bates who played both left tackle and right tackle for Penn State in 2018. 

Harold was just signed by the Bills this spring. He spent his first three seasons with the 49ers after being drafted in the 3rd Round [79th overall] in the 2015 NFL Draft and produced just five sacks. He notched four more last year with the Lions. With a base salary of just $805,000, Harold is not expensive and should benefit from playing in the aggressive scheme of Jim Schwartz. 

Bates wasn’t expected to make Philly’s roster and the OL is a position of need for Buffalo after the injury bug has hit. This move makes sense for both teams. 

Stills Doubles Down on Criticism of Dolphins Owner Ross for Trump Support:

The Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is hosting a fundraiser for his old friend Donald Trump who is running for re-election in 2020. That fact doesn’t sit well with Dolphins WR Kenny Stills who blasted the owner on social media stating, “you can’t have a non-profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump.”

Stills is referencing Ross’ non-profit organization the RISE Foundation which is hosting the event at Ross’ home. RISE [Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality] stands for racial equality and according to Stills, Ross is being hypocritical for hosting Trump with this event. 

Head Coach Brian Flores on Wednesday said that while he respects the veteran receiver using his platform, he was disappointed that Stills didn’t talk to Ross directly instead of airing it out over social media. Stills, after the Dolphins preseason game on Thursday, added more fuel to the fire.

“Someone has to have enough courage to let him know he can’t play both sides of this,” Stills said. “It’s something that I can look back on and say I made the right decision. … If you’re going to associate yourself with bad people, then people are going to know about it. I put it out there for everybody to see it. If you say you’re going to be about something, let’s be about it.”

Ross also stood by his friendship with the President with a statement of his own. “I always have been an active participant in the democratic process. While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about,” Ross said.

“I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions. I started my business with nothing and a reason for my engagement with our leaders is my deep concern for creating jobs and growing our country’s economy.

“I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”

Stills is not expected to receive any discipline from the team over his criticism of the team’s owner and Ross has stated that he doesn’t take the comments personally. 

Quinnen Williams and Jachai Polite Quiet in Jets PS Opener:

The New York Jets played their next-door rivals, the New York Giants in preseason Week 1 this week. Top draft pick Quinnen Williams had a fairly quiet game, playing in just 11 snaps on defense but did draw a penalty, and assisted on one tackle.

Edge player Jachai Polite, the rookie edge player from Florida, who has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism early in camp played mainly with the third-team defense and also was not as active as the coaches would have hoped. He was in on two tackles and played in 32 defensive snaps.

Sam Darnold and the offense, however, was a different story. Darnold started the game and needed only seven plays to travel 75 yards for a touchdown. Included in that were a 32-yard pass to Chris Herndon where Darnold scrambled to find him and a 28-yarder to Jamison Crowder on a check down. He later hit Crowder for a three-yard touchdown to finish off the drive.  A very good start for Adam Gase’s offense and Darnold in his second season. 

________________

“It’s a different type of preparation when both teams practice together, both teams get an equal opportunity to practice against each other, get familiar with each other instead of running plays off cards. The other teams actually do what they do and we develop a familiarity with them as well as compete against them. If you don’t do that then both teams prepare separately without that type of competitive preparation and then play the game. We got a lot of good 1-on-1 work, a lot of good individual work, and we got a lot of good teamwork for all three days.”Bill Belichick on joint practices –  8-9

“So, how was your week?”

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