Category Archives: Patriots Injuries

Patrick Chung Shares Photograph Of Scar Following Surgery On Arm

Robert Alvarez
February 12, 2019 at 11:07 pm ET

During the third quarter of Super Bowl LIII, Patriots safety Patrick Chung suffered a broken forearm injury that knocked him out of the game.

Chung had surgery performed back on February 9th and shared video a day later providing an update on his recovery.

On Monday, Chung shared a photograph (WARNING Graphic) of his scar that coincidentally contained as many stitches as his jersey number.

“23 stitches. Coincidence??? I think not! Hahaha #keepbeingsavage is my new hash!!” Chung wrote below the photograph.

In the days following the Super Bowl, Chung shared a few optimistic postings to his Instagram, including himself in a sling postgame with his father.

View this post on Instagram

Daddy man!

A post shared by Patrick Chung (@23patrickchung) on

Chung signed a two-year contract extension with the Patriots in March 2018 and is expected to be back in time for training camp next summer. 2019 will mark his 11th NFL season.

New England Patriots News 10-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
October 28, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 10-28, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here

Did you Know? Bill Belichick has coached the Patriots since 2000 and we’ve all seen some of the crazy stats that the team has amassed since then. One statistic that stood out and one that we haven’t seen before was even more startling. Although the Patriots lost the turnover battle last week in Chicago they ultimately won the game 38-31. But since 2000 when losing the turnover battle the Patriots are 38-37, or slightly over .500. But the rest of the NFL when losing the T.O. battle is just  713-2765-8. The next closest team in Indy who is winning at a .340 percentage.

Kyle Van Noy feels blessed to be part of the Patriots and on the anniversary of his trade to bring him to New England, he posted his feelings on his Twitter account. “Happy anniversary to me and my trade day! What a day that turned out to be!” #blessing #thanksbilltrill #thanksbob #champ

His worth is felt by Bill Belichick, “Kyle has a lot of versatility for us,” Belichick said. “Play the run, rush the passer and play in coverage. He does a good job at all of them and his versatility has been valuable for us.”

Patrick Peterson to the Patriots was never a rumor that we put much stock in here, it was totally debunked when Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston, said his sources told him that the Patriots never reached out at all. However, (comma), the trade deadline is just a few days away, what positions could the Pats be targeting? Hmm, an interior pass rusher, a running back or my choice, a sub-package linebacker who’ll have the speed to cover. Arizona has a pair of former first-round draft picks who are on the trading block because they don’t the new system. Deone Bucannon and Haasan Reddick are the two names that come to mind.

Nate Solder has told the media, that he does not regret leaving the Patriots for the New York Giants even though he’s lost more games (six) in the first seven weeks than he did in any Patriots season, even the past two years combined. “I was certainly not expecting [the trades], but I am so thankful to be here under the leadership of [general manager Dave] Gettleman, coach [Pat] Shurmur,” he said.

“I just think that they’re building this thing the right way. I believe in those guys tremendously. All of the decisions they made I fully support, and whatever that means, we play it out however it needs to be played out.” Of course, signing a four-year, $62 million dollar deal helps ease the sting of those losses a bit.

Melinfonwu is an Intriguing Player That the Pats Brought In:

The Patriots brought in three free agent players this week for workouts. As usual, they’re updating their emergency lists or just to get a feel for some players and see what makes them tick, just in case they meet them down the road. The team brought in TE Ben Koyack and DB Dexter McCoil but the real intriguing name was Obi Melifonwu.

Melifonwu is from Grafton, Mass and attended UConn after high school. At the NFL Combine last year, the uber-athletic safety put on a show. His sheer athleticism and elite size, (6’4, 225), put him on the Raiders radar and they snagged him with the 56th pick

His rookie season was marred with two stints on IR, the second was a hip injury that required surgery. He was just getting back on the field this summer when he injured his knee and the Raiders, under a new regime cut their ties to him.

We spoke to him very early in the spring and his rehab for his hip surgery was still a slow process, which is normal for those type of injuries. But apparently, Gruden, who didn’t draft him wanted to go in a different direction.                                                                                                                                                           

But the Raiders never really had a plan on how to use him, something that New England and Bill Belichick wouldn’t have any issue in doing. He was a bit frustrated with Oakland. A source close to Melifonwu told us that last year he had just started practicing before the Patriots game as he came off IR.  He said that on Thursday, he’d practiced at safety but then on Friday during the walkthrough, he was told, he’d be playing corner, something he’d hadn’t practiced.

That didn’t end well for the rookie but if the Patriots were to sign him, he’d most definitely be used as a safety as his skill set is tailor-made for it. Our feeling here is …if he’s healthy would be a really nice addition to the backend of the defense.

Patriots Find Themselves in a Familiar Place:

The season started slowly at 1-2 for New England and of course, all of the talk was centered around “if this is the year” that the Patriots lose the stranglehold in the division. And that talk, as well as the demise of the team, seems to be once again premature.  

With a win on Monday Night in Buffalo, the Patriots will enter the midway point of the season at 6-2 with at least a two-game lead over the Dolphins (with a tiebreaker) and the Jets. And the best part of it is that the team hasn’t even played their best football yet.

Miami got off to a hot 3-0 start, but since then it has been strictly downhill for the Fins going 1-4 and with questions about Ryan Tannehill’s future, the Dolphins are in for a lot of questions this offseason. Meanwhile, despite suffering a large number of injuries, the Patriots are in good shape to challenge for one of the top spots in the AFC.  

Who You Have This Week? NFL Week 8 Predictions:

Last week: 9-5 Season 67-38-2 Bye Week: Falcons, Cowboys, Chargers, Titans

Thursday night’s pick  Houston over Miami 1-0

Philadelphia vs Jacksonville in London: Eagles
Denver at Kansas City: Chiefs
Cleveland at Pittsburgh: Steelers
Washington at NY Giants: Redskins
Seattle at Detroit: Lions
Tampa Bay at Cincinnati: Bengals
NY Jets at Chicago: Bears
Baltimore at Carolina: Panthers
Indianapolis at Oakland: Colts
San Francisco at Arizona: 49ers
Green Bay at LA Rams: Rams
New Orleans at Minnesota: Vikings
MNF- New England at Buffalo: Patriots

Early Thursday Night Pick: Raiders over 49ers

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Hoping Anderson Turns it Around This Week:

The Buffalo Bills face the daunting task of taking on their nemesis, the New England Patriots and Tom Brady this week. Their record against Brady is 3-28 and the Bills enter this week 2-5, while the Patriots, winners of four in a row are 5-2. But if they’re going to have any chance of upsetting New England, they’ll have to be a much better effort than last week from QB Derek Anderson.

Anderson, taking over for the injured Josh Allen last week, had a rough game, turning the ball over four times, three interceptions and a fumble. Having been only in the Bills’ system for three weeks, there are still plenty of things to learn for Anderson, in terms of the playbook.

He will, however, have a few things going for him. This will be the Bills first Monday Night home game in about a decade and it guaranteed to be rocking.

Anderson has already shown some decent chemistry with Kelvin Benjamin but he really needs to get on the same page and quickly with Charles Clay. The big tight end should be a big part of the game plan this week as New England has had issues covering tight ends.

Dolphins Defense Enters Midway Point of 2018 Struggling:

The Miami Dolphins as we mentioned above started the season strong, especially on defense where they thought they’d made several improvements. But since the Patriots throttled them a month ago, they’ve really struggled and Thursday Night’s showing against the Texans was particularly poor.

The Texans big four playmakers had tremendous games against the Dolphins, QB Deshaun Watson completed 80 percent of his passes and had a QB rating of 156. The big duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller combined for 206 yards and three TDs. And Lamar Miller ran for 133 yards. After allowing the Lions to rush for 248 yards, Houston ran for 188 more and averaged 5.4 yards per carry.

And with a pass rush having the likes of Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake facing a Texans offensive line that has surrendered the most QB hits and sacks in the league, the Dolphins logged just one QB hit and zero sacks.

The Dolphins and coach Adam Gase are at a critical point of the season. They’ll have to turn things around and quickly, especially on defense this season if they are to make any noise this season. Otherwise, Gase’s seat could go from warm to hot this winter.

Jets Aware of Trubiski’s Ability to Scramble:

The New York Jets head out on the road to face the Chicago Bears this week and after watching the tape of last week, know that they must do a good job of limiting the scrambling ability of QB Mitch Trubiski who ran for 81 yards a week ago against New England.

The Bears offense, currently #6 in the NFL averaging 28.3 points per game is definitely being helped by the running of Trubiski who has rushed 31 times for 245 yards and a pair of touchdowns this season.

“He does surprise me, actually,” DE Leonard Williams said. “You see some running quarterbacks that are able to run, but he actually looks like a runner when he’s running. He doesn’t just look like a fast quarterback. I think that’s definitely a challenge.”

Coach Todd Bowles is preaching a total defensive effort this week but the Jets have fared fairly well thus far against mobile QBs in 2018. Against the Browns Baker Mayfield and Tyrod Taylor, Gang Green allowed just six rushes for 20 yards. Blake Bortles scrambled for 28 yards on three carries and Ryan Tannehill had 44 yards on eight scrambles.

For the Jets to pull off the upset, they’ll need to limit their turnovers and contain Trubiski in the pocket. Something the Patriots couldn’t do.

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.

James White Flourishes In Patriots Resurgent Offense

Robert Alvarez
October 24, 2018 at 12:25 pm ET

During the New England Patriots 1-2 start to 2018, the offense found itself averaging just 19 points per game and looking for answers.

After the teams embarassing ten point showing in a loss to the Detroit Lions on September 23rd, quarterback Tom Brady felt he had a solution for the teams slumping offense, get running back James white more involved.

At his postgame press conference Brady stated; “He [White] had a great catch and some great runs there at the end for us,” Brady said. “He’s just a great player for us. He’s got to be involved. Guys who can make plays, those are the ones that should be involved, and James is certainly one of them.”

Since that night in Detroit, White leads the team in targets (41), catches (31), receiving yards (255) and receiving touchdowns (four) during the four game win streak following that loss.

The Patriot offense is averaging 39.3 points per game, with all the games having 38 plus points scored, a first under head coach Bill Belichick.

Through seven games in 2018, White has already surpassed his career high in touchdown passes with six and is the first running back ever with 45 catches and six touchdowns through the first seven games.

As researched by NESN’s Zack Cox, White is not only getting more involved, but at a record setting pace.

“The NFL record for receptions in a season by a running back is 102, set by Matt Forte in 2014. White is on pace to finish with 103, which would shatter his previous career high of 60. He’s also on pace for 14 receiving touchdowns, which would smash the post-merger record of nine shared by Marshall Faulk, Chuck Foreman and Leroy Hoard, and 865 receiving yards, which would be the third-most by any back since 2000 behind Charley Gardner (941 in 2002) and David Johnson (879 in 2016).”

Whites numbers are all that more impressive when factoring in the return of Julian Edelman and acquisition of Josh Gordon, neither of whom were on the field in September but active during his run.

The timing of White’s receptions have also been pivotal and clutch.

Take third down during Sunday’s game against the Bears for instance, White was a perfect four for four in receptions to go along with a touchdown.

As PatsFans own Ian Logue pointed out, “White’s performance moved him ahead of Rob Gronkowski as New England’s leading 3rd down receiver, with White now sitting at 11 receptions (9 first downs) for 100-yards and 3 touchdowns on the season.”

Speaking with WEEI’s Kirk and Callahan morning show Monday, Brady praised White’s contributions in the win over the Chicago Bears.

“I know I talk about James White a lot, but you just couldn’t ask for a better player, a better teammate,” Brady said. “Someone who is as dependable and consistent as he has been for as long as he’s been here. It has just been an incredible thing for me to watch.”

“It’s hard to remember [a dropped pass]. He has incredible hands, his run after catch. Then, with Sony going down yesterday, he assumed just he normal tailback position on first and second down. He was in there on the four-minute offense running the clock out and making great runs and great decisions. It’s an incredible job he has done and he is doing. He’s really invaluable to our team.”

With the Patriots running back depth chart down to two, White is ready for the added responsbility after the loss of Sony Michel for the next few weeks.

“When guys like him go down, guys like myself and Kenjon [Barner] just have to step in and fill the void and make the most of the opportunities we get. We both run hard and try to get open in pass routes and just try to find a way to make plays.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BpPg9GqhIRz/?taken-by=sweetfeet

If Sony Michel Is Out For An Extended Period, Devontae Booker Fits

Steve Balestrieri
October 23, 2018 at 4:14 pm ET

According to several sources, first reported by NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, it appears Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel may have dodged a bullet and his injury may not be as serious as first thought. Michel went down awkwardly and his leg twisted under him. At first glance, it appeared to be a very serious, perhaps season-ending injury. But now Michel may be only out for a short while.

Regardless, Michel will be out at least this week and quite possibly several more, no one really knows for sure. If he is a week-to-week decision, that may change how the Patriots view the running back position and may opt to possibly promote someone like Kenneth Farrow from the practice squad if it is just for a very short period.

Farrow played with the Chargers during the 2016 season. Appearing in 13 games, he rushed 60 times for 192 yards and caught 13 passes for 70 yards. Farrow is built slightly larger than James White or Michel, while only 5’9, he tops out at 219 pounds. While not the prototypical “big back”, he offers enough for the Patriots to maybe get some production from.

The other two options are signing a street free agent or make a trade. One possible trade option could involve the Broncos Devontae Booker. Booker was drafted by the Broncos in the 4th Round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Utah. He’s 5’11, 219 pounds and has been dropped on the Broncos depth chart due to the emergence of running backs Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay.

Running back Devontae Booker #23 of the Denver Broncos rushes for a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers (USA Today)

He has been dropped down to third on the Broncos running back depth chart behind those two and is barely seeing the field. Against the Cardinals, on Thursday night he got zero carries and just one catch in the passing game. Two weeks ago against the Rams, Booker had just two carries and caught two passes. A change of scenery could be just the thing that he needs to energize his career.

Booker would be a nice fit in the Patriots offense because he’s a versatile kind of guy that they like. He can run the ball between the tackles and is a good receiver out of the backfield, something the Patriots like.

Booker has the quickness to the hole and makes good sharp cuts at the point of attack. He has very good vision and is a great fit in a zone blocking scheme. The Patriots offense is a bit multi-dimensional, however, they utilize mainly zone blocking schemes in the running game. Sony Michel came from a zone blocking scheme in Georgia and it is easy to see how well he fits as well.

Booker doesn’t have great, breakaway speed but has been a productive pass catcher out of the backfield. He caught 31 passes as a rookie for Denver and caught 30 more last season for 275 yards on just 38 targets.

He’s just 26 and his contract for the balance of the season would be just $354,375. He is due just $720,000 in 2019.

If Michel is indeed going to be out for several weeks, the Patriots will need to address the position and give James White some breaks. Booker is a decent runner and good pass receiver who would fit well within the Patriots system. He can probably be traded for from the Broncos to New England for a fairly cheap asking price.

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

 

New England Patriots News 9-30, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 30, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 9-30, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here and our players to watch for today’s game can also be found here:  

Dont’a Hightower said this week, that the defense has spent extra time in the meeting rooms trying to improve communication and to be sure that t “all 11 guys can be on the same page” when they hit the field today against Miami.

“We put it upon ourselves to kind of split up and spend more time on it — and it kind of went on a little longer than we wanted to — but it’s really just trying to get everything down pat. When everybody knows exactly what everybody else is doing, we’re able to play faster,” Hightower added. We’ll see today how effective that was.

Shea McClellan has filed for injury protection with the NFL over his concussion issues which forced him out of the league. That move prompted the league to guarantee half of what McClellan salary would have been, which lowers the Pats salary cap down by over $1 million. That would leave the team with just $1.7 million dollars in salary cap space.

For those clamoring for a LaVeon Bell trade? Not that the Steelers would trade him to New England anyway, but he isn’t signing for a million bucks.

If Tom Brady was doing a demo for “Dancing With the Stars” on Friday, he may have some more work to do. Brady was imitating James White’s TD dance move and both he and White laughed about it and said he has a long way to go.

Patriots Hoping Gordon and Edelman Can Revive Passing Game:

Although we’ve seen the stats, we don’t really need to as the eye test will tell the same thing. The Patriots passing game has been terrible so far this season. The wide receivers have underperformed and struggled and it has put far too much pressure on Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to get things done.

The hope is that the additions of Josh Gordon, possibly today and Julian Edelman on Thursday against the Colts will reinvigorate and energize the passing game, especially with the wide receivers. Edelman would give Brady that built-in safety valve, chains moving piece of the puzzle that can pick up those key first downs. Gordon gives them, if healthy, the big-bodied WR that has game-breaking potential for big plays and can stretch the field, opening up some room underneath for Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson.

The latter three are the more complementary type of receivers and not the #1 go-to guys and would benefit greatly by the addition of both Edelman and Gordon.

But today, whether Gordon makes his much-anticipated debut or not, the wide receivers need to step up and play a lot better period. Miami has very good corners and they’ll be playing a lot of press man coverage. They need to start winning the 1-on-1 matchups and getting open.

The coaches can help by ditching the conservative play calling and putting the ball back in Brady’s hands and allowing him to be more proactive in the offense rather than reactive and throwing in obvious situations.

Injuries Have Hit Epidemic Proportions For the Pats:

In the aftermath of the ugly loss in Detroit was the added bad news that both Rex Burkhead and rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley were being placed on IR. After just three weeks of the NFL season, the Patriots roster has already been decimated by injuries this summer.

Of course, there are some revisionist history types that want to take Belichick to task for trading Brandin Cooks this spring. To a degree, there is some definite room for argument there that the Patriots should have kept Cooks given how thin the WR core is on the team right now. We won’t even mention the tin foil hat types who claim that Belichick is sabotaging Brady in the final years of his career to … make Brady (and himself?) look bad.

“Bill is definitely trying to sabotage Brady, it is all so clear,”

But we digress. Cooks was gone after 2018 and the Patriots could have gotten a 3rd round compensatory pick for him. He was set to make $8 million which they could have afforded at the time.  Or they make the deal then and get a first-round draft pick for him (#23) which they did, and which was higher than what they paid for him (#32). But the Patriots weren’t going to pay Cooks anything close to what the Rams did and he went there and promptly got paid.

So, in retrospect, the Patriots surely could have kept Brandin Cooks this season and the passing numbers of the offense would have no doubt looked better than they are. And remember, they needed a Left Tackle because Nate Solder left to go to the Giants.

But, let’s look at the Patriots offense this year when training camp started and who’s there now, starting with the wide receivers.

WR Malcolm Mitchell – Injury, released
WR Kenny Britt – Injury, released
WR Jordan Matthews – Injury released
WR Julian Edelman – Suspended first four weeks of the season

How different would the offense have looked at those four players stayed healthy/clean? When added to Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson, they wouldn’t have looked so thin right? But hindsight is 20/20. Honestly, I had no issue with the Cooks trade, it made sense then, considering the loss at left tackle. But I wish they’d spent the money on Danny Amendola that they are paying a certain blocking tight end who is invisible in the passing game and who isn’t blocking anyone exceptionally well right now. 

The 2018 NFL Draft? The Patriots selections have been snake bit by the injury bug

Round 1 – LT Isaiah Wynn, Tackle – IR
Round 1 – RB Sony Michel – Injury, missed a month and is just rounding into shape.
Round 2 – CB Duke Dawson – IR
Round 5 – LB Ja’Whaun Bentley – IR
Round 6 – LB Christian Sam – IR
Round 6 – WR Braxton Berrios – IR
Round 7 – QB Danny Etling – Practice Squad
Round 7 – CB Keion Crossen – has missed time with hamstring, back injuries

Compound this with losing to two of the running backs to injury and IR that they were really counting on in Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead, and the time missed by TE Jacob Hollister who is supposed to take some heat off of Rob Gronkowski. Yes, the offense and the team as a whole has been snakebit.  We were actually pretty confident with those players, and adding in Michel, Burkhead, White, and Hill from the backfield that the offense was going to be fine. But injuries ravaged the offense this summer and to quote Belichick, it is what it is.

Of course, it is easy to be critical of Belichick after the fact. But a show of hands, who saw all of these players would have their injuries, thus far? Anyone?

Who You Have This Week, NFL Week 2 Predictions:

Last week: 8-8 Season 26-20-2 Bye Week: Washington, Caroline

Thursday night’s pick Rams over the Vikings 1-0

New York Jets at Jacksonville:  Jaguars
Miami at New England: Patriots
Philadelphia at Tennessee: Eagles
Houston at Indy: Texans
Buffalo at Green Bay: Packers
Detroit at Dallas: Cowboys
Tampa Bay at Chicago: Bears
Cincinnati at Atlanta: Falcons
Seattle at Arizona: Seattle
Cleveland at Oakland: Raiders
New Orleans at New York Giants: Saints
SF at LA Chargers:  Chargers
Baltimore at Pittsburgh: Steelers
KC at Denver: Chiefs

Early Thursday Night Prediction: New England over Indy

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Look For Second Straight Big Win Over NFC North:

The Buffalo Bills shocked the Minnesota Vikings last week and cruised to an easy 27-6 win. No one gave them a chance to win and they totally out-physically dominated a  Vikings team that prides itself on that.

Things don’t get much easier this week, The Bills move on to Lambeau Field and play the Green Bay Packers and again, most of the national pundits are picking Green Bay who has scuffled along at 1-1-1.

Good news for Buffalo is that Aaron Rodgers continues to be limited in his mobility from his knee injury and that will put a lid on how much he can scramble on the busted, sandlot plays that the Pack typically feast on. Jerry Hughes who had a pair of sacks, two QB hits, and a forced fumble last week will be looked to for another big game.

Josh Allen will need a big game this week, although Green Bay’s defense is far from a shutdown unit, they are opportunistic and Rodgers is usually top notch at home. Green Bay is favored by 12.5 today.

Amendola Has Been the Same Guy for the Dolphins:

The Miami Dolphins signed WR Danny Amendola this offseason for his toughness, clutch ability, and his veteran leadership. And so far this season, they’re getting all three. Amendola has the most receptions for Miami with 11 and it has been much like New England, with the bulk of his catches coming in the dangerous places over the middle where the chains continue to move and keep the offense on the field.

Amendola has plenty of close friends in the opposing locker room at Foxboro today. He was not only one of Brady’s closest friends on the team, but a very valuable trusted presence by his teammates as well.

Amendola has hardly ever been a quote machine, he totally bought into the Belichickian way of speaking and saying very little, preferring to letting his play do his talking for him. And despite what Jalen Ramsey thinks, Amendola has continued to produce without Tom Brady and will be looked to this afternoon to give Miami a big spark. No one on the Miami sideline knows the Patriots defense as well as he does. He practiced against them for years.  

Don’t be surprised if Ryan Tannehill tries to get Amendola going early and often in the matchup this afternoon. And while Amendola will never say it, either before or after the game, he, I’m sure would love to have a big, big game against his former teammates. But more than anything, he wants to come away with a win. That is the kind of thing he learned here that is most important.

Darnold Going Thru Growing Pains With the Jets:

The New York Jets Sam  Darnold burst onto the scene in Week 1 in the Jets thrashing of the Lions on national television. Since then, however, Darnold has for much of the time resembled the rookie that he is. Saddled with a leaky offensive line, which we pointed out here quite a few times, and very conservative play-calling, it is no wonder his learning curve has flattened out a bit.

This is normal for many young QBs and the Jets Offensive Coordinator Jeremy Bates is trying to simplify things for Darnold which will make it easier to for him to call the plays and play within himself as he learns the pro game.

This is the risk with playing a QB so young (Darnold is just 21) right out of the chute in the NFL. His confidence can be shaken especially with a seasoned and solid veteran in Josh McCown on the roster. Today, Darnold will be facing the Jaguars defense and he’ll have his work cut out for him.

And Bates should be worried more about Jacksonville than New England but he pointed out that failed headsets in every game this season has hurt the offense. And despite the league being in charge of the headsets, Bates had to take a dig at New England.

“It happened in all three games,” Bates said. “There’s sometimes interference, radio interference. It’s amazing. I don’t know how to do it, but I guess you can FaceTime people in China, but our headsets go out.”

I’m not throwing anyone under the bus, but the button stopped working,” Bates said. “We’ve tried to correct it, and understand that that can happen at any time, especially in New England.” Oh yes, he did…he went there.

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.

Players To Watch Patriots-Dolphins Week 4

Steve Balestrieri
September 28, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

Big AFC East Matchup

The New England Patriots limp home after a 0-2 and uncharacteristically poor start on the road for 2018. The team is just 1-2, and although we’re used to seeing slow starts from the Pats in September, this week’s game, because of that slow start takes on very high significance.

Miami enters the game on a roll at 3-0 and is two games up on New England in the division. A win in Foxboro, where Miami rarely wins will put the Dolphins up three games plus the tiebreaker which puts the Pats far in the rearview mirror. No one picked Miami to make much noise this season, Adam Gase has his team believing and this is a big benchmark game for them.

The Patriots are searching for answers both offensively and defensively. Injuries are have already ravaged the team after just three weeks, with nearly their entire draft class of 2018 on IR. This is an even bigger game from New England’s point of view. They can ill-afford to drop a home game against a divisional opponent, and one that is already two games up on them in the division.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Josh Gordon:

The Patriots traded for Gordon less than two weeks ago and his every move has been scrutinized despite being slowed by a hamstring problem that has left him limited in practice. And with that issue, along with him trying to learn the offense, would lend itself to lowered expectations, at least initially.

But the opposite is actually in effect here. Many people believe that Gordon is going to light it up immediately in Foxboro as soon as he hits the field, even if they have just a small package of plays for him to start.

Truthfully, whether you loved the trade or hated it bringing Gordon to New England, putting so much on this player’s plate after having barely played in the NFL for the past five years is a tad of a reach. But at this point, after such a buildup, we just want to see him on the field now.

John Simon:

The Patriots picked up the former Colts DE/LB this week and although he will only get a few days of practice, we do expect to see him on the field. Simon has had production in the NFL and was let go because the Colts were changing their system and his talents didn’t fit the direction they were going.

Which leads us to the intriguing question, how do the coaches visualize using Simon?  He’s at his best as a 3-4 outside linebacker and wasn’t greatly suited to be a 4-3 defensive end, hence his release from Indy. The Patriots have been primarily a 4-3 team, although Bill Belichick hates being pigeonholed. So, does this mean we’ll see some 3-4 looks or even some of those five-man fronts we’ve seen in the past?  Possibly, and with the issues they’ve had stopping the run, something had to be done.

Simon does have some talent at rushing the QB and setting the edge in the running game which is very important moving forward. It will be intriguing to see how Belichick and Brian Flores decide how to use Simon here.

James White:

The Patriots Swiss Army Knife of the offense had his looks and snaps curtailed a bit as the team was pushing Sony Michel, trying to shake the rust off of him after the rookie running back missed nearly a month of training camp, all of the preseason and the first game of the year. Now, they need the veteran to step up his game.

White’s versatility in the passing game will be put to the test this week. With the Patriots wide receivers struggling to win 1-on-1 matchups, the running backs will be looked to even more to take up the slack. Rex Burkhead was a favorite receiver of Tom Brady’s but he’s injured again and on IR. Michel is just finding his feet in the NFL so White will have to step up his game again.

Look for White to get a lot of looks against the Miami secondary this week. Brady will try to isolate him on a linebacker and create favorable matchups to keep the chains moving. White can also chip in with the running game but this week, they need him to get 7-10 catches out of the backfield.

Trey Flowers/Pat Chung:

Last week, the Patriots really missed these two starters against the Lions. Flowers is their best defensive lineman and arguably their best defensive player period. He’s excellent in run support and is a good pass rusher off the edge. Chung is outstanding in run support down in the box and has always given good coverage against opposing tight ends. With the defense reeling, they need both back this week.

They both were in concussion protocol last week and missed the game in Detroit, and both have still been limited in practice this week.  Having the two of them back for this game will be a big boost for a defense that is in search of a spark.

We’re looking for them to bounce back this week and play solid against a talented Dolphins offense. We’re watching the Flowers matchup against Miami RT Ju’Wuan James this week. If the Patriots are going to be successful, they’ll need Flowers to get the better of that one on Sunday afternoon.

Rob Gronkowski:

The Patriots big tight end has been off to a slow start during the past two games and the Patriots offense needs him to get it going. Gronkowski is a force multiplier when he’s on top of his game, it elevates the rest of the offensive players around him.

There are already some rumblings that he can’t run anymore, and that he needs to build up his speed down the field. Comments like that are always good fodder to get the competitive juices flowing even more.

Perhaps the addition of Gordon, if even for a few plays this week, will open up just enough space for Gronkowski to get his game back on track. There is nothing like a little home cooking with the crowd at Gillette to ignite the big man and awake this slumbering offense. Brady will be looking to get him involved early and often in this one.

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.

New England Patriots News 9-23, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 23, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 9-23, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning… just a quick reminder that you can check out our key matchups to the game here and our players to watch for tonight’s game can also be found here:  

Jacob Hollister was a late addition to the injury report on Friday and has been ruled out of tonight’s game. He was one of the players we had in our pregame matchups to watch. He may miss a game or two according to reports.

Cyrus Jones is back in the fold and will probably be returning punts tonight. He was part of the last cuts by New England and landed on the Ravens practice squad. But the Pats signed him back to the active roster this week and look for a hungry and motivated Jones this week. An interesting tidbit was that Jones was practicing with the safeties this week.

Resilience:  The Patriots success under Bill Belichick is always enhanced by the fact that they don’t lose many games back to back. As we pointed out earlier this week, the Patriots are 45-6 since 2003 following a loss. And for those conspiracy theorists that lament the Patriots playing in the AFC “Least”? Since realignment in 2002, the Patriots are 51-16 against the NFC, the best interconference record in the NFL. 

Tom Brady reportedly was testy and irritable all week in practice. Mike Giardi from NFL Network reported that Brady was quite unhappy with the level of execution that the Patriots showed in Jacksonville and wants to ensure that it doesn’t happen again this week against the Lions.

Corey Coleman the former 1st Round draft pick of the Browns in the 2016 NFL Draft was released by the Patriots to make room for Josh Gordon. But the next day after clearing waivers, the Patriots signed him to the team’s practice squad.

Coleman had only spent a week in New England and was inactive for the Jacksonville game but Bill Belichick was highly complimentary of the former Baylor wide receiver.

“He’s a player we want to work with,” Belichick said. “We’ll see how it goes. We haven’t had him a long time but he’s done a good job with the opportunities that he’s had. We want to keep working with him. We’ll see how it goes.”

Malcolm Mitchell filed a grievance against the Patriots, as first reported by our old buddy Miguel Benzan, commonly known as @Patscap the salary cap guru. The former the receiver has filed an injury grievance against the team and was seeking his entire 2018 salary of $630,000.

Mitchell was released by the Patriots back on August 6. That release was not coupled with an injury designation, so the receiver could not recoup any money from his deal. Mitchell cleared waivers, however, late Friday night there were reports that the two sides had settled the dispute.

Pat Chung/Trey Flowers didn’t practice this week and are doubtful for tonight’s game. Their loss will be a big blow to the Patriots defense. Flowers is their best player on the defensive side of the ball and Chung is an excellent tackler and his presence will be missed in the running game and the covering of tight ends.

No One Wants to See Gordon Fail:

In the hoopla of the Josh Gordon trade this week, reactions were mixed but by far, most were exceedingly positive and the prevailing theme was, “Brady hasn’t had a target like this since Randy Moss.”

Others, including here in this column were against the trade. And my TL and DMs quickly jumped my mentions by explaining that it was a “low-risk, high reward” scenario. Other mentions accused me of wanting Gordon to fail, which is ridiculous.

But this move isn’t low risk, because Gordon isn’t being just brought in to be a complementary piece. All of the mentions states, the Patriots need a player who can stretch the field and take pressure off of the intermediate receivers. So, yes he will be expected to play a valuable role.

While the compensation is basically a wash, which is basically a no-risk scenario, the big risk here, as I pointed out in the Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on Tuesday is time. This wasn’t a trade you make in March and have six months to figure out if the player fits your offense, your locker room and has put his problems on the back burner enough for you to secure him a roster spot.

This scenario is after Week 2 of the NFL regular season. And the team doesn’t have the time to try to prepare for an upcoming opponent while trying to incorporate a new Wide Receiver into the fold while treading very lightly around said, player. And he is a player with serious addiction issues. It isn’t as some point out, “just weed” and is much deeper.

Saying all this can be easily fixed by just dropping him in the Patriots locker room is overly simplistic and doesn’t lend itself the seriousness of Gordon’s situation. What about when he goes home at night? That’s where his problems lie, not in the building.

Everyone here wants to see him be successful…at life, football is a far second to that. Addiction and drug use are big problems facing our nation as a whole. But his physical talents have never been in question.  Would we love to see him light it up and be a part of bringing Lombardi #6 home? Of course.

But it isn’t as simple or as easy as many will have you believe. Hopefully, Robert Kraft will put some quality off-field support mechanisms around Gordon to help him.

Derek Rivers Set To Make His NFL Debut?

The bad news of Trey Flowers having a concussion and having missed all of this week’s practice could be an opportunity for last year’s top draft pick Derek Rivers. Rivers has been a healthy scratch for both of the first two games of the season after falling behind Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise and Keionta Davis on the depth chart.

Rivers missed all of the 2017 season after tearing his ACL during joint practices with the Jaguars last August. He started slowly in training camp this year but came on and started to round into form.

It will be interesting to see how he can produce in a regular season game, which will be his first NFL action if Flowers is a scratch for tonight’s game. Rivers told NESN’s Doug Kyed this week that he hasn’t been frustrated by his lack of playing time yet but he’s just working hard and waiting for his chance.

“I’d be excited,” he said.  “But this is what we’ve been doing since camp. I got to play in the preseason, and every game is similar. I know everybody puts a lot of pressure on preseason and regular season, but a football game is a football game. It’s a blessing to play in each and every one of them. It will be exciting times, and god-willing, if this is the week, then I’ll be excited.”

Who You Have This Week, NFL Week 2 Predictions:

Last week: 9-6-1 Season 18-12-2

Thursday night’s pick Cleveland over the Jets 1-0

New Orleans at Atlanta: Falcons
Green Bay at Washington: Packers
Indy at Philadelphia: Eagles
Buffalo at Minnesota: Vikings
Oakland at Miami: Dolphins
Denver at Baltimore:  Ravens
Cincinnati at Carolina: Panthers
Giants at Houston: Texans
Tennessee at Jacksonville: Titans
San Francisco at Kansas City: Chiefs
LA Rams at LA Chargers: Rams
Dallas at Seattle: Dallas
Chicago at Arizona: Cardinals
New England at Detroit: Patriots
Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay: Bucs

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have a Tough Matchup on the Road in Minnesota:

Buffalo is 0-2 and heading to Minnesota to take on the 1-0-1 Vikings. Since opening their new stadium in 2016, the Vikes are 14-4 at home, third best in the NFL behind New England and Philadelphia.

Josh Allen has the unenviable task of going with a shaky offensive line and a dearth of playmakers against one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Vikings have seven sacks as a team, while the Bills have already allowed 11.

After being hammered in the first half and allowing 28 points, Head Coach Sean McDermott took over the defensive play calling in the second half and the unit responded, allowing just three points in the second half. That will bear watching today.

While we were adamant that Allen should have been sitting and learning in his rookie year, McDermott hit the panic button after just one half of the first game. Allen was sacked five times last week and has been put in a nearly impossible position to succeed. Buffalo will have to tread carefully here, these type of situations have ruined other young QB’s confidence. And the Vikes will be bringing the heat.

Dolphins Have Big Game At Home Against the 0-2 Raiders:

Miami is 2-0 and has played very well against both the Titans and Jets and sit alone atop the AFC East after just two weeks. So why is this game against the winless Raiders such a big one? Because these are the types of games the Dolphins have consistently dropped when having a chance to get momentum going.

Today’s home game will put the Dolphins at 3-0 and guarantee them of no worse than a tie with New England with a road trip heading up to Foxboro next weekend. And a win will put the Dolphins of a chance of going undefeated thru the quarter pole of the season  That will boost a lot of confidence in the team as they move forward.

With kickoff time temps of about 88 degrees with high humidity, it is a built-in advantage. Also, factor in the Raiders are making an East Coast swing for a 1 p.m. game, something that West Coast teams don’t normally play well in, it is something to watch for.

Miami has a prime opportunity for them to pounce on a team that hasn’t played well yet in 2018. And look for their defense today to make a couple of big plays. That will set up some good drama for Week 4, which will pit them against the Pats for the first time this year.

Darnold Takes Blame For Loss, But the Fault Was With Jets Coaches:

The New York Jets lost on Thursday Night Football 21-17 to the Cleveland Browns, the Jets third game in 11 days and may have run out of gas at the end. And of course, the popular narrative was that Baker Mayfield outplayed Sam Darnold on the big stage.

While you can certainly point to the numbers to make that case, it was hardly that simple. When Mayfield came in, the Jets were rolling 14-0. But rather than put restrictions on him, the Cleveland coaches cut him loose and allowed him to throw the ball all over the field, in other words opening the playbook completely to him. And Mayfield looked very much the part of the 1st overall pick in the draft against what is a pretty darn good Jets defense.

Darnold, in contrast, was just 15-31 for 169 yards and two interceptions, both thrown with under a minute and a half left in the game on desperation throws.

“From my point of view, I just have to play better, simple as that,” Darnold said after the game. “It’s not acceptable, the way I played. I know that, and I have to take it like a man. I feel like I’m responsible for some of the stagnant offense we had. I just have to play better, that’s it.”

While standing up and taking responsibility is laudable, the coaches deserve as much if not more of the blame for the stagnant offense. They have saddled the rookie with a very limited playbook. Worried about the Browns blitzing, they gave him a steady diet of screen passes and other very conservative options. They never allowed him to test the field the way the Browns did.

Even Jets WR Quincy Enunwa hit on the issue, although he worded it carefully, there is no doubt what he said here. “He did as well as he could with the plays that were given to him,” Enunwa said. “They had a lot of pressure, and that kind of messed us up.”

The Jets aren’t helping his progression by limiting what he can do on the field. Making things simpler is one thing, hamstringing a QB’s options are another. It is like being thrown the keys to a muscle car and then being told, not to shift it out of second.

NFL fans lost out on what would have been an interesting matchup between two QBs of the future. Darnold didn’t regress in his third start, the coaching staff blinked. Let him play the way he’s capable of.

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.

Patriots Dismantled By the Jaguars 31-20, Three Up Three Down

Steve Balestrieri
September 17, 2018 at 9:39 am ET

Another Ugly Early Season Blowout

Welcome to overreaction Monday, lines for the Tobin are forming to the right…and it looks like they’re handling the overflow to the Zakim. Yes, the Patriots stunk up the joint earlier on Sunday. Yes, the score doesn’t nearly do justice to how soundly they were beaten…And yes, we’ve seen this before.

The Jaguars were by far the better team on Sunday afternoon, the most important thing was they completely dominated the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively. When that happens, you’ll tend to get those lopsided scores.

The team lost two of their best defenders to concussions, Trey Flowers and Pat Chung and Deatrich Wise left with a hand injury that looked serious. We’ll be watching how that plays out this week.

Blake Bortles torched the New England secondary to the point we haven’t seen since Week 1 of last year. He completed 29 of 45 for 377 yards with 4 TDs and one interception. The Jaguars receivers consistently beat man coverage and when the Patriots went to zone coverages, the Jaguar receivers found wide open spots like it was a 7-7 practice session.

We wrote here that the Jaguars would come out throwing and they did. The Patriots were playing to stuff the run and dared them to throw. They dared and won. Handily. The Jaguars played like this one like a perfect storm. The home opener, the heat and a very good game plan along with excellent execution doomed the Patriots.

Containment and setting the edge? After a very good week of doing that against Houston, the Patriots did a terrible job of it this week.

Offensively the Patriots couldn’t run the ball and the wide receivers struggled to get any kind of separation. Pats WRs had just 11 catches for 104 yards with two TDs, both from Chris Hogan. Keelan Cole alone had seven grabs for 116 yards and a score. That’s the kind of day it was all around.

The Patriots won the toss and elected to receive, wanting to start fast in the humid, hot conditions with a heat index of around 107 at kickoff. The actually moved the ball and got into Jacksonville territory.

Brady had Gronkowski on a crossing route with a lot of green in front of him. But the linebacker had a fistful of jersey and the white material stretched far out behind him, blending a perfect contrast to the green grass. Apparently it invisible to the naked (official’s) eye. On third down Brady’s pass was incomplete and he was pile driven to the turf…also with no call. On fourth down Stephen Gostkowski badly shanked a long field goal attempt.

Jacksonville got the ball and promptly moved down the field with ease. Bortles made a beauty of a pass, one of several on the day, to Donte Moncrief in the end zone and although it was only 7-0 at that point, the writing was already on the wall.

A Patriots three and out and another quick score and it was 14-0 and this one was already badly slipping away much like that woeful game in KC four years ago. At the end of the half, the Jags got a gift when they set a pick play and blocked Pat Chung far from the line of scrimmage and Austin Seferian-Jenkins was wide open to make it 21-3.

But as much as the media is playing up the storyline that the Jaguars finished this time unlike the AFC Championship Game, it wasn’t for lack of trying to give it away on their part. Brady in his post-game remarks lamented the loss of chances and Jacksonville tried to give it away but the Patriots just weren’t having any of it.

A fumble recovery off of D.J. Chark could only net three points. On the Jags next possession, Bortles made his only mistake of the day. He tried to force a ball inside with a pair of Patriots defenders in tight coverage the ball was deflected and Kyle Van Noy alertly picked it off.

The Patriots were just 25 yards away from making it a one-score game. But instead Dante Fowler knocked the ball out of Brady’s hand and the Jaguars recovered, ending a big chance to actually make it a game.

On the ensuing drive, James White’s dive for the first down marker was overturned by an official’s call. But Jacksonville tried to give it away again by jumping offside on the fourth down punt. But Brandon King, who is on the team strictly for his Special Teams’ ability stood there dumbfounded as if he were made of stone. If King touches the defender, it is a first down. These are the kind of mistakes the Patriots normally feast on.

On the first play after the punt, Bortles hit Dede Westbrook with a short slant and he cut across the field, leaving a sea of white jerseys in his wake for a 61-yard TD. Thank you for coming, please put your seats and trays in the upright position.

Still, Jacksonville attempted to play with fire. After Brady hit Chris Hogan for his second touchdown of the day to make it 31-20 with Jalen Ramsey in trail, the Jaguars started on their 15-yard line. Nathaniel Hackett who had called a tremendous game foolishly called a backward pass at the 10-yard line. They were fortunate that the play lost only five yards, had it hit the ground, anything could have happened. But didn’t. Regardless of the lost opportunities, this was a game, they had no business even being in at the end, never mind winning.

Three Up, Three Down:

Up:

Sony Michel – The Patriots rookie running back made his first appearance in a Patriots uniform after missing all four preseason games and the season opener. While there was certainly plenty of rust involved, it was good to finally see the rook on the field. He had just 10 rushes for 34 yards and one catch for seven, but he hasn’t played in a meaningful game since college.

He looked good, albeit in a small dose, and should be a very dynamic member of the offense once his feet are under him.

Jacob Hollister – The second-year tight end has missed some significant time with a hamstring issue and was also shaking off the rust as well as Michel. Hollister chipped in with three catches for 35 yards, which, if he can do consistently every week will eventually take a big load off of Rob Gronkowski.

Tom Brady – Considering the pressure that the Jaguars put him under all game, the fact they got only two sacks speaks well of Brady’s ability to move in the pocket and get the ball out quickly.

His numbers were pedestrian by his standards, 25-34, 234 yards with two TDs and O INTs. and he’d definitely like to have a few plays back, the throw-away where he had Patterson across the middle that looked like it could go for a TD was one. But overall, he hung in and somehow kept the team in the game late when they had no business being there.

Down:

Offensive/Defensive Lines – Take your pick, both were awful and were dominated at the point of attack. Plain and simple. After a very good effort on Week 1 on both sides of the ball, the offensive and defensive lines took a huge step back.

No sacks, very little pressure and not setting the edge are recipes for a loss. The Jags OL was getting a great push and the NE DL was consistently on roller skates. The OL couldn’t get anything going in the running game and the pass protection was iffy all game long.

Ja’Whaun Bentley – The rookie linebacker has been so impressive thus far in his short NFL career had a rough afternoon, especially in coverage. He was far from alone in that aspect but after looking so strong initially, this was a step back for the big, rookie LB.

This is a perfect learning experience for the young player and the coaches will point out where the mistakes were, and they were all correctable.

Eric Rowe – No one could have wanted to get on a Southwest Air commercial than Rowe yesterday “Want to Get Away?” Rowe had one of those days that everyone has and tries to put behind him as quick as possible.

The Jaguars picked on Rowe everytime they threw the ball in his direction. Keelan Cole smoked Rowe for a TD that made the score 14-3 and Belichick quickly sat the veteran. That wasn’t a good sign for the rest of the day. Good thing for Rowe was that Bortles and the Jags were equal opportunity abusers, they picked on everybody.

_____________

So, we’re well used to early season stinkers and this was a stinkeroo and the problems that we saw on Sunday are all correctable. As we said at the outset, this is overreaction Monday, the “AFC goes thru Jacksonville” talk in Week 2 is laughably ridiculous.

There are 14 weeks left in the season and as we’ve seen many times, this team will get it straightened out. Watch the tapes, fix the errors and then bury them with the game balls at the back of the practice field.

We’re on to Detroit.

New England Patriots News 8-26, Getting Back on Track

Steve Balestrieri
August 26, 2018 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, Here is your Sunday Patriots news 8-26, & AFC East Notes.

No AFC East Notes this week as we’ve been putting the finishing touches on our 53-man Roster Projection after the last two preseason games. Check that out tomorrow on PatsFans.com

Quick Hitters:  

Things that Make you go hmm: Alex Guerrero, after all of the hoopla surrounding him, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick all offseason, was on the team plane heading to Carolina. Guerrero won’t be on the sidelines during the game but will travel with and treat the players (Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman) that utilize his skills prior to the games.

Bill Belichick didn’t let the preseason game go without a teaching point. With the team being outplayed by a wide margin and down by multiple scores, several of the young players went overboard celebrating a stopped two-point conversion. Belichick lit into them and no doubt pointed out what the score was, it is no time to celebrate, one will remember the Derrick Mason bit with the Ravens several years ago.

Belichick’s assessment after the game left no doubt that the team has a long way to go. “The Panthers obviously did a good job,” Belichick said. “Coach Rivera, his staff, their team played well in all three phases of the game and outplayed us across the board for four quarters. So we’ve got a lot of work to do. There really wasn’t any part of the game that was very competitive. So we’ll just have to go back to work and see if we can find a way to do a few things better than we did them tonight. That’s really about all there is to say.”

The offensive and defensive lines were pretty much dominated by the units of the Panthers of Friday night. After last week’s performance against Philadelphia, that has to be a major disappointment for the coaching staff.

Eric Decker didn’t do much to justify a roster spot with another poor performance on Friday night in Charlotte. Targeted five times, he caught just two passes for 12 yards and didn’t play a snap with Tom Brady and the starting unit. His best hope to stick is that Julian Edelman’s suspension gives him a reprieve for a couple of weeks to get it sorted out. Even with depleted depth at WR, his chances of sticking at this point have to be getting slimmer each day.

Mike Gillislee likewise isn’t looking like he’s going to stick to the 53-man roster. Jeremy Hill looks quicker and more decisive in getting to the hole and his inability to be a factor in the passing game hurts his chances. Hill seems (at least from here) to have clearly won the battle for the bigger back duties. Like Decker, his chances of sticking now appear to center around uncertainty. With both Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel hurt, he may make the roster out of default. Burkhead looks to be much closer to return at this point and if Michel gets put on IR, then he too may work his way on the roster.

Red Zone Defense was one of the few bright spots on what was a pretty dismal first half for the Patriots overall. The Panthers marched down the field three times and while the defense didn’t play well, they did stiffen up in the red area and hold Carolina to just three field goals.

Stephon Gilmore had a nice pass breakup in the end zone after the initial ten-minute opening drive, forcing the Panthers to settle for three.

Keionta Davis played over Derek Rivers in the first half and saw a considerable amount of snaps with the first unit. It is a positive sign for the 1st year player that the coaches want to see what he can do against the top opposition. The staff obviously likes what they see in him.

Jordan Richards appears locked again on the 53-man roster, the much-maligned safety played on all four special teams units with the starters in the first half.  His main competition, Eddie Pleasant, played zero snaps with the starters.

Only one player hasn’t appeared in any of the three preseason games, rookie punter Corey Bojorquez has yet to make an appearance this summer. The strong-legged punter from New Mexico now has zero chance of unseating veteran Ryan Allen.

Jason McCourty will be a curious decision for the coaching staff at cut down time. The veteran corner was placed at safety and was very late getting over on Panthers’ touchdown pass in the second half. But then made a great play on the next red zone sequence, reading the play and shooting into the backfield to hit the runner for a loss. Playing a variety of positions may help his case with the coaching staff.

Wide Receiver Position Still in Flux:

We mentioned the struggles continuing with Eric Decker, with just two weeks remaining before the season opener, things are still unsettled there. Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson are locks, that is only three for the first month of the season. It leaves plenty to be done in a short amount of time.

Dorsett helped his own cause in a nice game Friday night, catching all four passes thrown his way for 36 yards. Included in that was a key fourth down pass to keep the chains moving, a sign of trust from Brady that was encouraging.

Patterson played nearly the entire game which left many scratching their heads, but the belief here is that he is still working his way into the offense and the coaches just want to see the different ways they can possibly utilize his talents.

It looks right now like Riley McCarron may earn at least an early roster spot. He was on the field early last night and has punt return ability. He still catches the ball with his body too much but he got the opportunity over Decker in four WR sets in the first half. But his two drops late, didn’t help his chances.

Braxton Berrios is hurt and hasn’t played, a rookie isn’t going to make the team that way. Devin Lucien is a hard worker but appears as a very long shot to make the team at this point. Despite this, the passing game should be fine, especially after Edelman returns. With Rob Gronkowski and Jacob Hollister at tight end, James White, Burkhead and Michel out of the backfield, there are plenty of targets for Brady to throw to. But some added depth would be on the coaches to-do list when the cut downs begin elsewhere around the league.

Bentley Continues Strong Preseason:

Rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley has been having a very solid summer. That continued on Friday night in Carolina. Although Elandon Roberts got the start, Bentley played a significant amount of snaps with the first unit in the first half and accounted for himself in another positive performance.

In the second half, with the backups, Bentley was calling the signals and acting like the leader of the defense, something that shouldn’t be lost on the coaches. Bentley has continually been improving his game since Day 1 of camp and should be in line to see significant snaps once the regular season begins.

Despite Roberts getting the start on Friday, we’d put Bentley on equal or better footing than the veteran and it shouldn’t be long before the big Purdue linebacker is getting the start on this defense.

Cyrus Jones Returns:

Less than a year from his ACL surgery, Patriots third-year cornerback Cyrus Jones returned to the playing field getting some work in with the secondary as well as in the return game.

That in itself was a very positive sign for the Alabama alum and he looked fast with some sharp cuts in the return game. His first kickoff return was his best a 27-yarder where he showed good vision and cut-back ability before it was wiped out by a penalty.

Jones has been the forgotten man after a nightmarish rookie season and his sophomore year wiped out by an ACL injury in the final preseason game. His speed and change of direction ability seem back to where they were and he fielded all of his attempts cleanly. His status for next week will bear watching.

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.

Patriots Release Wide Receiver Malcolm Mitchell

Steve Balestrieri
August 6, 2018 at 3:11 pm ET

The Patriots are releasing wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, according to NFL insider Jason La Canfora.

Knee issues have dogged Mitchell since his playing days at Georgia and are the cause of his release. The Patriots tried unsuccessfully to shop Mitchell around this summer but his inability to get on the field had no interested parties.

Mitchell, who just turned 25, was a key contributor in the Patriots Super Bowl run in 2016. He caught 32 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie, nearly all of it in the second half of the season. He missed part of that season with an elbow injury but came back and earned the trust of Tom Brady. He steadily gained confidence and was a huge part of the 4th quarter comeback against the Falcons in the Super Bowl.

He caught five passes for 63 yards in the second half of the Super Bowl.

His future looked bright, however,  the very same knee issues robbed him of 2017. He never made it onto the field last season and his knee woes held him to just a couple of all-too-brief cameos this spring. That led to the Patriots shopping him unsuccessfully.

The team can either convert him to IR again with an injury settlement or outright release him, depending upon the health of his knee. It is a case of oh-so-close for the talented wide receiver.

So where does this leave the team? In the short term, it immediately opens up a roster spot, despite the fact he hadn’t been practicing. That will be filled quickly. But it was clear before training camp even began that Mitchell wasn’t going to be in the team’s plans for 2018.

With Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Eric Decker, Kenny Britt, and younger players Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios, Devin Lucien and Paul Turner, they have enough depth to carry them through the season. Although Britt too has missed some valuable time this camp. Julian Edelman will miss the first month of the season due to his suspension.

As we posted in our 53-man roster projection this morning, Mitchell wasn’t on the roster and youngsters Berrios and McCarron were still on the outside looking in for a roster spot.

It is a shame to see a player as talented as Mitchell lose his career on an injury. But the chances of another team taking a flyer on him at this point would remain pretty slim.