Category Archives: 2019 Patriots offseason

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.

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?”

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.

New England Patriots News 7-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 28, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-28 and AFC East notes this week. 

Training Camp is back and the Patriots begin their quest for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady – got a maintenance day off on Day 2 of training camp which set tongues to wagging…However, Brady was on the field and lending a hand with the QB which lent itself to Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham getting more work. Stidham has a long, long way to go, but looks pretty good so far. (more to that below)

Rodney Harrison – was trying on his red Patriots Hall of Fame jacket and spoke with the media after practice on Thursday and pooh-poohed the idea that Colts could push the Patriots in the AFC this year. 

“Everyone’s talking about the Colts,” Harrison said. “You think I’m taking Andrew Luck over Tom Brady? You think I’m taking that young, inexperienced team that went into Kansas City and got their butts kicked? No. The Patriots went up there and did their thing.

“I’m taking the veteran-laced team with the best quarterback — I don’t care what they say on TV — with the best general manager and head coach in Coach Bill Belichick. There’s no reason (they can’t win). The only thing that can stop them is complacency.”

J.J.Dielman – Was signed by the Patriots and was at practice on Friday, there was an open roster spot after Chris Schwenke abruptly retired just before training camp began. Dielman was originally a 5th round draft pick of the Bengals and spent time on their practice squad. He also spent time with the Rams and Denver, but has never appeared in an NFL game. He played right tackle and center in college.

Deatrich Wise – was on the PUP for all of one day and was removed from it and back to work on Friday. That is good news for the defense who hasn’t had Michael Bennett who was excused for the first few days at camp for personal reasons.

Player/Coaching Turnover? Not a Problem For Belichick:

With the Patriots roster, like all 32 teams, one expects that because of free agency, trades, retirement, etc. that the roster will have a healthy amount of turnover from year to year. But unless a team is making wholesale changes or hiring an entirely new staff, one doesn’t expect a large turnover in the coaching staff. But the Patriots lost a large amount of their staff this spring.

De facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores was hired by the Miami Dolphins as their new head coach and he brought a large amount of the staff with him. Is the sky falling? Panic in the streets? Maybe on sports radio where they treat every bump in the road as the iceberg heading toward the Titanic, but if you’ve been to the Patriots training camp thus far, you won’t see any difference. And that is classic Bill Belichick. 

Belichick has seen it all in his career and starting his 45 training camp. Bill puts his stamp on everything, and he ensures that nothing is different. Belichick says every spring that turnover is unavoidable but the fact that the Patriots’ practices on Day 1 of 2019 look exactly the same as they did in 2003. 

Looking at the first practice of the year on Thursday, it was as if this staff had been doing this for years. Just another one of those things that Belichick does that goes under the radar but is so, so important. 

Stidham Making Strides at QB In the Patriots System:

With training camp underway, rookie QB Jarrett Stidham has firmly entrenched himself as the #3 QB. Danny Etling has been moved to WR. What that means from the Auburn rookie is that he’ll get more reps in training camp moving forward. On Friday, the Patriots gave Tom Brady a maintenance day which allowed both Stidham and Brian Hoyer to get a lot more work in. 

Being a rookie and having to learn a new offense is a daunting task. On Thursday’s session, he had some rough moments. He struggled to make his reads in a timely fashion and frequently held the ball too long, something that rookie QBs are apt to do. Friday, however, was a different story. 

Stidham struggled a bit early, but finished strong, completing his final five passes in red-zone work and tossed three touchdowns to three different receivers, fellow rookie WR Jakobi Meyers, RB James White, and WR Phillip Dorsett. These are the small building blocks that rookie QBs have to learn from as they try to digest the offense.

Hoyer is well versed in this, having been a rookie here in 2009. “I’ve been in that position, especially in this system,” Hoyer said. “We ask a lot of the quarterback and there’s a lot on your plate. You just try to take as much as you can, digest it and keep on moving forward.”

“It’s a day-by-day thing,” Hoyer said. “You just try to focus on what you can control, focus on what’s going in that day and just keep stacking it on top of each other. The one thing is — you move on. What we did today, we probably won’t do half the plays we did today tomorrow. You just gotta cook, put them in that memory bank and someday we’re gonna come back to it and you’ve just got to be able to pick up where you left off.”

Stidham will struggle more, it is part of the learning process but these small steps are part of the journey. The good thing is, no one is expecting anything out of him in 2019. This is an extended red-shirt season where the team wants him to learn as much as possible about being able to run the offense. And having Brady and Josh McDaniels there in the room, as well as Hoyer is not the worst place for him to be. 

Bentley Poised to Return To a Meaningful Role in 2019:

Training camp is underway and the 2nd year linebacker is back after suffering a torn biceps during Week 3 of last season. Bentley had an outstanding summer in 2018 and earned himself not just a roster spot but starting reps. He played very well but his season was cut short after getting hurt in Detroit. 

On Thursday, Bentley spoke with the media after the opening day of training camp practice and he’s ready to pick right up where he left off. He spoke about trying to soak up and learn as much as possible during his injury. 

Ja’Whaun Bentley after Day of training camp. (SBalestrieri)

“I feel like one of the big ways of learning is observing, whether it’s watching film or watching how guys do things,” Bentley said. “I’m really blessed to have a lot of guys who’ve been playing for many years to learn from those guys… soaking things up, learning different techniques. It’s just good to have the kind of guys we have on this team.

“So you just find a new role on the team, whether it’s being a good observer — just being ready, period, no matter what the situation may be. You’ve just got to roll with the punches.”

Even with Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins on the roster, You can expect Bentley to have a sizable role this year in the defense. His fellow LBs believe that his upside is huge and has a rosy future. Van Noy was on NFL.com and raving about his potential. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Begin Camp, Getting All the New Offensive Pieces to Mesh: 

When the Buffalo Bills began training camp, they had a lot of new faces on offense. And in the first few days of camp, they were working on getting those players all on the same page. QB Josh Allen has a lot of new players to utilize and building trust and chemistry on the field is a process for everyone.

It was obvious in the first few days (as we’ve been reporting) that the Bills are planning of using Cole Beasley a lot in their offense. He and Allen are putting the time in trying to get their timing down. After practice on Friday, Beasley spoke with the media and said it shouldn’t take very long. “It won’t take us too long,” Beasley said. “I’d say give us about a week, man.”

Head coach Sean McDermott had a interesting observation about the Bills WR corps which isn’t the biggest in the league and he equated them with Smurfs. “I would say with all of our wide receivers, they’re kind of like Smurfs. If you ever watched the Smurfs, they live in like a small village so they can separate in small spaces,” he said.

Fitzpatrick Getting Early Reps as #1 QB at Dolphins TC:

The Miami Dolphins began training camp and thus far Ryan Fitzpatrick is getting the most reps as the starting QB. Josh Rosen and Jake Rudock are evenly split with #2 and #3 reps. Fitzpatrick’s experience is a big factor as he’s acclimated to the offense faster. But this will bear watching as the camp wears on and the preseason games begin.

The wide receiver position got a shot in the arm with the addition of Allen Hurns on Friday. This group is already deep and thus far, the group is working well together as well as with their quarterback group. Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, and Jakeem Grant have seamlessly learned the new offense and once Albert Wilson is fully back from offseason surgery as well as adding Hurns, this should be a very good group.

True to form, Brian Flores’ defense will be multiple just like he ran with the Patriots. The Dolphins are asking several players, including Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and T.J. McDonald to play varied roles. And training camp is the time where the coaches see what they do best and put them in positions to succeed. Then they’ll have to find ways to get them all on the field at the same time. 

Jets Quinnen Williams Signs Contract and Misses Just 1 Practice:

The New York Jets signed top draft pick Quinnen Williams who missed only one day of training camp as his agent and the Jets worked out some details of his contract. And now he’s in the fold and itching to get to work.

“It was a huge relief just to be back with my brothers, be back with my team, be back in New York, New Jersey,” Williams said, just after he signed his contract. “It’s just an amazing feeling to get everything done and get everything situated so I can focus on football and ball out with my team. It’s just a blessing, an amazing feeling, to be out here and be able to sweat and grind with your brothers again.”

Williams, widely considered the best overall player in the draft this spring was on-hand on Friday and passed his conditioning run, but head coach Adam Gase is planning on easing him into camp and that was the extent of his participation on Friday. Williams first practice was the full-pads practice on Saturday.

The Jets plan on moving the 300-pounder both inside and outside to present matchup problems for the opponent.  “He’s in the backfield a lot. He’s a good player,” Gase said. “[His intelligence] just helps him. That helps get another extra step outside of his athletic ability. You look at the guys that have a lot of success like Aaron Donald – he’s smart and he’s a freak athletically. If you put those two things together, it makes it tough to stop.”

________________

“I think that we’ll continue to try to look at ourselves in the mirror and see where we can do a better job, maybe where we can improve the process. But I think the fundamentals of the process will remain the same.” Bill Belichick

“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.

New England Patriots News 7-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 14, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-14 and AFC East notes this week. 

Just 11 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

Patriots Football is back in 11 days

 Quick Hitters:

Devin & Jason McCourty- continue their work in the community. The twins spent time with both We Belong and the Peace Unit, which are initiatives dedicated to helping the youth and young adults of the area.

Rob Gronkowski – was honored at the ESPYs in LA this week and spoke about being a good teammate. “When I look back on my career, what I look back on, what I’m most proud of was the teammate I am,” he said. “My teammates knew I would do anything for them, and I knew they’d do anything for me. I know the relationships we formed will stay with us for the rest of our lives, so thank you to all the guys I played with and thank you for making the ride so much more fun and so much more memorable.”

Melvin Gordon – the Chargers running back will be the latest RB to test market for RB value. Gordon has informed the team that he wants a new contract or be traded. Gordon is scheduled to make $5.605 million this year but is looking for much more or he won’t report to training camp. His agent said it could sit into the regular season 

Allen Bailey – Former NFL GM Gil Brandt wrote on the NFL.com site that the Patriots are still the best landing spot for the free-agent DL. Bailey, 30, visited the Patriots on March 14 and reportedly had contract discussions. But he left without signing anything. The former Chiefs’ DL also visited with the Panthers, Falcons, and Seahawks.

Nick Caserio – was back in the news for the wrong reason. The Texans, who have been pursuing him for their GM job for two years, announced they aren’t going to have a GM for the 2019 season. The plan is to share the responsibilities between several men including Jack Easterby, who is now on the outs with the Krafts. All signs point to them coming hard after Caserio again in 2020 when his current deal expires. It may be time to give the man a title and pay him to keep him around…if he wants to remain.

Brady NFL Best at Throws 10+ Yards Downfield:

Pro Football Focus (PFF) Steve Palazzolo put out some startling stats on Friday which got social media aflame, especially those who consider Tom Brady a “dink and dunk” QB. According to the stats that Palazzolo posted, not only did Brady have the best percentage of passes completed of 10+ yards downfield, he attempted the most in the past three seasons. 

Of course, this ignited the troll population who then wanted to know who led the league in short passes. Well, Palazzolo’s stats showed that Brady wasn’t even in the Top 10 of passes thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage. 


This won’t stop the Brady-haters who were already flooding Palazzolo’s mentions about his data being biased, but it was funny to watch the questions spew forth and answered. Well, it isn’t “dink and dunk”, it must be that dreaded Patriots “system”…

18 Game Schedule? This is a Ridiculous Scenario:

We were thinking that this was a satire piece when we first saw it but unfortunately that was not the case and someone at the NFL front office actually believes this to be a good idea. The NFL has been pushing an 18-game schedule for quite some time now, that isn’t new, but what they’re proposing is…

The league is proposing that there will be only two exhibition games and expand the regular season slate to 18 games. But the kicker is, that the league knowing the NFLPA (NFL Players Association) will certain dig their heels in over this, wants to limit each player can only dress for 16 of those games. 

I have no idea what is on the menu at Park Avenue, but please feel free to share some. 

Fans will not be happy, imagine a fan from another city knowing that say the Patriots or Chiefs are coming to town, shelling out big money for tickets only to find out that Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes is sitting this week? 

This one doesn’t even sound good on paper, it will never pass with the NFLPA but just shows two things. The owners aren’t going to stop pushing for an 18-game schedule and the bargaining agreement with the league and NFLPA is not going to be pretty.

Gronk and Brady Play Catch While Social Media Melts Down :

Slow your roll folks, there is no reason to lose your mind over a game of catch between Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. And no, it does not point to Gronkowski coming back in mid-season this year. 

Gronkowski was in LA for the Monster Energy $50K Charity Challenge Celebrity Basketball Game Monday night at UCLA. So, once he found out Brady was doing a private workout at UCLA with his personal trainer Alex Guererro it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the two would link up. 

“He saw I was in town for this basketball game,” Gronkowski said in an interview on Monday. “He was like, ‘Yo, Gronk, man, yo, Gronk, come throw with me in the morning.’ So I was like, ‘No problem. It’ll give me a warm-up to this basketball game tonight.’”

Getting together in shorts and tossing the football around is hardly proof he’s returning. It had more to do with good friends taking advantage of being in close proximity to one another when each has a busy, demanding schedule. 

This week I went to a shooting range with an old Special Forces buddy to catch up. It doesn’t mean Mrs. Balestrieri’s bouncing baby boy is heading to Afghanistan anytime this century. 

Elandon Roberts Traffic Stop Wasn’t About Race, Sheriff Says:

Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts was pulled over by Sheriff’s Deputies back on March 10 in the Pecan Grove neighborhood of Richmond, Texas outside of Houston. Roberts has charged that the deputy in question acted unprofessionally because of Roberts’ race. 

The sheriff’s deputy, Adam Watkins tried to pull over Roberts for doing 59 mph in a 35 mph zone, but things went south from there. Roberts assertation that he was harassed “because he is a big black guy” (Deputy’s words), was frightening and unprofessional. 

Roberts tried to exit his vehicle with his hands up and was ordered back into the vehicle. Roberts tried to tell the deputy that he lived there. The deputy called for backup because he had “ a large black guy who wouldn’t obey his commands.” 

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said that the stop wasn’t based on race but that his deputy didn’t act as professionally as he should and received a verbal reprimand. Roberts received citations for speeding and not having proof of insurance (Roberts couldn’t find it during the stop).

The sheriff’s comments and the entire traffic stop video can be seen here:

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Hoping Kroft Is Ready For Camp: 

When the Buffalo Bills were looking to revamp their tight end position during free agency, they gambled that Tyler Kroft was destined for big things in their offense in 2019. They paid Kroft handsomely, with a three-year, $18.75 million dollar deal. Outside of 2017, when he filled in for the oft-injured Tyler Eifert, Kroft has just 25 catches over three seasons. It was in 2017, that Bills are hoping for when he caught 42 passes. In 2018, he played only five games before breaking his foot.

But in the first practices this spring Kroft broke his foot and that leaves them with questions. They drafted Dawson Knox in the third round of the draft and Tommy Sweeney in the 7th round. Knox has good size and is athletic but has suspect hands. The knock on him in college was he was always double catching passes. Sweeney is a very physical presence and a good blocker but limited athletically and in the passing game.

Jason Croom was the lone holdover from the 2018 Bills, catching 22 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown. Which was more than starter Charles Clay who was let go. Croom isn’t a lock for the roster but if Kroft is out for the beginning of camp he will get a chance to carve out a nice role for himself. 

Lee Smith who spent the first four years of his career in Buffalo was also brought back this spring.

Dolphins Norton Cited For Crash That Cost Him His Arm:

The Miami Dolphins Kendrick Norton was cited for the accident last week that caused emergency personnel to amputate his left arm at the scene, police officials said this week.

Norton, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, made an improper lane change prior to the two-car crash on State Road 836 near Miami in the early morning hours of July 4. Police officials said his black 2017 Ford F250 cut off a gray 2015 Maserati Quattroporte, driven by Jessie Pena and sideswiped the vehicle.

Neither Norton, nor his passenger, identified as Shakira Williams were wearing seatbelts. Williams wasn’t hurt. Norton however, was focusing on the positive rather than what he has lost.

“I am alive,” he said. “To be here, I am alive. One thing keeps me going and that is that I am still able to be here. Seeing my family is so important. It is very good that I have this support system. It keeps me strong and it keeps me tall.

“But I realize that I will not be able to play for anyone. We are working past that, you know. That reality is sinking in. I am alive and I am grateful. Now I want to organize a blood drive.”

Jets Herndon Suspended for First Four Games of 2019:

The New York Jets TE Chris Herndon will be suspended for the first four games of their 2019 season in the aftermath of a DUI arrest. The Jets first four games are at home against the Bills and the Browns; on the road at New England against the Patriots and Week 5 in Philadelphia against the Eagles. The Jets have a bye week early in Week 4 this season. 

Herndon developed very good chemistry with QB Sam Darnold in 2018 and was second on the team with 39 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns. He is expected to be an even more important piece of the offense in 2019.

With Herndon out, the Jets have journeymen Daniel Brown, Eric Tomlinson, and rookie Trevon Wesco on the roster.

________________

“There is an old saying about the strength of the wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that. On a football team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.” Bill Belichick

“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 2019 Training Camp Guide – Quarterbacks

Steve Balestrieri
July 11, 2019 at 7:52 am ET

The Patriots have been blessed to have the same quarterback under center since Week 3 of the 2001 NFL season. Tom Brady has been remarkably durable and productive, in the 19 seasons he’s been with the Patriots, they’ve made the Super Bowl nine times and won six of them.

At a time where so many teams are searching for a franchise QB, the Patriots have had theirs under center every year. But what about his backups in 2019?

So, let’s take a brief snapshot of the position and see who stays, who goes and who is on the bubble as the team begins training camp in 2019.

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.

Current roster – Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham, Danny Etling

Locks – Brady, Stidham

Near Lock – Hoyer

Long Shot – Etling

Discussion – Well it comes as no surprise that Brady is a lock, as he has been every year since 2002. As we mentioned above, Brady has been remarkably durable and productive in his career. Other than 2008, when a low hit blew out his ACL, he hasn’t missed a game due to injury. (Note: He did miss four games due to weather conditions as they related to football air pressure) 

The Patriots have been to the last three Super Bowls with the team winning two of them. Brady has started 267 regular-season games for the Patriots and won 207 of them. He’s won 30 of 40 playoff games. Last year he threw for 4355 yards and 29 TDs.

Every year since his injury in 2008 the hot-take artists tell you “this is the year Brady falls back” and every year the Patriots either make it to the conference championship game or the Super Bowl. 

Stidham by nature of his draft status is a lock for the 2019 season. There is a lot to like in his game, and there is also a long way to go for him as a rookie QB. He throws a very nice, tight spiral and has a nice blend of size, arm strength, and athleticism. He blends well with a quick read offense, which should help him in New England.

His issues in college centered around the Auburn offense which makes for a horrible transition to the pro game. They ran a one-read only offense which stifles a QB’s development. In the spring Stidham got a lot of snaps and looked alternately good and awful at times, which is expected for a rookie QB trying to learn a new system and language. He’s a developmental prospect.

Hoyer should be safe this summer. He’s a long-time veteran with a veteran’s savvy and knowledge of the opponents around the league. So he’s a good sounding board for Brady on the sidelines as well as help the team prepare the week before games. 

He can be counted on to come on in the case of emergency and it is doubtful, at least at this point that Stidham will progress enough to push him this summer for the backup role. If everything falls into place for Stidham, he’ll push Hoyer for the backup role next summer. But for now, Hoyer should be considered a near-lock. 

Etling is the odd man out. With the drafting of Stidham, the writing was on the wall for the 2nd year QB. He wasn’t getting any team’s 11-on-11 work in mini-camp. And he was acting as the personal punt protector in his only work in full-team drills. So, with the exception of an injury to someone, Etling is a real long shot to stick around. 

Frankly, we were a little surprised that he wasn’t released after mini-camp, so perhaps he can still work his way onto the practice squad this summer. But for a 53-man roster slot? The chances of that appear mighty slim.

The 2019 Patriots are set at quarterback with Brady once again at the helm. Will they commit to him beyond this season? That is something we heard…and reported as a done deal back in the spring. But it has not happened; perhaps they’ll get it done once camp gets underway.

However, after Brady the Patriots choices at quarterback, at least for now are uninspiring. That will be up to Mr. Stidham to change. 

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 Players on the Bubble Prior to 2019 Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
July 9, 2019 at 8:49 am ET

When you win a Super Bowl, there generally isn’t a lot of available roster spots to go around. The 2019 New England Patriots currently sit at 90 players and they are no exception. There promises to be a ton of competition this summer for the back end of the team’s 53-man roster. 

The Patriots were picked earlier this summer for having the deepest roster in the NFL. Whether or not you subscribe to that is immaterial.  A look at the roster and there really isn’t a lot of wiggle room for players to come in and carve out a role for themselves.

So, that brings us to the purpose of this piece, several well-known players will be firmly on the bubble when training camp begins. Others, due to injury or subpar play could be added as camp practices progress and some of these players could cement themselves with solid play. Here are some but not all of the players on the bubble. There is a long way to go. 

Danny Etling – Some people are surprised that Etling is still on the roster. During minicamp, the 2nd year QB was clearly displaced as the #3 signal caller by Jarrett Stidham. Etling was playing STs as the personal punt protector. The Patriots just used a 4th round pick on Stidham, while that isn’t in itself a guarantee, they clearly were giving him plenty of opportunities, to the detriment of Etling this spring. 

The team isn’t going to keep 4 QBs, so Etling is the odd man out. Could he push Hoyer for a slot? Doubtful. And it is also doubtful that the Patriots cut their ties to Hoyer with Stidham so green…at least for 2019.

Braxton Berrios – The 2nd year WR was injured and missed the entire 2018 season and appeared in just one preseason game last summer. Now healthy, Berrios has turned some heads during OTAs and was arguably the best player on the field during Day 1 of the mandatory minicamp. 

He hasn’t locked down anything yet however. Once training camp hits, he’ll need to continue that solid play catching passes, returning kicks and more importantly, stay on the field. This will be a big camp for him as he could either carve out a decent role for himself or fall completely off the radar. 

Dontrelle Inman – Inman was signed by the Patriots in May after the Colts decided to let him walk in free agency. Inman was picked up by the Colts in midstream of the 2018 season and worked himself into a key role. Indy moved him around as a big (6’3, 205) slot receiver and occasionally as the “X”. He had good production down the stretch and in the playoffs. 

But a very subpar minicamp dropped Inman far down the depth chart. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills in all three days of the mandatory sessions. That doesn’t mean he’s out yet… but it does put him in a precarious position to begin camp, far down the depth chart. 

Ted Karras – The tough, versatile Karras was picked up by the Patriots in 2016 and has been a valuable depth piece on the offensive line ever since. He can play anywhere on the interior offensive line. But the team invested a 4th rounder on Hjalte Froholdt. And the Arkansas alum can do the same things that Karras can do. 

The feeling is that with Joe Thuney a free agent after this season, the team is grooming Froholdt to be the starter. He and Karras will be battling for the backup position this summer and it should be a great battle. 

Derek Rivers after TC practice. SBalestrieri photo

Derek Rivers – The Patriots top pick from two seasons ago is facing a huge training camp this summer. He lost his rookie season to a torn ACL during the preseason and never stepped on the field. He returned, albeit not 100 percent physically last summer and played sparingly. In his two seasons, he’s logged 78 snaps, two tackles, and one sack. 

The Patriots know his potential and his NFL Combine performance and his production in college were the things that attracted them. But this summer is the beginning of Year 3 and projections are no longer in the cards. It is make or break time for Rivers this summer.

Keion Crossen/Duke Dawson – The Patriots are loaded at cornerback. It is arguably their deepest position. With Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Crossen, and Duke Dawson who missed all of his rookie season, the team added more. They drafted Joejuan Williams in the 2nd round and Ken Webster in the 7th. They also added D’Angelo Ross later.  They can’t keep all of them. 

Gilmore, Jackson, and Williams (by reason of his draft position) are locks for the roster. McCourty and Jones are near locks themselves. That makes the competition between Crossen and Dawson for the sixth spot one to watch. The feeling here is that they’ll keep six but could opt for more, at least initially.  

Crossen is a special teams standout with the athleticism to play cover corner, much like Jones, who began the same way. The team invested a second rounder in Dawson last year, but he was lost to injury. With the players they added this spring, Dawson is far from safe. He and Crossen may be fighting it out for the final corner slot.

Nate Ebner/Obi Melifonwu – The Patriots are also very deep but aging at safety. While they have ostensibly three starters in Devin McCourty, Pat Chung and Duron Harmon, the first two are on the wrong side of 30 and McCourty hinted at retirement this spring. 

The team normally keeps five safeties/STs but this spring they signed former Jets S/ST ace Terrence Brooks. Brooks got a two-year, $4 million dollar deal with a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.3 million of that guaranteed. That puts him in the lock category. 

Brooks is known primarily as a STs ace who can fill in and play some safety when needed. Nate Ebner is another STs standout and a Belichick favorite. However, he rarely if ever plays on defense. Obi Melifonwu was brought in at midstream last season and now has a full offseason under his belt. The team’s idea was for the uber-athletic and big Obi to cover big WRs and TEs in the slot. But with the addition of Williams in Round 2, that makes him potentially expendable. 

Melifonwu offers much more upside than Ebner defensively and got some first-team reps this spring with Chung missing but he doesn’t have the ST’s acumen of the latter. These two may be battling it out for the 53rd and final roster spot on the team.

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 Breakout Player of 2019 – CB J.C. Jackson

Steve Balestrieri
July 8, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, Jackson was an undrafted rookie cornerback from Maryland and a longshot to make the roster. But not only did he make the roster out of training camp but he developed into a starter opposite of Stephon Gilmore for the Patriots.

After a very impressive spring and summer where he shined at training camp, Jackson played in only about 16 percent of the defensive snaps for the first nearly three-quarters of the season. But from Week 12 onwards, he played in nearly 80 percent of the defensive snaps, starting in both the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl where the Patriots held the Rams to just three points. 

In the last several years, Jackson is the third CB plucked by the Patriots as an UDFA to become a starter or regular contributor. Malcolm Butler in 2014 and Jonathan Jones in 2016 before him also were undrafted. 

He shined in man coverage and was able to stick with and mirror opposing wide receivers. He also has shown extremely good ball skills with three interceptions and six passes defensed. As we have seen countless times, covering the opponent is one thing. But having the awareness and skills when the ball is in the air is another. Jackson has been able to do that.

Jackson posted the best passer rating allowed on cornerbacks who played 200 or more snaps in 2018 with an outstanding 42.0 when opposing QBs targeted him. According to PFF (Pro Football Focus), Jackson allowed only 22 receptions on 42 targets for a combined 262 yards as well as zero touchdowns to go along with his three picks. He also allowed 0.80 yards per coverage snap according to PFF. Gilmore’s was 0.72. 

He also had an outstanding 21.4 percent forced incompletion rate, good for 7th overall in the league. Overall, he finished 2018 as PFF’s 12th best-rated corner. Perhaps Jackson’s best game was in Pittsburgh in Week 15. Matched up with the very dangerous JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jackson was extremely competitive. Smith-Schuster was targeted 10 times in the game and had just four catches for 40 yards, the second least productive games he had (catch percentage wise) in 2018 where he caught 111 passes for 1426 yards.  

The Patriots are primarily a man-coverage team but Jackson showed he can play some zone as well. In the Week 16 game against Buffalo, he played underneath and undercut the route getting one of his three picks against Josh Allen. 

If there is one area of weakness in Jackson’s game it could be playing against bigger wide receivers. Jackson who is generously listed as 6’1, 198 (he measured 5’10 at the NFL Combine) had a rough AFC Championship Game against the bigger Sammy Watkins and against Travis Kelce, however, the Chiefs ran roughshod over nearly every defense they faced in 2018.

But the Patriots, as they nearly always do, had a plan in place. They drafted a very big corner in Joejuan Williams (6’4) who can cover those bigger wideouts they’ll face. Flashback to 2014, the Patriots had Revis (lockdown) and Brandon Browner in those roles. Now with Williams in the fold, they’ll be able to mix and match against nearly anyone.

However, there are some in the Patriots front office who believe that Jackson will one day surpass Gilmore as the top corner of the team. And at just 23-years old, Jackson has yet to hit his peak. In fact, he’s just scratching the surface of his potential. 

He and Gilmore are the locked down starters for a very talented group of corners that includes Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Williams, Keion Crossen, Duke Dawson and rookies Ken Webster as well as D’Angelo Ross. 

The future appears bright for Jackson and he is our first choice as the 2019 Breakout Player of the Year.

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.

New England Patriots News 7-07, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 7, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-07 and AFC East notes this week. 

We hope that everyone had a happy and safe Independence Day celebration. Just 18 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Bernard Pollard – is the latest, “look at me” ex-player who is trying to get himself a gig on television or radio. If you think otherwise, you’re kidding yourself, but there is never a shortage of people who feed the monster and fall all over themselves giving these hot take artists their air time. 

Rob Gronkowski – told Rich Eisen in an interview this week, that he reserves the right to change his mind about returning to the NFL once the season starts. In the interview, Gronkowski said this will be the first August in 15 years that he won’t be playing football. But judging from his leaned out frame recently, I still say that the chances of the big guy returning this year are remote.

Jerod Mayo – may not be calling the defensive plays just yet for the Patriots this year. Jeff Howe of the Athletic wrote that Bill Belichick will be calling the plays. Mayo who was seen calling the plays in minicamp this June. 

N’Keal Harry – leads the Patriots rookies with a 74 grade on Madden 2019 that was released recently. Cornerback Jojuan Williams was second with a score of 70 while Damien Harris and Chase Winovich were next, tied with a grade of 69.

Tom Brady – is preparing for training camp and continues to defy Father Time. He posted a video of his workouts where he was running sprints. While Brady will never be considered remotely anything close to a sprinter, he did, however, beat his own time at the NFL Combine, which is pretty impressive for a player about to be 42 in less than a month from now. 

Tom Brady Pt2 – With all of the talk centering around Brady from the hot take artists every summer, one has to dig thru many oysters to find a pearl. Or in this case, I didn’t have to do anything at all since it was handed to me. Our good bud, @PatriotsSBLIII has always shared great stuff with us, and he never fails to use common sense in a frequently senseless debate when it comes to #12. He sent me this a few weeks ago but right now seems a perfect time to share this.

Tom Brady’s last 16 playoff games (2013-18)
13-3 (.813) 3SBs
452/702 (64.4%)
5,230 yards
7.45 Y/A
43.9* Att/gm @CSimmsQB
31 TD
12 INT
94.4 PR

Only 3 players in NFL history have had a 16-game regular season on this level. (Brady, Brees 2011; Manning 2013)

And for those anti-Brady types out there, not one of those games was against any team from the AFC East but all against playoff teams in the Divisional Round and beyond which makes those numbers even more impressive. Thanks again to @PatriotsSBLIII for the always great stuff and being a sounding board for constructive criticism. 

Tedy Bruschi Suffered a Stroke on July 4:

The former Patriots linebacker who has been a regular on ESPN was just given a promotion this week, being added to their pregame broadcast. It was reported that Bruschi, who had a stroke after the Super Bowl in Feb. 2005, recognized his own symptoms and reported it right away. Robert Kraft and the Patriots released the following statement:

“While shocked to hear of his recent stroke … we are relieved to learn that he recognized the early symptoms and immediately sought and received treatment,” the statement says. “On behalf of the entire Patriots organization, we extend our love, thoughts and prays to Tedy and the Bruschi family while we wish him godspeed in a complete recovery.”

Bruschi created a runners club called Tedy’s Team to raise awareness for the American Stroke Association. He has run the Boston Marathon three times, including in this spring. He is expected to make a complete recovery.

Damien Harris Could Be a Big Contributor For the Offense in 2019:

We were quite excited with the possibilities for the offense after the selection of Damien Harris in the 3rd round of the draft this spring by the Patriots. Harris was locked up for four years with a $3.6 million dollar deal. 

Harris should fit in extremely well in the Patriots running back by committee positional group. While in Alabama, he played with a multitude of very talented running backs that are now in the NFL. Alabama also played with RB committee under Nick Saban and Harris played with the likes of Derrick Henry, Bo Scarborough, Kenyan Drake, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs while with the Tide.  

With Sony Michel coming off of a minor but another knee procedure, Harris can more than fit the bill for the Patriots penchant for running the ball between the tackles. A couple of key numbers should be remembered when thinking about Harris:

  • 2 (Two) The number of fumbles Harris had in 477 career carries at Alabama. Bill Belichick loves sure-handed running backs and Harris is definitely that.
  • 6.4 – The average yards per carry Harris had at Alabama. That kind of average always puts the offense in a position to succeed. 
  • 3.2 – Yards Harris averaged after contact. This number can’t be overstated and when the offense needs to pick up those 3rd and 4th and short-yardage situations, it helps to have a back that can easily do that.

Harris isn’t a threat to take the ball to the house on every carry, he doesn’t have that breakaway speed but he is a perfect fit for the Patriots offense. He hits the hole quickly and has very good vision and will follow his blockers thru the point of attack. He then shows the ability and confidence to make a cut and go.

With a thickly built lower body, he’s tough to bring down, will get the yards after contact and has little wear on his tires after playing in a similar committee approach at ‘Bama. He’s a very good and willing pass blocker, something the Patriots insist on for their backs. And he is a good if underrated pass catcher out of the backfield with soft hands and the ability to move outside into the slot if needed. 

With Michel out of the picture during minicamp, Harris and Brandon Bolden got quite a few snaps in the running game. Look for that to continue thru training camp and into the preseason. He could be a very valuable addition to the offense as a rookie. 

Patriots Coaches Learn The Old Fashioned Way Under Belichick:

One of the ways that Bill Belichick likes to fill out his coaching staff is by hiring young coaching assistants. Then molding, training and develop them by increasing their responsibility by putting more and more on their plates.

This is the way everyone is trained, including Nick Caserio, Josh McDaniels, and Joe Judge who started at the bottom and worked their way up. It also includes his two sons who it seems always get mentioned it seems as benefits of nepotism more so than hard work. If one can remember back to the early days of Belichick’s reign as head coach in New England, they’ll see his sons on the sideline, charting plays and soaking in the experience, very much like Belichick learned from his father at Navy. 

And one of the things at all of the young coaches get tasked to do is to learn by “padding games.” So, what the heck is “padding games” and what does it entail, you ask? Nothing nefarious (sorry BB haters). 

Padding of games for Bill Belichick is about not only learning the game inside and out but more importantly for the assistants, it is learning the game thru the prism of the head coach’s eye. They learn the way that Belichick views the game and therefore they’ll be able to better support him in his game planning. That includes his sons.

Steve Belichick, the Patriots safeties coach, calls it his father’s “Football 101.”

Belichick will assign young assistants one or several games of an upcoming opponent. Then, watching the All-22 coaches tape, they will chart every snap on paper. The assistants have to chart the movement of every single player on the offense and defense on separate pieces of paper.

They must identify each player’s responsibility as well as formations, splits, routes from receivers, protection schemes and what each team is attempting to accomplish on each given play. Given that the length of games will involve so many plays, padding a single game will take from several hours (for someone who has been doing it) to several days for one game. 

McDaniels, in an interview during Super Bowl week with Yahoo cited padding games for three years as instrumental in learning the intricacies of the game. “I think the most important thing young people have got to understand is, it’s not punishment,” McDaniels said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to learn how important everything is at this level.”

Thus, the assistants learn what concepts, both offensive and defensively will work against an opponent. The younger Belichick has charted hundreds of games by his own account and sees the value in it. 

“You get to learn about football, different schemes, different styles of play. You understand how different and creative you can be to win … I used to get excited to pad the good teams and I learned what not to do from the bad teams.”

This is the way the assistants learn how Belichick breaks down tape and how they all get on the same sheet of music. Bill’s famous attention to detail will invariably entail numerous sticky notes on each page, identifying things missed or wrong and what the assistant has gotten right. 

It is the way that the younger coaches grow and develop and gives them the attention to detail and exhaustiveness that Bill Belichick demands from himself and his assistants. There is no secret formula, it is just hard work…and doing your job.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Sticking With McCoy (for now) as Starting RB: 

When the Buffalo Bills entered the offseason, many thought RB Shady McCoy had played his last game in a Bills uniform. After suffering his worst season as a pro, on the wrong side of 30 and with a lot of wear on his tires, it seemed McCoy’s days were numbered for Buffalo. 

The Bills then brought in the ageless Frank Gore, to go along with T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary and fullback Patrick DeMarco. And things seemed, on the surface that McCoy was soon to be phased out. But not so fast…

GM Brandon Beane has stated all spring that entering the season, McCoy was the starting running back. Something McCoy has been quick to echo. 

Perhaps with a move to the quick passing game utilizing Cole Beasley, the Bills are hoping with the addition of Gore, Yeldon, and Singletary that McCoy, with less work will rediscover his game. Holding onto him for trade value doesn’t make much sense at this point. Training camp will be interesting to watch this summer.

Dolphins’ Kendrick Norton Loses Arm in Horrific Car Crash:

The Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Kendrick Norton was seriously injured in a car crash early Thursday morning when his pickup truck crashed into a concrete barrier and ended up on its roof. 

EMTs reportedly had to amputate Norton’s arm before taking him to the hospital. He also reportedly suffered head injuries but while the damage to him was very serious, he is expected to survive. His condition was upgraded to good on Saturday morning. Norton was a 7th round draft pick of the Panthers in 2018, Miami scooped him off of Carolina’s practice squad last year and was expected to compete for a roster spot with Miami in training camp.

Sources from Norton’s family said on social media that another driver, behind the wheel of a 2015 Maserati cut off Norton and caused the accident. But that hasn’t been confirmed from the Florida Highway Patrol. They have yet to issue a report. That driver who has been identified as Jessie Pena, 30, was not injured in the crash.  And her car sustained minor damage.

Jets Hoping For a Big Year From Robby Anderson:

The New York Jets are hoping for bigger things from 2nd year QB Sam Darnold this fall. Adding RB LeVeon Bell to the Jets stable should definitely help take some of the pressure off of him. But beyond that, they’ll need better production from their wide receivers in 2019. 

The Jets current WR depth chart includes Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jamison Crowder, Josh Bellamy, Charone Peake, Deontay Burnett, Greg Dortch, Valentine Holmes, Quadree Henderson, J.J. Jones, Jeff Smith, Tim White, and Deonte Thompson.

The first three players are locks to make the roster and they’ll need those and some of the latter wideouts to step it up this year. Barring a trade or a signing for an established wide receiver, these players, especially Robby Anderson will have to increase their production.

Both Anderson and Enunwa suffered injuries last year but should be fine come the beginning of training camp. One area where Anderson is expected to increase his production is in his usage. The Jets have used him as a deep threat mainly, however that is expected to change under Adam Gase. 

With Crowder and Enunwa’s injury history, depth may be an issue, but the biggest question this summer will be, can Anderson produce in a contract year and stay out of trouble? As the #1, he’ll draw the opponent’s often best cover corner. 

________________

“There are no shortcuts to building a team each season. You build the foundation brick by brick.”Bill Belichick

“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.

New England Patriots News 06-30, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 30, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-30 and AFC East notes this week. 

 Quick Hitters:

Jared Veldheer – retired shortly after signing with the Patriots on May 13. He recently came out and stated why in an interview he did earlier last week with MLive.

“It was easy (decision) because of knowing what my body was telling me, but it was hard because I was leaving a very good situation being with the Patriots,” Veldheer said. “(Belichick) understood, and everyone in the NFL building understands that the sport can do a number on your body and different guys have different timelines on how long they can make it through.”

Veldheer said that his hips, “Particularly my left one, was in pretty bad shape (after the season).”

DeAngelo Hall – former NFL DB was a guest on Good Morning Football and stated that Tom Brady was the best QB he ever faced and added that he didn’t have many regrets in his NFL career but one was not signing with the Patriots when they offered him a good deal but less money than he eventually signed for. The Patriots offered him 3 years and $27 million and the Redskins offered 3 years and $30 million. Hall said he now regrets not taking a little less and having a chance at a Super Bowl.

Isaiah Wynn – Is running at full speed and should be ready for training camp according to Jeff Howe of the Athletic. He reported that Wynn should be a full go at training camp which is a very good sign for the 23rd player selected in 2018 NFL Draft. And the Pats offensive line. 

Patriots Charitable Foundation – Patriot Place and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care are teaming up to build an adaptive home for an American veteran. Chelsea resident Brandon Korona lost a leg to an IED in Afghanistan. On Friday morning, the Patriots invited Korona and his family to Patriot Place to break the news that the three organizations will donate $50,000 to adapt his home for his needs. WCVB Channel 5 was the first to break the news.

Rob Gronkowski – has really trimmed down since announcing his retirement from the NFL. After seeing pictures of him recently, anyone harboring hopes of a comeback from the big guy and not being realistic. And any thoughts of him joining the WWE seem far-fetched as well.

Jonah Williams – Tough to see arguably, the best OL in this year’s draft go down with an injury before training camp starts and be lost for the season. Williams tore the labrum in his shoulder and required surgery which will sideline him for the entire 2019 season. The Bengals drafted Williams in the 1st round, 11th overall in the recent draft.

Julian Edelman’s Story Goes to Showtime:

The documentary “100% Julian Edelman” went live on Showtime on Friday night and was mostly filmed during the 2017-2018 timeframe when the Patriots WR was rehabbing from his ACL surgery.

There is a lot of humor in the hour-plus long video but some serious items as well. Edelman grew up terrified of his dad, who was a demanding taskmaster of a coach and demanded the best out of his son every day. The story goes over some of the drills that his father made him perform and they weren’t easy and were designed to make him tougher mentally. 

There is also a bit where Edelman talked about only being five feet tall until his senior year of high school, where he went thru a growth spurt where he grew eight inches and his football career, thanks to the hard work with his father paid off.

It delves into some interesting subjects like his PED suspension where he and his Dad didn’t speak for 81 days. Edelman says the pair speak every day and the two disagreed over how it was handled. 

Edelman – Welker, Is it Really Necessary to Compare?:

We realize that it is the summer doldrums where there isn’t much shaking…news-wise for the Patriots and these things are just exercises for discussion. We get it but there comes a time when it really doesn’t do either player justice when comparing players and their production to the team. 

Which brings us to the Julian Edelman – Wes Welker debate that is all over social media.  Edelman, is an icon in New England now, after playing a huge roll in the last three Super Bowl wins, including Super Bowl MVP honors for SB LIII. He’s Tom Brady’s best friend and most trusted receiver. 

Welker is now, unfairly remembered mostly for the one that got away. The SB XLVI catch that could have closed out the Giants. And the fact that the Patriots didn’t re-sign him in 2013 and he bolted for Denver to play for the Broncos and Peyton Manning while wearing that ginormous “Dark Helmet” piece of headgear. 

But in his six years in New England, Welker was beyond productive catching 112, 111, 123, 86, 122, and 118 passes. The only season he didn’t catch over 100 passes was the 2010 season, where after tearing his ACL in January in a game against the Texans, he returned in September and still put up very good numbers; 86 passes, 848 yards with seven touchdowns. 

If there was a knock on Welker, it is that his post-season numbers didn’t quite match up to his regular season excellence. But make no mistake, the numbers were still very good. But if one cares to recall, the Patriots were perhaps, too reliant on Welker, something Bill Belichick himself was recorded as saying on the sidelines. Welker in reality, despite the one pass in Super Bowl XLVI, had better hands than Edelman.

Edelman has upped his game in the post-season, especially in the Super Bowl. His three games, 9-109 and the game-winning touchdown against Seattle, in addition to that mammoth hit he took from Kam Chancellor down the middle, was the stuff of legend. 

Against the Falcons, he had five catches for 87 yards, including that incredible catch in traffic at crunch time where he snagged the ball just before it hit the turf. It is one of the more iconic Super Bowl catches ever, up there with the Lynn Swann catch of the 70s.

And of course, the SB MVP game against the Rams (10 catches, 141 yards) where he was basically uncoverable the entire game. The Rams tried everyone to slow him down and no one could. For a guy who doesn’t fit the poster image as a dominant wide receiver, it was one of the most dominant wide receiver performances in the history of the Super Bowl. 

Welker should receive his red jacket and his rightful place in the Hall soon. If you don’t remember how good he was, play back his very first game in a Patriots uniform. Belichick was called out by the bobos on talk radio for giving up multiple draft picks for a guy who couldn’t hack it with the Dolphins and Bolts. That first game against the Jets answered all of those questions. You could see it happening right before your eyes. 

Do we really have to go thru these mental gymnastics that are all the rage over, “Is so-and-so the best ever?” Be thankful we had both, and a seamless transition between when Welker left and Edelman truly took over. The offense was different then, it evolved and has become even better than it was then. In a big game, give me either in his prime and I’m confident that I’ll win.

Attention Belichick GM Haters…PFF Has the Patriots With the Best Roster in the NFL:

The site Pro Football Focus (PFF) is bound to be taking heat amongst the Bill Belichick haters, especially among the ones that are always beating the drum that “GM Bill is hurting, Coach Bill” and that “Belichick can’t draft.” Sound familiar?

PFF put together a piece for ESPN where they compared every roster in the NFL and despite losing Trey Flowers, Trent Brown, and Adrian Clayborn in free agency and Rob Gronkowski to retirement, the Patriots still have the best roster in the league. 

PFF cited the Pats strength down the middle and it begins with QB Tom Brady. Brady, according to PFF had his fourth “elite” season in a row, (oopsie to the Simms, Kellerman trolls).

Despite always picking at the bottom of every round in the NFL Draft, Belichick has put together the top roster of the league. The Rams, Saints, and Eagles round out the Top 4. PFF listed, not tight end but the pass rush as a potential weak spot…more below.

Is the Patriots Pass Rush a Worrisome Spot? Not Presently: 

In the ESPN piece that was referenced above, as we said the Patriots pass rush was listed as a potential problem spot. After losing Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn during free agency, the Patriots who finished 31st in sacks in 2018 could be conceivably on the short end of the pass rush totals again this season. 

Trey Flowers had 7.5 sacks but was very versatile, fulfilling a variety of roles for the defense. Clayborn had just 2.5 sacks during the regular season but upped his play in the post-season. 

The post-season was a different story. The Patriots were much more aggressive and after logging just 30 sacks in 16 regular season games, they logged 10 in just three playoff tilts. And it wasn’t from one player, they got contributions from everyone. Kyle Van Noy led the team with three, while Dont’a Hightower and Flowers each had two apiece. 

In the Super Bowl, quite a difference from the year before, the pass rush hounded Jared Goff all game long. The defense had 13 QB hurries, eight QB hits, and four sacks. One of the pressures on Goff resulted in Stephon Gillmore’s interception at the end of the game.

But the team didn’t stand pat and signed free agent Michael Bennett from the Eagles and then drafted Chase Winovich in the 3rd round. And if the spring workouts with the unpadded workouts and no contact are any indication, LB Jamie Collins should be in-line for some quality playing time.  

Bennett, despite being 33 is still a quality pass rusher and like Flowers, has the ability to move inside and bring pressure up the middle. Winovich was somewhat of a steal, with the Patriots snagging him with the 77th overall pick. While neither has played a snap with pads on yet, this isn’t to suggest that either is a cure-all but the cupboard isn’t bare either. 

Deatrich Wise can kick inside and will have to up his play this season, while John Simon, Hightower, and Van Noy all have shown the ability to rush the QB on occasion. Collins is the wild card, having had a very good spring. Will the Patriots ever reap any reward out of Derek Rivers? He lost his rookie year to a torn ACL. Last year, he didn’t show much and will be under the microscope in Year 3. 

So, this will be an area to watch for sure during training camp, especially when the one-on-one battles take place between the OL and the DL. But the scheme will play a huge role as well. Will the defense continue their aggressive ways after a very successful playoff run in 2018-19? 

We aren’t predicting a Top 5 sack season, but we aren’t looking for them being near the bottom either. As always, the defense will no doubt start off slowly.  Bill Belichick, as always, adds elements to it as the year progresses. A weakness? Not right now it isn’t. But like every year, we’ll have to watch for injuries and players to step up first. Our view here is that the 2019 version of the defense should be much better in the pass rush department….we’ll see.

AFC East Notes will return soon….

________________

Julian Edelman’s motto for 2019? “Just got to keep it going.” That is a good motto for the team as they try to keep “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

“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.

Jack Rudolph, An Original Boston Patriot Passes Away

Robert Alvarez
June 27, 2019 at 4:12 pm ET

The New England Patriots announced that former linebacker Jack Rudolph passed away on June 23rd at the age of 82.

Rudolph played for the Boston Patriots from 1960 through 1965, finishing his career with the Miami Dolphins in 1966.

In 1963, Rudolph helped the Patriots earn a trip to the 1963 AFL Championship.

Following his career, Rudolph spent 31 years as a coach and teacher at Valdosta High School (GA.), serving 25 of those years as the defensive coordinator.

Rudolph helped the school earn eleven state championships and five national titles.

According to the Patriots, A funeral service will be held on Friday, June 28, 2019 at 2 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Valdosta, Ga. Burial will follow at Sunset Hill Cemetery. Condolences to the family may be conveyed online at www.mclanecares.com.