Category Archives: Patriots Rumors

New England Patriots News 6-16, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 16, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-16 and AFC East notes this week. And a Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there.

While anyone can become a father, the word Dad means so much more. My own Dad never gave me much advice but the way he conducted himself every day and the way he treated everyone around him was all the example that was ever needed.

Quick Hitters:

Bill Belichick – decided to cancel the final two days of OTAs last week and on the first day, took the players out to a team-building exercise…a paintball range. Belichick supposedly took out Kyle Van Noy with a headshot, the linebacker told Dont’a Hightower his tooth hurt where Bill nailed him. In cooler weather, those tend to hurt even more.

Michael Roberts – the Patriots traded for the Lions tight end on Thursday, but he failed his physical on Friday and the trade was voided. He was placed on IR last year for a shoulder injury. Upon reverting back to the Lions, Roberts was released.

Tom Brady – heard about a high school senior who missed his graduation while in the hospital and Brady sent him a video message. Shaun Patterson was suffering from a congenital heart defect and was the recipient of a heart transplant. Brady heard about it and sent the Missouri teen a message. You can watch the clip here:

Zdeno Chara – While the Bruins Game 7 loss to St. Louis will sting all summer long, the Bruins captain was as tough and gritty as they come. It was revealed later that Chara’s jaw was fractured in two places when he was hit by a puck in Game 4. He tried to return that night but doctors wouldn’t clear him but did return and play in Games 5-7. At 42 years old, he’s no longer the Bruins best defenseman but he’s what being a captain is all about. Get well soon Big Z.

Pat Bowlen – RIP to the Broncos long-time owner who passed away on Friday at age 75. He turned around the franchise and brought them a winner.

Training Camp to Begin around July 25.

Thoughts on the Caserio Mess With Houston:

In the end, the Houston Texans declined to pursue any further contact with Nick Caserio and the Patriots have removed their charges of tampering against the Texans. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle was the first to report the development that there is a clause in Caserio’s contract that would stop other teams from pursuing him.

The Texans released a statement from Texans owner Carl McNair.

“When we started the process to interview Nick Caserio for our EVP/GM position, we consulted the League office on numerous occasions, followed the procedures outlined in the League’s rules and believed we were in full compliance,” McNair said. “We have now been made aware of certain terms in Nick’s contract with the Patriots,” McNair added in the statement. “Once we were made aware of these contract terms, I informed Mr. Kraft that we would stop pursuing Nick.”

Nick Caserio

The pursuing of Caserio reportedly began at the Patriots ring ceremony at Robert Kraft’s home. Jack Easterby, the former Patriots character coach and now part of the Texans organization (Executive VP for Team Development) had allegedly made overtures toward Caserio. He reportedly did so before the Texans asked the Patriots permission to interview for their GM position.

The interesting thing is the timing. The next morning, that Friday, Houston fired their GM Brian Gaine after one season. Gaine went 11-5 in his only season at the helm of the Texans and had just completed the NFL Draft. It has also been reported that Gaine was targeting and firing black employees of the staff, which will be looked at as well.

Houston tried last year to interview Caserio after then-GM Rick Smith stepped away to be with his wife during her cancer treatments. The Patriots rebuffed that approach and denied them the opportunity to interview Caserio.

The statement by McNair answered one of the questions surrounding this entire mess.

Other Questions About Caserio Matter:

“How could the Patriots allow this to happen, possibly losing Caserio?” Well, with the language inserted in there, it certainly seems like they have protected themselves against this scenario. But in reality, this entire mess could have easily been avoided.

Had the Patriots given Caserio the title of an equivalent position, (former Patriot front office man Scott Pioli was the VP of Player Development) and a raise, this entire situation never comes to fruition.

“Did the Texans knowingly tamper with Caserio?” Again, no one knows for sure. It is strictly innuendo. However, if Easterby did, in fact, make overtures to Caserio at Kraft’s house, as was implied, before asking the team permission, then yes they did. Another interesting tidbit is the fact that Easterby and Caserio share the same agent. Wouldn’t the Texans know that there is language inserted in his contract that would preclude him from being pursued? Especially given how close Caserio is with both Easterby and O’Brien?

One would think so. And in Houston, Caserio wouldn’t have the final say in the formation of the 53-man roster. That rests with O’Brien.

“Do the Patriots Have Their Succession Plan in Place?” Another good question. The answer is yes and no. It would seem like Josh McDaniels is the next head coach in waiting for the Patriots when Bill Belichick finally decides to retire. Caserio would be the obvious choice for the GM position. But he’s only signed thru the 2020 season. That will have to be rectified…and soon. He previously was interviewed for the Miami and San Francisco GM positions.

Caserio has a unique job in that he wears many hats for the team. While officially the Director of Player Personnel, he has a direct line during game days …to McDaniels in the headsets and advises him on situations unfolding during games. That is unheard of for a man with his title.

He has held many positions in his years with the team, personnel assistant, offensive coaching assistant, area scout, director of pro personnel, wide receivers coach as well as his current position. During minicamp, he was throwing passes to wide receivers.

Bill Belichick has said on numerous occasions that Caserio does much more than his job description states.

“Nick does a great job,” Belichick said last winter. “He does a lot of different things for us. I’m sure he does more than anybody in the league at his position in terms of his interaction with the team, the coaching staff, and the college and pro scouting. He’s involved in a lot of different things and does a great job at all of them. His job description would be several pages.”

One thing is for certain. There is no way the Patriots could have afforded to lose Caserio this summer. With all of the other losses of the coaching staff, this would have been a huge blow. Now they need to lock him up long-term for the future regime. Stay tuned.

Michael Bennett Could Be An Under-the-Radar Addition in 2019:

The Patriots lost Trey Flowers in free agency to the Lions this spring when he signed a monster deal that he wasn’t going to get in Foxboro. But they traded just a fifth-round draft choice for Michael Bennett and a seventh rounder. And although Bennett turned 33 in November he had nine sacks for the Eagles in 2018 plus another one in their two playoff games.

So while the production from last season is about the same as Flowers, it was the versatility of Flowers that will be missed. He could line up all over the formation and play any number of roles that the defense would ask of him.

Super Bowl XLIX:

Rewind the tape to Super Bowl XLIX, on the Patriots first four offensive snaps, Bennett lined up at four different positions, left defensive end, left defensive tackle, right defensive end, and right defensive tackle. And he pressured Tom Brady on three of those plays.

Bennett is at the age where most edge rushers (emphasis on most), seem to begin to lose their ability to produce. We didn’t see anything, however, from Bennett last year that he was approaching that level, despite his age. In fact, one could make the argument that he was the Eagles best pass rusher down the stretch last year.

The fire still burns bright for him as he is hungry for another championship. It is tough to gauge the big men on the offensive and defensive lines in minicamp. The real test for them begins with training camp begins.

But one area that Bill Belichick has always had a high percentage of hitting on is his ability to recognize and identify veteran players who can fill important roles for far less money and cap space. We believe Bennett will be another case of that.

Patriots-Lions Teaming Up for Joint Practices This Summer:

The Patriots are set to begin training camp around the July 25 timeframe, and prior to the first preseason game against the Detroit Lions, the two teams are going to conduct three joint practices. Former Pats DC Matt Patricia, like his mentor Bill Belichick, has a healthy respect for the value of joint practices and it seemed like a no-brainer that the two teams would hook up this summer.

The Lions announced on their website the dates and times for the joint practices:

The Detroit Lions 2019 Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage will open at the team’s headquarters and training facility in Allen Park for a 13th-straight year beginning July 25. There will be three practices exclusive to season ticket members and eight practices free and accessible to all fans. This year’s camp will also feature three joint practices with the New England Patriots prior to the Preseason Week 1 matchup at Ford Field (Thursday, Aug. 8; 7:30 p.m. ET).

With the three joint practices will take place at their Allen Park training facility on Monday-Weds. August 5,6, and 7 with practice beginning at 9:30 a.m. on each day. The gates will open at 8:30 a.m. Any Patriots fans looking to see the preseason game can plan their trip accordingly.  

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Buck Trend And Remain Traveling For Training Camp:

The Buffalo Bills are one of the teams that remains convinced that traveling away to training camp is the right way to go. They believe that their team-building and the opportunity for players to become the best versions of themselves are best served while going away for camp.

One can make the argument for or against such a move, but both head coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane are both on-board with that decision. On the Bills website, they both spelled out their reasoning behind the decision.

“First and foremost, we love going up to Rochester,” McDermott said. “We love going to Fisher. I think it’s a great venue for an NFL training camp. I think that the people and staff are first class. I’ve been around before when you go to a campus when you’re wanted contractually but not wanted maybe once you’re there. They open up their home to us. We love going up there. I love my early morning runs up there.”

Seating a challenge:

“The challenge a little bit is some of the location and the fields as it relates to the public practices,” McDermott added. “We’d love to make everything public, quite honestly. We’re just not able to do that necessarily with the physical location of things and trying to rotate fields and space.”

“It’s just when you go to that other field, that’s not the main one, it’s not conducive for the fans,” Beane said in reference to the grass field behind the St. John Fisher Fieldhouse. “It’s just hard to do that. It’s not fair for us to advertise — they don’t know which fields. We wouldn’t want someone driving multiple hours, bring kids and there’s no seating.”

Flores Changing the Dolphins Culture A Piece at a Time:

The Miami Dolphins have a new sheriff in town named Brian Flores and he knows that the rebuilding process takes time. But he also knows that the ownership group isn’t going to be overly generous with the time it takes to build a winner. They’re frustrated through years of mediocrity and are hungry for a winning team and attitude.

Flores saw what he perceives as a loose ship in South Beach and is trying to emulate the workman-like culture he was a part of in New England. And he didn’t waste any time in bringing that attitude to Miami.

Takes No Talent:

Flores trademark is the T.N.T. mantra (Takes No Talent), to build a winning attitude. The core values are hard work, discipline, and respect. It is easy to see some of the Patriot-way infused in Flores’ beliefs, but he’s put his own spin on it.

“I tell my players this — I can go out there and get conditioned if I just go out there and run every day. I’m not going to do that, not like they do; but I could do that,” Flores said, in a piece on ESPN.

“Any of us in here can do that. That really takes no talent; it just takes hard work, effort,” Flores said. “Everybody talks about, ‘This guy is talented; that guy is talented.’ The talent on the team and a lot of things in this game come down to focus, execution, not making a bad penalty. Really, that’s not a talent issue. It’s a focus issue; it’s a mindset issue. I try to, and us as a staff, we try to make an emphasis on those specific things. Things that take no talent, I think those are the details that help you win games.”

Little by little, Flores is putting his own stamp on things in Miami. By changing their work habits, discipline, and the overall culture, Flores is trying to speed up the rebuilding process.

Jets DC Williams Looking To Aggressively Use His Star Players:

The new defensive coordinator of the New York Jets, Gregg Williams has had seven different stops as defensive coordinator and one stint as a head coach, with the Buffalo Bills. And his units are always aggressive. And with a core of special players on defense, he has with Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams, and C.J. Mosely, the Jets will no doubt be aggressive again in 2019. And by adding arguably the best player in the draft in Quinnen Williams at DT, the Jets defense can be very tough this season.

Speaking of Mosely who the Jets signed as a free agent this spring, Williams raved about his play.

Leads by Example:

“He’s a really good leader and he leads by example first. All the great leaders that I’ve ever been a part of, have to show great example before you open your mouth, so he’s always doing that,” Williams said of Mosely.

“He’s always done that, he’s not an extremely highly vocal guy but he sets the example by how he goes about doing his job and he understands the routine of being a pro, being a real pro. Williams is excited about the flexibility now of all a sudden even being more of a quarterback of the defense and having the checks and the audible systems and the things that we teach. He’s been very good and it will be fun.”

In regard to Leonard Williams, his new DC is licking his chops at unleashing him on the competition. “I’m really looking forward to cutting him loose and he was high on my list to get a chance to draft,” he said to Jets.com.

“There is a drastic difference in just the philosophy of how we play up front and he’s had some really great springs, can’t wait to get him in pads and ready to go,” Williams said of the 25-year old. “But he’s another one I’m excited about the opportunity to help him be as good as he can be.”

________________

“It is a wise father that knows his own child.” William Shakespeare

“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 Reportedly File Tampering Charges Against Texans in Caserio Pursuit

Steve Balestrieri
June 13, 2019 at 9:30 am ET

Et Tu, Jack, Billy?

The New England Patriots have filed tampering charges against the Houston Texans for attempting to hire team executive Nick Caserio as general manager, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday.

Schefter reported that the NFL is expected to gather relevant information and open its own investigation against Houston. The league will look into this situation and try to determine whether any tampering was done and if so, what punishment is appropriate.

At the center of the controversy is former Patriots character coach Jack Easterby, who left the team this spring and is working for the Texans now. Easterby was at Robert Kraft’s home on Thursday night for the Patriots ring ceremony. It is rumored that while there, Easterby made overtures to Caserio about the Texans GM position.

The next day, the Texans fired general manager Brian Gaine after just one season on the job. Caserio, who has been New England’s director of player personnel since 2008, once again became Houston’s leading target. Houston tried to hire Caserio last spring and asked for permission to interview him, but the Patriots blocked that attempt.

Caserio is close with both Easterby and Houston head coach Bill O’Brien who was a member of the Patriots coaching staff from 2007-2011.

Pro Football Talk took it one step further stating on Twitter that:

Replying to @ProFootballTalk

Evidence of potential tampering come from photos, videos, other proof of interactions between Texans exec @JackEasterby and Caserio at last Thursday’s Patriots ring ceremony, which happened the night before the Houston G.M. job became vacant.
113
5:31 PM – Jun 12, 2019

So, if the rumors are true, how did the Patriots find out that Easterby was beginning the pursuit of Caserio again by Houston? Were they overheard? Did Caserio report it himself? (doubtful). It adds another layer to the intrigue.

The Texans have requested permission to interview Caserio for their GM job but have not been granted permission to date. And judging from the Patriots reaction, that permission isn’t forthcoming.

The NFL’s policy on tampering is stated as “Any interference by a member club with the employer-employee relationship of another club or any attempt by a club to impermissibly induce a person to seek employment with that club or with the NFL” is impermissible.

Bill Belichick has stated many times that what Caserio does is far beyond his scope as just the Director of Player Personnel.

“He’s certainly involved in all of the personnel aspects of his job, college, pro, free agent workouts, waiver, everything,” Belichick said back in 2017. “But you throw all of the coaching stuff on top of that, the week-to-week role in the press box and on the practice field. I mean, he does a tremendous amount. I can’t think of any other personnel person that would even come close to that. I don’t know who it would be. I don’t know what everybody else does, but I don’t know anybody.”

The league rules state that a team can’t block a person from interviewing for a position that is above their current level. The Patriots will take the stand that Houston’s GM position is, in essence, a lateral move, which by Caserio’s job title only, it is not.

As both Mike Reiss (ESPN) and Doug Kyed (NESN) have stated, the one way the Patriots can block this is to give Caserio a promotion and a raise that would pay Caserio to the level more consistent with the duties.  

While the Patriots as a whole tend to eschew personal job titles, (see offensive/defensive coordinator roles), this might be the perfect time to reverse that trend for Caserio, who is very deserving. And a healthy jump in pay would sweeten the pie as well.

The team can ill-afford to lose Caserio at this juncture of the season. Give him the title (as Kyed suggested) of VP of Player Personnel and a raise, which would elevate him to the level of a GM. That will keep Caserio around for the foreseeable future and create an ascendancy plan for when Belichick decides to retire.

But in terms of Easterby and O’Brien, the reception they get in Foxboro from here on out may not be as warm as before. C-ya in December.

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

Listen in to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Sony Michel’s Knee Scope Kept Him Out of Minicamp

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:53 am ET

Last week, one of the most well-known Patriots players among the missing at the mandatory mini-camp was running back Sony Michel. No one knew why the second-year back from Georgia was missing until Wednesday. Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, “now we know, … the rest of the story.”

Jeff Howe of the Athletic was the first to report that Michel, who has had knee problems dating back to high school had his knee scoped earlier this offseason. The knee procedure is considered to be minor and Michel is reportedly on track for being ready for training camp at the end of July.

Michel had a very solid rookie season for the Patriots. Despite missing three games, he led the team with 209 carries for 931 yards and six touchdowns. In the playoffs, Michel was immense, carrying the ball 71 times for 336 yards and a rookie record six post-season touchdowns, including the only one in the Patriots Super Bowl win over the Rams.

So, despite the procedure being considered minor, it is still disconcerting in the fact that Michel needed to have another procedure on his knees. He missed time last year in training camp and wasn’t ready for the season opener. While missing three days of minicamp isn’t a show stopper, it was hoped that Michel would carve out a bigger role in the passing game this year. Getting those reps in minicamp is a great way to lay the foundation for that.

The Patriots under Bill Belichick have always been cautious in the offseason when it comes to players returning from injury or surgery, opting to keep them off the field. Which could be partly the reason why Michel wasn’t spotted at any of the final four practices open to the media.

Perhaps now it is becoming clearer why the Patriots drafted Damien Harris from Alabama in the third round of the draft this season. Harris is a player who excels at running between the tackles and making yards after contact. He can take some of the onus off of Michel in the running game.

Running back is one of the deepest positions on the team, Michel would be considered the primary ball carrier while James White is the top pass catcher. But with Rex Burkhead who can do a bit of both well and veteran Brandon Bolden who returned this spring as well as the rookie Harris, the team is well stocked and should have plenty of depth for another run to the postseason.

With Michel missing in minicamp, Bolden and Harris got the lion’s share of the carries in the running game drills. Michel’s status and his workload once training camp opens will definitely be one of the more closely watched developments this summer. His long-term viability is definitely a concern, as it was reported last summer that he may have a “bone-on-bone” condition in his knee.

He is a very talented running back whose potential was shown last year in the postseason, but he may not have a very long career. However, with the running back rotational system that the Patriots employ, it would definitely add some mileage to that.

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

Listen in to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

PatsFans.com Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 1.0

Steve Balestrieri
June 11, 2019 at 6:00 am ET

With the Patriots mandatory mini-camp over, it is time to a very early look at a New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. We were fortunate enough to be there for the entire three days this season. While there was no contact and no pads, it gave a good if albeit premature look at how the 2019 roster could play out.

Later this summer, we’ll post primers for each position but here is our first crack at a  workable 53-man roster.

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham

The Patriots will once again go with three quarterbacks this summer. Hoyer is entrenched as the #2 for now and in minicamp the rookie Stidham was taking all of the #3 reps, at times on the final day, he even got #2 reps before Hoyer so the coaches could get a look at what he can do in the offense. He has a long way to go, but he’s clearly got the coaches intrigued with his down-the-road potential.

Bad news for Danny Etling who was working as the personal protector during minicamp. Oh and that Brady kid from Michigan? He’ll be okay and should stick….

Running backs: (6)

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin

Sony Michel missed all of mini-camp which raises the question if he’s hurt. With the drafting of the impressive rookie Harris, he and Burkhead can spell Michel if he’s out for a while. James White isn’t going anywhere and the team brought back Bolden for STs and to fill in if needed. Develin is invaluable as the fullback who can block and catch the odd pass here or there.

Tight ends: (3)
Matt Lacosse, Ryan Izzo, Stephen Anderson **Ben Watson Suspended**

The Patriots have Lacosse as the clear #1 heading into the season with Watson suspended for the first month of the season unless they make a trade. Izzo is the blocking (read Dwayne Allen) tight end who nudges out Andrew Beck while Anderson is the “move” tight end who may be on the block once Watson is eligible to return.

The position has been totally revamped since last season and it may take some time to gel once the regular season starts. Training camp will be invaluable for this group

Wide Receivers: (5)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers
**Josh Gordon Suspended** ***Demaryius Thomas PUP***

Edelman, Harry, and Dorsett are roster locks…barring injury. Meyers with his size and hands makes it yet another year with a UDFA making the roster out of training camp.

Thomas and Gordon (if reinstated), give the team some intriguing options. Berrios had a good spring and looks the part in the slot, he and Meyers will battle it out for the spot. Dontrelle Inman has a lot of ground to make up. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills during mini-camp. Ryan Davis and Gunner Olszewski are practice squad candidates.

Offensive line: (8)
Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, Yodny Cajuste, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt

The state of the offensive line centers around health. Wynn missed all of last year with an Achilles injury. He was at mini-camp but was held out of team drills. Cajuste who they drafted this spring had off-season surgery and it is hoped he’ll be ready to go by September.

In the meantime, Joe Thuney played left tackle this spring. Expect him to get some work there this summer, even if Wynn is a full go for training camp. Left tackle and swing tackle are the two question marks. Cole Croston heads to the practice squad. After that, the offensive line is solid.

Defense –

Edge Players: (4)
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich

After losing Trey Flowers, the Patriots brought in Bennett. Wise is a solid if unspectacular veteran now and Simon played very well for them last season. They’re hoping Winovich can step in and play as advertised. I like his motor and relentlessness. This could be the end of the line for Derek Rivers this summer. He is going to be given an opportunity to show what he can do. He got reps with the 1st personnel grouping last week. Keionta Davis and Trent Harris may still be able to step up in case of an injury.  

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup big man inside. Butler is the best pass rusher of the group. David Parry and Byron Cowart are on the outside but will have to turn some heads in August.

Linebacker: (6)

Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King

Linebacker is a position of strength heading into training camp this summer. Hightower has slimmed down, gotten more pliable, and is moving well. Van Noy has been a jack of all trades, but the biggest surprise (pleasant) of the spring has been the play of Collins. He has been all over the field disrupting plays at the line and playing solid coverage

Roberts, coming off of a solid postseason and Bentley who shined early in 2018 before ending on IR, gives the group really good depth.

Cornerback: (6)
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson

Gilmore and Jackson are the starters for Week 1. But this group is really deep and very talented. Jones and Dawson (who beats out Crossen) can play in the slot and McCourty can play safety, outside or inside. Williams is a big corner (6’4) that allows him to play against the bigger WRs or even tight ends. The versatility of this group provides them with the matchups they can roll against nearly every opponent.

Safety: (4)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner

Ebner beats out Terrence Brooks …on paper for now. Brooks has superior defensive skills but Ebner is a Belichick favorite on Special Teams. Obi Melifonwu played STs and has the size and athleticism but seems far back on the depth chart right now. He’ll need a big summer to push Ebner and Brooks off the roster. Malik Grant is a candidate for the practice squad.

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

Gostkowski returns and has no camp competition. He and long snapper Joe Cardona are both locks for the 53-man roster. The big competition is at punter. The team brought back the steady Ryan Allen on a one-year deal but they moved up to draft Jake Bailey, the big-legged punter and kick off specialist from Stanford. By now you’ve no doubt heard about the charge he puts into the ball. If he gets his consistency down, he’ll make the roster.

Slater isn’t going anywhere. Watching him race up and down the field this spring, practicing his moves on his own shows the fire still burns very bright for him.

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 6-09, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 9, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.
Vince Lombardi

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-09 and AFC East notes this week.

The Patriots mandatory three-day minicamp is in the books and there was plenty of interesting things to see and take note of during the practices. Bill Belichick commented on how he believed that they accomplished a lot during the three days. With the teaching camp in the books, the evaluation will commence once training camp begins.

Quick Hitters:

The 2018 Patriots – got together for the final time at Robert Kraft’s house, and in a celebration with pomp and ceremony, the team received their Super Bowl rings. The sheer size of them now lends itself to question the term “ring” and despite the over-the-top gaudiness of them, there are 31 other teams that wished that was them on Thursday night. Very impressive pieces of jewelry.

The Patriots put up a big photo gallery of the night here:

Joe Cardona – the Patriots long-snapper was promoted inside Gillette Stadium on Thursday morning to Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve prior to the minicamp practice. Tom Brady spoke about how Cardona epitomizes “commitment to our team and to our country” later in the day. And it happened on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. A very cool moment

Tom Brady – Looked in mid-season form for the three days of minicamp. His mechanics are always flawless. Every year I take pics of him throwing and compare them to the years before and you could lay them on top of one another and couldn’t tell the difference.

Brady “deuxième partie” – Brady and Josh McDaniels conducted a side session with rookies Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry on Thursday. They were trying to get their timing and chemistry down, in terms of how they want routes run, where the breaks should happen, the angle of the cuts and ball placement. Fascinating stuff to watch. The work they do in June and July pays dividends in January and February.

Ivan Fears – The Patriots running back coach is beginning his 21st consecutive year with the Patriots, he also had an earlier stint with the team. Fears is one of our favorite guys to watch and listen to during the practices. We got a chance to chat with him before practice briefly on Thursday. After mentioning that the running backs looked good so far but that we’re sure he’d find areas to critique them, Fears got a big grin and said, “Oh I’ll always find ways to critique them.” Asked about Brandon Bolden’s return, he said how Bolden brings energy to the field and his teammates every day.

Troy Brown/Deion Branch – Excellent seeing the two of them work so closely with Joe Judge the Patriots STs Coordinator/WRs Coach and the players this week. Both of them know what it takes to be successful in the Patriots passing game and the two former players lending themselves to teaching the young players was intriguing to watch.

Mini-camp Wrap, Final Thoughts:

In their quest for “Knockin on Seven’s Door” that begins in September, the Patriots started the process with OTAs and their mandatory minicamp. Watching it all for three days, albeit without pads or contact was interesting as the coaches try to mold the 2019 version of the team. Here are some of the things that were intriguing to watch and will bear further consideration moving forward.

Left Tackle Status – Without Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste taking part in team drills this week, the Patriots moved left guard Joe Thuney into the left tackle position. He was getting nearly all of the first personnel grouping’s reps. And he was practicing with the tackles as well.

The good news, however, is that Wynn was on the field and taking part in individual drills and exhibits no sign of being limited at all after his Achilles surgery. Which lends itself to believe that he should be ready to go by training camp.

Tight End Production – With the release of Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Watson suspended for the first four games of the season, it puts the ball squarely in the corner of Matt Lacosse. Lacosse looked good in the workouts this week, moving well and displaying nice hands, catching everything thrown his way.

We were on hand when Lacosse spoke to the media after Wednesday’s practice session. Which can be seen here:

Ryan Izzo, Andrew Beck seem to be both competing for the blocking tight end role while Stephen Anderson is looking to carve out a role as the “move” tight end.

Brady nixed suggestions that the Patriots are going to diminish the tight end role in the offense. “That has to be a position of strength, even if it’s not one player but multiple players doing different roles,” Brady said. “There were times in my career before that where we’ve had similar approaches.” He finished his thoughts on an upbeat note.

“The tight end position is a big part of our offense and those guys are going to have to do a great job for us.”

Jamie Collins Return, Seems Like a Bigger Development…for Now – We were against the addition of Collins this spring on these pages, remembering the reasons why they jettisoned him in the first place. However, if minicamp is any indication, the Patriots coaches, especially LBs coach Jerod Mayo have bigger plans for Collins.

This week, at least Collins wearing #8, for now, was playing a big role for the defense in their alignments. And, again without pads on, he was asserting his will against the offense during team drills.

Even Mike Reiss was on-board with this train of thought calling Collins “active and looking like key cog” in the defense. Surprising. Another thing to watch for in training camp when that kicks off in about 5-6 weeks.

Maurice Harris Looking Good – Another mild surprise here. Harris was given little chance to make the roster when he was picked up this spring. Well…after the three-day mini-camp, Harris did nothing to hurt his chances of not only making the roster but carving out a role for himself.

We’ve gotten DMs, phone calls, and e-mails about Harris, “He’s a JAG!”, “He’s not going to make the rostah!” Well…you have to report on what you see. And for three days, Harris caught everything thrown his way. On the flip side, I didn’t see Dontrelle Inman catch a single pass in team drills…maybe I missed some or even one. But we’ve seen this film before. One is trending up, the other down.

Cornerbacks are Looking Deep and Talented – The Patriots have a plethora of corners on this team and every one of them can play. That isn’t hype or hyperbole but a fact. This is arguably the team’s biggest strength heading into training camp.

Stephon Gilmore blanketed everyone thrown at him all week. J.C. Jackson looked very solid for the first two days before missing Thursday’s practice session. Those two are the two starters, that we expect to see in Week 1. Some people feel Jackson may someday supplant Gilmore as the #1 corner on the team…

However,  behind them are several more talented players. Jonathan Jones has already been a starting slot corner. Jason McCourty has started both outside and in the slot. Rounding out this talented group is Duke Dawson, Joejuan Williams, Ken Webster, and D’Angelo Ross. The cornerback group can mix and match with just about everyone and it is going to be intriguing to see how the defense aligns this year depending on the opponent.

The Punting Competition Will Be a Key One to Watch – Once again this summer, Ryan Allen will be battling for his job. Last year, he bested Corey Bojorquez and then was arguably one of the players that could have won the MVP of the Super Bowl with the way he pinned the Rams deep all game long.

This year, Allen will take on rookie Jake Bailey from Stanford who possesses a massive leg. Bailey was putting the ball into the ozone all week, getting some tremendous height and hang time on his punts.

It will be a battle of consistency over strength. Allen was his usual consistent self all week, while Bailey, even when booming most of his punts all week, had a few that were off the mark. Stay tuned.

Edelman Turns In Solid Week Performance-wise and Mentoring:

The Patriots drafted N’Keal Harry with the #32 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and he’s sure to feel the heat of fans and the media’s expectations this fall. The Patriots drafted Braxton Berrios in the 6th round in 2018. But he didn’t see the field in 2018. Two different players with different backgrounds. But they have a constant voice that is always there for them.

Julian Edelman was the Super Bowl MVP last year who came to the Patriots via Kent State and was a college QB who made the transition to NFL WR who, after Tom Brady is arguably the most valuable Patriot on the offense. In his 11th season, Edelman is not only Brady’s most trusted receiver, but he’s also now taking on the role as a mentor for these younger players on the roster. It is something he feels strongly about.  

Julian Edelman, wearing a Bruins jersey and Jamie Collins before practice on Weds

“I had teammates that help you, and then you had teammates that didn’t,” Edelman said after practice on Wednesday. “I like to be known as a guy that helped you. I like to give little pointers here and there, because the better we all are, the better the team is going to be. I like going out and trying to give information if they want information from me and go from there. It’s part of my job, I guess.”

Edelman recalled Fred Taylor in his rookie season as a veteran who helped him out immensely and he said that he would try to do the same with Harry. Berrios, also after practice on Tuesday, mentioned that Edelman has been a constant source of mentoring for him. He’s looked quick and skilled thus far in minicamp.

Edelman will be looked to for a lot of production this season in the Patriots offense. If the contributions of Harry and Berrios this season are any indication, then Edelman can chalk up mentoring among his accomplishments this year as well.

Gunner Olszewski Is a Player to Watch For This Summer:

The Patriots brought in the undrafted cornerback from tiny Division II Bemidji State and are trying to convert him to a wide receiver. That alone should put him in the long-shot category for making the roster. But not so fast…Julian Edelman, who knows a thing or two about converting to wide receiver at the pro level is high on the youngster.

“I love that guy,” Edelman said. “If he’s got a question, I’m here to help try to answer it to the best of my ability. I feel that’s part of my role on the team, being here so long. He’s working hard. He’s definitely a tough kid. I love the chip on his shoulder, and I like working with him, that’s for sure. He definitely works his tail off, and I like having him around.”

One of the things going for Olszewski, who is generously listed as 6’0, 170, is the fact that he can return kicks and punts. But make no mistake, he doesn’t appear lost out there or like a duck out of water. While the path won’t be an easy one, he can do it.

The Patriots always seem to have undrafted free agents make the roster. With a name like Gunner Olszewski, you can’t help but root for him.

No AFC East Notes This Week:

________________

With the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion this week, it is important that we remember the American, British, Canadian and Free French soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy not to conquer but to free the world of Nazism.

“At the core, the American citizen soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didn’t want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed. So they fought, and won, and we all of us, living and yet to be born, must be forever profoundly grateful.”

–Author Stephen Ambrose

Can’t end the piece without another look at the entire ring ceremony once more.

“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.

Photos: Author

New England Patriots News 5-12, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 12, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-12 and AFC East notes this week. And a very Happy Mothers Day to all those great Moms out there, not only in Patriots Nation but worldwide as well.

Quick Hitters:

Rodney Harrison was the 2019 fans’ choice for induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame, he’ll join the veteran selection Leon Gray in being inducted this summer. That is scheduled for Monday, July 29, which should coincide with the first weekend of training camp. Circle the date folks, this ought to be a good one to attend.

Julian Edelman is finishing off his college degree this weekend at Kent State, something he began in 2006 and after nearly a decade in the NFL, he’s going to graduate. Edelman said on social media that he wanted to be a positive role model for his daughter and to finish something he started. Congrats.

Jarvis Green, the former Patriot defensive end is now a CEO of a shrimp company, Oceans 97, a salute to his uniform number. Green learned about the shrimping business from a friend and now his gourmet line is available all across New England and features easy-to-cook meals of shrimp packaged in bags with four sauce flavors to choose from, New Orleans Style BBQ, Cajun Curry, Chimichurri, and Garlic Butter.

Rookie Mini-camp for the Patriots begins tomorrow. The most recent draft picks and UDFAs will report to Foxboro, get physical examinations, meet the coaching staff, get down the daily routine and be introduced to the Patriots’ schemes that they’ll be expected to learn and quickly. These on-field sessions are not padded and no contact is allowed. For the 21 newest Patriots it is their first day of work in the NFL.

OBJ – caught a lot of flak last week for saying “I plan on being there for the next five years and trying to bring as many championships there as possible. Turning (the Browns) into the new Patriots,” There is nothing wrong with that at all. That SHOULD be the team’s goal, not just his.

I did poke some fun at him on Twitter for saying “I” instead of “we”, for failing to get the entire team thing mantra that is New England, but honestly, no one should have any problem with it. Tempering expectations, a least early? Sure, but as the old saying goes, “fortune favors the bold.” The Browns have a legitimate reason to be excited this year. When was the last time that happened.

White House Visit upcoming? The Patriots didn’t get a chance to visit the White House as is the tradition because of conflicts with dates, usually, it is done right after the NFL Draft. But there should be a date coming soon for the team to visit the White House and be recognized by the President soon.

Some Big Changes in the Coaching Staff, Joe Judge Gets Added Responsibility:

The Patriots have had a lot of turnover in the coaching ranks this offseason. Brian Flores is now the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, taking with him WR coach Chad O’Shea, CB coach Josh Boyer, and assistant QB coach Jerry Schuplinksi. DL coach Brendan Daly went to Kansas City in a lateral move.

With a smaller staff in 2019, the Patriots always have one of the smaller staffs in the NFL, the Patriots coaching staff now consists of the following:

Head coach: Bill Belichick
Offensive coordinator/Quarterbacks coach: Josh McDaniels
Special teams coordinator/wide receivers coach: Joe Judge
Running backs coach: Ivan Fears
Tight ends coach: Nick Caley
Offensive line coach: Dante Scarnecchia
Defensive line coach: Bret Bielema
Inside linebackers coach: Jerod Mayo
Outside linebackers coach: DeMarcus Covington
Safeties coach: Steve Belichick
Defensive backs coach: Mike Pellegrino
Assistant special teams coordinator: Cameron Achord

The biggest changes occur on the defensive side of the ball. Bielema was primarily working with the defense last year and he takes over the DL and will probably inherit the job of making the calls. He’s been a defensive coordinator and head coach in the college ranks. Jerod Mayo has been brought in to coach the inside linebackers while Demarcus Covington takes over the outside linebackers. Mike Pellegrino is listed as a “defensive backs” coach but will probably coach the cornerbacks only. The only returning defensive coach is Steve Belichick who remains the safeties coach.

Joe Judge gets more on his plate as he retains his Special Teams coordinator position but also picks up the new title of WR coach as well. But with OC Josh McDaniels, OL coach Dante Scarnecchia, and RB coach Ivan Fears to return, the offense should be in really good shape.

Patriots Welcome N’Keal Harry Finally to New England:

The Patriots brought in N’Keal Harry to meet with the media on Friday and he was finally officially introduced as the Patriots first draft pick of 2019, (32nd overall in the first round). He posed for pictures with Robert and Jonathan Kraft and spoke with the press. Some of the highlights included:

On being drafted by the Patriots: “It means the world to me. This is a great organization. I feel like I couldn’t have been put in a better situation. I’m learning from the best of the best and I’m just excited to get to work and soak in as much information as possible.”

Asked about Tom Brady being hard on his WRs, Harry embraced the challenge. “That’s something I’m looking forward to. I’m the type of player that wants to get better, I want to get coached hard, so I’m looking forward to that.”

Harry spoke about giving back to his home on Saint Vincent and how much of an influence his grandmother was in his life. “She’s been everything. There’s no way I would have been in this position if my grandmother wasn’t a part of my life. She’s been a great role model. That’s where I get my work ethic from, just seeing how hard she works, seeing her come from a different country and having to start over. I really do know there’s no way I would be in this position without that woman.”

And asked what’s he’s been doing since being drafted, how he answered should be music to Patriots’ fans ears. “These past couple of weeks, my biggest things have been making sure I stay in shape and just making sure I’m studying a lot, watching a lot of film. I want to be the type of player that comes in and can be accountable from day one… with this transition, it’s all the work you put in, the time you put in, the effort you put in. So that’s what I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

Patriots Sign Watson and Several Draft Picks:

Ben Watson is returning to the place where his NFL career began with the Patriots. The team announced the signing of the 15-year NFL veteran who spent the first six seasons in the NFL with the Patriots before signing with Cleveland. He also played for the Ravens and Saints. Watson has played in 195 games with 135 starts and has 530 catches, for 5885 yards and 44 TDs.

The Patriots also announced the signings of second-round draft pick DB JoeJuan Williams, third-round draft pick OL Yodny Cajuste, fourth-round draft pick OL Hjalte Froholdt, fourth-round draft pick QB Jarrett Stidham, fifth-round draft pick DL Byron Cowart, fifth-round draft pick P Jake Bailey and seventh-round draft pick DB Ken Webster.

Only three draft picks remain unsigned, top draft pick N’Keal Harry, and third-round picks Chase Winovich and Damien Harris. Those shouldn’t be too long in coming

Adjustments Are Just a Walk in the Park for the Patriots:

For the past couple of months, the fans and media have been discussing how the team will handle so many losses thru free agency, coach-poaching, and retirement.

“No Josh Gordon, Hogan, Patterson at WR…Who will Brady throw to?”
“RobGronkowski retired and the top three tight ends from last year are gone…how will the team adjust?”
“The team lost Trent Brown and LaAdrian Waddle at tackle…who’s going to protect Brady?”
“All of these changes at the coaching staff, does the rest of the AFC catchup in 2019?”

These are just a few of some of the questions we’ve all been hearing, or asking ourselves this spring. But as always, if there is one thing the Patriots do better than anyone is to adjust. No team has been better than adjusting to changing personnel, coaches, situations …whatever. They always figure it out. It has been a hallmark of this team for the past two decades is that they always figure it out.

So, while we’re all lamenting the loss of Gronk and openly wondering (as I did here) if they’re going to put an emphasis elsewhere, Belichick, McDaniels and don’t forget Brady will figure out a way to get this done. And until they don’t figure it out, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.

I found it intriguing this week that the Patriots were omitted from the NFL.com’s predicted “Top 10” offenses of 2019. I can think of nothing that will motivate Brady more. The Patriots love to play the role of the underdog and something tells me, the same people who omitted them from the list will be ridiculing New England for playing the underdog role next winter.   

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Get No Love from ESPN, Network Predicts a Losing Season:

The Buffalo Bills had a strong offseason in free agency and followed that up with a strong 2019 NFL Draft.  There they landed DL Ed Oliver, OT Cody Ford, RB Devin Singletary, and TE Dawson Knox in the first three rounds but are picked by the experts at ESPN to win just six games.

Buffalo fans are used to the media pundits taking shots at their team but from a perspective standpoint, the same experts had the Kansas City Chiefs as the best in the league with a probability of just 10.3 wins.

While much of how the season unfolds will depend on the 2nd year jump by QB Josh Allen, at first glance this doesn’t look like a six-win team.

Dolphins Defense Looking For a Hybrid Identity:

The Miami Dolphins are trying to build a defense that looks at times like a 4-3. At other times a 3-4. The base defense may have five defensive backs on the field. Their plan is to run a hybrid defense that morphs into whatever their opponents struggle against.   I

If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should. That is the kind of defense Brian Flores ran with the Patriots and he and Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham plan on running with the Dolphins.

But both Graham and Flores know that if the defense is going to be successful, then they’ll have to improve a woeful 2018 run defense. Miami allowed a whopping 2325 yards on the ground and 4.8 yards per rush. And in playing in a hybrid front, the players will have to set the edge, something that Graham is well aware of.

“There will be a bunch of guys who will learn to set the edge,” Graham said to the Sun Sentinel this week. “The edge comes down to this. You’ve got to get a feel for it. The traditional edge we grew up knowing, where [the offense] lines up with two tight ends and they are going to run outside, that doesn’t happen that often (anymore).

“Setting the edge is really getting a feel for it, and being physical at the point, using proper angles with our body. We’re teaching a bunch of guys to learn how to do it. It can be a safety. It can be a defensive end and outside linebacker…

Polite Getting a Fresh Start with the Jets:

The New York Jets picked up Jachai Polite in the 3rd Round of the 2019 NFL Draft after the very talented edge player from Florida began to fall in the draft.  Polite seemed like a sure-fire 1st rounder after a 2018 season that saw him produce 17.5 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks and six forced fumbles.

But he tested poorly at the NFL Combine and again at Florida’s Pro Day, prior to the draft. This, coupled with what was perceived as several poor interviews caused his draft stock to plummet.

But Jets coach Adam Gase isn’t worried about any of that. He said, “Well right now, we have a guy with pretty much a fresh start. What happened in the past is irrelevant to me.”

Gase added, “Moving forward it’s going to be about doing the right things, worrying about what he can control which is showing up every day, being on time, practice hard. If he does that, it’ll be smooth sailing for him.”

________________

“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.

Veldheer Could be the Patriots’ First of a Secondary Slate of FA Signings

Steve Balestrieri
May 8, 2019 at 6:30 am ET

At the stroke of midnight, all remaining free agents will no longer count against the compensatory pick formula for the 2020 season. So one can expect a minor flurry of free agent signings to occur.

The Patriots are reportedly going to sign OT Jared Veldheer according to the NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. The one-year deal is said to be worth up to $6.5 million dollars and will add the needed depth the Patriots lack at the tackle position.

The 6-foot-8, 321-pound Veldheer who turns 32 in June has played in 118 career games with 113 starts. His nine-year career has been spent with the Oakland Raiders (2010-13), Arizona Cardinals (2014-17) and Denver Broncos (2018). He brings along a ton of versatility as well; Veldheer can play either tackle position, center or guard.

After losing LT Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle in free agency, the team is expected to get back last year’s top draft pick Isaiah Wynn who missed the season due to injury as well as this year’s draft pick Yodny Cajuste. Marcus Cannon remains at right tackle. With the tackle position now seemingly in good shape entering OTAs, where else would the Patriots like to shore up their depth in free agency?

Defensive Tackle:

There are a couple of names still out there that could be intriguing to the team, depending on the amount of money that they’re looking for.

Allen Bailey – Bailey is an eight-year veteran with the Chiefs and was a defensive end in their 3-4 defense. With the Patriots he could bring that inside/outside versatility that Bill Belichick likes where he can play on the edge or kick inside as an interior pass rusher.

Bailey, 30, is listed at 6’3, 288 but was up to as much as 300 pounds at times last season according to media reports. With the Chiefs last year, he posted a career high 6.0 sacks along with 38 tackles and 2 forced fumbles.

Corey Liuget – Liuget spent the first eight years of his career with the Chargers and has been a very solid player. He missed the first four games of the 2018 season with a PED suspension. And only played in six games during the season after tearing a quariceps during a game against Denver in November. He was limited to just 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

In case anyone was keeping score at home former Patriots Ricky Jean-Francois, Danny Shelton and Dominque Easley are still available as well. But the biggest name out there is DT Ndamukong Suh. I just don’t think the Patriots are interested in Suh, despite his talent. He doesn’t seem like a Belichick-type player.He’s never played for less than $10 million APY according to SI, so he won’t come cheap. But never say never.

Tight End:

The Patriots have Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Matt Lacosse, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, Jakob Johnson and the recently signed UDFA Andrew Beck on the roster. Potential trade candidates are Kyle Rudolph from the Vikings and the Bucs Cameron Brate if they cut their ties with him.

Ben Watson – The aging but still viable 38-year old retired in January but after the birth of his twins recently has said that he’d like to return to the NFL for one last season. Watson began his career with the Patriots as a first round draft pick in the 2004 season. ESPN’s Adam Schefter believes Watson may end up his career back in Foxboro.

Other free agents include Lance Kendrick and Jermaine Gresham.

Wide Receiver:

The Patriots aren’t as needy depth wise after drafting N’Keal Harry in the 1st round and signing three UDFAs but adding another veteran wide receiver may not be the worst decision they ever make.

Michael Crabtree – Crabtree is being linked to the Packers by CBS Sports so we’ll have to see how this development plays out. However, Crabtree had decent production with a Ravens team that wasn’t great at throwing the football in 2018.

Crabtree caught 54 passes for 607 yards 3 TDs with Baltimore and has been very durable, missing just two games total in the past five years.

Other notable players include Pierre Garcon, Seth Roberts, Jermaine Kearse, and Rishard Matthews.

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 Sunday News and Notes 05-05

Steve Balestrieri
May 5, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-5 although no AFC East notes this week. They’ll be back next week.

Quick Hitters:

Bill Belichick is always zigging while the others in the league are zagging. Everyone (including here) thought the Patriots would take one, possibly two tight ends in the draft. Eight were taken in the Top 100 picks and 16 overall. The Patriots took zero.

Does this omission mean that the team didn’t like any of the tight ends available in this class? That they planned on picking up another in a trade? Or that the team is moving in a different direction and they plan on putting the emphasis elsewhere and going to stick with what they have?

Tom Brady’s appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show was a must watch clip. Brady was asked about his contract which is “only paying him” to be the 20th highest paid player in the NFL this year. “I want to win,” he answered, stating that the money the team saved on him allowed them to surround him with good players. He also added, “my wife makes a lot of money.”

Brady took part in the ongoing “feud” between Kimmel and actor Matt Damon. Brady has been in LA working out on his own and was a guest on Kimmel’s show. And the two with Kimmel sidekick Guillermo went to Damon’s house where you can imagine the rest.

!– wp:paragraph –>

 

Three Games to Glory – the 5-hour DVD set that sets the tone for the Patriots’ three playoff games culminating in the Super Bowl victory over the Rams is available for order thru the Patriots Pro Shop.

In a video produced to promote the release had players Kyle Van Noy, Jason McCourty, Rex Burkhead, and Stephon Gilmore watch some of the videos and offer some commentary on the game.

 

DuJuan Daniels is leaving the Patriots “to pursue other opportunities” in the news that was first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates. Daniels joined the staff as a scouting assistant in 2006, and worked his way up to area scout and then for the past three years as a National Scout. The only member of the staff, that holds that title.

Steve DeOssie – former Patriot and Super Bowl XXV winner with the Giants took part in the annual Patriots/Patriots Alumni charity basketball game against a team from the Grafton Police Department. During the halftime break, where fans get to meet and greet current and former members of the team which included Elandon Roberts, Keion Crossen, Brandon King and local Grafton alum Obi Melifonwu, DeOssie was approached by a fan whose father played with him on that Giants SB winner.

Reyna Thompson was a reserve defensive back and Pro Bowl STs player who started the game on defense. For those who don’t remember or were too young to recall, Belichick was the defensive coordinator on the Giants and he started just two DL, three LBs and six DBs including four CBs to slow down the Bills’ offense. Belichick’s game plan now is on display in the Pro Football HOF in Canton.

DeOssie and Thompson’s son had a long conversation about his father and some memories of that Giants team. It was a very cool moment.

DeOssie and Thompson speak about the SB XXV Giants

Some Interesting Players in the 2019 Patriots UDFA Class:

The Patriots have signed several key UDFAs to the team thus far. Let’s take a quick look at each of the new members of the 2019 UDFA Class.

Jakobi Meyers, WR, NC State: Meyers was originally a QB and switched to WR in his freshman year. The last two seasons he’s had tremendous production and developed quite the chemistry factor with QB Ryan Finley.

Meyers has good size at 6’2, 203 and while not fast at all, he’s shown that he can make contested catches from the slot. He has great hands and a very high football I.Q. Last year in Raleigh, he caught 92 passes for 1047 yards with 4 TDs.

Xavier Ubosi, WR, UAB: Ubosi wasn’t on the list of signed players but we’ve heard and read from multiple media members that he intends to sign here. His route tree is a straight line…he ran go-routes, a lot of them in college. But he also averaged 23.9 yards per reception. This should prove interesting.

Ryan Davis, WR, Auburn: Davis was the Auburn slot machine the past two years. He set a school record for receptions in 2017 and led the team again last year. He’s not big, (5’10, 189) but is quick enough to be a good addition to the slot. He also returned punts which could get him a roster spot.

Andrew Beck, TE, Texas: Beck was originally a LB who converted to TE. He’s got good size (6’4, 260)  and is known primarily as a blocking tight end. He’s average athletically and in the passing game, he can function reliably as a safety valve underneath.

Nick Brossette, RB, LSU: Brossette had a big year in 2018 at LSU, as he led the team with 240 carries, 1,039 yards, and 14 touchdowns. He has a compact muscular frame and excels at short-yardage. He doesn’t have much of a burst but is solid, reliable and gets better as the game wears on. Keep an eye on him this summer if anyone shows up hurt in training camp.

Malik Gant, SS, Marshall: Gant is a good sized (6’0, 209) very physical strong safety. He thrives in the box where he loves and seeks out contact. He wasn’t tested much in coverage against top competition. But he could provide a favorable matchup against tight ends and running backs. He would be a candidate for the Patriots “Big Nickel” role.

Terez Hall, LB, Missouri: Hall is an undersized, aggressive, downhill linebacker who could provide depth and special teams production. He’s tough and plays with good speed but his aggression frequently caught him out of position. With some coaching and discipline, he has the speed and athleticism to be a good defender in coverage.

D’Angelo Ross, CB, New Mexico: Was a productive corner for the Lobos despite measuring at just 5’8, 185. He is an uber-athletic player who ran a 4.32 at his Pro Day with a 39” vertical leap. He led the Lobos with 54 tackles and 15 passes defensed, but his size…or lack of it will bear watching.

Tyler Gauthier, OL, Miami: Gauthier was the starting center for the last two years at Miami and has good size at 6’5, 300. He is considered very solid in pass protection and allowed no sacks in 2018. He has the versatility to move over to guard.

Calvin Anderson, OT, Texas: Anderson played three years at Rice and graduated before transferring to Texas to get a masters in economics. He’s a bit raw and undersized (6’5, 292). He has good quickness and mirroring skills but requires time to get more strength and power at the NFL level.

Tyree St. Louis, OT, Miami: St. Louis has the size at 6’5, 314 to play in the NFL but is probably just a right tackle at the next level. He started in 34 straight games, so his experience level is excellent. But he’s not the most athletic player and a move inside could be in his future. It will be interesting to see how these last three prospects work out with Dante Scarnecchia.

Winovich is Arguably the Most Intriguing Additions to NE:

Chase Winovich was one of the Patriots’ selections in the 3rd Round (77th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. And he is one of the more intriguing characters they selected. He plays with a non-stop motor on the field and exhibits just as much passion off of it.

Don Brown, a Central Mass. native and Michigan’s Defensive Coordinator spoke with the Boston Herald early last week and had several very interesting quotes about Winovich and how he feels he’ll fit in the Patriots system.

“He’s a trip, no question, but he’s a very serious football player,” Brown said. “He’s one of those guys who love the game and plays the game the right way all the time. You never have to worry about his effort. He’s going to give you everything he’s got . . . I think him going into Coach Belichick’s system, this is probably a match made in heaven for him.”

In Michigan’s system, Winovich was asked to rush the QB from the edge but Brown believes he’s capable of much more and thinks the Patriots will use him in multiple ways.

“We stood him up as an outside linebacker. His primary goal was to go hunt the quarterback. But there’s no question, he can drop back and cover,” Brown said. “He has tight end in his background. He has good hands, he can catch. This offseason, getting ready for the combine, he trained a lot standing up, dropping into the flat, playing coverage, working on his hands. So he can do those things. We just didn’t ask him. The priority for us was to get him around the quarterback. But he can do it all. There’s no doubt about that.”

Pro Football Focus had Winovich as their 29th highest rated player going into the draft, so the Pats bringing him in at #77 is pretty good value. It was interesting to see how the board played out. The Jets were picking at #68 and reportedly looking for help on the edge. But they opted for Jachai Polite from Florida and Winovich was there for the Patriots to take at #77.

Here is his phone call from Bill Belichick telling him he’s going to New England.

 

Colts Finding the Right Players with Ballard/Decker:

One other AFC team that has drafted much better recently is the Indianapolis Colts. While new GM Chris Ballard is the guy who will (and should) get most of the credit, one name that won’t get much airspace is Brian Decker. But Decker is the guy ensuring that the Colts not only draft good players but the right ones.

Decker was hired by Ballard right off and is the Colts Director of Player Development. If you’ve never heard of him, you should. Analytics are becoming more and more important across all of sports and Decker has a unique career path. While Ballard and the staff scout football players, Decker’s job is finding the right ones.

A few years ago Decker was a Green Beret major and was tasked to find out why there was a marked increase in the number of candidates that were washing out of Green Beret training.

He totally revamped the system on how the Army, identifies, assesses, and evaluates prospective Green Berets. He then took his system of evaluating the “right people” with the NFL. In speaking with the Colts.com, he said it simply about finding character among the successful Special Forces candidates and NFL people.

“When you take the sport away and you look at the mindset of the people we’re dealing with, they’re the same people.”

What the Colts are doing now is what the Patriots under Belichick have done for the past two decades. They’re building a team and no longer just trying to collect talent. And from the gist of things, it would seem like the Colts draft board is much smaller these days much like New England’s. 

“We try to learn as much as we can about a player by answering five questions,” he said. And those questions are:

  • Does he have a favorable development profile
  • Does he have a favorable profile that will predict performance under pressure
  • Does he have an intellectual profile that will allow him to learn and make decisions on the field
  • Background data, does his background pose any risks to his development
  • Selecting people who are a good fit with what the team is trying to do. Character matters, players have to buy in.

Under Decker’s watch, his system identified potential Green Berets and now Colts players by learning that each successful candidate responded to stress in their lives with a heightened sense of motivation.

The biggest character trait he looks for is desire. “Desire is the one thing, you can’t coach and can’t teach,” he said. “It is the desire that ultimately fuels the motivation.” He pointed out that desire will make a prospect develop great work habits that lend itself to great performance on the field.

They are trying to implement a system where they identify smart players who thrive in a pressure-packed environment. The successful player won’t be looking for external solutions to problems but internally within the group. They’ll have excellent work habits, be mentally and physically tough,  have confidence which comes from practice and preparation and the optimism and belief that they can achieve anything together.

Keep your eye on the Colts this season and moving forward. Right now, I’d put them as the #2 team in the AFC and they’re getting an identity. 

Two years ago, I did a couple of interviews with Decker for SpecialOperations.com and spoke about the process of identifying, assessing and evaluating Green Berets, but the same process applies equally.

You can read the two-part interview here and the second half of it here:

The  New England err Over Time Rule: 

The NFL is revamping the overtime rule to allow each team a possession. It is expected to pass when the league brings it up for a vote. Of course, this is because the Patriots defeated the Chiefs in O.T. during the AFC Championship Game where the Chiefs never touched the ball. 

Cowboys C.O.O. Stephen Jones was firmly behind the Chiefs’ proposal. 

“I certainly tend to lean toward the new rule,” Jones said. “I certainly watched every play of that Kansas City-New England game, and you kind of would have liked to have seen what would have happened if Kansas City got another shot at it, and then how the thing would have ended up. It was football, in my mind, the game at its best. I certainly don’t have a problem with guaranteeing each team a shot at it. … It’s certainly something that had some traction there in the room, and certainly saw some people who were very interested in it. But we’ll get on a call there, take a long, hard look at it, and I’m sure membership’s gonna get to see it.”

One has to truly wonder if Jones would have wanted to see the rule changed if the opposite had happened or wanted to see Brady get a chance at the ball. 

This just reeks of sour grapes. Kansas City had the Patriots at third and long three times in that overtime drive. They didn’t stop them, hold them to a FG or even bothered to use one of their timeouts when their atrocious defense was obviously gassed in OT. 

Are you surprised? You should be. Let’s look at some of the other New England rules after playoffs and Super Bowl wins.

  • “Point of emphasis” on contact with WRs
  • No more leaping FG or extra point blocks
  • No more tricky formations with ineligible WRs
  • Medical Spotters added in case a player is concussed
  • PSI checks, that went the way of the dinosaur quickly 
  • Catch rules (which happened to be changed in the SB LII 

But what happens when the Patriots have one of these rules work in their favor? “Put an asterisk on that one!” Child please.

________________

“Rob Gronkowski was a presenter at the Billboard Music Awards last week and confirmed he was retired…then left the door open for a return. Hmm. 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.

How Does the Patriots Roster, Post-Draft Shape Up?

Steve Balestrieri
April 29, 2019 at 9:19 am ET

With the 2019 NFL Draft in the books, the Patriots have added 10 players via the draft and the first group of undrafted free agents. Look for some movement among those, as those positions, at least initially tend to be in flux for the first week to 10 days after the draft.

The roster as it currently stands has 88 players, fullback Jakob Johnson is an international gateway program player and doesn’t count against the 90-man limit. He’ll be on the practice squad once the season starts.

At first glance, the team has a deep, strong, solid base, especially along the offensive line and at cornerback. Players in bold are draft picks. So, how is the team shaping up post draft? Let’s look at each position and where they may need to still look to add more depth this spring.

Quarterback: (4)

Tom Brady
Brian Hoyer
Jarrett Stidham
Danny Etling

Four quarterbacks are probably going to be one too many, even if Tom Brady decides to skip the voluntary workout OTAs. Etling would be the odd man out, they just invested a draft pick in Stidham, who along with Hoyer should see a ton of work this spring. This position is set for the year

Running Back: (5)

Sony Michel
James White
Rex Burkhead
Brandon Bolden
Damien Harris

With the addition of Harris, this takes an already good group and makes them better. Injuries last year hurt this position. So, the only question is, will they keep all five? Bolden was brought back for STs but can fill in with the odd carry here and there. Very solid, and versatile group of backs here.

Fullback: (2)

James Develin
Jakob Johnson **International Gateway Player** Doesn’t Count against 90 player limit

Johnson doesn’t count against the limit and should be on the practice squad in September. Develin is extremely valuable.

Wide Receiver: (13)

Julian Edelman
Josh Gordon (suspended)
Demaryius Thomas
Phillip Dorsett
N’Keal Harry
Matthew Slater
Bruce Ellington
Maurice Harris
Braxton Berrios
Damoun Patterson
Jakobi Meyers UDFA
Xavier Ubosi UDFA
Ryan Davis UDFA

Edelman and Harry begin the season as the #1-2 WRs on the roster, Dorsett as the #3. The team brought in Ellington and Harris earlier this spring. Demaryius Thomas will probably begin the year on PUP and we don’t know when we’ll see Gordon again.

Fans have been gaga over Berrios since last spring, now we’ll get to see if the optimism there is justified. Of the UDFAs, Meyers is intriguing and had a lot of production at NC State. He has good size at 6’2, 203 but doesn’t run well (4.63 time in the 40). Ubosi is also big (6’2, 217) and averaged 23.9 yards per catch but isn’t fast either (4.58 in the 40). Davis is a slot guy who caught 69 passes but most were extended handoffs.

With questions around both Thomas and Gordon’s availability this season, they’d do well to bring in another veteran to help take the heat off their top two. Or perhaps the team feels that Ellington (23 catches for the Lions) or Harris (28 catches for the Redskins) can add something to the offense.  

Tight End: (6)

Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Matt Lacosse
Jacob Hollister
Stephen Anderson
Ryan Izzo
Andrew Beck UDFA

Everyone, including here, expected the team to address tight end in the draft and probably early. But they didn’t draft one, only adding UDFA Andrew Beck from Texas. Beck is known more for his blocking than pass receiving (28 catches, 281 yards 2 TDs in 2018) as is Ryan Izzo.

The team is hoping Austin Seferian-Jenkins can find his game here in New England. Newcomer Matt Lacosse had 24 catches for the Broncos last year. Hollister has shown flashes but can’t stay healthy.

Will the team add another veteran tight end (the hype is on Kyle Rudolph) or decide that for 2019, they’ll be content with the production they can get from the current crop and keep them inside as blockers and put the onus elsewhere on the roster?

Offensive Line: (18)

LT Isaiah Wynn
LG Joe Thuney
C David Andrews
RG Shaq Mason
RT Marcus Cannon
OL Ted Karras
OT Yodny Cajuste
OL Hjalte Froholdt
OL Brian Schwenke
OL James Ferentz
OT Cole Croston
OT Cedrick Lang
OL Jake Eldrenkamp
OT Ryker Mathews
OT Dan Skipper
OT Tyree St. Louis UDFA
OL Tyler Gauthier UDFA
OL Calvin Anderson UDFA

Huge positional group here. They draft Wynn to be the LT last year but he got hurt in camp. All the other starters return. They drafted Cajuste to be the RT of the future and he’ll be the swing tackle this year, backed up by Croston…right now.

Draft pick Froholdt is an intriguing guy who can play guard or center and may push Karras as the top interior backup. It is going to be tough to evaluate all of these guys this spring/summer. The roster should be set unless Wynn isn’t ready to go and then they may opt for another veteran tackle.

Defensive End/Edge

(7)Michael Bennett
John Simon
Deatrich Wise
Chase Winovich
Derek Rivers
Keionta Davis
Trent Harris

After losing Trey Flowers in FA, the team brought in Michael Bennett and just added Michigan’s Chase Winovich who brings the good speed and athleticism needed for the edge. In their scheme, he was kind of their ”designated pass rusher” opposite the TE on the weak side. He should get starter reps early. Simon and Wise and solid contributors.

What do the Patriots have in Rivers? It is Year 3 so, the time is now and the clock is ticking on him, Davis and Harris. They are essentially playing for one roster spot.

Interior Defensive Line: (7)

Lawrence Guy
Mike Pennel
Adam Butler
Byron Cowart
Ufomba Kamalu
Frank Herron
David Parry

Lawrence Guy is an underrated solid player. The Patriots picked up Pennel to solidify the middle and he’ll be a two-down starter. Butler is a good contributor. Cowart, the big kid from Maryland is a potential 5th round steal. He was highly regarded but flamed out in Auburn before having a really good season for the Terps. He and Kamalu have the versatility to play inside or outside.

Depending on how the young guys develop, they may later opt to bring in another veteran. Allen Bailey is still out there.

Linebacker: (8)

Kyle Van Noy
Dont’a Hightower
Ja’Whaun Bentley
Elandon Roberts
Christian Sam
Brandon King
Calvin Munson
Terez Hall UDFA

The team made no moves here other than bringing in Hall as an UDFA. The top three from last year (Van Noy, Hightower, and Roberts) return. Bentley impressed in the early going before getting hurt and Sam is an athletic type who was hurt in camp. King is a LB in name only. He’s a ST ace.

They should be set here unless the injury bug starts to hit.

Cornerback: (8)

Stephon Gilmore
JC Jackson
Jason McCourty
Jonathan Jones
Duke Dawson
Keion Crossen
JoeJuan Williams
Ken Webster

This is the deepest position on the team with eight (8) viable players who can step in and play.  The top four were the stalwarts from last year’s Super Bowl run. Crossen played a bit, Dawson was a 2nd round pick who got hurt and never saw the field.

They obviously liked Williams and moved up for him. Webster is an athletic freak who tested extremely well at the Combine. They can’t carry eight corners, so the obvious thought is they’ll try to trade some of these guys rather than just release them.

Safety: (8)

Devin McCourty
Patrick Chung
Duron Harmon
Obi Melifonwu
Terrence Brooks
Nate Ebner
A.J. Howard
Malik Gant UDFA

The Patriots didn’t add any during the draft and signed Gant as an UDFA. The top three return and now we’ll see if they can get out of  Melifonwu. Again, barring injury, this position is set for 2019.

Special Teams: (4)

K Stephen Gostkowski
LS Joe Cardona
P Ryan Allen
P Jake Bailey

The team re-signed Gostkowski and Allen but moved up in the draft to select Bailey. He and Allen should battle it out as the #1 punter. He has a strong leg and led the nation in hang time. He can also kickoff and serve as an emergency field goal kicker.

The initial roster here and we must remember it is only the end of April looks pretty strong and barring health concerns, they should be in really good shape come September.

The thinking here is they could really use another WR and TE but they set themselves up very well with an extremely solid draft in 2019. They’ll tinker with the roster and constantly look at ways at improving the team. As we’ve said many times, the team you see in April won’t look like the team you see in September.

But for the start of OTAs, the roster is looking pretty solid.

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 4-21, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 21, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-21 and AFC East Notes.

We would like to wish everyone a Happy Easter today.

The Patriots began their offseason conditioning work this week in Gillette. While no one gets a look at what they do, the Patriots always put a premium on being one of the fittest teams in the league. The endurance that begins now and goes thru the July/August sprints up the hills carries the team to wins in December and January.

Keep this in mind; In 2016, 72 of the 256 NFL regular season games were won by a team that trailed in the 4th quarter. That doesn’t include the Super Bowl (28-3).

ICYMI: Our third attempt at predicting how the Patriots will draft, Mock Draft 3.0 was conducted last week with some trades thrown into the mix. You can recap it again here:  Mock Draft 2.0 an attempt on beefing up the weaker parts of the roster was our previous attempt. You can recap it here: I believe we all expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, possibly packing some picks for a trade or perhaps moving around the board as they are very used to doing.

Derek Havens and I have been doing a special podcast highlighting the upcoming NFL Draft in addition to the regular one we do with host Russ Goldman. This week, we had ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates with us to discuss the draft, what the Patriots may do, especially in the early rounds and about the NFL in general. That can be heard here:

We will do one more pre-draft podcast where we’ll take a stab at predicting the entire first round of the draft and then see who the Patriots may target.

Quick Hitters:

Rob Gronkowski was back in the news and the Patriots released a video of the behind the scenes look at the Fenway Park celebration. Several players were warming up for the ceremonial first pitch and Gronk decided to stand in the batter’s box against Julian Edelman. He went farther though and used a Lombardi Trophy for bat and bunted a pitch, putting a huge dent in the back of the football of the trophy.

That video can be seen here: Classic Gronkowski…BTW the Patriots have no intentions of fixing the dent…It now has personality….Going out with a bang.

Benjamin Watson who was thought to be retiring is said to be considering a return to the NFL this season. After the birth of the twins he’s expecting, Watson may return to playing “in the right situation” according to Adam Schefter. While that probably means a return to the Saints, seeing Watson play one more season with the Patriots wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen.

Ben Watson catches a TD against the Bills on MNF in 2009.

Brandon Bolden signed a one-year deal to return to the Patriots and it is like coming home again for the veteran STs standout and backup RB. Bolden has always been one of the most popular players in the locker room and last year, the Patriots players made it clear to him when they saw him that his locker remained untouched.

Bolden remarked that his year in Miami was like “going away to college” but is happy to be back. “For some strange reason, every time I did something, I could hear Bill (Belichick) cussing me out like, ‘No, that’s not how we do it,’” Bolden said. “And I was like, ‘You’re right. I’ve got to do it the right way.’ I had great coaching… and it just carried me all through last year. Like, the entire time. I’m happy to be back, excited to get back to work. I missed this place.” And you were missed…especially on STs.

D’Qwell Jackson just wants his football back. The Colts linebacker who inadvertently started the entire Deflategate fiasco by intercepting a Brady pass in the AFC Championship Game and giving it to an equipment manager to keep, and then having this equipment guy turn the ball over to the NFL. Now Jackson has sent a letter to Tom Brady asking for his help getting his football back…. A hilarious bit here and definitely worth another watch.

Allen Bailey is a name to keep an eye on this spring. The former Chiefs DL is a free agent and came in to New England for a visit. Bailey is probably waiting to sign anywhere until after the draft to see where he’ll be asked to be a bigger piece of the puzzle. If the Patriots don’t get one of the top tier defensive linemen in the draft, don’t be shocked to see Bailey get an offer from New England.

Daniel Jones is reportedly getting a longer look by the Patriots??? CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora wrote in his column this bit about New England allegedly liking Daniel Jones the more they think about it:

This could become a spot for Daniel Jones. The Duke QB is a polarizing prospect who hasn’t exactly wowed everyone he’s been around… I continue to hear the Patriots have taken a shine to him. Is he their pick at 32? I’m not so sure. Maybe the Patriots would move up a bit for him.” While they did have him in for a visit, moving up to pick Jones? Not buying into that.

NFL Schedule Release Means Super Overreaction Day:

With the NFL releasing the schedule on Wednesday night, we were once again reminded what an absolute sieve Park Avenue is, as their celebrated release show was rendered moot by an avalanche of schedule teasers, who took the thunder out of the NFL’s release. Operational Security is not high there. Hmmm, didn’t we mention that about 4 years ago? But we digress…

It is always fascinating to gauge fans’ reaction when the schedule is released, even though they’ve already known who the opponents are, just not how they play out. For Patriots fans, the mantra has gone from a worrisome lack of offensive weapons to many proclamations of the team running the table on the first 7-8 weeks of the schedule. What changed? Shouldn’t we wait for those predictions until at least the draft is over?

Even more predictable is the reaction from the fans from other teams, especially those fan bases from rivals (you know who they are). With the perpetual lament about how the Patriots make the playoffs every year only because the AFC East is so weak. Ugh.

It was refreshing to see a national NFL reporter Field Yates, put that ridiculous and overblown take in proper perspective. However, you can set your clock by these overreactions and depending upon the area code how it means completely different things, again depending on your point of view.

Tweet by Field Yates on AFC East

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. There was a report released by the Attorney General this week and depending upon which side of the aisle one sits on, the takes on that were so different, you would’ve thought they were two totally different reports. Signs of the times.  

Chris Hogan Now A Panther and Still a Misunderstood Player:

Not surprisingly Chris Hogan has moved on in free agency after three seasons with the Patriots. He signed a one-year deal with the Panthers that is worth up to $2 million, a pretty modest figure, which highlights that the Patriots were ready to move on and try to get younger and more athletic at the position (we’ll see).

Hogan wasn’t brought here to be a #1 receiver, that isn’t who he is and never will be. He’s a complementary guy who can and has provided solid production if he’s part of a solid rotation of players on offense.  

And while no one will argue that Hogan had a frustrating year, his numbers were nearly the same in all three seasons with the Patriots.

Chris Hogan during 2018 mini-camp (SBalestrieri photo)

2016 – 15 games, 58 targets, 38 receptions, 680 yards 17.9 avg. 4 TDs

2016 had the Patriots loaded offensively. Julian Edelman had nearly 100 catches (98) and 1106 yards, Danny Amendola, Martellus Bennett, Gronkowski, Malcolm Mitchell, with James White and Dion Lewis out of the backfield. Teams could pick their poison and Hogan often drew the lesser of the opposing team’s corners and feasted (see Pittsburgh AFCCG) with his stellar yards per reception.

2017 – 9 games, 59 targets, 34 receptions, 439 yards, 12.9 avg. 5 TDs

Hogan got off to a hot start in 2017 then was hurt and was never quite the same which made his yards per reception average drop by a large margin, although the one from the year before was unsustainable. Again, the Patriots had a plethora of pass catchers beginning with Brandin Cooks with 65 for over 1000 yards, Gronk returned healthy with a 69 catch 1000 yard season. Danny Amendola had 61 catches and the trio of Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and James White out of the backfield had 118 catches.

2018 – 16 games, 55 targets, 35 receptions, 532 yards, 15.2 avg. 3 TDs

What a difference a year makes. Edelman was suspended for the first four games of the year. Gronkowski was hobbling all season, Cooks was gone and replaced by Josh Gordon who chipped in 40 catches. Amendola, Mitchell, and Cooks were gone, Phillip Dorsett chipped in with 32 catches. A mess of injuries in the summer decimated the WR position.

Despite struggling to gain separation, and often ignored, Hogan’s targets and catches remained almost identical to his first two years. But with the offense clicking at a much lower rate than the standard that we’ve become accustomed to, he was singled out often for criticism. Fair or not, it is what it is.

Hogan would be the first to say that he didn’t have a good year in 2018. That is who he is. But let’s not do the normal thing here and kick the guy on his way out the door. He was a key part of three Super Bowl teams in his three years here, winning two. And in the only one they lost he logged six catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.

While a lot of people are excited about the signing of Demaryius Thomas, let us remind ourselves the Patriots are not getting the guy from five years ago. His numbers from last year combined with Denver and Houston: Now with the albeit unscientific method of giving Hogan 89 targets, the same as Thomas based on his 2018 numbers?
89 targets, 59 catches, 677 yards, 11.5 avg. 5 TDs
89 targets, 57 catches, 875 yards, 15.2 avg. 5 TDs. The bottom line, the Thomas from five years ago is a vastly better WR than Hogan. In 2019, I think Hogan is. Moving on.

Offensive Tackle, Not Defensive May Be the First Patriot Selection:

The Patriots have been rumored to be taking a DT early in the draft by several draft experts in many of the Mock Drafts over the internet. Including here…although we’d stop well short of declaring us here as “Draft Experts”, but the plethora of excellent prospects make that an attractive option.

But… after losing both starting left tackle Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle to free agency and having last season’s top draft pick Isaiah Wynn still recovering from an Achilles injury suffered in training camp last summer, (those counting on DThomas, who suffered his in December should take note) the position is one of need.

There are several out there that warrant early round consideration, and while it may not be the sexy pick that we’re all wanting…and expecting, the Patriots have made it a habit to zig while everyone else zags… Trading up may involve a tackle but not the one we’re all expecting …just saying Stay tuned

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Poised to be Players at the Draft:

The Buffalo Bills are finally in an enviable position in the NFL Draft. Last season they found their franchise QB and still have the #9 pick as well as 10 picks in the draft. This draft is loaded with talent at exactly the places the Bills need to address the depth and holes in their roster. Tight End, wide receiver and the defensive line are all positions of need for Buffalo.

Holding the #9 pick, the Bills can scan the board and move down if desperate teams behind them are itching to move up for their own prospect. This is unchartered territory for the Bills and they should be in a great position to have themselves a great draft.

In other developments, the Bills will be planning a trip to Dallas for Thanksgiving. The Cowboys have traditionally been involved in Thanksgiving and this year the Bills will be on the nationally televised game from the Big D. That promises to be an intriguing matchup…at least in April.

Dolphins May Be Looking To Trade Back in Round 1:

The Miami Dolphins have the 13th pick in the upcoming draft and if the QB they want, if any of them are on the board that they like, they may move back to accumulate more draft capital and roll the dice with Ryan Fitzpatrick for 2019.

Therein lies the rub, there may be a QB that they like but are not enamored with, so the temptation is to settle. But history is an unkind barometer of teams who did just that. It will be intriguing to see who GM Chris Grier and new coach Brian Flores select.

One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of suitors to move up in the draft, there always are. And the Dolphins could be the beneficiaries of some nice draft capital because of it.

Jets Bell Has Week 16 Tilt Against the Steelers Circled:

File this one under “Be Careful What You Ask For…You may get it. The New York Jets new running back Le’Veon Bell who the Jets signed to a big four-year deal with the Jets worth $52.5 million with $35 million guaranteed after sitting out last season with Pittsburgh over a salary dispute. Bell wasted no time once the schedule was released to circle a Week 16 date with the Steelers.

Bell took to Twitter and posted a picture of himself running against the Jets. He did keep things light by posting “Jets Steelers, Sunday December 22nd. I got a feeling something miiight be a little different this time around…” While that is innocuous enough considering that in the picture he was running against the Jets, some people will take as something else and it immediately becomes bulletin board material.

That is usually the time of the year where Pittsburgh is trying to solidify playoff position and the Jets are hoping to find themselves in a familiar position. We’ll see.

________________

“Is it time for the Draft yet? 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.