Category Archives: Patriots Rumors

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.

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“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.

New England Patriots 2019 Mock Draft 3.0 Trading Up Time

Steve Balestrieri
April 15, 2019 at 6:30 am ET

In our first two mocks, we went with the basic assumption that the Patriots would keep all 12 of their draft picks. But we all know, they’re not going to do that. So we’ll go with a commonly believed scenario that they try to trade up to get a playmaker that they sorely need.

Our first Mock Draft can be seen here: Our second Mock Draft is here:

I used the outstanding Fanspeak Your On the Clock draft simulator again this year. And once again depending upon the Big Board that you use (when it comes to draft prospects)…your results will differ enormously. So Let’s Go Drafting…

Patriots Mock Draft 3.0:

**** Trade**** New England packages #32 and #73 to Seattle for Pick #21

Round 1, Pick 21 – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa:  Fant was still around on the board and he may not have lasted until #32. T.J. Hockenson, the most complete tight end in the draft was taken at #12 by the Packers in this mock.

Fant is a very athletic 6’4, 249 tight end from Iowa who excels open spaces. His yards after contact and ability to stretch the seams will immediately make him a very coveted receiver in the offense.

He is a versatile player that can be moved around the formation outside, in the slot or as an H-back. Despite playing in a run-heavy Iowa offense, scored 18 touchdowns in his last two seasons. A standout basketball player, Fant has excellent jumping ability and agility (6.81 3-Cone Drill).

He needs to get bigger and stronger to become a better blocker in the running game but with Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the other side, he’ll have time to develop in that area. However, as a receiving threat, he should be an immediate impact player.

Round 2, Pick 56 – J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford: Arcega-Whiteside comes from an athletic family. He was born in Spain and both of his parents were basketball players. He brings very good size, 6’2, 225 to the WR position. He’s got a quick release off the line, very good hands and a large catch radius.

He had excellent production in 2018 with 63 catches, for 1059 yards (16.8-yard average) with 14 touchdowns. He posts up like a basketball forward in the red zone and is a very good target there, (28 TDs in three seasons).

He has good but not blinding speed at 4.48 but he’s best utilized in the possession game. He can move the sticks and gets better the closer the team gets to the red zone. He’s gotten better every year and should be a very nice pro receiver who can occasionally stretch the field.

Round 2, Pick 64 – Christian Miller, Edge, Alabama: Miller was just a one-year starter but nevertheless had a very productive final season for the Tide. He made 36 tackles with 11.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He tips the scale at 6’3, 247 and is a very athletic edge player.

He has the long arms and above-average athleticism that coaches look for in edge players. He’s versatile and has a quick step off the snap either standing or with his hand on the ground. He has above average pursuit and can drop into coverage and cover backs in the flat.

He’ll need to get stronger at the NFL level to be a three-down edge player but he should immediately see snaps as a sub-package edge rusher with the Patriots defense.

Round 3, Pick 97 – Bobby Evans, T,  Oklahoma: Another surprise to still see him on the board at #97, Evans was a three-year starter for the Sooners, two at RT and then at LT in his final season. Evans plays with a bit of a mean, nasty streak and should immediately reap the benefits of playing for Dante Scarnecchia.

He’s considered a bit short at 6’4 for the position but has long arms and can solidly punch the chest of pass rushers to fend them off. While not considered overly athletic, he has the agility to get outside and pull on running plays.

He has excellent core strength and is very tough and will immediately vie for the swing tackle position with the ability to become a starter in short order.

Round 3, Pick 101 – Will Grier, QB, West Virginia: Grier is a developmental QB prospect for the Patriots offense. While he has marginal size, (6’2, 217, similar to Jimmy Garoppolo), and arm strength, he has a kind of “it factor” where he can galvanize the rest of his team. See the Oklahoma and Texas games where he led late comebacks.

Had very good numbers in 2018, 266-397 (67.0%), for 3864 yards with 37 TDs and 8 INTs in 11 games. He’s very accurate in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field. He reads defenses well and is a good leader in the huddle and the locker room.

His mechanics can improve but he has a good body of work to work off of. He’ll immediately step into the #3 position and vie for the backup job in Year 1.

****Trade**** Patriots Trade Picks #134, #205, to the Seahawks for Pick #124

Round 4, Pick 124 – Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford: Smith is a big 6’5, 255 “Y” tight end from “Tight End U” who is good as an in-line blocker, played in a pro-style offense and can serve as a safety blanket underneath.

Smith will be able to step in and contribute in the running game right away as his blocking is good but will improve over time with improved technique and a bit more core strength. He has a wide catch radius with very good hands, but won’t be a threat to attack the seams. He’s more of a short, safety valve, ball control guy with the upside to improve.

Round 7, Pick 239 – Renell Wren, DL, Arizona State: Wren is an intriguing prospect with good size, 6’5, 318. In college, they played him over the nose but he may be a better fit as a pure defensive tackle.

He possesses freaky athleticism for a big man but he’s a project and may require a lot of work with Joe Kim who helped Patriots DL work on their hand usage. Has a lot of upside but may take a year or two to blossom.

Round 7, Pick 243 – Kendall Joseph, LB, Clemson: Joseph is an undersized but productive inside linebacker who may have benefitted from playing in a loaded defensive front seven. He’s just 6’0, 233 but had 84 tackles, five TFL, and four sacks during the Tigers National Championship run.

He does have good instincts and showed good coverage, but he may have to carve out a role on STs to make the roster in 2019.

Round 7, Pick 246 – Penny Hart,  WR, Georgia State: Hart is a small, very small (5’8, 180) wide receiver who had excellent production at a lower level of competition. But got an invite to the Senior Bowl and looked uncoverable. He’s a very twitchy slot receiver who can return punts and kickoffs.

Round 7, Pick 252 – Saquon Hampton, S, Rutgers: Hampton is our requisite Rutgers pick as the Patriots address the safety position late in the game. He’s a natural leader and a team captain, something the Patriots look for, with good size at 6’1, 206. Said during an interview, he tries to emulate Patriots safety Devin McCourty. Sold. Welcome to New England.

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

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

New England Patriots News, 4-14, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-14 and AFC East Notes.

It is looking like it is going to be another soggy Boston Marathon this year, we’d like to wish all of the competitors the best of luck tomorrow.


As we stated last week we have begun our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team, our first on tight ends can be seen here:  And our follow-up post on possible wide receiver fits can be seen here: Our draft profiles on defensive tackles is here:

ICYMI: Our second Mock Draft 2.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. 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. Mock Draft 3.0 will be coming out early this week.

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’re planning on having 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. Please do check that out around mid-week.

Last week did a draft mailbag podcast which can be listened to here:

Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady was on his Instagram account beginning his offseason work at his home. The interesting thing about that was he was still picking confetti from the Super Bowl out of his helmet. Speaking of which, he can no longer wear his old one and must wear the newer version which he tried a few times last year.

Chris Hogan signed a one-year deal with the Panthers. Hogan had quite a few memorable moments and catches in his three years in New England, helping the team get to three Super Bowls and winning two. But his leaving this spring is not a surprise, it seemed like a long shot for him to return.

Pat Chung has signed a one-year extension according to NFL.com, locking up the Patriots safety thru the 2021 season. Ian Rapoport was the first to report the news. Chung broke his arm in the Super Bowl but is expected to be fully healthy by training camp

Tim Tebow was in Pawtucket playing the Paw Sox for the Mets minor league affiliate and was asked about his brief time with Tom Brady. Tebow gave a long answer, gushing over the qualities of Brady as both a QB and a teammate. Then apologizing for giving an answer that was too long.  Tebow was and is always a class act.

RIP Forrest Gregg the longtime Packer great offensive lineman who passed away at age 85 this week. Gregg set a record (since broken) of playing in 188 straight games and later became the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Green Bay Packers. Vince Lombardi called Gregg, “the greatest player I ever coached.”

The Patriots were supposedly interested in making a trade for NY Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepherd, but for the second year in a row, the Giants when they found out there was interest in their player (OBJ last year), gave the player a fat extension. In Shepherd’s case a 4-year, $41 million dollar extension.

Seferian-Jenkins Is Excited to Play in New England:

With the signing of TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins this week, it was a move we immediately pegged as a win but then turned around and stated that he probably would not be a #1 tight end here. And we’ll double down on that. The move was for the veterans’ minimum salary with just a $50,000 signing bonus and incentive bonuses totaling only another $40,000. That is peanuts; so the outlay of cash and risk for the team is very minimal.

Seferian-Jenkins could….could step into a #1 role for the Patriots, but they don’t obviously think that is so or they would’ve enticed him earlier with more money. It will be interesting to see how he works out with the team in the spring. And if he can stay healthy and on the field.

A best-case scenario for the team would be for them to get one of the top TEs in the draft (which is still a big need) and have Seferian-Jenkins step into the #2 role as a complementary receiver.

Jenkins took to social media posting a picture of the original Pat the Patriot (he immediately got high marks from here) and thanked the Patriots and stated “I am ready to go to work.” And why wouldn’t he be? Look at the QBs he’s played with and he’s never been on a playoff team.

Belichick Praises Caserio, Scouting Dept. Ahead of the Draft:

Bill Belichick held a pre-draft press conference at Gillette on Weds. and opened with nearly a 7-minute statement praising the work of Nick Caserio, the Pats Director of Player Personnel.

With a big turnover in the coaching staff, Belichick said that there was less scouting of college prospects by the coaching staff than in previous years. But he raved about the job that Caserio and the Director of College Scouting Monte Ossenfort and Pro player Scouting Dave Zigler have done. With the absence of so many coaches, Zigler and his staff jumped in to help with the process.

“So it gives us a tremendous opportunity for him to connect with the coaches and understand the schematics of what’s going on with the coaching side of it, and to try to integrate and correlate the players we’re evaluating on all different levels,” Belichick said of Caserio.

Belichick added that the goal, as always is to come away “as good a predictor as possible as to how the player will fit in and perform on our team, and in our system, (emphasis mine),  in New England regardless of what the league value is for the player. It’s really what the player can do for us is what the final evaluation goal we’re trying to achieve.”

Patriots and Titans Will Hold Joint Practices This Summer:

The Patriots always try to conduct joint practices during training camp and this season will be no exception. Prior to their Week 2 preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, the two teams will conduct joint practices against one another at the Titans’ facility.

“Sure, we are going to practice against the Patriots,” Vrabel said on Friday.

“They’re going to come down here, and it’ll be great for our fans to come out here and see a lot of great players, the team that won the Super Bowl last year. And they’ll be able to watch those practices and see our work and see how we compete against each other and try to improve.”

That immediately set off a lot of good-natured trash talking between old friends and former Patriot Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, and Pat Chung. Ryan said he was going to play one snap at WR to burn the McCourty Twins. He tweeted, “Easy money, he getting old.”  Which immediately got a response from Devin where he answered, “Which one? I guess it don’t matter, I don’t like you vs anyone!” Chung jumped in with “I mean damn, Let’s do it!…LOL.”

The two teams will meet there in Nashville during the week of August 12. If fans are looking for a nice vacation trip…Nashville is nice any time of the year.

Seahawks and Patriots Trading for #21 Pick in the Draft?

The Seattle Seahawks are expected to be trading back from the #21 pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. And depending upon how the board plays out, the Patriots with a plethora of draft picks could be in a prime position to move up if one of the tight ends they covet are there or perhaps one of the premier edge guys like Clelin Ferrell.

Seattle has only four picks in the upcoming draft, (1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Rounds) so creating a few more would seem to be the order of the day for Pete Carroll. According to the Draft Value Chart, Seattle’s pick at #21 is worth an even 800 points. So to give them adequate compensation, the Patriots could package their first round pick at #32 (590 points) and #73 (225 points) to give Seattle a slight perceived edge or you could delve really deep and package #32, and some of the Patriots mid-to-later round picks for the Seahawks #21 and one of their mid-round picks.

Of course, they won’t be alone. Everyone knows that Seattle may be looking to trade back and that means the Seahawks brass will be looking for the best deal for them. That’s what makes this time of year so interesting.

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Speaking of the draft, I was talking about Boston College OL Chris Lindstrom to a high school coach that coached against him in school last week and he remembered how impressive the former Shepherd Hill OL was back then. “They ran those tight formations (Double Wing) and watching him pull out and road grade thru the defenses was impressive,” he said.  “Back then he was about 270 (pounds) and he was still one of the faster players on the field. You could tell he was going to a really special player.”

We say that because don’t go to sleep on a player like Lindstrom. He played right tackle for the Eagles, but projects to be an interior OL at the next level. But he has the versatility to maybe do both.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Looking For A Big Draft to Upgrade Offensive Weapons:

The Buffalo Bills were very active in free agency and signed six offensive linemen as well as two wide receivers during the early going of free agency. Don’t expect the Bills to stop there. Buffalo has 10 picks in the upcoming draft and they have the flexibility to move around the draft to search for the weapons to surround 2nd year QB Josh Allen with the talent he needs to succeed.

The Bills OLwas a mess in 2018 and they signed three guards, two tackles and one excellent center to help protect their franchise QB. They also added WRs John Brown, Cole Beasley and TE Tyler Kroft to the mix.

But now they are poised to make some noise in the draft. With the #9 pick in the draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has them taking Iowa T.J. Hockenson and then adding Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry with their 40th pick. The Bills just had the other Iowa TE Noah Fant in for a visit.  Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll doesn’t need to see Alabama TE Irv Smith up close for a visit, he coached him with the Tide.

The Bills also signed FA DE/OLB Eli Harold this week. Harold played two seasons for the 49ers and last year with Detroit where he had eight tackles, four sacks and a pass deflected in 13 games for the Lions.

Dolphins To Pass on Early QBs in the Draft? Quite Possible:

The Miami Dolphins and new head coach Brian Flores have a lot of holes to fill in the 2019 roster. After the jettisoning of Ryan Tannehill and the signing of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, most experts believe the Dolphins may reach early for the next potential franchise QB at #13 in the draft. Not so fast…

If someone they like is still around at #13 could Miami pounce on them, but with big holes to fill at DE, the offensive line, running back and corner, they Dolphins may wait to select a QB they can develop in the middle rounds.

Fans may scream given Fitzpatrick’s track record as a starter, but with Brian Flores coming from the Belichick regime, they may be looking at the long-term best solution first rather than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, which is how they ended up in this predicament.

Jets Ink Montgomery, Maybe the End of the Line for Powell:

The New York Jets signed RB/WR/KR Ty Montgomery this week to back up Le’Veon Bell. The former Ravens player was also reportedly being courted by the Miami Dolphins. A talented kick returner, Montgomery was cut by Green Bay after an ill-advised return at the end of a game with the Rams. Montgomery was told to take a knee and returned it out of the end zone and then fumbled.

He was dealt to the Ravens where in six games he rushed for 83 yards on 15 carries, with no touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 65 yards. He began his career as a WR and switched to RB with the Packers. It is expected that head coach Adam Gase will try to find a niche role for him behind Bell.

But that news is probably the end of Bilal Powell’s time as a New York Jet. He suffered a neck injury last season but was thought to be able to continue his career fully. In his eight seasons with the Jets, the 30-year old Powell rushed for 3,446 yards and 15 touchdowns, while catching 204 for 1,567 yards and five touchdowns. He was never the Jets #1 running back but led them in scrimmage yards in both 2013 and 2016.

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We’ve all seen those commercials “Want to Get Away?” When someone does something silly or just plain dumb… How about the editorial staff on Sportsnaut? This week they published a piece on “NFL stars about to fade in 2019” and who leads off the list? Danny Amendola. Okay you say, that could happen, but what? Danny Amendola of the New England Patriots.

“This veteran receiver will likely see an uptick in targets next season now that Rob Gronkowski has retired. In no way does this mean the 33-year-old Amendola is going to be as efficient as we’ve seen in the past.” Ouch. Ummm Amendola hasn’t been with the Patriots since 2017, having spent the 2018 season with Miami and now with Detroit.

The facts checker took the day off it seems. Want to get away? …

“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.

New England Patriots News 04-07, AFC East Notes

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

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-07 and AFC East Notes.

We have begun our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team, our first on tight ends can be seen here:  And our follow-up post on possible wide receiver fits can be seen here: Our draft profiles on defensive tackles is here:

ICYMI: Our second Mock Draft 2.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. 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.

And be sure to check out for pre-Draft Podcasts with Derek Havens and I going over some of the possible fits for the Patriots in the upcoming draft.

Quick Hitters:

Michael Bennett had the felony charges against him dropped in Texas. After the Super Bowl in Houston, he was trying to get on the field to congratulate his brother Martellus when he supposedly shoved a 66-year-old paraplegic security staffer, who suffered a sprained arm. The DA dropped the charges “in the interest of justice” as they didn’t feel there was sufficient evidence to earn a conviction.

Tom Brady was in People Magazine after he signed what he dubbed, “the coolest helmet I’ve ever signed.” The helmet with many Patriots-themed illustrations didn’t appear to have a clear area for #12 to sign. We’ll leave the picture here for fans to decide on the coolness of it.

Patriots Huge in China: The Chinese have definitely taken a shine to the Patriots. According to CNN, the Patriots have enjoyed a “monumental” year in the world’s most populous nation, becoming the first NFL team to hit 500,000 followers on Weibo, which is the Chinese version of Twitter. Weibo has around 300 million monthly active users.

The Patriots were the team that put the biggest onus on creating daily content that would specifically be attractive to Chinese fans. Which included graphics in Mandarin,, and short video explainers on American Football.

“The Patriots this past season have set themselves apart from the rest of the league in terms of creating original Chinese content,” Gideon Clark, client director at Mailman, said to CNN.

Red Sox/Patriots championships for the 2018 season will both be honored at the Red Sox home opener on Tuesday. RS President Sam Kennedy told media members that the Patriots have accepted their invitation to attend and conduct a joint celebration.

The Patriots are celebrating their sixth title since 2001 while the Red Sox are recognizing their fourth since 2004.

Patriots Draft Caps were released by New Era caps that the players who are drafted by the team will wear on stage when they are selected. In a word…bland.

Rodgers and McCarthy Excoriated in B/R Piece:

Aaron Rodgers was raked over the coals in the recent piece by Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne. And former head coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t spared the rod either in this compelling yet disturbing story. Calling this an unflattering look at Rodgers is like saying the Titanic encountered ice problems on her maiden voyage.

This was a truly toxic relationship and Dunne says it was over before it began. Rodgers, it was said, never forgave McCarthy for drafting Alex Smith before him in the NFL Draft and it poisoned their relationship before it even began. This story, unlike the one that pictured Brady and Belichick at odds, named names and had quotes from many former Packers players.

Rodgers changed about a third of the plays McCarthy called and frequently told receivers to run different routes than what was called. After McCarthy was fired, Packers President Mark Murphy called Rodgers to tell him the team was hiring new coach Matt LaFleur speaks a lot of how bad things have gotten in GB.

Murphy called Rodgers to tell him who they were going with. He didn’t ask for permission—he told him who the choice was. There was a brief pause on the other end of the phone before Rodgers eventually spoke. Murphy made it clear that Rodgers would need to accept coaching. “Don’t be the problem,” he told him. “Don’t be the problem.”

Leon Gray Elected to the Patriots HOF:

With the meeting of the Patriots Hall of Fame Committee this week to select the three finalists for this season’s fan induction, the 10-member Senior Selection Committee met to elect a player who has been retired for 25 years or longer. This year’s selection was former Patriots offensive tackle, Leon Gray.

Gray was drafted by Miami but cut at the end of training camp. He was quickly scooped up by Chuck Fairbanks of the Pats and quickly became one of the best tackles in the NFL. He and John Hannah comprised an outstanding combination at guard and tackle and were instrumental in setting the NFL record for team rushing yards in 1978, a record that still stands today.

Gray was underpaid in relation to tackles around the league and would be gone by 1979 to Houston. He later played for  New Orleans. He was a four-time Pro Bowler with two All-Pro seasons. He died in 2001. The selections for the team HOF will be announced later this week.

Why A 1st Round WR? He’s a Perfect Fit:

“The Patriots have NEVER selected a WR in the first round of the Bill Belichick era.” Yes I know, and judging from the emails I received after Mock Draft 2.0, a lot of Patriots fans know that too. But if there is one thing about this team, we’ve learned is to never say never.

So, with that being said, we opted for a wide receiver from Ole Miss at the end of the first round who was still there, during a draft simulation.No, it wasn’t D.K. Metcalf, the physical freak who has everyone drooling in fantasy football dream scenarios. It was his teammate A.J. Brown who was actually a ton more productive.

Metcalf caught 67 passes for Ole Miss during parts of three college seasons. Brown caught 189 for 2984 yards (15.5-yard average) with 19 touchdowns. He’s been compared to JuJu Smith-Schuster by several draft writers.

He’s got very good size at 6’0, 226, and has good but not great long speed. But before everyone begins to say a “deep threat receiver” keep in mind that Brown can do a lot more than that. He can work as a traditional “X” wide receiver, the “Z” or out of the slot. His route running and route tree is much better than his ex-teammate.

He can be a chain mover and stretch the field horizontally as well as vertically, something the Patriots offense is more aligned with. He’s versatile and can play multiple positions. He can be a very productive receiver in this offense. Now the only question that remains is, would he fall as far as #32 and if he did… would the Patriots, who already had a visit with him, select him in the 1st round?

Saban on Advice from Belichick – “Let the Players Play”:

There are times when you see obscure tweets and you at times just skip over them. There’s no way you can read everything that zips past your timeline. But when a good friend (@PatriotsSBLIII) tweets something, I usually stand up and pay attention. And when I miss something and frequently do, he’s always sharing stuff with me.

Nick Saban, head coach at Alabama was on the podium and talking not about coaching but “over-coaching” which can sometimes happen to coaches who try to hammer home every detail into players’ heads.

“Sometimes players are kind of depending on that reinforcement all the time in practice,” Saban said. “In a game, there’s no coach out there. I coached like that when I was an assistant — we’d have a scrimmage at the Cleveland Browns, and Belichick would chew my butt out, man. He’d say, ‘Let the players play.’

“And I was like, ‘Wow. I’ve never had my butt chewed out before for coaching and teaching.’ “

But as Saban continued, he said that learned that Belichick was right and adopted the same style of coaching.

“I say the same things to our coaches now, because there’s a time when you’ve just got to let the players play. Because in the game, they’ve got to know what to do, they’ve got to know how to do it, they can’t depend on somebody else to make a call for them. They can’t depend on somebody else to recognize things for them.”

“So, we actually do stuff in practice now, when we do team I make the coaches get off the field, make the calls, let the players play,” he added.

One of the hallmarks of Belichick coached teams and a trait that they value is having smart football players. Guys who will take the coaching, do the preparation needed and be able to recognize what they see in front of them in a game and know what they’re supposed to do.  This is just a small example of how blessed the Patriots fans are in New England.


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Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Adam Schein Is Bullish on Bills and Allen:

Sports radio host and NFL analyst Adam Schein is really high on both the Buffalo Bills and their second-year QB Josh Allen and predicts great not good things for the duo in 2019. He appeared on the One Bills Live radio show and echoed those thoughts.

“I’m obsessed with the Bills. I love the coach; I love the GM; I love the potential of the young quarterback. I think he’s going to be great and I’m not just throwing that word around. I think Josh Allen’s gonna be an absolute star,” Schein said.

“Here’s a stat: 5-6. That was Allen’s record as a rookie starter. And given what people initially expected of the 2018 Bills, as well as the underwhelming offensive talent that surrounded Allen, that 5-6 mark speaks volumes,” Schein penned in an NFL.com article.

“A couple more stats that sing: 631 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Allen’s rushing ability was a revelation. Remember the hurdle of Anthony Barr? That’s not normal for a quarterback. Special stuff.”

He added, “Long story short: Allen enjoyed an encouraging rookie season. He silenced many naysayers. And that was just the beginning. Josh Allen is going to be great.”

That particular radio show had to be music to the ears of the fan base hungry for a contender. While many writers don’t share Schein’s optimism regarding Allen, he’ll have the chance to prove them all wrong in September.

Dolphins Meet With Duke QB Daniel Jones:

The Miami Dolphins search for a franchise QB, something they’ve struggled to find since Dan Marino retired continues. With their trade of Ryan Tannehill, they signed journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick as a bridge QB, but that signing is strictly a band-aid fix.

Jones played in a pro-style offense and has the arm strength, size, and patience in the pocket. He has a quick delivery and processes things quickly and accurately. It will be interesting to see if Miami pulls the trigger on Jones in the draft. The Duke signal caller has also drawn interest from the Broncos, Giants, and Chargers.

Miami also announced that Richmond Webb and Kenyan Drake will announce some of their 2019 NFL Draft picks in keeping with the recent tradition of having former and current players announcing selections for the team.

All Quiet on the Jets Front:

The New York Jets are keeping a very low profile heading into the draft. And there hasn’t been much of them in the news. While they prepare for the #3 pick in the draft, how the first two selections go will have a big influence on their decision.

Most of the talk this week was on the Jets new uniforms which are IOHO very boring, with the black third jersey looking far too much like the Philadelphia Eagles uniform. Sometimes new isn’t better, the Jets 1980s look to me was their best, just like the Patriots red uniforms, especially the away unis with red pants and white jerseys.

But in other “news” Robby Anderson is excited to be in Adam Gase’s offense, although he hasn’t officially seen it yet. And Jamal Adams doesn’t believe Gronk stays retired…Yawn.

“Is it Draft time 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.

Patriots 2019 Mock Draft 2.0, Trying to Meet Team Needs

Steve Balestrieri
April 5, 2019 at 11:27 am ET

Friday is a great time at conducting our second Patriots seven-round mock draft. The free agency front has died down and although moves are still being made, those have slowed to a trickle.

Once again, I’m going with the assumption for our purposes that the Patriots are going to make 12 picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. Although I doubt it very seriously, we’ll stick with that scenario and make some trades in the next one.

Our first Mock Draft can be seen here:

I used the outstanding Fanspeak Your On the Clock draft simulator again this year. And once again depending upon the Big Board that you use (for this mock, I used the big board of Matt Miller, from Bleacher Report, who I like to read when it comes to draft prospects)…your results will differ enormously. So Let’s Go Drafting…

Patriots Mock Draft 2.0:

Round 1, Pick 32 – A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss:  Shocking to find him here at #32, much like our previous draft with the tight ends.  Brown isn’t the athletic freak that his teammate D.K. Metcalf is but he should be an immediate starter at the next level and is primed to be a big contributor from Day 1.

Brown is a big (6’0, 226) wide receiver who moves really well, and thickly, solidly built. Can play the slot, “Z” or out wide at the “X”. Outstanding ball skills and very good hands make him excellent at finding and coming down with the football.

He can win physical battles, beat corners with his terrific route running, or his athleticism. After the catch he more like a running back. Day 1 starter.

Round 2, Pick 56 – Dexter Lawrence, DL, Clemson: Lawrence is a great pick up at #56. Lawrence is a huge, (6’4, 342) defensive tackle who would project to the Patriots as a two-gap, run stuffer. Lawrence has amazing quickness for a man of his size and he’s able to penetrate with a excellent combination of size and power.

He comes with a red flag, he was suspended for Clemson’s bowl games for PED use, Ostarine which he denies ever using. However, he can be a integral part of the middle of the defense with his ability to stuff the run.

Round 2, Pick 64 – Greg Little, Tackle, Ole Miss*** No Change***: Little was still here again at #64 and that is a great place to pick him up. With both Trent Brown and LaAdrian Waddle gone in free agency and Isaiah Wynn recovering from an Achilles injury, tackle is a position that has now increased in scope for the Patriots.

Little is a big prototypical size tackle with the length, and girth you want at left tackle. Another shocker that Little was still on the board at #64 here. He’s got very long arms, is very strong and at times looks positively dominant in the excellent SEC.

But the knock on him is that he at times looks like he’s just going thru the motions. And that lackadaisical attitude won’t cut it in the NFL. But for that, I have two words…Dante. Scarnecchia.

Round 3, Pick 73 – Charles Omenihu, Edge, Texas: Omenihu is a late bloomer who didn’t turn heads until his senior season for the Longhorns, registering 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. He has the NFL size at 6’5, 280 with long arms and twitchy athleticism. He’s very strong with a very quick first step.

He’s still a bit raw as a pass rusher, but sets the edge well and has the ability to kick inside as an interior pass rusher.

Round 3, Pick 97 – Jace Sternberger, TE,  Texas A&M: I really like this kid and was shocked to see him still being bypassed and didn’t want to wait any longer… Sternberger had a big 2018 with 48 catches, 832 yards receiving and 10 TDs. He runs excellent routes and has the potential to be a big pass-catching weapon in the NFL.

He’s got a tremendous blend of catch, running, and blocking skills at the next level. He’s 6’4, 251 and has the athleticism to attack the seams and has a big catch radius. He’s limited as a blocker, at least for now as an NFL tight end. He’ll have to get a bit stronger for that. Comes from athletic bloodlines, both parents were college athletes.

Round 3, Pick 101 – Amani Hooker, Safety,  Iowa: Safety, while not a position of glaring need in 2019, could be one in 2020. Hooker has the size, 5’11, 210 and the physicality to be a solid replacement for Pat Chung down the road.

The safety has very good size, agility, and ball skills. He played the “Star” or big nickel that the Patriots use. He can be overly aggressive and borderline reckless at times but either in run support or in coverage, he’s always around the ball.

Round 4, Pick 134 – Keesan Johnson, WR, Fresno State: Johnson is a very productive wide receiver with prototypical size and length, at 6’1, 201. He runs excellent routes, has outstanding ball skills who is elusive and can generate yards after the catch.

He lacks timed speed but is a smooth route runner who comes out of his breaks well and wins contested catches. High points the ball extremely well with very good hands.

Round 6, Pick 205 – Renell Wren, DL, Arizona State: Wren is an intriguing prospect with good size, 6’5, 318. In college, they played him over the nose but he may be a better fit as a pure defensive tackle.

He possesses freaky athleticism for a big man but he’s a project and may require a lot of work with Joe Kim who helped Patriots DL work on their hand usage. Has a lot of upside but may take a year or two to blossom.

Round 7, Pick 239 – Carl Granderson, Edge, Wyoming: Granderson is another guy who would benefit working with Kim with his hand usage. He has all of the athletic traits and quick twitch that teams look for in their edge rushers, but he doesn’t set the edge well in the running game and may begin his pro career as a subpackage pass rusher.

Round 7, Pick 243 – Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State: Hart is a small, very small (5’8, 180) wide receiver who had excellent production at a lower level of competition. But got an invite to the Senior Bowl and looked uncoverable. He’s a very twitchy slot receiver who can return punts and kickoffs.

Round 7, Pick 246 – Wes Hills, RB, Slippery Rock: Hills is a bit of a sleeper after transferring from Delaware to Division II Slippery Rock. He has good size at 6’1, 218 with a nice blend of size and speed. Was performing well at the Senior Bowl before an injury struck. Can run between the tackles, outside, break arm tackles and does a nice job of catching the ball out of the backfield. Had over 1900 all-purpose yards

Round 7, Pick 252 – Khalil Hodge, LB, Buffalo: Hodge isn’t quite the explosive athlete that another alum from Buffalo named Khalil is…Khalil Mack. However, Hodge had 419 tackles in three seasons.

Although slightly undersized at 6’0, 235, he’s athletic, has above-average agility and the quickness to shoot the gaps. He’s an immediate special teams ace and plays on there with reckless abandon. Could stick with STs and work himself into a role on defense.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on several apps as writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

New England Patriots News 3-31, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 31, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-31 and AFC East Notes.

We have begun our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team, our first on tight ends can be seen here:  And our follow-up post on possible wide receiver fits can be seen here:

ICYMI: Our first Mock Draft 1.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. You can recap it here: You can expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, moving around the board due to having 12 draft picks and half of them in the first 101 picks.

Quick Hitters:

Joe Bellino, former Patriots kick returner and running back passed away this week at the age of 81. Bellino was a standout athlete at Winchester, Mass before joining the Naval Academy. Bellino won the Heisman Trophy at Navy as well as being a three-year letterman on the Midshipmen’s baseball team.

Following his four-year military commitment, Bellino joined the Patriots in 1965 and played three seasons until 1967, primarily as a kick returner. His only NFL touchdown came on a 25-yard pass from Babe Parilli on October 8, 1966, against the Bills.

Supposedly at his Annapolis graduation, Bellino took part in the cap toss with 700 other Midshipmen. A young boy picked up Bellino’s cap amidst the 700 others and returned it to him. That young boy? Bill Belichick.

Following his Patriots career, Bellino re-joined the Navy and served a total of 28 years retiring as a Captain. RIP Joe.

Bill Belichick and Joe Cardona were on hand at Gillette Stadium this week to spend time with the Navy Lacrosse team who were practicing there before their game against Holy Cross. Belichick is never one to turn down an opportunity to spend time with the Navy cadets or put a lacrosse stick in his hand.

New Replay for PI/OPI: Not a fan. It doesn’t solve what is or what isn’t Pass interference and now the subjective part of this falls to some unnamed staffer in New York who decides if a play is truly a foul or not.

Richard Sherman said the NFL “can control the outcome as they see fit” because “every defendable pass looks like PI in slow motion.”

Malcolm Mitchell was back in Boston and sat down with ESPN’s Mike Reiss and spoke about his retirement after just one season in the NFL due to chronic knee issues. Mitchell told Reiss that his plans are still flexible but he will always have that one shining moment in the Super Bowl.

“With football, it is easy to see into the future and build an idea of where you want to end up. With that gone, it has been a little hazy to see where I will end up. But one thing I hope people in New England know is that I made sure I went out a Patriot.”

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends are the talk of Patriot Nation right now, specifically the lack of them currently on the roster. So fans will be happy to note that the team has met with or is bringing in WR A.J. Brown, N’Keal Harry, and TE Jace Sternberger in the upcoming days. Sternberger in our draft profiles was marked as a great fit.

The Gronk Videos Keep Rolling:

With the retirement of TE Rob Gronkowski last Sunday, the highlight videos have been everywhere all week and truth be told, all of them were fantastic. Gronkowski had so many highlight plays, one could literally spend hours watching his tape.

The word best describing the big guy was “genuine”. He was always just a big-hearted kid trapped in an enormous man’s body. There was no acting for him, what you saw is what he truly is. But for all the partying he did, there was always a smart element to it, he had his bus and a designated driver and he never got in any trouble.

On the field, he was all business and his work ethic was unquestioned. We’ve seen countless great catches and his ability to attack the seams of the defense while drawing two, three and at times four defenders was legendary. But as a blocker, there are none better.

In the 2011 AFC Championship Game, the Patriots had him blocking the big immovable Haloti Ngata 1-on-1 and he opened a hole for a Patriots rushing touchdown. In the 2018 AFC Championship Game, they left him in to block Dee Ford, the Chiefs best pass rusher all alone. Any other TEs today get tasked with that kind of blocking responsibility? Anyone? Bueller? No way.

One of the best Gronk videos we saw this week was from the outstanding work of Brian Baldinger who does a tremendous job of breaking down tape. In this one from the NFL, he shows how versatile the big man truly was. Happy trails 87…

Schiano Abruptly Quits, Mayo Back on Board:

Greg Schiano, who was never actually announced as the Patriots Defensive Coordinator has stepped down to “spend more time on my faith and family.” The exodus for Patriots coaches leaving the team since the Super Bowl win over the Rams has now reached five.

Schiano was widely thought that he’d assume the mantle as the Defensive Coordinator with the loss of Brian Flores. But now his departure leaves a gaping hole in what was already a really depleted defensive staff.

But the good news was that the Patriots hired former linebacker Jerod Mayo to take over the linebackers. Mayo was described by Tedy Bruschi when he was drafted out of Tennessee as “an old soul”, meaning he was very mature and already had great leadership qualities. While a player, Mayo was considered a coach on the field and many of the players called him “Bill Jr.”

One coach who may be tasked with more responsibilities this season is former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema. He was hired as a defensive consultant to Bill Belichick last year. Before becoming a head coach, he was a linebacker coach and the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin.

But as far as the Defensive Coordinator, that will probably fall back to Belichick.

The Patriots are “In on” Josh Rosen and Everyone Else:

Prior to the 2018 NFL Draft, the Patriots were reportedly to be very interested in QB Josh Rosen who was taken by the Cardinals in the first round. Now with a new regime in place, the Cardinals are supposedly coveting Kyler Murray in the draft and are reportedly going to cut ties with Rosen after saddling him with a terrible supporting cast after just one year. And yes, the Patriots are one of three teams “in on” Rosen as the Cardinals look to trade him. Yawn… wake me when the deal happens.

Is there ever a free agent or player rumored to be on the trading block who ISN’T rumored to be on the Patriots’ radar? I think a lot of agents and team GMs use the Patriots as leverage to draw the price up by leaking out… isn’t that a daisy, that “the Patriots are in on …”

That isn’t to say a deal for Rosen isn’t a possibility but these things happen so frequently, I wouldn’t be betting the house on it. Stay tuned.

“Better Pro Than College Player”, Yes it Happens:

In some of our recent pre-draft writing, I got an email from one reader who took great exception at my comment that a player could be a better professional and have much better production than he did as a college player.

While I won’t print his name, he asked, “Are you out of your f***ing mind?” and finished his thoughts off with, “if he doesn’t produce in college, then he won’t in the pros.”

So, to answer both comments, to the first, I’d say, “Quite probably, and my family has accused me of such often.” As to the second… the NFL is chock full of players who produce at a much higher rate than they ever did in college. Look no farther than Gronk who caught 47 passes in his final season in Arizona.  A great example of that is George Kittle the TE for the 49ers. In four years of college in 48 games, Kittle caught 48 passes for 737 yards and 10 TDs. This season he caught 88 passes for 1377 yards and 5 TDs. And of course, there is a guy who in college was forever being pushed to the backup role and who they tried to replace several times as the starter. Tom Brady.

Some players do mature and take longer to reach their peak effectiveness. Others won’t make that jump to the pros and elevate their games to the next level.

Pat Chung Sued Over Trash Talk:

In one of the more bizarre bits of news, Patriots safety Pat Chung and Matthew Weymouth who runs Chung’s Instagram account are being sued $1.75 million dollars by Matthew Hogan, who was a Rams ticket exec during the Super Bowl.

Hogan was fired after the game for posting to Chung’s Instagram account, “Pat Chung is a bitch” after the safety broke his arm during the game. After Hogan and Weymouth began exchanging unpleasantries, Weymouth posted the screenshots of Hogan’s tirade on the internet.

Hogan was fired over this and now wants Chung and Weymouth to pick up the tab for him losing his job… That isn’t a typo.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills to Lean on Young Leaders Allen, Edwards in 2019:

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott at the NFL Owner’s Meeting said that the Bills will be leaning on their younger stars, QB Josh Allen and LB Tremaine Edwards to assume bigger roles both on the field and in the locker room in 2019.

“We’re trying to put a team together and the bottom line is Josh is a big part of that,” McDermott said of Allen. But he was quick to point out Edwards will have a bigger role as well.

“His leadership and Tremaine’s leadership will be key to our success, at a young age, because there’s a gap with what we had last year. Year-three and year-four players, there was an absence of that in our locker room. We’ve added there somewhat in free agency, but Josh and Tremaine on the offensive and defensive side are two young players who are going to have an added amount of responsibility from a leadership standpoint this year.”

Dolphins Trade Robert Quinn, Is Reshad Jones Next?

The Miami Dolphins are definitely doing a clean sweep in South Beach. Miami has traded edge rusher Robert Quinn to the Dallas Cowboys for a 6th round draft pick in 2020. And Miami had already paid Quinn a $1.12 million dollar roster bonus. Making the trade appear even more one-sided was the fact that Quinn agreed to a $4 million dollar pay cut with Dallas. Now, the thought is that Miami will put Reshad Jones on the market.

Jones, 31, is coming off shoulder surgery and doesn’t fit into the Dolphins long-term plans. And the fact that he counts more than $17 million against the salary cap in 2019 puts Jones in the crosshairs to move.

But despite the fact that Jones has been underrated and underappreciated, moving him will be difficult considering his contract. If Miami were to cut him, they’d be on the hook for $25.3 million in dead money.

Sal Pal, “Jets Have Changed the Balance of Power in the Division:

The New York Jets have made some key additions and according to ESPN’s Sal Palantonio, not only have the Jets made the right moves to change the direction of the team, they’ve changed the balance of power in the division.

“When I look at the offseason and I look at free agency and coaching changes, I say two things,” Paolantonio told the Jets.com. “Did you change the balance of power on your team, and did you change the balance of power in your division? I think the answer to the first question is definitely yes.”

Palantonio believes the addition of Gregg Wiliams will mean a great deal to the Jets defense, bringing a renewed sense of energy as well as accountability to the Gang Green defense.

“Le’Veon Bell changes the balance of power within the division,” Paolantonio said. “To me, if the team can run the ball, that takes pressure off your second-year quarterback, that’s pretty obvious. And you need to do that. If you calm him down and keep him on schedule with the running game, the formula is you will win more football games.”

Having the Jets into Gillette Stadium in Week 1 would be a great way to kick off the season. That is a great Week 1 matchup and the rivalry and unpleasantries will reach new heights.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots 2019 Draft Profiles – Wide Receivers

Steve Balestrieri
March 28, 2019 at 7:42 am ET

As we count down the days until the 2019 NFL Draft is upon us, we’re going to look at some of the positions that the Patriots need to address to restock, reload and prepare to defend their Super Bowl title. As everyone knows, winning back-to-back titles is never easy.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at several positions that the team needs to address. And next up is the wide receiver position. They finished the 2018 season thin at the position. Josh Gordon was suspended indefinitely and may not play this season if ever again. Chris Hogan is a free agent and not expected to return. Phillip Dorsett was resigned to a one-year prove it. Deal. Julian Edelman and Braxton Berrios return, but Berrios didn’t play a snap last year, going on IR at the end of training camp.

During the initial phase of free agency, the team missed out on several big name free agents but signed Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris. But those two are more depth than anything else. So along with tight end, the WR position is currently one of the thinnest on the roster.

With a plethora of draft picks, the Patriots could swing a trade for an established veteran, which we assume, they’ll try to do. Or add thru the draft….preferably both.

So, with that in mind here are a few prospects (BUT NOT ALL) that may be around for the Patriots to select from. We’ll list a couple of early rounds, mid-round and then late-round prospects who we feel would be a good fit in New England. This list isn’t meant to be all-encompassing, there are other players out there who would fit, this is just a few that we like here.

Deebo Samuel, South Carolina:

Samuel in our opinion, wouldn’t be a good fit in New England, he’d be a great fit. Samuel was the go-to guy for the Gamecocks and he can turn any pass on the field into a threat to score. With the ball in his hands, he’s more running back than wide receiver.

Pros :

  • Can separate right off the line of scrimmage
  • Plays inside in the slot or outside
  • He is a dangerous kick returner, returning four for TDs
  • Very productive, 2076 yards receiving, 23 TDs

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have ideal height (5’11)
  • Has injury history
  • Sometimes struggles against press coverage

What his Role Will Be: Samuel can compete for starting reps on Day 1. The Patriots can move him around with Julian Edelman to create mismatches.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? As he gains experience in the offense, he’ll have more and more put on his plate

How Many Downs Can He Play? Four

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

He is a speedier version of Danny Amendola and I could see him fitting seamlessly into that role

What is his ST Value? He will immediately be a threat to return kicks and had four return TDs for the Gamecocks

Samuel went down to Mobile and turned heads all week during practice and then in the game. He’ll be a fan favorite immediately here in New England and he should enjoy an immediate rapport with Tom Brady. I really doubt however, he’ll last until pick #56, the Patriots may have to move up in Round 2 to get this guy.

Riley Ridley, Georgia:

Ridley is the younger brother of Calvin, the Falcons first-round pick from last year. He is a consistent chain mover and has good production in the red zone. Ridley is a very tough, possession receiver that runs very good routes with good body control.

Pros :

  • Very strong hands
  • Can win those contested catches
  • Very good at finding soft spots on the defense
  • Plays his best against the best competition

Cons:

  • Has occasional concentration drops
  • Run blocking needs work
  • Release off the line of scrimmage needs improvement

What his Role Will Be: Ridley will look initially to be a chain mover and red zone target

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? Ridley can expect to see his role and looks in the passing game to expand with a year of experience

How Many Downs Can He Play? three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

He can look to replace Chris Hogan’s role on the team

What is his ST Value? None, no return experience

Ridley is one of those guys who, in the right situation and system become a better pro receiver than he was in college. He’s not a burner by any stretch of the imagination, running a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash, but has enough speed for corners to respect. His ability to win contested catches and physicality should make him a starter really early. He is a late Round 2 or early Round 3 prospect.

Terry McLaurin, Ohio State:

McLaurin is a mid-round prospect with good size, excellent straight-line speed (4.38 in the 40), and a player who is just coming into his own. He’s got good physicality, is a very hard worker and a leader, he was voted as a two-time captain.

Pros :

  • Thickly built, physically strong
  • Very good blocker
  • Good, strong hands, route running is crisp
  • Special teams gunner

Cons:

  • Long strider, has to build up speed
  • Is a bit of a body catcher at times
  • Doesn’t have a huge catch radius

What his Role Will Be: McLaurin is a guy who can come in and compete for the #3-4 WR and immediately be a factor on STs as a gunner

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? With experience, he can solidify the role as a #3 or even vie for #2 reps

How Many Downs Can He Play? Four

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

He can challenge Ellington and Harris for a roster spot and reps.

What is his ST Value? Excellent, he should get reps right away as a gunner

McLaurin had only so-so numbers at Ohio State, with 35 catches but he averaged 20 yards per catch and had 11 touchdowns for the Buckeyes. He was considered below average as a receiver and then went and put on an excellent showing during the Senior Bowl week. He looks like he’s beginning to come into his own. He’s a mid-round guy who will have an immediate impact on STs.

Miles Boykin, Notre Dame:

Boykin has tremendous size and length at 6’4 and 230 pounds who is a very good route runner with soft hands. He ran a 4.42 at the Combine and turned in a fantastic 6.77 time in the 3-Cone Drill.

Pros :

  • Height and length off the charts
  • Quick release for a big man
  • Huge catch radius
  • Can high point the ball over most defenders easily

Cons:

  • Has occasional concentration drops
  • Only one year of big production
  • Can sometimes let corners get into his chest and slow him down

What his Role Will Be: Boykin will try to earn reps as the Patriots “X” receiver

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? Boykin can expect to see a huge uptick in passing game production to expand with a year of experience under his belt.

How Many Downs Can He Play? three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

He can look to replace some of the production that Josh Gordon had outside

What is his ST Value? Minimal

Boykin is a very intriguing guy. With his size, he reminds one of a young Calvin Johnson. But we’re not saying he’s going to have that kind of impact but that’s how big and physical he is in the passing game. He’s a size mismatch kind of player who can high point balls, win in contested areas with very strong hands. Boykin is another mid-round player who could immediately pay dividends for the Patriots.

Now for a couple of later round players…

Hunter Renfrow, Clemson:

Renfrow is… let’s see, too small, too slow, isn’t athletic enough, where have we heard this before? Yet, all he does is catch the ball at crunch time and move the chains. Every time Clemson was in a crunch situation, they looked Renfrow’s way and he delivered.

Pros :

  • Very clutch receiver
  • Excellent awareness when he’s the hot read
  • Outstanding at finding soft spots on the defense
  • Plays his best against the best competition

Cons:

  • Undersized, isn’t explosive
  • Quicker than fast
  • Obvious smaller catch radius

What his Role Will Be: Renfrow will immediately vie for reps in the slot

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? Julian Edelman is beginning to get up there in years, Renfrow is the type of player that can be eased into the same type of role

How Many Downs Can He Play? three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

No one, he’ll be battling with Braxton Berrios for a roster spot.

What is his ST Value? Minimal

Renfrow is a quintessential Patriots kind of guy, that people spend too much time telling you what he can’t do while they find ways of taking advantage of the things he does well. He’s a gifted route runner and always finds ways to get open. Production? In 53 college games, he caught 186 passes for 2133 yards and 15 touchdowns. Clutch? In two National Championship games against Alabama, Renfrow caught 17 passes for 180 yards and 4 touchdowns. Yeah, I’ll take that.

Penny Hart, Georgia State:

Hart is another small, even smaller than Renfrow, wide receiver at 5’8, 180 pounds. He played at a lower level of competition at Georgia State, but got an invite to the Senior Bowl and turned heads there. He was too quick, too fast and too twitchy for the corners there to get their hands on.

Pros :

  • Very good production
  • Versatile, 203 receptions, 13 rushing attempts, 17 kick, 15 punt returns
  • Excellent field vision
  • Soft hands and had very few drops

Cons:

  • Very undersized
  • Can be stopped in press coverage
  • Smaller catch radius and doesn’t win many contested catches

What his Role Will Be: Hart can vie for reps in the slot while carving out a role as a kick and punt returner

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? If he shows he can step it up against the pros, he could definitely see an uptick in targets in Year 2.

How Many Downs Can He Play? Four

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

No one, he’ll be battling with Braxton Berrios, Bruce Ellington, and Maurice Harris for a roster spot.

What is his ST Value? Very good value as a kick or punt returner

Hart is a potential steal in the late rounds or even as an UDFA. He has had very good production and is a very versatile kind of player, he can run, catch and return kicks. He’s a natural slot receiver with outstanding change of direction. He’s going to land somewhere.

_______________________

The Patriots have to address the wide receiver position in the draft or possibly decide to make a trade with one of their 12 draft picks for an established veteran as well. The cupboard as it stands right now is too bare for the team to enter the 2019 season. However, it IS only March and like the TE position, they have plenty of time to rectify the situation. These players are some of the ones we feel would fit what they do. Obviously there are others.

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.

Patriot Draft Profiles -Tight End Is a Position of Need

Steve Balestrieri
March 25, 2019 at 6:00 am ET

As we count down the days until the 2019 NFL Draft is upon us, we’re going to look at some of the positions that the Patriots need to address to restock, reload and prepare to defend their Super Bowl title. As everyone knows, winning back-to-back titles is extremely hard.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at several positions that the team needs to address. And we’ll start with tight end. Dwayne Allen was released and Rob Gronkowski now finally deciding to retire, the Patriots are in dire need of a productive tight end. Regardless of whether he came back or not, the tight end position needs a shot of youth there.

I know, I know… it is getting increasingly hard to be a Patriots fan. There hasn’t been a Super Bowl parade for nearly two months. Right? SMH

With Gronkowski gone, the position consists of Jacob Hollister, Ryan Izzo, Stephen Anderson, and the newly signed Matt Lacosse. Lacosse will be an upgrade in the passing game but isn’t the blocker that Allen is. Hollister is a talented kid but can’t stay healthy. Izzo is a very good blocker while Anderson is the wildcard.

In the upcoming draft, we expect both T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant to be gone before the Patriots pick, despite our recent Mock Draft 1.0 where Hockenson was still there when we selected. So, who do they have a shot at? Could they now move up and take one of those players if they are still around in the #15-20 range? Yes, I’d think Hockenson may be that target.

Irv Smith, Alabama:

Smith is a slightly small TE at 6’2, 242, but had excellent production in 2018 with 710 yards, 16.1 yards per reception and seven touchdowns. He doesn’t have a ton of experience but he’s just scratching the surface of his potential.

Pros :

  • Excellent blend of speed and route running
  • Can attack the seams
  • Mismatch on linebackers
  • Good blocker outside in slot or as an H-Back

Cons:

  • Despite NFL pedigree, was a bit of a one-year wonder
  • Size isn’t ideal, not great as an in-line blocker

What his Role Will Be: Smith will be eased into the offense as a flex or “move” tight end initially or line up in the slot with two tight end sets.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? Yes, with added strength and size, he could be ready to become a true three-down TE inline.

How Many Downs Can He Play? Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

Smith could be the eventual “replacement” for Gronkowski, and we put that in quotes because no one can replace Gronk.

What is his ST Value? Minimal but he may find himself on the return team

Irv Smith could possibly be around at the end of the 1st round for the Patriots. He has the potential to be a very good pro receiver. He comes from an NFL background and is just scratching the surface of his professional potential. From our point of view, he’d be enjoy big production in this offense. Could the Patriots move up to get him in Round 1? It is now more than just an exercise in what-ifs.

Kaden Smith, Stanford:

Smith is a well-rounded, tough, customer. He’s the latest member of “Tight End U” to enter the NFL Draft. Smith (#2) has improved his run blocking by working with Stanford alums Zach Ertz and Dalton Schultz.

Pros :

  • Solid blocker in-line
  • Can catch balls in traffic
  • Good hand/eye coordination
  • Can work underneath and be a security blanket

Cons:

  • Blocking technique needs to be refined
  • Route running will need some work
  • Occasional concentration drops

What his Role Will Be: Smith can be eased into the Gronkowski “Y” tight end role gradually, especially if they swing a deal for an established veteran.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? With improved route running and strength after a year in the conditioning program, he could become a productive #1 or #2 tight end.

How Many Downs Can He Play? Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

***See above***

What is his ST Value? Minimal

The Patriots should find Smith on the board during Day2/3. He isn’t the most athletic tight end but will be a solid blocker and should be fine working underneath moving the chains. While probably not ever becoming a dynamic receiver in the Gronkowski mold, he could be a very solid, move the chains type of guy.

Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M:

Sternberger is a talented pass catcher who comes from a very athletic family. His mom was a HOF basketball player from Southeast Oklahoma St. and his dad played football at Southeast Oklahoma. He’s 6’4, 252 pounds and had 48 catches, 832 yards and 10 touchdowns for A&M this year.

Pros :

  • Excellent route running
  • Plays like a big receiver
  • Very good hands
  • Can present matchup issues

Cons:

  • Willing but not great at blocking inside
  • Size isn’t ideal, he will have to beef up more
  • Can be misrouted at the line at times

What his Role Will Be: Sternberger could easily slide into a move TE role initially and give the Patriots a big target out of the slot.  

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? If he can improve his strength, he could possibly get more snaps at the “Y” position.

How Many Downs Can He Play? Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

He can eventually replace a lot of Gronkowski’s production, when he gets cut loose more in the passing game. He’s a very good athlete at the position and should give the team flexibility to be the move or the “Y” tight end.

What is his ST Value? He could find himself on the return teams right off the bat.

Sternberger could be found in the middle rounds and one AFC scout told NFL.com that he can easily become a 50-60 catch kind of player. Sternberger has a lot of upside with star potential as a receiver. I look for him as a Round 3 or 4 selection. If he’s there, he’d be hard-pressed to pass up.

Trevon Wesco, West Virginia:

Wesco has very good athleticism for a big man 6’3, 270. He’s part offensive lineman, part pass receiver who can block, run and catch the ball. He’s still very raw in the pass receiving department but could become a very good #2 tight end.

Pros :

  • Big upper body, strong, and agile
  • Punishing blocker
  • Can line up inline, as an H-Back, or a fullback
  • Soft hands caught 24 of 26 passes targeted to him in 2018

Cons:

  • Won’t beat man coverage consistently
  • Can lunge at times in his run blocking
  • Raw route running will be an issue to work on

What his Role Will Be: Wesco can easily compete for the #2 tight end role. His physicality and athleticism will provide him with the tools to take Allen’s role

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2? If he can improve his skills in the pass-catching role, he can become a much more viable target in the passing game.

How Many Downs Can He Play? Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

He can replace Dwayne Allen’s role as a big, physical blocking tight end who can catch the occasional pass thrown his way.

What is his ST Value? He will immediately play on the return team as an athletic big man who can open holes for the returners.

Wesco is a player who will be there in the late rounds and has the capability to be a very good #2 tight end. If Gronkowski does indeed return for more one go-round with the Patriots, picking up a guy as Wesco sets them up for the #2 spot for some years ahead. But it is doubtful, he’d ever become a #1 guy.

_______________________

The Patriots need to address the tight end position in the draft or possibly decide to make a trade with one of their 12 draft picks for an established veteran. Reportedly, via Mike Reiss at ESPN, they were actively trying to bring Jared Cook in but he balked at the thought of Gronkowski returning and the two having to split reps. However, Cook hasn’t signed anything yet so he may get an 11th hour push from the Pats.

In regards to the draft, while there are other tight ends that may fit the Patriots offense, these are the ones we feel would be the best fit. We’ll continue to keep an eye on any developments as they unfold at Gillette.

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


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

New England Patriots News 3-24, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 24, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-24 and AFC East Notes.
Spring to a backseat to a snowstorm that hit the area on Saturday…A sight no one was happy to see except maybe the ski slopes still operating in the area.

We’ll begin our draft profiles on players that we feel would fit the team on Monday. Also, we’re doing a special Patriots 4th and 2 podcast early this week on some of the potential fits for the team in the draft. Be sure to check for that.  

ICYMI: Our first Mock Draft 1.0 attempt at building the 2019 Patriots roster is in the books. You can recap it here: You can expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, moving around the board due to having 12 draft picks and half of them in the first 101 picks.

Quick Hitters:

Bill Belichick was in Hollywood with Linda Holliday and as the pair came out from dinner and were awaiting their car from the valet, the paparazzi descended on Bill in force. While Ms. Holliday was gracious with some of the questions, Bill in a quintessential Belichick performance didn’t say a word to the ridiculous, inane questions thrown at him by the clueless TMZ staff. Listening to those questions, undoubtedly made Bill homesick for a press conference in the Gillette media workroom….ok maybe that is a stretch. So how was your week, Bill?

Stephon Gilmore freed up $5.67 million dollars of cap space by converting $8.5 million dollars of his contract into a signing bonus, which was reported by Field Yates of ESPN. That move gives the Patriots some much-needed space and comes just at the right time as the team is supposedly in negotiations with kicker Stephen Gostkowski on a new contract.

Do you think Tom Brady is slow? Maybe on the football field, but watching Brady zip down the ski slopes in the Rockies faster than we can drive any morning on the Mass Pike was a bit disconcerting to watch…can’t imagine the team was thrilled to see that. While we’re all waiting on news of an extension for the Pats QB, he won’t sign anything until he gets back from vacation.

Ryan Allen has re-signed with the team and is coming back on a one-year deal. The veteran of six NFL seasons was just 20th in the NFL a year ago with a 45.1-average. However, Allen’s value lies in his directional punting and the ability to pin teams back inside their 20-yard line. In the Super Bowl against the Rams, he did so three times and could have been a candidate for the MVP of the game.

Malcolm Mitchell in his only NFL season

Malcolm Mitchell Forced to Call it a Career

Former Patriots WR Malcolm Mitchell had to finally come to the realization that his chronic knee woes won’t let him continue his fledgling NFL career and it was over just as it getting ready to take off. Mitchell had close to 10 surgeries on his knees between college and the NFL.

The Patriots knew his injury history when they drafted him in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He caught 32 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie and only season in the league. But the vast majority came in the second half of the season.

In Super Bowl LI, during the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, Mitchell caught five passes for 63 in the fourth quarter, helping the Patriots tie and then beat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime.

But another knee injury forced him to miss all of the 2017 season. When his knee didn’t respond to treatment, the Patriots released him in 2018. In January, he said he wanted to continue his football career, but sadly it was not to be. At an event at Georgia, he announced he was done with football.

After struggling with reading, he joined a women’s book club and later became an author of his own children’s book, “The Magician’s Hat”. He created the children’s literacy program, “Read with Malcolm” as well as the “Share the Magic Foundation.” Although his NFL career was painfully short, he is making a lasting impact off the field. And he’ll always have SB LI.

Expect the Patriots to Make a Tackle Selection Early in the Draft:

With the free agency losses of both Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle, the tackle position on the Patriots offensive line has gotten much thinner. And with last year’s top draft choice, Isaiah Wynn (23rd overall selection) coming off of an Achilles injury, it makes things even more uncertain. That’s why we expect the Patriots to make a tackle selection early in the upcoming draft.

If Wynn is healthy and ready to go for the season, it would put he and veteran Marcus Cannon at the tackle positions. Wynn has yet to play a snap in the NFL and their backups are limited to practice squad player Cole Croston, Dan Skipper, and Ryker Matthews.

Even with the legendary Dante Scarnecchia coaching the offensive line, that leaves too much of an unknown factor in the mix. During our first mock draft, we had the Patriots taking Greg Little from Ole Miss as a tackle. He’s one of the best pass blockers in the draft and can play left or right tackle. He could be the swing tackle in 2019 and be prepared to take over for Cannon in the future if all works out well for Wynn.

Achilles injuries are different from everyone, Vince Wilfork told Mike Reiss that it took him a full year and a half before he felt right again.

Patriots Visible at Numerous Pro Day Workouts:

Bill Belichick was on hand at the recent Pro Day workouts in Alabama and Georgia getting an up-close look at several of the players who will hear their names called in the upcoming NFL Draft. Belichick, sporting an Alabama sweatshirt, no doubt courtesy of his buddy, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban seemed to be completely in his element.

Dante Scarnecchia, meanwhile, was working much closer to home, attending the workout for the Boston College players, who have several players who should be drafted next month. One player who was drawing interest from Scarnecchia is Eagles interior offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom. Lindstrom is from Dudley and parlayed an outstanding high school career at Shepherd Hill under the coaching tutelage of his father Chris who played in the NFL,  into being a four-year starter for the Eagles.

In just a month, the Patriots will begin voluntary workouts at Gillette Stadium.

Four Patriots Throw Support for Education Bill at the Statehouse:

Four of the Patriots, Devin McCourty, his brother Jason, Duron Harmon and Matthew Slater, all members of the advocacy group, the Players Coalition, testified on Friday in support of Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz’s education bill, the PROMISE Act.

The Players Coalition stated goal is to make an impact on social justice and racial equality at the federal, state and local levels through advocacy, awareness, education, and allocation of resources.

Chang-Diaz’s bill, one of several,  has been backed by teachers, parents, mayors and education advocates. And she got the blessing of four of the Patriots star players. The goal of the bill is to bridge the gap in education spending between richer and poorer communities.

“These young people have inspired us in our day-to-day lives. We know that they are the future of our region, our nation, and our world,” said Patriots safety Devin McCourty. “And we are confident that if we give them everything, we could give them a million things.”

“We are prepared to battle for our children,” said Devin McCourty.

Patriots Still Waiting on a  Gronkowski Decision:

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski still hasn’t decided whether to return for the 2019 NFL or to retire. Mike Giardi of the NFL Network said that several members of his family are worried about the long-term health of the big man, not just from the surgeries to his back, knee, and arm but also the blows to his head.

If Gronkowski does indeed retire, it would add nearly $10 million in salary cap space but also leave a tremendous hole at the tight end position. Regardless, the Patriots are expected to add the tight end position in the upcoming NFL draft where several intriguing options exist. They have to start grooming a potential successor even if he does return.

New TE Matt Lacosse was ecstatic after signing a two-year deal worth about $4.8 million last week. “It’s an honor to be here,” he said. “Great franchise, great players, great coaches. Just the history behind this franchise is unbelievable. Just to be here and to see all that happens here and to be a part of it is huge, it’s awesome.”

Lacosse will bring an immediate upgrade at the backup tight end position in the passing game as he should have little trouble passing Dwayne Allen’s 13 receptions in two years, including only 3 in 2018. However, Allen was one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. Lacosse has a long way to go there.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Continue to Add Depth:

The Buffalo Bills added a trio of players this week, signing guard Jon Feliciano from the Raiders as well as tight end Jake Fisher and linebacker Maurice Alexander as they continue to build the depth of their roster.

Feliciano is an intriguing player. Stuck on the depth charter behind center Rodney Hudson and guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson in Oakland, he started just eight games in four years but appeared in every one. Known as a very physical player who has a mean streak he’ll immediately vie for starting reps.

Fisher was an offensive tackle who lost some weight and converted to tight end. The former 2nd round draft pick is on a one-year contract. He’ll be used as a blocking tight end or an extra offensive lineman. Alexander came over from the Seahawks where he was a reserve safety and special teams’ contributor. He’ll probably be the “big nickel” linebacker and STs for the Bills.

Dolphins Sign Fitzpatrick, Host Edge Rusher:

The Miami Dolphins solved the immediate need for a quarterback by signing veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, making Miami the third AFC East team he’s played for. He’ll be the bridge QB for the time being while the team searches for hopefully their franchise QB. Miami watched Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock at their respective Pro Days.

Another big need is at the edge. Cameron Wake is gone, Robert Quinn is rumored to be gone also very shortly, which leaves Miami with just Charles Harris. So, the Dolphins are bringing in TCU edge rusher L.J. Collier, who is a shorter, more compact player who was considered a late-round prospect. But a good week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl may have changed the Dolphins perspective on him.

Jets Need Help At Center, Wisniewski on the Radar:

The New York Jets have struggled to run the ball the past two seasons and have given up an inordinate amount of pressure up the A-gap because of poor play at the center position. Spencer Long had a nightmarish season and was cut loose. Many expected the Jets to target Matt Paradis from Denver or Mitch Morse of the Chiefs in free agency.

While the Jets are thought to be looking for a long-term solution during the draft, they are also thought to be looking at Stefan Wisniewski who spent the last three years with the Eagles. He’d be a stop-gap measure but regardless would bring an immediate upgrade in talent at the position.

With the Jets looking to make a big step in rebuilding the team with a young QB in Sam Darnold, they can’t have running for his life every week.

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 Roster Building is Just Beginning, Including the WR Position

Steve Balestrieri
March 19, 2019 at 8:29 am ET

The Patriots are just in the infancy stages of building their roster and regardless of the big fish that got away in the hours and days before free agency even actually began, it is rarely if ever the way this team builds its roster.

The roster, as it currently stands will in no way resemble that which will take the field in Week 1 of the regular season nor at the end of the season. That especially will hold true for the Wide Receiver position.

We have seen the angst that many fans and media members have been feeling about the group of players that Tom Brady will be throwing to and rest assured, the team is not done addressing those issues. The team signed Bruce Ellington and Maurice Harris after bringing back Phillip Dorsett and while those two players aren’t the names that people were looking for, they will add depth to the roster and in the case of Ellington, he’s a guy who has had some degree of success against the Patriots a few times with the Texans. Bill Belichick loves to bring in guys like that.

So, with 12 picks, including six in the first 101 of the upcoming NFL Draft, the Patriots approach to building up more production and depth at wide receiver will probably be two-fold. They will most assuredly draft a wide receiver …or two in April. But they probably will try to swing a trade with a team that has a wide receiver on the final year of his contract, much like how they got Brandin Cooks two years ago.

So who is out there in the final year of their contracts? Let’s look:

A.J. Green, Bengals: With Cincinnati in the rebuild mode, Green who is now 30, is the name you’ve seen most circled as a “Patriots target” for a trade. It makes sense on a couple of points. Green is 30 and probably isn’t circled by the Bengals as being part of their longterm plans. He’s also been very productive in his career but has never tasted a playoff victory.

But Green to New England isn’t happening. Why? I can give you 15 million reasons why. That’s what his salary is for 2019. With the Patriots already strapped for cash, they need to re-do a couple of contracts anyway to get themselves prepared for the rest of 2019 and the draft. Bringing in Green without the Bengals eating a significant amount of his contract would put them in a huge bind… That’s a non-starter.

Tyler Boyd, Bengals: If there is a guy on Cincinnati, I’d rather have its Boyd. When he came out in the draft a few years ago, our 4th & 2 podcast member Derek Havens and I both really liked Boyd and thought he’d be a great fit in the Patriots offense.

Boyd had a terrific 2018 catching 76 passes for 1028 yards and 7 TDs, even better, his contract for 2019, his last on a rookie deal pays him just $1,064,742. Which is peanuts for a player of his ability. However, if I am the Bengals, why would I want to trade him? He’s just 26, and unless I felt there was no way, he returns in 2020.

Allen Hurns, Cowboys: Most people remember the gruesome injury Hurns suffered in the playoffs when his ankle was dislocated in the Seahawks game. Hurns is considered a very good teammate and a popular one in the locker room. He is expected to be fully healthy to take part in training camp and the regular season.

He had 1000 yard season a few years ago in Jacksonville and can play all three receiver positions including the slot. He’s got good size at 6’3, 201 and will turn 28 in November. He’s due $6.000,000 in 2019.

He didn’t have a great first season in Dallas with just 20 catches as he saw his playing time take a nose dive after the team acquired Amani Cooper. The Patriots could possibly pry him away as Dallas may opt for a slot receiver in the draft.

Laquon Treadwell, Vikings: Treadwell was thought to be the next great one when the Vikings drafted him in the first round #23 in the 2016 NFL Draft. But it has never materialized for him, he struggled to get production and was a healthy scratch in late December when the Vikes were fighting for a playoff spot. He had just 35 catches for 302 yards and a TD in 2018.

His cap hit is just $3,161,132 in 2019 with a team option for a fifth season. He’s not going to be picked up by Minnesota who have to deal with Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen at the position. The question is, can Treadwell, who is just 23, turn his career around with a fresh start?

Sterling Shepard, Giants: Shepard plays both primarily in the slot and outside, and was thought to be possibly expendable with the Giants picking up Golden Tate recently. He caught 66 passes for 872 yards and four touchdowns in 2018. He’s in the final year of his rookie deal where he’s making just $1,891,464 in 2019.

Would the Giants let him go in a trade? It seems like the answer is no to that. Dave Gettleman, the Giants GM who has made some head scratching moves this spring, first by trading Odell Beckham Jr. and releasing Landon Collins, then signing Tate to a big money contract is saying their keeping both.

“Sterling played outside last year and did fine,” he said on a recent radio interview.” Will work well together with Tate.”

Shepard or Boyd remain the best case scenarios for the Patriots. Others like Emanuel Sanders of the Broncos is a very long shot. John Elway won’t trade him to New England. Another name to consider may be Josh Doctson of the Redskins. He’s another 1st round draft pick who thus far has been a bust in Washington. He’s never had more than six passes caught or gained more than 84 yards in any game thru his first three seasons.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts now on several apps as writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis