Category Archives: Super Bowl LIII

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Cornerbacks

Steve Balestrieri
July 22, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

The Patriots begin training camp later this week and like most people, I can’t wait as it seems like football has been missing for a long time. The weather is supposed to be much more manageable than the past few days, which makes the experience for the people in attendance and the players more enjoyable.

Today, we’re looking at the cornerbacks and the Patriots are loaded at this position. This is easily the deepest position on the team. There will be some players not making the roster (or traded), that are NFL quality corners. The old saying that “you can never have enough cornerbacks”? It seems the Patriots and Bill Belichick have taken that to heart.

This year’s roster is deeper and more talented than the group who held the Rams to just three points in the Super Bowl. Stephon Gilmore returns from an outstanding season and is joined by veterans Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and Keion Crossen. At this time last year, J.C. Jackson was an undrafted free agent and considered a long-shot to make the 53-man roster. Not only did he make the team, as the year went on, but he also contributed and was a starter. Duke Dawson was a 2nd round draft pick a year ago but was injured and on IR, but was activated near the end of the season. However, he didn’t dress for any of the games being an inactive scratch.  

The team added Joejuan Williams in the 2nd round this spring, he’s a very big (6’4) corner who will provide some matchup possibilities with bigger WRs and TEs. They also added corners Ken Webster and D’Angelo Ross. 

With nine corners, not all of them are going to make the 53-man roster, so the back end of the depth chart will have four players competing for two, possibly three roster spots. 

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25. And be sure to keep up with our coverage from training camp. 

So, let’s take a look at the position as it unfolds as training camp begins this summer.

Current roster – Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen, Joejuan Williams, D’Angelo Ross, Ken Webster

Locks –Gilmore, Jackson, Williams

Near Locks –  McCourty, Jones

Bubble – Crossen, Dawson

Long Shot – Ross, Webster

Discussion – With the return of their four main starters (Gilmore, Jackson, McCourty, Jones) from the Super Bowl team, this team is set up for continued success in 2019. In fact, this may just be the deepest set of cornerbacks the Patriots have had… ever.  Five of their corners played significant roles last year (Crossen on Special Teams) and getting a 2nd round pick back from an injury that didn’t play at all in 2018 and adding another intriguing 2nd rounder gives them an embarrassment of riches. 

Gilmore cemented himself as one of the best corners in the league with a fantastic 2018 season. He played in all 16 games, notched 2 interceptions along with 20 passes defended. Opposing QBs targeting him had just a 56.3 passer rating. Pro Football Focus had him as the top corner in the league last year. And btw, the All-Pro sealed the Super Bowl with an interception deep in Patriots territory. 

Jackson made the team after a very impressive training camp where it seemed like he was making highlight-reel plays daily. He made the team and played in 13 games, garnering more and more playing time as the season wore on with 5 starts. In the final five regular-season games and the playoffs, he played in nearly 80 percent of the defensive snaps.  Jackson notched three interceptions and opposing QBs had just a 42.0 passer rating when targeting him. Some NFL insiders believe that Jackson has the potential to be an All-Pro and could even surpass Gilmore as the top Patriots corner at some point in the future. 

McCourty came to the Patriots last season coming from a winless Browns team to winning a Super Bowl. He’s versatile and can line up as a corner or safety. He played very well last year and logged 80 percent of the defensive snaps. He’s nearly a lock this year but will still have to show he can produce on the wrong side of 30. However, his veteran savvy and leadership, as well as his versatility, bode well for him sticking around for the 2019 season. 

Williams is a lock just by virtue of his draft status but his potential is very intriguing. Many people questioned why Belichick would take a corner with their second pick, #45 overall. And the answer is matchups and versatility. Williams is a very big corner (6’4, 211 lbs) who is a big, physical presence. Some people compared him to the Patriots 2014 team’s Brandon Browner and after watching him at minicamp it is easy to see why. He won’t be lining up on small, shifty slot receivers but against the bigger WRs and TEs, Williams gives them matchups that they can roll out depending on the opponent. 

Jonathan Jones was a former UDFA who has gradually worked his way into being a very solid and dependable slot corner. He began working on special teams (Crossen) and gradually worked his way up and has improved every year. The Patriots drafted Dawson last year with the possibility of replacing Jones in the slot. But his injury and Jones’ play made Dawson inactive down the stretch. 

Dawson has a long way to go if he wants to supplant Jones in the slot, however, Jones is also in a contract year, becoming a free agent in 2020 at the age of just 26. This will be a battle to watch. If the Patriots decide to keep Jones for the long-term, this could put them in a position to possibly trade Dawson rather than risk losing him on the waiver wire. But with camp and preseason ahead, there is a long way to go. 

Crossen was a 7th round draft pick (243rd overall) in the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s got speed and athleticism and carved out a role as a special teams’ gunner, with nine tackles. He saw the field very sparingly on defense where he was picked on a bit, not uncommon for a rookie. 

However, with the addition of the very athletic but very raw Webster, his role on STs may be pushed. Webster is one of those intriguing 7th round picks (252nd overall), where he has the athleticism and potential to be a viable corner at some point, it may not be right away on this roster. He may battle Crossen for that coveted STs gunner/backup corner role. This will be another battle to monitor as camp progresses. 

Ross has a tough road in front of him. It is simply a numbers game. The small (5’9) but fast corner from New Mexico ran a 4:32 at his Pro Day in the 40-yard dash. In other years he may have been a potential player to crack the 53-man roster as a UDFA. But with the limited amount of snaps he may see this summer, he is a candidate for the practice squad heading into camp. 

The Patriots are stacked at corner heading into training camp. One potential boon of this is that the wide receivers will all be going against some excellent competition this summer, which should prove to help them when the games begin in earnest.

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

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

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Linebackers

Steve Balestrieri
July 20, 2019 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots begin training camp in just a few days and once that starts we’ll have football back with us until the winter and snow return with a vengeance. Hard to picture that right now with the heat index pushing 110.

Last year at this time, there were a lot of questions at the linebacker position. This season it is considered a position of strength heading into the 2019 season. The three main starters return, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts. The team also gets back last year’s promising rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley who played very well all summer and began the season getting a lot of quality reps before getting injured and ending up on IR. 

Another rookie from last season, Christian Sam, who spent the entire season on IR returns. Brandon King is listed as a linebacker on the depth chart but is essentially a special teams player only. 

But the big surprise was in bringing back former Patriot Jamie Collins. It seemed like those bridges were burned when he was traded to Cleveland but the team added him back this spring. Collins was one of the better players on the field for the Patriots during OTAs and the mandatory June minicamp. Shilique Calhoun, Calvin Munson, and Terez Hall round out the players at the position.

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25. And be sure to keep up with our coverage from training camp. 

So, let’s take a look at the position as it unfolds as training camp begins this summer.

Current roster – Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jamie Collins, Christian Sam, Brandon King, Shalique Calhoun, Calvin Munson, Terez Hall

Locks – Hightower, Van Noy, Bentley, Collins

Near Locks –  Roberts, King

Bubble – Sam, Calhoun

Long Shot – Munson, Hall

Discussion – With the return of their three main starters from the Super Bowl, the team is going to be looking very similar in 2019. Hightower, Van Noy, Bentley, and Collins are all locks for the roster in 2019.

Hightower stayed healthy last year and played very well. What is a factor to be especially optimistic about is that it always seems Hightower saves his best plays and his best games for times when the games matter most and in the playoffs. He’s a fixture on this defense and what we’ve stated here many times rings true about him. Is he a perennial league All-Pro? No, but in the Patriots defense, he is.

Van Noy has blossomed in New England and is arguably one of their bigger chess pieces on the defensive side. He was even better than Hightower during the playoffs and despite what some talk-radio folks would have you believe, he’s a playmaker and one of the leaders of this defense. 

Bentley had a fantastic summer followed by a pretty impressive start to his career before getting injured early last season and ended up on IR. It is interesting to wonder how his development would have played out last year if he hadn’t gotten hurt. But he’s healthy now and should vie for plenty of work. 

Collins is the wild card here. With an already solid cast around him, it will be interesting to see how the team decides to use him once the season starts. Collins was all over the field this spring, if the Patriots can find a way to showcase his talents with the cast already in place, he could be in line for a very solid season. 

Roberts has been up and down in his career but had a very solid 2018. Consistency is the key for him. In mentioning the defensive line yesterday, we said that they may be better suited for a 3-4 than the 4-3. Roberts and Bentley could definitely benefit from that as well. Being an ILB in a 3-4, it would lend itself well to Roberts, downhill, run-thumping style. It would also create plenty of opportunities to move Hightower and Van Noy around, inside and outside and give them more chances to make plays. 

King is technically (by the depth chart) a linebacker, but to my knowledge hasn’t played any time there. He is, however, a very solid, dependable special teams’ player. While maybe not a lock for the 53 per se, knocking him out of there will take a very big effort from someone beneath him on the team’s overall roster. Or him having an awful camp. Other than that, we’d expect to see him come September. 

Christian Sam is a 2nd-year outside linebacker who never got to show what he can do last year, ending up on IR out of training camp. His value is a total unknown and he’ll have some work to do this summer. He’ll have to show he can contribute on special teams right away and then flash some ability on defense. Calhoun is a newcomer to New England but has been in the league for a while. Can the journeyman find himself a home and a role in New England? It has been done before, so he’s not a write off by any means but also has a lot of work to do. 

Munson spent last year on the Patriots practice squad, so they like what they’ve seen from him. Hall is a real long shot and will have to flash big time on STs in order to stick. He and Munson are candidates for the practice squad. 

So, entering 2019, the linebacker position, which was one full of questions a year ago, enters this year as a position of strength. There should be no movement at the top unless of injury, so there may be only one or two spots that are open for competition. But watching to see how the Patriots and new linebacker coach Jerod Mayo plans on using his troops this year will make camp another must-see event daily.

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

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

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Defensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 19, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

Less Than a Week Before the Patriots are “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door” 

The Patriots lost a couple of their key starters on the defensive line from last year’s Super Bowl team. Trey Flowers was their biggest loss, he was versatile, and could play on the edge as well as kick inside as an interior pass rusher. The team also lost former 1st round pick Malcom Brown who signed with the Saints in free agency. Adrian Clayborn left in free agency as well.

But the team didn’t stand pat and signed former Jets DL Mike Pennel, the big nose tackle is a space-eater and can two-gap over the ball and take on double teams. Pennel’s signing is one of the most under-the-radar and underrated signings of the spring. The team also re-signed Danny Shelton for the interior of the line. David Parry and rookie Byron Cowart will be fighting for a roster spot. 

Pennel after minicamp session. SBalestrieri photo

Bill Belichick also swung a trade with Philadelphia, just a few hours after Flowers signed with Detroit. The Patriots gave up a 5th round draft pick for Michael Bennett and a 7th. While Bennett’s best days are behind him, he’s still a very viable pass rusher. He notched nine sacks for the Eagles last year, which would have led the Patriots. They also addressed the pass rush by drafting Michigan’s Chase Winovich in the third round. 

The very good and underrated Lawrence Guy returns as does Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler on the interior line. This is a big year for former top draft pick Derek Rivers. He’ll be fighting for a roster spot with Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Ufomba Kamalu, and Nick Thurman on the edge. 

With the breakdown of personnel that the team has this year, we could see more multiple looks and the team switching between a 4-3 and 3-4 defensive fronts. We’ll get more to that below. 

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25. And be sure to keep up with our coverage from training camp. 

Current roster – 

Interior DL – Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler, David Parry, Byron Cowart

Locks – Guy, Pennel, Butler

Near Locks –  none

Bubble – Shelton, Parry, Cowart

Long Shot – none

Edge Players – Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, Chase Winovich, John Simon, Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Ufomba Kamalu, Nick Thurman

Locks – Bennett, Wise, Winovich, Simon

Near Locks –  none

Bubble – Rivers, Davis, Harris, Kamalu, Thurman

Long Shot – none

Discussion – We’ll start with the interior big men. Pennel, Guy, and Butler are all locks for the roster. Pennel is a perfect fit with what the Patriots ask for their big men over the nose. Standing at 6’4, 332 pounds, Pennel is a very thick, powerful man with a huge lower body that is built for eating up two gaps. Guy has been a very nice addition to the Patriots since he arrived from Baltimore. Butler is a 300-pound penetrator who provides the team a nice interior pass rush on passing downs. 

Vying for the fourth spot on the interior DL is Danny Shelton, the former 1st round pick who the Patriots brought over from Cleveland last year. He suffered thru a lapse of poor play where he sat and was a healthy scratch a few times. But he elevated his game down the stretch and played better in the playoffs. David Parry is a four-year veteran who played for the Colts, Saints, and Vikings. Byron Cowart is a rookie out of Maryland who flashed a bit in his senior season and is a dark horse to make the roster. However, some analysts believe that he’s just coming into his own and could make some noise this summer. 

Essentially, the trio of Shelton, Parry, and Cowart may very well be vying for one roster spot unless they decide to keep five interior players, which is doubtful. Cowart has practice squad eligibility, which could come into play. 

On the edge, the Patriots have Bennett, Wise, Winovich (by virtue of his draft stock), and Simon as locks. Bennett is still a very good pass rusher and should continue to be very productive in the Patriots system. Wise is coming off a decent if a slightly inconsistent year with 4.5 sacks. Simon was cut loose by the Colts last year and the Patriots wasted little time in signing him. His role increased down the stretch and showed he could get after the QB, set the edge and drop into coverage a bit. The Patriots gave him a two-year deal worth $4 million with $1.65 million guaranteed. 

Winovich is a wild card here this season. The Patriots drafted him with a third-round pick and he’s a guy who plays with his hair on fire, going all out on every snap. His non-stop motor and excellent hands should see him logging some significant snaps. 

With possibly two more roster spots remaining,  the competition gets fierce here. Derek Rivers is in a make-or-break season. He’ll be competing with Keionta Davis, Ufomba Kamalu, Nick Thurman, and Trent Harris for the remaining edge roster spots. Another guy who could factor into the edge is a fourth-year linebacker, Shilique Calhoun.

Looking at this defensive line and the way it is constructed, it would lend itself to being more of a 3-4 unit than a 4-3. Pennel and Shelton are prototypical nose tackles. Lawrence Guy was a 3-4 DE with Baltimore and guys like Deatrich Wise, Kamalu, and Thurman are best suited for a 5-technique role. 

Bennett, Winovich, and Simon would then revert to edge-rushing OLBs. We know Bill Belichick hates to categorize it one way or the other. And they’ll stay multiple and mix and match their personnel depending upon the opponent. Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins could all see some work along the edge as well, depending on the opponent and the front in which they line up. 

With a lot of the talk this spring and early summer being that the defensive line will be weaker this season, I wouldn’t be so sure about that. While losing Flowers will definitely be a blow, gaining Bennett and Winovich is a nice way to address it. Pennel, in my opinion, will more than makeup for the loss of Brown. But we’ll have to see. That’s what makes the watching of training camp and preseason so intriguing.

With training camp starting next week, the competition among the defensive linemen should be extremely fun to watch. 

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

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

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Wide Receivers

Steve Balestrieri
July 16, 2019 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots have many questions heading into the 2019 season at wide receiver. Julian Edelman returns, the Super Bowl LIII MVP is still at the top of his game but at 33, one has to wonder how much longer he can perform at a high level. 

After him, the situation gets murkier. Phillip Dorsett has been fine whenever his number has been called but his production really could use an increase. Demaryius Thomas’s numbers have been steadily going down the past several years and now he’s coming off of an Achilles injury. Josh Gordon is suspended indefinitely and no one knows if he’ll be allowed to play this year. 

The Patriots drafted N’Keal Harry in the first round of the draft this spring and expectations with him are high. But rookie wide receivers have struggled to make an impact here in the past. Braxton Berrios had a very strong spring but spent his entire rookie season on IR. Maurice Harris and Dontrelle Inman are coming on to try to carve out roles for themselves after playing for the Redskins and Colts respectively. 

So, the opportunities are there for several players to carve out roles for themselves once training camp opens. There are 12 players that should be vying for reps, and possibly 13 if Thomas is ready to go. Gordon is forbidden to enter the facility or work out with the team during his suspension. Let’s take a look at who is in good shape and who has a lot of work to do at the wide receiver position

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

Current roster – Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry, Matthew Slater, Demaryius Thomas, Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Jakobi Meyers, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, Josh Gordon (suspended)

Locks – Edelman, Dorsett, Harry, Slater

Bubble – Berrios, Thomas, Harris, Inman, Meyers

Long Shot – Patterson, Davis, Olszewski, Gordon 

Discussion – Edelman, Dorsett, Slater, and Harry are all locks. Obviously, the conversation starts with Julian Edelman. Yes, Edelman is 33 but if you watched him in the Super Bowl he was uncoverable. The Rams threw several different defensive backs on him and nobody could lock him down. I watched him thru all three days of minicamp and he looks ready to go again. 

Dorsett was getting plenty of reps early last year but lost those after Gordon was brought in. The hope here is that he’ll be able to replicate what he did last year, and with an additional year in the system, be able to add to it. 

Slater is a WR in name only but is a Special Teams’ captain and one of the best at what he does both on and off the field. Harry is a first-round draft pick who has incredible upside but is just a rookie. With a first-round draft pedigree, he’s automatically on the 53-man roster. 

This is where it gets interesting. Berrios had a very strong spring but is in no way a lock at this point. He has a long way to go but is definitely trending in the right direction. The smaller but quick slot receiver recognizes the opportunity in front of him. Mike Reiss of ESPN has written that Berrios has already reported into camp. The hope is that he could fit into that Danny Amendola role in the Patriots offense.

Harris likewise had a very strong spring, catching nearly everything thrown his way with a few nice highlight-reel catches during minicamp. Can he do it again when the secondary players are allowed contact? Inman, on the other hand, didn’t have a good week at minicamp. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills during the three sessions. He has a lot of ground to make up. 

Meyers is an interesting addition. A former QB turned WR, Meyers has good size for the position, (6’2, 203) with very good hands, tight route-running and the willingness to go into contested areas. He doesn’t have great top-end speed but could be an oversized slot receiver. What was intriguing about him was that during a side session with Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Josh McDaniels, during minicamp, Meyers was brought in with Harry to work on route selection. May end being nothing, but it could mean they have a plan in mind for him.

Patterson was on the practice squad a year ago but along with Davis, and Olszewski are all facing long odds of making the roster. 

In a perfect world, Gordon would get reinstated and Thomas would come back better than new. But we don’t live in a perfect world and the fact is, the Patriots can’t rely on Gordon being reinstated any time soon, if at all. And Thomas may end up on PUP to begin the season. That means other players will have to step up….Questions, questions. This will make training camp and the preseason so compelling this summer.

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

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

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Running Backs

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

The Patriots have one of the deepest and varied sets of running backs in the NFL. It became a position of strength down the stretch and the team rode it to a Super Bowl title. 

The Patriots had the league’s fifth-best running attack in 2018 and averaged 4.3 yards per rushing attempt. However, early in the year, injuries to Jeremy Hill, Sony Michel, and Rex Burkhead thinned out their depth considerably. That forced the team to use Cordarrelle Patterson as a running back for a time. 

While Hill ended up on IR, Michel and Burkhead returned and the running game got better as the year progressed. Michel, in particular, was immense in the postseason rushing for 336 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per rushing attempt with six touchdowns in three postseason games. 

With Michel, James White, and Burkhead all returning, the team drafted the versatile Damien Harris from Alabama and brought back former Patriot special teams’ ace Brandon Bolden after a year’s hiatus in Miami. Outstanding fullback James Develin also returns.  

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

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

Current roster – Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris, Nick Brossette, Fullbacks James Develin, Jakob Johnson*

Locks – Michel, White, Harris, Develin

Near Lock – Burkhead, Bolden

Long Shot – Brossette, Johnson* 

Discussion – When it comes to the running back position, the Patriots are in great shape entering training camp before the 2019 season. There are, however, some question marks. Michel has had knee woes dating back to college, he missed some time last season and missed the mandatory minicamp in June after having another procedure.  Burkhead has also had injury concerns in his career. 

Having both a full-go for training camp will go a long way to alleviate those concerns. Adding Harris is a huge step in that direction. Harris is an excellent between the tackles runner, he is quick to the hole and runs with his pad level low. He’s outstanding after contact and is used to working in a running back by committee approach at Alabama. He’s very good in pass protection and underrated as a pass-catcher with soft hands.

With Michel, Burkhead, and Harris the Patriots have three running backs who can all run the ball well between the tackles where they like to run. Burkhead is also a good receiver out of the backfield, something they are hoping to see more of from Michel this year as well as Harris, who got a lot of reps in minicamp. 

James White is outstanding in his third-down receiving back role and can handle a few carries of his own during any given game. This gives the team outstanding versatility and unpredictability. They can go with a two-back set (21 Personnel) and then split the backs out wide if the defense stacks the box, forcing linebackers into coverage.

Michel, White, Develin, and Harris due to his draft status are absolute locks. Burkhead and Bolden are as close to locks as one can get. Bolden is a super-sub who can contribute offensively when his number is called but is most valuable on special teams where he was missed last year. By the way, the Patriots never emptied his locker.

It is going to be difficult for Brossette, the rookie from LSU to crack the 53-man roster unless there are some injuries there. Brossette is a typical LSU running back. Compact, with a solid build, runs low to the ground with power. He’s not overly athletic and with such a crowded backfield He’s a candidate for the practice squad. 

Jakob Johnson is a former University of Tennessee tight end and German football league player who is part of the International Player Pathway Program which was instituted in 2017 and whose goal is to provide international athletes the opportunity to compete at the NFL level, and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster. 

If Johnson doesn’t make the Patriots 53-man roster out of training camp, (doubtful), he will automatically be placed on the practice squad. And as an international player, that will automatically give the Patriots an exception, an 11th player allowed on the practice squad. However, that will render him ineligible for an active roster spot in 2019. 

The Patriots are in terrific shape at the running back position with training camp…just 10 days away as we go to publication here. They will lean heavily on their running game and running backs for production in the passing game as well. 

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.

VIDEO: Watch The Patriots Discuss What The Super Bowl LIII Ring Means To Them

Robert Alvarez
June 14, 2019 at 5:00 pm ET

The Patriots shared new footage from the Super Bowl LIII ring party on Friday over social media.

Check out the video below containing a few players and coaches discussing the importance of their Super Bowl LIII championship ring.

Video courtesy: Patriots.com

Sony Michel’s Knee Scope Kept Him Out of Minicamp

Steve Balestrieri
June 13, 2019 at 5:53 am ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PatsFans.com Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 1.0

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

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

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

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham

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

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

Running backs: (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense –

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

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

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

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

Linebacker: (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PHOTOS: Chris Long Retires From The NFL

Robert Alvarez
May 21, 2019 at 7:45 pm ET

Over the weekend, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end and former New England Patriot Chris Long formally announced his retirement from football.

Long played 11 seasons in the NFL, eight with the St. Louis Rams, one with the Patriots, and two with the Eagles.

On Instagram Monday, Julian Edelman shared a funny congratulatory message, sharing a locker room photo from 2016 of Long wearing an eerily similar mask of Edelman’s face.

“Going to miss this guy being in the league. He was Great teammate, and even better example of how to be a pro. His ability to be involved with the community is second to none. The father he is and family man he is everything! He made the game more fun. All this said, still my second favorite Long. Love ya bubs and congrats on an amazing career!” Edelman wrote in a caption.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BxqIGB0Hs9U/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Kyle Van Noy also shared his congratulations.

Speaking with NBC Sports’ Peter King, Long reflected back on his time with the Patriots, mainly head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

“In New England, I learned so much about football. I always thought I was a smart player, even though I never thought about anything but the six inches in front of my face. In New England, I was forced to learn so many schematic concepts. In my career playing football, nobody asked me to do as much as Bill Belichick did. I might be 3-technique, or a linebacker, or a linebacker dropping into coverage more than ever, or playing inside more than ever. I’ll always remember how much I learned watching Bill in practice. He can coach any position as good as any position coach in league. He can walk around the field and stop drills and coach each position—at the highest level. And the quality of the dudes. Solid men. The right kind of people.

Long later went on to say, “Tom Brady blew me away. Who’s the most famous athlete of our generation: Tom Brady? LeBron? Messi? Ronaldo? Serena Williams? Maybe I haven’t been around enough to know how the biggest stars really act. But Brady is a normal guy. When I got there, here comes Tom. ‘Hey Chris, I’m Tom, nice to meet you.’ Well, yeah, I know you’re Tom. A lot of people want to hate him for all the success, and I understand how you can dislike the Patriots, but I cannot understand how you can dislike Tom.”

Long walks away from the NFL with 70.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and 338 tackles and two Super Bowl rings (New England 2016 and Philadelphia 2017).

Patriots Bringing Back DL Danny Shelton

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:33 am ET

The Patriots have been much more active it seems in the May portion of Free Agency than they were earlier this spring. They signed DT Danny Shelton to a one-year which will add depth to their defensive line, first reported by Field Yates of ESPN.

A 6’2, 345-pound run-stuffing interior lineman, Shelton was acquired by the Patriots in trade in March of 2018 for a fifth-round draft pick. He played in 13 games and had 21 tackles. He was a healthy scratch for three straight games in Weeks 13-15, where the Patriots struggled to contain the run.

He appeared in two of the Patriots post-season games (scratched against KC), and made two tackles and generally played very well. The Patriots declined the fifth-year option for Shelton which made him a free agent. That would have paid him over $5 million.

He was drafted by the Browns in the 1st round of the 2015 NFL Draft (12th overall) out of Washington. He never blossomed into the player Cleveland hoped he would and was considered expendable and was dealt to the Patriots. In his three seasons with the Browns, he appeared in 46 games, starting 45, and notched 128 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Shelton’s addition gives the Patriots two large run-stuffing tackles (he and Mike Pennel) and two interior disruptors Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler. The team also has David Parry and this year’s fifth-round draft choice Byron Cowart. He was brought in by Cincinnati early in free agency for a visit but wasn’t offered a contract.

In a corresponding move, the Patriots released OL Jake Eldrenkamp who they signed earlier this season. Originally an UDFA signed by the Rams in 2017, the 6’5, 305-pound Eldrenkamp spent time on the Rams and Browns practice squads the past two years.