In this episode, we discussed Patriots Mini Camp, as Steve Balestrieri was there, and he gave his takeaways from what he witnessed. We also talked about who was not there, and also what Tom Brady had to say at Mini Camp.
Day 2 of the Patriots mandatory minicamp is in the books. Another perfect day weather-wise, sunny, with temps around 80 with a nice breeze. Near perfect conditions.
Once again, wide receiver/punt returner Gunner Olszewski was the first player on the field.
Players M.I.A Today:
Among the missing today was once again RB Sony Michel, S Pat Chung, WR Demaryius Thomas, DE Deatrich Wise, T Yodny Cajuste, and RB Nick Brousette. S Nate Ebner was present but not practicing.
The pace was a bit quicker today it seemed, they were moving from drill to drill with a bit more urgency.
Bill Belichick once again, spoke with the media after practice.
Stephon Gilmore had another solid day of practice. No matter who the Patriots trot out there on the perimeter, he’s locking them down. Rookie N’Keal Harry has seen lots of Gilmore thus far and the veteran has taken him away. I didn’t notice him catch a pass during 11-on-11s when Gilmore was matched up with him. But he is doing that to everyone across from him. Gilmore also had two passes broken up.
It wasn’t a bad day per se for the Patriots offense, but the secondary as a whole is making them work for everything. There are tight windows everywhere.
Other observations include:
Maurice Harris continues to make the most of his reps. He’s been high-pointing the ball well and making some tough catches. He’s a guy to watch when the pads come on.
Lots more college coaches in attendance today. Among then Kirk Ferentz from Iowa.
Damien Harris and Brandon Bolden saw a lot of work in the running game with Michel still out.
Matt Lacosse has had a solid two days of minicamp. With Seferian-Jenkins released and Ben Watson facing a 4-game suspension, he’s the top option in the TE game right now. Lacosse spoke to the media after practice.
Joe Thuney continues to get top reps at left tackle with Isaiah Wynn not practicing yet. Brian Schwenke was at the top left guard slot today. Ted Karras was with the second grouping as the center.
Patriots top personnel grouping in the two-minute drill: Tom Brady, James White, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and Maurice Harris (slot), Matt LaCosse, Joe Thuney, Brian Schwenke, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Marcus Cannon.
The second offensive personnel grouping consisted of QB Brian Hoyer, RB Rex Burkhead, WR N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Braxton Berrios (slot), TE Ben Watson, LT Dan Skipper, LG Hjalte Froholdt, C Ted Karras, RG Tyler Gauthier, and RT Cedrick Lang.
Jarrett Stidham is firmly entrenched (for now) in the #3 QB, he’s getting reps in front of Danny Etling and even got some reps in before Hoyer in the last bit of 11-on-11s.
Stidham had to run a penalty lap after dropping a snap.
With Chung still missing, Obi Melifonwu got a lot of looks at safety with the first personnel grouping.
Brady once again worked on the side during ST’s drills and once again worked with Ben Watson, N’Keal Harry, James White, and Phillip Dorsett.
During one drill, Gunner Olszewski ran into Brandon Bolden, when they were supposed to be running a rub route. Assistant Coach Ivan Fears lit into him.
Jake Bailey continues to put punts into the ozone…can you say hang time?
Harry was working on the side with Troy Brown and he was giving him tips on getting some separation at the line.
Play of the Day:
N’Keal Harry caught a touchdown from Hoyer during red zone work. On a jump ball in the end zone, he just got his fingertips around the ball before being pushed backward by a defender. He extended fully parallel to the ground and pulled the ball in as he hit. It was a fantastic effort.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-26 and AFC East notes this week.
We hope that everyone has a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend as we all remember and pay homage to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms
OTAs – Are in full swing and as we do every year, we all get overly excited about players performances (good and bad) while performing without pads in essentially a touch football game. However, it is the first time we’ve seen football since the Super Bowl so, we’re allowed a bit of excitement for it. But let’s not get too excited about things until the pads come on.
Dontrelle Inman – Had a very apt answer for signing with the Patriots. “I like winning. It’s one of those things like being part of a winning organization, you want to try to help the team win.”
Jerod Mayo – was making his presence felt on the practice field, yelling out encouragement and signals to the inside linebackers. And retired veterans Troy Brown and Kevin Faulk were on the practice field pitching in. Brown worked with mainly the punt returners while Faulk worked with assistant coach Ivan Fears and the running backs.
Boston Bruins – The Bruins were getting a lot of love from the Patriots as they kicked off OTAs this week. Nearly every Patriot was sporting a Bruins hat of some sort. The Bruins begin the Stanley Cup Finals against the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.
Gunner Olszewski – was signed by the Patriots this week. He was a defensive back at Bemidji State and was the NSIC Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 where he had 63 tackles with three interceptions. The Patriots are trying him at WR however. He’s also a kick returner, he returned 11 kicks for 327 yards and 69 punt returns for 923 yards with one touchdown during his college career.
Chris Long – the former Patriot, Ram, and Eagle after announcing his retirement took a shot at the NFL’s marijuana policy and admitted that he used it frequently during his career. “It is far less harmful than alcohol. It is far less harmful than tobacco. And at various points in the league’s history, they have engaged in partnerships on different levels in those respective industries,” he said. “We should be headed to a place where we allow players to use what I wouldn’t even call drugs. It’s far less dangerous than players guzzling a fifth of alcohol and going out after a game.”
Who Emerges from the Tight End Group?
After losing TE Rob Gronkowski to retirement, Dwayne Allen to free agency and trading away Jacob Hollister to the Seahawks, the top three tight ends have been purged from the 2018 roster.
The Patriots have thrown a lot of stuff against the wall and now they’ll have to see what sticks. They certainly have to hope that it doesn’t turn into a scenario from last year with what transpired with the wide receivers.
The team has brought in Matt LaCosse, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and former Patriot Benjamin Watson. They also have last year’s practice squad player, move-tight end Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, and UDFA Andrew Beck.
The spring and summer workouts will be key for this positional group of whom no one other than Watson seems to be a lock. Seferian-Jenkins was missing this week, although with permission but that absence is concerning moving forward.
It will be interesting to see if Watson can, at age 38 work into a regular role on the offense. LaCosse showed flashes in Denver and displayed nice hands in the passing game during OTAs this week according to Tom Curran. The Patriots were in talks with Minnesota about TE Kyle Rudolph but it seems like the Vikings aren’t going to part with him…at least for now.
Our early feeling here is that Watson, LaCosse and either Izzo or Beck make the team as a blocking tight end, barring a trade. Anderson is a wild card here but at this point, if Seferian-Jenkins is here in August is debatable.
McCoy to the Patriots? It isn’t as Farfetched as You’d Believe:
The Patriots have supposedly expressed interest in former Bucs DL Gerald McCoy along with nine other teams. The 31-year old McCoy was released last week for financial reasons and he has plenty of suitors for his talents.
And there is a good reason for this; McCoy is a six-time Pro Bowl player with three All-Pro nods behind him. He is still quite a force inside and can push the pocket as an interior pass rusher. He had six sacks last year from the DT position and has 54 for his career.
The bidding for his services (as of Friday night) has reached $11 million dollars. Which is way out of what the Patriots can afford to pay him. But McCoy (like many others) has expressed the desire to play for a contender and vie for a Super Bowl as he’s never played in the playoffs in his nine-year career. He’s already made over $100 million in career earnings so he can chase one last fat contract or opt for a ring. And only one team has been to the past three Super Bowls and won two of them.
Should McCoy opt for the Patriots, he would join Lawrence Guy inside, along with Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise and newcomer Chase Winovich on the edge, which makes for an intriguing group.
Danny Shelton Returns to the Fold but Without High Expectations:
Last spring the Patriots swung a trade with Cleveland to bring over DT Danny Shelton. The team then passed on an opportunity to pick up Shelton’s fifth-year option which meant he was a free agent in March.
Shelton has been a free agent since then and had only one visit, with Cincinnati and then left without a contract offer. His contract with the Patriots is less than a fifth of what he’d have gotten from the team had they picked up his option.
Shelton signed a one-year deal worth a total of $1.05 million. He got a signing bonus of $75,000 with a base salary of $805,000.
Shelton is a two-down, two-gap run stuffer. As we saw late in the regular season, and in the AFC Championship Game, his role isn’t always needed or game planned for. As a result, the 6’2, 345-pound Shelton was a healthy scratch for three straight games. But he played well against the Chargers and Rams in the Super Bowl
Now with him back on the team, he not a lock for the 53-man roster. On their interior defensive line, he joins free agent signing Mike Pennel, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Ufomba Kamalu and David Parry. The Patriots will probably keep four from that group and have also expressed interest in free agent Gerald McCoy.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Lose TE Kroft To a Broken Foot:
The Buffalo Bills signed TE Tyler Kroft to be their #1 tight end this spring. His 2018 season was cut short with a broken foot. Now it appears that the oft-injured Kroft broke the same foot on the first day of OTAs.This latest injury is expected to keep him out until at least the beginning of the regular season.
That opens up competition right away for the Bills this spring. The Bills have Lee Smith, who they brought in and Jason Croom from the 2018 squad. Newcomer Dawson Knox who the Bills drafted this spring is the early favorite to get a lion’s share of the reps from QB Josh Allen.
Speaking of Allen, ESPN’s Aaron Schatz is not a fan. Schatz was a guest on the WGR-550′s Schopp and the Bulldog show and said, that he likes a lot of the moves the Bills made during the offseason, he’s not optimistic of their chances.
“I’m just not a Josh Allen believer. I do not think there is an NFL starting quarterback in there waiting to come out and develop,” Schatz said. “And if I’m wrong then, you know, they’ve done a lot to give him help, but if I’m right then they’re still in trouble.”
Flores Trying to Build Optimism for the Dolphins:
The Miami Dolphins are in rebuilding mode and one national media analyst even has the team going 0-16. That isn’t going to happen but despite all of the noise, first-time head coach Brian Flores is trying to get the team to focus on coming together and building a winner. To quote his mentor Bill Belichick, the answer is to ignore the noise and build a team, not collect talent.
“I’m not really worried about anything that’s going on outside of our building,” Flores said when asked about the 0-16 prediction. “My focus is on helping these players succeed and get better and try to make some type of impact on these guys. I don’t really listen to the rest of it, to be honest.”
Flores mantra is T-N-T (Takes No Talent), which translates into doing all of the little things right, being prepared and giving 110 percent. In a bit of good news…
The Miami Dolphins will be presented with the 2019 NFL Team of the Year Award, given annually to a franchise by the Pop Warner Little Scholars that have demonstrated commitment and support of their community and youth. RaShauna Hamilton, Director of Youth Programs and Camps, will be accepting the award for the team
Darnold Can Silence “Jets Are a Mess” Crew With a Hot Start:
The New York Jets play in one of the toughest media centers of the world. Win and they’ll toast you, sing your accolades, and tell the world how great you are. Lose, and they’ll turn on you like a pack of rabid dogs. After the latest fiasco centering around the firing of their general manager, the guy that silence all of the noise around them is their second year QB Sam Darnold.
If the Jets get off to a hot start, all of this “the Jets are a mess” talk will disappear and Darnold and head coach Adam Gase will dissappear. Nothing like adding a bit of extra pressure on a kid who turns 22 next month.
Gase is known as a QB whisperer and expectations are very high that Darnold is going to make the Jets a contender…now. Darnold was drafted #3 overall last year and he has the demeanor to handle the scrutiny of the NY media, which for the most part gave him a pass in 2018. He was, after all a rookie.
Gase has installed his offense and right now both he and his QB are in the honeymoon phase. The team gave him improved weapons to run the offense around. But the biggest obstacle in their path is an offensive line that still has a lot of questions.
The Jets haven’t won a Super Bowl in 50 years or have been to the playoffs in eight. The honeymoon won’t last long unless they begin with a couple of wins. Week 1, the Jets host the Bills at 1:00 p.m. And then in begins in earnest.
One final thought on Memorial Day, from General George S. Patton. “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.”
In this episode of Patriots Fourth And Two, we debated the signing of Jamie Collins, and what his arrival could mean for the team. We also discussed the other recent signings for the team which include Ben Watson. We finished up the show by talking about Rodney Harrison, who will be inducted into the Patriots Hall Of Fame.
The voters have spoken for the Patriots team Hall of Fame and Rodney Harrison has garnered the most votes, having bested both Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel. He’ll be getting his red jacket at a ceremony later this summer.
Harrison, on a teleconference call with the media, said he was surprised by the vote. “I was kind of like frozen because I’m telling you, I had it in my mind that I wasn’t going to be the guy,” Harrison said. “You just kind of get used to that, whether it’s Pro Bowls or things like that. Once they told me, I just thanked God and gave Him all this praise. And I just started receiving all these text messages from (Patriots LB Tedy) Bruschi and a whole bunch of people, so it was just a really, really proud moment for me and my family.”
Harrison was often overlooked at how good he was because of his reputation as a dirty player. He only garnered two Pro Bowl nods but between 2003 and 2008, he was one of the most valuable players on the Patriots defense. Bill Belichick has said that Harrison was the best practice player he ever coached.
“That’s why it meant so much to me, so much more to me because it’s not going by reputation. You don’t have to have a certain reputation — good, bad or indifferent. The fans knew that I loved football. I gave everything for the organization, for my teammates, and for the fans and my family.”
Harrison had seven interceptions in nine playoff games for the Patriots, including two in Super Bowl XXXIX against Philadelphia. He also came to the Patriots with a reputation for tough, physical play and in his first two seasons (both Super Bowl wins) he led the Patriots in tackles with 140 (a career high) and 138.
Harrison is the only defensive back in NFL history with 30 sacks (30.5) and 30 interceptions. He was a team captain for all six of his Patriots seasons. He will be inducted with Leon Gray at a ceremony to be determined later this summer.
All three nominees are very deserving but Harrison has been the most visible with his hosting of Sunday Night Football telecasts with Tony Dungy. That certainly didn’t hurt his candidacy. Both Harrison and Seymour belong in Canton.
Of those Patriots’ teams that won three Super Bowls in four years, Harrison becomes the seventh player to be inducted into the team’s HOF. He’ll join Troy Brown (2012), Tedy Bruschi (2013), Ty Law (2014), Willie McGinest (2015), Kevin Faulk (2016) and Matt Light (2018).
This weekend’s draft was certainly one of the more interesting ones in recent memory, with the team making 10 selections, many of which seemed to address quite a few key needs heading into the 2019 season.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we came away with after everything that went down this weekend:
1 ) The addition of receiver N’Keal Harry was a selection that essentially let everyone know that Bill Belichick is aware of the fact that there was plenty of uncertainty surrounding the wide receiver position this year, leaving the club obviously prioritizing the position in round one. What’s interesting is the fact that Harry was clearly on their radar and when he ended up being available with the 32nd overall selection, with the Patriots obviously feeling he was too good of a value to pass up.
If the Patriots have the same success they had when they took a skill position player in the first-round last year, they’ll likely be pretty happy. Last year’s selection of Sony Michel in round one ended up being one of the more talked about moves once the draft was over but the results from last season are indisputable. While some in the media still beat the drum that any running back could have accomplished what Michel did last season, that seems a little off base after the former Georgia standout exceeded expectations and more than lived up to his first-round billing. If Harry can become the same type of gem that Michel did, fans should end up being pretty thrilled with this pick.
1a) Looking back at film of Harry, along with listening to his comments after being drafted, he seems to perfectly fit the mold of what this team usually covets when it comes to the players they like to bring in. He’s hard-working, loves to fight for the football and just loves the game, all great attributes for someone like him at his position. More importantly, he told the media that he met with the team prior to the draft and handled what they threw at him well, which speaks volumes given how difficult other previous players have struggled coming in. At 6’2″ 228-pounds, he’s a big athletic target who could be poised to make an immediate impact and at 21-years old gives them some much needed youth for the foreseeable future alongside veteran Julian Edelman.
Williams’ size should make him a solid asset in the Patriots’ secondary.
2 ) The selection of Vanderbilt defensive back Joejuan Williams was another move that was interesting as he was a player who many touted as a first-round talent, yet New England was able to get him with their second round selection.
What’s surprising about Williams is he’s a big player, standing at 6’3″ and gives the Patriots someone in their secondary who should be able to handle covering some of the bigger receivers around the league, which is something Belichick talked about during his pre-draft press conference.
Williams said during his conference call that he met with the team prior to the draft and it went well. While he doesn’t know what his role will be just yet, he’s ready to do whatever he’s asked as he gets to work with his new team.
“He said he saw me as a corner,” Williams said of his conversation with Belichick before the draft. “But at the end of the day, I’ll play wherever he sees me to fit and I trust in the system. I trust in him and I trust in the system and I just want to contribute to the team.”
While some may not realize it, New England’s secondary was already pretty deep going into the draft, but his addition adds size and athleticism to a group that is now pretty stacked heading into training camp. The scouting reports on Williams are positive, with the defensive back not afraid to compete for the football and he plays physical, while many believe he’s got what it takes to be an NFL starter.
Granted, it’s hard to make a real evaluation until we see him in action but if he ends up being as he appears to be advertised, it appears the Patriots could have snagged themselves a pretty good player for the foreseeable future in their secondary.
Chase Winovich is one of those hard-working players you can’t help but root for. (USA TODAY Images)
3 ) There’s no better type of player than a gritty hard-working guy who loves to work hard and the Patriots seemingly got just that when they selected defensive end Chase Winovich with their first selection of Round 3.
A lot of people are comparing Winovich to former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich as there definitely appears to be some similar attributes when looking at the film. But at the same time, he’s got a Rob Gronkowski-like personality when it comes to how he handles himself off the field. He’s a fun-loving guy who likes to have a good time and spends a lot of time with charities away from the game. So like Gronk, definitely an out of the box type of guy (he said during his press conference after being drafted that he once ate a live fish for $20 when he was in 5th or 6th grade). He’s similar in that off the field he enjoys having a little fun while focusing on helping people, but on the field he’s simply doing everything he can to help his team win football games.
He was a big contributor to Michigan’s defense and finished his final season with 69 tackles, including 17 for a loss along with 5 sacks. He finished with 79 tackles the previous year, including 18.5 for a loss and 8 sacks. He’s got an opportunity to potentially compete for playing time right away with Deatrich Wise, John Simon and Derek Rivers each as players who have yet to establish themselves as full-time contributors.
What’s also interesting about Winovich is that he’s not afraid to do the little things. He spent some time back in 2017 learning ballet to work on his agility and while looking for ways to always keep improving himself. One of the things he said after he was drafted was that he’s not afraid to do whatever it takes and his goal is “to outwork everybody” as he looks to be establish himself in the NFL.
“That’s kind of always been my mantra – just to outwork everybody,” said Winovich. “That’s always been my goal, and obviously at the next level with someone like the New England Patriots, hard work is a fundamental key component and they’ve done a great job I think of making that a cultural thing.”
“I’m just lucky to be a part of it. I take that as a big compliment. Not everybody can do that and go as hard as I can on every play. That’s definitely a bonus for me.”
Harris is a tough RB who should be a good compliment to Sony Michel.
4 ) For anyone who follows college football, third-round pick Damien Harris was one of the key contributors during Alabama’s success last season. Over 15 games he rushed for 876-yards on 150 carries along with 9 touchdowns, while averaging 5.84 yards per carry.
His addition is interesting because he adds youth and talent alongside last year’s standout in Michel, who was absolutely terrific all season. Given the injury history with Rex Burkhead, Harris provides some additional depth to take some of the load off of Michel as he heads into his sophomore season.
What stood out about Harris in watching him play is that he’s a strong back who doesn’t go down on first contact and does a great job of accelerating as he gets up field, while making it even tougher on defenders when they do finally try and bring him down.
Some were surprised with the selection because many expected the Patriots to address the tight end position, which never occurred. The problem was, four tight ends were selected in that round, three of which came off the board before the Patriots had a chance to pick. As a result, the Patriots jumped at the chance to add another big talented player to their backfield.
The expectations will be high for Harris, who played in a tough SEC conference yet still averaged 1,000-yards each season despite facing some of the toughest competition in the country. He’s now coming to a team who, like Alabama, is battling every season for a championship and he’ll need to bring the same type of effort with his new team.
“I think I’m just a dependable player, somebody that whenever you ask me to do something, I’ll do it,” said Harris after he was selected. “I think I just show a lot of great attributes on the field, things that help me be a great running back and they can help the team be successful.”
“There’s a lot of things that I can do well, there’s a lot of things I can still improve on, so I’m just ready to come in and be my best me and get to work Day 1. “
If Harris can be as productive at the NFL level, it will definitely be a nice 1-2 punch for this offense.
5) The Patriots certainly have a need at tackle after seeing Trent Brown depart during free agency and the selection of Yodny Cajuste out of West Virginia in round 3 appears like it could be a quality one for the Patriots.
He’ll join last year’s first round draft pick Isaiah Wynn, who is coming off of an Achilles injury as he tries to establish a role for himself. Wynn’s season came to an end before it ever got started last season after the rookie suffered the injury during training camp and ended up on injured reserve. He was playing right tackle with the first offense and battling against, ironically enough, then Eagles defensive tackle and new Patriot Michael Bennett when he suffered the injury on a seemingly innocuous play. He walked off the field but was carted back to the locker room from the sidelines shortly after.
Wynn was thought to compete for playing time at left tackle last season, but offseason addition Trent Brown ended up handling the role well early in preseason and grabbed a foothold on the job. He ended up as pleasant surprise and a was definitely a key addition during the team’s championship run. His performance ultimately resulted in a big payday, with Brown departing via free agency after signing a massive $66-million deal with the Raiders.
Cajuste is a raw talent who the Patriots will look to develop. (USA TODAY Images)
With the job back up for grabs, it will be interesting to see where Wynn’s at this season and Cajuste’s addition should also be fun to watch. The former West Virginia standout is huge, coming in at 6’5″ 312 pounds. He redshirted his first year but played left tackle during most of his career with the Mountaineers, although two seasons (2015 and 2016) were both marred by knee injuries. But he was healthy the following year in 2017 and started 13 games. He finished with a solid final season in 2018 while sharing the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year award with two other draft prospects.
It’s hard not to like this selection given his size and the fact that most scouting reports say that he has the talent to be a starting tackle as well as the ability to be successful inside. Given the success we’ve seen offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia have with players, it should be fun to see what he can do with Cajuste. Where he’ll ultimately end up playing will be interesting and the rookie said during his conference call he’s excited to learn as much as he can.
“I know he’s one of the greatest football coaches in the NFL right now,” said Cajuste of Scarnecchia. “I’m just ready to learn as much as I can from him, soak up as much as I can from him.”
Froholdt has some versatility, which may help him earn a roster spot.
6 ) One of the things that has made the Patriots so successful has been their ability to adjust on the fly when it comes to injuries, especially along the offensive line. They love guys who can do multiple things and that’s essentially the role fourth-round selection Hjalte Froholdt will likely take on.
Froholdt is about as versatile as it gets, having started his career on the defensive side of the football as a defensive lineman where he managed to find himself ranked among the top 20 defensive linemen in the country. He instead moved to the other side of the football and became a solid contributor at both center and right and left guard.
While many won’t view this as much of a pick, he appears to be a smart player and watching some film of him reveals that he’s strong and athletic and should be a nice addition to a group that can never have too many good offensive lineman. We’ll have to wait and see where he ends up after he starts working with Scarnecchia, which like his new teammates, he’s also looking forward to seeing where he fits in.
“You know, my first two years I started at left guard all of the games, and I played at some center and some right guard last year, said Froholdt. “But I feel pretty comfortable with all of them. It doesn’t really matter – I I’ll play wherever Coach Scar [Dante Scarnecchia] will put me and I’m excited to get to work with him and see where this goes.”
Like any QB drafted while Brady is here, all eyes will be on Stidham. (USA TODAY Images)
7 ) One of the most interesting picks of day 3, of course, will likely center around Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who the Patriots selected in the fourth round.
Given Tom Brady’s age and the team’s obvious need at the position should Brady decide to hang it up at any point in the foreseeable future, any quarterback who is brought in will immediately be placed in the crosshairs by those wondering if he’s potentially the guy who can step into Brady’s irreplaceable role with the team.
Last year’s selection of Danny Etling was relatively uneventful after he did little last preseason to open anyone’s eyes. After a full season with the team, it will be interesting to see if he’s able to take a step forward from where he was when we last saw him in preseason.
With fans already having forgotten about Etling, that puts Stidham in the spotlight to find out if he’s potentially got what it takes to someday take over the starting role. The Patriots are no stranger to doing their due diligence and they clearly felt confident enough to take him at that spot.
Stidham had an up and down collegiate career, starting out at Baylor before a sexual assualt scandal there that led to the firing of then coach Art Briles caused Stidham to decide to transfer. After sitting out 2016 while taking classes at a community college, he ended up at Auburn. In his first year, he completed 66.5 percent of his throws along with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. He took a step backward as a junior, completing just 60.7 percent of his passes while again throwing 18 touchdowns and five interceptions as his team finished 8-5.
That’s what caused him to drop as far as he did. Scouting reports seem to question his intangibles, believing that a better performance may have seen him go earlier in the draft. That being said, it now sets the Patriots up for potentially finding good value with where they took him. Josh McDaniels has had success when it comes to developing quarterbacks in recent years, which could see them iron out whatever kinks they may find he has.
Stidham said during his conference call that he met with the Patriots during his top-30 visit and actually spent some time chatting with Etling, also a fellow former SEC quarterback, who talked about some of the expectations and gave him a little insight into things. He knows he’s got his work cut out for him, and also acknowledged some of the problems he had last season during his press conference and admitted that he’s spent quite a bit of time leading up to the draft trying to correct them.
“I told Coach McDaniels and Coach Belichick, there were definitely times last year where for whatever reason, I just decided to get out of the pocket when I shouldn’t have or just didn’t trust my eyes at a certain point or my feet,” explained Stidham. “That’s something I’ve obviously been working on this spring up to the draft and it’s something I’m going to have to continue to work at in order to get better at the quarterback position.”
“I’m really looking forward to doing that, and there’s no one better to learn from than Coach McDaniels and Coach Belichick and those guys in the quarterback room.”
Cowart will be interesting to watch this training camp. (USA TODAY Images)
8) Coming out of this weekend, fifth-round pick, Byron Cowart, is somewhat of a wild card when it comes to where he’ll fit in.
According to scouting reports, the defensive tackle out of Maryland is a strong, tough player who at 6’3″, 298 pounds possesses a lot of size and has the physical attributes to be an NFL defender. One of his strengths has been his ability to set the edge, which he told reporters was something that Belichick spoke to him about after selecting him.
“They’ve just told me I have the ability to play to set the edge or go inside,” said Cowart. “So, they’re going to throw it at me, I believe, and give me the opportunity to show them where do I need to be within the defense.”
Once one of the top recruits in the country, he took a step back after first attending Auburn where he struggled and was faced with somewhat of a reality check. Three games into his junior season he transferred to a community college before eventually landing at Maryland where he started 12 games and totaled 38 tackles including 5 for a loss, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions. He also forced a fumble.
Needless to say, it’s been a long road for Cowart and after turning things around, he comes into the NFL with plenty of potential. Whether or not he can become the diamond in the rough the Patriots might feel he can be remains to be seen, but he’s certainly going to be an intriguing player to watch in camp.
Bailey’s addition sets up another punting battle in camp.
9 ) With Ryan Allen back on just a one-year deal, the Patriots made a move during the draft to select Jake Bailey out of Stanford.
They actually traded up in the fifth round to get him, which was a bit of an eye-opener considering how key Allen was during the Super Bowl and for most of last season. During the historic defensive battle against the Rams where the Patriots held Los Angeles to 3 points, Allen played a massive part in that as he consistently flipped the field position each time New England’s offense faltered. It kept the Rams with a long field, forcing them to consistently have to put long drives together against a Patriots defense who played one of their best games of the year when it mattered most.
While Allen would seemingly be the clear-cut starter, the Patriots look as though they’re making sure they at least have some sort of a back-up plan and will push him again for the second straight year in training camp after Bailey’s addition.
Bailey’s not a left-footed punter, which is a little unusal given Belichick’s affinity for non-right-footed punters. But he’s a talented player with a strong leg who, like Allen, also has experience holding on extra points.
Watching how the Super Bowl unfolded where the two clubs combined for 14 punts, it was something that Bailey got a kick out of it and it got him excited for what could someday be his future in the NFL.
“Oh, it got me fired up,” said Bailey. “I remember watching the game and all of my friends were kind of like, ‘What the heck is going on,’ and I was glued to the TV. It was one of my favorite football games of all time to watch.”
Replacing Allen is a tall order, but that’s what Bailey is now faced with as we get ready for yet another preseason battle at that position. Get your stopwatches ready.
Webster likely faces an uphill battle to make the roster.
10) Seventh-round pick Ken Webster is another player who had a rough go of things early on but came on strong during his final season at Ole Miss, with the defensive back finishing with 29 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss along with two pass break-ups.
Players taken in that round tend to be longshots, but there have been plenty of times where guys have surprised us and turned into solid contributors. Webster seems to be one of those players where it’s hard to really gauge what to expect given how his college career played out.
He missed the 2016 season due to a torn ligament in his knee, but recovered enough to return the next season and play in 10 games with five starts in 2017, along with nine games in 2018.
He’s played cornerback and safety and turned into one of the better cover corners in the SEC. As we know, Belichick favors players who can do multiple things and if he’s able to carry that over with his new team, the opportunity is certainly there. The downside for him is the fact New England’s secondary is pretty deep at this point so he faces an uphill battle to establish himself.
Overall, this was definitely one of the most interesting drafts we’ve seen in years and it sets up a training camp filled with storylines and things to keep an eye on. As a result, with minicamps and OTAs now looming, it’s hard not to be a little bit excited to see how things begin to come together as the 2019 season inches closer.
With the 2019 NFL Draft in the books, the Patriots have added 10 players via the draft and the first group of undrafted free agents. Look for some movement among those, as those positions, at least initially tend to be in flux for the first week to 10 days after the draft.
The roster as it currently stands has 88 players, fullback Jakob Johnson is an international gateway program player and doesn’t count against the 90-man limit. He’ll be on the practice squad once the season starts.
At first glance, the team has a deep, strong, solid base, especially along the offensive line and at cornerback. Players in bold are draft picks. So, how is the team shaping up post draft? Let’s look at each position and where they may need to still look to add more depth this spring.
Tom Brady Brian Hoyer Jarrett Stidham Danny Etling
Four quarterbacks are probably going to be one too many, even if Tom Brady decides to skip the voluntary workout OTAs. Etling would be the odd man out, they just invested a draft pick in Stidham, who along with Hoyer should see a ton of work this spring. This position is set for the year
Running Back: (5)
Sony Michel James White Rex Burkhead Brandon Bolden Damien Harris
With the addition of Harris, this takes an already good group and makes them better. Injuries last year hurt this position. So, the only question is, will they keep all five? Bolden was brought back for STs but can fill in with the odd carry here and there. Very solid, and versatile group of backs here.
James Develin Jakob Johnson **International Gateway Player** Doesn’t Count against 90 player limit
Johnson doesn’t count against the limit and should be on the practice squad in September. Develin is extremely valuable.
Wide Receiver: (13)
Julian Edelman Josh Gordon (suspended) Demaryius Thomas Phillip Dorsett N’Keal Harry Matthew Slater Bruce Ellington Maurice Harris Braxton Berrios Damoun Patterson Jakobi Meyers UDFA Xavier Ubosi UDFA Ryan Davis UDFA
Edelman and Harry begin the season as the #1-2 WRs on the roster, Dorsett as the #3. The team brought in Ellington and Harris earlier this spring. Demaryius Thomas will probably begin the year on PUP and we don’t know when we’ll see Gordon again.
Fans have been gaga over Berrios since last spring, now we’ll get to see if the optimism there is justified. Of the UDFAs, Meyers is intriguing and had a lot of production at NC State. He has good size at 6’2, 203 but doesn’t run well (4.63 time in the 40). Ubosi is also big (6’2, 217) and averaged 23.9 yards per catch but isn’t fast either (4.58 in the 40). Davis is a slot guy who caught 69 passes but most were extended handoffs.
With questions around both Thomas and Gordon’s availability this season, they’d do well to bring in another veteran to help take the heat off their top two. Or perhaps the team feels that Ellington (23 catches for the Lions) or Harris (28 catches for the Redskins) can add something to the offense.
Tight End: (6)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins Matt Lacosse Jacob Hollister Stephen Anderson Ryan Izzo Andrew Beck UDFA
Everyone, including here, expected the team to address tight end in the draft and probably early. But they didn’t draft one, only adding UDFA Andrew Beck from Texas. Beck is known more for his blocking than pass receiving (28 catches, 281 yards 2 TDs in 2018) as is Ryan Izzo.
The team is hoping Austin Seferian-Jenkins can find his game here in New England. Newcomer Matt Lacosse had 24 catches for the Broncos last year. Hollister has shown flashes but can’t stay healthy.
Will the team add another veteran tight end (the hype is on Kyle Rudolph) or decide that for 2019, they’ll be content with the production they can get from the current crop and keep them inside as blockers and put the onus elsewhere on the roster?
Offensive Line: (18)
LT Isaiah Wynn LG Joe Thuney C David Andrews RG Shaq Mason RT Marcus Cannon OL Ted Karras OT Yodny Cajuste OL Hjalte Froholdt OL Brian Schwenke OL James Ferentz OT Cole Croston OT Cedrick Lang OL Jake Eldrenkamp OT Ryker Mathews OT Dan Skipper OT Tyree St. Louis UDFA OL Tyler Gauthier UDFA OL Calvin Anderson UDFA
Huge positional group here. They draft Wynn to be the LT last year but he got hurt in camp. All the other starters return. They drafted Cajuste to be the RT of the future and he’ll be the swing tackle this year, backed up by Croston…right now.
Draft pick Froholdt is an intriguing guy who can play guard or center and may push Karras as the top interior backup. It is going to be tough to evaluate all of these guys this spring/summer. The roster should be set unless Wynn isn’t ready to go and then they may opt for another veteran tackle.
(7)Michael Bennett John Simon Deatrich Wise Chase Winovich Derek Rivers Keionta Davis Trent Harris
After losing Trey Flowers in FA, the team brought in Michael Bennett and just added Michigan’s Chase Winovich who brings the good speed and athleticism needed for the edge. In their scheme, he was kind of their ”designated pass rusher” opposite the TE on the weak side. He should get starter reps early. Simon and Wise and solid contributors.
What do the Patriots have in Rivers? It is Year 3 so, the time is now and the clock is ticking on him, Davis and Harris. They are essentially playing for one roster spot.
Interior Defensive Line: (7)
Lawrence Guy Mike Pennel Adam Butler Byron Cowart Ufomba Kamalu Frank Herron David Parry
Lawrence Guy is an underrated solid player. The Patriots picked up Pennel to solidify the middle and he’ll be a two-down starter. Butler is a good contributor. Cowart, the big kid from Maryland is a potential 5th round steal. He was highly regarded but flamed out in Auburn before having a really good season for the Terps. He and Kamalu have the versatility to play inside or outside.
Depending on how the young guys develop, they may later opt to bring in another veteran. Allen Bailey is still out there.
Kyle Van Noy Dont’a Hightower Ja’Whaun Bentley Elandon Roberts Christian Sam Brandon King Calvin Munson Terez Hall UDFA
The team made no moves here other than bringing in Hall as an UDFA. The top three from last year (Van Noy, Hightower, and Roberts) return. Bentley impressed in the early going before getting hurt and Sam is an athletic type who was hurt in camp. King is a LB in name only. He’s a ST ace.
They should be set here unless the injury bug starts to hit.
Stephon Gilmore JC Jackson Jason McCourty Jonathan Jones Duke Dawson Keion Crossen JoeJuan Williams Ken Webster
This is the deepest position on the team with eight (8) viable players who can step in and play. The top four were the stalwarts from last year’s Super Bowl run. Crossen played a bit, Dawson was a 2nd round pick who got hurt and never saw the field.
They obviously liked Williams and moved up for him. Webster is an athletic freak who tested extremely well at the Combine. They can’t carry eight corners, so the obvious thought is they’ll try to trade some of these guys rather than just release them.
Devin McCourty Patrick Chung Duron Harmon Obi Melifonwu Terrence Brooks Nate Ebner A.J. Howard Malik Gant UDFA
The Patriots didn’t add any during the draft and signed Gant as an UDFA. The top three return and now we’ll see if they can get out of Melifonwu. Again, barring injury, this position is set for 2019.
Special Teams: (4)
K Stephen Gostkowski LS Joe Cardona P Ryan Allen P Jake Bailey
The team re-signed Gostkowski and Allen but moved up in the draft to select Bailey. He and Allen should battle it out as the #1 punter. He has a strong leg and led the nation in hang time. He can also kickoff and serve as an emergency field goal kicker.
The initial roster here and we must remember it is only the end of April looks pretty strong and barring health concerns, they should be in really good shape come September.
The thinking here is they could really use another WR and TE but they set themselves up very well with an extremely solid draft in 2019. They’ll tinker with the roster and constantly look at ways at improving the team. As we’ve said many times, the team you see in April won’t look like the team you see in September.
But for the start of OTAs, the roster is looking pretty solid.