Tag Archives: 2016 Patriots Training Camp

Patriots Roster Coming Into Focus, Team Releases Three Veterans

Steve Balestrieri
August 23, 2016 at 9:43 am ET

The Patriots have released three more veterans today as they cut ties to CB E.J. Biggers, RB Donald Brown and DE Frank Kearse according to sources. Bill Belichick has always favored cutting loose veterans as early as possible if they don’t fit into the team’s plans, to give them a better chance of latching on with other teams. This seems to be the case here as none of the three appeared close to landing a roster spot.

Brown seemed to have a good shot at making a roster spot. LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis were coming off of serious injuries, Tyler Gaffney is unproven and Brandon Bolden is mainly a ST’s player. That left James White and a bunch of question marks.

Brown takes a breather after running some drills

Brown takes a breather after running some drills

But Brown, got hurt early and camp and struggled to get back on the field. Both Gaffney and Blount had solid preseason outings in back-to-back weeks so the team will probably roll with them, White and Bolden to at least initially start the season.

Kearse was a DE in Washington and projected to be an interior player here. He didn’t stand out much during training camp and with others playing at a higher standard, he wasn’t projected to make the team.

Biggers came from Philadelphia as a free agent and signed a 1-year, $840,000 contract with a modest $25,000 signing bonus. With a lack of depth from 2015 in the Patriots secondary, he was thought to be at least in the mix for a veteran presence at cornerback.

Hogan,-Biggers

But undrafted rookies Jonathan Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc as well as 2nd-year player Darryl Roberts have all outplayed him this summer. Not that Biggers play was poor, but the younger, faster and more athletic players were standing out daily. That forced the team to release V’Angelo Bentley and now Biggers.

With his release, the corner position now has Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman, Cyrus Jones, LeBlanc and Roberts as their six top players. They may only opt to keep five so the competition will heat up in the final two weeks.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Good News on Gronkowski, Injury Considered to Be ‘Minor’

Ian Logue
August 16, 2016 at 5:15 am ET

It’s been a nerve-wracking training camp so far when it comes to injuries, but so far the Patriots have been luckier than they were last year.

Monday saw tight end Rob Gronkowski leave fans gasping as he hobbled off the field after coming up lame during 7-on-7s.  The veteran left practice accompanied by a trainer after looking like he was in serious pain before eventually heading to the locker room.

At the time, there wasn’t any real indication of what his injury was or its severity, but Monday night at least revealed some good news.

According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the injury was “minor”, with Rapoport Tweeting “No worries” about the veteran tight end.

Jimmy Garoppolo was asked about the injury but the quarterback told the media he was unaware the veteran had left practice.

“I didn’t even see him leave to be honest,” said Garoppolo. “Hopefully he’s alright, and we’ll see what it is.”

Considering how valuable everyone knows Gronkowski is, the Patriots clearly dodged a bullet and that’s good news for Garoppolo, who will need all the firepower he can get when he starts the season under center.

REPORT: Just a “Scare” For Patriots Edelman on Tuesday

Ian Logue
August 9, 2016 at 9:38 pm ET

The Patriots already know how tough it is for their offense without receiver Julian Edelman, and Tuesday should have everyone in New England breathing a sigh of relief.

The veteran receiver left Tuesday’s joint practice session against the Saints after seemingly reaggravating his foot injury during 1-on-1 drills.  Edelman was seen throwing his helmet down before heading to a cart with a trainer, which was tough to watch given how important he is to the offense.

But there was some good news, with Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reporting that tests revealed that the receiver didn’t suffer any potential significant injury, which is obviously great to hear given the fact the Patriots are already without their top passer with Tom Brady sidelined to begin 2016.

Edelman started off strong through Week 10 of 2016 before his injury, catching 61 passes for 69 -yards and 7-touchdowns, including 7 touchdowns, with the latter stat still good for second on the team to Rob Gronkowski’s 11.

The veteran lead all Patriots receivers in receptions during the postseason, catching 17 passes for 153 yards as he gutted out two tough games.  Edelman was in obvious pain by the end of the loss to Denver and ultimately needed offseason surgery again on his foot.  Fortunately there doesn’t seem to be much to be concerned about, which is welcome news for those helping to see #11 on the field to begin the 2016 season.

For the Patriots, the Defense Never Rests

Steve Balestrieri
July 29, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

First Month of the Season Will Be Time for Defense to Step Up

The Patriots first practice session is in the books as training camp is underway. While everyone is trying to break down the exact number of snaps that Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo got with the 1st team offense, that isn’t what I’d take away from the day. The Patriots defense seems like it may be prepping up to be a bit more aggressive this year.

With Jimmy G. taking the reins for Weeks 1-4 while Brady gets an early vacation to Costa Rica with Giselle, the pressure is going to be on the defense to step up. That will take a lot of the onus off of Garoppolo and still give the Patriots the chance to win. That’s why some of the lesser talked about developments concerning the defense today may provide an inkling as to how they’ll play.


Rob Ninkovich is one of the Patriots most versatile players. (SBalestrieri/PatsFans.com Images)

It’s only one day and one practice but the team continues to tinker with Rob Ninkovich and Shea McClellin on the edge. The Patriots worked Ninkovich at linebacker a bit during the spring. That continued during Thursday’s practice session. McClellin who came over from the Bears this offseason spent most of the spring lining up as a defensive end. Today the Patriots had each doing more of the same and more. Both spent some time both rushing off the edge and dropping into coverage.

It is significant even though it’s early because it shows, at least initially that the team is going to take advantage of the players’ versatility. By showing different looks, formations and coverages, Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia can be more aggressive and keep opponents off-balance.

Newcomer Chris Long was mostly quiet on the first day of camp but what was noteworthy for him was that he was kicking inside, similar to what Jabaal Sheard did a bit last year. On obvious passing downs, adding Long as an interior sub-package pass rusher will help keep the pressure on the quarterback.

 

Chris Long will be looked at to provide additional pass rush in 2016

Chris Long will be looked at to provide additional pass rush in 2016

Ninkovich has been a jack-of-all-trades since arriving in Foxboro in 2009. He’s been a long-snapper, an outside linebacker and defensive end. Earlier this summer, Ninkovich hinted around that he’s comfortable doing anything asked of him by Belichick.

“What I can control is how I play on Sunday. So, really, that’s what everyone else is thinking: How can we perform better and whatever else comes out of it, we all might have to step up. That’s just the way it is.”

In an interview with Sirius Radio’s Pat Kirwan, Ninkovich talked about Belichick putting the team in the position to succeed. “I think Bill [Belichick] does a great job every year,” Ninkovich said. “He gives us everything we need to understand as far as going into a season, where we need to be mentally. And I think we all know that we have to go out there and perform at a high level, we have to put in the work now, put in the work in the offseason, put in the work in training camp. That’s where the games are won or lost.”

With an improved and deeper secondary in 2016, the Patriots may be more apt to be a tad more aggressive this season. No team blitzed a defensive back less than the Patriots a year ago. We may now be looking at a little bit of a change. It will definitely be something to monitor as the days go on in training camp.

Check out our earlier primers on the running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, cornerbacks and the safeties.  And be sure to keep tuned into PatsFans.com during training camp as we’ll post daily updates from down in Gillette.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

 

 

Four Things To Watch For At Patriots Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
July 27, 2016 at 12:03 pm ET

Lots of positions/players will demand attention this summer

The Patriots headed into training camp this morning. The veterans had to report in and join the rookies who have been at it since Sunday. Now the dog days of summer begin as the team begins to come together on the field and the competition begins in earnest for roster spots in 2016. Here are four things that you need to be watching for.

It can be a daunting task, with 90 players running around on two separate practice fields, it can be a blur at times. While most fans that make the trek down to Gillette watch Brady and the wide receivers do their thing, there are lots of other activities going on that will also bear watching very closely this year. So let’s start with the elephant in the room.

How Will the Reps Break Out Between Brady and Garoppolo?
Normally this one is a no-brainer. Brady loves the work, the competition and tries to protect his snaps like a miser would a pile of gold dust. But with #12’s suspension, this year the coaches face an intriguing dilemma. How will the QB reps with the 1st team offense play itself out?

There is no more “if” Brady is suspended. It’s happening and he’s going to sit the first month of the season. Now Jimmy Garoppolo is no longer facing a possible scenario where he may be forced to play the first quarter of the season, he is.

Brady and Josh McDaniels share a moment

Brady and Josh McDaniels share a moment

Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniel will have to walk a fine line here. Garoppolo must be prepared to take the field on September 11 against the Cardinals and run the offense smoothly. Brady, on the other hand, has a lot of new weapons in the arsenal that he has to get comfortable with. Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell are all new faces who will be counted upon in 2016. And Brady WILL be the starting QB from Weeks 5 to 17 and beyond once the playoffs begin.

Brady can’t just skip training camp, then the first month of the season and be expected to be sharp against the Browns in Week 5. And Jimmy G. will also need time to work in a comfort level with the same players. There is no right or wrong answer here. The coaches will have to find a happy medium. I would expect Brady to get just a hair over the 50 percent mark in practice with Jimmy G, getting the lion’s share of preseason game work.

Who Steps Up at Running Back?
This was one of those positions we thought the team would address this offseason. But they mostly decided to stand pat. The only additions were veteran Donald Brown and UDFA D.J. Foster. As a result, this position is truly wide open.

With Dion Lewis coming off of an ACL injury in November and beginning camp on PUP, coupled with LeGarrette Blount coming off of a serious hip injury, the positions are there for the taking.

Foster takes a handoff inside the "triangle" from Tom Brady

Foster takes a handoff inside the “triangle” from Tom Brady

Blount has been a favorite of Bill Belichick and he did have a decent season before he was injured. He’s that punisher that the team likes when they get ahead on opponents and Blount has proved that when he can get to that second level, he’s very effective.

But if he can’t move effectively? The team is in a rough spot. For the big backs that can pound the ball, that would leave them with either Tyler Gaffney or Joey Iosefa.  Gaffney is entering Year 3 and still hasn’t taken the field and Iosefa had one big play on his resume from a year ago. Brandon Bolden is just there for STs and as an emergency fill-in.

The team will clearly err on the side of caution with Lewis which opens up camp and preseason for the third down passing back role. James White was very good out of the backfield but the team showed zero confidence in him as a runner. Donald Brown is a vet who may be getting a little long in the tooth. He can do a bit of running and is a good receiver as well as an excellent blocker. Foster is an intriguing guy who looks dynamic out of the backfield. If he can prove he can run with the ball, he’ll be the guy to watch.

Cornerback Depth, Who’s #2 and #3?
Malcolm Butler is the Patriots top cornerback. That isn’t going to change unless he gets hurt this summer. But here is where things get interesting. While both Logan Ryan and Justin Coleman return after starting as the right and slot corners respectively, competition is wide open.

Top draft choice Cyrus Jones is going to push Coleman at a minimum for the starters job at slot corner. He may even push Ryan for the right corner spot and force him into the slot. But the competition doesn’t end there.

2-Roberts,-Coleman

Also competing for a roster spot is 2nd-year player Darryl Roberts, veteran E.J. Biggers and UDFAs Jonathan Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc and V’Angelo Bentley. The young players are all on the smaller side but very athletic and have return ability.

Jones and LeBlanc stood out this spring, the final slot may come down to STs ability. Roberts made an outstanding play as a gunner in minicamp, something that had to catch the coaches eye. This will be a fun position to watch this summer.

Interior Offensive Line, crowded with New Faces:
While we thought the team would address tackle this spring, the team again threw us a curve and stood pat. But they added several new faces in the interior offensive line and how it plays out will bear watching.

The Pats brought in former 1st round pick Jonathan Cooper in the Chandler Jones trade. Injuries and inconsistent play have marked his career to date. Now he’s looking to reignite his career under Dante Scarnecchia. The team also drafted Joe Thuney and Ted Karras.

With Josh Kline, Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason missing the spring workouts, it opens up some intriguing possibilities inside. Most assume Bryan Stork and David Andrews are locked in a positional battle for the center job. But Thuney took some snaps there as well this spring.  Health and performance on the field will be the final decision makers here but we could be conceivably looking at a completely different interior of the line in September.

Check out our earlier primers on the running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, cornerbacks and the safeties.  And be sure to keep tuned into PatsFans.com during training camp as we’ll post daily updates from down in Gillette.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.