Tag Archives: 2017 Patriots Offseason

New England Patriots News 7-2, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 2, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 7-2, & AFC East Notes.

With July here, we’re now only 25 days away from the start of the 2017 season’s training camp. As in every year, this begins the exciting time of the summer as the team will take the field for the first time in pads on July 27.

The cut-down from 90 players to 53 will be a tough one this year and a couple of veteran players may be on the outside looking in this summer. We’ll take an early first crack at the 53-man roster tomorrow on PatsFans.com.

Which Veterans Could be on the Bubble?
This year could find some veterans on the bubble come cut-down time. With the recent addition of LB David Harris, Jonathan Freeny who has been a valuable special teams’ contributor and a starter at times on the defense, could be on the outside looking in. He began the 2016 season as a starter on defense in Arizona but ended up on IR with an injury. We’ll be watching him closely this summer.

Brandon Bolden, who also has been a terrific player on special teams for many years could be on the outside looking in with all of the running back depth now on the team with the additions of Mike Gillislee, and Rex Burkhead.

NFLPA Warns Players of a Financial Scam:
The NFL Players Association has warned players about a possible financial scam involving three tax advisory firms, according to Alex Marvez of the Sporting News.

The NFLPA warned players about allegations against John Richard Burgess after receiving inquiries from players. One player stated that he was assessed a fee of $500,000 for services from one of Burgess’ firms, the NFLPA said.

While the NFLPA has a detailed history of criminal charges and fraud claims against Burgess dating to 1988, it stopped short of calling anything illegal at this point. The memo sent by the union to current and former members stated only that it was for “informational purposes.”

Patriots 2017 Offseason, Belichick’s Best Ever? Time will Tell:
There was an intriguing column by ESPN’s Mike Reiss the other day, mentioning the off season that the Patriots have had and how it ranks among Bill Belichick’s best. And the most interesting part? Reiss doesn’t use the 2007 season as the benchmark, which seems to be the year most people point at, but the 2001 offseason.

He pointed out in the short but really good read, that at the time, nobody thought much of the additions running back Antowain Smith, guard Mike Compton, receiver David Patten, fullback Marc Edwards, quarterback Damon Huard, cornerback Terrell Buckley and linebackers Mike Vrabel, Bryan Cox, Roman Phifer and Larry Izzo. The first round (6th overall) draft pick of Richard Seymour was panned as well. But those players became the core of three Super Bowl winning teams.

The ultimate test of this season’s offseason acquisitions will be made at the end of the 2017 season, but at least on paper, it seems like this group could give 2001 a run for their money.

Edelman, Despite His Feet, Make the Cover of ESPN ‘The Body’ Issue:
By now, every Patriots fan has seen the latest cover of ESPN’s “The Body’ issue and Edelman has made the cover. He spoke to ESPN’s Morty Ain about his workout regimen and learning to catch punts after he was drafted. And among his many scars was the revelation of his ‘ugly feet.’

“I’ve got very ugly feet. The moment I got in the NFL — when I started having to do these cone drills and learning how to run routes, and your feet are just constantly going in and sliding and hitting the back or the front of your toe — my feet have just gotten so ugly,” Edelman said.

“I’ve got a bunion on my right one. My toenails are all jacked up. I’ve got scars on the side of them. I’m embarrassed of them. I don’t try to hide them, but I don’t wear sandals, I’ll tell you that right now. No words can describe them. They look like grim reaper feet. Tales of the crypt. Remember “Tales From the Crypt”?”

While Edelman bared it all for one magazine…

Belichick Dresses Up for Nantucket Magazine Cover:
We’re accustomed to seeing Bill Belichick in his trademark cut-up hoodie while pacing around the Patriots practice or the games with a pencil behind his ear and a sun visor perched on his head.

But this week, the coach and long-time girlfriend Linda Holliday did a photo shoot for Nantucket Magazine. Showing a side of himself he rarely allows to be seen, Belichick and Holliday were both dressed to the nines and spoke about football, his ties to the island, his foundation and Holiday mentioned that he has a great singing voice.

You can check out the entire piece here:

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Offensive Line Rated as #10 in the NFL By PFF:
The Buffalo Bills greatest strength is arguably their offensive line. And entering into the 2017 season, Pro Football Focus, (PFF) has rated the Bills OL as the league’s 10th best. And there is hope with better play at the right tackle position, this unit could crack the Top 5 this year.

Jordan Mills struggled at RT last season, but he’ll have the opportunity to turn things around and fend off 2nd round draft pick Dion Dawkins from Temple this summer. But the rest of the unit is solid especially in the running game where the Bills are very strong.

Left tackle Cordy Glenn, guards Richie Incognito and John Miller along with center Eric Wood gives Buffalo a talented group up front.

The Bills running game was tops in the NFL in all run concepts according to PFF. They topped the league with 2630 yards rushing and averaged 5.3 yards per rush. New offensive coordinator Rick Dennison is expected to continue the Bills strong zone running scheme in 2017.

Dolphins Announce Training Camp Dates, Look to Build Depth:
The Miami Dolphins have announced that they are making 13 practices open to the public at the team’s training facility, beginning July 27. Camp runs through Aug. 15, and is free to attend. However, there are only 2,000 seats are available per day, however, so those who wish to attend need to sign up on the team’s website.

Open camp dates include, Thursday, July 27; Friday, July 28; Saturday, July 29; Sunday, July 30; Monday, July 31; Wednesday, Aug. 2, 8:45 a.m.; Thursday, Aug. 3; Friday, Aug. 4; Monday, Aug. 7, 8:45 a.m.; Tuesday, Aug. 8; Sunday, Aug. 13; Monday, Aug. 14; Tuesday, Aug. 15.

With a talented group of starters in 2016, new coach Adam Gase won 10 games and got the Fins to the playoffs, this training camp, they’ll be looking to add depth across the board and be ready to improve upon last season’s performance.

LB Zach Orr to Visit the Jets This Week:
The New York Jets jettisoned LB David Harris who was quickly scooped up by their divisional rival Patriots recently and now have a hole there. And one player who will be visiting Gang Green is 25-year old LB Zach Orr, who is returning to the NFL after a brief retirement.

Orr retired in January due to a congenital neck and spine condition. But now if he passes team’s medicals, he could find himself not only back in the NFL, but a player commanding a decent amount of money.

He visited already with the Lions and the Colts and is scheduled to meet with the Jets soon.

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 6-25, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
June 25, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 6-25, & AFC East Notes.

The Patriots have announced their first four days of training camp and this should come as welcome news to fans, especially those who live far away and make their travel/vacation plans according to the beginning of camp.

As of today, the schedule for the first four days will be as follows:
July 27 – Morning Practice (time to be determined, open to the public).

July 28 – Morning Practice (time to be determined, open to the public).

July 29 – Morning Practice (time to be determined, open to the public). Patriots Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at noon.

July 30 – Morning Practice (time to be determined, open to the public).

The following week the Jaguars come in, although the dates have been finalized, the times have not yet been. Be sure to check back with Patriots.com for details and/or changes that may happen to the schedule.

JOINT PRACTICES

August 7 – Joint practice with the Jacksonville Jaguars (time to be determined, open to the public).

August 8 – Joint practice with the Jacksonville Jaguars (time to be determined, open to the public).

When is a Roast Not a Roast? When the Patriots or Gronkowski is Involved:
For the latest in “let’s create a controversy” where there is none, go back to Thursday night and the Celebrity Roast for David Ortiz prior to having his number 34 retired by the Red Sox on Friday night. The roast was organized to raise money for the David Ortiz Children’s Fund.

And all of the faux outrage directed at Rob Gronkowski for his off-color remarks at the roast? Please. It seems every time Gronkowski or Tom Brady appear in public, someone is trying to put a negative spin on these things. Originally NESN was going to broadcast it, but due to the numerous F-bombs unleashed by both Gronkowski and Dustin Pedroia, they shelved that idea.

Has anyone ever been to a roast? And the name of the game is that everyone and everything is pretty much fair game in those things. Nobody takes any of it seriously and it is all in good fun. To suggest Rob Gronkowski is an anti-Semite or racist need to remember his owners and one of his best teammates are Jewish and the majority of the team is African-American.

For those of you who are too young to remember, check out the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. Minus the F-bombs, those were more cutting and they were on national television. Besides, Gronkowski’s delivery of his scripted piece wasn’t the best and Pedroia was actually the better of the two.

Now I don’t walk in anyone else’s shoes, so it isn’t up to me to say who should or shouldn’t be offended and in talking with some Jewish friends this weekend, I know they were none too happy over this, however, I really doubt there was any malice intended on Gronkowski’s part.

So…What is the over/under that Gronk gets asked about this at training camp? Take the over.

Patriots Make It Official, Sign LB David Harris:
The Patriots made another splash in the free agent market this week by signing 33-year old linebacker David Harris who was unceremoniously dumped by the Jets last week after spending a decade with the team. In making room for Harris, the team released WR DeAndrew White.

Harris is a quintessential Bill Belichick signing. He is a smart veteran player who is well-known for his work ethic and steadiness on and off the field. He’s been remarkably durable over his career and still has some gas left in his tank. Belichick loves players who will buy in 100 percent and Harris is a guy who always put the team ahead of himself.

When veteran players leave teams, there will always be guys singing their praises but it is rare, very rare for a young player to equate a vet like Harris as a “father figure” as Darron Lee did. That speaks volumes about his character.

We wrote about why the team needed to kick the tires on Harris and why he’d be a great fit in New England, just a few hours before he was signed. You can read it here: The Jets are in a rebuild mode, we get that, but letting this guy go was a big boon for New England.

Patriots Go International, Brady in Asia, Edelman, and Amendola in Mexico:
With the team off until training camp, a few of the Patriots took some time to get some traveling in and Tom Brady and two of his favorite wide receivers were globe-trotting very visible last week.

Tom Brady made a three-city tour for Under Armour and flew on the company’s corporate jet to make stops in Beijing, and Shangai in China before going to Tokyo. On Father’s Day he played catch with his son and some Chinese fans on the Great Wall of China and in Japan, he posed and grappled with some Sumo wrestlers.

Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola made a quick trip down to Mexico City for a visit to the stadium that the Patriots will play the Raiders in this season. The did an autograph session with fans, and visited the pyramids of Teotihuacán, outside of Mexico City… it is a steep climb up to the top! After that, not to be outdone by Brady’s Sumo shenanigans, they donned the wrestling garb of the WWE and did their best “Nacho Libre” impression.

Carr’s Signing Puts Him Up as the Top Paid Players and Under the Gun:
First of all, let me preface this by saying that I like David Carr. When we saw him here a couple of seasons ago in Foxboro, I came away impressed and thought that he could be impactful if not an excellent quarterback in the NFL. And we’ve seen nothing from his play to change any of that.

The Raiders made a smart move, locking him up long term ($125 Million dollar contract) and backloading his contract so that a few of their other players (Kalil Mack, Gabe Jackson) can be signed as well. But if Carr were playing in another city, there would be a lot more talk about paying the most for a QB who hasn’t played a down in the postseason. It shows that at times, there is a double-standard for the QBs in the NFL. Brady and Aaron Rodgers now make far less than Carr. And we get it, it is all about the timing, but if Carr played in….say New York, the fact that someone was paying him $25 million a year without having tasted the postseason would be a talking point.

But now the pressure will be on him to produce, even more so than he did in 2016 in leading Oakland to a 12-3 record before breaking an ankle down the stretch.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills OG Richie Incognito Not Happy With Making Top 20 Hated List:
Buffalo Bills offensive guard Richie Incognito was named by the Sporting News to their Top 20 most hated players in the NFL in a piece penned by SN’s Mike DeCourcy.

DeCourcy has Incognito as the 9th most hated man in the NFL in his article, and he’s drawn the ire of Incognito because of it. Incognito did come to Buffalo under a cloud after allegations of harassing a teammate while in Miami that had Ted Wells (yes that one) investigate the claims.

But Incognito has worked hard for the past couple of seasons and has been a good citizen and a model teammate. He took to Twitter to voice his displeasure and blasted the SN piece hard, stating that people “hate his passion for the game, that he lays it on the line for his brothers every week and that the city of Buffalo has accepted him as one of their own.”

Oh, and BTW, do you want to guess who’s first on the list for most hated? Yep. And DeCourcy used the dead deflated football schtick…Maybe Incognito is on to something.

Dolphins Reached Out to Peyton Manning Last Year When Tannehill Got Hurt :
Miami head coach Adam Gase coached the offense and Peyton Manning in Denver and when QB Ryan Tannehill partially tore his ACL late in the season, Gase had only Matt Moore and a couple of JAGs on the roster.

So Gase reached out to Manning and tried to get him to come on board for the duration of the season. Manning’s father Archie relayed the story this week and said,  “It started with Gase,” Archie said. He said, ‘Hey 18, Tannehill went down.’ He said, ‘I think he’s going to miss some time. The first question I’m going to get at the press conference in the morning is if I’m going to try to bring you to Miami. What do you want me to tell them?’

“The text message came back from Peyton: ‘You tell them I could probably come play, but there’s no way I can miss carpool the next two weeks.’ So, he was done.”

Moore played well in relief and won two of three games to get Miami into the playoffs but could only put up 12 points in the team’s loss to Pittsburgh.

Jets LB Lorenzo Mauldin Arrested After Alleged Nightclub Brawl:
New York Jets Lorenzo Mauldin was arrested Wednesday and charged with misdemeanor assault after allegedly attacking a man in a nightclub fight back in April according to the New York Police Department.

Mauldin faces NFL suspension if convicted and could face up to a year in jail. He was accused of punching a 22-year old Queens man in the face according to the arrest report.

The NFL said that it will monitor the situation and investigate. “We have been monitoring developments and this matter is under review of the personal conduct policy,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

The injured man, Jean Lopez claims he suffered several facial fractures after he accidentally spilled champagne on the Jets linebacker and Maulding responded by punching him.

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

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

Why the Patriots Should Kick the Tires on David Harris

Steve Balestrieri
June 21, 2017 at 7:23 am ET

The Patriots love to bring in established veterans at the end of their careers and give them a role that they can still thrive in. It is something that Bill Belichick has traditionally done because it not only allows a player that is closer to the end of his career than the beginning the chance to still be a productive player, but will aid the team by giving them a veteran presence in the locker room, a mentor for the younger players and with their experience, almost another coach on the field.

That’s why the team should at least kick the tires on a David Harris signing. The 33-year old inside linebacker spent 10 very productive seasons with the Jets before being released recently in a salary cap dump. He was set to earn $6.5 million dollars under the salary cap in 2017 and along with Eric Decker was also jettisoned by the Jets in their house cleaning.

The Patriots have faced Harris twice a year in the AFC East. They and the coaching staff know him intimately. Another reason why he’d be a fit is the fact that Belichick likes to snag players that play well against his team. They’ve done with Wes Welker, Randy Moss, and more recently Chris Hogan and Mike Gillislee among others.

But Harris reminds one of another former Patriot, Junior Seau. Seau was close to retirement when Belichick came calling and he gave the team a couple of solid seasons. Was he the player he was earlier in his career? No, but it didn’t diminish what he brought to the table both on and off the field.

The Patriots have a concern at middle linebacker, I wouldn’t characterize it as a weakness but a lack of depth. Dont’a Hightower was resigned but has had some injury issues. Elandon Roberts is mainly untested. Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, and UDFA rookie Harvey Langi are either better outside or not ready (in Langi’s case) for major duty inside.

Bringing in a guy like Harris would immediately upgrade the unit. He could give the team, that two-down presence inside and allow them to move Hightower around more. He could come out in sub-packages allowing Van Noy and McClellin the opportunity to be productive either rushing the passer or dropping into coverage.

Like Seau, Harris was an unquestioned leader for the Jets on and off the field. He was known as the first man in the building and the last man out. His release was such a surprise and shock to his teammates, that coach Todd Bowles called a special, players meeting to discuss this.

“I miss him,” Darron Lee said of Harris. “He’s a great mentor and a great leader. I’m still going to consult him. Even though he won’t be around here, I’m still going to ask him for advice and everything. But it definitely was a somber day the next day and for the whole defense, really, and for this whole organization and for everybody in here because Dave was like a dad to all of us, a lot of young guys in here. He was like a father to me.”

With plenty of room under the salary cap, it would make sense for the Patriots to kick the tires on Harris. He would immediately consolidate the middle linebacker position, and allow Matt Patricia’s defense, even more, flexibility on early downs to mix and match their pieces to allow Hightower to be even more effective.

He could be brought in for a modest amount for a year or two and provide the Pats with the type of veteran’s presence that Seau gave them a few years ago. And with Belichick loving to tweak the Jets, how delicious would it be to see Harris grasping a Lombardi Trophy in February after languishing a decade with the Jets.

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.

New England Patriots News 5-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 28, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 5-28, & AFC East Notes.

From all us here at PatsFans.com, we hope everyone has a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend. We’ll be paying homage to our veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice, our true heroes on Sunday morning at a church service. And then the annual parade on Monday. Any of our readers out there who are veterans we salute you, especially those Gold Star families.

We applaud the NFL for coming to its collective senses and putting a stop to the ridiculous penalties for celebrating a touchdown and easing the rules on that a bit in 2017. Isn’t that the point of the game, to score? Players can once again use the ball as a prop in their end zone celebratory choreography.

The other interesting development this year is the cutting of the overtime period from 15 to 10 minutes. Ushered in under the “players’ safety” mantra, it was also done to shorten the games and encourage teams to be a bit more aggressive in the extra session. We’ll see how that turns out, but it will be intriguing to see how the second development is game planned by coaches this season.

Clayborn Gets the Call…and About Time:
The Patriots fan voters have spoken and CB Raymond Clayborn will be the newest inductee into the team’s Hall of Fame this summer. Clayborn played for the Pats for 13 seasons (1977-1989), was named to three Pro Bowls and is tied for the team’s all-time lead in interceptions (36) with Ty Law.

Drafted in the first round (#16 overall) in the 1977 NFL Draft, Clayborn teamed with Mike Haynes to give the Patriots a tremendous starting tandem at corner. Clayborn was a member of the Patriots All-1970s Team, the Pats ALL-1980s Team and the Patriots 35th Anniversary Team. He also set the team record with 161 consecutive starts, so he was always healthy and on the field.

Congratulations to Clayborn, we look forward to seeing him presented his red jacket this August by owner Robert Kraft.

Brady Fired up for practice? Now There’s a Surprise:
Phil Perry from CSNNE reported on Thursday’s OTA session that Tom Brady was very fired up for the session and that he celebrated a late practice touchdown to reserve RB D.J. Foster as if it was a January playoff contest. That should surprise no one.

Tom Brady didn’t let another Super Bowl win temper his fiery competitiveness even in OTAs this week. (SBalestrieri photo)

When Brady steps into the building at Gillette, he’s got laser focus and is as competitive as they come, something Brandin Cooks remarked on after the session. That’s part of the reason the Patriots and Brady have been so successful. The work that they put in and the attention to detail on the practice fields of May, June, and July, will win games in November and December.

Of course, maybe the weather from Thursday’s session just made Brady think it was January as the cool, raw, rainy weather from last week belied the fact that we’re in the end of May instead of January.

Butler Taking the High…and Smart Road:
The media crowded around Patriots CB Malcolm Butler, it was after all the first time anyone’s had the opportunity to speak with him since his much-ballyhooed contract situation resulted in him signing his one-year $3.91million-dollar tender. But if anyone expected Butler to pass on “voluntary” OTAs, they were sadly mistaken. Butler, as he has been in his entire, albeit brief career is all in for 2017.

Malcolm Butler speaks with the Patriots media after spring practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

“I wasn’t going to hurt nobody but myself if I missed this,” he said. “This is time to get better. That’s what I’m out here to do. Get better. Have another great year. Anything to help the team. Present a positive image. Whatever happens, happens.”

I’m here. This is my team,” he added. “Ignore the noise. Keep working no matter what. You’ve got a job to do no matter where you’re at. I’m glad to be here to do this job.”

Gronkowski is a Healthy Participant:
Another bit of good news this spring are the pictures of Rob Gronkowski, seemingly fully healed up from last season’s back surgery that landed him on IR, running routes and catching passes high up over defenders. A healthy Gronk is always a good sign for the offense and he makes this unit offensive unit even more dangerous.

Rob Gronkowski is apparently healthy and ready to roll…with a new contract in 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)

With him being seen seemingly everywhere this spring, including a new video where he’s obviously enjoying himself, it is another good sign that he’s healthy and ready to go this summer.  The Patriots also re-did Gronkowski’s contract. With incentives reached, he could increase his salary from $5.25 million dollars to $10.75 million. The money breaks down as follows:

  • NE shells out a $10.75 million payout if Gronkowski records 90 percent playing time, 80 catches, 1,200 receiving yards, or is named to the All-Pro team.
  • That drops to $8.75 million if Gronkowski totals 80 percent play time, 70 catches, 1,000 receiving yards, or 12 touchdowns.
  • And lastly, $6.75 million if Gronkowski hits the marks of 70 percent playing time, 60 receptions, 800 receiving yards, or 10 touchdowns.

By the nature of his playing style, Gronkowski has had issues staying on the field. He’s averaged 73 catches for 1108 yards and 12 TDs over the course of 16 games in his NFL career. The Patriots would probably love to be forced into paying him option #1 in 2017 with a big year and playing in 90 percent of the snaps.

Welcome to New England Andrew Hawkins:
New Patriots wide receiver Andrew Hawkins was at OTAs this week. The diminutive 31-year old veteran wide receiver may have a tough road to make the roster but he’s already made the Patriots All-Star social media post of the offseason. Check out this hilarious post.

Well done Mr. Hawkins.

What’s the Rush? A New Year, Another Leading Rusher:
We were sorry to see LeGarrette Blount move on the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency this season, but it shouldn’t come as a big shock that he was moving on. In the 17 years that Bill Belichick has been the Patriots head coach, they’ve had nine different leading rushers in those 17 seasons.

Blount had a terrific 2016 season but slowed down the stretch. He carried 35 times in the playoffs for just 109 yards. Dion Lewis rushed 25 times for 79 yards. The Patriots as a team rushed for just 259 yards in their three playoff wins. But thanks to having a laser-focused Tom Brady under center the Pats scored 104 points in those three wins, 34 against Houston, 36 against Pittsburgh and 34 more against the Falcons.

That’s part of the reason why guys like Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead were brought in. Lewis and James White can catch the ball out of the backfield. Burkhead can do the same, but he and Gillislee will give the Patriots another leading rusher in 2018.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Beef Up LB Position, Sign Hodges:
The Buffalo Bills added some nice depth to their linebacker stable by inking former San Francisco 49er Gerald Hodges to a one-year deal on Friday.

Hodges tallied two interceptions, three sacks, one forced fumble and 80 combined tackles in 12 games started for the Niners in 2016. He had visited the Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, and the Jacksonville Jaguars before signing with the Bills on Thursday.

After losing middle linebacker Zach Brown in the offseason, the Bills by adding Hodges will pair him up with Pro Bowler Lorenzo Alexander and redshirt rookie Reggie Ragland who is reportedly back on the road to being fully healthy in 2017.

Maxwell Recovered from a Slow Start, Ready to Star in Miami:
The Miami Dolphins traded for cornerback Byron Maxwell last spring, bringing the veteran corner over from the Eagles. At the time, the returns weren’t encouraging. Maxwell was burned early and often in the first few weeks of the season, playing soft and was benched by the Dolphins coaching staff.

But after a knee injury to Xavien Howard necessitated putting him back in the lineup, Maxwell shined. He defensed 15 passes and forced four fumbles, tied for second in the NFL in a remarkable turnaround.

Now the Dolphins are counting on Maxwell to improve from a year ago to being the productive pro he was down the stretch. Maxwell chalks it up to taking responsibility for his own play and playing better technique.

“I think it was just a change in technique and a change in mindset basically,” Maxwell said to the Miami media. “I just realized where I had to go at, what I had to do in order for this team to win or help this team win. That’s really what it was. I was just taking ownership and not looking at everybody else. It was on me.”

Jets Hire First Female Coaching Intern for 2017:
New York Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles has hired Collette Smith as a coaching intern for the 2017 training camp. A lifelong Jets fan and a Queens native, Smith is currently a coach and marketing executive with the New York Sharks, part of the Women’s Football Alliance.

Smith becomes the Jets female coaching intern and just the third in NFL history following Jen Welter with the Cardinals and Kathryn Smith who was with the Bills as a quality control special teams’ assistant in 2016.

“I’m over the top. I’m humbled and I’m proud,” Smith told the press. “This could have happened with any NFL team. But it just so happened that it was with my beloved New York Jets. This is bigger because of that. God forbid it would have been with the Patriots. But I still would have done it.”

Smith spent some time with the Jets on the practice field a year ago, Bowles gave her access and she was learning on the go with the Jets. Now she’s progressed enough to be named a coaching intern.

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Which Patriots Veterans Could Be On the Hot Seat This Summer

Steve Balestrieri
May 25, 2017 at 9:16 am ET

The Patriots made splashes in both the free agency period and the 2017 NFL Draft this offseason to augment an already loaded roster that won the Super Bowl in February. While we continue to watch the developments of these players and try to figure out how well they’ll fit in their new environs, the other side of the equation always is, who do they replace?

There is always movement on the Patriots roster and Bill Belichick has always shown that he’ll cut a player a year early rather than wait until a year too late. Even some of his favorite players that he’s coached will eventually be shown the door, that is part of the reason why he continues to be so successful year after year.

So, with that in mind, the competition in training camp this season should be pretty intense and here are a few veterans that may be facing getting a visit from the “Turk” this summer.

Danny Amendola:  His name is on the list seemingly every year, so eventually we’ll be right, or he’ll retire in another few years before he’s shown the door. Another season, another re-done contract. Amendola has shown to be a tough, reliable wide receiver who while not putting up great numbers, saves his best for big plays at crunch time.

Danny Amendola runs a route in training camp 2016 (SBalestrieri photo)

With a very deep roster at the wide receiver position this season, Amendola will invariably face the questions if he’ll get axed this summer. With Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, and Malcolm Mitchell already penciled in, the competition will be there for Amendola to produce for the fifth WR position.

But Amendola has worked his way into QB Tom Brady’s circle of trust which is no small feat. If he stays healthy, he should be able to fend off his competitors for another season. Then come late February, he’ll be the subject of these rumors again.

Brandon Bolden: One of the more intriguing guys on the roster, Bolden is a core Special Teams player on a roster that already has a bunch of them. Bolden was a free agent this spring and signed a new deal to return.  But his roster spot is anything close to a given this year.

With the additions of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, the Patriots backfield with James White, Dion Lewis, D.J. Foster, and UDFA LeShun Daniels as well as fullbacks James Develin and Glenn Gronkowski makes the RB position stacked. Bolden may find himself a victim of the numbers game. With RB position in mind…

Dion Lewis: Wait?! What?! Don’t be shocked if Lewis, who was injured in 2015 and came back midway thru the 2016 season is under the gun this summer. He showed glimpses of what he’s capable of last season, but he wasn’t all the way back from his injury (Torn ACL) last year.

Now, more than a year removed from his rehab, Lewis will have to show the shiftiness that made him a Swiss Army Knife of the Patriots offense, a guy who can do a little bit of everything. James White took over his role last year and was simply outstanding in the Super Bowl, parlaying that into a contract extension.

Lewis faces the added competition of Burkhead, Gillislee (who should be taking the LeGarrette Blount role) and second year player D.J. Foster, who is a dangerous receiver with the ball in his hands. Lewis’ spot if far from a certainty either.

Linebackers Jonathan Freeny, Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy: Any of these three could be cut this summer, possibly even more than one. Freeny was a starter at the beginning of 2016 and a favorite of Bill Belichick. Freeny’s base salary is $1.8 million this season, he’s always been a stellar Special Team’s performer but his ability to contribute on defense, or lack thereof may be something to watch this summer.

Shea McClellin in 2016. (SBalestrieri photo)

McClellin was picked up last season and the team seemed to struggle to find him a role at first until they put him in a sub-package role, but while he’s not as good in coverage or as a pass rusher as Van Noy, nor the run stuffer that Elandon Roberts is, he can do a little bit of each. And he’s a guy that can slide down to defensive end for a few snaps as well. Versatility being a big thing with the coaches but will it be enough?

Van Noy was a nice pickup from the Lions last season, he showed that he could rush the passer and drop into coverage with good production. While not great against the run, he’s the best bet to remain this season, but will have to have a good summer as well.

All three will face some competition from second year player Roberts as well as UDFAs Harvey Langi and Brooks Ellis. Langi is an intriguing player who looked fantastic as a junior in 2015 before his coaches moved him out of position to DE last year. The Patriots paid him $100,000 guaranteed money which is a lot for an UDFA, so they have some hopes that he could compete for a roster spot.

Brandon King/Nate Ebner: These two players are safeties officially but are big special teams’ contributors. Their level of play has continued to be high and both are valuable pieces of the puzzle. So why are they on here? Numbers.

With the Patriots possibly keeping more WRs or RBs on the roster this season, the numbers dictate that someone is going to have to be cut to make room. The bottom of the roster will be an intriguing place to watch this summer.

Neither plays many snaps on defense, although Ebner does fill in on occasion in short yardage and goal line packages, and the Patriots are pretty much set at safety. Their value lies on STs but there are only so many spots on the roster that can be penciled in, each must have a good summer to stick although I’d give Ebner the edge here.

Two other names that can be added to the list are tackles LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming although the latter seems a good bet to stick this season.

The Patriots will have some great positional battles during training camp this summer. The tough part of having a stocked roster is that you always have to let go of some good veteran and rookie players.

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.

Patriots Players Ready For the 2nd Year Jump in Performance

Steve Balestrieri
May 22, 2017 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots begin the next phase of their 2017 offseason OTAs today at Gillette Stadium and they’ll be on the field for the first time doing football drills. And while many will be focusing on the new players such as Stephon Gilmore, Brandin Cooks, and Kony Ealy, the second-year players should be of equal importance. Bill Belichick always talks of the big jump that players experience between their rookie and sophomore seasons.

There are several players that will bear watching under that scenario but we’re going to focus on just three that could play very large roles in 2017.  Guard Joe Thuney, WR Malcolm Mitchell and CB/KR Cyrus Jones.

Thuney was a Day 1 starter at left guard and had the not-so-unexpected growing pains, Mitchell got hurt in training camp but came on in the second half of the season and was a key contributor in the Super Bowl win over the Falcons. Jones was the team’s top draft choice a year ago, a talented corner and kick returner who struggled mightily and was barely a blip on the radar in 2016.

Thuney was drafted by the Patriots in the 3rd round (78th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft out of NC State. The 6’4, 305-pound tackle turned guard was a steady, dependable interior offensive lineman last year. He fought his way thru the competition at training camp to become the Day 1 starter at left guard. He showed good communication with LT Nate Solder and C David Andrews and they did a good job of keeping the Patriots QBs upright.


Joe Thuney wants to know “What are Pink Stripes?” (SBalestrieri photo)

He certainly got a good rookie report card from Bill Belichick. “Joe is smart. Joe works hard. He’s here every day. I don’t think he’s missed a day all spring, summer,” Belichick said. “He shows up every day [and] goes to work. A lunch-pail guy. He just grinds it out. And he’s smart. Takes coaching well. He understands what we’re doing.”

He needed to get stronger this offseason and that will bear some watching. But after spending a year with his demanding OL Coach Dante Scarnecchia, he should be ready for the Year 2 jump. His technique, communication, and strength should all be better. There will be no backsliding on Coach Scar’s crew.

The Patriots drafted Mitchell in the 4th round, (112th overall) in last season’s draft. His story was well known when he wasn’t a good reader and joined a ladies’ book club in Georgia. Now he’s an author of a children’s book and a Super Bowl champion.


Malcolm Mitchell puts a move on Darrell Roberts in 2016 TC. (SBalestrieri photo)

Mitchell suffered an injury in the team’s first preseason game and that definitely slowed his progress. He barely registered on the stat sheet thru the first half of the season. But after Tom Brady’s return from suspension, Mitchell gradually worked his way onto the field and earned his way into Brady’s circle of trust. He finished the season with a modest 32 catches for 401 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. But his Super Bowl was a game that showed that his future is bright with New England, catching six passes for 70 yards and again, Brady trusted him to come thru at crunch time late in the game.

The Patriots are stacked at wide receiver this season. With Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, newcomer Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Mitchell and newcomers Austin Carr, Cody Hollister and Devin Lucien. But while Mitchell’s numbers may not increase dramatically in 2017, he should be an integral part of the offensive plan this season.

No one could have predicted the struggles that Cyrus Jones suffered in 2016. Coming from the storied football of program of Nick Saban at Alabama, Jones was a talented corner who was thought to be in line for reps at least in the slot for 2016. He was also a dangerous, valuable kick returner, returning four for touchdowns in his final college season. None of it materialized. Right off the bat in Minicamp, he began to struggle with holding onto kicks and that carried over to the season. He never made an impression defensively and his season was about missed opportunity.


Cyrus Jones had ball security issues in 2016. (SBalestrieri photo)

Jones has a lot of work to do in 2017, the Patriots used a 2nd round draft pick (60th overall) last season on him and ball security should be at the top of his list. His judgment wasn’t great either, and that was the cause of his being inactive for five of the team’s final six games.

Bill Belichick needs to work with Jones early this year….OTAs is a prime spot and build up Jones’ confidence. That’s mainly what his problem was in 2016, a confidence issue and not an ability one. He knows how to play football and has been successful at the pinnacle of the college football world. Once his return issues are resolved, his play on defense should be markedly improved as well. He’s the guy we’re picking here as our selection as the most improved player in 2017.

Other second-year players include Elandon Roberts, Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton and Jacoby Brissett. In Brissett’s case, we may not see a big jump in play in Year 2 strictly because of logistics. With Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo under center at QB this season, there are only so many snaps to go around. And Brissett may not get a ton of work.

The Patriots will have plenty of new faces to integrate into the system, beginning this week for the OTAs but we’ll be keeping focused on seeing how the 2nd year players perform this spring/summer. Getting off to a quick start is always a good sign for having a good regular season. For Thuney, Mitchell, and Jones that all begins today.

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.

New England Patriots News 5-21, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 21, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 5-21, & AFC East Notes.

We hope that anyone out in Central Mass today will join us for the 16th Annual HMEA IncredABLE 5K to support children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Every year about 2500 people attend for either the 5K Road Race or the family walk, run or stroll. Boston 25 news anchor Gene Lavanchy hosts it with Patriots great Steve Nelson.

It is located at the EMC/Dell Franklin campus at 50 Constitution Blvd. in Franklin, Mass. And this year it will feature American strongman Bear, who will be pulling a semi-tractor trailer or a ladder truck from the fire department…maybe both.

Belichick Popular with Military: I’ve been out of the loop for the past week, spending time in Tampa Bay at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC). It was an intriguing week as the nation’s best arms deals and equipment makers were making their pitches at selling their wares to the US Special Operations Command. Some of the new equipment out there as well as virtual reality training tools is just impressive. The joint HQs in Tampa houses the Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Delta Force, Air Force Special Operations, and the Marine Special Operations operators under one roof.

Bill Belichick 2016 minicamp (SBalestrieri photo)

It was great meeting new faces and getting reacquainted with some old friends. Of course, everyone wanted to talk football as well as Special Ops and it is amazing the level of respect that Bill Belichick gets with the military community.

His job focus, the ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment and be an effective leader that can teach and lead by example resonates with the officers and men who do the same thing in a different profession.

Latest Tomase Piece Takes a Leap at Comparing Brady to Tom Cruise:
According to the latest piece by WEEI’s John Tomase, everything that Tom Brady does off the field for the Patriots is a disgrace. He can do nothing right and surrounds himself with snake-oil salesmen, charlatans, and thieves.

As if he couldn’t seek a lower common denominator, then Tomase has to sink to the even lower road by mentioning Deflategate with the “but he destroyed his phone, in case you forgot.”

Yeah, we get it. Tomase doesn’t even try to hide his obvious bias and he goes on a rant about Donald Trump. One must wonder if any of this drivel would’ve have been posted had Brady displayed a Hillary Clinton hat in his locker instead of the Donald’s. Probably not as in his mind, Trump is already impeached.

But the kicker is when he tries to equate Brady with the Tom Cruise Scientology bit. Saying that Brady radiates the “same creepy, culty vibe” is low even for someone who has his own crosses to bear. Tomase was the one who published the false bit about the Patriots filming the Rams walkthrough at Super Bowl XXXVI, “in case you forgot.”

It is amazing that WEEI would let a talented football writer and author like Chris Price go and keep other folks around, but maybe those writers are the ones who resonate with the creepy segments of our society.

Brady Concussion Flap, Bound to Generate Mileage With Park Ave:
A lot of talks have been centered around Gisele Bundchen’s interview this week with Charlie Rose on CBS where she said her husband, Tom Brady suffered a concussion in 2016. Bundchen set the tongues wagging with this state.

“I just have to say, as a wife, I’m a little bit — as you know, it’s not the most, like — let’s say, (it’s) an aggressive sport,” Bundchen said. “Right? Football, like, he had a concussion last year. He has concussions, pretty much. I mean, we don’t talk about it,” Bundchen added.

Tom Brady’s agent says that he suffered no concussions in 2016 despite comments from his wife. (SBalestrieri photo)

“But he does have concussions. And I don’t really think it’s a healthy thing for your body to go through that kind of aggression, like, all the time. That cannot be healthy for you, right? And I’m planning on having him be healthy and do a lot of fun things we when are like 100 (years old), I hope.”

Brady’s agent Don Yee has denied that Brady ever suffered a concussion in 2016 which the NFL has confirmed…sort of.

“We have reviewed all reports relating to Tom Brady from the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants and certified athletic trainer spotters who worked at Patriots’ home and away 2016 season games as well as club injury reports that were sent to the league office,” the league said. “There are no records that indicate that Mr. Brady suffered a head injury or concussion, or exhibited or complained of concussion symptoms.

Ah but the last statement should be interesting to Patriots fans.

“We have been in contact with the NFLPA and will work together to gather more information from the club’s medical staff and Mr. Brady. The health and safety of our players is our foremost priority and we want to ensure that all our players have and continue to receive the best care possible.”

Does this sound suspiciously like another Ted Wells fiasco? Maybe, maybe not but no one in New England wants to hear that the league is investigating anything to do with the Patriots.

Pats Add Another TE, Cut One Loose:
The Patriots released TE Rob Housler after a failed injury designation. The veteran of five NFL seasons pulled his hamstring and could be brought back once he’s healthy enough to compete this spring.

Housler has played in 65 NFL games with 27 starts and has 109 receptions for 1,166 yards with a touchdown. He spent 2016 out of football but the Patriots signed him to a futures’ contract this winter.

Michael Williams was cut loose earlier last week leaving the team with Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, and Jacob Hollister on the roster. The team then added TE Sam Cotton from Nebraska.  Cotton, 6’4, 250-pounds, played in 13 games, (11 starts) as a senior in 2016 and had eight catches for 87 yards.

The team also signed free agent OL James Ferentz and 4th Round draft pick Deatrich Wise Jr. Ferentz played the last two seasons with the Broncos, appearing in 21 games before being released on May 10. Wise was selected with the 131st pick overall in the draft.  The 6’5, 271-pounder, appeared in 50 games (10 starts) at Arkansas and tallied 112 tackles, 16½ sacks, six passes defensed and four forced fumbles

Blount “Doesn’t Regret a Second” of his Pats Career:
In a not-so-surprising move, LeGarrette Blount had nothing but good things to say about his time in New England with the Patriots in his introductory press conference in Philadelphia. The Eagles signed Blount to a one-year deal this week after the Patriots placed a 2nd round FA tender on him.

LeGarrette Blount leaves on good terms with the Patriots. (SBalestrieri photo)

“I’ve done everything that I wanted to do. I won two Super Bowls with (New England) and I don’t regret a single second being there because I loved it there. They have some of the best years of football that you could ever remember . . . I’m happy that I was a part of a few of those.”

The Pats had offered Blount a deal but when he balked, they quickly went to Plan B and restricted FA RB Mike Gillislee from Buffalo. Blount joins a Philly stable of backs that have plenty of quickness but needs a big power back to carry the load.

Brady, Aston Martin Sign Partnership:
Tom Brady is bringing his brand to England and endorsing an English luxury car icon. Not just any icon, but the sports car of James Bond, Aston Martin.

Brady appeared on the hood (bonnet in blighty) of a DB-11 that features a V-12 turbo engine that cranks out a healthy 600+ horsepower. And before any of you diehard fans care to plunk down the cash for an a Aston Martin, (they sell only about 1000 cars per year in the US), please note that the DB-11’s list price for a base model is over $214,800.

Tom Brady has signed a deal to endorse Aston Martin, the car of James Bond. (Aston Martin photo)

With this partnership cemented, Barbara Broccoli, the executive producer of the Bond films should ink Mr. Brady to do a cameo in the yet unnamed Bond 25 that is still in the talking stages. “Brady, Tom Brady.”

Vollmer, to No One’s Surprise, Calls it a Career:
Patriots FA right tackle has made it official, he’s retiring from the NFL after eight productive seasons with the Pats. This doesn’t come as a surprise as the German-born offensive lineman has already dropped 75 pounds from his playing weight of 320.

Vollmer was drafted in the 2nd round, 58th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. He appeared in 88 games with 80 starts but missed the entire 2016 season with hip and shoulder injuries.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Go Up Tempo in Practice, Ragland Clears Hurdle, Taylor is the Leader:
The Buffalo Bills have a new regime in place and the first thing new coach Sean McDermott saw when reviewing tape of last year’s practices was that the team needed to pick up the tempo which they’ve been doing, so far in OTAs.

LB Reggie Ragland had reconstructive surgery on his knee last year and has been cleared by the doctors for limited action and he’s happy to be back doing football like drills again. “I feel really rusty. But as the days went on I started to get more comfortable and my knee got more comfortable.” Ragland said to the Bills media.

New Buffalo Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison spent three years with QB Tyrod Taylor in Baltimore and says he’s seen the growth of the veteran QB due to his starting experience in Buffalo. However, Dennison has already pointed out that Taylor must cut down on the number of sacks that Taylor has taken, 42 just last season alone. Dennison also mentioned that the QB must learn to trust his eyes more.

“He has started to,” Dennison says. “But even then, just yesterday, we ran a concept for the first time and he took too long staring the concept down. Now he sees that on tape and says, ‘All right, I’ve got to get off that and just take what the defense gives me.’ “

Parker Healthy and Expecting Big Year in Miami:
The Miami Dolphins’ Devante Parker has missed only three games in his first two seasons in the NFL. But he’s been banged up quite a bit and now fully healthy for seemingly the first time he’s pumped for a big 2017.

“I’m tired of being hurt and not healthy for a full season,” Parker said to the media on Friday.

“Expecting a big season this year.”

The Dolphins brass has been critical of Parker’s work ethic in the past but not anymore. “He is running probably better than I’ve seen him run since I’ve been here — and a hungry DeVante Parker,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said to the Miami Herald.

“I think he has been around a lot more than last year. He is practicing hard.”

“I really think he’ll have a great year — a gigantic year for us. That would be huge,” Christensen added.

Jets Improving Locker Room Issues That “Didn’t Exist” in 2016:  New York Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles has said that the team didn’t have locker room issues in 2016 despite the fight between Brandon Marshall and Sheldon Richardson.  But his actions speak differently.

And now running back Matt Forte has come out publicly stating that they team needs to start acting more as a group than individuals.

“There’s a difference between playing next to somebody and (playing) for them,” Forte said to ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “I always say that to guys, like last year, when we were in the middle of the season and things weren’t going well. We were at practice and I was like, ‘Guys, everybody is out here as an individual and we’re just playing next to the guy. Do you really know that guy?’ If I’m playing next to you instead of for you, I really don’t trust you.”

Whether or not he keeps the job, QB Josh McCown has been doing the job that leaders do, building a trust factor with the offensive players and that is a big change from 2016 where incumbent starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was unsigned during the offseason and going thru a prolonged contract battle with the front office.

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

New England Patriots News 5-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
May 14, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 5-14, & AFC East Notes.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the great Moms out there. We hope you all enjoy a great family day and that it is a safe and happy one.

While the weather thus far this spring hasn’t been great, the rain we’ve got so far is making things nice and green and the fruit and vegetable gardens are getting plenty of irrigation. But the grapes are still pretty sour this time of year, right Bill Polian?

Brady “I don’t believe in curses” on the Cover of Madden 18:
A lot of people will wring their hands at just about anything these days. Now the (gasp!) “Madden Curse”? Gimme a break. Tom Brady tried to allay those irrational fears by poking fun at all those superstitions and posted a pretty funny video after being selected for the cover of the new EA Sports Madden 18.

Let’s just hope they don’t dust off an old horror genre this fall with “Hollywood 19 ½ Jason Takes Foxboro”. Seriously folks? Of course, the division rivals in the AFC East, eager for any straw to grasp at, were posting silly curse-related tweets in reaction to the news. It really begs the question to how far we’ve evolved as an educated people from the “world is flat” era of curses and silly superstitions.

Michael Williams’ Release, a Numbers Game Victim:
The Patriots release of TE Michael Williams after he missed all of 2016 after tearing his ACL last spring wasn’t really a big surprise. He didn’t fit into their plans in 2017 and this will give him a chance to catch on with a new club.

Williams, 6’6, and 305 pounds, appeared in 15 games in the 2015 season with nine starts. He was competing for the third tight end spot a year ago before being injured. He is more of a blocking tight end and extra tackle than a receiving threat.

He was just a victim of the numbers game as the Patriots will enter OTAs and mini-camp with six tight ends on the roster. Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, Rob Housler, and Jacob Hollister.

Brandin Cooks on Pats, “A New Journey”:
In an interview with the media this week, new Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks showed that he’s focusing on looking forward not backward with his new team. Cooks was asked about not asking Jimmy Garoppolo for the #10, what Cooks wore in New Orleans. Cooks claimed he didn’t even ask for it.

No, I didn’t even try,” Cooks told reporters. “I didn’t even think about asking him. (It’s) a new journey, new opportunity, so I wanted something different.”

Cooks wore #7 at Oregon State and said he’s going a throwback look …kind of. “I was (No.) 7 in college,” said Cooks, “So the way that I like to think about it is double-7.”

After a couple of solid seasons with over 1100 yards receiving in New Orleans, expectations are high for the 23-year old WR. He’ll join an eclectic group of receivers including Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, and running backs James White and Dion Lewis.

Gillette Stadium, Upgrades to the Most Technologically Advanced Field Turf:
The Patriots have upgraded the Gillette Stadium surface with the most up-to-date field turf. The synthetic turf surface upgrade has been completed and will make its debut when the New England Revolution play Real Salt Lake on May 13.

From the Patriots website:

Gillette Stadium’s new field will feature FieldTurf’s revolutionary new premium system, featuring the industry’s highest-performing monofilament fiber that makes the surface player-friendly, resilient and durable. Along with the most innovative fiber technology in the industry, this state-of-the-art turf system features FieldTurf’s proprietary heavy infill system, which is critical to performance and playability. The result is a surface that plays soft, feels real, looks great and hangs tough.

“We are excited to upgrade our game field to the latest FieldTurf technology” said Jim Nolan, Senior Vice President of Gillette Stadium. “It is our goal each year to provide the highest quality surface for the both the New England Patriots and New England Revolution, and we were eager to take advantage of FieldTurf’s latest innovations for the 2017 season.”

“Keeping in line with our commitment to ensure that the Patriots and Revolution consistently have the latest in synthetic field technology, we are pleased to have been selected once again by Gillette Stadium,” said Eric Daliere, President of Tarkett Sports. “It is an honor and a testimony to the quality of our products that such prestigious organizations continue to put their trust in our company. We look forward to continuing this longstanding relationship with the Patriots, Revolution and Gillette Stadium for many years to come.”

Now that the FieldTurf is complete, can they do something to fix the awful WiFi Connection in the stadium and Patriots’ Place?

Trying to Make Sense of the Blount Situation:
Patriots FA running back LeGarrette Blount’s free agency status took a very weird twist on Tuesday as the Patriots made the rarely used tactic of placing a tender at 110 percent of his 2016 salary ($1.1 million dollars) on him.

The timing of this bizarro twist means that the Patriots could still receive compensation in the form of a compensatory pick in the 2018 draft if Blount signs elsewhere. He’s been rumored to be in talks with both the Giants and Ravens.

The timing also means that if Blount doesn’t sign with another team by July 22, his only hope of playing this season is signing his tender with New England. In order to receive a compensatory pick, Blount would have to produce with his new team.

The tender, with a $1.1 million base salary, $110,000 signing bonus and $1 million in incentives could add up to a $2.2 million-dollar payday for Blount if he signs his tender, returns and plays well.

But with the signing of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead this offseason, the writing was on the wall that the Patriots were moving on from Blount. That’s why Tuesday’s move was a pretty ruthless business decision by the Patriots.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Hire Brandon Beane as new GM:
The Buffalo Bills finally have a new regime in place for 2017. New GM Brandon Beane met with the media on Friday morning. He’ll join new coach Sean McDermott in an attempt to bring the Bills back to the postseason, something they haven’t done since 1999.

Both worked together in Carolina and have a built-in trust factor. They will share personnel responsibilities but Beane has the final say on the 53-man roster. Beane also stated that he is a big believer in the running game so the Bills offense will be sure to feature a lot of LeSean McCoy next season.

Miami’s Revamped Offensive Line Structure a Key to Watch for in 2017:
The Miami Dolphins made some moves in the offseason to bring more stability to their offensive line, which was a key point in their turnaround in 2016. The Dolphins running game was much improved as was their pass protection for the quarterbacks. But rather than standing pat, the Fins are making some changes to their OL in 2017.

Brandon Albert was dealt to Jacksonville for a 2018 7th round draft pick. They signed free agents Ted Larsen and Avery Young to offseason deals and then drafted Isaac Asiata in the 5th round of the NFL draft two weeks ago.

With last year’s first-round pick Laremy Tunsil moving from left guard to left tackle, there will be some growing pains associated with this unit but the coaching staff believes that they can be much better.

One area they’ll have to cut down on is penalties. That was an issue that plagued the offense as a whole all season. The Dolphins were in the middle of the pack in terms of yards rushing and passing but Miami’s offense had the least amount of snaps of any unit in the NFL in 2016 averaging just 57.6 snaps per game.

One reason? Penalties. It is an issue that they’ll have to cut down on, which is why it is curious that they brought in the solid but penalty prone Larsen in this spring. The key for the offense was third down where the Dolphins clicked at just 36.7 percent, the eighth-worst mark in the NFL last season.

Journey for Jets Adams Starts with Father’s Injury:
The New York Jets drafted the safety Jamal Adams with the 6th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and he’s one of the top safeties in his class. But a weird twist of fate may have changed his path to the NFL.

His father George was a first-round pick of the Giants back in 1986 and was thought to be the next big back in the Giants’ offense that won the Super Bowl that season. But a broken pelvis changed everything for his dad, who was never the same.

So when his son was in high school, George changed Jamal’s position to safety and everything changed for the young star. Now he’s a first-round pick.

Check out the excellent piece by ESPN’s Rich Cimini here:

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Daily Notebook: Wednesday Patriots News and Notes 5/10

Ian Logue
May 10, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

We’re already at the half way point of the week, and here’s a look at today’s top stories.

Cooks Gets to Work – As exciting as the news of Brandin Cooks’ acquisition was back in March, hearing how the acclimation has been for the new receiver so far on Tuesday was even more interesting as he met with the media at Gillette Stadium.

Cooks admitted that he’s already noticed a difference of how differently things are done compared to in New Orleans in just the short time he’s been here, and he loves it.

“Right away, I love it,” said Cooks during his media session on Tuesday.  “I love the way they run things here. It’s a blessing to be able to be a part of this organization. I’m just happy to be here.”

Team numbers were revealed yesterday and the fact that Cooks is set to wear #14 was one thing that certainly stood out, especially considering he wore #10 in New Orleans.  That number currently belongs to Jimmy Garoppolo, who Cooks admitted that he didn’t even bother asking him because  it’s a “new opportunity” so he “wanted something different”.

As for the reason behind wearing #14, Cooks said there wasn’t any significance, although he tried to link it to his college number when he was asked by the media.

“No big significance at all, really,” said Cooks. “I was [No.] 7 in college, so the way that I like to think about it is double-7. Yeah, no big significance.”

Coming from New Orleans playing both in a warm climate and in an indoor facility will probably take a little getting used to, which Cooks admitted will be a little different.  He’s already had a little time to get used to the area, and he’s looking forward to the opportunity.

“It’s a new transition,” said Cooks.  “You know, a little cold coming from New Orleans, but I love it. I originally grew up on the West Coast, so I’m obviously halfway across the country now – or across the country – but it’s a great atmosphere. Going down to the city is amazing. I live in Oregon now during the offseason, so I’m used to a little bit of cold, rainy days, but it’s a little different out here, so we’ll see.”


Cooks is already learning the “Patriot Way”.

Inside the facility has been a different story.  He’s had a chance now to see the inner workings of the team he’s now a part of, and he’s been impressed.  Obviously it starts with the coaching staff, which he called “amazing”.

“Their focus,” said Cooks when asked about his first impressions of the coaches.  “Their attention to detail, once again, here is amazing. But, you know what, everything is going so fast right now, so I’m not looking at those type of things. I’m just, once again, looking at what I have to do to be the best I can be here.”

The same held true for when Cooks met Brady, who shares those same characteristics.

“His attention to detail and how focused he is,” said Cooks when asked about what’s stood out about Brady. “It’s something that I look at him and I try to strive for, to be just like that. Obviously, the game on TV, he’s amazing, but to see him now in person in his study habits is awesome.”

For now Cooks said he’s excited about the opportunity but at this point it’s just all about trying to get up to speed both with his conditioning and mentally so he’s not left behind.

“Well, first off, just being well-conditioned – that’s what this part’s about,” said Cooks on getting to work with his new team.  “And then just as much as I can to learn the offense so I can catch up to the guys that have been here so we can keep going and not have to wait on me.”

Sounds like he’ll fit in just fine.

Tomlin Mentions Patriots During Commencement Speech – Mike Tomlin is well known for being outspoken, and his comments caught on Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live broadcast following Pittsburgh’s win in the Divisional round made waves after Brown’s poor judgement put the spotlight on them leading up to the AFC Championship game against New England.

“Let’s say very little moving forward. Let’s start our preparations,” Tomlin said in the video via CBS Local out of Pittsburgh. “We spotted those [expletive] a day and a half. They played yesterday. Our game got moved to tonight. We gonna touch down at 4 o’clock in the [expletive] morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for that ass. But you ain’t gotta tell them we coming … Keep a low profile.”

That obviously didn’t work out too well, especially after the Patriots easily handled them during their 36-17 win to advance to the Super Bowl. The frustration after that game seemed to boil over in Pittsburgh, to the point where even Ben Roethlisberger seemed so annoyed with the poor coaching performance that he seemed to be pondering retirement.

But, here we are, three months later and fortunately for Patriots fans, Tomlin is still the coach and Roethlisberger is still the quarterback, which bodes well for New England’s chances against them for the foreseeable future.

As for Tomlin, very little has changed and he was on hand at Robert Morris University and mentioned the Patriots during his 16-minute speech where he referenced New England while making light of his previous comments.

“I’ll proceed with a couple of assumptions,” the Pittsburgh Steelers coach said. “And I realize that assumptions are very dangerous. There’s a cliché about assuming, isn’t it? It can make Patriots out of you and me.”

He’s a funny guy, isn’t he?

No Compensatory Picks for Blount or Floyd? – Both LeGarrette Blount and Michael Floyd remain unsigned and for any fans hoping to see New England end up with a couple of compensatory picks for these players, it’s not going to happen.

As Kevin Duffy of MassLive.com pointed out, the deadline for those two players to sign with a new club in order for the Patriots to have had a shot at receiving compensatory picks was 4pm Tuesday.

Neither player signed a contract, so that notion is now off the table.

Adam Schefter reported that Floyd had been potentially linked to Minnesota, while the latest rumors surrounding Blount potentially had him on Baltimore’s radar.

Prior to that the Giants had shown interest, but all indications seem to point to the fact that ship has sailed, so it looks like we can cross that off as a possibility.

Jamison Hensley of ESPN made a strong case for Blount coming to Baltimore in a column Tuesday, and he believes it’s the best fit for the former Patriots running back.

Unfortunately the fact that Blount hasn’t lured a suitor before now has worked against his former team, who despite the lack of compensation, will continue to move on without him.

Mangold Doesn’t Have Patriots On His Radar – While the Patriots may just have David Andrews at center, free agent Nick Mangold doesn’t seem to see Foxboro as his landing spot.

According to Mangold, who spent 11-years in New York with the Jets, he doesn’t believe that Bill Belichick would be interested in his services considering some of the fierce battles the two teams have had during his career.

“That would be awfully difficult,” he said Tuesday on SiriusXM NFL radio via ESPN. “I’ve got to assume that after years of all the battles that I’ve had with New England, I don’t think Bill’s all that fond of me.”

Mangold was cut by the Jets back in February in what appeared to be a salary cap related move following a season where he missed eight games due to a foot injury in 2016.

The battles have certainly been heated, including an incident initiated by Mangold in a match-up back during a 13-10 win over New York in 2013 where the Jets center put a vicious shot on former defensive back Aqib Talib following a game-sealing interception.

Looking back, Mangold clearly went low at Talib as the defensive back was going out of bounds, although he didn’t believe he did anything wrong after on play.

“I made the tackle. He was obviously along the sideline and I thought he was still in inbounds. I thought it was a good tackle and apparently it was not and that’s how they saw it and it started a little ruckus,” he said via the NY Daily News. “Obviously it’s an intense game and an intense rivalry and tempers flare.”

Mangold wasn’t fined after the game, although New England’s Michael Buchanan, Alfonzo Dennard and Vince Wilfork were hit with a penalty of $7,875 each after the league went back and reviewed the footage and determined they threw punches during the exchange that broke out after the play.  Chandler Jones was also fined $15,750 for a hit on Jets QB Geno Smith, where the league deemed that he hit Smith in the head and neck area.

While the league determined there was nothing wrong with Mangold’s hit, Belichick clearly didn’t think very highly of it, with the coach visibly heated and yelling at the Jets’ center after the play.

Mangold mocked him after the game, questioning the coach’s poise.

“He got a little heated about it, and I was a little surprised by that. I figured he’d have a little more poise,” quipped Mangold.  “There was decent amount of yelling, but I guess you’ll have to go to the NFL (microphones). I’m sure they got plenty.”

Yeah…maybe Belichick wouldn’t want him after all.


Bill Polian seems to be hoping Brady retires sooner rather than later.

Polian Spouts off – This was left until the end because Bill Polian’s issues just boggle the mind and while ignoring it would have been preferable, it’s too relevant and ridiculous to just let it go.

The old saying, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” should have applied here but on his show on SiriusXM NFL Radio,  Polian couldn’t resist taking advantage of the fact he had a microphone in front of him and decided to add some locker room material during the month of May as he took some verbal shots at the team that continues to make him miserable.

According to WEEI’s Ryan Hannable, who caught the segment, Polian was asked by a caller about how the Bills can ever compete with the Patriots in the AFC East?

Brace yourself.  Your IQ is about to drop.

“Tom Brady was a quarter away from losing the Super Bowl last year pretty decisively,” Polian said. “They are a great team. They are not as great as people think they are.”

“They’re not invincible. What they are is exceptionally well-constructed and exceptionally well-coached. But, Tom Brady isn’t going to play forever. He showed some signs of being human last year on a number of occasions, including in the Super Bowl.”

Please…just make it stop.

Polian left out the fact that while the Patriots aren’t invincible, Indianapolis is in the middle of a seven game losing streak dating back to 2010.  So maybe his comments had more to do with his own inner monologue hoping Brady will hang it up and Belichick will leave the coaching ranks.

The bad news is, the two are still going strong with no signs of slowing down.  That leaves Polian without much to look forward to aside from his radio show, and he’s clearly trying to make the most of it.

An Early Projection for the Patriots Starting Lineup, Better, Stronger, Faster

Steve Balestrieri
May 8, 2017 at 9:08 am ET

The NFL Draft is in the books, free agency has been fruitful, and the Patriots have made a flurry of initial UDFA moves. Barring any late moves or last minute trades, the initial roster of the 2017 Patriots should now be set.

As it stands now on paper, the roster for this season’s team looks better than the one that just won the Super Bowl. But as Bill Belichick has frequently said, you never really know what each season’s team will be like until Thanksgiving. Lots of things can and will change, injuries occur, and some players’ production will either rise or fall inside the system. Tweaks to the roster always occur during the season.

But what we see now should constitute the bulk of this year’s team. Confidence is high as always in New England. And for a team that has won 10 or more games for 14 straight seasons, why should there be any other feeling?

So here is a quick projection for the starting lineup for the 2017 Patriots

Offense:
Quarterback:

Tom Brady: Well duh? No change from last year or the 15 years prior. While the talk remains that eventually, his play is going to fall off a cliff due to his age, at this point, it is a lot of wishful thinking for a lot of non-Patriots supporters. His play, especially in the 2nd half of Super Bowl LI shows he’s still at the top of the heap in regard to NFL QBs.

His backups remain Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. The rumor mill for Jimmy G. had him being traded this offseason but he’s still here, at least for 2017 and should any injury occur, he’ll be ready to step in.


James White is among a crowded Patriots backfield this season.

Running Back:

James White: After a Super Bowl where he could have easily been named the MVP, White has been given a nice raise and contract extension. And with the Patriots being a passing team first, White has proven to be a trusted, capable weapon in the offense.

But the Patriots are a matchup team that uses a rotation of running backs so their roster of backs doesn’t really have a starter per se, it will depend on how they match up against an opponent. Mike Gillislee will have a big role, taking over the big back i.e. LeGarrette Blount role. Something to consider, New England runs the ball on third down much more so than most fans would believe, so Gillislee will have a big role.

Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis, who should be completely healthy now round out the RB options. James Develin remains the fullback. Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster, and LeShun Daniels are longshots for the roster at this point.

Wide Receiver:

Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks: The Patriots brought in the speedster Cooks who was very productive in New Orleans this offseason. He’ll move around from outside to the slot depending on the matchups. A look at the top three with Edelman, Hogan, and Cooks shows that all of them can do the same. That makes for a very difficult group to cover. The versatility factor makes this group even more dangerous.

Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola are the primary backups and they’ve shown that they’ve earned Brady’s circle of trust. Mitchell came on in the second half of his rookie season and should be ready for more production in Year 2.

Devin Lucien, Devin Street, and Cody Hollister are longshots for the roster.


Rob Gronkowski is once again the Patriots top TE Option heading into 2017.

Tight End:

Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen: Gronkowski returns healthy for 2017 and Allen was brought over in a rare trade with the Colts, replacing Martellus Bennett who left in free agency. Gronk, when healthy remains the gold standard for NFL tight ends. Allen is an excellent blocker that can be very productive in the passing game who can attack the seams of the defense.

There is now plenty of depth behind them with James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, Rob Housler and Jacob Hollister fighting it out for a roster slot and repetitions. Training camp competition will be interesting to watch here.

Tackle:

Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon: No changes here from 2016. Solder returned from IR and played very solid in 2016. He’s in the last year of his contract and the Patriots must decide this year if they want him to return in 2018. Cannon was the biggest pleasant surprise of 2016. He parlayed a contract extension into a very solid campaign under the able tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia.

The team drafted a potential replacement for Solder in 2018 or beyond with Antonio Garcia. They added another tackle in the late rounds of the draft with Conor McDermott. He’ll be fighting backups Michael Williams, Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle for reps and a roster slot.

Guard:

Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason: No changes here from 2016. Thuney came in and started from Day 1 at left guard. As can be expected, he struggled a bit as a rookie and needs to come back stronger for his second season. Mason is a tough, road grader in the running game and will be looking to improve as well in 2017.

Primary backups should be Jamil Douglas who was brought over in midseason from Miami who was a 4th round draft pick in 2015 and Chris Barker.

Center:

David Andrews: No change here from 2016. Andrews is a bit undersized for the position but is smart and tough. He won over Tom Brady during training camp last year because of his ability to make the line calls and seeing the field much like Brady did.

His backup remains Ted Karras, the tough but less mobile version of Andrews. Karras can also play guard as well, the versatility that the coaching staff loves.


Flowers had a strong showing in 2016.

Defense:
Defensive End:

Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy: Lots of changes here. Gone are last season’s Week 1 starters Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard via free agency. But Flowers, who came on strong in the 2nd half of the season was the team’s best defensive lineman down the stretch and should be primed for a very solid 2017. Ealy was brought over from the Panthers as well as a 3rd round pick for the Patriots 2nd rounder.

Lots of good depth here now, Rob Ninkovich will play both DE and OLB and fill in where he’s needed and may still lobby for starting duties. Top draft choice Derek Rivers gives the team the speed and athleticism from the edge. Deatrich Wise is a bigger, edge setting end who can kick inside as an interior pass rusher. Lawrence Guy is another big man who can play inside as an interior tackle or on the edge. Geneo Grissom is on the outside looking in this year.

Tackle:

Malcom Brown, Alan Branch: No changes to the starting lineup. Brown played solidly in Year 2 but could stand to improve his pocket push in 2017. Branch was excellent against the run in 2016, eating up a ton of space. He returns with a new deal and has played the best football of his career since coming to New England.

Backups include Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, Guy, Darius Kilgo, and UDFA Josh Augusta who is one of the players to watch in training camp. He’s a huge space eater who could be one of the surprise players to stick on the roster.

Linebacker:

Dont’a Hightower, Jonathan Freeny: Wait, what? People forget Freeny, a Bill Belichick favorite was a starter for the defense a year ago until landing on IR. Hightower got a new deal after testing free agency and not finding the market he envisioned out there. He’s the glue that holds the defense together for the Pats. He calls the defense and is the guy they need in the middle. He can do it all, stuff the run, cover in the flat and blitz up the A-gaps. Hightower’s starting slot is secure, Freeny will have to re-earn his spot this summer. But for now, he’s in.

Backups include sub-package third down players Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy, run-stuffer Elandon Roberts, Ninkovich, Trevor Bates and UDFA Harvey Langi. Langi is one of my players to watch this summer.

Since the Patriots spend so much time in sub-packages, we only include two starting linebackers, therefore…


Butler’s potential return solidifies a terrific secondary.

Cornerback:

Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe: The team gave Gilmore a big money contract this spring during free agency. And after a contentious period with Butler, he signed his free-agent tender and has been in for off-season workouts. Rowe is a big matchup corner and gives the Patriots a very solid starting three. Each has the versatility to be shifted around and play outside or in the slot depending on how Belichick and Matt Patricia choose to use them.

Backups include Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Coleman, Jonathan Jones, and intriguing UDFA D.J. Killings who for now, is a long shot for the roster.

Safety:

Devin McCourty, Pat Chung: No changes here from 2016. McCourty is the QB for the secondary and always ensures that the players in are in the right position. He plays the centerfield position in the base defense and can slide up to play in the slot in the “big nickel”. Chung is the guy in the box, he plays physical against the run and he’ll cover tight ends in the short to intermediate range.

Duron Harmon was brought back with a nice deal in free agency. He plays a lot of snaps and replaces McCourty as the center fielder in big nickel coverage. Jordan Richards has been disappointing thus far. Nate Ebner and Brandon King are special teamers.

Special Teams:

Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater: The team’s specialists remain the same. Gostkowski will have training camp competition for the first time in a while from Josh Gable, known more for his trick shots. Punter Ryan Allen and LS Joe Cardona face no competition. Slater is a perennial Pro-Bowl gunner.

So, with the additions made in the draft and free agency, the Patriots look …on paper in a prime position to compete for another Super Bowl bid. Of course, injuries and other factors always weigh in but there are no holes on the roster as it currently stands. They’ve addressed their needs across the board and look even better than the team that won 14 games in the regular season and three more in the playoffs in 2016.

Is it time for mini-camp yet?

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