Tag Archives: 2019 NFL Draft

Taking Stock of the First Week of Patriots Training Camp

Steve Balestrieri
July 29, 2019 at 8:18 am ET

A shortened week is now complete with two padded and two unpadded practices for the Patriots as they began their 2019 training camp. This week, they’ll begin by enshrining Rodney Harrison and Leon Gray into the team’s Hall of Fame and then conduct their in-stadium practice on Monday night. Unlike the other training camp practices, this one is open only to season ticket holders and I believe Foxboro residents.

So let’s take a look at the first practices and get some of the highlights of the camp thus far and how the team is shaping up in the early going. 

Health Still a Concern In Some Areas:

Julian Edelman and Yodny Cajuste are still on the NFI. Cole Croston, Demaryius Thomas, Nate Ebner, and Ken Webster are on PUP. Sony Michel, Isaiah Wynn, and David Andrews have returned to practice in a limited way while Dontrelle Inman and Bryon Cowart missed the last sessions. 

With Cajuste and Croston out and Wynn limited, it has been pushing the depth at tackle, especially left tackle…more to that below. 

Defense Looking Very Strong in Early Going:

The Patriots defense thus far in the camp has been very impressive. As is the norm in training camp, the defense begins usually slightly ahead of the offense. And this year is no exception. They look better (at this point) than the team that took the field for the Super Bowl in February. 

Deep, Talented Secondary – We’ve been writing that all spring long and they’ve been giving the receivers a tough time. Stephon Gilmore has continued right where he left off in the Super Bowl. He’s only been targeted twice that we’ve seen in team drills and hasn’t given up a reception. J.C. Jackson is steadily improving over his very solid rookie season and will push to be the starter opposite Gilmore. Jonathan Jones is quietly having a very good camp, something he’s used to, he’s rarely if ever mentioned as one of the better slot corners in the league, but he is and appears entrenched as a starter thus far. 

The safeties are deep with Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, and Duron Harmon all returning and on the field, although Chung is still wearing a red no-contact jersey. But the competition behind them is getting intriguing to watch. Terrence Brooks is the next man on the depth chart, he was given a nice contract with $1.3 million guaranteed, he’s a special teams ace who can fill in on defense. He’s battling with Obi Melifonwu who has stood out in limited action with three interceptions thus far. With Ebner on PUP, Melifonwu got some extended looks with the STs units. Something to monitor. 

Linebackers Are Stacked – The Patriots return Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts from their playoff run, but they added Jamie Collins and got back impressive 2nd-year player Ja’Whaun Bentley from IR and appear even better heading into 2019. 

The depth allows them to move Collins, Hightower, and Van Noy around to attack favorable matchups and be more aggressive. How they plan on utilizing Collins should be a fun thing to watch. Unheralded Calvin Munson, a long-shot to make the roster is quietly having a good camp in the early going. 

D-Line Much Better Suited to Stopping the Run – When free agency rolled around, we were touting that the Patriots needed to sign Mike Pennel, the run-stuffing nose tackle from the Jets. That met with a lot of “who?”, even from our own podcast. But Pennel and Lawrence Guy appear to be a solid tandem in the middle. During goal-line drills on Sunday, Pennel blew up one play, pushing into the backfield and stopping Brandon Bolden for a loss. 

The edge players got a boost from the arrival of Michael Bennett on Sunday, who flew straight from Hawaii to Boston and came straight to practice to dominate, jet-lagged and all on the field. Deatrich Wise is still not 100 percent but veterans Derek Rivers, John Simon, and rookie Chase Winovich have all looked good thus far.

Wide Receiver Competition Heating Up: 

With Julian Edelman on NFI, this opened the door for some of the other wide receivers to get more playing time with Tom Brady and carve out a role. Rookie N’Keal Harry has been getting outstanding tutelage from former Patriot Troy Brown as well as the daily side sessions with Brady and McDaniels. 

Maurice Harris has been the best, most consistent player on the field, he catches just about everything thrown his way and would appear to be well on his way to earning not just a roster spot but a nice role in the offense as well. Phillip Dorsett still appears to be an enigma. He has all the tools, and when called on, usually produces. But one would think he’d be a bigger go-to guy by now. 

Braxton Berrios is still with the second tier of receivers in the early going. After a nice spring, there was hope that he’d use the Edelman downtime more to his advantage. Two undrafted rookie WRs to monitor are Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Meyers is a big, (6,2, 200) slot receiver who is a converted QB. Because he knows the responsibilities of the players on the field, he knows where the soft spots are in the coverages. His number hasn’t been called a lot, but he’s producing when it is and could be that next undrafted free agent to make the team. Plus, he’s been a frequent participant in the side sessions with Brady and McDaniels.

Olszewski is the undersized, underdog who is scrapping his way into work every day. He competes hard in drills and returns kicks and punts and is giving the coaches a reason every day to keep him around. 

Biggest disappointment thus far is Dontrelle Inman. He had a very quiet spring followed by some forgettable practices in camp and then on Sunday was a no-show. He hasn’t improved his bubble position and may find himself in a weaker position now.

But the one constant is the deep running back position, even with Sony Michel just getting back to work and Tom Brady. The backs, especially Brandon Bolden and impressive rookie Damien Harris are getting a lot of reps in the running game.

Brady looks … like Brady. Forget about the age talk and the endless “cliff” nonsense. He looks as good, if not better than he did a decade ago. Nuff said. Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham are getting the back up work while Danny Etling is being transitioned to wide receiver.

Bennett Puts Retirement Rumors to Rest, Dominates: 

Michael Bennett was excused from the Patriots first three practices due to a family situation. Bennett said, he saw the retirement rumors at home and laughed at those. He said he’s never quit at anything, even checkers with his daughter.

Bill Belichick allowed him the time to take care of his situation. After practice on Sunday, Bennett was effusive in his praise of Belichick for allowing that time.

“It’s nice when you have a coach that sees you as a human, sees you as a human being, not just a number and you’re able to go talk to him, tell him what’s going on, and you’re able to go take care of it,” Bennett said to the media. “That just makes you want to play harder for a coach. When he believes in you, and lets you take care of your family first.”

Belichick had to love Bennett’s comments about training camp, not as a necessary evil but as an opportunity to learn and show his teammates what he can bring to the table. 

“I think it’s important,” he said. “Training camp is always fun. It’s another time to get a chance to work with young guys, and you get a chance to work on your skills and prove yourself every day.”

Bennett cracked a joke and said that he told linebackers coach (and defensive signal-caller) Jerod Mayo that he wasn’t going to listen to him, “because we’re the same age.” The two have known each other for some time and worked out together in the offseason in the past. 

“It’s nice to have a young guy who knows the plays, who lived the defense, and he just knows,” Bennett said. “You trust the way that he plays because he played in the game and you know he knows the call. He was the leader before, so to have him in the huddle every single time, you can’t let him down because he’s been in the game.”

Bennett acted like a guy who has been here all along and was a dominant force in one-on-one battles and in team drills. Like his predecessor Trey Flowers, the Patriots plan on using him inside and outside and Sunday was just the tip of the iceberg.

Tight End Still a Work in Progress:

The Patriots have totally revamped the tight end position, with Gronk retired, Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister no longer with the team. Matt LaCosse had a strong spring and is trying to parlay that into getting some meaningful reps come September. So far, that looks like the case.

Ben Watson, doesn’t look like a 38-year old guy who contemplated retirement this spring. He’s moving like someone ten years younger. But with his upcoming 4-game suspension looming, that opens the door for other players to carve out their own roles in the offense. Watson has been a frequent side session participant with Brady and McDaniels. They were working on red zone opportunities on Saturday.   

Move tight end Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, and UDFA Andrew Beck are all in the mix for a roster spot. It is pretty much a wide-open competition right now with no one having firm control over anything. Just before camp began the Patriots signed Lance Kendricks, the former Packer tight end was an afterthought in the Green Bay offense the past two years but may see an uptick in looks if everything works out. 

“This is a special place, obviously,” Kendricks said after Day 3. “This is a championship team. They know how to play football. They know how to win games. They know how to do it the right way, so it’s a no-brainer.”

So far, he’s gotten some work in but despite his veteran pedigree, he’s in no better position than anyone else right now, he’ll have to earn his spot. 

Tackle Still a Concern For Now:

With Trent Brown now a Raider (and an extremely well-paid one), the depth at tackle is concerning. The Patriots are set at right tackle with Marcus Cannon but the left and swing tackle positions are still areas of concern with depth and availability issues. 

Isaiah Wynn is still being eased into the mix after recovering from last year’s Achilles surgery. Third round draft pick Yodny Cajuste is on NFI recovering from offseason quad surgery and has yet to appear. Jared Veldheer retired before training camp. Cole Croston is on PUP.

With these issues, the Patriots have moved Joe Thuney over to left tackle throughout the spring and early camp practice sessions. That put Ted Karras at left guard. On Sunday, the Patriots gave 6’9 tackle Dan Skipper and Cedric Lang reps with the first team. Neither fared well. Skipper, despite his size, failed to generate any push in the running game and both struggled with pass protection. 

This will bear watching as we move forward. However, if history is any indication, and it is… Dante Scarnecchia will get things sorted out. 

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

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

PatsFans.com Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 1.0

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

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

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

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham

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

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

Running backs: (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense –

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

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

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

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

Linebacker: (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 and game analysis.

Patriots Are Bringing Back Jamie Collins… A Surprise Move

Steve Balestrieri
May 16, 2019 at 6:30 am ET

In a surprising move, the Patriots are bringing back another one of their former players. Linebacker Jamie Collins, a second-round draft pick in 2013 is reportedly signing with New England.

The news was first reported from the Boston Globe’s Jim McBride.

Collins was drafted as an uber-athletic linebacker who at times was dominant on the Patriots defense. The Patriots used him in a variety of ways in his first stint with the team. He and Dont’a Hightower provided a dangerous blitzing tandem up the A-gap, he could play the SAM or the WILL and would drop into coverage. Before being traded to the Browns, he played in 57 regular season and playoff games with the Patriots.

He got a Pro-Bowl berth and a Super Bowl as a member of the 2014 Patriots team that beat Seattle. After being traded Collins signed a 4-year, $50 million dollar extension with the Browns.

The surprising part is unlike Ben Watson who left as a free agent, Collins left under a cloud and was traded to Cleveland for a 3rd round compensatory pick, something the Patriots would have surely have gotten if he left as a free agent the next spring. On his way out of town, Collins was called a freelancer by former team exec Michael Lombardi. Lombardi also said that his work ethic was spotty and that the linebacker wouldn’t always put the effort in that the Patriots required.

In his last game as a Patriot, he barely saw the field against the Buffalo Bills, and on the first play in the game, did exactly the opposite of what was called and was burned for a 28-yard play. One can also recall the 2015 AFC Championship Game when a on-his-last-legs Owen Daniels, a tight end for the Broncos torched the Pats for a pair of touchdowns down the seam. So, while many are excited about his return, that should be tempered against the reasons why he was traded in the first place.

The Patriots will obviously have a plan to use the athletically talented Collins in this defense. And obviously, with Jerod Mayo now as the inside linebacker coach, Collins’ return is something the staff must feel strongly enough behind to make it happen.

In a perfect world, if he’s motivated and buying in then he could provide a versatile, athletic option to an already solid position. The Patriots still have Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts as their top three options. Last year’s rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley was impressive before getting hurt in Detroit and landing on IR.

Bentley, in particular, is an intriguing case. He was impressive all summer long and in his first few games but definitely seems like he’d have a role in the defense. One would hate to see his development take a step back in Year 2.

Christian Sam is another athletic linebacker who was drafted last year but was hurt in training camp. The team also has the versatile John Simon and third-round pick Chase Winovich who can play DE or OLB.

So, Collins roster spot is hardly guaranteed, he’ll be expected to earn his way on the team this summer. With this deal, the devil is in the details. It will be interesting to see what the Patriots are paying Collins. Anything much more than the veteran minimum would be a surprise.

Collins’ time in Cleveland was marked by only so-so play and at times he looked like he suffered from indifferent play. At least one player will be happy to see him return. Hightower took to Twitter to post: ✔@zeus30hightower

He’s back……[email protected]_collins91 #SmashBros back!

The Patriots, already at the 90-man limit will be forced to make a corresponding roster move and release someone. Collins reportedly will be back in Foxboro for the team’s offseason program 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 Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

New England Patriots News 4-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 28, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-28 and AFC East Notes.

“Havlicek Stole the Ball!” RIP to a Boston Celtics legend John Havlicek who passed away this week at age 79. Older Celtics fans will always remember that iconic call when he sealed a victory against the 76ers. An iconic member of the Celtics, he’ll be missed.

Draft Quick Hitters:

Patriots Draft Room has to be the sparsest populated room in the league this weekend. I kept seeing other teams’ inside of their “war room” and there were tons of people in each. The Patriots draft room looked like a pretty lonely place, with very select people inside.

Nashville did a tremendous job with the draft this year. People came out in droves and it was located right smack in the middle of everything. Setting the bar high

DJ Metcalf had the most emotional moment of being drafted, the clip of him weeping openly on the phone even got HC Pete Carroll misty

Pat McAfee’s spot during the draft was absolute gold….watch it again, you’ll be happy that you did.

Kyle Rudolph is reportedly on the trading block after the Vikings drafted Irv Smith Jr. from Alabama. Don’t know why, however, Rudolph, who turns 30 in late November had 64 catches a year ago….hmmm

Tyreek Hill was captured on audio tape by his fiance in a very disturbing turn of events in the case of Hill’s 3-year old son who allegedly had his arm broken by the Chiefs wide receiver. Initially, prosecutors declined to press charges even though they were convinced a crime had been committed. Now in light of the audio tape, they’re re-opening the investigation.

On the tape, Hill threatened his girlfriend Crystal Espinal Espinal told Hill their son is “terrified of you.”

Hill replied, “You need to be terrified of me, too, b***h”

Later, Espinal asks Hill, “What do you do when the child is bad? You make him open up his arms and you punch him in the chest.”

Because of this development, Hill has been barred from the Chiefs facility during their voluntary strength and conditioning workouts. He may have played his last game in a Chiefs uniform over this incident.

Dont’a Hightower and David Andrews made the Patriots first picks in the second round of the draft on Friday night. Hightower tweaked the crowd, who regardless of the venue likes to boo every Patriots mention, with the “THE CHAMPS select” …classic.

Apples and Oranges –  When mentioning the Hill investigation, fans are jumping all over the NFL by stating that while Hill has still not been suspended, Josh Gordon remains indefinitely suspended. While the NFL’s discipline decisions are always skewed, comparing the two cases is not a good comparison. Whether we agree with the league’s choice of making marijuana suspendable, Gordon has violated the rule multiple times. Hill is going to be suspended, the league is still gathering the facts. His earlier transgression occurred before he was a member of the league. Now the only question will be, how soon another team rushes in to sign him once he’s released by KC. Which, while they’re “deeply disturbed”, they’ve yet to move on releasing him. Why is a good question at this point.

Meet the 2019 Patriots Draft Class:

The Patriots have made several key additions to the team thus far. Let’s take a quick look at each of the new members of the 2019 Draft Class.

N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona St. – The Patriots needed a big, physical wide receiver and they went out and got one of the best ones in the class. Harry was very productive (213 catches in 37 games) and he’ll make those contested catches as well as use his body to box out defenders.

JoeJuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt – Williams played in the very competitive SEC and is a very big press corner who is physical and will make jarring tackles in run support and has the length to contest passes all over the field. While not a speed merchant, he moves well for a big corner and possesses good agility.

Chase Winovich, Edge, Michigan – Winovich is bound to be an early crowd favorite with his long flowing blonde locks, big personality, and non-stop motor. For a bigger man, he runs well, has good agility and is a disruptor behind the line of scrimmage.

Damien Harris, RB, Alabama – is a good, tough, run between the tackles kind of running back who keeps his pad level low and has the burst to get to the outside. He’s patient, and gets good yardage after contact. An excellent pass blocker and an underrated receiver with good hands.

Yodny Cajuste, T, West Virginia – Cajuste is a big left tackle that will probably move to the right side in the NFL. He has good balance, agility, and quickness for the position and will probably function as the team’s swing tackle in 2019.

Hjalte Froholdt, G, Arkansas – Froholdt is a 6’4, 306-pound guard/center who played under Pats coach Bret Bielema. He was one of the most highly graded interior offensive linemen in pass protection in 2018. Team captain.

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn – Stidham has a strong arm and mechanics and can make all of the NFL throws. NFL analyst Daniel Jerimiah said he throws the best ball in the draft. But his footwork is sloppy and he can often wait too long to pull the trigger. Struggled under pressure. Very much a developmental prospect. However, Danny Etling will have camp competition.

Byron Cowart, DE, Maryland –  Cowart is 6’3, 298 interior defensive lineman who went to Auburn and then transferred to junior college before landing in Maryland. Played as a five-technique or can move to a three-technique. Has the potential to be an interior pocket pusher.

Jake Bailey, P, Stanford – The Patriots moved up in the draft to select a punter. Yes, we really said that. However, he had the best hang time in the country in 2018 and can also kickoff with about 60 percent touchback rate. And he is a right-footed punter, unlike the past few Pats punters who were lefties.

Ken Webster, CB, Ole Miss – The Patriots final draft pick is another corner from Ole Miss. Webster is athletic (4.43 in the 40, 43.0 vertical, 6.85 Three Cone). He’s aggressive and a good tackler, but after a good start at Ole Miss, he never made the leap. It’s going to be tough for him with seven other viable corners on the roster to make this team.

Now come the first of the undrafted free agents, look for about a dozen or more to make their way to Foxboro in the coming days.

Brady “Must” Be At OTAs Now? Child Please

Talk about your classic case of overreaction, no sooner than the Patriots had drafted one of the best wide receivers in the class, then the hot take artists immediately descended on the team to rain on the parade. In the latest example of “It’s never sunny in Foxboro”, the chatter is already starting on how N’Keal Harry’s development is going to “be stunted” if Tom Brady decides to skip OTAs again this spring.

“We don’t want you on that wall Tom, we NEED YOU on that wall.” Really?

Harry is coming in with a clean slate, he is a rookie and because of his draft standing here, there is going to be an insane amount expectations and production that fans and media will envision. Right now, he needs to learn the playbook and the route tree for the wide receivers. That is plenty of work right there in itself.

Thrusting him into the mix and then putting the onus on he and Brady getting chemistry on Day 1 will not be beneficial to either. He’ll have enough on his plate and by working with Josh McDaniels and backups Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling he can ease into the playbook and learn his responsibilities…first.

Brady skipped OTAs for a reason a year ago, and it had nothing to do with him feuding with Bill Belichick. As he’s aging, he needs to keep fresher for the season. Having him in good form in December and January is more important than him being here in April.

Brady will no doubt work very closely with Harry in the upcoming weeks and months. Would having him prove beneficial to both? Of course, but not at the expense of him losing his sharpness down the stretch or in the playoffs.

Early on Friday morning, I had this exact conversation with someone and they said, Brady and Josh Gordon struggled with their chemistry early in the process. And while true, my answer to that is Gordon entered in mid-season and first played in Week 4 against the Dolphins. That’s quite different with the team trying to prepare for a regular season opponent than it is working out in the spring.

There will be plenty of time for those two to work out and build their chemistry together. But this talk about Brady stunting Harry’s development is nothing more than to give the hot-take artists fodder for weeks.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Offensive Line Leads the Way for a Revamped Roster:

The Buffalo Bills have really done a roster do-over, where half of the team in 2019 may be actually new players. But nowhere will the roster appear different in 2019 than the offensive line. Buffalo identified a weakness a year ago in the poor play of the offensive line and they have aggressively set out to rectify it.

Buffalo signed six free agent offensive linemen including former Patriot LaAdrian Waddle and then drafted Cody Ford from Oklahoma. Ford will obviously get one of the tackle spots. At guard, they signed free agents Quinton Spain, Spencer Long, and Jon Feliciano. They moved up in the draft to get Dawson Knox from Ole Miss at TE and took Devin Singletary at running back.

They got Ed Oliver to anchor the heart of the defense, although I wasn’t a fan of the Vosean Joseph pick at linebacker. But the Bills had a very successful spring.

Dolphins Get the Steal of the Draft, Nab Rosen for Two Picks:

The Miami Dolphins now have their quarterback. Miami packaged a 2nd round draft pick, #62 overall and a 5th rounder in 2020 to get Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals. Rosen was in an uncomfortable situation as he was drafted with the #10 pick just a year ago.

But the Cardinals were enamored with Kyler Murray and jettisoned Rosen after just one year. Their loss is Miami’s gain. Miami got a steal and for a late 2nd rounder got a QB who a top ten pick and then saddled with a terrible team a year ago.

With Ryan Fitzpatrick onboard, the onus on Rosen right now will be to learn the playbook and find a comfort level in the offense. But rest assured, as soon as Fitzpatrick struggles…and he will, the calls will come for the Dolphins to put him in. This is a very low risk, high reward for the Dolphins. The AFC East now has Brady and three young players selected in the 1st round just a year ago.

Jets Add Quinnen Williams in the Draft:

The New York Jets added one of the best players (arguably the best IMHO) in the draft in Quinnen Williams. The Alabama star should be a fixture of the defensive line for many years to come. He is a dominant player and will immediately become a guy opposing teams will have to account for on every down.

I wasn’t a fan of Jachai Polite and was surprised the Jets took him over Chase Winovich, who the Patriots scooped up after the fact. But my favorite pick for the Jets after Williams is their 4th round TE Trevon Wesco. We raved about his blocking ability and versatility during the pre-draft process. He could become an emerging pass catcher as well.

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“What was your impression of the draft in Nashville? So, how was your week?”

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

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

Busy Draft Day 2 For the Patriots As They Add Four More Players

Steve Balestrieri
April 27, 2019 at 6:27 am ET

BThe Patriots were busy on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft in Rounds 2-3 and were making trades in addition to adding players. They entered Friday evening with five draft choices. When all was said and done, they maneuvered up and down around the board and made four selections.

The team addressed some areas of need and added players to positions that were already strong. On Friday night they added the following new players:

JoeJuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt
Chase Winovich, DE, Michigan
Damien Williams, RB, Alabama
Yodny Cajuste, T, West Virginia

JoeJuan Williams, #45: Williams joins an already loaded cornerback position, so it most definitely wasn’t a position of need. But by moving up 11 spots in the draft, Williams is someone they definitely coveted. The Patriots got the #45 pick for #56 and #101 selections in the draft.

Williams is a big, nearly 6’4, 217-pound corner who is very aggressive and physical. He’ll obviously be used in matchups with big WRs or TEs. One can foresee the Patriots using Williams, who doesn’t have great speed as their corner with help over the top with a safety. People have been already projecting him, because of his size to be a Brandon Browner-type player.

But he joins a very crowded CB position with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Keion Crossen, and Duke Dawson. With so many quality corners, one has to wonder if someone is going to be moved in a trade.

The Patriots then traded down from #64 with Seattle and added two picks #77 and #118. Then they traded down again, moving picks #73 and #205 to the Bears for #87, #172 and a 2020 4th Round pick. Confused yet?

Chase Winovich, #77: The Patriots then selected the athletic and big personality Winovich from Michigan. Winovich runs well (4.59 in the 40), and has a penchant for making plays in the backfield with 15.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2018.

He’s very disruptive and asked to describe himself to the NE media said, “I like to think of myself as a junkyard dog…Tenacious.” To say he has a high motor is an understatement. He sets the edge very well and creates pressure on the QB.

He joins Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Umfomba Kamalu, and Trent Harris at the edge for the Patriots.

Damien Harris, #87: While again, not a position of need, the Patriots added the three-year starter from Alabama to the mix at running back. Harris is 5’11, 217 and a team captain, strong locker room presence and a very experienced special teams player. He’ll be an immediate fit.

Harris will immediately inject youth and a dose of physicality to the position. The team was hurting there in 2018 and had to move Cordarrelle Patterson to the position for a while. Harris is productive (ran for over 3000 yards at Alabama), runs low and hard between the tackles, is very good in short-yardage situations and is a reliable pass catcher. He’s also an excellent pass blocker.

Will the Patriots keep all five running backs, Harris, Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, and Brandon Bolden this year? We’ll have to see.

The team then traded back again with picks #97 and #162 going to the Rams getting their pick #101 back as well as #133.

Yodny Cajuste, #101: Cajuste from West Virginia is probably the Patriots swing tackle for 2019, and a replacement for LaAdrian Waddle who went to the Bills in free agency. He has prototypical size at 6’5, 312 pounds and was pretty nimble for a big man.

Cajuste was a starter for 2.5 years for the Mountaineers and is a very good pass blocker. His work in the running game is inconsistent as WV was a definite pass-first offense. He has excellent balance, agility, and quickness for the position.

Cajuste has an injury history but will have time to work on his craft with Dante Scarnecchia and could move into a starting role by Year 2. Pro Football Weekly had Cajuste as their #4 rated tackle in their pre-draft publication.

On Day 3 the Patriots have three fourth-round picks (#118, #133, #134) and four seventh-rounders (#239, #243, #246, #252). We would expect them to add a TE, S and another developmental QB at some point today. Stay tuned.

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

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

ICYMI PHOTO: Tom Brady Shares Good Luck Message To 2019 NFL Draft Prospects

Robert Alvarez
at 12:35 am ET

Before the NFL Draft, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady shared a good luck message over Instagram to all the 2019 college prospects.

“Good luck to all the players eager to have their name called at the @nfl draft. Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Practice good habits, on and off the field, day after day, and you can accomplish your dreams. This is a special time, but you’re only at the starting line. The real work starts next week, when the cameras stop, and nobody is watching. You wake up every day to decide what you want to become! What better of an opportunity is that? You have to earn it, EVERY DAY!”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwssPPNB-0U/

Brady later poked fun at his selection on Twitter while also providing additional encouragement for players selected in later rounds.

VIDEO: Patriots Behind The Scenes Moments From The First Two Days Of The NFL Draft

Robert Alvarez
at 12:15 am ET

Through three rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots added five new collegiate talents to their roster.

Check out some behind the scenes video shared by the Patriots social media team during the selection process for N’Keal Harry, Joejuan Williams, and Chase Winovich.

VIDEO: Fitzy And Francis Greeting Fans & Making Friends In Draftsville, TN

Robert Alvarez
at 12:05 am ET

On Thursday, Fitzy and Francis hit the streets of Nashville, Tennessee to chat with football fans before the start of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Check out all their funny encounters below.

WARNING: NSFW, Language.

For more Fitzy Patriots videos, check out his YouTube channel or townienews.com

N’Keal Harry Shows Off Patriots Colors In Twitter Photo

Robert Alvarez
at 12:05 am ET

N’Keal Harry can’t wait to sport his New England Patriots colors.

On Twitter Friday night, Harry showed off a photoshopped image of himself in a Patriots uniform.

“Couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity @Patriots. Let’s get to work!” Harry said in the tweet.

Following his selection, quarterback Tom Brady tweeted out a welcome message to his newest offensive weapon.

WATCH: Dont’a Hightower Shows Off His Rings During Pick Announcement

Robert Alvarez
April 26, 2019 at 11:51 pm ET

New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower brought a little extra flair to Nashville during the NFL Draft Friday night.

Hightower, a Tennessee native, was chosen to announce the Patriots first selection in the third round.

When Hightower stepped to the podium, he wasted no time showing off his first two Super Bowl rings with a funny scratch of his face before stating the pick.

“With the 45th pick in 2019 NFL Draft, The champs select JoeJuan Williams DB Vanderbilt” Hightower said with a smile.

Hightower will add to his ring collection at a team party later on this summer celebrating the Super Bowl LIII championship.

A few Patriots shared their reaction to the rings.