Tag Archives: 2019 Patriots offseason

New England Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 2.0

Steve Balestrieri
August 5, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

With the Patriots first ten days of training camp over, it is time to take another crack at our New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. With eight practices in, several of them fully padded, we’ll look at the early risers and whose falling. We’ll revisit this after a week with the Detroit Lions and their first preseason game.

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
Out: Danny Etling

The Patriots will continue to go with three QBs as Brady, Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham will man the position this year. It will be interesting to see if Stidham shows enough in the upcoming preseason games to push Hoyer as Brady’s backup in case of emergency.

Running backs: (6)

Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Out: Nick Brosette, Jakob Johnson* [NFL International Player]

Sony Michel looks good, now that he is back on the field and he and Damien Harris are getting more frequent looks in the passing game. James White looks as good as ever while Brandon Bolden isn’t going anywhere, he’s a good depth guy and outstanding on STs. Develin could easily be posted with the tight ends as he practices with them frequently. If the Patriots decide five is enough would that make Burkhead expendable? Possibly, but for now, he sticks.

Brosette is a victim of the numbers and lands on the practice squad. Ditto for Johnson who is automatically granted an extra spot on the PS due to his NFL International status

Tight ends: (2)
Matt Lacosse, Ryan Izzo, **Ben Watson Suspended**
Out: Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck

The Patriots have Lacosse being the receiving tight end with Izzo as the blocker who nudges out Anderson, the move tight end thus far. Ben Watson will return after the first month which means they’ll have to make another cut somewhere.

Beck got a fair amount of guaranteed money and could become another fullback option if Develin gets hurt, he’ll be a practice squad candidate.

Wide Receivers: (5)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers
Out: Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, **Josh Gordon Suspended** Demaryius Thomas [PUP], Cameron Meredith [PUP]

Edelman, Harry, and Dorsett are the top three, Dorsett is still an intriguing case. He has all of the tools to be a very productive receiver but only produces in short flashes. But given the cuts, he’s the only viable kick returner on the roster unless the coaches want to push Edelman or Michel back out there. 

Harris has been the most consistent receiver on the field thus far and Meyers is already beginning to develop the chemistry with Brady that will be needed. Thomas has yet to see the field so no one knows if he has anything left in the tank. Gordon has applied for reinstatement by the league so we’ll be watching to see how that unfolds.  

Berrios can’t get any separation and after a strong showing in the spring, has taken a step back. This coming week with the Lions will be huge for him. Inman has been largely invisible but just began making progress this week. Patterson, Davis, and Olszewski are practice squad candidates.

However, Berrios and/or Olszewski could carve out a role in the return game. Preseason will tell the tale.

Offensive line: (8)
Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, James Ferentz, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt
Out: Yodny Cajuste [NFI], Dan Skipper, Cedric Lang, Tyree St. Louis, Martez Ivey

Hmm, depth at tackle remains a dicey situation with Isaiah Wynn still not a full go at practice. At this point, they need to start getting him real reps and not a walk-thru if he’s going to be ready for the regular season. The team is giving Dan Skipper every opportunity to win a roster spot but he’s shown that even against the 2nd tier guys, he’s getting beat. Not good for a left tackle.

Cajuste is still on NFI and the longer it drags on, the more it seems that he won’t be ready until midseason. The answer for the short term? Joe Thuney at LT, Karras at LG and now it makes more sense to keep Ferentz. 

Defense –

Edge Players: (4)
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich
Out: Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Nick Thurman, Ufomba Kamalu

Bennett and Wise are your defensive ends in a base 3-4, which they’ve run a lot of this spring/summer. Simon and Winovich could easily be lumped in with the linebackers. It is curious if they do run a 3-4, Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler could be 3-4 DEs as well. Rivers has looked good so far, but Winovich is looking just a strong right now and would, IMO get the nod. 

Nobody is closing the door on Davis, Harris, Thurman, or Kamalu at this point. All of them have had good moments in camp. Plenty can happen in the next few weeks, but as of today, they’re on the wrong side of the numbers crunch.

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry

Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup nose tackle. Guy and Butler offer versatility in either inside DL in a 4-3 or as 3-4 DEs playing a five-technique. This is a solid group and Mike Pennel should be an immediate early downs producer. 

Cowart and Parry have some ground to make up but are for the time being, outside looking in. 

Linebacker: (6)

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

Linebacker is a position of strength and the Patriots could still play Winovich and Simon here as well. If they were to add another roster spot for extra depth, Sam, who is having an under the radar camp or Calhoun who has played well in limited reps could find their way on the roster. 

Hightower, Bentley, and Roberts will handle the inside duties while the others will play outside, but moving players around seems like a given this year. 

Cornerback: (7)
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen
Out: Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross

You can never have enough talented corners…right? Gilmore, McCourty, and Jackson give the team three very good to excellent boundary corners. Jones and Dawson will handle the slot. Williams is a big corner (6’4) that allows him to play against the bigger WRs or matchup with tight ends. 

The versatility and depth of this group give the Patriots their deepest part of the roster. Both Ross and Webster are candidates for the practice squad.

Safety: (4)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks
Out: Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, Nate Ebner [PUP], AJ Howard

Brooks has been seeing a lot of reps on defense with the top unit and the veteran ST’s ace edges out Obi Melifonwu right now. Obi has had a good camp and has gotten a lot of reps himself with the top unit. His size and athleticism make this one a tough choice. But the competition continues. 

Ebner is on PUP for now and Gant is a candidate for the practice squad.

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

Gostkowski and  Cardona aren’t facing any competition in camp and other than Brady, perhaps, these two should rest easiest in training camp. Bailey the strong-legged punter and Allen are locked in a good camp battle. Bailey has a booming leg with incredible hang time while Allen is the steady vet. But Bailey can also kickoff and fill in for Gostkowski on FGs if need be. Slater practices hard on his own all session long with a staff member, working on his gunner skills. 

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.

Cliffs, Turnover, Age… Tom Brady Remains Resolute

Steve Balestrieri
August 1, 2019 at 10:07 am ET

The Patriots training camp is seven days and six practices [the seventh practice will begin as this posts] into the 2019 campaign. And the Patriots are blessed to have the same coach and quarterback combination on hand for the 20th consecutive year.  Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been a constant in the league that every year suffers a huge amount of turnover. 

Brady’s first training camp stands in stark contrast with this one. Back then he was an unheralded, late 6th round draft choice from Michigan who many believed had no shot at a long career in the NFL. But he had an incredible work ethic, a huge chip on his shoulder because of his draft position [which remains], and absolute faith in himself. He introduced himself to Robert Kraft that summer and Kraft recalled, “he looked at me with laser-focus and said, ‘I’m best decision this organization ever made.’”

After 18 years as a starter, Brady has led the Patriots to nine Super Bowl appearances and six wins. He stands in rarified air, no one in the Super Bowl era can come close to those numbers. And every year since his knee injury in 2008, Brady has faced the same questions it seems every summer. Is this the year where he shows his age? Where Brady and the Patriots fall from the heights and re-join the pack of Super Bowl afterthoughts instead of front-runners? Will Brady… fall off a cliff? “Tom Brady is going to be a bum in short order,” Max Kellerman pronounced early in 2016. In the past three years, the Patriots have been to three straight Super Bowls, winning two. But still, the questions remain. 

While he claims to ignore the noise… and the trolls on the national beat, we know better. He uses them for an incentive to work harder than his already famous work ethic. He approaches every day and every practice as if he’s that late 6th rounder trying to make the team, instead of a six-time Super Bowl champion. 

Tom Brady speaks to the media after practice on 7/31

On Wednesday, he wasn’t scheduled to speak with the media but felt like he should after the offense had a very sloppy, unproductive session. He walked over and told the horde of media that quickly surrounded him to “Fire Away.”

He was quickly asked about his contract status. He’s entering the final year of his deal and was questioned as to he’s comfortable working on a one-year deal. He answered as that 6th round rookie would. 

 “We’re all day-to-day if you think about it,” he answered. “None of us are really promised anything. So, I’m trying to do the best I can today and just let those [contracts] things sort themselves out… so, we’ll see how it goes.”

Asked about if he’s still having fun out there, even in the stifling heat and humidity yesterday he said, “ Yeah, absolutely. I have a great time, I mean football is – I love the sport. I’ve loved playing it since I was a kid. You know, it’s hard for me to imagine doing anything else in life. I love playing ball, so to still be out here at 41 – soon to be 42 – it’s a pretty great thing for me.”

Brady also addressed the balancing of family time with his preparation and commitment to football, giving a tremendous amount of credit to his wife, Gisele.

“The last couple of years, it’s been great for me to spend the off-seasons with them, and really fill up that bucket and give them the time, support, and love that they need. When I’m here doing my thing, my wife’s got to hold down the fort and she has put a lot on hold over the years to support my dreams. I feel like it’s my responsibility as a husband to do the same for her. She’s happy when I get back to football because she knows how happy I am. It was a great off-season, but now it’s time for football, and I think everyone in our family is prepared for that.”

Brady addressed the turnover of players and coaches and said that it takes a total team effort to get everyone pulling together. 

“Well, there’s a lot of turnover every year and you deal with the turnover, and there’s a lot of new guys trying to assimilate into what we’ve done here for a long time. It’s really up to them to get up to speed, and everyone here has got to help them get there. Between the coaches, the veteran players, the leaders – it’s our responsibility to get everyone on the same page, doing the right thing and trying to help us in whatever way they can help us move the ball down the field and score some points.”

Asked about a contract extension and if he’s earned one, Brady poked fun at NBC Sports Boston with all of the polls they’ve conducted during the offseason. 

“I don’t know. That’s up for talk show debate. What do you guys think? Should we take a poll? Talk to Mr. Kraft, come on.” Chuckling, he added, “No, like I said, we’ve got a great relationship so we’ll see how it goes.”

So, while the hot-take artists continue to predict the demise of the Patriots and Brady, he remains steadfast in his preparation, commitment to the game and his extremely competitive nature on the field. 

Having been at nearly every training camp practice for the past decade, every year I watch him go thru his progressions and throwing motion with my binos looking for the cracks that every hot-take artist claims to be there [and never steps foot in Foxboro] and I don’t see it. If anything, his throwing mechanics are even better than they were a decade ago. He may be in even better shape physically than he was then. 

The Patriots offense may struggle early in the 2019 season with the turnover at wide receiver and tight end, but as long as Brady is under center, there is no doubt that they’ll find a way to figure it out. Those national hot take artists will continue the drivel every summer ad nauseam and when he finally does retire or fall off, they’ll celebrate like they had it right all along. Brady has made them all look foolish for a long time. He’s the classic man in the arena that a former President wrote about 67 years before he was born. 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

The Patriots get back to practice this morning and look for Brady to be looking to get the offense moving forward right off the bat… It’s inevitable.

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

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

Patriots Mini-camp Day 3 Observations “We Got a Lot Done”

Steve Balestrieri
June 6, 2019 at 3:18 pm ET

The Patriots finished up their mandatory three-day minicamp on Thursday and at the conclusion of it, head coach Bill Belichick seems pleased..with how things turned out.

“I think we got a lot done, out on the field, which is good, but we just have to keep grinding away,” Belichick said. Both Belichick and Tom Brady spoke after the practice session and remarked on the day that Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona was promoted in Gillette Stadium to the rank of Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve. And both remarked on how the day coincided with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

As Brady was speaking to the media after practice, Devin McCourty cracked, “Tell ‘em (media) it is Ring Night and we ain’t got time for this!”

Julian Edelman showed some love for the Bruins by wearing a Bruins jersey out before practice started. Coincidentally, it was  #13 and had Dorsett on the back….

Notable Players MIA:

Among the missing was the same names that missed the first two sessions, RB Sony Michel, RB Nick Brossette, WR Demaryius Thomas, OT Yodny Cajuste, DE Deatrich Wise Jr, SS Patrick Chung, SS Nate Ebner. One new name was added, CB J.C. Jackson.

Isaiah Wynn was present and worked on individual drills and looked like he was moving without any limitations, which is a good sign for moving forward in training camp.

Overall today’s session was a lot of individual drills with not as much 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills.

Other observations included:

  • Joe Thuney continues to line up at left tackle and worked with the tackles during individual drills
  • Deion Branch and Troy Brown worked once again with the wide receivers. Branch gets very animated and worked with them on breaking a jam at the line of scrimmage
  • Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels worked a side session with N’Keal Harry and Jacobi Meyers. It was an exercise in timing as well as how McDaniels and Brady want the young WRs to run their routes and position their breaks. It continues to be a learning process
  • Stephon Gilmore finished a strong camp in style, by locking down the WRs and knocking down a pass.
  • Jamie Collins had a strong week and knocked down a Bryan Hoyer screen pass
  • Jonathan Jones had a nice pass breakup on a deep pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman in the corner of the end zone
  • The offense ran a Flea Flicker on one play where Maurice Harris got behind Jason McCourty and caught it in the end zone.
  • Duke Dawson had a nice pass breakup on a deep sideline pass from Brady to Phillip Dorsett.
  • Derek Rivers got some snaps with the first grouping of defensive players.
  • After Brady finished up his work with 11-on-11, once again the coaches went to Jarrett Stidham before Brian Hoyer or Danny Etling. They want to see what the young man has got.

Play of the Day:

The day ended on two very nice pass plays from Brian Hoyer. He threw a touchdown to Braxton Berrios to end the day, but his TD before that to Phillip Dorsett was a beauty. Hoyer threw a high arcing pass to the corner of the end zone and Dorsett made a beautiful leaping catch in the end zone.

The play by Dorsett brought Hoyer running over to celebrate with him. Ditto for the same thing with Berrios.

After practice, we got to speak with new DL Mike Pennel, and we’ll have more of that on PatsFans.com soon.

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.

Veldheer Could be the Patriots’ First of a Secondary Slate of FA Signings

Steve Balestrieri
May 8, 2019 at 6:30 am ET

At the stroke of midnight, all remaining free agents will no longer count against the compensatory pick formula for the 2020 season. So one can expect a minor flurry of free agent signings to occur.

The Patriots are reportedly going to sign OT Jared Veldheer according to the NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. The one-year deal is said to be worth up to $6.5 million dollars and will add the needed depth the Patriots lack at the tackle position.

The 6-foot-8, 321-pound Veldheer who turns 32 in June has played in 118 career games with 113 starts. His nine-year career has been spent with the Oakland Raiders (2010-13), Arizona Cardinals (2014-17) and Denver Broncos (2018). He brings along a ton of versatility as well; Veldheer can play either tackle position, center or guard.

After losing LT Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle in free agency, the team is expected to get back last year’s top draft pick Isaiah Wynn who missed the season due to injury as well as this year’s draft pick Yodny Cajuste. Marcus Cannon remains at right tackle. With the tackle position now seemingly in good shape entering OTAs, where else would the Patriots like to shore up their depth in free agency?

Defensive Tackle:

There are a couple of names still out there that could be intriguing to the team, depending on the amount of money that they’re looking for.

Allen Bailey – Bailey is an eight-year veteran with the Chiefs and was a defensive end in their 3-4 defense. With the Patriots he could bring that inside/outside versatility that Bill Belichick likes where he can play on the edge or kick inside as an interior pass rusher.

Bailey, 30, is listed at 6’3, 288 but was up to as much as 300 pounds at times last season according to media reports. With the Chiefs last year, he posted a career high 6.0 sacks along with 38 tackles and 2 forced fumbles.

Corey Liuget – Liuget spent the first eight years of his career with the Chargers and has been a very solid player. He missed the first four games of the 2018 season with a PED suspension. And only played in six games during the season after tearing a quariceps during a game against Denver in November. He was limited to just 14 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

In case anyone was keeping score at home former Patriots Ricky Jean-Francois, Danny Shelton and Dominque Easley are still available as well. But the biggest name out there is DT Ndamukong Suh. I just don’t think the Patriots are interested in Suh, despite his talent. He doesn’t seem like a Belichick-type player.He’s never played for less than $10 million APY according to SI, so he won’t come cheap. But never say never.

Tight End:

The Patriots have Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Matt Lacosse, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, Jakob Johnson and the recently signed UDFA Andrew Beck on the roster. Potential trade candidates are Kyle Rudolph from the Vikings and the Bucs Cameron Brate if they cut their ties with him.

Ben Watson – The aging but still viable 38-year old retired in January but after the birth of his twins recently has said that he’d like to return to the NFL for one last season. Watson began his career with the Patriots as a first round draft pick in the 2004 season. ESPN’s Adam Schefter believes Watson may end up his career back in Foxboro.

Other free agents include Lance Kendrick and Jermaine Gresham.

Wide Receiver:

The Patriots aren’t as needy depth wise after drafting N’Keal Harry in the 1st round and signing three UDFAs but adding another veteran wide receiver may not be the worst decision they ever make.

Michael Crabtree – Crabtree is being linked to the Packers by CBS Sports so we’ll have to see how this development plays out. However, Crabtree had decent production with a Ravens team that wasn’t great at throwing the football in 2018.

Crabtree caught 54 passes for 607 yards 3 TDs with Baltimore and has been very durable, missing just two games total in the past five years.

Other notable players include Pierre Garcon, Seth Roberts, Jermaine Kearse, and Rishard Matthews.

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 4-21, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 21, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-21 and AFC East Notes.

We would like to wish everyone a Happy Easter today.

The Patriots began their offseason conditioning work this week in Gillette. While no one gets a look at what they do, the Patriots always put a premium on being one of the fittest teams in the league. The endurance that begins now and goes thru the July/August sprints up the hills carries the team to wins in December and January.

Keep this in mind; In 2016, 72 of the 256 NFL regular season games were won by a team that trailed in the 4th quarter. That doesn’t include the Super Bowl (28-3).

ICYMI: Our third attempt at predicting how the Patriots will draft, Mock Draft 3.0 was conducted last week with some trades thrown into the mix. You can recap it again here:  Mock Draft 2.0 an attempt on beefing up the weaker parts of the roster was our previous attempt. You can recap it here: I believe we all expect the Patriots to be very active in this one, possibly packing some picks for a trade or perhaps moving around the board as they are very used to doing.

Derek Havens and I have been doing a special podcast highlighting the upcoming NFL Draft in addition to the regular one we do with host Russ Goldman. This week, we had ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates with us to discuss the draft, what the Patriots may do, especially in the early rounds and about the NFL in general. That can be heard here:

We will do one more pre-draft podcast where we’ll take a stab at predicting the entire first round of the draft and then see who the Patriots may target.

Quick Hitters:

Rob Gronkowski was back in the news and the Patriots released a video of the behind the scenes look at the Fenway Park celebration. Several players were warming up for the ceremonial first pitch and Gronk decided to stand in the batter’s box against Julian Edelman. He went farther though and used a Lombardi Trophy for bat and bunted a pitch, putting a huge dent in the back of the football of the trophy.

That video can be seen here: Classic Gronkowski…BTW the Patriots have no intentions of fixing the dent…It now has personality….Going out with a bang.

Benjamin Watson who was thought to be retiring is said to be considering a return to the NFL this season. After the birth of the twins he’s expecting, Watson may return to playing “in the right situation” according to Adam Schefter. While that probably means a return to the Saints, seeing Watson play one more season with the Patriots wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen.

Ben Watson catches a TD against the Bills on MNF in 2009.

Brandon Bolden signed a one-year deal to return to the Patriots and it is like coming home again for the veteran STs standout and backup RB. Bolden has always been one of the most popular players in the locker room and last year, the Patriots players made it clear to him when they saw him that his locker remained untouched.

Bolden remarked that his year in Miami was like “going away to college” but is happy to be back. “For some strange reason, every time I did something, I could hear Bill (Belichick) cussing me out like, ‘No, that’s not how we do it,’” Bolden said. “And I was like, ‘You’re right. I’ve got to do it the right way.’ I had great coaching… and it just carried me all through last year. Like, the entire time. I’m happy to be back, excited to get back to work. I missed this place.” And you were missed…especially on STs.

D’Qwell Jackson just wants his football back. The Colts linebacker who inadvertently started the entire Deflategate fiasco by intercepting a Brady pass in the AFC Championship Game and giving it to an equipment manager to keep, and then having this equipment guy turn the ball over to the NFL. Now Jackson has sent a letter to Tom Brady asking for his help getting his football back…. A hilarious bit here and definitely worth another watch.

Allen Bailey is a name to keep an eye on this spring. The former Chiefs DL is a free agent and came in to New England for a visit. Bailey is probably waiting to sign anywhere until after the draft to see where he’ll be asked to be a bigger piece of the puzzle. If the Patriots don’t get one of the top tier defensive linemen in the draft, don’t be shocked to see Bailey get an offer from New England.

Daniel Jones is reportedly getting a longer look by the Patriots??? CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora wrote in his column this bit about New England allegedly liking Daniel Jones the more they think about it:

This could become a spot for Daniel Jones. The Duke QB is a polarizing prospect who hasn’t exactly wowed everyone he’s been around… I continue to hear the Patriots have taken a shine to him. Is he their pick at 32? I’m not so sure. Maybe the Patriots would move up a bit for him.” While they did have him in for a visit, moving up to pick Jones? Not buying into that.

NFL Schedule Release Means Super Overreaction Day:

With the NFL releasing the schedule on Wednesday night, we were once again reminded what an absolute sieve Park Avenue is, as their celebrated release show was rendered moot by an avalanche of schedule teasers, who took the thunder out of the NFL’s release. Operational Security is not high there. Hmmm, didn’t we mention that about 4 years ago? But we digress…

It is always fascinating to gauge fans’ reaction when the schedule is released, even though they’ve already known who the opponents are, just not how they play out. For Patriots fans, the mantra has gone from a worrisome lack of offensive weapons to many proclamations of the team running the table on the first 7-8 weeks of the schedule. What changed? Shouldn’t we wait for those predictions until at least the draft is over?

Even more predictable is the reaction from the fans from other teams, especially those fan bases from rivals (you know who they are). With the perpetual lament about how the Patriots make the playoffs every year only because the AFC East is so weak. Ugh.

It was refreshing to see a national NFL reporter Field Yates, put that ridiculous and overblown take in proper perspective. However, you can set your clock by these overreactions and depending upon the area code how it means completely different things, again depending on your point of view.

Tweet by Field Yates on AFC East

But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. There was a report released by the Attorney General this week and depending upon which side of the aisle one sits on, the takes on that were so different, you would’ve thought they were two totally different reports. Signs of the times.  

Chris Hogan Now A Panther and Still a Misunderstood Player:

Not surprisingly Chris Hogan has moved on in free agency after three seasons with the Patriots. He signed a one-year deal with the Panthers that is worth up to $2 million, a pretty modest figure, which highlights that the Patriots were ready to move on and try to get younger and more athletic at the position (we’ll see).

Hogan wasn’t brought here to be a #1 receiver, that isn’t who he is and never will be. He’s a complementary guy who can and has provided solid production if he’s part of a solid rotation of players on offense.  

And while no one will argue that Hogan had a frustrating year, his numbers were nearly the same in all three seasons with the Patriots.

Chris Hogan during 2018 mini-camp (SBalestrieri photo)

2016 – 15 games, 58 targets, 38 receptions, 680 yards 17.9 avg. 4 TDs

2016 had the Patriots loaded offensively. Julian Edelman had nearly 100 catches (98) and 1106 yards, Danny Amendola, Martellus Bennett, Gronkowski, Malcolm Mitchell, with James White and Dion Lewis out of the backfield. Teams could pick their poison and Hogan often drew the lesser of the opposing team’s corners and feasted (see Pittsburgh AFCCG) with his stellar yards per reception.

2017 – 9 games, 59 targets, 34 receptions, 439 yards, 12.9 avg. 5 TDs

Hogan got off to a hot start in 2017 then was hurt and was never quite the same which made his yards per reception average drop by a large margin, although the one from the year before was unsustainable. Again, the Patriots had a plethora of pass catchers beginning with Brandin Cooks with 65 for over 1000 yards, Gronk returned healthy with a 69 catch 1000 yard season. Danny Amendola had 61 catches and the trio of Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and James White out of the backfield had 118 catches.

2018 – 16 games, 55 targets, 35 receptions, 532 yards, 15.2 avg. 3 TDs

What a difference a year makes. Edelman was suspended for the first four games of the year. Gronkowski was hobbling all season, Cooks was gone and replaced by Josh Gordon who chipped in 40 catches. Amendola, Mitchell, and Cooks were gone, Phillip Dorsett chipped in with 32 catches. A mess of injuries in the summer decimated the WR position.

Despite struggling to gain separation, and often ignored, Hogan’s targets and catches remained almost identical to his first two years. But with the offense clicking at a much lower rate than the standard that we’ve become accustomed to, he was singled out often for criticism. Fair or not, it is what it is.

Hogan would be the first to say that he didn’t have a good year in 2018. That is who he is. But let’s not do the normal thing here and kick the guy on his way out the door. He was a key part of three Super Bowl teams in his three years here, winning two. And in the only one they lost he logged six catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.

While a lot of people are excited about the signing of Demaryius Thomas, let us remind ourselves the Patriots are not getting the guy from five years ago. His numbers from last year combined with Denver and Houston: Now with the albeit unscientific method of giving Hogan 89 targets, the same as Thomas based on his 2018 numbers?
89 targets, 59 catches, 677 yards, 11.5 avg. 5 TDs
89 targets, 57 catches, 875 yards, 15.2 avg. 5 TDs. The bottom line, the Thomas from five years ago is a vastly better WR than Hogan. In 2019, I think Hogan is. Moving on.

Offensive Tackle, Not Defensive May Be the First Patriot Selection:

The Patriots have been rumored to be taking a DT early in the draft by several draft experts in many of the Mock Drafts over the internet. Including here…although we’d stop well short of declaring us here as “Draft Experts”, but the plethora of excellent prospects make that an attractive option.

But… after losing both starting left tackle Trent Brown and swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle to free agency and having last season’s top draft pick Isaiah Wynn still recovering from an Achilles injury suffered in training camp last summer, (those counting on DThomas, who suffered his in December should take note) the position is one of need.

There are several out there that warrant early round consideration, and while it may not be the sexy pick that we’re all wanting…and expecting, the Patriots have made it a habit to zig while everyone else zags… Trading up may involve a tackle but not the one we’re all expecting …just saying Stay tuned

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Poised to be Players at the Draft:

The Buffalo Bills are finally in an enviable position in the NFL Draft. Last season they found their franchise QB and still have the #9 pick as well as 10 picks in the draft. This draft is loaded with talent at exactly the places the Bills need to address the depth and holes in their roster. Tight End, wide receiver and the defensive line are all positions of need for Buffalo.

Holding the #9 pick, the Bills can scan the board and move down if desperate teams behind them are itching to move up for their own prospect. This is unchartered territory for the Bills and they should be in a great position to have themselves a great draft.

In other developments, the Bills will be planning a trip to Dallas for Thanksgiving. The Cowboys have traditionally been involved in Thanksgiving and this year the Bills will be on the nationally televised game from the Big D. That promises to be an intriguing matchup…at least in April.

Dolphins May Be Looking To Trade Back in Round 1:

The Miami Dolphins have the 13th pick in the upcoming draft and if the QB they want, if any of them are on the board that they like, they may move back to accumulate more draft capital and roll the dice with Ryan Fitzpatrick for 2019.

Therein lies the rub, there may be a QB that they like but are not enamored with, so the temptation is to settle. But history is an unkind barometer of teams who did just that. It will be intriguing to see who GM Chris Grier and new coach Brian Flores select.

One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of suitors to move up in the draft, there always are. And the Dolphins could be the beneficiaries of some nice draft capital because of it.

Jets Bell Has Week 16 Tilt Against the Steelers Circled:

File this one under “Be Careful What You Ask For…You may get it. The New York Jets new running back Le’Veon Bell who the Jets signed to a big four-year deal with the Jets worth $52.5 million with $35 million guaranteed after sitting out last season with Pittsburgh over a salary dispute. Bell wasted no time once the schedule was released to circle a Week 16 date with the Steelers.

Bell took to Twitter and posted a picture of himself running against the Jets. He did keep things light by posting “Jets Steelers, Sunday December 22nd. I got a feeling something miiight be a little different this time around…” While that is innocuous enough considering that in the picture he was running against the Jets, some people will take as something else and it immediately becomes bulletin board material.

That is usually the time of the year where Pittsburgh is trying to solidify playoff position and the Jets are hoping to find themselves in a familiar position. We’ll see.

________________

“Is it time for the Draft yet? 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.

New England Patriots 2019 Mock Draft 3.0 Trading Up Time

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

In our first two mocks, we went with the basic assumption that the Patriots would keep all 12 of their draft picks. But we all know, they’re not going to do that. So we’ll go with a commonly believed scenario that they try to trade up to get a playmaker that they sorely need.

Our first Mock Draft can be seen here: Our second Mock Draft is here:

I used the outstanding Fanspeak Your On the Clock draft simulator again this year. And once again depending upon the Big Board that you use (when it comes to draft prospects)…your results will differ enormously. So Let’s Go Drafting…

Patriots Mock Draft 3.0:

**** Trade**** New England packages #32 and #73 to Seattle for Pick #21

Round 1, Pick 21 – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa:  Fant was still around on the board and he may not have lasted until #32. T.J. Hockenson, the most complete tight end in the draft was taken at #12 by the Packers in this mock.

Fant is a very athletic 6’4, 249 tight end from Iowa who excels open spaces. His yards after contact and ability to stretch the seams will immediately make him a very coveted receiver in the offense.

He is a versatile player that can be moved around the formation outside, in the slot or as an H-back. Despite playing in a run-heavy Iowa offense, scored 18 touchdowns in his last two seasons. A standout basketball player, Fant has excellent jumping ability and agility (6.81 3-Cone Drill).

He needs to get bigger and stronger to become a better blocker in the running game but with Austin Seferian-Jenkins on the other side, he’ll have time to develop in that area. However, as a receiving threat, he should be an immediate impact player.

Round 2, Pick 56 – J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford: Arcega-Whiteside comes from an athletic family. He was born in Spain and both of his parents were basketball players. He brings very good size, 6’2, 225 to the WR position. He’s got a quick release off the line, very good hands and a large catch radius.

He had excellent production in 2018 with 63 catches, for 1059 yards (16.8-yard average) with 14 touchdowns. He posts up like a basketball forward in the red zone and is a very good target there, (28 TDs in three seasons).

He has good but not blinding speed at 4.48 but he’s best utilized in the possession game. He can move the sticks and gets better the closer the team gets to the red zone. He’s gotten better every year and should be a very nice pro receiver who can occasionally stretch the field.

Round 2, Pick 64 – Christian Miller, Edge, Alabama: Miller was just a one-year starter but nevertheless had a very productive final season for the Tide. He made 36 tackles with 11.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He tips the scale at 6’3, 247 and is a very athletic edge player.

He has the long arms and above-average athleticism that coaches look for in edge players. He’s versatile and has a quick step off the snap either standing or with his hand on the ground. He has above average pursuit and can drop into coverage and cover backs in the flat.

He’ll need to get stronger at the NFL level to be a three-down edge player but he should immediately see snaps as a sub-package edge rusher with the Patriots defense.

Round 3, Pick 97 – Bobby Evans, T,  Oklahoma: Another surprise to still see him on the board at #97, Evans was a three-year starter for the Sooners, two at RT and then at LT in his final season. Evans plays with a bit of a mean, nasty streak and should immediately reap the benefits of playing for Dante Scarnecchia.

He’s considered a bit short at 6’4 for the position but has long arms and can solidly punch the chest of pass rushers to fend them off. While not considered overly athletic, he has the agility to get outside and pull on running plays.

He has excellent core strength and is very tough and will immediately vie for the swing tackle position with the ability to become a starter in short order.

Round 3, Pick 101 – Will Grier, QB, West Virginia: Grier is a developmental QB prospect for the Patriots offense. While he has marginal size, (6’2, 217, similar to Jimmy Garoppolo), and arm strength, he has a kind of “it factor” where he can galvanize the rest of his team. See the Oklahoma and Texas games where he led late comebacks.

Had very good numbers in 2018, 266-397 (67.0%), for 3864 yards with 37 TDs and 8 INTs in 11 games. He’s very accurate in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field. He reads defenses well and is a good leader in the huddle and the locker room.

His mechanics can improve but he has a good body of work to work off of. He’ll immediately step into the #3 position and vie for the backup job in Year 1.

****Trade**** Patriots Trade Picks #134, #205, to the Seahawks for Pick #124

Round 4, Pick 124 – Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford: Smith is a big 6’5, 255 “Y” tight end from “Tight End U” who is good as an in-line blocker, played in a pro-style offense and can serve as a safety blanket underneath.

Smith will be able to step in and contribute in the running game right away as his blocking is good but will improve over time with improved technique and a bit more core strength. He has a wide catch radius with very good hands, but won’t be a threat to attack the seams. He’s more of a short, safety valve, ball control guy with the upside to improve.

Round 7, Pick 239 – Renell Wren, DL, Arizona State: Wren is an intriguing prospect with good size, 6’5, 318. In college, they played him over the nose but he may be a better fit as a pure defensive tackle.

He possesses freaky athleticism for a big man but he’s a project and may require a lot of work with Joe Kim who helped Patriots DL work on their hand usage. Has a lot of upside but may take a year or two to blossom.

Round 7, Pick 243 – Kendall Joseph, LB, Clemson: Joseph is an undersized but productive inside linebacker who may have benefitted from playing in a loaded defensive front seven. He’s just 6’0, 233 but had 84 tackles, five TFL, and four sacks during the Tigers National Championship run.

He does have good instincts and showed good coverage, but he may have to carve out a role on STs to make the roster in 2019.

Round 7, Pick 246 – Penny Hart,  WR, Georgia State: Hart is a small, very small (5’8, 180) wide receiver who had excellent production at a lower level of competition. But got an invite to the Senior Bowl and looked uncoverable. He’s a very twitchy slot receiver who can return punts and kickoffs.

Round 7, Pick 252 – Saquon Hampton, S, Rutgers: Hampton is our requisite Rutgers pick as the Patriots address the safety position late in the game. He’s a natural leader and a team captain, something the Patriots look for, with good size at 6’1, 206. Said during an interview, he tries to emulate Patriots safety Devin McCourty. Sold. Welcome to New England.

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.

Trade for Beckham, While Possible, Isn’t Practical, Look Elsewhere

Steve Balestrieri
February 21, 2019 at 8:21 am ET

Ah, the doldrums of late February and early March. As soon as the Super Bowl is over, weather-weary New Englanders are ready for spring. We want to see flowers and green grass and leaves on the trees.

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want…” Mark Twain.

Such is the way with the New England Patriots every spring. The team that was constructed for the long-haul, for continued long-term success. We revel in it, and love to rub other fan bases’ noses in the fact that “this is how you build a team.” and then in late February – early March, the fan base collectively loses its mind and wants to throw caution to the wind.

Diva WRs? Gotta have ‘em, Can’t win without them… “We need anotha’ deep threat Mike!” “Brady’s getting old and needs weaponz!” And my new favorite, “They won’t win anotha’ Super Bowl scoring 13 points!”

Truthfully, all of the talk of the Patriots acquiring Antonio Brown is just that…talk. The Steelers would never send him to New England and with each passing Instagram post he makes, I’d want him less and less.

The talk of Odell Beckham Jr. is quite another. Chris Simms broke the news that the Patriots tried to trade for him in the spring of 2018. And I totally buy that. A look back to last year, they brought in a bevy of veterans and knew that Julian Edelman would be suspended for the first four games of the season.

Plus Beckham was on the back end of his deal, they could have had a one-year rental of a very talented player. They have done this recently like Brandin Cooks the year before and Darrelle Revis.

From a football perspective, Beckham would fit into the Patriots offense easily. He has that short-area quickness off the line, that allows him to get separation quite fast in the short area passing game. He is very good at aligning at different spots on the field and he can create big plays without having to complete low-percentage deep balls. He, along with Julian Edelman, would give Tom Brady a dynamic 1-2 punch at WR. And if Rob Gronkowski does return for one more season, the possibilities are endless.

Would Beckham fit in the locker room? That’s far from a given. Despite Beckham’s quotes about his love for Tom Brady, how will he react on a day where the running game is cooking and Michel et al carry the ball 30+ times?

And then there’s his contract. By signing an extension, the Giants locked him up for several years, where if they trade him, they’d eat his prorated signing bonus ($4 million in 2019 and $16 million overall). His cap hit for the Patriots would be $17 million, a $16,750,000 base salary and a $250,000 workout bonus.

While not excessive compared to other WRs, Edelman’s salarycap hit for 2019 is $4,541,688 or slightly more than a quarter of what they’d pay Beckham. And is a guy who was instrumental in already winning the team three Super Bowls, including the MVP in SB LIII just three weeks ago. How would that play out?

Bill Belichick has never wanted to pay big money for his wide receivers, they paid Randy Moss decent money (5 percent of their cap space) but when he insisted on getting big money was shipped out. Cooks was strictly a rental and as soon as he was due his payday was traded. Beckham’s cash is slightly less than 10 percent of the team’s cap space. Would Belichick go that high? His track record says no.

On the subject of cap space, the Patriots, according to our old buddy Miguel Benzan, aka @Patscap currently have $17,905,328 in space as of today. While we know they’re going to create some space by extending some players and releasing others, that would put them in a very bare situation …at least initially.

The Patriots generally like versatile players, guys that can play a position and contribute on Special Teams. Most of the diva WRs (shiny hood ornaments, shamelessly stolen from @footballfacts) are not.

Beckham’s talent is great, of that there is no doubt. But for the money they’ll spend on his salary, the team could sign two good WRs and guys who could also fit into the Patriots offense very well. And then there’s the draft. Belichick and Nick Caserio don’t have the greatest track record of drafting WRs. However, there is some talent out there in the early to mid rounds that would fit in very well.

So, do the Patriots need a “deep threat WR”? No, they don’t. That’s not how this offense operates to its maximum efficiency. While it is nice to have a guy who can stretch the field, they don’t need one. They’ve won six Super Bowls without a true deep threat #1.

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.