Tag Archives: 53 Man Roster Projection

New England Patriots News 9-3, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 3, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Patriots news 9-3 and AFC East notes.  One of the more interesting notes from Saturday was that the Patriots were waiting until after their scheduled 12:15 p.m. practice to make their final cuts. It isn’t like they didn’t already know who is going to make or not make the team. It does seem odd with their timing of things. I’d love to find out their reasoning behind it, although we never may.

Quick Analysis on the Four Trades this Weekend:
The Patriots made four moves over the period between Friday and Saturday by the time of the initial 53-man roster cut-down.

  • The trade of CB Justin Coleman to Seattle for a 7th Round draft pick was a win for both teams. Coleman had been outplayed by the top four corners as well as (in our opinion) Kenny Moore and D.J. Killings. By getting something for him, it was a win for NE as he didn’t fit in their plans.
  • The trade for Detroit’s Johnson Bademosi was a nice boost for the Pats. He didn’t fit into the Lion’s plans and they netted a 6th rounder in 2019. The Patriots got a good STs gunner in Bademosi and with several of the team’s STs performers banged up and facing KC with Tyreek Hill this week, smart move.
  • The team’s trade with Indianapolis was again, a win for both teams. Phillip Dorsett obviously didn’t fit in the Colts long-term plans. Ditto for Brissett in New England. Folks, Bill Belichick isn’t going to trade a QB that fits into their plans. That position is the hardest to fill in the NFL. With Julian Edelman on IR and Malcolm Mitchell banged up all summer, the Patriots will try to find a way to harness his 4.33 speed. With Dorsett, Cooks, and Hogan, the Patriots now have speed merchants to create matchup nightmares. Will it work? Time will tell.
  • The trade with Seattle later on Saturday afternoon was another good move by Bill Belichick. The team was releasing STs stalwart, Geneo Grissom. But he never made a dent on defense and with the team thin at the DE position, made the deal for the same draft pick they got from Seattle to give it back for DE Cassius Marsh. Marsh played nearly 80 percent of the Seahawks STs snaps in 2016 and is a versatile guy that plays on the edge or as an interior pass rusher.

Overall all of the trades worked out for the Patriots and the teams they dealt with. Seeing reports that the Pats “fleeced” the Colts is hogwash. The Colts were reportedly taking offers for Dorsett this week and with Andrew Luck not yet ready for action, they were in need of another QB. Brissett’s sharp performance on Thursday night must have been the deciding factor. Will all of these moves work out? Time will tell but overall the moves make sense for both teams across the board.

Patriots “Initial” 53-Man Roster Hardly Will Resemble Unit Later:
While the Patriots have made their initial cuts to get down to the 53-man roster limit, don’t get too wrapped up in who is here, especially at the bottom end of the roster.

If Bill Belichick and the staff have shown anything in the past several years it is that the roster will change, sometimes a lot in the early days of the season. I would expect the team to tweak the roster quite a bit in the next two weeks as we’ll see the coaches tinker with and find the players who best fit what they’re trying to do.

Then, as we’ve usually seen, the team will make a deal or two in-season to fill a need or to bolster the team’s depth. And as with the practice squad, which will be announced later today, this unit will see plenty of faces. So, don’t get too worked up over the roster construction, as it is currently constructed. There will be more changes coming.

Belichick Waxes Long on the Differences Between KRs/PRs:
There are times when Bill Belichick’s press conferences become “must-see” and great learning tools for the media and fans (live cast on Patriots.com). Whenever he’s talking about football history is always a perfect example. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at one last year when he spoke at length about forming a practice squad. On Friday, he was at it again when asked if a punt returner, as in a player who might not contribute much offensively or defensively, was worthy of a roster spot. His answer, long and articulate is the kind of stuff that makes his Friday pressers those must-attend events.

“I mean I’d say the ball-handling is critical,” Belichick said. “It’s like the long-snapper. How many plays is a long-snapper in for a game? Call it 10? I don’t know. Somewhere in that neighborhood. Eight to 10 extra-points, punts, field goals. But everybody carries a long-snapper.

“Of course the easy answer is if one person does both, that makes it a lot easier, and it also makes the overall roster discussion a lot easier,” Belichick stated. “The big difference, of course, is on kickoff returns you have a chance to build up your speed. You get a chance to handle the ball cleanly, and there’s nobody on top of you when you’re catching it. You’re able to run and set up your blocks and hit things full-speed . . . usually between the 20 and 30-yard line, where the coverage and the blockers and the wedge all sort of come together and the returners get a chance to set those blocks up and hit them and try to get through there.

The Patriots are looking for a punt returner now that Cyrus Jones has gone on IR. (SBalestrieri photo)

“Between the kick-returns and the punt-returns, maybe a couple less than that. But I’d say the difficulty of those jobs and the importance of them and core ball-handling, there’s not much of a way to lose a game quicker than that. I think it’s a high priority for everybody. When I say everybody, I say every team . . . We’ll have to see how it turns out, but it’s not an afterthought at all. It’s a priority.”

“The punting game is a lot more situational. Mostly on kickoffs, the ball’s always kicked from the same place. Rarely is there a difference; there are some, but they’re minimal — after a safety or that type of thing. But punting, the ball can be anywhere. The situation that they’re punting in can be quite diverse and sometimes complex. Punters are very good at directional punting and kicking different types of punts — end-over-end punts, spiral punts, spirals that don’t turn over and so forth. The ball-handling is a little more complex.

“And you have to deal with players around you as you’re catching the ball sooner or later. Sometimes a punter will outkick his coverage, but the majority of the time there’s some decision making involved on whether to catch it and how to make the first coverage player or two miss to get the return started, or fair-catch it, or to let it go and not catch the ball, or to let it go over your head and go into the end zone for a touchback. There’s a lot of decision-making on whether to just catch the ball, or whether to catch it and run with it, or whether to catch it and just fair-catch it that are quite different than the kickoffs.

“And then in addition to that, you’re dealing with defenders and coverage players that are on you a lot quicker on punt returns. Sometimes you only have a yard or two, or a couple yards, to get into space, make a guy miss, break a tackle, whereas kickoffs are much more of a build-up play. Because they’re so different a lot of times you don’t have the same player doing both.

“And on a personal opinion, because they’re so different, I find the two plays very fascinating and intriguing and a great part of the strategy of football. Just because the plays themselves are so different in the teaching… the rules, the skills and so forth. So that’s why I’m not in favor of . . . I take an opposing view to the people that want to eliminate kickoffs from the game and try to have as few kickoffs as possible. I think it’s an exciting play. It’s a unique play and one that is a big momentum play because of what happened the play before — the score or possibly the times at the start of the half where it’s kind of a tone-setter or a pace-setter for that opening play.

“So yeah they’re plenty different. And of course the same thing in the blocking. You have a chance to set up a return (on kickoffs), whereas on the punting side of it you have an option of trying to pressure the punter and block it or return it, but you kind of have to return it from the line of scrimmage. You can’t drop off too far because of the possibilities of fakes. So you have to keep enough guys up on the line of scrimmage to ensure that that ball is punted. And you have to ensure you’re not getting an onside kick, too, but again, that’s much less frequent and the rules are in the kick-return team’s favor on the onsides kick. It’s a big gamble for the kicking team to do that as a surprise tactic. So the blocking patterns and techniques of blocking are quite different on the punt returns compared to what they are on kickoff returns.” Mic drop.

Jacob Hollister was a surprise UDFA who made the initial 53-man roster out of preseason. (SBalestrieri photo)

Jacob Hollister Makes Initial 53-man Roster:
One of the good stories this spring was the Patriots signing of twin brothers Jacob and Cody Hollister as UDFAs.  And the news that Hollister at least initially made the roster was exciting news. He’s one of a few UDFAs that made the team along with Adam Butler, Harvey Langi, and Cole Croston. However, his brother Cody was released but may be brought back onto the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Hollister was (again in our opinion) the better option in the passing game than James O’Shaughnessy. He’s able to stretch the field, has good hands and has shown the ability to hold onto the ball. He’s more of a move tight-end and still needs some work on his blocking. But he got some good STs work in as well this summer. We liked him as soon as they signed him with his work in college and got to do one of his first interviews during training camp. Which can be revisited here:

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Trade Seymour to Panthers for WR/KR Clay:
The Buffalo Bills have traded for Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kaelin Clay. Carolina got the Bills sent second-year cornerback Kevon Seymour. The Bills also acquired Carolina’s seventh-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Clay will be expected to be a vertical threat for the Bills offense this season and will be called on to return kicks as well. He played for the Ravens in 2015 before getting injured and going on IR. He was out of football before signing with the Panthers this spring.

Miami Signs T.J. McDonald to a Four-Year Extension Worth $24 Million:
The Dolphins signed safety T.J. McDonald to a four-year extension on Saturday.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal is reportedly worth $24 million and includes $10 million in guarantees.

McDonald signed a one-year deal with Miami in the spring despite being hit with an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. The suspension begins this week.

Jets Trade Seahawks for Jermaine Kearse and Give Up Sheldon Richardson:
The New York Jets addressed one of their needs by getting wide receiver help by trading DL Sheldon Richardson to Seattle for WR Jermaine Kearse. The Jets also get a 2nd round draft pick in 2018. The teams also swapped their 5th round draft picks.

Kearse has always been very productive but is coming off of a down year in 2016 when he logged only 41 catches for 510 yards and one touchdown. The Jets will obviously be expecting much more.

Richardson, 26, has spent his entire career with the Jets. The former Defensive Rookie of the Year made the Pro Bowl in 2014.But his maturity has been called into question several times and he’s been suspended by the league twice.

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

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

Patriots Add Depth To DL/STs WIth Trade With Seattle for Cassius Marsh

Steve Balestrieri
September 2, 2017 at 5:18 pm ET

The Patriots on Saturday have been wheeling and dealing. They made their third trade of the day, sending the 7th round draft pick they received from Seattle in the Justin Coleman deal back to Seattle for DE Cassius Marsh.

Marsh is a 6’4, 270-pound defensive end who is entering his fourth season in the NFL. He was drafted in the 4th Round of the 2014 NFL Draft from UCLA. He had his best season a year ago with 22 tackles and three sacks.  He’s also a core Special Team’s player, appearing in nearly 80 percent of the Seahawks’ STs snaps in 2016.

Pete Carroll was using him as both an interior and edge pass rusher. Marsh got kudos from teammate Michael Bennett earlier this summer as one of the most improved members of the defense.

In essence, now the trade works out as Coleman for Marsh…another win-win for both teams. This will help boost the depth of the Patriots edge players and it seems like Marsh’s role will take over that of Geneo Grissom.

 

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

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

Patriots Trade QB Jacoby Brissett to Indy for WR Phillip Dorsett

Steve Balestrieri
at 2:20 pm ET

The Patriots on Saturday have swung another trade, this one on a much larger scale. They’ve traded QB Jacoby Brissett to the Indianapolis Colts for WR Phillip Dorsett.

This deal was first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates.

Dorsett, 24, is a 5’10, 185 pound WR who is going into his third year with the Colts. The former first-round pick, who was selected 29th overall in 2014, caught 33 passes for 528 yards in 2016. He is an explosive type of WR who will be expected to be insurance for Julian Edelman in the slot and on Special Teams where he could be asked to help in the punt return game. But another scenario may be that this will free up Danny Amendola for more work in the punt return game and leave Dorsett to concentrate more in the slot.

Not good news for WRs Austin Carr and Devin Lucien.

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

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

Patriots Swing Deal With Detroit for CB/ST Johnson Bademosi

Steve Balestrieri
at 1:07 pm ET

The Patriots on Saturday have swung a trade with the Detroit Lions on the edge of cut-down time for the cornerback and special teams standout Johnson Bademosi.

The Lions will get a 6th Round Draft Pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

The two teams have been frequent trade partners since Bob Quinn took over the GM duties for the Lions. He was a member of the Patriots front office and is close to Bill Belichick.

Bademosi, 27, 6’0, 200 pounds signed with the Lions last season to become a key contributor on their coverage teams. He found some defensive reps through injuries last season but struggled in coverage.

This move won’t be good news to the Patriots corners on the bubble with the roster cut-down due at 4 p.m.

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

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

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: Regular Season Predictions

Russ Goldman
August 30, 2017 at 12:11 pm ET

In this episode, we started by talking about some Patriots news which included a discussion on the injury to Julian Edelman and the release of Kony Ealy. After that we reviewed the pre-season game for the Patriots against the Lions. We ended the show by sharing our season predictions for the the Patriots.

What Does the Marquis Flowers Trade Mean for the Patriots

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:30 am ET

The Patriots addressed their depth at linebacker and on special teams on Tuesday morning when it was announced that they traded a 7th round draft pick for LB Marquis Flowers from the Cincinnati Bengals.

Flowers was drafted by the Bengals in the 6th Round (212th Overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Arizona. The 6’3, 245-pound Flowers is an athletic player who is more comfortable outside on the edge than he is inside. He can cover and has the range to run with more athletic players. He’s been used as strictly a special teams’ player for the Bengals, playing only two snaps on defense last year. With their Special Teams’ standouts having been hurt this summer, including Harvey Langi, Shea McClellin, and Geneo Grissom, Flowers will step right into a key role right away. That was apparent in Tuesday’s practice as he stepped into the starting ST’s unit.

Why is this move significant? Well, that depends on your perspective. With many of the special team’s players banged up and facing the Kansas City Chiefs with the dangerous return game with Tyreek Hill, the coaching staff will want their most athletic players on the field. But this may go even deeper than that.

This may be a signal that the Patriots are planning on cutting their ties to two of their more dynamic special teams’ players in Brandon Bolden and Jordan Richards. Bolden has been a standout STs performer for years but is just in a position that is log jammed with talent.

Richards, on the other hand, has been a disappointment. They’ve tried him at different positions on the defense and he hasn’t been able to make a positive impression. This could be a signal that one or the other, perhaps both may be on the block.

But for Flowers, he’s young, athletic and can step into a core special teams’ role immediately. And he’s able to step up and play some defense as well.

While many on social media were thinking that Flowers is a camp body for the 4th preseason game, I disagree. I think he’s pretty much a lock. They need some athleticism on their STs units with KC coming into town. And he’ll give them that and be able to play some defense as well in the team’s sub-packages. The Patriots have made a trade, albeit a minor one but one which will have some impact, at least in the first few weeks of the season.

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

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

Final New England Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 4.0

Steve Balestrieri
August 28, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

As we’ve been saying all summer, the New England Patriots will have many difficult decisions to make when the final 53-man cut down is due after the Giants game. The hour glass is running out and if players are going to make a move, they have a week remaining to convince the coaches that they’re worth keeping.

With some serious injuries to Derek Rivers and Julian Edelman, that will open up two spots that we had as locks. Ditto for the release of Kony Ealy. So, despite that, we can expect that the Patriots initial 53-man roster will change rather quickly as they’ll probably pick up a player or two via the waiver wire. I wouldn’t rule out a trade for an edge player either as they are really thin there right now.

With that in mind, we’ll take our final crack at the roster here on Sunday night with time to digest and re-watch the Lions game.

First up is the offense…

OFFENSE (24)
QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

Out: None
New England has traditionally kept two QBs on their roster. Last year they kept three because of the crazy Brady suspension. I didn’t expect Brissett to push Garoppolo for the #2 slot this season, but his play has been really disappointing. He holds the ball far too long and his arm, though cannon-like has the accuracy of an old smooth-bore musket and not where it should be.

But I just don’t see them cutting bait with Brissett yet. Is it possible? You betcha, but not this year. I think they will stick with three but Brissett isn’t a lock by any means.

RUNNING BACK (5): James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James Develin

Out: D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden, Glenn Gronkowski, LeShun Daniels
No changes here, I really wanted to find a way to keep both Foster and Bolden. Foster is going to be on a roster somewhere on Opening Weekend. If it isn’t here, it will be somewhere else. I thought of keeping only two TEs and utilizing him in an RB/Slot receiver mode where Devlin and an extra tackle can help in the blocking. And they still may do that.

Bolden is a superb STs performer but with Gillislee back and looking healthy, I don’t see how they keep him without cutting from somewhere else.

TIGHT END (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy

Out: Matt Lengel, Sam Cotton, Jacob Hollister
While he’s played well the past few weeks, O’Shaughnessy’s slot is still tenuous at best. He’s a better blocker but not as good as a receiver as Hollister. The UDFA rookie from Wyoming had a big game against Jax and then was barely used after that. It is obvious the team likes O’Shaughnessy and wants to keep him. Lengel, who is banged up didn’t show enough to warrant keeping him around.

WIDE RECEIVER (5): Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Austin Carr

Out: Julian Edelman (IR), Matthew Slater (IR), Devin Lucien, Cody Hollister, Tony Washington, K.J. Maye
Julian Edelman’s injury opens the door for the Patriots to keep Austin Carr, who to me has just barely edged out Devin Lucien for the final spot at the position. Both Edelman and Slater go to IR, Slater will return later this season, which will make for another interesting decision. The top four are locks and will be needed to step up a bit more.

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (4): David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras
Out: Jason King, James Ferentz, Chase Farris

No changes here. Center David Andrews and guards Mason and Thuney were all starters last year, are locked and have played well this summer. Karras gets the nod over Ferentz who will be a primary practice squad candidate

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4):  Nate Solder, Antonio Garcia, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming

Out: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Max Rich, Andrew Jelks (IR)
The good news is that Nate Solder is back at practice and although he didn’t make the trip to Detroit, he should be ready for the Chiefs game on Opening Night. Garcia has been banged up, does his injury preclude him from making the roster and going on IR? That may open the door a crack for Conor McDermott or LaAdrian Waddle (also banged up) to step in. But it appears that Solder, Cannon, and Fleming are locked in right now.

Next up in the defense.

DEFENSE (25):
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (5): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Adam Butler

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta,
With the lack of enough edge players and the release of Kony Ealy, this opens the door for another player to step up inside and that is Adam Butler who has had a very solid camp. He’s shown the ability to penetrate inside and disrupt things in the running game. Branch, Brown, and Lawrence Guy are locked. Guy had a solid camp and with Butler, the team may opt for more of a 3-4 look with the bigger bodies inside.

Hamilton, Kilgo, and Augusta played well this summer and are victims of numbers more than anything else.

EDGE RUSHER (3): Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Geneo Grissom,

Out: Derek Rivers (IR), Caleb Kidder, Keionta Davis
Ealy was released early…which means that he was in no way in their plans for 2017 after an up and down training camp. Depth has become a serious issue here. Wise will be looked to now, to provide the pressure with Trey Flowers. Grissom right now is my 53rd player on the roster. He could be replaced somewhere else but sticks around for his STs play. But he’s been virtually invisible on defense and that isn’t a good sign.

Look for the linebackers to provide help in this realm. Dont’a Hightower, Van Noy, and Langi will all be utilized as edge rushers as well. This is an area they may cherry pick off of the waiver wire and/or swing a trade. I think Davis will go to the practice squad and possibly play a factor down the road sometime in the future.

LINEBACKER (6): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Harvey Langi, Trevor Bates

Out: Elandon Roberts (IR), Jonathan Freeny, Brooks Ellis
I had the team keeping just five linebackers all summer but with the dearth of edge players, they keep an extra LB and those guys will help out on the edge as well. David Harris is an early-down inside run stuffer who is a liability in coverage (see Roberts). But the difference is, he’s a guy who is an established, smart veteran and will be rarely out of position. Hightower is a guy who can play inside or on the edge as a rusher, as well as Van Noy.

Langi and Bates, the last addition to the linebacking crew both had a good summer and training camp. Langi was a bit overaggressive at times as a pass rusher, but he’ll learn to temper those tendencies. Bates noses out Belichick favorite and STs standout Freeny and Roberts goes to IR.

CORNERBACK (6): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Kenny Moore, Cyrus Jones

Out: Justin Coleman, DJ Killings, William Likely
The top four are locked and ready for the season. Gilmore had, in my opinion, a terrific summer. He’s adapted extremely well to the Patriots system and should be an outstanding addition. He and Butler promise to be a dynamic pair of corners on the edge. Rowe and Jonathan Jones have split the nickel corner duties and will continue to do so, depending on the matchups. Both played well this summer. Kenny More displayed a nose for the ball all summer and just beats out the veteran Justin Coleman. Cyrus Jones, for now, is a corner in name only. He’s the primary Kick returner but the team may ultimately decide to go with Dion Lewis/Amendola, in which case he’d be expendable.

SAFETY (5): Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Brandon King, Nate Ebner

Out:  Jordan Richards, David Jones, Damarius Travis, Jason Thompson
The top three of Chung, McCourty, and Harmon have been solid and are locked. The team has depth for those two with Nate Ebner and Brandon King who are mainly special teamers, neither of whom plays much defense although Ebner has played in spots in the past.

Jordan Richards is a favorite of Belichick and the team is trying every way of keeping him around. They switched him to the linebacker position in the “Big Nickel” look, the Pat Chung role and he was as inconsistent as he’s been elsewhere. Too slow, too stiff with a penchant for taking bad angles. Jones was hurt all summer, Travis played well in spots. Both may be candidates for the practice squad.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona,

Out: None
A good solid group who have had a good camp thus far. Gostkowski still seems to have a mental block for extra points. But is solid on his field goal attempts and his kickoffs which are outstanding at getting the team great field position on defense. Allen has had a very strong camp. We haven’t mentioned Cardona much at all….which tells you his snaps have been right on the money.

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

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

New England Patriots News 8-27, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 27, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning and welcome to your Sunday Patriots news 8-27 and AFC East notes.  

Patriots Lose Edelman for the Season, What it Means:
The Patriots worst fears were realized on Saturday afternoon when it was revealed that Julian Edelman’s right knee injury was an ACL tear and the valuable, versatile and hard-working cog of the Patriots’ offense will be gone for the 2017 season.

Edelman went down on a non-contact play against the Lions as he was cutting through the secondary on the Patriots first drive of the game. He caught three passes for 52 yards on the Patriots opening drive.

Julian Edelman was having a terrific summer before injuring his knee on Friday night. (SBalestrieri photo)

The normal mantra is for Patriots fans to call the old standby “next man up” and truthfully, as long as Tom Brady is under center, this team should be fine. But Edelman is Brady’s go-to guy on third down and you just don’t replace 90 or so catches and a 1000 yards at the drop of a hat. Look back at 2015, with Edelman, the Patriots were 9-0 and converting over 40 percent of their third downs. Edelman missed the last seven games and the Patriots went 3-4 and their 3rd down conversion rate plummeted to 32 percent. That wasn’t a coincidence.

This will put the onus of Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski to stay healthy this year. Amendola can pick up some of the slack in the slot with Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan rotating thru there as well depending on the matchups. It will also affect the punt return game. Malcolm Mitchell’s role will increase as well.

Edelman has always been money at returning punts in big games. If Cyrus Jones falters this season, the team could have easily turned to Danny Amendola, but now his role will change, and the team may be forced to cut back on his snaps in that realm. That backup, perhaps primary kick returner may fall to Dion Lewis. If Jones should stumble.

There’s no beating around the bush here. Can they work thru this? Yes. But the idea that it is no problem, despite how deep and versatile they are is ridiculous. This is a huge loss for the Patriots offense. He’s Brady’s best friend as well as his most trusted wide receiver. Those two frequently can see something and react wordlessly at the line of scrimmage and run the correct play. We saw that on Friday night.

Patriots Release Kony Ealy:
The Patriots released DL Kony Ealy who they acquired in a trade with the Carolina Panthers just five months ago. They traded back eight spots in the 2017 NFL Draft sending their 2nd round draft pick for Ealy and Carolina’s 3rd round pick.

Ealy, 25, struggled to fit in the Patriots system from the beginning of training camp and struggled, although he seemed to pick up his play lately. He had a QB hit and three hurries in Detroit but also lost his containment on a few others.

Kony Ealy struggled to fit in the Patriots scheme. (PatsFans.com photo)

It was widely reported on Friday that the Patriots were actively shopping Ealy to see if that was any interest in the talented defensive lineman. But his commitment and work ethic have been called into question. If Ealy clears waivers, he will become a free agent.

The Patriots tried to find a fit for Ealy but he was either unable or unwilling to do what they required of him. One thing that stood out which may mean nothing but now is a curious question is, was he a malcontent in the locker room? We watched him walk out alone for practice on most days. Coincidence or not?

The timing is also curious too, do the Patriots wait and pluck someone off the waiver wire or make a trade?  Or is a trade partner already out there? It is not like Belichick to jettison a guy without a plan in place. Or was it just a case of not wanting to keep a player around that they have no plans on keeping.

Adam Butler Making a Push for the Roster:
Rookie defensive lineman Adam Butler has been making the most of his opportunities and now appears to have a good chance of sticking with the 53-man roster. He came on as training camp progressed and had a solid game against the Lions on Friday night.

The 6’5, 300-pound defensive lineman has exhibited some explosion off the snap and has shown the ability to disrupt plays in the backfield. With that kind of penetration and the ability to stuff the running game, his chances of making the roster are increasing.

With the release of Ealy on Saturday, Butler may find himself on the inside now. He’ll be a player to watch this week, both during practice and against the Giants in the preseason finale in Foxboro.

Gillislee Impresses in First Opportunity With the Patriots:
Patriots running back Mike Gillislee got into his first game action as a member of the team on Friday night after missing most of the training camp with a balky hamstring. Now declaring himself, “100% percent healthy” Gillislee had eight carries for 38 yards and a touchdown in Detroit. He also added a two-point conversion.

Gillislee is a one-cut, hard nosed runner who is expected to take up the slack for the departed LeGarrette Blount who is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. His touchdown run was an easy one, with James O’Shaughnessy and James Devlin both putting excellent blocks on the right side. Gillislee waltzed in.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a game, last December, so I was just anxious to get out there and get that first hit,” Gillislee said after the game. “After that, I was good.”

First World Problems…Patriots Do Construction to Fit Super Bowl Banners:
The Patriots had a problem this summer that other teams would love to have. They had nowhere to hang their fifth Super Bowl banner. According to Mike Reiss in his Saturday column:

After internal meetings, the Patriots ultimately chose to have parts of Gillette Stadium undergo construction to make room for the new banner. That construction is close to its conclusion and the club tweeted out a sneak preview of where the banners will hang.

The Gillette Stadium sign was raised in the South end zone, creating room for the five banners — and possibly more in the future.

As owner Robert Kraft said on SiriusXM NFL Radio, “We’ve had to change the construction around. We have a little surprise for our fans [opening night], which should be very cool.


President Trump Gets a Super Bowl Ring From the Team:

Patriots owner Robert Kraft gave President Donald Trump a commemorative Super Bowl ring after the team’s visit to the White House in April. It seems that the Patriots who already came bearing gifts on their official visit felt that more was called for after the reception they received on visiting the Trump White House was the best they received in their five visits according to Kraft.

Trump received a customized, personalized ring that mirrored what the Patriots players and staff received. Those rings were crafted in 10-karat white gold and featured 280 diamonds with the words “World Champions” on the front. The inside of the ring includes, “We are all Patriots” and “greatest comeback ever,” a nod to the 31 unanswered points scored against the Falcons in the most dramatic comeback win in Super Bowl history.

The Super Bowl ring given to Trump is expected to be placed in the President’s Library at the end of his presidency. And according to federal watchdogs, he’ll have to claim the gift on his financial statements in 2018 as the gift is greater than $375.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:
Bills Hoping for LB Ragland to Get His Burst Back:
Buffalo Bills second-year linebacker Reggie Ragland was supposed to push starting Mike Linebacker Preston Brown for the starting position this summer in the Bills training camp. But it hasn’t materialized and the team is waiting for Ragland to get his noted burst back in his game.

Ragland was taking first team reps a year ago when he tore his ACL on Aug. 5 during last year’s camp. Right now, he’s listed as third on the depth chart leading to some speculation that he’s on the trading block.

But as we’ve frequently seen with ACL injuries, it takes about 18 months for a player to fully get his health and speed back to where it was prior to the injury. The Bills seem to be patient and know that Ragland will keep improving as the season progresses.

Cutler Finding Chemistry with Miami Wide Receivers:
The Dolphins signed QB Jay Cutler after starter Ryan Tannehill went down with an ACL injury and the immediate question was, having never played with any of the Dolphins’ skill position players, could he find chemistry with and thrive in Miami’s offense. Early indications are looking good.

He seems to be developing nice chemistry with Devante Parker and he also connected with Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry. He tossed a touchdown pass to tight end, Julius Thomas, while going 5-8 for 105 yards and a touchdown in their game on Thursday night against Philadelphia. While far from perfect it was a good building block for Cutler as he tries to find his comfort level in the Miami offense.

His best throw of the night was a 72-yarder where Parker won a jump ball. A deep throw to Stills drew a pass interference call in the end zone. It certainly looks like Adam Gase is going to take advantage of Cutler’s arm strength and test the deep parts of the field much more than the Fins were willing to do with Tannehill.

Jets Giving Hackenberg and Petty One More Look at QB:
The New York Jets, seemed like they were poised to go with veteran Josh McCown as the starting QB once the season began. But head coach Todd Bowles took a step back as McCown was relegated to a bystander as Bowles gave Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty split the reps as the team was preparing for their third preseason game.

While McCown remains the favorite to be the starter in two weeks, Bowles claimed late this week that the competition is still wide open and said that Hackenberg gets better the more he plays.

McCown has been getting the star treatment during the preseason, playing only one series in the first preseason game, but with a very limited wide receiver group, he needs to develop a chemistry with whoever is going to be out there.  

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

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

Are You Ready For Some Football? Patriots Dominate Early In Win Over Detroit

Steve Balestrieri
August 26, 2017 at 9:15 am ET

Bill Belichick doesn’t like the term dress rehearsals but if this was the Patriots’ in Detroit, then the offense looks more than ready enough to start the season. Tom Brady and Company were clicking on all cylinders in a first quarter that saw them race out to 24 points as they played most of their starters in the first half.

But it was truly a tale of two halves. The Patriots backups struggled on both sides of the ball before they eventually had to come from behind with a last minute field goal to beat the Lions 30-28.

The impressive showing by the starting offense had an ominous cloud hanging over it however, as it is feared that Julian Edelman may have suffered a serious injury and may be lost for the season. Edelman went down on the Patriots first drive after making a cut and grabbing his leg in pain. Initial tests revealed an ACL tear but the team is waiting for a test on Saturday morning to confirm it.

Brady and the Patriots offense came out firing, going to an up-tempo style offense, they marched down the field in just 3:09, before many fans found their seats, scoring a touchdown when Brady hit Chris Hogan for a seven-yard score. The drive covered 75 yards in just 7 plays. Edelman was huge in the drive, up to his injury catching three passes for 52 yards.

Detroit’s Matthew Stafford completed a pass to Golden Tate but Malcolm Butler punched the ball out and with three Patriots around the ball, Jordan Richards fell on it and the Patriots were in business at the Detroit 32.

Brady went for the quick strike, hitting Chris  Hogan streaking down the left side for a 32-yard touchdown pass making it 13-0 just 21 seconds after the first touchdown. On the right side, Brandin Cooks was also open deep as Brady had his pick of where to go. Stephen Gostkowski pulled the extra point wide left.

The Patriots defense held Detroit to a three and out and went right back on the attack. Facing a 3rd and 4, Brady and Danny Amendola had a beautiful 32-yard hook up where Amendola showed great concentration, hauling the ball in between two defenders as he was going to the ground. Then a defensive pass interference call on Rob Gronkowski, (the second he drew in the first quarter), set the team up at the 12-yard line. Three plays later, Mike Gillislee in his first carry in a Patriots uniform powered in from the one-yard line after great blocks by James O’Shaughnessy and James Develin to make it 19-0. The extra point was good, but the Lions were flagged on the play so New England went for two. Gillislee scored on basically the same play, this time cutting it back to the inside and the score was 21-0.

Brady led another scoring drive but this one stalled as Gostkowski nailed a 46-yard field goal to make the score 24-0. Brady was 10-11 for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter. The only incompletion was a drop by Cooks on a deep stick route.

Stafford finally got Detroit’s offense clicking and he completed four consecutive passes for 70 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to Marvin Jones that made it 24-7. The play was another curiously bad one by Butler who gave up a long pass last week. The Patriots starters were done after Brady moved them into Lion’s territory and badly missed a connection with Hogan in the Detroit end zone that resulted in a pick by Glover Quin. It was an uncharacteristic bad decision by Brady, throwing into double coverage.

Stafford was 11-of-17 for 125 yards, a touchdown and a pick against the Pats starting defense. He came out in the third quarter and played a series with the starters against the Patriots backups and shredded them, going 4-of-5 for 65 yards and a touchdown to Dwayne Washington.

Jimmy Garoppolo and the second team offense struggled in the second half until their two final drives where they were able to get field goals from Gostkowski to narrow the Lions’ lead to 28-27 and then finally going back out in front with two seconds to go 30-27. Other observations included:

  • Chris Hogan was dynamic, especially in that pivotal first quarter. He caught five passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Remember the talk when the team traded for Cooks and many thought Hogan’s reps would disappear? That now seems to be firmly in the rear-view mirror.
  • Jordan Richards was moved to a linebacker role in the Patriots “Big Nickel” formation on defense and struggled again. He did recover the fumble but missed some tackles that should have been made. We know Belichick loves this kid, but for them to keep him this season, would be a head scratcher.
  • Veterans David Harris and Kony Ealy saw extensive action, but with the injuries on the defense, it was more out of necessity than anything else. Both had some good and bad. Ealy seems to be at his best as an inside penetrator. Harris is solid in run support but was in a mismatch in the passing game with Ameer Abdullah.
  • Garoppolo and the offense seemed stuck in neutral, although much of that had to do with the play of the offensive line until the final two drives when Josh McDaniels went to the up-tempo offense. It seemed the ball was coming out quicker and with better accuracy.
  • D.J. Foster will be playing somewhere in September. It looked like he was running the ball with some excellent vision this week, he had one drop in the passing game, but it would have been a tough catch.
  • Cooks and Gronkowski each only caught one pass but it wasn’t anything to be concerned with. Gronk drew two pass interference penalties and Cooks, with Edelman out, would have had his role increased had the offense remained out there in the second half.
  • It was a pretty decent night for Cameron Fleming, he played mostly well but whiffed a couple of times on speed rushes off the edge by Anthony Zettel.

The Patriots now have the final tune-up with the Giants before the games begin for real when Kansas City comes into town in just 13 days. The team has plenty of decisions still to make and next week, the fringe players should see plenty of action.

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

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

Five Things to Watch For in the Patriots – Lions Preseason Game

Steve Balestrieri
August 25, 2017 at 9:23 am ET

The Patriots and Lions meet tonight in the third preseason game for both teams. This is the game that traditionally is referred to as the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season. Bill Belichick has always eschewed that perception but the starters should see plenty of action tonight and probably very little if any against the Giants next week.

There are still plenty of decisions that have to be made by the Patriots coaching staff, the roster will have to go from 90 to 53 and many of those will be tough ones as the team gets to its initial 53-man limit. We say initially because the team always makes tweaks to it during the season and the roster for Week 1 will not be the same one we see in Week 17.

So here are the five things we’re looking for in this week’s preseason tilt with Detroit.

Starters Playing Into the Third Quarter: I look for the starters, especially Tom Brady, Brandin Cooks and company to play into the second half tonight. Why? Although they’ve gotten plenty of work in the joint practices, they’ve had very little time on the playing field so far in 2017. Brady attempted only one pass, a seven-yard out pattern to Cooks in Houston a week ago.

Plus this will allow the starters, on both sides of the ball to make some second half adjustments. Although the game plans are pretty vanilla in the preseason, the coaches will still attempt to make some adjustments at halftime. It is an exercise in getting on the same page more than anything. And to see if some of the newer players take to the coaching of the Patriots staff.

Look for Brady et.al. to play probably a series in the third quarter and then give way to Jimmy Garoppolo this week.

Attacking the Lions Pass Defense: Detroit’s pass defense a year ago was dreadful allowing opposing QBs to complete 72.7 percent of their throws in 2016. They didn’t rush the QB well and were 30th in sacks a year ago but so far in the preseason have gotten eight. The Patriots will look to do what they’ve been practicing all summer, spread the field, and find the mismatches using their versatile and deep receiver group.

It will be interesting to see if Brady tries to stretch the field this week using Cooks and Hogan, something they didn’t do last week against the Texans. It wasn’t surprising though since they face Houston in Week 3, but this week, they may attempt to get their timing down a bit and stretch the Lions out.

Rob Gronkowski wasn’t targeted last week, just used as a blocker in the running game, and it will be intriguing to see if they use him this week. He will no doubt sit against the Giants in the preseason finale, will the coaches get him some work this week or keep him in bubble wrap until the Chiefs come into town in two weeks?

Cameron Fleming At Left Tackle Will Be the Man This Week: Nate Solder and LaAdrian Waddle won’t play tonight and it is probably doubtful to see rookie Tony Garcia so expect to see Fleming on the field as long as Brady is, protecting his blind side. Fleming has done well in the past as the swing tackle but has a pretty inconsistent summer. In order for the Patriots offense to operate at peak efficiency, the offensive line has to give Brady time to throw. While he’s known to get the ball out quickly, he was also under a lot of pressure last week against the tough Houston front seven.

Fleming probably won’t face the Lions’ Ziggy Ansah who’s been hurt but will have to handle Anthony Zettel. Working for the detail oriented Dante Scarnecchia, look for Fleming to have a better night than a week ago.

Patriots Running Backs Look to Continue a Strong Summer: Although Mike Gillislee has missed most of the camp with a balky hamstring, the running back position for the Pats is deep and versatile. One area that they’ve thrived in is catching the ball out of the backfield.

Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis and D.J. Foster have been very good at taking advantage of the team spreading out the field and finding large gaps to operate in underneath the coverage. Look for the team to do much more of the same tonight and put pressure on the Lions’ linebackers.

With a talented group of receivers, there is only so many players an opposing team can cover, someone is going to get open and frequently this summer, that someone has been the running backs who’ve had vast amounts of real estate open. This should be a continuing trend. Look for Brandon Bolden, on the bubble right now, to get a lot of work in the running game this week.

Secondary Needs a Bounce-back Type of Effort: The Patriots defense in the first two preseason games has given up a ton of big plays, something they pride themselves on NOT doing. They pride themselves on making teams earn their points by taking away big plays and making them nibble their way down the field. However, this summer has been one big play after another. Facing Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense, they’ll look to reverse that trend tonight.

When Calvin Johnson retired, the Lions replaced him with Marvin Jones who initially had very good success but once opponents began to double him, he struggled. Detroit has a pair of good receivers in Jones and Golden Tate. The Patriots corners, Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore will have a good test tonight.

Of course the secondary will get help there if the pass rush is improved this week. Trey Flowers and Kony Ealy will play although Deatrich Wise will probably sit. They’ll have to get creative with the pass rush. Another area to watch is the safeties, Devin McCourty, Pat Chung and Duron Harmon. They’re facing Eric Ebron and the deep end of the field. Old friend Keshawn Martin will play for the Lions tonight. He had a good 2015 season for the Pats.

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

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