Tag Archives: Barkevious Mingo

New England Patriots Free Agent Profile Barkevious Mingo

Steve Balestrieri
February 25, 2017 at 9:14 am ET

The Patriots will enter the beginning of the 2017 league season with several important decisions to make in regards to free agency. While the team has the third most salary cap room in the NFL this season, they have a slew of free agents including several who are either starters or important role players.

We’ll be doing profiles on each of the free agents in the upcoming days and give you our take on whether they return or move on. One of the players facing free agency is linebacker Barkevious Mingo.

The Patriots landed the uber-athletic Mingo for a 5th round draft pick during the end of August in 2016. Mingo was a former first round draft pick (#6 overall) from the 2013 NFL Draft out of LSU. Mingo was the fifth former first round pick that the Patriots acquired during the 2016 off-season.

Mingo appeared to be well on his way to being a star performer in his first season. Despite being slowed by a chest injury, he logged five sacks as a rookie with the Browns. That was followed by only two in 2014 and none in 2015. With him on the outs with Cleveland, Bill Belichick swung a trade with the Browns for a 5th round pick.

It seemed to immediately bear fruit; in his first action in a preseason game against the Giants, Mingo was all over the field, showcasing the athleticism he’s always been known for. But his issue has always been weight. He can’t keep weight on his frame and as a result, he never carved out a role on the Patriots defense. He did become a good Special Teams’ player and he performed well there all season.

Now with a Super Bowl ring in hand, he’ll head out to free agency. Mingo and Dont’a Hightower are the only linebackers on the Patriots testing free agency this season.

Why Mingo Will Return: The Patriots and Belichick have always loved having athletic linebackers on their special teams’ units, guys like Larry Izzo, Matt Chatham, Chris White, and Tracy White immediately come to mind. They can probably land Mingo for a very modest salary and bring him back.

There won’t be a ton of teams breaking down his door and looking to throw big money at his feet. So, if Belichick want him to return for his STs ability, the opportunity will be there.

Why Mingo Won’t Return: There was hope that Belichick could find a role for Mingo as a sub-rusher in the Patriots defense. Unfortunately, despite his early flash, that never materialized. His lanky frame, just doesn’t hold up well enough for full-time defensive play.

There’s little belief that this will change if Mingo is brought back. While he performed well on Special Teams, the Patriots can replace his production there if he goes.

Bottom Line: The Patriots took a calculated but low-risk gamble on Mingo last year. For a 5th round draft pick, it was well worth it. But this was one of those moves that just didn’t work out. Mingo appeared to be a good teammate and relish the role he got, but there was hope that it would be much more.

His physical skills and athleticism will no doubt attract a team that will want to roll the dice, much like Belichick did a year ago, to see if they can find a role for Mingo in their pass rush department. And they’ll no doubt toss more money his way than the Patriots will this spring.

So we feel the chances are around 70/30 that Mingo does not return in a Patriots uniform in 2017

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 Have a Long List of Free Agents in 2017

Steve Balestrieri
February 9, 2017 at 9:28 am ET

The Patriots will enter the 2017 offseason with a ton of cap space ($61,248,593 according to our own salary cap guru in Miguel @patscap) but have a lot of players hitting free agency.  There is a total of 19 players that are free agents this spring. It begins with 13 unrestricted free agents, three restricted free agents, and three exclusive-rights free agents.

Here is a list of the Patriots free agents and their ages in parenthesis:

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
TE Martellus Bennett (30)
RB LeGarrette Blount (30)
RB Brandon Bolden (27)
DT Alan Branch (32)
FB James Develin (28)
WR Michael Floyd (27)
FS Duron Harmon (26)
LB Dont’a Hightower (26)
DE Chris Long (31)
LB Barkevious Mingo (26)
CB Logan Ryan (26)
TE Greg Scruggs (26)
DE Jabaal Sheard (27)

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
CB Malcolm Butler (26)
OT Cameron Fleming (24)
LB Trevor Reilly (29)

EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS:
CB Justin Coleman (23)
LB Brandon King (23)
TE Matt Lengel (26)

So, what are the differences in the categories you ask? Well, I’m glad you did… sort of. The Patriots can extend any of the players below to a new deal prior to the March 9th deadline. Once the deadline hits, then that is when the different categories come into play.

The Unrestricted free agent is free to sign with any team for basically the best deal for the player, whether it be the money, the team or any other reason.

Restricted free agents can be offered one of three “tenders” by the team holding their rights. They are for players with just three years of accrued service in the league. Since most rookie contracts run for four years now, they are becoming rarer.

A tender is a one-year contract for a pre-determined amount and here are the categories: (note the amounts listed here are in 2016 money and will be subject to change.)

First round tender: 1 year, about $3.582 million
Second round tender: 1 year, about $2.516 million
Right of first refusal/Original round tender: 1 year, about $1.647 million

The original round tender means that if another team swoops in and signs a player, his last team would get a draft pick from the round that player was drafted in. In the case of a UDFA, the team would get nothing.

The team has the right of first refusal as well if a team were to offer a restricted free agent an offer, the Patriots have the right to match it.

Exclusive rights free agents haven’t accrued three years of NFL service and if the team extends them an offer sheet, they have to sign it.

So while the Patriots have tons of cap room, they also have some big decisions to make in regards to 21 free agents. The ERFAs are the most easily done if they want to keep them they are the easiest to retain. But from there the questions become a bit stickier.

We’ll be looking at some of the free agents in depth in the upcoming days. Who may stay and who may go.

Any questions regarding the salary cap and the inner workings of it should be addressed to Miguel aka @Patscap who covers the salary cap of the Patriots better than anyone else anywhere. We are fortunate to have him here at PatsFans.com and he has the breakdowns of the deals and how it all works.

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 Defense Is Changing, But Not Against Wilson

Steve Balestrieri
November 10, 2016 at 6:26 am ET

Now that the election hysteria has subsided for the moment, it is time to get back to football. Just about a week ago, the Patriots traded linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns and now the unit will be forced to undergo some changes. But if you’re like many fans and expecting them to be more aggressive on defense, those changes aren’t coming, at least not this week.

The most immediate focus on Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is how they play on replacing Collins in the defense and number two is, how to breathe some life in what has been a moribund pass rush.

First, what’s the plan on replacing Collins? As we’ve now been already aware, the Patriots had planned on making Collins a part-time player and already against Buffalo, they replaced him on early downs by rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts. Roberts is a smaller player at 6’0, and 235 pounds but doesn’t play that way. He’s a downhill, physical player with a great burst.

“He’s a missile, man,” Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower said earlier in an interview. “He’s a torpedo. He’s a hammer.”

While he’s definitely a force against the run as his play against All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas in the Cleveland game will attest, he’s not as comfortable in his coverage role. The Patriots know that they’ll have to live with his learning that aspect of his craft on the job. But for third downs or obvious passing downs, there will be some tinkering to do.

The obvious choice would be to use Barkevious Mingo, who, not possessing the strength or the size of Collins, is at least as close as one can get in the athletic department. Recent addition Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin, as well as Rob Ninkovich, may get some looks there.

Hightower remains the key member of the unit, he can do it all. The Pats signal caller on defense is a big, physical run-stuffer inside and can bring great pressure on the A-gap blitzes up the middle. They can also shift him to the outside and force plays out on the edge where he had some experience as an outside edge rusher while at Alabama. Expect them to tinker with different combinations to find the right mix.

Which brings us to the pass rush, if you are expecting them to get more aggressive this week, think again. Although Russell Wilson has been banged up and still doesn’t have the normal burst and quickness that we’ve seen out of him in the past, he’s quickly getting there. Watching the Buffalo game showed that he’s almost got his mobility back.

And if there’s one thing that Bill Belichick will preach this week, it will be containment. This has been the Patriots M.O. when facing mobile quarterbacks, they’re willing to sacrifice pass rush pressure to keep the quarterback in the pocket. That is especially important to a team that likes to play man-to-man coverage like the Patriots do.

With defensive backs trying to stay plastered to a wide receiver down the field, if a quarterback escapes the pocket and begins to run, their job then becomes much more difficult. Invariably once a QB breaks containment or a would-be sack, someone becomes wide open down the field.

The problem becomes one of time. How long can you expect the secondary to hold their coverage before someone breaks open? And with a QB like Wilson, he’s much better suited for hitting plays from the pocket than a player like the Pats faced two weeks ago in Tyrod Taylor.

With the Seattle running game mired in neutral this season and averaging just about 81 yards per game, those problems running center around the health of Wilson who has averaged much more yardage rushing in the past. The Patriots may opt to keep a spy on Wilson and get after him a bit more, but history has shown that they’ll try to contain him on the edge and slowly force the pocket closed.

With Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and tight end Jimmy Graham, Wilson has plenty of options to stretch the field and if he begins to make plays with his feet, they can easily break off a big play down the field. He hit Baldwin on a 50-yarder on Monday night against the Bills.

The Patriots don’t want to see that; their focus is on denying the big plays down the field and they have been very good at preventing those. They’ve only allowed one 40+ yard pass play this season.

So on Sunday night, expect to see much of what we’ve seen before when facing QBs like Wilson. They’ll be in the containment mode and try to squeeze the pocket. If there is some pressure, look for it up the middle in trying to force Wilson into getting rid of the ball quickly. As always, that can be a dangerous proposition against the mobile Seattle QB.

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 Bye Week Mid-Term Report Card – Defense

Steve Balestrieri
November 4, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Unit hasn’t played to their potential…yet

The Patriots get their bye week at a perfect time, right smack dab in the middle of the season before they begin a very important stretch of games that will mark the outcome of the 2016 regular season.

The Jamie Collins trade furor has subsided a little bit and again good timing by Bill Belichick. The players get over their shock, get a couple of practices in, get some time off to lay in the sun somewhere and come back refreshed, and hopefully focused.

We’re breaking down our mid-term grade for the defense’s positions today after the offense’s yesterday.

So… step back off the rail on the Tobin Bridge, buckle up and let’s look at the first half of an eventful and at times, tumultuous first half of the season. The Patriots went 7-1 much to the chagrin of the league and the rest of the teams as they are the top team in the AFC at the midway point.

One thing to keep in mind about the Patriots defense, and something Bill Belichick preaches constantly. The most important stat per Belichick is points, specifically, points allowed by the defense. The Patriots are currently third in the NFL allowing only 16.5 points per game behind just Minnesota and Seattle.

Denver whose defense is the one that Patriots fans always use for comparison is currently fifth, allowing 17 points a game. Does that mean the Pats defense is better than Denver’s? Not at all, but at the same time it shows that there is possibly a lot more that this unit can accomplish.

Defensive Line: B
The Patriots defensive line has done a pretty good job at defending the run this year…apart from the two games against Buffalo. They’re allowing 101.2 yards per game this season. Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, with Vincent Valentine and Woodrow Hamilton have been very good at clogging up the middle. Branch is playing some of his best football in his career with the Patriots and has been a very valuable piece inside. Even pushing the pocket a bit on passing downs.

The edge players, Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich have likewise been outstanding in run support and set the edge very impressively. They stay at home, stretch the plays out and either make them on their own or allow the linebackers or secondary members to clean it up.

Where they’ve lacked thus far this season is in the pass rush department. They just aren’t winning the one-on-one matchup battles nearly consistently enough. Part of the reason is by design. Both Bill Belichick and DL coach Brendan Daly have stated that the defense has sacrificed the pass rush to help defend certain backs and tight ends as well as keep scrambling QB’s in the pocket.

Daly told NESN this week, “A lot of people want to judge it based on sack numbers, quarterback hit numbers. I think there’s a lot of other things that go into play there: keeping scrambling quarterbacks in the pocket, forcing quarterbacks that aren’t as mobile to move out of the pocket, the kind of marriage of coverage and rush. And certain times game plan-wise, we may sacrifice some pass rush to take away a back or a tight end.

“The reality is, you’re trying to affect the quarterback. However, you get that done to be more successful is what the ultimate goal is in winning the game. So, I think it’s a very difficult thing to put your finger on in terms of ‘is it successful, is it not successful?’”

While they aren’t as terrible as they’ve been made out to be, can they improve? Absolutely. This one area I would expect them to be working on much harder next week.

Linebackers: B
Jamie Collins wasn’t his dominant self the first half of the season. Other than the Houston game where he was all over the field, he played well but not well enough apparently and the coaches shipped him off to the equivalent of football Siberia…Cleveland. Now they’ll have to replace his three-down presence.

Dont’a Hightower and Elandon Roberts are physical downhill, instinctive run-stuffers. Hightower will have much more on his plate now and the defensive captain will be looked to even more to provide the leadership on the defense as well as do some more blitzing in the A-gaps.  Roberts is an undersized, rookie who plays much bigger than his size, see Joe Thomas in Cleveland.

Shea McClellin was brought here in free agency but hasn’t played a ton. He also missed a few weeks with a concussion. Ninkovich can also drop back and play some linebacker as he’s done in the past.

Which brings us to our final two linebackers and now with the trade of Collins the most intriguing, Barkevious Mingo and Kyle Van Noy. Both at this stage are complete unknowns.

Mingo came over at the end of preseason and has the freakish athleticism of Collins, but lacks his size and strength. Could he become the third down ‘backer that can rush the passer? Possibly. Although he’s been playing a lot of special teams, he’s played very little on defense, a total of 27 snaps, including 10 against the Bills, his most.

Van Noy came out of the draft as a guy that could do a little bit of getting after the passer and coverage of tight ends and backs. He too will probably get some snaps to see what he can do. Can the Patriots bring out what the Lions and Browns couldn’t with these two? We’ll soon find out.

Secondary: B
The secondary has had a decent start to the season. Malcolm Butler was hobbled by a bum ankle but has been playing better than his 2015 season and has shown he deserves a very healthy pay raise next year.

Logan Ryan has played okay, and usually gets matched up with the opponent’s speediest receiver with some safety help. But his play has been a bit inconsistent of late and facing teams with some bigger receivers, the Pats gave Eric Rowe the start the past two weeks. Rowe is the biggest of the Pats corners but struggled in Buffalo, drawing some PI flags…one in particular, was not earned.

Justin Coleman and Cyrus Jones, the Pats top draft pick, have not been good as the slot or nickel corner. Both have struggled and Jones has been a healthy scratch for the past three weeks.

Devin McCourty and Pat Chung lead a safety group that is very solid. McCourty is the QB of the secondary and has had an outstanding season. Chung has gotten some flak, undeserved in my opinion as he’s been a major plus in his second go-around with the team. Duron Harmon is an under the radar third safety. Jordan Richards and Nate Ebner haven’t gotten a ton of snaps.

Special Teams: B
After struggling to start the season, Stephen Gostkowski looked more like the guy we’ve seen for the past 10 seasons, last week in Buffalo. He was 5 for 5 on extra points and made both field goal attempts, including a 51-yarder at the end of the half. His short kickoffs have been outstanding all season.

Ryan Allen has had some ups and downs but he’s been very solid for the most part in 2016. He’s been very good at angling his punts inside the 20 to limit the returns. The Patriots coverage units have been terrific so far and the return game got a boost from Danny Amendola returning the second half kickoff last week 73 yards.

Coaches: B+
Matt Patricia hasn’t had a great season thus far. The defense is not playing as well as they were envisioned at the beginning of the year. The talk was that this was going to be a Top 10 or even a Top 5 defense. While they are third in points allowed, their overall play has only been so-so. And until recently their play in the red zone and on third down has been spotty. Patricia has his work cut out for him in the second half as the defense will be going thru some changes.

Bill Belichick did a masterful job of not only preparing the team but its two young QBs to carry on for Tom Brady in the first quarter of the season. Now he faces another difficult challenge.

By trading one of the top players on the team and easily the most athletic, he’s pushed all of his chips into the middle of the table betting that he can get the best out his remaining players on defense. And of course, lead them to another Super Bowl berth. Now we’ll all watch to see how the players will react. There are examples of them reacting well, (2003), and poorly, (2009). One thing it won’t be is boring.

We’re on to Seattle.

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.

Where Do the Patriots Go Defensively Without Collins

Steve Balestrieri
November 1, 2016 at 6:44 am ET

The Patriots pulled a stunner with the decision to trade Jamie Collins on Monday. That move was one that no one saw coming and the move to Cleveland for a conditional 3rd round draft pick seems a bit light in terms of compensation. Now the bigger question is where do they go defensively without the most athletic player on the team.

But first, fans on social media are wanting to know why a team that is considered one of the frontrunners to make it to the Super Bowl would be a seller, rather than a buyer at the NFL trade deadline. And in doing so, trade arguably their best defensive player away.

The immediate knee jerk reaction was to think about Collins’ upcoming free agent status. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe wrote that the Patriots offered him a deal worth $11 million dollars a year but that he turned it down. Reports have filtered out that Collins is looking for “Von Miller kind of money” in his next contract.

That isn’t going to happen. At least not in New England. Mike Lombardi, until recently a member of Bill Belichick’s staff, and perhaps the one with the most insight into the what the Pats coach is thinking took to the airwaves Monday afternoon and said it wasn’t money related but play-based.

Lombardi said that Belichick and the coaches were getting peeved at the linebacker’s penchant for freelancing in the secondary and not following the called play. Some have called Collins overall play this season a disappointment and in that, I tend to agree with a point. We’ve come to expect so much from the freakishly athletic Collins while he’s on the field, that he can’t ever live up to expectations.

I thought he’s played pretty well this year. The Houston game was the one that stands out because in that one, Collins took over and the uber-dominant force we all think he should be every week. But there are other games where he just seemed to glide along for major portions of with the occasional splash play. I thought it was more of a scheme related thing than a play-based scenario.

As for Belichick, he’s repeating the mantra we’ve heard so many times before.

“In the end, we did what we thought was best for the football team. There are a lot of things to take into consideration. I’m sure we could bring up a lot of points to talk about, but in the end, that’s really the bottom line,” Bill Belichick said on WEEI Monday afternoon.

One thing about Belichick is that he doesn’t care what people think, doesn’t pay attention to the media and will put himself out there for criticism. The safe move could’ve been to keep Collins until the end of the year and let him walk. But he’s trying to send a message to his team that the play of the defense wasn’t good enough.

Just like with Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Logan Mankins, Randy Moss, Chandler Jones, and others Belichick isn’t worried about upsetting the apple cart. The move makes sense on one level, he did it during the bye week and once the players get over their shock, they’ll be off for a week and with extra time to prepare for Seattle.

Now all eyes will be on the Patriots defense and if the Patriots falter, Belichick will set himself up to take the heat. But just like the Honey Badger, “he doesn’t give a s**t.”

So now back to the subject at hand… Where do they go from here defensively without Collins. We got a glimpse of it on Sunday. On early downs, the team is obviously enamored with the play of inside thumper Elandon Roberts. He and Dont’a Hightower played most the early-down snaps. The rookie from Houston has been impressive with his downhill style and he plays much larger than a player his size. He’ll be getting an uptick in snaps from here on out.

The Patriots traded for Barkevious Mingo this summer from the Browns and while he rivals Collins in terms of uber-athleticism, he’s neither as big or as strong as Collins. But he can get after the QB and can cover the tight ends or backs out of the backfield. Last week the team traded for Kyle Van Noy who likewise can cover the tight ends and rush the passer a bit. They also can mix Rob Ninkovich back into the mix as well as Shea McClellin in there as well.

But it also means that the signal caller, Hightower will be leaned on more than ever. He’s the glue that holds all the pieces in place and the team doesn’t have anyone that can fill his shoes if he were to go down with an injury.

One thing we’ve all been clamoring for is for Matt Patricia to be more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. The Patriots have been very passive and the “bend but don’t break” philosophy always gets on fans’ nerves. That doesn’t figure to change now. Their most explosive playmaker has been dealt away. So, this move isn’t going to alter that at all in the foreseeable future.

Are the Patriots better now than they were yesterday morning? No. I don’t subscribe to the “addition by subtraction” theme here. While I am not privy to the goings-on in the locker room, I doubt the very reserved and quiet Collins was a locker room distraction.

Are the moves done or as Lombardi hinted yesterday on FS1 more on the way? There are a few more hours until the trade deadline hits. The Patriots have proven time and again, they aren’t averse to making any moves if they feel it will help the football team.

But just like the days when guys like Milloy, Law, Mankins, et al were traded or let go, reserve judgment and let the chips fall where they will. How many times did we hear that the sky was falling in Foxboro and be proven wrong by Belichick? He’s earned that much in the years that he’s been pulling the strings in Foxboro. We all know that if this team falters now, that the blame will fall all on his shoulders and this deal will be the one that everyone points at. Belichick could care less.

“Honey Badger doesn’t give a s**t.”

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.

 

 

When Brady and Ninkovich Return on Monday, Who Goes?

Steve Balestrieri
September 28, 2016 at 1:30 pm ET

Roster Cutdown Decision to be a tough one

The Patriots will welcome back both QB Tom Brady and DE Rob Ninkovich on Monday from their league suspensions but with it comes to some bad news. Two of the current members of the roster will have to be cut to make room. And those decisions won’t be easy.

A quick look at the roster and there is no glaring position or player that will easily be cut. The 53-man roster as it is presently constructed is pretty deep, as deep as any a Bill Belichick has had in recent years. So with that in mind, the coaches may opt to let a couple of players go where the players may have some practice squad eligibility left, and be brought back. So here is a couple of positions where the team may have some options.

Offensive Line: Right now the starting unit of Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon appears to be the one they’re sticking with and has played well so far this season. Cameron Fleming is seeing a lot of reps at swing tackle so those players appear to be set.

Rookie Ted Karras has practice squad eligibility but he’s a backup for not only at guard but at center as well. The Patriots obviously like what they have in G Jonathan Cooper who came over in the Chandler Jones trade because they’ve kept him around all this time while not seeing him on the field yet. Another option could be backup tackle, LaAdrian Waddle.

The reason against any of those players going? The Patriots have traditionally kept nine offensive linemen and the chances of them going with less than that, considering the injuries they had there a year ago seem remote.

Tight End: The team is currently carrying four with Martellus Bennett, Rob Gronkowski, Clay Harbor and A.J. Derby. I was a little surprised that they opted for four to start the season but given the injury to Gronk and the time on the PUP list for Harbor, it wasn’t that much of a stretch.

Tight A. J. Derby was a standout during the preseason but has played very sparingly in the first three games. (SBalestrieri photo)

Now they may be forced to cut one due just to a numbers crunch. Gronk and Bennett aren’t going anywhere. Does the team really need four tight ends? But deciding who goes is a tough question. Derby had the better preseason and training camp but has no real game experience. Harbor is a veteran, can play special teams and was given decent but not great money this spring during free agency to come over from the Jaguars. Derby has PS eligibility which is where he may end up if the team decides that he’d pass thru waivers.

Linebacker: Here is where things get really intriguing. Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower as well as Jonathan Freeny are locked. Shea McClellin due to his contract this season is pretty much a lock and has the versatility to play either LB or DE. Barkevious Mingo has been a core STs player but has really played very little on defense. Elandon Roberts is a two-down, run stopping thumper. He’s played sparingly.

Ninkovich, when he returns, can add to the depth at linebacker. Not only has he played there in the past, he did practice there some this spring and summer. And playing him there may be in the cards. With Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long and Trey Flowers playing solidly at defensive end, where will Ninkovich fit in the rotation?

While he could step right in on the edge, the best-case scenario would have him filling in at both DE/LB where they can get all of them on the field at the same time. So Roberts may find himself in a numbers crunch and with practice squad eligibility, may be the choice here. Mingo and McClellin seem less likely because of their versatility to play either DE or LB but aren’t out of the realm of possibility.

Shea McClellin (58) can line up as a DE or drop into coverage as a LB. (SBalestrieri photo)

Secondary: The chance that the team could cut any of the core players in the secondary seems somewhat unlikely. The safeties all have roles that Belichick and Matt Patricia seem comfortable with having them all stay put. With Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman and top pick Cyrus Jones all having distinct roles puts them in the locked category.

The only possibilities remain, Eric Rowe, the big corner that came over from the Eagles or Jonathan Jones the UDFA corner from Auburn who won a slot on the 53-man roster out of training camp.

Running Back: The team has LaGarrette Blount (seems like ages ago when many had him as on the bubble for training camp), and James White as locks. They both have distinct roles in the running and passing games and aren’t going anywhere. Fullback James Develin likewise is a key member of the offense, indeed, his contributions were missed a year ago in opening holes in the run game.

Brandon Bolden doesn’t offer a ton in the running game but is one of the core special teams’ guys. He caused a key fumble on a kickoff a week against the Texans a week ago. D.J. Foster is a rookie who has practice squad eligibility and was a healthy scratch for two out of the first three games. But he’s a very intriguing kid who when he gets into open space can easily make opponents miss. Would he pass thru waivers and make it to the practice squad?  I’d say that was doubtful.

There just isn’t any way that the team could cut a WR, QB or the specialists without leaving themselves woefully short. So what will the coaches do? One thing is for sure, they’re already having talks on this. They’ll have to see how Sunday’s game goes and make a decision accordingly. The decision to cut someone loose won’t be an easy one. It may come down to someone getting a case of the “Foxboro Flu” this weekend.

 

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: Pre-Season Wrap Up And 53 Man Roster Projection

Russ Goldman
September 2, 2016 at 10:19 am ET

In this episode, we looked back at the last two Pre-Season Games for the Patriots. We also had a discussion of potential cuts getting the Patriots down to their 53 man roster.

Tuesday Daily Rundown 8/30: New England Patriots News and Notes

Ian Logue
August 30, 2016 at 7:31 am ET

Here’s a look at this morning’s top stories.

Knighton Out – The writing appeared to be on the wall for defensive lineman Terrance Knighton after a preseason that saw him not get any snaps last Friday night, and on Monday the Patriots parted ways with the veteran, ending his short tenure in New England.

The team released him Monday, which follows up on the concerns he had after the game where he seemed surprised about his lack of snaps against the Panthers.

“You’re always concerned when you’re not playing,” he said via ESPN. “I prepared myself to play, the coaches made the decisions on who they wanted to play, and I’m not going to ask any questions or make any excuses or look for any explanation. I’m just going to get dressed, get back on the plane and see what happens.”

Bill Belichick addressed the move on Monday, saying that it was just one of those things that happens during what’s been a competitive training camp.

“Just didn’t work out,” Belichick told the media. “He came in, worked hard, lost weight, got in good condition, tried to do the things we asked him to do. Just other people ahead of him.”

The early release of Knighton gives the former Washington standout an opportunity to start exploring opportunities elsewhere, which is something Belichick has historically done for veterans he respects.

Knighton tweeted a good bye after the news, “Well it’s been real New England.  The road continues.”

Stork Fails Physical, Nullifies Trade – After being acquired for a conditional draft pick by Washington last week, it looks like Bryan Stork won’t be landing with a new team after all.

According to published reports, Stork failed his physical for what would have been his new team, nullifying the trade that would have potentially yielded a conditional draft pick for the Patriots had Stork ended up in Washington.

The 25-year former Florida State lineman has had a rough run over his first two seasons in New England, suffering four reported concussions over that span after emerging as a starter up front on the offensive line.

He earned a lot of respect of the players around him, with a memorable article from January 2015 from Yahoo.com where he made Eric Edholm nervous after a seemingly harmless line of questioning was something Stork wasn’t interested in, setting up some uncomfortable moments.

But on the same day as that interview, Jimmy Garoppolo offered up some praise for Stork after he recalled meeting him in the Senior Bowl where they two played together.

“Well, we were in the Senior Bowl together,” Garoppolo said, “so I knew him before we were actually drafted here. But playing with him there, I realized … he’s a badass.”

“He’s a hard-nosed dude, and that’s what you want in your linemen,” said Garoppolo at the time about playing with him in New England.  “Just getting in there, doing his job. You can’t ask for a better lineman than that.”

As for what his future holds, Stork had been mulling retirement so it remains to be seen what direction his career may take.  He told the Tallahassee Democrat back in 2013 that when his playing days were over, he was hoping to buy a big piece of land out in the country somewhere, with a runway on it so he could fly planes and live in peace.

Thankfully after a relatively successful football career, hopefully he has the money to make that dream a reality should he decide his playing days are over.


Jackson is off to a rough start so far in 2016. (USA TODAY Images)

Jackson Heads to PUP – Guard Tre’ Jackson will start 2016 on the PUP list, which means he’ll miss at least the first six games of the regular season.

The second-year player out of Florida State started nine games while appearing in 13 during his rookie season and looked like he was poised to contend for a starting role in 2016.  But so far he hadn’t been a full participant in practice and had just been seen doing conditioning and getting in light workouts during training camp, which obviously means he’s not quite healthy enough to factor into the Patriots immediate plans.

Jackson, who has a history of knee problems, suffered a knee injury during the middle of the season against Miami and seemingly escaped serious injury after the Boston Herald reported that his MRI came back negative.  However after fighting through it, he ultimately missed both playoff games and underwent offseason knee surgery.

The move to PUP gives the Patriots an extra roster spot to start the year, as he won’t count against the official roster while he remains with that designation.

Cooper Returns – One quick bit of good news is that offensive guard Jonathan Cooper returned to practice on Monday for the first time since the beginning of camp.  Cooper has reportedly been dealing with a plantar fascia condition in his foot, which he aggravated early on after being carted off the field and it’s hampered him ever since.

He joined Shaq Mason on the practice field on Monday for the warm-up period before heading down to the lower field to do some conditioning.

Cooper was part of the compensation the Patriots received from the Arizona Cardinals, with the hope that having him coached up by Dante Scarnecchia might see him finally live up to his potential. The veteran offensive lineman is a former 1st round pick for the Arizona Cardinals (7th overall) in 2013.

Mingo Enjoying Transition in New England – After playing in a 3-4 defensive alignment in Cleveland, Barkevious Mingo is enjoying getting back to his roots now that he’s joined the Patriots.

After being acquired from the Browns last week for a fifth-round pick in 2017, Mingo has been hard at work getting immersed in the Patriots’ defense.  The Patriots play a 4-3 defense, which Mingo admitted is similar to the one he played at LSU.  But he’s also excited about the fact he’s reunited with former Browns teammate Jabaal Sheard, who he told Boston.com has helped make him comfortable since he’s been here.

“Jabaal was there my first year and he carried me along that long, long year,” Mingo said. “Being back with him is definitely a huge relief.”

It seems to have been a good experience so far, with Mingo admitting that he’s gotten plenty of help from everyone since he’s been here as he continues getting acclimated with his new teammates.

“It’s hard. These guys got couple of months on me,” Mingo said. “It’s a challenge but the guys here they’re really helping me come along, pointing me in the right direction and just getting me ready to play.”

Mingo Will Be an Intriguing Piece to the Patriots Defense

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Athletic Freak will play Linebacker in the Patriots System

The Patriots have some players who won’t be sleeping much on Monday night, sweating over the league mandated cut-down to 75 players on Tuesday by 4 p.m. Newly acquired LB/DE Barkevious Mingo won’t be getting much sleep either, but he’s not worried about his status. He’s a lock. But he’s far behind his contemporaries in learning the Patriots defense. So he’s burning the midnight oil trying to get up to speed in Bill Belichick’s defense.

Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia love versatile players on the perimeter that can rush the passer, and drop into coverage. Their defensive end/linebacker hybrids allow them to disguise coverages in the secondary and bring QB pressure from a variety of different positions. They just got themselves a very intriguing piece. But first…he has to learn the playbook.

“It’s hard,” he said. “These guys have got a couple months on me. It’s a challenge, but the guys here are really helping me come along, tell me the right directions and just get me ready to play.” Bill Belichick said much the same thing in his Monday morning press conference, stating that Mingo was far behind his teammates.

Mingo Brady

Mingo is an athletic freak who was drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Browns with the #6 overall pick but never lived up to his draft status. Part of the reason was that with the constant turnover with the Cleveland coaching staffs, he was constantly asked to do different things, having to always learn a new system, and frequently for coaches who didn’t use him properly.

The 6’4, 245-pound Mingo had an incredible performance in the 2013 NFL Combine.  He ran a 4.58 time in the 40-yard dash, a 37-inch vertical leap, a 128-inch Broad jump and an excellent 6.84 time in the 3-Cone Drill. But the Browns coaches never fully realized his potential.

“It was a huge challenge,” he said. “Not knowing going into a year what’s going to be the playbook, who’s going to be the coach, how you’re going to be used. But it’s part of the game we chose to play.” Asked about what his strengths were, he said, “I was asked to do a lot of that over there, and rush the passer still, definitely, and cover tight ends.”

The Patriots made it clear to Mingo, he’s going to be a linebacker in their system. With edge rushers Jabaal Sheard, who Mingo credited with being a mentor in his rookie season, Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long, Shea McClellin and Trey Flowers the team has excellent, versatile players who can rush the passer or drop into throwing lanes.

On one such play on Friday night, Long dropped along the line of scrimmage, unseen by Cam Newton, he deflected a pass up in the air that was picked off by Devin McCourty.

Mingo joins Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower as the linebackers who can support the rush defense, cover the tight ends or blitz the quarterback from a variety of different positions. Opponents throwing the ball will find a difficult task in identifying where the pass rush is coming from and where the coverages will be rolling to. Having a pair of linebackers as athletic and fast as Collins and Mingo presents the coaches with some interesting and very intriguing possibilities.

“It’s very exciting,” Mingo said to the media on Monday. “This team is stacked at every position. You have guys on the outside that can cover, you have interior guys that are holding gaps and linebackers that are hitting those gaps and making big plays. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Mingo, like Sheard and Dion Lewis, came from the losing atmosphere of Cleveland where the Browns won 14 games in his three years there. The Patriots won 13 just last year alone. The irony was not lost on him as he said, one minute he was preparing to play for the Browns against the Bucs and the next, he’s boarding a plane joining the most successful franchise the past decade.

“It’s a huge culture shock,” Mingo said Monday about coming over to New England. “I’m just excited to be a part of it.”

The Patriots don’t care where he was drafted or that he didn’t live up to his Top 10 draft billing in Cleveland. Like McClellin who came over under similar circumstances from Chicago this season, they’re only interested in a talented player learning his role. They don’t expect him to play like a Top 10 draft pick in 2016. What they do expect is for him to learn the defense and do his job. He can be a valuable cog in what makes this intriguing defense a Top 10 unit in the NFL this year. That’s the Patriots way.

Mingo is definitely going to be one of the players to watch as he finds his feet here. It may take a few weeks, but this defense is shaping up (on paper) to be one of the most versatile groups that Belichick has had in New England. And that’s saying something.

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 8-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 28, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 8-28, sorry no AFC East Notes today. Will make sure that those are back next week.

Patriots Evaluate Talent a bit Differently:
I got a couple of messages this week asking why the Patriots would be interested in a player (Barkevious Mingo), who was obviously a bust in Cleveland with the Browns.

They’re good, legitimate questions but let’s say this. The Patriots evaluate players just a little differently than other teams do. Most teams look at a player and ask “How will he fit in our system?” Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio look at the same player and ask, How can we take what he does best and make it work within the framework of our system?

Oct 26, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (51) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 26, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (51) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

They don’t care where a guy is drafted, once he walks in the door, he’ll get an equal shot at proving himself on the roster and they’ll experiment to find out what his strengths and weaknesses are and try to put him in a position to succeed.

The Patriots liked Mingo coming out of the draft in 2013 and it may have just been a case like Jabaal Sheard, also with Cleveland or with Akeem Ayers with Tennessee or even Akiem Hicks a year ago when he came over from the Saints. The team was using a different scheme and the player didn’t fit in with that.

Time will tell if they hit or miss with Mingo but Belichick’s average with these types of moves is pretty high.

Injuries Ultimately Derailed Stork’s Career in NE:
Former Patriots center Bryan Stork’s time in New England came to an untimely end when the Patriots traded the talented, tough but injury prone player to the Washington Redskins for a conditional 7th-round draft pick in 2017.

Stork and Jackson lead the way

Stork and Jackson lead the way

Stork was drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft and became a starter on the team that went to and won the Super Bowl over the Seattle Seahawks. Stork was a big part of that win and Tom Brady’s protection for that entire season.

But concussions beginning in his final college season of 2013 began to take their toll. He had one for four years in a row. Last season, his concussion caused him to begin the year on PUP. Another this season resulted in him missing a good chunk of training camp. During his absence, David Andrews took over as the starting center and played well, outplaying Stork just a bit when he returned.

While much has been made of his temper and losing control in Denver a year ago and twice this season, while I’m sure it was a factor, I believe it now to have been a minor one. If he’d been healthy and outplaying Andrews, it probably wouldn’t have been a topic of conversation.

Team Unlikely to Call Ridley, Rice:
Whenever another team jettisons or is close to releasing a player, many fans begin to immediately clamor for that player to be brought in by the Patriots. It has gotten to the point where even some national writers put the Patriots in the equation because the story is then guaranteed to generate hits.

Such was the case this week, with the team rumored to be adding a running back when former Patriots RB Stevan Ridley was released by the Lions, many fans were jumping on the bandwagon to bring him back. The 2012 version? Sure but Ridley has had a serious injury and has lost a step since and was ineffective behind a good Jets offensive line a year ago.

One player who keeps coming up is Ray Rice. Rice hasn’t played since the end of the 2013 season and even then was in the midst of the worst year of his career. He averaged only 3.1 yards per carry and there was talk then that he was on the downside of his career. And any thoughts that it would be New England that would give him a second chance were quickly put to rest by Patriots owner Robert Kraft who said the Patriots would never sign him…but the storylines refuse to die.

On a similar note, the Browns were rumored to putting the talented but troubled (and suspended) WR Josh Gordon on the trading block this week. Immediately social media exploded with New England trade scenarios and how the Patriots needed a “deep threat”… whistle if you’ve heard that before. Never mind that the Patriots invested a draft pick in Malcolm Mitchell who would play basically the same role or the cash for Chris Hogan who came over during free agency from the Bills.

Instead of splash Bill Belichick did what his M.O. always does, and got an under the radar deal for Mingo who strengthens the depth and will buy in to the Patriots system totally.

Belichick Takes the Team to the Movies with Wahlberg:
In a move that we’ve seen frequently over the past several years, Bill Belichick decided to do some team building by taking the team to the movies. In a story first reported by ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Belichick told the team that they’d spend last Sunday night doing some film work.

But the team walked over to the showcase Cinema next door in time to have big-time Patriots fan Mark Wahlberg waiting on the team. His latest film “Deepwater Horizon” won’t be released to the general public until Sept. 30, but Wahlberg gave the team an advanced screening.

It wasn’t just a night off however, the message of the film and to the team that teams have to pull together to survive resonated with many of the players. Deepwater Horizon was an offshore oil drilling platform that suffered a catastrophic explosion in 2010 that resulted in the worst oil spill in US history.

That is team building with a strong lesson learned there, a very Belichick type move.

Reiss’ piece and the quotes from some of the players can be found here:

Time Running Out For Knighton:
When the Patriots added Terrance Knighton this offseason, it looked like they added a player who could give their defense some bulk inside to improve a unit that struggled against the run last season. But so far Knighton hasn’t been much of a factor during the preseason and on Friday night he didn’t even see the field.

As a result, it doesn’t seem like things are going well for the former Washington player, and he voiced his displeasure about it to Boston Herald writer Jeff Howe, but said he’ll continue to try and earn a role.

“I prepared myself to play,” Knighton told Howe. “I just didn’t play. I don’t know. You’ve got to ask the coaches. I’m 100 percent healthy. I prepared myself to play a lot of football tonight. It didn’t happen. It is what it is. I’m not asking why or anything. I’m just going to show up to work tomorrow and take it a day at a time.”

We’ve already seen an interesting evolution defensively thanks to players who have emerged at several positions during this preseason and it’s no secret that the expectations of big name free agents that come in here don’t always pan out the way we expect (former Washington DT Albert Haynesworth comes to mind). For now it’s up to Knighton to prove he deserves to be a part of this team, but he’s running out of time to change their minds as the Patriots head into their final preseason game next Thursday night.

“It’s disappointing because I’ve played a lot of ball in this league, seen a lot of things, but I’m not going to make too much of it,” Knighton said. “It is what it is. Whatever happens, happens. If I’m here, I’m here. If I’m not, I’m not. I’m just taking it a day at a time really.”

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.