Tag Archives: Bishop Sankey

Dion Lewis to Undergo “Clean Up” Surgery, Out Indefinitely

Steve Balestrieri
August 21, 2016 at 2:07 pm ET

Pats will likely try to swing a deal now

So much for good news, just a short time after he walked thru the locker room with no noticeable limp, it was learned that Patriots’ running back Dion Lewis will undergo “clean-up” surgery and be shelved indefinitely.

Adam Schefter from ESPN broke the story that Lewis will undergo a second surgery.

Lewis who hadn’t been seen since the last day of minicamp was seen by the media strutting thru the locker room during the open phase on Sunday. Since he’s been MIA since June, it was seen as a positive sign. Now he’s going to ….at a minimum begin the season on PUP and perhaps even wind up on IR.

This latest setback is expected to last 8-10 weeks which would put Lewis on the cusp of PUP and possibly landing on IR if he isn’t ready by then.

So what do the Patriots do in the meanwhile? Well, it immediately opens a spot on the 53-man roster. We had already projected Lewis to start the season on PUP so that part is no surprise. That opens a roster spot that we believe will go to…right now Tyler Gaffney. It could also open the door for someone like Donald Brown or D.J. Foster to make the roster, but both have missed a ton of time.

One thing is for sure now, and that is James White’s spot now appears locked as he’s now the best pass catching RB on the team. The Patriots depth chart currently consists of: LeGarrette Blount James White Brandon Bolden Tyler Gaffney Donald Brown Joey Iosefa and D.J. Foster.

Blount, White, and Bolden appear to be roster locks. The remaining players will fight it out for the final spot. FB James Develin is a lock and could be listed here or with a separate category.

Work a Trade? The Patriots could be trying to work a trade or will wait and watch the waiver wire for a suitable pickup. This was something Paul Perillo of PFW said during the broadcast of the game on Thursday.

He mentioned the Titans and Bishop Sankey. He’s got good size and is a Patriots type player and would be a good fit. Tennessee is loaded at the position with Derrick Henry, DeMarco Murray, Dexter McCluster, Antonio Andrews, David Cobb, Bishop Sankey and Devid Fluellen. Sankey could possibly be had at a bargain price with their depth.

Other trading partners could be either Dallas or KC. The Cowboys just drafted Ezekiel Elliot, to go along with Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and sixth-round pick Darius Jackson. McFadden would be the obvious choice to get cut loose. Especially with the way Morris ran this week. Would Dallas and Jerry Jones look to help Kraft and the Patriots out? Hmmm.

A more likely deal could be had with the Chiefs and Andy Reid. Knile Davis seems the odd man out in KC and he had an impressive playoff game against the Patriots a year ago, right up until his fumble.

But regardless, the situation with the Patriots running backs and Lewis went from a wait-and-see to a position of need. It was hoped that Lewis would be back to start the season. Now the earliest that will happen looks to be early November.

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 Summer School To-do List

Steve Balestrieri
June 16, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

List of 5 Things the team has to get done before July 27

The Patriots are done with spring OTAs and Minicamp and are now, more or less on their summer vacation before training camp begins roughly six weeks from now. But while the players may be enjoying some down time, it is time for Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio, and the coaching staff to get some work done. Summer School, for lack of a better term.

Here is our list of the five things that the Patriots need to work on during their summer “break” before camp begins. Then the 2016 season really begins for them. Just a teaser, there isn’t a mention of Deflategate or suspensions because, at this point, it is what it is. There does remain, however, plenty of other questions that need answering.

Time to Get Some Long-Term Deals Done:
The Patriots have some key members of the team that will be free agents after the 2016 season. Most of the players are members of the defense and include but are not limited to, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Malcolm Butler, Jabaal Sheard, and Logan Ryan.

Collins’s contract may be the most difficult to get done, judging from the deals recently given to Fletcher Cox and the one on the table for Von Miller. Collins will get a ton of cash laid at his feet in free agency. He’s one of those rare athletic freaks that will be on a lot of team’s radars. The Patriots may have to franchise him to keep him around in 2017. Then the decision will be to either let him walk after that or  break open the safe and pay him top dollar. That isn’t their normal modus operandi in these situations however.

CB Malcolm Butler

CB Malcolm Butler

Hightower would likely command less money and doing a deal with him now would  lower his cap hit for 2016. It would also free up enough money for them to do another deal, with either Sheard or Butler. I think they’ll wait out Ryan until next year and decide whether to keep him or if in the case of one of the younger corners stepping up, allow him to walk in 2017.

Regardless, as Jeff Howe stated this week, the team has $60 million dollars in cap space to spend in 2017. They can get most if not all of these players signed.

Decide Whether to Upgrade or Stand Pat at RB and the OL:
We saw the tweets this week, the Ravens are getting offers for tackle Eugene Monroe. With these offers on the table, the Ravens pulled Monroe off the practice fields. Are the Patriots one of those teams? And if so, would Baltimore trade to a perennial AFC power? With the injuries to starting tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer last season and those two players still not on the practice field, the Pats may indeed be on the market.

Dante Scarnecchia is back in the fold, so the Patriots obviously have faith that he can get the very best out of his players. But he isn’t a miracle worker and already has a tough task getting the interior of the offensive line straight. This situation will bear watching.

At the running back position, the team faces a similar challenge. Both Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount ended 2015 on IR, and after them, question marks abound. The Pats have very good pass catchers in Lewis, James White, free agent signee Donald Brown with UDFA D.J. Foster in the mix. But for a back in the running game, if Blount isn’t ready, then it’s over to Brown, Brandon Bolden who is primarily a special teams player or Tyler Gaffney.

Rumors are that the team is interested in Bishop Sankey, with Mike Reiss and others stating that the Patriots may have been kicking the tires on him in the past two months. Sankey may indeed be on the market. The Titans have acquired Demarco Murray this offseason and then drafted Derrick Henry this spring.

Rumblings from the Titans camp is that he may be cut or traded. He could give the team a good running back who can carry the rock and catch the ball out of the backfield. And Arian Foster is still out there as a free agent. His Achilles injury should be close to 100 percent now. If he’s healthy and hasn’t lost a step, he could still be an intriguing addition.

How Much Will the Team Use Two Tight End Personnel Groupings:
The Patriots made a big acquisition this spring, signing tight end Martellus Bennett. He and Rob Gronkowski present them with arguably the best tandem in the NFL. Both can block, attack the seams deep and give the quarterback a huge red zone target to work with. With Gronkowski absent for most of the spring, Bennett used the time to get his timing and chemistry down with QB Tom Brady.

Now the coaches have to figure out how to best utilize their talent. One can easily envision them going to “12” personnel quite a bit with 1 RB, 2 TEs, and 2 WRs. Both Gronkowski and Bennett can line up in a variety of roles from in-line to split wide or in the slot. It gives them the option to pass or run with both tight ends excellent blockers and receivers.

TE Martellus Bennett hauls a Brady pass in

TE Martellus Bennett hauls a Brady pass in

In certain situations, they could even go to a “13” personnel grouping with a single running back, three tight ends and a wide receiver. Clay Harbor or James Develin brings to the table the versatility to line up as a fullback, an H-Back or as a tight end. Harbor brings more to the table as a receiver and would definitely draw some favorable matchups.

Watching the combinations of the offense during training camp promises to be one of most intriguing sub-plots of the summer.

Mixing up the pass rush:
The Patriots have a much deeper front seven in 2016 despite waving goodbye to Chandler Jones and Akiem Hicks this offseason. They added big bodies to the interior defensive line with NT Terrance Knighton, Markus Kuhn, and Frank Kearse joining veteran Alan Branch and 2nd-year player Malcom Brown. They have the makings …on paper of having an immovable interior of the line.

At defensive end, with Jabaal Sheard and second-year players Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom and Rufus Johnson, they have a mix of youth and experience. They added to the depth by signing veteran Chris Long who was released by the Rams. This depth is such that they played Rob Ninkovich at linebacker at times this spring. He and recent free agent signing Shea McClellin as well as Johnson add the depth to starters Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower.

So with all of these pieces that can drop into coverage or rush the passer, Belichick and Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia will have some tinkering to do with the personnel groupings. While a lot will have to do with matchups, the pass rush should be varied this season and look for the team to give opponents plenty of different looks.

Sheard-with-Grissom-inside-

Get Everyone Healthy and Ready to Go:
The Patriots’ OTAs and Minicamp resembled the end of the 2015 season, the list of who wasn’t there was nearly as important as those who were. The missing starters included Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, Alan Branch, Danny Amendola, Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder. Others not in attendance were Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Joe Cardona, Tre’ Jackson, Josh Kline, Shaq Mason and Frank Kearse.

The good news was that the team had Gronkowski and Dion Lewis appear for the final OTA practice before breaking for the summer. Coincidence? Hardly. This is a way to show their opponents that these two players should be ready for the season. An intriguing fact surfaced this week when Tom Curran of CSNNE reported that the Patriots were going to take things differently with injuries this season in an attempt to stem the wave of injuries that decimated the team a year ago.

So players who are dinged up may spend more time rehabbing injuries in the trainers’ room this year rather than attempting to play through them. After the epidemic that swept thru the roster in 2015, any change is worth looking at. But the team really needs their starters healthy and ready to go on September 11 when they open in Arizona. Having the players for training camp isn’t necessarily a true need although the OL could possibly benefit from the work against their defensive counterparts.

So let’s hope that the team does their homework and due diligence and gets their Summer School work completed and ready for inspection. The Due date? July 27.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast 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 – Titans Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 17, 2015 at 6:29 am ET

The New England Patriots return home for their last regular season game at Foxboro on Sunday afternoon against the Tennessee Titans.  Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. The team will finish the last two games on the road as the stadium is being readied for the NHL Classic on New Year’s Day as a hockey rink is being constructed inside Gillette Stadium for the game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens.

The Pats game will be televised by CBS with the announcing crew of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts on the call. The game will also be on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

The Patriots (11-2) beat the Houston Texans 27-6 on Sunday Night Football. The defense was outstanding allowing only 189 total yards and just 102 of them thru the air. The defense sacked Texans’ quarterbacks six times. Tom Brady threw for two touchdowns, to Keshawn Martin and Rob Gronkowski in the game.

The Titans (3-10) lost to the New York Jets 30-8. The offense struggled and the only score was on a half-back option pass from running back Antonio Andrews to quarterback Marcus Mariota.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our  “Razor’s Edge”  column in 2015 to give a quick break down on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Titans history goes back to the earliest days of the AFL when they were known as the Houston Oilers. The teams have met 40 times with the Patriots holding a 23-16-1 overall edge. At home the Patriots have a 16-6-1 advantage over the Titans.

In recent years the Patriots have dominated winning the last five matchups including an early September 2012 matchup 34-13 the last time the teams met.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots 2015 Opponents, Five First Impressions of the Titans

Steve Balestrieri
December 16, 2015 at 6:36 am ET

The Patriots return to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro for their final home game of the season to face the Tennessee Titans. The Patriots will finish the last two regular season games on the road as the stadium prepares for the construction of the ice rink for the NHL’s Winter Classic to be played at Gillette on New Year’s Day.

The Titans (3-10) were blasted by the New York Jets 30-8 on Sunday. The Titans lost the chance for consecutive wins for the first time since 2013. Their only score was on a pass from RB Antonio Andrews to QB Marcus Mariota.

The Patriots (11-2), beat the Houston Texans 27-6 to clinch a playoff berth and with the Giants win over Miami on Monday night, the Patriots won the AFC East Division crown for the seventh year in a row and their 13th in the past fifteen years. They now have a chance to clinch a bye on Sunday against the Titans.

The game will be televised by CBS with the announcing crew of Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts.  The game will also be carried by the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 FM the SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call.

The history between the Patriots and Titans stretches all the way back to the early days of the AFL when they were known as the Houston Oilers. The teams have met 40 times with the Patriots holding an all-time 23-16-1 edge overall against the Titans.

The Patriots also hold a sizable advantage at home with a 16-6-1 mark. The last time the teams met was in September of 2012 and the Patriots beat Tennessee 34-13. In case you missed it, the last time Tennessee played in Foxboro was the snow game back in 2009 where the Patriots rolled 59-0.

Here are our five first impressions of the Titans:

Big Shakeup Coming at the end of the year? Tennessee gave a five-year contract to coach Ken Whisenhunt prior to the 2014 season and he was fired this year after a 1-6 start. Interim head coach Mike Mularkey, who had previous stops at Jacksonville and Buffalo as a head coach started off ok with a 2-3 record. But the loss against the Jets where it seemed the team didn’t show up could be a big blow to his staying on.

General Manager Ruston Webster is likely on very thin ice as well. Although the team drafted QB Marcus Mariota just this season, the Titans were expected to be much better and they just haven’t done that.

The 3-10 record puts them in last place in the AFC South, where the division leader is only 6-7. The fact that as weak as the division is this year and the Titans are a full three games back speaks volumes. There could be major changes coming.

Mariota/Walker Have Tenn. on the right track: Rookie QB Marcus Mariota came in with a lot of hype and he’s off to a very good start. He’s completing 62.4 percent of his passes and has thrown for 2786 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His 91.9 passer rating is really solid especially considering the team’s record, his lack of quality weapons and the fact that he’s a rookie.

Mariota is also very mobile and can move around the pocket as well as pull the ball down and run with it. He’ll be a threat to scramble and move the chains at any time.

Mariota’s favorite target has been TE Delanie Walker; Walker isn’t a traditional type tight end at 6’0, 248 pounds, he’s more of a move-type tight end. He’s played wide receiver while with the 49ers. Walker has 70 receptions on the season, the most of any tight end in the NFL, for 871 yards and four touchdowns.

Walker and Mariota are a dynamic duo and these two will be garnering a lot of attention by the Patriots this weekend. They also should be safe after what promises to be a housecleaning in the offseason.

McCluster/Morgan Lost for the year: The Titans suffered a pair of costly losses adding to an already trying season by losing LB Derrick Morgan and RB Dexter McCluster who were placed on IR.

Morgan was the outside linebacker opposite Brian Orakpo that was supposed to take the pressure off of him and give them a pair of bookend pass rushers. Morgan started well with 4.5 sacks in the first four games, but has been slowed by a bad shoulder that now requires surgery. He’ll be a big loss down the stretch. David Bass played well filling in for spot duty but has struggled thus far as a starter.

McCluster is a scat-back who can do a variety of roles, running the football, catching it out of the backfield as well as returning punts and kickoffs. He had 55 rushes for 247 yards (4.5 ypa) with a touchdown. He also caught 31 passes for 260 yards and a score. McCluster also returned 24 punts for 9.0 average as well as 13 kickoffs with a 21.9 average per return.

In his stead the team will return to Bishop Sankey the top running back picked in last season’s draft. He started off well but has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. He has 41 carries for 166 yards, 4.0 average and 1 touchdown as well having caught eight passes out of the backfield for another score.

Dick LeBeau’s defense was playing well but has struggled lately: The former Steeler defensive coordinator LeBeau is now in his first season in the same position with the Titans.

The Tennessee defense definitely has his stamp on things; they play an aggressive 3-4 scheme with active linebackers that like to come on the blitz.  While they’ll miss Morgan, Orakpo is their most prolific pass rusher with seven sacks followed by DE Jurrell Casey who plays on the same side with six. ILBs Wesley Woodyard and Avery Williamson are frequent blitzers as well up the middle. The Titans have 35 sacks on the season.

The Titans are middle of the road defending the run which is a huge improvement over 2014 and are 11th overall in yards allowed with 344 yards per game. But their corners can be a liability in coverage, they miss Jason McCourty who is on IR and the middle of the field in the passing game can be an attractive target for opponents. The Titans are allowing a whopping 8.1 yards per pass attempt with opposing QB’s having a passer rating of 102.2 against them.

Limited Weapons have hurt Tennessee’s Offense: The Titans offense struggles with the lack of playmakers for Mariota. They really miss WR Kendall Wright who gives them a second quality target with Delanie Walker. Wright can at least put defensive game planners in the position of having to account for them.

Harry Douglas the former Falcon and Dorial Green-Beckham are the other two wide receivers. Green-Beckham has the ability to go deep but has only caught 24 passes for 415 yards with three touchdowns. Douglas has 26 catches for 298 yards and two scores.

Their lead running back Antonio Andrews has good size at 5’10, 225 pounds but has had only so-so production with 127 carries for 474 yards, good for only a 3.7 yard per attempt average and just three touchdowns. With McCluster on IR, Sankey will have to pick up the slack. But there is no doubt they really need Wright back in the lineup.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast 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.