Tag Archives: Brandon King

VIDEO: Robert Kraft Hosts Third Annual “Touchdown In Israel” Trip

Robert Alvarez
June 19, 2019 at 10:30 am ET

For the third time during his ownership of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft brought NFL players on a special trip to Israel.

On this most recent journey, eight current Patriots and seven alumni accompanied Kraft to help promote the game of football while providing inspiration to future generations of fans in Israel.

Check out their first day in the country courtesy of the Patriots Twitter account below.

Current Patriots players Stephon Gilmore, David Andrews, Joe Thuney, Isaiah Wynn, Brandon King, and Nate Ebner all made the trip.

They were joined by former Patriots Andre Tippett, Drew Bledsoe, Jerod Mayo, Ty Law, and Vince Wilfork.

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New England ✈ Israel #TDinIsrael

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According to the Associated Press, Kraft will also receive the Genesis Prize on Thursday while in Jerusalem.

Best Of Social Media: Sights And Sounds From The Patriots Championship Parade

Robert Alvarez
February 8, 2019 at 3:00 pm ET

On Tuesday the New England Patriots concluded their Super Bowl celebrations with a championship parade through the streets of Boston.

For the twelfth time since 2001, the 2018 New England Patriots became the latest Boston “Big Four” sports team to be honored with a duck boat rolling rally.

Check out all of the best social media postings from the Patriots, media, and fans below.

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Can I call you Gronky too??? @gronk

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://twitter.com/patspulpit/status/1092826800626024448
https://twitter.com/RobGronkowski/status/1092798039805304840
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6 #StillHere

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

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Still Dreaming

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/Btg2DDWhaFb/
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Boston. You are insane. #LFG

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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How. Do. We. Feel.

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

https://twitter.com/zeus30hightower/status/1092864195253751809
https://www.instagram.com/p/BthXi69lXAX/
https://twitter.com/BumpNrunGilm0re/status/1092995398363422720
https://www.instagram.com/p/Bti6PwsHiaX/
https://twitter.com/Flyguy2stackz/status/1092847064642392064
https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1092827140435992579
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#mvp #flashthat #slimeseason

A post shared by Cordarrelle Patterson (@ceeflashpee) on

https://twitter.com/KVN_03/status/1092891124316942342
https://www.instagram.com/p/BtjTKiAF-da/
https://www.instagram.com/p/Bti_OidA5gL/
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All the way live. #champs

A post shared by Jonathan Jones (@getitonjones31) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BthINUah0fc/
https://twitter.com/KVN_03/status/1092921193638907905
https://twitter.com/McCourtyTwins/status/1093155254416359426
https://www.instagram.com/p/BthQQUjhNCs/
https://twitter.com/NateEbner/status/1092848296744374273
https://twitter.com/sportingnews/status/1092825397807513601
https://twitter.com/ShaqDiesel_70/status/1092850811682648066
https://www.instagram.com/p/BthH1YHhATf/
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Rookie and the Vet

A post shared by Braxton Berrios (@hnynut_berrios) on

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World Champs!

A post shared by Adrian Clayborn (@ajaclay99) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtgqTmPBsMY/
https://twitter.com/NBCSPatriots/status/1092887724422516736
https://twitter.com/WillBrinson/status/1092827881934389248

Best Of Social Media: Super Bowl LIII Patriots vs Rams

Robert Alvarez
at 9:30 am ET

For the fourth time in five years, the New England Patriots earned the opportunity to capture yet another Lombardi trophy.

Their opponent, fittingly enough, was the same Rams franchise that on the same date 17 years earlier, the Patriots defeated for their first championship.

Check out all the highlights from social media during Super Bowl LIII below.

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Family and Football ❤️❤️ #LFG

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

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Still Here. Never Left.

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://twitter.com/RedSox/status/1092195246560215041
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The best is ready to begin. #GrowingPats

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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“Time is an illusion.” – Albert Einstein

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on


https://twitter.com/JustSportsTweet/status/1092211692174487553

For the eighth time in the last nine Patriots Super Bowls, the team was held scoreless in the first quarter. 0-0 after one.

A Stehpen Gostkowski field goal gave the Patriots a 3-lead at the half in a surprise defensive battle between both teams.

A Greg Zuerlein 53 Yd Field Goal knotted the game at 3-3 late in the third, but the Patriots defense continued its domination of the Rams.

https://twitter.com/Patriots/status/1092250114524012544

With the game still tied at three with seven left in the 4th quarter, the Patriots offense at last put together the first (and only) touchdown drive of the game.

Leading by ten with under five to play, the Rams appeared to be in position to tie the game.

Stephon Gilmore had other plans.

https://twitter.com/MichaelaNESN/status/1092254536918622214

The interception by Gilmore led to a Patriots Super Bowl clinching drive when Stephen Gostkowski redeemed his first quarter miss with a 41 yard Field Goal to push the lead to seal a 13-3 championship win.

For the sixth time since 2001, the Patriots were Super Bowl champions.

https://twitter.com/mcckshea/status/1092256501379432448
https://twitter.com/Al_Horford/status/1092257146056646656
https://twitter.com/JDMartinez14/status/1092257805141192704
https://twitter.com/pastrnak96/status/1092264861587910667
https://www.instagram.com/p/Btd5MJ1hoBj/
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THE W.

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

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Family and Football! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/Btd1I-HAoP0/
https://twitter.com/SullyBunz/status/1092493953281216512
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Super Bowl LIII Champs!!!

A post shared by Rob Gronkowski (@gronk) on

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CHAMPS! #LFG

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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The GOAT. #SixRings

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

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Boston, we’re coming for you.

A post shared by Julian Edelman (@edelman11) on

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1092288426320252929
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Still here

A post shared by David Andrews (@bear_6060) on

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MAMA WE MADE IT!!

A post shared by Jason+Devin McCourty (@mccourtytwins) on

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3 time

A post shared by Nate Ebner (@ebs43) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BteizXxhhi6/
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My why! Super Bowl Champs baby!!!!!!

A post shared by Duron Harmon (@dharm21) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtdkA5Nlunk/
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Did it!

A post shared by Patrick Chung (@23patrickchung) on

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Well…. last night was fun lol @alexbrandy

A post shared by Patrick Chung (@23patrickchung) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BteRKkal6Nq/
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What a week! @atlsuperbowl53 Champs!

A post shared by Rex Burkhead (@rbrex34) on

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Mood……. Champ!!!! #picworth1000words

A post shared by Kyle Van Noy (@realkylevannoy) on

https://twitter.com/WillieMcGinest/status/1092526431249330176
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Perfect ending to and imperfect story. #champs

A post shared by Jonathan Jones (@getitonjones31) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/Btd4-RmFnsZ/
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So blessed!! Dope!

A post shared by Adrian Clayborn (@ajaclay99) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtcbHIMhOMf/

The 2018 New England Patriots On Social Media

Robert Alvarez
August 2, 2018 at 6:03 pm ET

The following list is a reference point for the 2018 New England Patriots social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube.

(NOTE: Most Snapchat account links only available within app and are not listed publicly)

Ryan Allen 

David Andrews

Ja’Whaun Bentley

Braxton Berrios

Brandon Bolden

Tom Brady

Kenny Britt

Rex Burkhead

Marcus Cannon

Patrick Chung

Adrian Clayborn

Duke Dawson

Phillip Dorsett

Eric Decker

Nate Ebner

Julian Edelman

Danny Etling

Trey Flowers

Marquis Flowers

Mike Gillislee

Stephon Gilmore

Rob Gronkowski –

Lawrence Guy

Duron Harmon

Dont’a Hightower

Jeremy Hill

Chris Hogan

Jacob Hollister

Brian Hoyer

Cyrus Jones

Jonathan Jones

Ted Karras

Harvey Langi

Brandon King

Devin Lucien

Shaq Mason

Jason and Devin McCourty

Sony Michel

Malcolm Mitchell

Cordarrelle Patterson

Derek Rivers

Elandon Roberts

Eric Rowe

Christian Sam

Danny Shelton

Joe Thuney

Vincent Valentine

Kyle Van Noy

LaAdrian Waddle

James White

Deatrich Wise

Isaiah Wynn

Patriots 2018 Training Camp Primer – Special Teams

Steve Balestrieri
July 25, 2018 at 8:00 am ET

The wait is nearly over as the Patriots head into training camp tomorrow. NFL Football is back among us until February, and not a moment too soon.

The Patriots offseason has been mired in innuendo, speculation, with an almost soap opera-like aura that seems more like “keeping up with the Kardashians” than the Patriot Way. So now we can fill the airwaves of football talk again.

There should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. But for our final position there shouldn’t be a lot of movement at the key spots.  We’re on to the Special Teams.

So, with that in mind who is locked in and who is on the bubble?

Roster Locks- Stephen Gostkowski, Joe Cardona,

The team brought in no competition for their kicker and long snapper which speaks volumes in the confidence they have in both.

Gostkowski had a nice comeback season in 2017 in the kicking game. He was good on 92.5 percent of his field goals, hitting on 37 of 40 attempts including going 4 – 4 on attempts over 50 yards including career-long 62-yarder against the Raiders.

Gostkowski continues to be outstanding with his kickoffs. The Patriots were very good at pinning opponents back inside their 25-yard line or better during the season with the changes to the touchback rule. And Gostkowski had that developed into an art form, angling his kicks on one side of the field near the corner of the end zone. Opponents drives average start was their 24 yard line, the best in the NFL.

Cardona has been a solid accurate long-snapper since entering the league. A testament to his prowess is that you very, very rarely hear his name called in a game. Which means his snaps on field goals, extra points and punts are usually spot on. He’s done a terrific job of balancing his job with the Patriots and his duties as a Naval Officer which isn’t an easy task as well.

Facing no camp competition again this year, Gostkowski and Cardona need only worrying themselves to be ready to go for the season opener.

On the Bubble: Ryan Allen, Corey Bojorquez

Allen is facing competition for the first time in his tenure since besting Zoltan Mesko in the 2013. And while his punting average has gone down each year for the past three years, he has actually become more effective at pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line.

Rewind to the 2nd half of the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Allen pinned the Jags offense inside the 10-yard line three times in the second half, flipping field position for the Patriots and having a big role in the comeback victory to send the team on to the Super Bowl.

But he’s in the last year of his contract, and this is something we’ve seen before with the Patriots, Bill Belichick will change things up every few years with his punters. We’ve seen Ken Walter, Josh Miller, Chris Hanson and Mesko, who lost his job to Allen. He’s been here five years but faces serious competition for the first time.

Bojorquez is another left-footed punter from New Mexico. Last season for the Lobos, he punted 67 times with an average of 47.3 yards, so he has a tremendously strong leg. He had 12 of those turn into touchbacks, which will need to be remedied. But despite his average, 25 of his punts were fair caught by the opposition which speaks highly of the amount of hang time.

We were witnesses to that during June’s minicamp. Bojorquez was absolutely booming the ball with incredible hang time. One punt which went well over 50 yards, hung up so long, punt returner Riley McCarron would have been forced to fair catch the ball during a game.

This should be a fantastic competition, while Bojorquez has the edge on leg strength and distance, Allen’s directional punting and consistency gives him the nod there. This should be fun to watch.

The Patriots place a premium on players who excel on Special Teams among them Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden, Nate Ebner, Brandon King, Geneo Grissom, Nicholas Grigsby among others. Those players were listed elsewhere as positional players but are truly more special team’s aces than offensive or defensive players.

Ebner in particular was missed for his expertise as the personal protector on punts after he went on IR last year.  

Some of the new players or ones returning from injury are also special teams mavens such as Cordarrelle Patterson, who besides being the NFL’s best kick returner, is a very good gunner. Marquis Flowers was brought over last season for his STs experience but parlayed that into a role on defense as well.

What it means is that these players will be fighting for their roster spots every day as well as the positional players. Keep an eye on the kickoff and punt coverage units during training camp. Because those positions will ultimately tell the tale for some of the bottom of the roster players who will either make the team or be released. Bill Belichick and ST’s coach Joe Judge will have some interesting decisions to make.

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 2018 Training Camp Primer – Linebackers

Steve Balestrieri
July 17, 2018 at 8:00 am ET

Health of Hightower Key in 2018

The Patriots head into training camp in just eight days and there should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we are breaking down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. We’re on to the linebackers.

There was arguably no position that got more grief than the linebackers last year. Dont’a Hightower, Harvey Langi, and Shea McClellin were placed on IR. Kyle Van Noy was then put in the unenviable position of being asked to do too much. David Harris proved the Jets were right when they thought he was done. Elandon Roberts was boom or bust and proved to be a liability in coverage. Marquis Flowers played meaningful snaps on defense in sub-packages and played well. The team brought in veteran James Harrison at the end of the season and he was arguably the team’s best linebacker in the playoffs.

This spring the Patriots got back Hightower and Langi and concussions forced McClellin to retire. The drafted two linebackers, Ja’Whaun Bentley in the fifth round and Christian Sam in the 6th. We thought they’d address the position earlier in the draft but they passed.

So, with that in mind who are locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy

The healthy return of Hightower is an absolute priority this spring, we wrote last year he was the one guy on defense they could not replace with anyone on the roster. Hightower is a run-stuffer inside who has shown the knack for being a good disruptor and blitzer on the edge as well as up the A-gaps. The question is, do they move him back to the inside or let him go back to the edge where they had him early last season.

Knowing that Hightower hasn’t been able to make it thru seasons unscathed is a huge question mark for the defense. The coaches saw how badly they struggled without him last year. How he’ll be used and how much, especially in the summer will bear watching.

Van Noy is a much better player when Hightower is on the field and they allow him to do what he does best. Which is a little bit of everything. He wore the green dot and became the leader of the defense on the front seven. While not a great athlete or a flashy player, he’s grown into a very dependable, versatile member of the defense. With Hightower back, look for Van Noy to have a very solid 2018.

And although it seems like the former first rounder has been in the league a long time, he’s just 27 years old and should be at the top of his game for the next few years.

Near Roster Locks: Marquis Flowers

Flowers prior to coming to the Patriots in 2017 had played a grand total of two (2) defensive snaps. Last year the Patriots used the athletic, STs maven as an outside linebacker who gained valuable experience as a stopper against athletic QBs and in coverage. He needs to get better in run support, but he had an overall pretty solid season in 2017.

We did our first 53-man Roster Projection after minicamp and left him off. On second thought, that was probably an oversight. With a good summer, he should be a near lock to secure a spot in 2018. The team gave him a new contract worth up to $2.55 million this spring.

On the Bubble: Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Christian Sam, Nicholas Grigsby, Brandon King (STs)

This group of six players is probably competing for four roster spots. Roberts was a starter for most of 2017. The slightly undersized LB from Houston is a downhill thumper in the running game. But at times his aggressiveness hurt him as he filled the wrong hole and was a liability in coverage. The Patriots were not good against the run in 2017, allowing an average of 4.7 yards per rush. Part of that issue, but certainly not all of it was the play of Roberts.

Langi was an intriguing UDFA, who the Patriots gave a good chunk of guaranteed money to sign with New England last spring. He made the team out of training camp and then tragedy struck. He and his wife were rear-ended in a serious car crash at a stop light in Foxboro in October and both ended up in the hospital. His injuries were severe enough to lose him for the rest of the season. Now he’s healthy and will have a lot of work to do to earn himself a spot on the roster this season. But he’s versatile and can play in several different positions.

Bentley is a big, thumper inside. He looks to be primarily an early down run-stuffer. Like Roberts, however, he’s a liability in coverage. But the fact that they drafted him shows, at least in some people’s mind, that they weren’t pleased with Roberts.

Sam was the OLB they drafted in the 6th round and is another intriguing guy. He’s strong and did 28 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine. He’s got versatility and some explosiveness but doesn’t have a ton of experience. He may be an STs guy with an eye to 2019.

Grigsby is an ST’s guy and doesn’t offer much on defense. But he filled in well once he was signed after a slew of injuries hit the team in the middle of the season. He’s kind of a long shot to make the roster but with the Patriots emphasis of STs, he’ll be in the mix.

Ditto for Brandon King. King was a safety in college, but practices with the linebackers and is a core special teams, standout player. He’ll be a tough guy to knock from the roster given his special team’s expertise, despite him being a linebacker in name only.

Next up our training camp primer on the secondary…stay tuned.

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 Draft Profile, Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

Steve Balestrieri
April 2, 2018 at 8:30 am ET

Harrison Is Another Bama Safety Destined For Big Things

As the 2018 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots are set at Safety with all three starters returning in Devin McCourty, Pat Chung and Duron Harmon. We say starting because all three play enough snaps to be considered starters. But in August both McCourty and Chung will turn 31(13th and 19th respectively) and it isn’t too soon for the Patriots to begin looking for possible prospects as replacements.

Alabama is a place where Bill Belichick’s buddy Nick Saban cranks out NFL ready players, especially on their defense. In recent years the Crimson Tide has produced Eddie Jackson, Clinton Ha-Ha Dix, and Landon Collins to make their mark on the Pros.

This season’s crop has two that should be gone off the draft boards by the 2nd round. The Patriots have a thing about selecting safeties early in the draft and with Harmon facing possible discipline from the league over a recent incident in Costa Rica, they could be in the market again. Although they have three other safeties in Nate Ebner, Brandon King, and Jordan Richards, Ebner and King are special teamers and Richards has filled in at safety but not very well (see Super Bowl LII). David Jones is on the practice squad.

Ronnie Harrison from Alabama is another excellent safety from the Crimson Tide program. He possesses great size (6’3, 216) and speed. Harrison was a high school quarterback, so he understands well what the offense is trying to do. He is versatile and has played both safety spots but he’s a better fit as the strong safety in the box due to his issues with the changing of direction and range. But as an overall safety? There are few better in the country.

He has plenty of physicality, athleticism and good instincts to be an impact player on Day 1. Bama moved him around but he was at his best when they had him attacking the line of scrimmage. He does a great job of recognizing plays and attacking downhill.

He’s outstanding in run support, filling the holes quickly and a violent, punishing hitter in the trenches. He led the team with 74 tackles, (43 solos) and seven passes defensed with three interceptions.

Harrison has the size, speed and physicality to play the linebacker role in the Patriots “Big Nickel” defense as well as their in the box safety.

Pros:

– Outstanding size and speed

– Excellent in run support

– Very good blitzer

– Physical, Competitive, versatile

Cons

– Can play a bit out of control

– Doesn’t always wrap up, goes for the big hit

– Range is good but not elite

What his Role Will Be:

Harrison could immediately vie for reps and let the coaches see what he can do. They’ll spell Chung and McCourty for a bit and let the rookie get his feet wet in the NFL. As we mentioned above, he could be used as the linebacker in the Patriots “big nickel” look on defense.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?

Yes, in Year 2 with a bit of experience, he could push Chung for his roster spot. Or perhaps Harmon.

How Many Downs Can He Play?

Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?

Harrison would be an immediate upgrade from Richards and he’d take over his STs duties as well

What is his ST Value?

He’d immediately become a core special teams guy with his athleticism and physicality.

Conclusion:
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein in his profile wrote that “Combination safety with all the size and athletic traits you could hope for in a safety. Harrison is a fluid athlete with few athletic limitations and has the ability to fit into a variety of defensive schemes. His penchant for flying in shoulder first will need to get cleaned or risk giving up missed tackles and big plays. Harrison’s physical approach and urgency in run support gives him a chance to start early, but his potential in coverage and athletic ability give him a chance to become a Pro Bowler.”

Harrison isn’t without a few issues that will need to be cleaned up. He doesn’t have great range or change of direction which could limit his use as a single high safety. He sometimes goes too much for the big hit and doesn’t wrap up which can result in a big play or broken tackle.

But as a strong safety in the box, he’s outstanding in run support and he’ll be just fine covering tight ends close to the line. He could easily gain another 5-10 pounds without any loss of speed and be the hybrid safety/linebacker the Patriots like to use in their big nickel packages. His physicality, and instincts are off the charts. By Year 2, he’ll be not only pushing for starter reps but could become an impact player on the defense.

While safety isn’t a position of need right now, the Patriots could find themselves in a dilemma.  If Harrison is on the board, the team could be hard-pressed to pass him up. He is a potential Pro Bowler and will be a very solid player at the next level. Zierlein compared him to a young Adrian Wilson and that may be the best description of him yet.  

Harrison’s highlight reel tape from Harris Highlights can be seen here: 

 

His game against Colorado highlights from Felipe Vierra can be seen here: 

 

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.

Best Of Social Media: Week 8 Chargers vs Patriots

Robert Alvarez
October 31, 2017 at 6:39 pm ET

Heading into Week 8’s matchup with the San Diego Chargers, quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots were seeking a fourth straight win before heading into their bye week.

Rise and shine…. #LETSGO

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

Things got off to a rough start in the midway through the first quarter, as Chargers running back Melvin Gordon ran for the longest touchdown score ever allowed by a Bill Belichick defense.

Needing a response, the Patriots orchestrated a season high 14 play drive that culminated in a Rob Gronkowski Gronk spike to even the score at 7 early in the second.

https://twitter.com/giseleofficial/status/924691073984802816

Then the Travis Benjamin and the Chargers provided one of the worst special teams errors of recent memory, gifting the Patriots an additional two points on a safety.

In what would be an unfortunate theme for the the remainder of the football game, the Patriots struggled mightily in the red zone, and could only muster two field goals before halftime. They would head to the locker room up 15-7 but the Patriots running backs did provide a few highlights throughout the remainder of the game.

With the Patriots unable to put the game away in the second half, Benjamin redeemed his safety miscue with this touchdown reception to close the gap to within five at 18-13 in the fourth quarter.

With 1:08 to play in the fourth, Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 26 yarder to put the Patriots up eight at 21-13 but Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers was unable to drive down the field to force overtime.

The Patriots would hold on a win by a final score of 21-13 to head into the bye at 6-2 and sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://twitter.com/joegiza/status/924773505195012096

lil bros! #Reminiscing #RBU

A post shared by James White (@sweetfeet) on

https://www.instagram.com/p/Ba41wulFNR9/?hl=en&taken-by=bbhulksmash

Great weekend seeing a bunch of friends and win for the team!

A post shared by Rex Burkhead (@rbrex2022) on

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 Training Camp Primer – Special Teams

Steve Balestrieri
July 21, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

Locked, Stocked and Plenty of Depth

The Patriots head into training camp at the end of next week and there should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. And now, finally, we’re on to the Special Teams.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. With a roster of 90 players and no cuts needed before the final 53-man roster cut down, there will be plenty of time for evaluation. And some serious decisions will have to be made to get to the 53-man limit at the end of camp this summer.

Our earlier evaluations looked at the:
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Offensive Line
Defensive Line
Linebackers
Cornerbacks
Safeties

So next up is the Patriots’ Special Teams. Without any serious challengers for the three players involved in the kicking game (kicker, punter, long-snapper), it would be hard to say they’re not locked. Where things get interesting is in the specialists and we’ll cover that below.

So, with that in mind who is locked in and who is on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater
The team brought in no competition for the three players most involved in the kicking game this summer. That tells you a lot about the confidence that they have in each of these players.

Gostkowski had a downer of a season for him making only 84.4 percent of his field goals (27 of 32) and missing three extra points (46 of 49) which had always been automatic with him. He missed two more extra points in the playoffs which could have resulted in a disaster had the Patriots not made a pair of two-point conversions in the Super Bowl comeback.

But one area of his game that is outstanding is his kickoffs. The Patriots were very good at pinning opponents back inside their 25-yard line or better during the season with the changes to the touchback rule. And Gostkowski had that developed into an art form, angling his kicks on one side of the field near the corner of the end zone.  But although the team didn’t bring in competition (surprising as it is), he’ll have to be more accurate this season.

Ryan Allen and Joe Cardona go over snap placement in training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)

Ryan Allen is coming off his career best in terms of net yardage (41.4), the fifth-year veteran has been very dependable and steady on holding for Gostkowski and his directional punting has gotten steadily better.

He was at his best during a 27-0 whitewashing of Houston. That night Allen put six punts inside the 20-yard line pinning the Texans deep all night. His seventh punt? Downed right at the 20. He was awarded and deservedly so the AFC’s Special Team’s Player of the Week for that.

Cardona has been juggling his duties with the Navy while being a long-snapper with the Patriots for the past two seasons. He’s been very accurate with his snaps and very few have been off-target, especially with the field goals and extra points. With his position, the only time we really notice him is when he makes a mistake. And he’s made very few during his tenure.

Matthew Slater is a team captain, a perennial All-Pro gunner on the Special Teams and one of those indispensable character guys every successful team has. He’s frequently mentioned a tremendous locker room presence.

Mike Reiss from ESPN recently highlighted how when the rookies arrived, the coaches told them that Slater was a good example to follow. UDFA Austin Carr sought him out and Slater has taken him under his wing. One of the highlights of last season was a very emotional Slater talking with Bart Starr’s wife when he found out he’d been named the recipient of the award in Starr’s name.  Slater enters his 10th year in the league and is locked.

Near Roster Locks: Nate Ebner, Brandon King
Two of the safeties that the Patriots carry make their bones on special teams. Ebner was allowed to chase his dream of an Olympic gold medal in Rugby last training camp and the coaches wore Ebner shirts to practice in support. That speaks volumes.

Ebner played a mere 18 snaps at strong safety in 2016. But he remains a core special teams’ player and his role isn’t changing anytime soon. He played on all four core STs and was on the field for approximately 80 percent of the snaps in 2016. He serves as Allen’s punt protector….and they haven’t had any blocked.

Brandon King getting feedback from STs Coach Joe Judge. (SBalestrieri photo)

King didn’t play a single snap on defense in 2016 but is nearly a lock for the roster due to his superb play on Special Teams. The Patriots signed the UDFA in 2015 and we saw right away that the team was intrigued. STs coach Joe Judge spent an incredible amount of one-on-one time with the rookie and he’s been a fixture on the STs since.

He was on the field for about 70 percent of the special teams’ snaps in 2016 and was on all four core special teams units.

On the Bubble: None

Very little looks to change with the Patriots special teams in 2017. They have a really solid base with two very good kickers, a reliable long snapper, and three impressive special teams’ mavens. The kicker, punter, and long-snapper don’t have any competition this summer so they’ll not be sweating training camp wondering if they’ll make the roster.

And the three specialists really have little to fear this year as well. Any newcomer will have to really step up to the plate to unseat one of these three. If a new player is to make the team, they’ll probably have to bump one of the positional players.

Barring injuries, this unit is solid and ready to go for the 2017 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.