Tag Archives: Brandon King

Patriots Defense Looks Ready For 2019 With 10-3 Win Over Carolina

Steve Balestrieri
August 23, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots improved to 3-0 in the preseason with a 10-3 win over the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night. 

As we’ve seen during the first two preseason games with mainly the backup defense, the starting unit played for the first time and was dominating, holding Carolina to just 29 yards in five first-half drives. The Panthers could only manage two first downs and were 0-5 on third downs, managing just 1.7 yards per play. 

Once again, despite not having “a dominant pass rusher” the unit hounded Cam Newton for a few series before he left with a foot injury after being sacked by Adam Butler. Newton played in his first preseason action after offseason surgery. 

The starting unit registered three sacks with Butler, Michael Bennett, and Kyle Van Noy taking down the Panthers’ QB. Ufombra Kamalu had the Patriots other sack. Carolina only had a total of 99 yards of offense with 48 passing and 51 rushing and could only muster seven first downs in the entire game.

Other observations include:

Brady Looks Sharp In Preseason Debut:

Tom Brady and much of the first unit offense were in for three series and scored one touchdown, with the other two drives wiped out by penalties. With no Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Demaryius Thomas, Maurice Harris, Braxton Berrios, and Josh Gordon [NFI] in the lineup, Brady was targeting mainly Phillip Dorsett [5 targets, 5 catches for 41 yards] and rookie Jakobi Meyers.

Meyers got off to a rough start with Brady. He stopped running on a deep route, had a drop on a drag route where the pass was slightly behind him and had another pass batted away by cornerback James Bradberry. 

Brady ended up 8-12 for 75 yards, his two best throws were an 18-yard laser down the seam to Ryan Izzo and a nicely zipped pass on the outside to Dorsett. He looks ready to go. 

Dorsett and Michel Shine in Early Action: 

Dorsett was targeted five times by Brady and twice by Stidham and hauled in all seven passes thrown his way.  He looked quick off the line and sure-handed as he and Brady were locked in one another. It was a good veteran performance as he stepped up with all of the other players missing and with Harris missing, Dorsett has solidified his grip on a roster spot. Many have him neck and neck with Harris. He didn’t hurt his chances with a solid game tonight.

Michel looked quick to the hole, decisive and elusive. He made people miss with some outstanding, explosive cuts and looks absolutely ready for the regular season. While he had just 36 yards on 10 carries, those numbers are skewed somewhat as he had two runs including a really nice 30-yard run wiped out by a holding penalty downfield, [Meyers] and was stuffed on the goal line twice, once where the TE [Saubert] missed his block.  

Starting Offensive Line Play Encouraging, Backups…Not So Much:

The Patriots starting unit did a good job of protecting Brady and other than some holding penalties that have to be cleaned up, did a nice job of opening holes for Michel and the running game. And this was against a very good Carolina front seven. 

The starting unit of Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Marcus Cannon was solid overall. Wynn, other than a whiff on a screen to Dorsett once again appears to be well on his way after his injury last summer that wiped out his rookie season.

The backup offensive linemen had a rougher evening. Carolina sacked Jarrett Stidham five times and registered eight QB hits. While two of the sacks were the result of the rookie QB holding the ball too long, this wasn’t a great night for the backups.

Injuries Pile Up:

There were several players who didn’t suit up on Thursday night. N’Keal Harry, Maurice Harris, Josh Gordon [NFI], Cam Meredith [PUP], Braxton Berrios, Matthew Slater, Obi Melifonwu, Patrick Chung, Trent Harris, Martez Ivey, Yodny Cajuste [NFI], Matt LaCosse, Shalique Calhoun, and Derek Rivers. Edelman, James White, and Demaryius Thomas dressed but didn’t play.

During the game, Kyle Van Noy, Nate Ebner, Damien Harris, Ben Watson, Gunner Olszewski, Lance Kendricks, and Stephen Anderson all left with injuries. Van Noy and Ebner returned, the rest did not. Brandon King was carted off with what appeared to be a serious leg injury. 

Quick Hitters:

Jarrett Stidham – once again appeared good, not as good as last week but his protection wasn’t nearly as strong. Belichick made the decision to replace Brady not with Brian Hoyer, but with the rookie. This was a chance to see what the rookie can do against the better players who will be there in the fall. They know what they have in Hoyer, so he sat. Stidham completed 15-19 for 134 yards. He hit some tight windows.

Gunner Olszewski – had a really good night in the punt return game. He called for a fair catch on his first where it appeared he had plenty of room to run, but after that he had four returns for 63 yards. He caught one pass for 15 yards from Stidham and it was then that he was injured and didn’t return.

Stephen Gostkowski – missed a field goal for the third straight game although this one was firmly on the hands of rookie Jake Bailey who put the ball down with the laces facing the kicker….”laces out Dan!” This will have to be cleaned up moving forward.

Jake Bailey – Speaking of the rookie, despite his gaffe holding for the field goal, he was outstanding in his punting, averaging 48 yards in his four attempts, putting two inside the 20-yard line and with excellent hang time. The Panthers had just five yards on three punt returns, because of how long the ball was in the air. 

Calvin Munson – continues his strong summer. He appears quick and is all over the field. He had four tackles, one for a loss, plays special teams and with King down, may just crack the 53-man roster.

Jakobi Meyers – After an inauspicious start with Brady, the rookie WR settled down with Stidham and made seven catches 74 yards. He’s shown good chemistry with Brady during joint practices, he’ll have to learn from this and shake it off. 

Penalties – The yellow flags continue to pile up against the Patriots, this has to be a very sore spot with Belichick and the coaching staff. Last week they got flagged numerous times for hands to the face, tonight it was holding. However, the Panthers did challenge two non-call Defensive Pass Interference plays and both were upheld.

The Giants come in a week from tonight for the final preseason tilt. 

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

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

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Linebackers

Steve Balestrieri
July 20, 2019 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots begin training camp in just a few days and once that starts we’ll have football back with us until the winter and snow return with a vengeance. Hard to picture that right now with the heat index pushing 110.

Last year at this time, there were a lot of questions at the linebacker position. This season it is considered a position of strength heading into the 2019 season. The three main starters return, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts. The team also gets back last year’s promising rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley who played very well all summer and began the season getting a lot of quality reps before getting injured and ending up on IR. 

Another rookie from last season, Christian Sam, who spent the entire season on IR returns. Brandon King is listed as a linebacker on the depth chart but is essentially a special teams player only. 

But the big surprise was in bringing back former Patriot Jamie Collins. It seemed like those bridges were burned when he was traded to Cleveland but the team added him back this spring. Collins was one of the better players on the field for the Patriots during OTAs and the mandatory June minicamp. Shilique Calhoun, Calvin Munson, and Terez Hall round out the players at the position.

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25. And be sure to keep up with our coverage from training camp. 

So, let’s take a look at the position as it unfolds as training camp begins this summer.

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

Locks – Hightower, Van Noy, Bentley, Collins

Near Locks –  Roberts, King

Bubble – Sam, Calhoun

Long Shot – Munson, Hall

Discussion – With the return of their three main starters from the Super Bowl, the team is going to be looking very similar in 2019. Hightower, Van Noy, Bentley, and Collins are all locks for the roster in 2019.

Hightower stayed healthy last year and played very well. What is a factor to be especially optimistic about is that it always seems Hightower saves his best plays and his best games for times when the games matter most and in the playoffs. He’s a fixture on this defense and what we’ve stated here many times rings true about him. Is he a perennial league All-Pro? No, but in the Patriots defense, he is.

Van Noy has blossomed in New England and is arguably one of their bigger chess pieces on the defensive side. He was even better than Hightower during the playoffs and despite what some talk-radio folks would have you believe, he’s a playmaker and one of the leaders of this defense. 

Bentley had a fantastic summer followed by a pretty impressive start to his career before getting injured early last season and ended up on IR. It is interesting to wonder how his development would have played out last year if he hadn’t gotten hurt. But he’s healthy now and should vie for plenty of work. 

Collins is the wild card here. With an already solid cast around him, it will be interesting to see how the team decides to use him once the season starts. Collins was all over the field this spring, if the Patriots can find a way to showcase his talents with the cast already in place, he could be in line for a very solid season. 

Roberts has been up and down in his career but had a very solid 2018. Consistency is the key for him. In mentioning the defensive line yesterday, we said that they may be better suited for a 3-4 than the 4-3. Roberts and Bentley could definitely benefit from that as well. Being an ILB in a 3-4, it would lend itself well to Roberts, downhill, run-thumping style. It would also create plenty of opportunities to move Hightower and Van Noy around, inside and outside and give them more chances to make plays. 

King is technically (by the depth chart) a linebacker, but to my knowledge hasn’t played any time there. He is, however, a very solid, dependable special teams’ player. While maybe not a lock for the 53 per se, knocking him out of there will take a very big effort from someone beneath him on the team’s overall roster. Or him having an awful camp. Other than that, we’d expect to see him come September. 

Christian Sam is a 2nd-year outside linebacker who never got to show what he can do last year, ending up on IR out of training camp. His value is a total unknown and he’ll have some work to do this summer. He’ll have to show he can contribute on special teams right away and then flash some ability on defense. Calhoun is a newcomer to New England but has been in the league for a while. Can the journeyman find himself a home and a role in New England? It has been done before, so he’s not a write off by any means but also has a lot of work to do. 

Munson spent last year on the Patriots practice squad, so they like what they’ve seen from him. Hall is a real long shot and will have to flash big time on STs in order to stick. He and Munson are candidates for the practice squad. 

So, entering 2019, the linebacker position, which was one full of questions a year ago, enters this year as a position of strength. There should be no movement at the top unless of injury, so there may be only one or two spots that are open for competition. But watching to see how the Patriots and new linebacker coach Jerod Mayo plans on using his troops this year will make camp another must-see event daily.

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

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

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