Tag Archives: Brian Flores

New England Patriots News 3-10, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
March 10, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 03-10 and AFC East Notes.

Quick Hitters:

Van Noy Defense – As if Van Noy needed anything else to endear himself to the fan base. After Colts TE Eric Ebron took a veiled shot at the Patriots when he tweeted  “nobody wanna do that Patriot way bull- #COLTure.” But Van Noy quickly answered that by tweeting a picture of two rings with a winking emoticon.

Gronk Selling Condo: On a day with some exciting trade news, one item that could have people thinking worst case scenarios was the news that Rob Gronkowski is selling his Boston seaport condo. Gronk’s luxury condo located at 21 Wormwood St. located on the waterfront can be yours for a cool $2,375,000. Does this mean the big guy is retiring? Not so fast. While it could be just that, it should be noted that he bought the place just a few years ago for $1.8 million. Just another sound financial investment.

Jamie Collins redux? With the news that the Cleveland Browns were parting ways with linebacker Jamie Collins, many fans and media members were wondering about a reunion for the two. As we see it here, that ship has sailed and he won’t be returning to New England. We don’t see it as a need as the LBer position isn’t in bad shape.

Et Tu Amendola: Danny Amendola was released by the Dolphins on Friday. The cost-cutting move is expected to clear a salary-cap space that Miami may use to entice Trey Flowers to South Florida. Now many are hoping for a reunion with Amendola and the Patriots.

Well, no one has been a bigger Amendola supporter than we’ve been on these pages. While we’d love to see him back in Foxboro this spring, the situation may preclude that from happening. The team needs to get younger at the position and with the cupboard bare, they may play a waiting game to see how the rest of FA/Draft plays out before making a decision. By then, I’d expect Amendola to be signed elsewhere.

Brown Has His Cake, But Won’t Share it With Buffalo: Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown may have effectively forced his way out of Pittsburgh by demanding a trade, and now is stipulating where he won’t go. The Steelers and Bills had a deal supposedly agreed to in principle but Brown put the kibosh on it, stating he won’t go to Buffalo.  

After a few tweets and videos that may have effectively ruined whatever compensation, the Steelers could have gotten for him, Brown now halted a trade. One has to wonder if he may paint himself into a corner where the Steelers (and rightfully so), give him the option to return to the team or sit out the season.

Bennett Trade, One The Team Couldn’t Bypass:

The Philadelphia Eagles are trading DL Michael Bennett and their 7th Round draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to the Patriots for New England’s 5th round pick in 2020. In terms of compensation, the deal is a steal. Bennett is still a very productive player and even at 33 logged more sacks (9) and QB hits (30) than anyone on New England and fourth most (QB hits) in the league.  

Bennett’s contract isn’t going to break the bank either. He’s due $7.2 million in salary and game day bonuses and $8 million in 2020. The Patriots tried to swing a deal with the Seahawks to get Bennett last spring, but the Eagles had pounced first and he was dealt to Philadephia.

Does this mean that the team is washing their hands of Trey Flowers in free agency? Not necessarily. We’ve been of the mind here that Flowers’ chances of resigning here have been slim. Especially now with so many of the edge rushers being tagged by their respective teams. But that doesn’t mean the team won’t try to retain Flowers. Bennett’s trade was something that just popped up on the radar that was too good to pass up for a player that they tried to bring in last spring.

He wasn’t brought in as a replacement for Flowers, although it could seem like that if indeed he does walk in free agency. But the thought of watching the two on the field together in the Pats defense is an exciting one. Will it happen? Stay tuned.

Brady Extension Coming?

We heard thru someone we know (and someone who would know) that a contract extension for Tom Brady was going to be done soon and the team would lock him up for another three years, that would take him to the age 45 limit that he said he envisioned.  

The guys on “Patriots Unfiltered”, what used to be known as PFW in Progress on the Patriots team website invited me on the show on Thursday and we spoke about it for a few minutes. It can be heard here:

Free Agency “Legal Tampering” Season Is Here:

Now is when things get interesting. The Patriots still have a slew of free agents to either resign or let walk including both kickers and still look for ways to improve the team.  So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at certain positions and see who the team has out there and who they could bring in.

Interior Defensive Line:  With both Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton unrestricted free agents, there is certainly a case to be made that neither returns. However, if I had to pick one… I’d go with Brown as being the one player closer to return, but not by much. Like a 52-48 ratio.  

There are some intriguing free agents out there, Sheldon Richardson (Vikings), Brandon Mebane (Chargers), Johnathan Hankins (Raiders), but I don’t see the Patriots laying out the money that those guys would draw in free agency. On our 4th and 2 podcast, I mentioned Jets FA Mike Pennel as a guy the Patriots may target. A huge, 6’4, 330, two-gapping space eater, the Patriots are one of the few teams that still covet those type of players. Not a sexy signing, but one that will pay dividends in the season.

Tight End: Will he or won’t he? If Rob Gronkowski retires, it will free up $11.6 million in cap space, and the position becomes of critical need. if he doesn’t, it is still a position in dire need of young(er) blood. They currently have Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister, Ryan Izzo, and the sleeper Stephen Anderson under contract. Hollister has looked good but can’t stay on the field. Izzo was an intriguing kid and Anderson has unlocked potential.

With the release of Dwayne Allen, the team needs an injection of talent and youth. One guy who’ll be the perfect #2 TE with the team, (especially in the two-TE sets) is Pittsburgh’s, Jesse James. He’s been a favorite here to pick up all winter. He’s big  (6’7, 260), is a very good blocker and productive as a receiver. He’s only 25 and has 112 catches in three seasons being the #4 or lower target.

Wide Receiver: With a slew of free agents (Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson), and only Julian Edelman and untested Braxton Berrios coming back, adding youth at WR is also critical. Will they bring back any of those three? I could see Patterson and maybe one or the other to return but they need some talent to help Edelman and Brady in 2019.

Free agents rumored to be linked to the Patriots include Golden Tate, Adam Humphries, Cole Beasley, Randall Cobb, Jamison Crowder, Eli Rogers,  and Danny Amendola. As much as we’d love to see Tate in this offense as well as Humphries, the money those two would be looking at may be prohibitive.

Look for the Patriots to make a move on Jamison Crowder. That still would be a difficult proposition, however, because even though he’s coming off an ankle injury that forced him to miss seven games, he’s still expected to fetch in the neighborhood of $8-10 million dollars in free agency. The draft, which the Patriots have struggled to find suitable wide receivers, may end up being the answer here.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Beane Says Brown Trade to Bills “Didn’t Make Sense”:

The Buffalo Bills inquired about and were close to making a trade for disgruntled Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown earlier this week. Then Brown put any hopes of that deal materializing by stating that he wouldn’t commit to showing up if the trade went thru. In the end, Bills GM Brandon Beane took the high road and in a statement. “We had positive discussions, but ultimately it didn’t make sense for either side. As great a player as Antonio Brown is, we have moved on and our focus is on free agency.”

The trade for Brown would have made total sense, from a football perspective for the Bills. They invested heavily into a young QB last year in Josh Allen. But he had a dearth of viable weapons to throw to plus an aging RB in LeSean McCoy. It would have made less sense, as it will for any other team since no one knows if Brown will tow the line in his next assignment.

As we mentioned above, Brown is painting himself into a corner, trying to force a trade to where he wants to go. For the Bills, they’ll approach free agency with about $80 million and the opportunity to sign lesser talented players but who will be more about the team than themselves.

Dolphins Clearing Cap Space, Release Three Veterans:

The Miami Dolphins have done a house cleaning in South Florida. By bringing in Brian Flores as the new head coach, he’s starting from scratch. Miami is expected to move on from QB Ryan Tannehill and that will be the first order of business for the new regime. But the team released three veteran players which will aid their salary cap situation.

Miami released wide receiver Danny Amendola, 33, in the move toward youth as well as DE Andre Branch and G Ted Larsen. The release of Amendola frees up $6 million and coupled with the other two vets gives Miami $22 million in cap space. Miami is also expected to decline the 5th-year option for WR Devante Parker making him a free agent this week. That will add another $9.4 million in cap space.

Amendola led Miami with 59 catches and 575 receiving yards in 2018. Now, Miami drafting in the first round with the 13th pick will have to decide whether to move up in the draft to get a QB they like, hope one falls to them in their spot, or wait until next year when the QB class is expected to be better. Free agency has the most intriguing name in Nick Foles, but the Jacksonville Jaguars released a slew of players adding $30 million to their salary cap and are expected to make a big push for the 30-year old QB.

Jets Have Money to Spend in Free Agency:

The New York Jets have nearly $100 million in salary cap space in 2019 and are in a position to make some big splashes in free agency. With that amount of money, they can front load some of those contracts to make the Jets the favorites to any team that they may be bidding against. However, they also have several (as many as 10) starting positions that need to be addressed.

New York is rumored to be in on the LeVeon Bell sweepstakes and signing the very talented running back would ease the growing pains on young QB Sam Darnold. On the flip side of the ball, the Jets are also expected to make a run at the very versatile and talented LB Anthony Barr who has spent the first five years of his career with the Vikings. He’d fill a great need for the Jets.

Barr is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who has been a Pro Bowler for the past four years with the Vikings. He’s adept at stopping the run, dropping into coverage and rushing off the edge. The team needs help at wide receiver as well as at edge rusher besides Barr. The Jets can be big players this spring with a ton of cap space. Look for them to make a splash or three.

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.

Six For Saturday: Some Patriots Thoughts Heading Into this Offseason

Ian Logue
March 9, 2019 at 1:07 pm ET

Some thoughts now that the page is about to officially turn heading into an offseason that will shape the 2019 version of this football team.

1) Patriots defacto defensive coordinator Brian Flores really did have a terrific season, showing another side of what this group was able to do defensively after a 2017 season where they weren’t anywhere close to as disruptive as they were in 2018. It was great to see and was a big reason behind their dominating performance against the Rams in their Super Bowl victory.

One thing that was obvious this season was that the players really seemed to respond to Flores’ intensity and personality, which may end up being a void that the Patriots will have a tough time filling next season. With Greg Schiano coming on board to replace him, it’s going to be interesting to see if Schiano will garner the same type of respect that Flores had with a group that really played well for him.

When Flores met with the Miami media following the Super Bowl, he sounded confident and said he has a plan that will involve some “bumps in the road” as he begins trying to turn the franchise around. The now-former Patriots coach made it clear that he didn’t accept the job on a whim, saying that he told the Dolphins that if the team didn’t share his beliefs, he wasn’t interested in the job.

“Our vision, and our core philosophy of how to build a team, they were aligned. That was one of the things [that sold] me,” Flores said via the Sun Sentinal. “I told every team this, ‘if our beliefs aren’t aligned then don’t hire me’ because if they aren’t aligned it’s not going to work.”

They have a long-term vision and he made it clear to the fans to expect some pain initially as he brings in guys who are “selfless” and put the team first.  Past coaches really haven’t had much of an opportunity to build a good group of players there due to inept coaches who didn’t have the support of the front office.  Dolphins GM Chris Grier knows Flores well during his time in New England and it’s obvious that he believes that he’ll be able to create a Patriot-like culture with Miami.

After seeing what Flores accomplished in just one season, one thing is probably certain, for the first time in a while the Dolphins may finally, once again, become a thorn in the side for New England moving forward. 


Edelman was terrific in the Super Bowl against the Rams. (USA TODAY Images)

2) It’s not a surprise that most of the nation was displeased with the idea that the Patriots are again World Champions and Julian Edelman appeared to be the focus of their ire.

Edelman, who was obviously named Super Bowl MVP following his performance, ended up in the crosshairs of opposing fans who believed that he should never have even been on the field against Los Angeles to begin with thanks to his early season suspension for PEDs.

Baseball writers point to the fact that a player who was suspended for using PEDs isn’t permitted to play in the MLB postseason, which was the argument that made its way around the internet on Monday following New England’s victory.

The veteran receiver was big, catching 10 passes on 12 targets for 141 yards, with 8 of his receptions moving the chains.  He also caught 3 of Brady’s 6 third-down completions, all of which were for first downs.

It’s clearly a case of sour grapes among those who were unhappy to see Tom Brady and Bill Belichick raise another Lombardi trophy.  However, it will be interesting to see if the anti-Patriot sentiment doesn’t potentially spark a discussion for a change this offseason. 

It wouldn’t be a surprise for the NFL to consider some sort of further penalty since this issue seems to come up among players throughout the league each year.  As we know, given the history of situations involving the Patriots, the league loves to make a rule change to try and save face to figure out a way to stop a team that just continues to dominate year in, and year out.

Roger Goodell loves this stuff.  The prospect of being ineligible for postseason play would obviously make players think twice before taking that type of risk, especially since missing the first four games of the year isn’t close to the damage that would be inflicted if a team’s key offensive (or defensive) weapon was sidelined during a playoff run.  

Needless to say, don’t be surprised if we hear about this again during the offseason.  But for now, it’s just noise and the fans made plenty of it in Boston when they celebrated during last month’s parade after an unbelievable year as New England won their sixth Lombardi trophy.


Andy Reid was out-coached again this postseason by Belichick. (USA TODAY Images)

3) While we’re on this topic, this nonsense with the Kansas City Chiefs complaining about the overtime rules is getting old, with the subject coming up again this week after the Chiefs submitted a proposal to end the scenario where a first-possession touchdown in overtime no longer ends the game in the postseason.

This is ridiculous. If anyone inside the NFL office is even leaning that way, they should take a good look in the mirror before they even consider making this change.  The Patriots have been a part of two incredible wins in overtime during the postseason in recent years, with both coming on opening drive touchdowns to earn the walk off victory.  To change it now would indicate the NFL wasn’t happy about the outcome and would be trying to prevent those situations going forward.

Let’s be serious.  The league already once changed this rule as it pertained to field goals, which you could sort of make the argument because offenses really only needed a couple of big plays on their first possession in overtime to kick a long field goal and win it.  Although given what we’ve seen from kickers in recent years, the difficulty surrounding that sequence doesn’t seem to garner the significance of pulling that off that people seem to think it does.  But “it is what it is” at this point and the rule has already been modified.

However, the idea now that an offense digging deep and driving the length of the field and scoring isn’t worthy enough of winning the game is ludicrous.  The worst part about this situation is the league already has a key example in the New Orleans Saints, who after coming up on the wrong end of a bad call in regulation, were unable to score on their opening drive in overtime, which opened the door to the Rams winning the football game and moving on to the Super Bowl.  That game more or less proved that scoring a touchdown isn’t a given, and the fact the Patriots wore down a terrible Chiefs defense and then executed at the critical point in the contest to win the game is a reminder this rule shouldn’t even be on the table for discussion.

We’ve seen enough from the NFL over the years to realize that New England’s dominance is a key frustration behind the scenes.  But if this rule goes through, it should set off a serious red flag that the league is just reaching at this point and reacting negatively to yet another incredible postseason run by this football team.


Brady extension is good news for the Patriots. (USA TODAY Images)

4) With our own Steve Balestrieri learning this week that a contract extension may be coming for Tom Brady, it’s good news for a team that will have essentially erased the narratives and speculation that would have surrounded his uncertainty heading into what would have been the final year of his deal.

While Brady isn’t necessarily coming off of his best season, it’s obvious that even with the injuries he battled through last season and his ability to eventually overcome Wade Phillips tough game plan in the Super Bowl, he’s still playing well enough to potentially do it a few more times before he finally walks away.  That’s a positive sign for the Patriots, who are still in need of grooming a successor and don’t have that person in the locker room at this time.

Last year’s late draft pick, Danny Etling, showed some promise in the preseason, but he’s no where near the level of where Jimmy Garoppolo was and while seeing a late-round pick become a starter isn’t necessarily out of the realm of possibility (ie: Brady), we haven’t seen that from him just yet.

This year’s draft will be interesting to watch from the standpoint of whether or not they view one of the guys coming out high enough to pass on another player in favor of taking a quarterback.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll target someone in the first round, since as we know, Garoppolo was a second round selection.  But given the timing of where Brady is, this would be the right time to find a player they believe in who could spend 3-4 years learning in this system and eventually emerge as a starting-caliber player.

That’s tougher than it sounds, especially knowing how hard it is to find an NFL-ready quarterback.  One other X-factor in all this is Josh McDaniels, who has done a pretty good job of developing quarterbacks during his tenure here in New England.  But if ever there was a time to hope that process was starting over again, this offseason would seem to be it.


The Patriots seemed to try and prepare for Flowers’ departure on Friday. (USA TODAY Images)

5) The addition of Michael Bennett reminds me of a couple of offseason scenarios over the years, which doesn’t make me feel overly confident in the future of defensive end Trey Flowers.

Bennett’s arrival mimics one of the more surprising moves, highlighted by the signing of Danny Amendola when Wes Welker was headed to the free agent market in 2013. At the time, it was obvious that the Patriots signing of Amendola looked like they felt like Welker wouldn’t be back. So Bill Belichick appeared to take the step to protect his team from losing an impact player, essentially moving on after feeling that Welker sign elsewhere.

Flowers seems poised to end up with a big payday, with the initial reports seeming to indicate that the veteran will hit the market and test the waters, which will likely spell trouble for the Patriots in terms of trying to keep him in the fold.

While it’s not impossible, it seems unlikely and it wouldn’t be a surprise if someone like Flores brings Flowers in to help start building Miami’s defense.  While Flowers’ numbers (7.5 sacks last season) aren’t among the NFL’s best, what’s scary to consider is the fact that those totals probably could have even been higher.  While New England’s defense was more aggressive last season than it’s been in a while, he still wasn’t used in that role as much as he could have been. 

But that’s not how this scheme works. The Patriots’ defense is much more disciplined and it prevented him from ending up on the highlight reel since most of his best work really came from the plays he made that flew under the radar.  For teams who take the time to look at that body of work, they may realize that Flowers is a complete player who has only scratched the surface of what he’s capable of.  The bad news for New England is, it likely means a payday much larger than what the Patriots can offer may be coming for him.


 This year’s defense did a terrific job. (USA TODAY Images)

6) Watching this year’s defense over the final three postseason games was interesting from the standpoint of trying to ponder where they’ll someday sit in history when we reflect back on each of those players.

Think about it for a second.  At the time, none of us looked at players like Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, etc. in the way we look at them now.  After all, during that era, none of them were ever considered among the NFL’s elite because the Patriots weren’t really viewed that way back then.  Fans knew they were good players, but it wasn’t until Bill Belichick arrived and took Pete Carroll’s roster and turned them into champions that they really became who they were.

When you look at what New England did defensively this postseason, this isn’t exactly a group full of superstars.  You can put Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Trey Flowers and Stephon Gilmore in the group of potentially elite players, but the remainder of this group is simply filled with just really, solid football players.   The secondary was rounded out with guys like Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen, and Jason McCourty, along with safeties Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung.  None of them get anywhere near the amount of respect outside of New England as they do by fans who see them each week.

Up front, they had players like Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Malcolm Brown and Lawrence Guy, none of which would ever be on the radar of fans outside of this region.  The same can be said for linebackers like Elandon Roberts, John Simon, and Kyle Van Noy.  Honestly, even most casual Patriots fans don’t even know who these guys are.

Yet these are players who just put together one of the best defensive stretches in Patriots postseason history to capture the club’s sixth championship.

One of the things that made guys Law, McGinest and Bruschi so great was the fact they did it over a sustained period of time, which obviously sets them apart but again, people didn’t really appreciate how good they were until this team went through a rough stretch without them.  It’s like they say, you don’t appreciate guys like that until they’re not around anymore.

That’s why it’s going to be hard not to wonder how fans may someday view players like McCourty, Chung, Hightower, and Gilmore, with players like Van Noy even hopefully earning a little more appreciation after putting together a terrific showing to cap off a pretty terrific year. 

Either way, it’s an interesting notion.   What makes it even more curious is the fact that while many fans discussed how great they played defensively, the names didn’t seem to be joining the discussion of what they did on the field as they held one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses to 3 points. 

Oddly enough, even after a Super Bowl win, people still don’t seem to know who they are.  The key to changing that will be seeing if they can build on this performance heading into 2019.

If they can, maybe people will start paying attention.

One More Thought:


Is this the end for Gostkowski? (USA TODAY Images)

7) With the news that the Patriots weren’t using the franchise tag, the first player that came to mind was kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who appears to be headed to free agency.

When you take into consideration how many kickers struggled last year, Gostkowski looks like he’s in for a potential payday and it could mean that the Patriots might have to spend this offseason looking for a replacement.

For Gostkowski, there’s not much really left for him to prove. He’s already put together a Hall of Fame worthy career here in New England and there’s really nothing more positive that can come for him staying in Foxboro.

Gostkowski missed just one extra point during the regular season and five field goals total, missing two from 40-49yds and 3 from 50+. He was perfect from 20-39yds. In the postseason, he missed just one field goal and was perfect on all his extra points.

Yet, that didn’t stop the criticism and whispers that happened over the course of this season, as well as the year before when he hit a couple of bumps during an almost-championship season.

As a result, if I’m Gostkowski, I would follow Adam Vinatieri’s lead and target a dome team with a lot of money in need of a reliable kicker, which would likely extend his career. He still has a strong leg and doesn’t seem to have lost any of his power, which is a positive sign for a player who has been among the best in the league for a while now.

Gostkowski’s loss would be tough as he would mark the end of another solid career for another terrific kicker in Foxboro and leave the Patriots with some uncertainty at a position that he’s quietly been an afterthought since he’s been here. There have been people hoping for his departure not realizing how good he’s really been, which is unfortunate.

For now, this may be something to watch over the course of the offseason and if Gostkowski does move on, fans need to recognize just how special his run has been and how replacing him might be harder than some might think.

Patriots Coaching Carousel Takes A Toll But Belichick Remains

Steve Balestrieri
February 12, 2019 at 8:33 am ET

Patriots Coaching Carousel Takes A Toll But Belichick Remains

While this may sound overly simplistic, despite nearly every Patriots defensive coach leaving the team this spring, the most important one, Bill Belichick is staying and the Patriots should be just fine.

That’s not to say that things won’t be challenging to say the least this year, but Belichick has navigated these waters before and he’s retaining two very important pieces in Nick Caserio and Josh McDaniels.

De facto Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores who also coached the linebackers is gone, becoming the new head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Flores took with him cornerback coach Josh Boyer, wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea, and QB assistant coach Jerry Schuplinski. Defensive line coach Brendan Daly is also leaving, heading to Kansas City. Stephen Belichick, the safeties coach is the only holdover from the 2018 defensive staff.

The Patriots are reportedly signing Greg Schiano as the next defensive coordinator. Schiano has long been a friend of Belichick’s and he’s coached 19 players while the head coach at Rutgers that have played for Belichick’s Patriots including Devin and Jason McCourty and Duron Harmon.

Former college head coach Bret Bielema, worked with the defense last season and was rumored to be the next Defensive Coordinator. He’ll likely be the defensive line coach this season if, in fact, he remains after being passed over. Coaching assistants DeMarcus Covington, Mike Pellegrino, Cole Popovich, Atif Austin, and Brian Belichick, Bill’s other son may see a promotion this season.

Pellegrino worked with Boyer and the cornerbacks this season. Austin worked with Ivan Fears and the running backs but has experience working with wide receivers in college. Caserio, the Director of Player Personnel has worn many hats during his tenure in Foxboro. It should be noted that back in 2007 he was the Wide Receivers coach. Could he help out this season on the field with the WRs this season? Surely. He’s been a fixture on the field every year at training camp.

On the offensive side, Carmen Bricillo is joining the team as the assistant offensive line coach coming from Youngstown State. Mick Lombardi, the son of former Patriots coaching assistant Michael is coming to the team as the Assistant QBs coach, a position he held with the Jets, Lombardi served as a coaching assistant here a few years ago.

The bottom line is that this remains Belichick’s defense, while Schiano has a reputation for being very conservative with his defensive play calls, something the Patriots were definitely not this postseason, Belichick may opt to take a more active role in the play calling defensively this year.

Perhaps Belichick’s most difficult season was 2005 when after winning three of four Super Bowls, he lost offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel.

This will be a challenge, no doubt, and the team may also lean on several veterans, especially on the defensive side to help navigate the ship. Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty are two of the leaders of the defense. Although the team may have to do some work with each on the salary cap side of things, it can be done. One obstacle that might rear its head is that McCourty made mention during the Super Bowl that he may retire if the Patriots won. It may be Belichick and Caserio’s job to convince him and his twin brother to make one last go of it in 2019.  

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 and game analysis.

New England Patriots News 2-10, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
February 10, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 02-10 and AFC East Notes.

 An Emotional Bill Belichick: We are used to seeing to the normally clipped and reserved Bill Belichick over the course of the year, where he always keeps things in perspective and never gets too high or too low. But as the Patriots clinched Super Bowl LIII, all of those shrouds were lifted and we saw the joy for all of the hard work come thru. In typical Belichick style, he gave all of the praise to the players. NFL Films captured it perfectly right here:

Patterson With a Diamond-studded Gift for Brady: Patriots WR/KR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson was obviously very grateful for his 2018 season with the Patriots and especially with Tom Brady. Patterson made a gift of a diamond-studded TB12 logo to Brady after the Super Bowl, which no doubt set him back thousands of dollars. Brady posted a picture of his daughter wearing it on his Instagram page. She saw it and fell in love with it…Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

What a Crowd for the Parade: The Patriots 6th Super Bowl win this week featured a couple of huge crowds which put to rest that the fans were getting blase about the team’s continued success. The turnout for the send-off rally was over 35,000 fans and the Super Bowl parade which had a huge crowd of 1,500,000 fans in downtown Boston. The crowd at the game itself was the first time that the Patriots had a clear advantage in terms of crowd noise. It never gets old or taken for granted.

Did you Know? For the yards are more important than points crowd… The Patriots in SB LIII garnered more yards (407) than their season average (393) against the Rams. While the defense held the Rams to 160 yards fewer (260) than their season average which was 421. When we wrote about the defense coming together late in the season, many scoffed at it. After those last three playoff wins, nobody is scoffing now.

A Return for Amendola? The latest news out of Miami is that the Dolphins are rumored to be moving on from WR Danny Amendola after just one season in South Beach. If that were to happen, could a return to Foxboro be in the cards? Absolutely. And I know a certain QB that would love to see that happen as well.

Close the Roof: With another sound clip from just before the game started, watching Bill Belichick questioning the timing of the roof closure after the flyover shows how detailed the Patriots and their coaches are in preparation for every possible scenario.

Favorite Play of the Game in Super Bowl LIII:

In a game dominated by defense, there are several plays that could fit the bill as favorite plays of the game. The pass breakup by Jason McCourty in the end zone, Stephon Gillmore’s interception, Dont’a Hightower just blowing up Tyler Higbee during the Danny Shelton’s run stuff, but my personal favorite was from Kyle Van Noy.

The Rams rolled Jared Goff out to the right and had three WRs flooding the zone. Josh Reynolds was the main target doing a shallow cross about 3-4 yards off the line of scrimmage with a deeper cross about 12 yards and Cooks running a deep corner route.

Van Noy was supposed to get sucked into Goff which allows his an easy window to complete the pass and have an easier 7-10 yard pass play. But Van Noy recognized the play coming, and slowed up to hit Reynolds with a forearm, flattening him. He then joined the rush after Goff, who had nowhere to throw and was forced out of bounds. It was a tremendous play.

Brian Baldinger from the NFL Network every week does his “Baldy’s Breakdowns” and highlights certain key plays and they are excellent. He calls this particular play here: 

Flores Brings Three Patriots Assistants With Him to Miami:

The Miami Dolphins hired former Patriots de facto Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores this week and Flores has brought three Patriots assistant coaches with him to Miami. Former WRs coach Chad O’Shea will become the Dolphins offensive coordinator. Josh Boyer who coached the NE cornerbacks will handle the same duties in Miami with the added title of defensive passing game coordinator as well. And Jerry Schuplinski, the assistant QBs coach will also handle the same duties there.

Greg Schiano Rumored to be the Next Defensive Coordinator:

With Flores departure for South Beach, the Patriots are looking for a couple of defensive coaches and what was first reported locally by Jim McBride of the Boston Globe, the Patriots are reportedly close to signing former Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano as their next DC.

Schiano spent the last two years as the Ohio State DC and is a friend of Bill Belichick’s. But where Schiano is best known for was his time as Rutgers’ head coach. During his tenure there 19 players who played for him made their way to New England.

Those players included Devin and Jason McCourty, Duron Harmon, Logan Ryan, and current Patriots safety coach, Steve Belichick. Bill Belichick will always surround himself with players he likes, and the Rutgers connection with Schiano is a testament to that. He and Schiano should get along fine.

Patriots Have Large Free Agent Class in 2019:

As tough as it is moving on from Super Bowl LIII, time marches on and now the team will have a lot of tough personnel decisions to make in 2019. Here is the list, and it is lengthy of the Patriots free agents this year.

Trey Flowers
Trent Brown
Chris Hogan
Cordarrelle Patterson
Phillip Dorsett
Jason McCourty
Eric Rowe
Stephen Gostkowski
Ryan Allen
Malcom Brown
Danny Shelton
LaAdrian Waddle
John Simon
Albert McClellan
Ramon Humber
Brian Schwenke
Ulrick John
Jonathan Jones (RFA)
Josh Gordon (RFA)
Ufomba Kamalu
Cody Hollister

Obviously, the two top free agents are Flowers from the defense and Brown on the offense. Flowers has arguably been the Patriots best defensive player for the past three years and has led the team in sacks in those three. The Patriots will no doubt try to find a way to secure Flowers services but he’s in line for a huge payday and is considered one of the top free agents this spring.

Brown was brought on-board last spring and had never played left tackle. He took over the position early in training camp and never looked back. He was very solid in pass protection and was terrific in run blocking, especially in the postseason. He’s another guy inline for a huge payday.

Hogan will probably be gone although I do believe that the team will make efforts to bring back both Dorsett and Patterson, the latter who did a bit of everything this past season, playing wide receiver, running back and returning kickoffs. Patterson had a combined yardage total of over 1100 in 2018. Dorsett was a forgotten man during the time Josh Gordon was on the team, but contributed down the stretch and had a big TD reception in the AFC Championship Game.

Gostkowski and Allen are an excellent duo. Gostkowski has been here since Adam Vinatieri left in 2006. Allen was outstanding in the Super Bowl, pinning the Rams three times inside their 10-yard line.

It will interesting to see if McCourty returns, there were rumors that he and his brother Devin may retire after the Super Bowl but he played well all season and made a huge play in the Super Bowl, coming from across the field to break up a pass for Brandin Cooks in the end zone. Rowe began the year as the #2 corner before landing on IR after just four games.

Brown and Shelton are the two big guys in the middle of the DL.Both played well down the stretch and into the playoffs. However, after passing on the fifth-year options on both, the team may only resign one. Waddle has been a valuable swing tackle, with the health along the OL this season, he wasn’t used as much.

Simon, McClellan and Humber were brought in mid-season and all filled valuable roles. The team will probably look to retain all three. Jones and Gordon are restricted free agents. And the interesting aspect of Gordon is that he can apply for reinstatement in May of this year.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have $80 Million in Cap Space, But Preach Caution:

In a really good piece by Vic Carucci, the Buffalo Bills in the first two seasons under Sean McDermott have been trying to manage expectations and build for long-term sustained success. So with about $80 million in cap space this spring, GM Brandon Beane in a letter to season ticket holders is preaching more caution. The message is to not expect the team to go all-in in free agency for instant gratification.

“The sole focus is to build the Buffalo Bills into a championship contender and help create a culture aimed at long-term, sustained success,” Beane wrote.

That is the correct way to build a winner. The Bills are still a long ways off from being a true contender and now they’ll try to start adding the long-term pieces that they’ll need to surround their young QB Josh Allen.

“The previous two draft classes have begun a new foundation of young players on our roster,” Beane wrote. “We are encouraged by the development thus far by players like Josh Allen, Tremaine Edmunds, Tre’Davious White and others. Each of them was given an individual plan of improvement at season’s end and they understand they have a lot of work in front of them.

“We have opportunities to improve our team this offseason and the Pegulas, Sean (McDermott) and I are all on the same page and determined to bring winning football to the city of Buffalo. Thank you for your loyal dedication to this franchise.”

Dolphins Hire Flores Who Brings Plenty of NE Coaches With Him:

The Miami Dolphins hiring of Brian Flores is a new change of regime, of which the Dolphins have had plenty but this time they are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with a big New England Patriots presence going to South Beach with Flores, Chad O’Shea, Josh Boyer and Jerry Schuplinski also coming on-board.

One of the more surprising bits of news coming out of Miami is that the Dolphins are planning on moving away from WR Danny Amendola, who they brought in a year ago to bring the veteran presence to the Dolphins locker room. That will bear watching.

Flores, like Belichick is behind the power curve in terms of being far behind in preparation for the NFL Combine, but the Dolphins will be looking to find their next franchise QB and are in need of a true nose tackle either in free agency and the draft.

Jets Coaching Staff Seems Like Perfect Choice for Hard Knocks:

The New York Jets hired Adam Gase as the new head coach for Gang Green. And as Rich Cimini of ESPN has pointed out, there is certainly no lack for potential controversy there.

The full staff, announced Friday by the Jets, includes longtime NFL assistant Joe Vitt, Gase’s father-in-law, and Blake Williams, the son of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

This is where it gets interesting.

Vitt and Gregg Williams were members of the New Orleans Saints’ coaching staff implicated in the 2012 BountyGate scandal. In the bounty hearings, conducted by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Vitt accused Williams of lying in his testimony.

Vitt also said the players didn’t take Williams seriously because of his “false bravado” and “schtick.”

Blake Williams, 34, has a reputation for rubbing people the wrong way. As a St. Louis Rams assistant, he upset people in the organization by screaming at a draft prospect in a scouting-combine interview, a source said. He also was reprimanded multiple times for sitting in the wrong seat on the team bus; he kept sitting in a seat reserved for a senior member of the staff.

The Rams fired him after the 2013 season. Williams has only worked for NFL teams in which his father was on the staff.

Gase also hired Jim Bob Cooter as the Jets running backs coach. With an eclectic group like this with all of the potential fireworks with the coaching staff, I believe that this will be a perfect choice for Hard Knocks this summer.

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-Rams Super Bowl LIII Keys Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
February 1, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams are in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII and contrary to popular belief outside of New England, the Patriots don’t reach the Super Bowl every year that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are together on the field. It just seems that way.

Super Bowl LIII will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, February 3 at 6:30 PM ET and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson, Evan Washburn, and Jay Feely will work from the sidelines.  The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (13-5) are in the big game for the third straight year, after blowing out the Chargers and winning an overtime thriller against the #1 seed Kansas City Chiefs.

The Rams (15-3) also won in overtime in the NFC Championship Game beating the New Orleans Saints after coming back from being two scores down early in the game.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 to give some quick analysis 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 Rams are meeting for the first time in the postseason since Super Bowl XXXVI, the Pats first Super Bowl win over the “Greatest Show on Turf”. The only two remaining pieces for either team remain Brady and Belichick.

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

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Rams Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots rushing offense has been outstanding down the stretch and thru the first two games of the playoffs. New England utilizes a three-headed rushing attack with Sony Michel handling the lion’s share with Rex Burkhead, and James White also adding into the mix as well.

The Rams defense uses the Wade Phillips 3-4 where they bring an extra linebacker up on the line in run support. The Rams during the regular season allowed 5.1 yards per rush but have been much better in the playoffs. In the Saints game, Aaron Donald was shooting the gaps and blowing plays up before they had a chance to develop.

The Patriots run a different system and should line up right over Donald and will look to take him on rather than trying to reach block him like New Orleans did where Donald’s quickness off the line made that a losing proposition.

Look for the Patriots to attack the perimeter in the running game and they’ll use motion with Julian Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson to run some of those Jet Sweeps. The aggressiveness of their front, especially Donald and Ndamukong Suh is where they’ll try to exploit by running at them on the perimeter.

The Patriots interior players David Andrews, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason will be the ones to watch against the Rams interior run stuffers. They like to move Suh around and created mismatches so this will be a key area to watch.

Patriots WRs vs Rams Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game has ratcheted up their game down the stretch with Tom Brady and Julian Edelman both having big games in the first two playoff matchups. The key obviously is in pass protection, the Rams boast Donald, Suh, and a very good pass rush which can disrupt anyone’s passing attack.

Wade Phillips will try to take away the middle of the field and may try to double up Julian Edelman. If that happens, watch Brady put him in motion. The Rams defense struggled in the passing game against “12 personnel” groupings (2 WR, 2TE, 1RB) and look for the Patriots to utilize White or Burkhead quite a bit in the passing game.

How LA decides to cover Rob Gronkowski will be fascinating to watch. Will it be in single coverage like KC did with a safety? Or will they chip and roll more coverage on him? Gronkowski looks as healthy as he has all season and had a big game inKC. Brady will try to get the ball out quickly and negate Donald and the pass rush. How well they are able to do that will determine how successful they are at passing the ball.

The Rams played a lot of zone coverage, then switching to man coverage inside the red zone. However, since Aqib Talib’s return, they’re playing more man coverage, and that should continue this week.

Next up the Los Angeles offense:

Rams RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Rams have been one of the best teams at running the football this season averaging 139.4 yards per game (3rd in the NFL) and have two excellent running backs in Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. Some tendencies to watch for. When Gurley is in the game, they run nearly 70 percent of the time to the edge and when Anderson is in, that number is nearly 50 percent right up the middle.

The Rams offensive line is much like the Patriots, they are tough, very well-coached and rarely make mistakes. LA runs primarily out of “11 personnel” (3WR, 1TE, 1 RB). They like to condense the formations, (something Bill Belichick mentioned this week) and run a ton of misdirection. Like New England, they like to put a guy in motion to get three men on one side and like to run behind that strength.

Jared Goff lined up for 40 percent of his snaps under center, among the most in the league. Play action passing is a stable of their offense. I’m looking for the historian in Belichick to dust off a look that he used successfully in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles, the Bears 46 Defense.

Bringing up eight men in the box and placing a linebacker outside close to the line of scrimmage is a way of limiting the running game of Gurley. They’ll place a big man over the center and use their interior men to attack the gaps. The key is setting the edge, especially when Gurley is in the game. In two playoff games, they’ve allowed just 60 yards rushing.

Rams WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Rams passing game was lighting up the league in the first half of the season. The loss of Cooper Kupp to IR has been a big blow, however, they are still very, very talented. They have a plethora of targets for Jared Goff in Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Gurley, Josh Reynolds, and Tyler Higbee.

The key is for the Patriots is to disguise their look until the final second. Goff doesn’t read the defense as well or as quick as Brady. Rams coach Sean McVay will have his team rush to the line and see how the Patriots line up and he’ll call out into Goff’s helmet the read until the microphones are cut off at the 15-second mark of the play clock. It will be then up to Belichick and Brian Flores to change things up and show something different. Can they confuse Goff enough or slow down his processing time enough to make a difference? That’s the key here.

Look for the Patriots to put Stephon Gilmore on Robert Woods, and possibly their speediest corner Jonathon Jones or Jason McCourty on Cooks with safety help. Rookie J.C. Jackson will see more of Reynolds.

Look for more of that “Amoeba Front” look to disguise where the pass rush is coming from to try to get pressure on Goff. They’ll rotate their coverages and safeties to give Goff a different look in an attempt to slow down his processing time to allow the pass rush to get home.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Patriots special teams have been much better down the stretch but for once, they’re facing a team with a slightly better cast. Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen remain extremely solid. Julian Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson will look to make a difference in the return game.

The Rams have an outstanding STs unit and it begins with punter Johnny Hekker. He is always lavished praise by Belichick and not only is he an outstanding punter but the Rams have shown that they aren’t afraid of throwing it on 4th down with him. Greg Zuerlein is very good at kicking. JoJo Natson and Blake Countess handled return duties.

Next up, who wins and why…

Keys to the Game and Prediction

This game should be another classic must-watch down to the wire matchup. What would a Patriots Super Bowl be without an edge of your seat finish? Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective are:

Start Fast and Put the Rams in Catchup Mode: The Patriots have been very good at starting fast this postseason. That must continue. The Rams offense wants to make this a track meet and that’s a game they’re much better suited to winning.

3rd Down/Red Zone Key: The Patriots have to win the 3rd down battle, on offense they must give Brady the third and manageable distances, the 3rd and 4 or less. On defense it has to be the opposite, forcing Goff into obvious passing situations where they can mix and match their coverages and bring pressure. Field goals instead of touchdowns will be a way to win or lose the game.

Win the Turnover Battle: The Patriots and Rams should both be able to move the ball this Sunday  It may come down to getting a key turnover, especially in the opponent’s end of the field. Can the Patriots generate a turnover or two, something they were unable to do a year ago?

The feeling here is experience is a great asset. Brady, Edelman, Gronkowski and James White have been here and won, before. That will be the difference in another great Super Bowl. It will go right down to the wire, but cue the duckboats, Marty, the Lombardi is coming back to New England. Patriots 31-27

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 and game analysis.

New England Patriots News 01-06, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 6, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-06, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

No…This IS 41: Last week in the aftermath of the Jets game, another hot-take artist of Fox Sports radio with an ax to grind, first complained that the league conspired to get the Patriots the bye because of what he called a terrible call of roughing the passer by the Jets against Brady. “NFL badly needed the Patriots to get that #2 seed. This call is total garbage. Patriots eventually score, up 21-3.”

Then he cherry-picked a missed throw by Brady to Hogan in the end zone to claim, “This is 41.” The funny part was the next day, he called out another writer for having a “garbage take” on the Antonio Brown saga. Glass houses, especially when in the game against the Jets, Brady completed over 70 percent of his throws, threw 4 TDs and had a passer rating of 133.8.

But we can cherry pick too, so…here’s your “This is 41”

Did you Know? Since 2001, the Patriots have had 13 byes, the most in the NFL. The next closest teams are the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers with 5. This is the ninth consecutive year earning a bye, the most prior to this Patriots run has been four. . Dallas and San Francisco earned four straight byes from 1992 through 1995 and Denver had four straight from 2012 through 2015.

Did you Know Pt. 2: The only NFL team to win a championship and is no longer in the league was from New England. The Providence Steamroller was part of the league from 1925 -1931 and won the NFL Championship in 1928. Besides being one of two teams (Chicago Cardinals) to be the first to play a night game in 1929, Providence, due to a scheduling snafu and bad weather played four games in a six-day stretch which the night game, attended by 6000 fans was the second game of the stretch.

Patriots Unveil 2018 Playoff Motto: The Patriots, as part of their M.O., have unveiled a motto for the playoffs this year, “Everything We Got.” They unveiled a short video that showed many of the national pundits calling for the demise of the Pats dynastic run.

Then the video shows the team in a quick series of vignettes and then the narrator says:
To get everything,
It’s going to take everything.
So we’re going to give everything.
EVERYTHING WE GOT.

Is it as good as “Do Your Job”? Nope. But it is a step up from “One More” in our opinion. Enjoy the Wildcard Weekend’s slate of the games. There were 12 good teams entering the playoffs this weekend, 11 of them will lose their last game of the year. That’s why our motto, which we’d steal from Hollywood, would be. “There Can Be Only One!”

With McDaniels and Flores Being Courted, Focus on O’Shea, Bielema:

Like clockwork, the staff of Bill Belichick is being raided again as multiple teams have requested interviews with coordinators Josh McDaniels and Brian Flores. McDaniels is rumored to be the top choice for the Green Bay Packers and is very much in the mix for Cleveland, he turned down a request to interview with Cincinnati. It might sound strange but the better job overall and probably better for McDaniels may be Cleveland.

The Packers have a 36-year old QB who got his last coach fired. The offense runs through Rodgers, it is doubtful, he’s going to want to learn a new system at this stage of his career. Cleveland has a good young defense, an exciting rookie QB that knows how to win and is a team trending up.

But we digress… If one, or both leave who will take over the reins as the coordinators for the Patriots in 2019? On offense, it seems like a no-brainer in that Chad O’Shea will take over the play calling there. He’s been being groomed for that spot for some time now. O’Shea has been with the team for 10 years and called the plays during the preseason last summer. That one seems like a slam-dunk. However, O’Shea’s name is being floated around as a possible Offensive Coordinator for Matt Patricia in Detroit. We’ll have to monitor that situation.

Defensively, the situation will be difficult as they have no clear-cut coach lined up to take the reins. In reality, Flores isn’t even a “true” defensive coordinator, as he’s not been even given the title of it yet… why, is a story for another time.

Bill Belichick would probably take most of the onus on himself as the defensive coordinator for 2019, however, there isn’t a clear-cut successor ready yet. The best choice? Bret Bielema who was a head coach at both Wisconsin and Arkansas. Brendan Daly, who coaches the Defensive Line, may become a candidate in a year or two, but right now, the odds would be against him.

AB to the Pats? Not Happening:

When the news broke about the deteriorating situation in Pittsburgh with Antonio Brown, it was amazing how dysfunctional that team truly is. Mike Tomlin has always run a loose ship and that has come home to roost. But as soon as the story broke about Brown requesting a trade, Patriots fans jumped all over the story, wanting Belichick to swing a deal for Brown.

But there is no way that’s happening. For one, the Steelers would still be on the hook for Brown’s huge 2019 cap hit. They’ll probably try to mend the relationship between Brown, QB Ben Roethlisberger, and Tomlin. Barring that, if they do decide to trade him, one place they never would trade Brown to would be New England.

And as ridiculously talented Brown is, I can’t imagine that there would be a mutual interest in bringing him here. Can you imagine Brown’s Facebook Live video going on while Belichick is addressing the team in a post-game setting? And Brown, although in the midst of a terrific season, was mad because Roethlisberger was making JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had an even better 2018, the focal point. I can’t see Brown accepting a role where he’s not “the guy” that the offense runs thru.

After last season and the tabloid-like story on the divorce of Brady/Belichick, while the team was going 13-3 and on their way to another Super Bowl, is there going to be a big breaking piece on the disintegration of the Steelers’ locker room? Their two most talented offensive players quit on their team this season…but we’re not holding our breath on that one.

Young QBs Have Fans Excited in Several Markets:

The NFL had an influx of young QBs this year and many of them played big roles for their teams right off the bat. And it is a great thing for several NFL franchises that have been downtrodden for a number of years as these young QBs generate hope and excitement for the next generation.

The league has their established stars in QBs like Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers but the story this season really wasn’t about any of them but Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes, while technically not a rookie lit the league on fire this fall. While perennial bottom feeders in Cleveland now have an exciting young QB, Baker Mayfield who has instantly brought hope and respectability to the franchise. Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen have had different levels of success but at least have their fans tuning in.

No one knows if any of these young studs can keep up the long-term success that they’ve found in their first year of playing.  There are no guarantees, injuries occur as well as other issues that can arise, but right now, the 2019 season looks to be, on paper one to really look forward to.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Wildcard Weekend Predictions:

Last week: 12-4 Final Regular Season 165-89-2

Wildcard Weekend:

Saturday – Houston over Indy,
                 Seattle over Dallas
Sunday –   Baltimore over LA Chargers (tough start time for West Coast teams)
                Chicago over Philadelphia

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have Their Man in Josh Allen, Now Need a Surrounding Cast:

The Buffalo Bills picked their guy in the QB Class of 2018 in the person of Allen, the big, strong-armed youngster from Wyoming who had a very up-and-down year, which isn’t a rarity for rookie QBs.

Allen has some obvious flaws in his game. He can be woefully inaccurate at times, but those are mechanical issues that can be solved thru coaching. But for a big guy (6’5, 237) he runs deceptively fast from the pocket.

The Bills need to surround Allen with better weapons next year. Although they have Zay Jones and Robert Foster, they could use another WR, RB, TE and a heckuva lot better support along the offensive line.

Allen ended the season in dramatic fashion, throwing for three TDs and running for two more, the first Bills QB to account for five TDs in a game since Jim Kelly. That left fans in Western NY, itching for a winner, looking forward to 2019. That may even stop them from throwing sex toys on the field during games… Maybe not.

Dolphins Search For the Next Head Coach:

The Miami Dolphins, in a mild surprise, fired head coach Adam Gase after the season was over, but the way the team finished their final quarter of the season, it shouldn’t have been. After an improbable, last-second fluke win over the Patriots, Miami was blown out in Minnesota, lost by 10 to Jacksonville and by 25 to Buffalo.

The Dolphins are busy trying to find their next head coach. GM Chris Grier has interviewed the Patriots’ Brian Flores, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and now are set to interview Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. For Bieniemy, this season was just his first as a coordinator but it was his fourth interview this week. He also met with the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Other names included in the search include Vic Fangio, Mike Munchak, Jim Harbaugh, and Dolphins’ Special Teams Coach Darren Rizzi.

Jets May Have Interest in Baylor HC Matt Ruhle :

The New York Jets are in Texas this weekend, interviewing Cowboys’ assistant coach Kris Richard but multiple sources are reporting that the Jets may also have a lot of interest in Baylor head coach Matt Ruhle.

Ruhle would be an interesting choice as he’s been instrumental in turning around a couple of college programs. Ruhle was born in New York City and spent a year on Tom Coughlin’s staff as an assistant offensive line coach.

He was the QB coach and offensive coordinator at Temple before becoming the head coach for four seasons. His last two in Temple, the team won 10 games, the only time in the program’s history that they accomplished that.  He then moved to Baylor to a program that had been rocked by a sexual assault scandal. In 2017, his team went 1-11. This season, they went 7-6. Ruhle got some interest from the Colts last year in their coaching search. He’d be a good coach it is believed to work with Sam Darnold.

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.

Best and Most Important Off-season Additions for the Patriots Defense

Steve Balestrieri
May 16, 2018 at 2:48 pm ET

Sometimes it is unfair to base everything on the previous season on just one game but when that game is the Super Bowl, it is hard to erase those memories. And for the Patriots, the problems that were plain to see in the Super Bowl against Philadelphia were symptomatic of problems the team faced all season and was able to overcome.

But against a team with a hot quarterback and an offense that blew out the prevailing #1 defense in the NFL, perhaps we should not have been so surprised at the outcome. Specifically, the defense all season struggled to stop the run, especially inside, they struggled to get consistent pressure on the quarterback as well as setting the edge and the coverage by the linebackers was spotty at best.

So how did the team address these deficiencies? It is important to note that the Patriots consider free agency and the draft inexorably linked. They use their draft capital for veteran players as the feeling is, their quality is a more known value than a college player who has yet to play in the NFL. So when looking at the offseason and the draft, for New England, it is always important to use Free Agency when judging the merits of the General Manager’s prowess at team building. (clears throat)

So who is the most important off-season addition in 2018? Adrian Clayborn.

Clayborn checks the block for two of the most important areas that need to be addressed. Setting the edge and getting after the quarterback. The Patriots like their edge guys to be a bit bigger than the greyhounds that populate the NFL landscape today. Because the value setting the edge as a priority. And Clayborn is big, 6’5, 280 pounds of relentless

After an offseason of losing Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long to free agency, Rob Ninkovich to retirement and Dont’a Hightower, top 2017 draft choice Derek Rivers as well as rookie Harvey Langi on IR last year, they were notoriously thin at the position.

One bright spot was the play of rookie Deatrich Wise who chipped in 26 total tackles and five sacks. He added an additional four tackles and two sacks in three playoff games. Less impressive, however, was the play of Cassius Marsh, who wasn’t a fit in the Patriots system and Eric Lee, both of whom had issues setting the edge. That’s why they brought James Harrison late in the season. It put too much pressure on Trey Flowers and the defense suffered for it.

Hightower, Langi, and Rivers are back, which is huge. Wise will be better in Year 2 which helps but in getting Clayborn, the Patriots should have plenty of depth, and production…if everyone can stay healthy.

The Patriots and Bill Belichick have known Clayborn’s value for some time now. He played at Iowa under Belichick close friend Kirk Ferentz, they watched him in joint practices where he played for another Belichick close confidant in Greg Schiano.

“He’s had a good career,” head coach Bill Belichick told Patriots.com. “He’s been a very productive player in multiple positions. So, again, look forward to working with him. I know he’s a solid person, works hard, tough kid. I think he’ll be a good addition to our program. We’ll see how it all goes.”

He’s had injury issues over his career but was healthy for all of 2017 and had a career-high 9.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for the Falcons. He’s yet another former 1st round draft pick (#20 overall in 2011), that the Patriots have brought in later in their career.

With the addition of Danny Shelton inside with Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and the return of Vincent Valentine, the interior of the defensive line should be much improved over 2017. They also double-dipped at linebacker in Rounds 5-6 in the 2018 NFL Draft with Ja’Whaun Bentley (#143) and Christian Sam (#178) which should also help the issues with the position.

Overall on paper, the unit they have now, with the additional players they’ve added in the secondary looks much, much better than the squad that took the field in the Super Bowl. So who is the most important addition to the defense?

He actually isn’t an addition at all, but his responsibilities are added on to. Brian Flores.

With Matt Patricia now a head coach in Detroit, Flores has the play-calling responsibilities as a defensive coordinator but not the title, which he doesn’t care for anyway. Flores himself, the Patriots linebacker coach/defensive coordinator has gotten consideration from the Arizona Cardinals for their head coaching position. Flores has been with the Pats since 2004 and will be watched closely in 2018 to see how he handles the pressure.

When he met with the media about a week ago, it is pretty obvious why so many speak so highly of him. He says all the right things and has his head screwed on straight. His main defensive philosophy is to help the players become the best version of themselves — on and off the field.

Belichick had to be smiling when he saw that Flores, after being asked many times about putting his own personal stamp on the defense, deferred. Instead, he mentioned making a “team imprint” on defense.

Flores said that he’s hard on the players but gets the best out of them. “I’m tough on the players. I think you need to be tough on them so they can be disciplined. You need the discipline to play this game.”

His goal he said, is “going to sound like a Bill Belichick-coached team.” Flores spoke about playing under pressure, being tough, smart and dependable. All of these things are exactly the right thing to say if you’re Flores. Now he’ll have to do it on the field and prove that he’s up to the task. Something about that leads one to believe that he will be just fine as the team’s new defensive coordinator.

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