Tag Archives: Brian Hoyer

New England Patriots News 9-01, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 1, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 09-01 and AFC East notes this week. 

September is back among us and yes that means the NFL regular season is beginning in just a few days while the Patriots season begins a week from tonight. The beauty of it all is that everyone is square with the house, and starting with a clean slate. There are 512 regular-season games on the slate for 2019 and let’s all look forward to seeing some great football this fall.  

All eyes, however, are right now on the state of Florida as a huge hurricane is barreling towards them. Stay safe folks. It looks to be a bad one.

 Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady – was photographed lining up behind Chase Winovich and measuring his hair for the famous Patriot rookie haircut event which takes place every year. The two were going back and forth with one another on Instagram about it which just heightens the sense of “Tom-foolery” one can expect sometime today.

Julian Edelman  – Along with Brady were spotted doing some balancing poses on the sideline during Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Giants…which harkens back to our days of physical therapy for aching knees where we had to do the same…but not quite. 

Jadeveon Clowney – was traded to the Seattle Seahawks after refusing to go to Miami. The Texans got two linebackers and a third-round draft pick. Miami then traded LT Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills to the Texans for a bevy of draft picks. Could Miami be tanking for Trevor Lawrence? 

Bill Belichick – [on cutting the 4th preseason game],”‘The more games you play, the more opportunities you have. Look at the Giants last night, you want to go ahead and cut out this game then go ahead and cut it out. It gave [Kyle] Lauletta a chance to play half the game. It gave [Alex] Tanney a chance to play half the game and gave [Daniel] Jones a chance to play. If you want to get rid of the game then go ahead and get rid of the game, and then don’t play those guys. Do whatever you want on that.”

 “Bill Whiffed on Another 2nd Rounder, Grab Yer Torch & Pitchforks:

The NFL Draft isn’t an exact science, we all know that. And no one knows it better than Bill Belichick. He likes to amass picks because, in his mind, it gives you a better chance of hitting on players than rolling the dice on just a few players. 

So, when to no one’s surprise, the Patriots parted ways with 2nd-year cornerback Duke Dawson, trading him and a 7th rounder to Denver for a 6th round draft pick, the boo-birds were out in force. But, after watching Dawson all spring/summer in minicamp, training camp and the preseason, he didn’t deserve a spot on the 53-man roster. He was clearly outplayed by the incumbent slot corner Jonathan Jones for the starting position as well as other young players, J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen. 

So, should the Patriots have kept Dawson around, simply by the aspect of his draft position? Of course not. It was why Belichick has never cared one iota where a player is drafted, only how he performs on the field. And that line of reasoning has worked pretty well wouldn’t you say? Nine Super Bowl appearances in 18 years, including four out of the last five? 

But several media members [and ones who know better] started with now annual and very tired “Bill has another draft flop” routine while another posted “Duke Dawson added to the Ras-I Dowling-Chad Jackson memorial Belichick 2nd round pick trash heap” 

While it is true that Belichick has whiffed on several 2nd rounders, what was forgotten, [perhaps conveniently ignored] are Belichick’s own feelings on the second round of the NFL Draft. In case any of our readers have, we are posting them here. 

Several years ago, Michael Holley wrote a New York Times bestseller [and one that every one of these media folks read] called “Inside the War Room” which detailed how Belichick goes about trying to build the perfect football team. Belichick has frequently said that the 2nd round frequently has the highest ‘bust’ rate of the entire draft league-wide and there is where the team frequently may take a chance on a guy. 

“In the second round you find a lot of players with first-round talent but not first-round performance or production,” Belichick said. “The highest bust factor is in the second.” That line of thinking has been reiterated by Nick Caserio as well during the draft. 

Belichick has stated that some of those players may be a better football player than an athlete [Brandon Spikes] or more of speed guy than a true football player [Bethel Johnson]. “One guy may work out, others will not,” Belichick said.
“If you want that kind of upside, you want that kind of potential, that’s where you have to take it, [a chance] because it isn’t going to be there in the third round.”

Belichick has had more than his share of misses in the second round where the team took a shot at some players they liked. Including in those are Chad Jackson, Ron Brace, Terrence Wheatley, Jermaine Cunningham, Aaron Dobson, Jordan Richards, Cyrus Jones as well as Dawson last year. 

But while everyone is quick to point out Ras-I Dowling in 2011, they fail to mention Shane Vereen. You know, the guy who caught 11 passes in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks?

Some notable hits in the 2nd round for Belichick include Matt Light, Deion Branch, Eugene Wilson, Pat Chung, Sebastian Vollmer, Vereen, Jamie Collins, Jimmy Garoppolo, and this year’s draftee Joejuan Williams. Belichick’s best 2nd rounder? Oh yeah, it was a kid named Gronkowski. Oh wait, what did he ever do in the league?  

It is a well-known fact that Belichick will take a chance on a second-rounder. Instead of cherry-picking that fact and accentuating the busts, look at the big picture. Dawson didn’t pan out. He himself was considered a bit of a reach in the 2nd round. Most draft analysts had him pegged for Rounds 3-4. But the simple fact of the matter is, Dawson would still be here as a backup, project DB except that a 7th round pick Crossen, and a UDFA, Jackson, clearly outperformed him. 

Let’s all remember that fact when Dawson finds his game elsewhere and then the same people decry “GM Bill trading away his top draft picks.” Enough already.  

Patriots Initial 53-man Roster Takes Shape:

The Patriots’ cut down from the 90 man roster to their initial 53 is complete. And we stress the word ‘initial’ as the roster we see today may not be the same next week against the Steelers and definitely won’t be the same in December. It will continue to evolve as the season rolls. 

As always there were some big surprises. Demaryius Thomas being released was one. After activating him on just August 20, he seemed a slam-dunk for the roster. However, Mike Giardi of NFL.com has said that both sides are amenable to his return, so we’ll watch for that. 

Brian Hoyer’s release was also something that came as a surprise. Our feeling was that he would be here for 2019, but with all the other players they wanted to keep, it became a numbers crunch. 

Gunner Olszewski had a heckuva ride this summer and yesterday was one for the books. First, he was told he was being released before noon. But a late trade with the Texans sending CB Keion Crossen to Houston opened up a spot for him. And then he was told that he’ll be remaining. The team will go with five corners and six safeties with Obi Melifonwu who many had on the outside making the initial cut. Here’s a look at the initial 53…expect some changes before the Steelers get to town. The 10-man [11 with Jakob Johnson, NFL International Player] can be filled out today at 1:00 p.m. 

QB (2) Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham

RB (6) Sony Michel, James Develin, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden

WR (7) Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett,Gunner Olszewski, Matthew Slater, Jakobi Meyers

TE (2) Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo

C  (2) Ted Karras, Russell Bodine

G  (2) Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, 

T  (4) Marcus Cannon, Isaiah Wynn, Jermaine Eluemenor, Korey Cunningham

DE (5) Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, Chase Winovich, John Simon, Shalique Calhoun

DT (4) Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Byron Cowart, Danny Shelton

LB(5) Ja’Whaun Bentley, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle VanNoy, Elandon Roberts, Jamie Collins

CB (5) Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson

S (6) Pat Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks, Nate Ebner, Obi Melifonwu

ST (3) Stephen Gostkowski, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona

Luck Boos, Slams, Misunderstood at Best:

How anyone could think lesser of Andrew Luck when it became apparent that he couldn’t play anymore is beyond the pale. Luck has suffered an inordinate amount of serious and painful injuries and his press conference where he spelled it all out should have been all anyone needed to hear. 

But some fans and media members, many of whom have never done anything similar in their lives and have never suffered a serious injury descended on Luck like sharks smelling blood in the water. Calling him out as cowardly, wishing “he was wired differently” [same exact thing but splitting proverbial hairs] and any other thing he heard or read is not seeing the forest for the trees. 

Listen to what Rob Gronkowski said this week in an emotional response to the pain he felt after the Super Bowl. Read Rich Ohrnberger’s story on his decision. The former Patriots OL is now a radio host in San Diego. Who are these people to question his courage without having ever walked in his shoes? 

As for others who bemoaned the timing of his decision? Sorry, your body doesn’t punch a clock in regards as to when the NFL schedule happens to fall. Gimme a break. I sincerely hope that none of these buffoons ever have to wake up in the morning and worry about how long it takes to get out of bed and moving…ever.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Trade Guard, Center Prior to Cut Down Day:

The Buffalo Bills, as many already know, traded center Russell Bodine to the Patriots for a sixth-round draft pick in 2020. Bodine, 27, made 10 starts for the Bills last season and had been a four-year starter in Cincinnati. 

Buffalo also sent left guard Wyatt Teller and a 2021 seventh-round draft pick to the Browns for two draft picks, a fifth and a sixth-round pick. Teller, 24, was a fifth-round pick in 2018 for the Bills and started the final seven games last year. But recent acquisitions Ike Boettger, and Ryan Bates made Teller expendable.

QB Josh Allen told Adam Schein on his radio show that he expects special things in 2019. “Not trying to get too ahead of ourselves, taking it one game at a time. I know it’s cliché, but this team is special. I love all the guys that we have on this team and I think it’s going to be a special year for us.”

Dolphins HOF Jim Langer, Member of Undefeated Team Dies at 71:

The Miami Dolphins lost one of their legends last week as Jim Langer, the center on the Dolphins undefeated 1972 team has died. He was 71. Langer was a Minnesota native and passed away from heart-related problems in Coon Rapids, MN on Thursday.

“Jim was a true success story,”  Dolphins coach Don Shula said in a statement via Dolphins.com. “He joined us as a free agent in 1970 and ended up as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was the steadying force in the middle of an offensive line which was key to our championship teams.

“But Jim was more than a great football player,” Shula added. “He was one of the finest human beings that I have ever had the opportunity to know and also to coach. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was loved and respected by everyone who knew him. My thoughts are with his wife, Linda, and their children.”

Langer played every offensive snap during the team’s 1972 undefeated run. He was voted to six straight Pro Bowls and was the Fins’ MVP in 1975. He was a first-ballot HOFer inducted in 1987. 

Jets Looking For RB Help? Roster Position Appears Deep:

The New York Jets running back position seems deep with Le’Veon Bell, Ty Montgomery, Bilal Powell, and Trent Cannon set to make the 53-man roster. However, after the team released Elijah McGuire, Aaron Wilson, who covers the NFL and the Texans for the Houston Chronicle, reported that the Jets are looking to swing a trade for another running back. 

He posted on Twitter that, “Texans and Jets are actively looking for running backs via the trade market, according to league sources.”

This may be something to monitor moving forward. 

________________

“You take all of the things into consideration that you possibly can and just try to make the best decisions for your team. There’s a lot of considerations long term, short term, depth, the next game, games later in the year, next year. You just try to do the best you can to balance it out. You can’t do it all, so each decision has a consequence or some kind of residual. There’s always good arguments for doing things one way or the contrary point of view. In the end, you just have to try and figure out what’s best for the team by putting all of that into consideration.”
Bill Belichick on establishing the 53-man roster, 8-30

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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.

New England Patriots News 8-25, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 25, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-25 and AFC East notes this week. 

The Patriots have one more game left in the preseason this week against the Giants and then will have the tough task of cutting down the 90 man roster to just 53 and then filling out the remaining ten spots [11 with Jakob Johnson who is an NFL International player if he doesn’t make the 53].

While the starters won’t play much if at all on Thursday for either team, the game will still be compelling because of the roster spots that are still on the line. Several players will be playing for their jobs, some will succeed and carve out a roster spot, others will be unemployed and waiting for the phone to ring.

Check back with us frequently on PatsFans.com as we’ll continue to post daily updates on the latest news and how the roster initially shakes out. 

 Quick Hitters:

Andrew Luck – Announced his retirement yesterday. Luck has been hobbled by injuries for much of his career and it was cut short after just seven seasons. He was once thought to be the “next great one” but it never materialized for him. For a Colts team that had made major strides in building up a legit contender, this is a huge setback. Jacoby Brissette is the man for the time being again in Indy.

Tom Brady – on the learning process with Jakobi Meyers said, “I think for all of us, you play with guys that are maybe new to the offense and so forth. Sometimes they think they’re not part of the route, and then a team plays a certain coverage and they’re part of the route. Early in the season, that’s part of this time of year. We don’t have the full week to prepare. We’re kind of putting things together on the fly.”

And BTW Tom, ditch that hat…not a good look

Bill Belichick [on the play of the defense] –  You know, I thought we played competitively. We still have a lot of things to work on. There’s a lot of things we can improve on, so we’ll just go back to work this week and just keep grinding away. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re making progress.

Devin McCourty – was asked about the changes to the new pass interference rules and if the referees have done a good job of explaining it to the players. He is not a fan. “I’m never a fan of those meetings. I feel like they go however we ask the question, and then once we get in the season you might as well throw that whole meeting away. So Bill always says it the best; week-by-week. We have to go how the game is being called, and we have to adjust to it.”

Jakobi Meyers – wasn’t pleased with the way his early snaps with Brady went, but was happy to be able to persevere. He had this to say about sitting down with Brady. “Tom has played for a long time so when he wants to sit down and talk, you sit down and talk with an open ear. I am just trying to listen to everything he says, soak it up and get better.”

 Jarrett Stidham Is Ahead of His Projections And Learning His Craft:

The NFL Draft isn’t an exact science, we all know that. Some players have superstar potential and never make it. Others, aren’t very highly sought after but thru hard work, belief in themselves, and a burning desire to succeed will rise far above their projected ceiling when the draft rolls around. 

Take Tom Brady, drafted in the 6th round,199th overall in 2000. No one thought he’d amount to much. Now 20 years later, he stands alone at the absolute pinnacle of the sport. Which brings us to this year’s 4th round draft choice Jarrett Stidham, the rookie QB from Auburn. 

Stidham played in an offense at Auburn that really stunted his growth as an NFL QB. He too wasn’t highly thought of and his selection barely registered across NFL circles. He struggled in minicamp and even threw an interception in a walkthru. When training camp started, he frequently held the ball too long and struggled to make a decision. Although he throws a really nice ball, he was struggling with his reads, things that not uncommon with rookie QBs. 

But with each passing day, he was learning …and improving. He’s steadily got better and watching him on Thursday night against the Panthers it didn’t resemble anything close to the kid who struggled so badly on Day 1 of Training Camp. I reached out to Mark Schofield, who is an outstanding analyst, especially when it comes to QBs. He wrote a very nice piece on QB Development for Pro Football Weekly in the annual draft issue. He writes for Inside the Pylon and does a really good podcast on Pats Pulpit. I had spoken to Mark in the spring after the Patriots had drafted Stidham and wanted to get his take on how far he’s progressed. He had several interesting takes on the rookie.

“Progress is probably the best way to phrase this,” Schofield said. “The really interesting thing is the mental development, you saw it against the Lions… I love those ‘no-throw’ moments when the QB doesn’t throw a pass that was expected and then go back and to find out why.”

On this particular play, the Patriots were running a two-receiver set known as “Rope”, where the slot receiver runs a slant and then breaks to the outside. The outside receiver runs a route that is dependent on the coverage but is normally a go route. This play is designed to defeat a Cover 2 which is what the Lions defense was aligned in. “The QB wants to throw that route in the flat,” Schofield said. Stidham held the ball and scrambled for five yards…no big deal right? Wrong, says Schofield. 

“The Lions were running what they call a ‘Cover 5 Cougar’ which is Cover 2 man underneath trap coverage, which is specifically designed to stop this kind of play. The cornerback backpedals for just a moment with the outside vertical route, and if he sees the inside receiver run this route to the flat, he peels off the outside receiver and crashes—or “traps”—the out route. But the corner is still reading the slot receiver. even with his back to him. This tells the quarterback that the CB is bailing, but it is really just a wrinkle looking to bait the quarterback into throwing the flat route, and potentially an interception.”

“Stidham sees the coverage, drops back and begins to throw the ball but recognizes what the Lions are doing. He stops the throw and pulls down the ball and runs. It is a real heads up play for a rookie because it is a coverage that fools even veteran QBs. And when you’re seeing the progress there, going from tossing picks in a walk-thru to recognizing the coverage and reacting like this, it is huge progress.”

“I think he’s made a huge impression on this coaching staff and his progress has been excellent, I’ve been really impressed with him,” Schofield added.

The Auburn offense wasn’t a great fit for a QB with his talents and until he hit the Senior Bowl this spring, he wasn’t considered a coveted prospect. But playing in Kyle Shanahan’s offense in Mobile was an eye-opener. “There were times, that I thought he was the best QB down there…not Daniel Jones or anybody else,” Schofield said. 

Schofield added, “when I got a chance to talk to him, I asked him what his favorite offense was, in the ones he’d run, and he said, ‘Everything this week.’”

He was a really good fit in a pro-style offense, and Schofield said that you could see him moving defenders with his eyes, and going thru reads quickly. “So the fit with him coming to New England was pretty good.”

So, the question now is, do the Patriots believe that Stidham can handle the offense if anything were to happen to Brady and part ways with Hoyer, keeping only two quarterbacks. 

“It is a really tough question because they have so many tough decisions to make at other positions… when you look at some of the players that they have at, say…wide receiver or the defensive line, the coaches could say, we have to make a choice here. But ideally, they’d find a way to keep all three. But the fact that we’re having this conversation tells you how much he’s progressed.”

“This is another example of how the Patriots approach things,” Schofield said. “They don’t concern themselves with what he can’t do, they focus on the things that he does well. They saw the arm talent, his processing speed and they liked the potential in him and he’s in a good position to learn, not just from Tom Brady but from Josh McDaniels as well. It is a great environment to learn.”

While no one is anointing him for Canton just yet or that he’s the heir apparent to Tom Brady, it at least shows the coaching staff, that they may have something in him and he’s going to get more put on his plate as they attempt to further develop him.

We’ll have the entire interview with Mark Schofield available shortly on our YouTube channel.

Patriots Defense Ahead Of Schedule This Year:

The Patriots’ defense went through a ton of changes this spring. They lost the versatile and important Trey Flowers as well as former 1st round pick Malcom Brown in free agency. But the losses on the coaching staff left the team with literally the cupboard bare. De facto DC and LBs coach Brian Flores went to Miami along with cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer, while defensive line coach Brendan Daly bolted for Kansas City. 

Greg Schiano was hired as the new Defensive Coordinator but soon after stepped down. Jerod Mayo was hired the next day as the inside linebackers coach. Bret Bielema, who was already on the staff took over the d-line. DeMarcus Covington took over the outside linebackers coaching position, while Mike Pellegrino is now the cornerbacks’ coach. Steve Belichick remains the safeties coach.

On the field, it seems like this crew has been together for years. And Bill Belichick has assembled a really deep and talented crew from top to bottom with some very experienced players mixed in with 2nd-year players and rookies that are meshing together extremely well. 

The defense last year struggled especially against the run and getting after the QB early in the year. Their slow start wasn’t anything especially new, Belichick likes to add more and more as the season goes on and build on things. By the end of the season, they had things figured out and ended the regular season and went into the playoffs with a much more aggressive, attacking mindset. The results spoke for themselves, as they held the Rams to just three points in the Super Bowl. 

That slow build-up looks to have been accelerated this season. The 2019 Patriots have the potential to be a very special group, perhaps even rivaling the 2004 team. With depth at all three levels, this group is already a confident, versatile bunch and their play on the field bears that out.

While comparing them to the 2004 unit may be a stretch at this early juncture, look at the depth and versatility at the linebacker position. A year ago it was a position of concern, now, they may have to part with some players who could contribute, not just here but with other teams as well. The cornerback group is as deep as I’ve ever remembered and has the ability to mix and match with any opponent matchups.

Last year, the team couldn’t find any takers for joint practices and they entered the regular season not as prepared as the coaching staff would have liked, not surprisingly, the defense wasn’t good as the team limped out to a 1-2 start. 

The back-to-back joint practice sessions with the Lions and Titans have this team in a much better position. But the pieces were already in place this spring. There has been a collective confidence brewing since the first OTAs with the defensive group. Since training camp has started this unit has looked really strong. The Patriots offense really struggled in the first days of training camp which led to the question, “Is it the defense being really good, or just the offense being really bad?” 

The joint practices and the preseason game with the Lions reinforced that it was indeed the defense being “that good”. The Patriots offense looked very good in Detroit while the defense stifled the Lions. During the game, they wracked up nine sacks and held the Lions to just three points. 

At home against the Panthers, they held Carolina’s offense in the first half to just 29 yards, two first downs, and 0-5 on third down. The confidence that the unit is playing with is far ahead of where they normally are at this time of year. But what was more impressive is that they liberally rotated a lot of players with the top unit. Game planning for this unit? A total of 13 players have sacks thru three games.

They even dusted off the old Bears 46 Defense with two LBs on the line of scrimmage on the strong side which resulted in a sack. That will give the Steelers’ coaches something to think about in two weeks. That’s the first real test and a very big one as Pittsburgh’s offense looks stacked once again. 

Holding for Field Goals, Why Use Punters and Not WRs?

After the missed field goal connection between Jake Bailey and Stephen Gostkowski I got a good question on Twitter this Friday, a follower asked, “Why would the Patriots [and other teams] use a punter as a holder for extra points and field goals and not a wide receiver who is used to handling the ball?”

This is a very good question and I remember thinking the same thing several years ago. So, with that in mind, a few years ago Bill Belichick was asked about that. And he always has good reasons to play Special Teams. Here are a few good reasons why teams use a punter rather than a WR. 

Punters, kickers, and long-snappers can work all week on their delivery and timing of kicks. While the WRs will be working on another part of the game plan. That allows them to dedicate nearly all of their time to this when a WR may not have as much.

Punters have good hands and have to handle the ball quickly and seamlessly. Any bobble will result in a blocked punt. And punters are used to working under pressure. Imagine a slew of big defensive linemen rushing at you and everything depends on handling the ball quickly and letting a kick go. 

Plus, punters aren’t injured nearly as much as wide receivers are so the continuity factor is always there.

Replacing Chung Is No Easy Task in the Secondary:

Patriots safety Pat Chung is facing arraignment for possession of cocaine charges in New Hampshire this coming week. He may not actually see his court case heard until next year. So, any suspension from the NFL may not come until next year. But depending upon the circumstances of his case, the league could act sooner. 

Chung, however, may still not play in the season opener as he’s missed the entire preseason and has worn a red non-contact jersey all through training camp as he’s been recovering from a broken arm suffered in the Super Bowl as well as off-season shoulder surgery. So, who steps up and plays his role against the Steelers if he isn’t ready to go?

We may see a mixture of Duron Harmon and Terrence Brooks if he’s out. Brooks was mainly a special teams’ contributor with the Jets but this summer, he’s gotten a lot of reps with the top defensive unit. Harmon has been used more as another deep safety. Brooks accounted well for himself in joint practices and the preseason and could step into the role, but Chung does so much it is no easy task. 

Chung plays the in-the-box safety run support role, a linebacker in dime coverage, at times even playing in the slot as well as providing backup support as a third punt returner for special teams when needed. One other player to watch may be rookie corner Joejuan Williams who can be asked to cover the tight ends with his size. 

Hopefully, Chung will be ready to go against Pittsburgh and in uniform that night. But if he isn’t, it would be expected his place would be taken not by one player but multiple ones.

Due to the longer than normal [nearly 3000 words] Patriots notes this week, we are not running our AFC East Notes this Sunday, but they’ll be back next week for sure.

________________

“I think Jarrett’s pocket presence is good. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement. Certainly, when you’re comparing him to the other two quarterbacks on our roster, guys who have played a lot of football in this league, it’s quite a gap in experience. I’m sure those are things that Jarrett will get better at. [It is] probably about what you would think it would be given the difference in experience that you’re comparing him to – to players in our offense running the same plays that he does. So, it’s hard to compare one quarterback in one system to a quarterback in a completely different system, but in our case, we have three quarterbacks all in the same system. It’s an obvious comparison. He’s getting better. I think he does a good job, but there’s room for improvement, certainly.”
Bill Belichick on how Jarrett Stidham’s pocket presence has improved 8-23

________________

“So, how was your week?”

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 53-man Roster Projection 3.0, Several Vets Face the Axe

Steve Balestrieri
August 19, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

With the Patriots now halfway thru their preseason slate, we’re going to take stock of the roster once again and take a stab at predicting a 53-man roster projection. The preseason games in Detroit and Nashville along with several joint practices conducted with both teams have given the coaches much more information and play against an opponent to evaluate.

What is different about this particular projection is that several established veterans may now find themselves on the roster bubble as the coaches now find that the depth of this roster will make them face some really difficult decisions moving forward.

Offense –

Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
Out: none

No changes here. The Patriots could feel that Stidham can handle the backup duties for Brady, much like they did in 2009 when Brady was returning from his ACL injury and Brian Hoyer was a rookie backup. But Hoyer’s value lies in his experience, he is a sounding board for Brady and does a valuable and underrated job of running the scout team offense during the practice week. This could change, but for now we’re sticking with three QBs.

Running backs: (5)
Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Out: Rex Burkhead, Nick Brosette, Jakob Johnson* [NFL International Player]

A big change this time around. Develin could be lumped in with the tight ends but regardless of where he is, he’s not going anywhere. The Patriots are deep here and after the game in Nashville, Harris showed his versatility of being able to run the ball and made five catches out of the backfield. Something he shares with Burkhead. 

Could the increased versatility of Michel and now Harris, plus the return of Gordon mean that the Patriots cut Burkhead? Due to the depth and decisions, they have to make on the other side of the ball, [see more below], some very tough decisions will have to be made, and this one won’t be easy. Watch who is playing late in preseason games 3-4 and we may have our answer

Brosette has played well in limited action and lands on the practice squad. Johnson got a number of reps in Nashville who is automatically granted an extra spot on the PS due to his NFL International status

Tight ends: (2)
Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, **Ben Watson Suspended**
Out: Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson, Andrew Beck, Eric Saubert

This all depends on how serious LaCosse’s injury situation is. If he’s going to be out for a while, this could open the door for one of the other veterans to step in. LaCosse has had a solid summer. Izzo is a good inline blocker, remember he made the 53-man roster last year before landing on IR.

Wide Receivers: (6)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers,  Braxton Berrios
Out: Maurice Harris (IR), Dontrelle Inman [asked for and granted his release Sunday], Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, Demaryius Thomas [PUP], Cameron Meredith [PUP]

Edelman, Harry, and Gordon project to be the top three. Gordon’s reinstatement puts him right smack on the roster in a lock status. They know his value.   

Meyers has been extremely impressive all summer and is now a lock. Harris was having a terrific spring/summer but he got injured and Tom E. Curran from NBC Sports Boston has reported he could be out “for a while”. So this is where the Pats will place him on IR with the possibility of returning later this season. Dorsett is injured as well. His position seems a bit unsure right now as well.

Berrios goes from out in our last projection to making the roster by virtue of his ability to return kicks and punts. Although they could tag Dorsett/Bolden for that. Thomas, although seen running full speed this week, along with Meredith begins the year on PUP.  With Gordon’s addition, the team will have to carry an extra wide receiver to protect themselves in the event that Gordon’s inner demons resurface. 

Offensive line: (8)
Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, Dan Skipper, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt
Out: Yodny Cajuste [NFI], James Ferentz, Cedric Lang, Tyree St. Louis, Martez Ivey, Cole Croston

Wynn’s return to action and his performance in the game against the Titans has to be a big relief for the coaching staff. The team keeps Skipper as the swing tackle for now as Cajuste gets a red-shirt IR year. Froholdt and Ferentz battle it out for the final backup spot. But the team could opt for keeping just seven OL as they did at cut-down time a year ago.  

Defense –

Edge Players: (5)
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers
Out: Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Nick Thurman, Ufomba Kamalu

Rivers makes the cut this time around after very solid play this summer with a big caveat. He was hurt and helped off the field in Nashville. The severity of his injury may come into play here. Hopefully, he’s not injured badly this time around. 

Winovich has been very impressive this summer, Bennett, Simon, and Wise are established veterans. Harris has played well as a sub-rusher and could sneak in if Rivers is hurt more seriously.

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry

No changes. Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup nose tackle. Guy and Butler offer versatility in either inside DL in a 4-3 or as 3-4 DEs playing a five-technique. This is a solid group and Mike Pennel should be an immediate early downs producer. Cowart is playing really well and although pushing for a roster spot will end up on the practice squad. 

Linebacker: (5)
Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Shalique Calhoun
Out: Elandon Roberts, Brandon King, Christian Sam. Terez Hall, Calvin Munson,

Big changes here, once again difficult decisions force the team to part ways with Roberts and King who is a special teams ace. Sam and Munson have looked good in limited availability but are victims of the numbers crunch. Calhoun has gotten better all summer long and brings good pressure off the edge. 

Cornerback: (6)
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Keion Crossen
Out: Duke Dawson, Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross

Another area where changes are made. Gilmore, McCourty, and Jackson give the team three very good outside corners. Jones has clearly outperformed Dawson and will handle the slot. Williams has really come on and has played very well in the past few weeks. 

Will the Patriots cut ties with a 2nd round player [Dawson] who has never played a down? Unfortunately, that is the case.

Safety: (5)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks, Nate Ebner
Out: Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, AJ Howard

Ebner is back and edges out King for the STs slot. Toughest cut here is Melifonwu who has played well all summer long. The top three are locked in and Brooks has gotten a lot of work with the top unit. 

Specialists: (4)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Jake Bailey, long-snapper Joe Cardona, Gunner Matthew Slater
Out: Ryan Allen

No changes here. Gostkowski and  Cardona faced no camp competition, although Gostkowski has missed kicks in consecutive games. Bailey has a huge leg and also can kickoff, he still gets the edge over the established solid veteran in Allen, who won’t be unemployed for long. Slater is tremendous as the Patriots gunner. 

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.

Patriots Young Guns Lead Team to 22-17 Victory Over the Titans

Steve Balestrieri
August 17, 2019 at 11:24 pm ET

It wasn’t as clean as last week, the Titans have a lot of depth, like the Patriots and this one wasn’t nearly the blowout that the opening week was. But in the end, the younger players that the Patriots have brought in were the difference in the win. The Patriots overcame a 17-8 halftime deficit enroute to a 22-17 win over Tennessee.

With a quick turnaround and the third preseason game on Thursday night with Carolina, nearly all of the starters sat this one out. Tom Brady, was a cheerleader on the sidelines for Brian Hoyer and rookie Jarrett Stidham. 

The Patriots were really sloppy on the penalty front, getting flagged 12 times, while the Titans had 10, a total of 22 accepted penalties. One of those flags cost the Patriots two points. Stidham came in for Brian Hoyer after the Titans downed a punt at the two-yard line. Lance Kendricks was called for hold in the end zone. 

Other quick observations include:

Brian Hoyer- a rough night for the veteran back up. He got absolutely hammered a few times and was slow to get up. He also threw a pick on the Patriots first series.

Jarrett Stidham – He got away with a couple of early throws that could have been intercepted for pick-sixes. But he settled in and played well, completing 14 of 19 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. 

He led two long scoring drives in the second half 81 yards in 10 plays and 99 yards in 11 plays capping off the game-winning drive with a nice 23-yard touchdown pass to Damoun Patterson.

Damien Harris – We’ve been singing his praises since the NFL Draft and in his first preseason action, the rookie running back from Alabama looked very good. He rushed 14 times for 80 yards and caught five passes for 23 yards. 

Harris is a patient runner who follows his blocks, makes one cut and goes. He’s tough after contact and runs with his pad level low and made the most of his opportunities. 

Isaiah Wynn – Ladies and gents, there’s your left tackle. Wynn looked very solid, if not outstanding in his debut.  There has been so much speculation and worrying about his availability and the Patriots have been taking it cautiously with him. But he looked and moved really well. Big exhale, he’s fine.

Chase Winovich – The rookie from Michigan who plays like his hair is on fire, had another really solid outing. After Derek Rivers and Shalique Calhoun went down with injuries, he stepped up. He had a sack, a QB hit, two tackles for a loss and drew a holding penalty by the end of the first half. His motor and solid play is going to make him a fan favorite this season. 

Jakobi Meyers – Was the best wide receiver on the Patriots side by a very, very wide margin. This kid gets better every time he hits the field. He was targeted six times and made six catches for 82 yards and a two-point conversion from Hoyer. Slow 40 time? The kid can flat out play and catch the ball.

Joejuan Williams – The rookie corner had another really solid game. He struggled early in camp but those days seem long ago and far away. Titans QBs were 0-3 when throwing at him as he had two pass breakups. He looks like he’s gaining confidence daily out there and with his size and physicality, can be a great matchup piece. 

Byron Cowart – the rookie DL from Maryland set the tone early. On the second snap of the game, he undressed veteran Roger Saffold and planted Marcus Mariots for a sack. Calvin Munson and Shalique Calhoun were also active out there again.

Some things need cleaning up: The backup safeties and linebackers weren’t covering the Titans tight ends well early in this one. They cleaned it up a bit later but the coaches will have something to say on that. Obi Melifonwu seemed late to react to an inside move by Delanie Walker and was easily beat for a touchdown. 

Penalties – The Patriots were getting flagged a lot especially in the first half, this will be a big issue with the coaches after they look at the film.

Injuries – Rivers and Calhoun went down, Calhoun was able to come back and play but Rivers, after being helped off the field was not seen again. That is a tough break for a kid in his third year who lost his rookie season to an ACL tear and spent last season trying to regain his form. He’s had a strong preseason and training camp. 

The road portion of preseason is over, the Patriots will play the Panthers on Thursday and then the Giants at home in the preseason finale before taking on the Steelers in Gillette for the 2019 season opener. 

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

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Best Of Social Media: Preseason Week 1 Patriots vs Lions

Robert Alvarez
August 12, 2019 at 6:43 pm ET

For the first time since their sixth Super Bowl championship back, the New England Patriots returned to game action in their preseason opener out in the Motor City.

Check out some of the best sights and sound from social media over the course of the game.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B06KqsNAnld/
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Year 2… #mybrotherskeeper

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

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Go time.

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In the first quarter, the Patriots new-look defense showed their presence early.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer hooked up with rookie N’Keal Harry for a highlight first catch as a Patriot.

The Patriots offense got on the board first as receiver Maurice Harris hauled in a 14 yard touchdown reception from Hoyer.

7-0 Patriots after one quarter of play.

In the second quarter, Hoyer continued his hot start, finding Jakobi Meyers for his first of two touchdown hauls on the night.

The Patriots defense continued to pressure the Lions and John Simon forced a fumble in the process.

Rookie Jarrett Stidham entered the game for Hoyer and the offense continued to shine as Meyers again found the end zone.

20-0 New England at the half following a missed two-point conversion attempt.

The stats were ugly for Matt Patricia’s Lions.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 37 yard field goal before the half…or was it Stephen Gostowski?

Don’t tell Lions fans it’s just a preseason game.

In the second half the Patriots picked up right where they left off, extending their lead to 28-0 early in the third quarter. A second two-point attempt was good.

One Lions fan had some unfortunate explaining to do after the game.

After three quarters and a four touchdown lead there was plenty of praise to go around for the 2019 Patriots debut.

Stephen Gostkowski tacked on a field goal to open the fourth quarter to push the lead to 31-0 and the Patriots defense did the rest to close out the evening.

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Well… that escalated quickly

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The Patriots would go on to win their preseason opener by an impressive 31-3 final score.

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Just another day in the office Game 1 ✅

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Patriots Training Camp Observations 8-12, Defense Impressive Again

Steve Balestrieri
at 2:15 pm ET

The Patriots offensive players must miss Detroit. Because on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, the defense was very, very impressive today. After struggling somewhat against this loaded secondary, the New England wide receivers had very impressive weeks in Detroit. But not so much today.

In the next to last training camp session, the defense was ball-hawking everything in sight. Tom Brady threw back-to-back INTs during individual drills but in the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 portions of the session, the defense also picked off Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham …with seven on the day total

One of the more impressive players on the field today had to be rookie Joejuan Williams. The first-year cornerback had a bit of a rough go of it early in camp but he picked up his game last week and continued his upward climb today. He had a couple of nice interceptions and had a few pass breakups as well.

The team was in full pads.

Attendance:  

Nate Ebner and Ken Webster returned to practice. Lance Kendricks returned …in a red non-contact jersey. Julian Edelman, Demaryius Thomas, and Cameron Meredith were in attendance but not in uniform. Matt LaCosse, N’Keal Harry, and D’Angelo Ross were absent from this session. 

There was also a new offensive lineman [#74] present but no word yet on who that is…possibly Cole Croston returning? 

Other Observations Included: 

  • Good news on the Isaiah Wynn front. He was nearly 100 percent at participation today. He took part in 11-on-11 drills for the first time in camp.
  • Lots of drops, pass breakups, and interceptions in individual drills today.
  • First real scrap today. Michael Bennett and Dan “the Weatherman” Skipper got into during 1-on-1 blocking drills. Bennett slapped him upside his helmet and Skipper responded with a double-barrelled bird flip.
  • Pat Chung made a nice interception of Brady during 7-on7s. Brady attempted to go to Braxton Berrios on a drag route but Chung read it perfectly and jumped the route.
  • Others getting picks during the team portion of the session were Gilmore with a pair, Jamie Collins, and Williams
  • Jake Bailey was doing the holding during the field goal attempts today by Stephen Gostkowski…that is Gostkowski with two “k’s” 
  • During 1-on-1s Jonathan Jones flattened Berrios with a jolting hit but the WR came back and made a really nice over the shoulder catch after almost going down again on a hit from Duke Dawson. 
  • Berrios returned punts along with Rex Burkhead, Gunner Olszewski, and Jakobi Meyers
  • Berrios continued a strong showing in the return game as he and Phillip Dorsett returned kickoffs. 
  • Jakobi Meyers continues his rise in camp. He had another nice day, making several catches including a nice back-shoulder catch on a pass from Tom Brady and another where he dove and came up with a throw from Brian Hoyer on the sideline.
  • Maurice Harris had a drop during team drills and wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen this summer, but then made a really nice grab as he was able to wrest the ball away from Gilmore as he high-pointed it. 
  • QB turned WR Danny Etling had a tough morning. He had a drop in individual drills and was the target on both Stidham throws that were picked off. 
  • The Patriots tried a little trickery with a double pass from Meyers to James White. 
  • White also had a nice deep catch from Brady over his shoulder beating Christian Sam in coverage. 
  • Danny Shelton left practice and retreated to the lower practice fields but later returned.
  • Jon Bon Jovi was in attendance today, along with Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy who did a quick interview with 98.5 after the session

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.

New England Patriots News 8-11, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 11, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-11 and AFC East notes this week. 

The Patriots return home and are off today after they played their first preseason game of the year against the Lions. They’ll be back at practice tomorrow and Tuesday and then head off to Tennessee where they’ll conduct joint practices with the Titans before preseason number 2. 

Check back with us frequently on PatsFans.com as we’ll continue to post daily training camp updates as well as breaking news. 

 Quick Hitters:

Chase Winovich – “It felt good to have it all come together,” Winovich said. “Hopefully, I made my family a little proud today.” On his first NFL action [1.5 sacks] and having his family there to see it.

Tom Brady – celebrating more for Brian Hoyer than Jarrett Stidham on Thursday? Don’t laugh, it is true. In the deep dive to find any controversy in Foxboro, we now have people analyzing his body language. 

Damien Harris – Didn’t play a down in Detroit, causing some to wildly speculate on what was the reason. I’d put money down that the coaching staff already puts him with some of the other established veterans [James White, Sony Michel] and gave him the night off. He’ll get plenty of work in Tenn. this week. 

Matt Patricia – was hearing the boo birds in Detroit on Thursday night. Entering his second season as the head coach, he’s already feeling the heat. The Lions’ fans have endured 60 years of frustration and that awful showing in the first preseason game was not a good start. 

Bill Belichick – Was in midseason form on Friday. Asked if Jerod Mayo was calling the defensive plays, Belichick refused to confirm or deny it. Pressed on it, in typical clipped Belichickian, he said, “we do what’s best for the football team and will continue to do so.” Well…all righty then.

Dan Skipper – the huge 6’9 left tackle hasn’t exactly filled the coaches and fans with optimism this summer. However, in the Thursday preseason opener, we didn’t hear his name called once as Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham worked for the most part with clean pockets. Granted, the Lions didn’t have their top starters out there. But at this point, we’ll take what we can get… A much bigger test awaits in Tenn.

Belichick Doesn’t Use New Coach’s Challenge on DPI:

There has been a ton of buzz this offseason on the new coach’s challenge for defensive and offensive pass interference and how they will change the game, especially time-wise. 

During the Patriots game with the Lions this week, there were two plays that the Patriots could have challenged during the game. Both were long passes from Jarrett Stidham to Maurice Harris. Both passes went off Harris’ hands, however, both seemed to be classic cases for the coach to throw the flag. 

Belichick didn’t choose to challenge either play although there was sufficient video evidence to suggest that both plays were DPI.  He was asked why he chose not to challenge the plays during his presser on Friday and gave a very distinct un-Belichick response to those questions. 

“It’s just… I don’t know. Maybe I’ve got to get used to the new rules.” 

Matt Patricia did challenge one play but the official call on the field stood and his challenge was denied. He had this to say after the game.

 “I think right now with the preseason, I think a lot of us, coaching-wise, we’re just trying to figure out how this is all going to be officiated,” Patricia said. I thought that maybe would be an opportunity we can see how they officiate it and we want to take that situation. It doesn’t really matter what we think of it, either way, it’s just I want to know what they’re going to look at and how they’re going to evaluate it.”

Belichick’s comment was far from the norm with him. He is always on top of changing rules and for him to say what he did was very curious, to say the least. 

Jarrett Stidham Finishes Off Good Week With An Impressive Game:

Oh my, how perceptions can change quickly. When the Patriots drafted QB Jarrett Stidham in the spring, the Auburn signal-caller wasn’t on anyone’s hot list for QBs who were designated as future starters in the league. 

But the rookie landed in a perfect place. With Head Coach Bill Belichick, Offensive Coordinator/QBs Coach Josh McDaniels, he has the right people for him to teach the system, and language of the Patriots offense. Don’t discount Asst. QBs coach Mick Lombardi. Of course, it doesn’t hurt learning on how to run the Patriots offense from Tom Brady. 

Stidham was a mixed bag in minicamp and early in training camp as he was trying to learn the system and how everything works together. Contrast that to the poised, calm demeanor we saw on Thursday in the huddle for the Patriots.

Granted it is only one game and as Belichick is sound of saying, “we have a long way to go”, but the coaching staff has to be quite pleased with how far and fast he is progressing. His deep ball accuracy is something he’s shown all summer and he delivered two passes on the money to Maurice Harris, but he dropped both. 

While it is far too soon to be putting him in competition with Brian Hoyer for Brady’s backup QB job [Hoyer was equally, if not more impressive Thursday night], now the doubts about his ability are being replaced with cautious optimism.

Bill Belichick chimed in on his performance during his Friday presser.

“I think there were several plays that fell into all the categories – quick throws where the read was clear and the receiver was open, and then maybe a secondary read, and then there were a couple of times where he scrambled and extended the play,” Belichick said. “Ran a couple of times and completed a pass. There was a little bit of everything there and most important thing for the quarterback is not to turn the ball over make good decisions and throw accurately. He did all those at times.”

Meyers Continues A Stellar Camp With A Big Game Performance:

For a guy who caught 92 passes a year ago, it was a bit of a surprise to not see Jakobi Meyers get drafted in April. While he didn’t test well at the NFL Combine [4.6 time in the 40], watching him play at NC State was another thing. And he’s carried that over to the Patriots now.

We’ve been singing his praises for a bit now as he constantly shows up big in practice and joint practice. He’s developing a chemistry and trust factor with Tom Brady, that we wrote about last week. But he had yet to do it in a game, which the UDFA rookie says he heard too.

 ”I was getting a lot of texts about, ‘Oh I heard you were doing great in practice,”’ Meyers said. ”It doesn’t mean anything because we didn’t have a game yet. So just the fact that I can go out there and show that I deserve to be here, for now, I’m just trying to keep pushing forward.”

In his first game action, Meyers was very impressive catching six passes for 69 yards and two TDs. And the rookie has his feet firmly on the ground, he isn’t worried about who DIDN’T draft him, but working for who did.

”I have to keep proving to my coaches that I deserve to be here,” Meyers said. ”I’m not on the team yet. I’m trying to make sure I can stay here and continue to be here. That’s who I’m trying to prove a point to, not really to people who didn’t give me the call.”

After the game, he was asked about his ability to catch on with this offense so quickly, something several established [and very productive] WRs have been unable to do. His comments were spot on.

“Because I want to be great,” he said. “I want to be in a position where they can depend on me, trust on me in tough downs, and at the same time, we’ve got a lot of great players on our team. All I have to do is listen. If I’m doing what they tell them to do, then I’ll just stick around.”

Winovich, Unlike Samson May Get to Keep His Hair:

Rookie edge player Chase Winovich has had a good productive training camp. And on Thursday night in front of a lot of hometown fans and family where he played nearby at Michigan, they got to see him perform. And he was very impressive with 1.5 sacks and displaying his non-stop motor, very good hands and bend coming around the edge.

Winovich spoke to the media after the game and made sure to downplay his own accomplishments and speak about the team, like he’d been playing for Belichick for years…

“It was cool. But it’s like anything. I’ve talked about this before, and I’ve always felt this way, and it’s definitely emphasized here,” Winovich said. “You saw me make the play, maybe on a couple of occasions today. But really, there are so many guys up front – Nick [Thurman], David [Parry], Byron [Cowart], Trent [Harris], really all the linebackers making the calls, Terez [Hall], Christian [Sam], and I could go on and on. There are so many intricacies during the game itself, just making adjustments with Coach [DeMarcus] Covington and Coach [Joe] Kim and Coach [Jerod] Mayo. I could name everybody by name. Just everything that goes into there and then goes back to all the work that we put in, staying extra at times, going over stuff, and working with Willie McGinest on technique.”

Belichick had to like his next answer when he was asked about what has he learned the most since joining the team this spring. 

“That’s probably my biggest thing, is the physicality and the moves and stuff, you improve on that stuff, but I’m just getting a lot better at my awareness and that stuff,” Winovich said. “Just trying to get better. I’m a rookie. I’ve got a lot to improve on.”

Winovich’s trademark look is his long blonde flowing locks, and one of the Patriots rookie initiations is to give them horrible haircuts. The rookie considers his hair a “source of pride and strength”

Winovich took to Instagram after the game with a picture of himself during game action. And one of his comments came from Brady himself who chimed in “Maybe you get to keep your hair.”

If Winovich keeps progressing like he is, maybe some of the players will begin sporting blonde wigs with a flowing mane under their helmets…

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Trade Eli Harold to Philly For OL Ryan Bates:

The Buffalo Bills have already had a lot of injuries to their offensive line. So, they traded DE Eli Harold to the Eagles for UDFA Ryan Bates who played both left tackle and right tackle for Penn State in 2018. 

Harold was just signed by the Bills this spring. He spent his first three seasons with the 49ers after being drafted in the 3rd Round [79th overall] in the 2015 NFL Draft and produced just five sacks. He notched four more last year with the Lions. With a base salary of just $805,000, Harold is not expensive and should benefit from playing in the aggressive scheme of Jim Schwartz. 

Bates wasn’t expected to make Philly’s roster and the OL is a position of need for Buffalo after the injury bug has hit. This move makes sense for both teams. 

Stills Doubles Down on Criticism of Dolphins Owner Ross for Trump Support:

The Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is hosting a fundraiser for his old friend Donald Trump who is running for re-election in 2020. That fact doesn’t sit well with Dolphins WR Kenny Stills who blasted the owner on social media stating, “you can’t have a non-profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump.”

Stills is referencing Ross’ non-profit organization the RISE Foundation which is hosting the event at Ross’ home. RISE [Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality] stands for racial equality and according to Stills, Ross is being hypocritical for hosting Trump with this event. 

Head Coach Brian Flores on Wednesday said that while he respects the veteran receiver using his platform, he was disappointed that Stills didn’t talk to Ross directly instead of airing it out over social media. Stills, after the Dolphins preseason game on Thursday, added more fuel to the fire.

“Someone has to have enough courage to let him know he can’t play both sides of this,” Stills said. “It’s something that I can look back on and say I made the right decision. … If you’re going to associate yourself with bad people, then people are going to know about it. I put it out there for everybody to see it. If you say you’re going to be about something, let’s be about it.”

Ross also stood by his friendship with the President with a statement of his own. “I always have been an active participant in the democratic process. While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about,” Ross said.

“I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions. I started my business with nothing and a reason for my engagement with our leaders is my deep concern for creating jobs and growing our country’s economy.

“I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”

Stills is not expected to receive any discipline from the team over his criticism of the team’s owner and Ross has stated that he doesn’t take the comments personally. 

Quinnen Williams and Jachai Polite Quiet in Jets PS Opener:

The New York Jets played their next-door rivals, the New York Giants in preseason Week 1 this week. Top draft pick Quinnen Williams had a fairly quiet game, playing in just 11 snaps on defense but did draw a penalty, and assisted on one tackle.

Edge player Jachai Polite, the rookie edge player from Florida, who has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism early in camp played mainly with the third-team defense and also was not as active as the coaches would have hoped. He was in on two tackles and played in 32 defensive snaps.

Sam Darnold and the offense, however, was a different story. Darnold started the game and needed only seven plays to travel 75 yards for a touchdown. Included in that were a 32-yard pass to Chris Herndon where Darnold scrambled to find him and a 28-yarder to Jamison Crowder on a check down. He later hit Crowder for a three-yard touchdown to finish off the drive.  A very good start for Adam Gase’s offense and Darnold in his second season. 

________________

“It’s a different type of preparation when both teams practice together, both teams get an equal opportunity to practice against each other, get familiar with each other instead of running plays off cards. The other teams actually do what they do and we develop a familiarity with them as well as compete against them. If you don’t do that then both teams prepare separately without that type of competitive preparation and then play the game. We got a lot of good 1-on-1 work, a lot of good individual work, and we got a lot of good teamwork for all three days.”Bill Belichick on joint practices –  8-9

“So, how was your week?”

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 Rookies, Defense Shine in Preseason Win Over Detroit

Steve Balestrieri
August 9, 2019 at 6:51 am ET

The New England Patriots looked much more prepared for the first week of preseason football than the Detroit Lions did. They were sharper, looked in better shape and appeared to be farther along in their installation than their opponents did. 

While most of the starters on either team sat this one out, the final score is pretty much immaterial in these matchups. However, it was difficult not to be impressed with the production the Patriots players displayed in the Motor City as they whipped the Lions 31-3. 

We wrote in our pregame piece we wanted to see the rookies in the passing game show what they can do in live game action. Jarrett Stidham, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, along with 2nd-year player Braxton Berrios, as well as newcomers Maurice Harris and Matt LaCosse are all going to be counted on at some point to produce when the games matter. 

And with a deep and loaded defensive unit, we wanted to see how the edge rushers and secondary men held up. It is safe to say that they passed their first test quite well.

Here are some of our observations from the Patriots first game action of 2019.

Hoyer/Stidham Both Look Very Sharp:

Pats QBs Brian Hoyer and rookie Jarrett Stidham played extremely well in their first game action of the year. Hoyer looked very much in control of the offense, and afforded excellent protection, he was able to go thru his progressions and deliver the ball with good accuracy in the first half. 

Hoyer finished 12 of 14 for 147 yards with 2 TD passes. He was very much in command of the offense and it seemed like they could move the ball at will over the Lions’ second-team defense.

Stidham, the rookie 4th round draft pick from Auburn had a very impressive first outing. As we’ve reported from Foxboro since the spring, he throws a very nice football and really puts some spin on it. But learning a new offense for a rookie QB is a daunting task. And he went thru the typical rookie growing pains early in camp.

In Detroit, Stidham looked like a player that already has a firm grasp of the offense. He looked extremely poised and in control, went thru his progressions really well and delivered the ball on-target. While he had a couple of hiccups where he double-clutched the ball, trying not to make a mistake, it was a very impressive debut for the rookie. He completed 14-24 for 174 yards with a TD. arguably, his two best passes, deep balls to Maurice Harris were dropped but could have been flagged for pass interference. But Stidham was justifiably pleased to get his first NFL action under his belt.

“I had a great time,” said Stidham. “This is my first NFL experience, getting to play. There are a lot of things to improve on, but overall it was a lot of fun. It was a great experience.”

Meyers, WRs Answers the Bell in First Game Action:

Jakobi Meyers has been the story of the Patriots training camp thus far, learning the offense and quickly gaining the trust of all of the quarterbacks on the roster. But we live in New England… where regardless of what has transpired, fans have been force-fed to accentuate the negative, “Well can he do it in a game?” has been a common refrain the past two weeks.  Well, his first game action was a success.

Meyers isn’t a burner, he isn’t going to wow anyone by blowing the top of the defense. His slow 40 time at the NFL Combine was the reason he went undrafted after a 92-catch season at NC State. But he has a knack for getting open and finding the seams of opponents’ defenses. And he has sticky hands and makes the difficult catches.

He had six catches for 69 yards [Gronkowski approves] and two TDs in a very impressive first effort on Thursday night in Detroit. He mentioned going against a very stout Patriots defense in practice as a positive.

“Even before this week of practice with the Lions, practicing with ourselves for two weeks — I mean, that’s a tough group of guys,” Meyers said. “You see what they did today, the show that they put on today. Going against them, I feel like I got better. I kept trying to take one step forward every day, and I feel like it prepared me for this week and today.”

N’Keal Harry had two very impressive catches before suffering a minor injury but one that kept him out for the rest of the game. Braxton Berrios and Gunner Olszewski both looked impressive in the return game, something that may win them roster spots. Maurice Harris continued his solid camp with three catches including a touchdown from Brian Hoyer.

Yes, the schemes were vanilla and the starters weren’t in there, but all you can ask for your players in this situation to do is produce….and they did. Moving on to Tennessee.

Defense Smothers Lions All Night:

The Patriots defense was very impressive all night long holding Detroit to under 100 total yards of offense, [94], just 21 passing and allowing just a late field goal after going up by 31. Good stout run defense, excellent play in the secondary and a fearsome pass rush defanged the Lions all night long.

Derek Rivers led the way with 2 sacks, Chase Winovich, playing in front of many hometown fans chipped in with 1.5 and looked very impressive. Danny Shelton, Jamie Collins, Shalique Calhoun, Terez Hall, Ja’Whaun Bentley each had one sack while Byron Cowart chipped in with a half-sack.

The depth of the defense, something we’ve been harping on all spring and summer was on full display Thursday night.

“You saw me make the play maybe on a couple of occasions today, but really, we have so many guys up front,” Winovich said. “Sacks are very contagious. It’s a great thing anytime you can make a play and get the fans, even though we are in an opposing stadium I guess, and get your team into it. You really get into a groove feeling the game out. We are just playing great team defense I think”

Again, it is just a first step, but this was a very impressive one. 

Hate to Be a Debbie Downer….But:

It wasn’t all roses on Thursday night. FIrst, on the injury front. Harry left with what appears to be a minor injury, but that will bear watching. Matt LaCosse went down in bad pain grasping his lower leg/ankle and didn’t return. Keion Crossen left with what appeared to be a concussion.

Rivers played well after he made a bad mistake in getting past the QB and allowing him to scramble for big yardage. He got an earful from Bill Belichick on the sideline after that one. But his play after that was a huge positive. 

Joejuan Williams was really solid in the secondary and outstanding in the running game but then took a very stupid penalty by throwing a runner to the ground well out of bounds…he’ll hear about that in the film session tomorrow.

________________

Overall, this performance on Thursday night capped off a productive week of joint practices and their first preseason game. It gave them plenty to build off of…we’re on to Tennessee next week. 

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 7-28, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 28, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-28 and AFC East notes this week. 

Training Camp is back and the Patriots begin their quest for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady – got a maintenance day off on Day 2 of training camp which set tongues to wagging…However, Brady was on the field and lending a hand with the QB which lent itself to Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham getting more work. Stidham has a long, long way to go, but looks pretty good so far. (more to that below)

Rodney Harrison – was trying on his red Patriots Hall of Fame jacket and spoke with the media after practice on Thursday and pooh-poohed the idea that Colts could push the Patriots in the AFC this year. 

“Everyone’s talking about the Colts,” Harrison said. “You think I’m taking Andrew Luck over Tom Brady? You think I’m taking that young, inexperienced team that went into Kansas City and got their butts kicked? No. The Patriots went up there and did their thing.

“I’m taking the veteran-laced team with the best quarterback — I don’t care what they say on TV — with the best general manager and head coach in Coach Bill Belichick. There’s no reason (they can’t win). The only thing that can stop them is complacency.”

J.J.Dielman – Was signed by the Patriots and was at practice on Friday, there was an open roster spot after Chris Schwenke abruptly retired just before training camp began. Dielman was originally a 5th round draft pick of the Bengals and spent time on their practice squad. He also spent time with the Rams and Denver, but has never appeared in an NFL game. He played right tackle and center in college.

Deatrich Wise – was on the PUP for all of one day and was removed from it and back to work on Friday. That is good news for the defense who hasn’t had Michael Bennett who was excused for the first few days at camp for personal reasons.

Player/Coaching Turnover? Not a Problem For Belichick:

With the Patriots roster, like all 32 teams, one expects that because of free agency, trades, retirement, etc. that the roster will have a healthy amount of turnover from year to year. But unless a team is making wholesale changes or hiring an entirely new staff, one doesn’t expect a large turnover in the coaching staff. But the Patriots lost a large amount of their staff this spring.

De facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores was hired by the Miami Dolphins as their new head coach and he brought a large amount of the staff with him. Is the sky falling? Panic in the streets? Maybe on sports radio where they treat every bump in the road as the iceberg heading toward the Titanic, but if you’ve been to the Patriots training camp thus far, you won’t see any difference. And that is classic Bill Belichick. 

Belichick has seen it all in his career and starting his 45 training camp. Bill puts his stamp on everything, and he ensures that nothing is different. Belichick says every spring that turnover is unavoidable but the fact that the Patriots’ practices on Day 1 of 2019 look exactly the same as they did in 2003. 

Looking at the first practice of the year on Thursday, it was as if this staff had been doing this for years. Just another one of those things that Belichick does that goes under the radar but is so, so important. 

Stidham Making Strides at QB In the Patriots System:

With training camp underway, rookie QB Jarrett Stidham has firmly entrenched himself as the #3 QB. Danny Etling has been moved to WR. What that means from the Auburn rookie is that he’ll get more reps in training camp moving forward. On Friday, the Patriots gave Tom Brady a maintenance day which allowed both Stidham and Brian Hoyer to get a lot more work in. 

Being a rookie and having to learn a new offense is a daunting task. On Thursday’s session, he had some rough moments. He struggled to make his reads in a timely fashion and frequently held the ball too long, something that rookie QBs are apt to do. Friday, however, was a different story. 

Stidham struggled a bit early, but finished strong, completing his final five passes in red-zone work and tossed three touchdowns to three different receivers, fellow rookie WR Jakobi Meyers, RB James White, and WR Phillip Dorsett. These are the small building blocks that rookie QBs have to learn from as they try to digest the offense.

Hoyer is well versed in this, having been a rookie here in 2009. “I’ve been in that position, especially in this system,” Hoyer said. “We ask a lot of the quarterback and there’s a lot on your plate. You just try to take as much as you can, digest it and keep on moving forward.”

“It’s a day-by-day thing,” Hoyer said. “You just try to focus on what you can control, focus on what’s going in that day and just keep stacking it on top of each other. The one thing is — you move on. What we did today, we probably won’t do half the plays we did today tomorrow. You just gotta cook, put them in that memory bank and someday we’re gonna come back to it and you’ve just got to be able to pick up where you left off.”

Stidham will struggle more, it is part of the learning process but these small steps are part of the journey. The good thing is, no one is expecting anything out of him in 2019. This is an extended red-shirt season where the team wants him to learn as much as possible about being able to run the offense. And having Brady and Josh McDaniels there in the room, as well as Hoyer is not the worst place for him to be. 

Bentley Poised to Return To a Meaningful Role in 2019:

Training camp is underway and the 2nd year linebacker is back after suffering a torn biceps during Week 3 of last season. Bentley had an outstanding summer in 2018 and earned himself not just a roster spot but starting reps. He played very well but his season was cut short after getting hurt in Detroit. 

On Thursday, Bentley spoke with the media after the opening day of training camp practice and he’s ready to pick right up where he left off. He spoke about trying to soak up and learn as much as possible during his injury. 

Ja’Whaun Bentley after Day of training camp. (SBalestrieri)

“I feel like one of the big ways of learning is observing, whether it’s watching film or watching how guys do things,” Bentley said. “I’m really blessed to have a lot of guys who’ve been playing for many years to learn from those guys… soaking things up, learning different techniques. It’s just good to have the kind of guys we have on this team.

“So you just find a new role on the team, whether it’s being a good observer — just being ready, period, no matter what the situation may be. You’ve just got to roll with the punches.”

Even with Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins on the roster, You can expect Bentley to have a sizable role this year in the defense. His fellow LBs believe that his upside is huge and has a rosy future. Van Noy was on NFL.com and raving about his potential. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Begin Camp, Getting All the New Offensive Pieces to Mesh: 

When the Buffalo Bills began training camp, they had a lot of new faces on offense. And in the first few days of camp, they were working on getting those players all on the same page. QB Josh Allen has a lot of new players to utilize and building trust and chemistry on the field is a process for everyone.

It was obvious in the first few days (as we’ve been reporting) that the Bills are planning of using Cole Beasley a lot in their offense. He and Allen are putting the time in trying to get their timing down. After practice on Friday, Beasley spoke with the media and said it shouldn’t take very long. “It won’t take us too long,” Beasley said. “I’d say give us about a week, man.”

Head coach Sean McDermott had a interesting observation about the Bills WR corps which isn’t the biggest in the league and he equated them with Smurfs. “I would say with all of our wide receivers, they’re kind of like Smurfs. If you ever watched the Smurfs, they live in like a small village so they can separate in small spaces,” he said.

Fitzpatrick Getting Early Reps as #1 QB at Dolphins TC:

The Miami Dolphins began training camp and thus far Ryan Fitzpatrick is getting the most reps as the starting QB. Josh Rosen and Jake Rudock are evenly split with #2 and #3 reps. Fitzpatrick’s experience is a big factor as he’s acclimated to the offense faster. But this will bear watching as the camp wears on and the preseason games begin.

The wide receiver position got a shot in the arm with the addition of Allen Hurns on Friday. This group is already deep and thus far, the group is working well together as well as with their quarterback group. Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, and Jakeem Grant have seamlessly learned the new offense and once Albert Wilson is fully back from offseason surgery as well as adding Hurns, this should be a very good group.

True to form, Brian Flores’ defense will be multiple just like he ran with the Patriots. The Dolphins are asking several players, including Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and T.J. McDonald to play varied roles. And training camp is the time where the coaches see what they do best and put them in positions to succeed. Then they’ll have to find ways to get them all on the field at the same time. 

Jets Quinnen Williams Signs Contract and Misses Just 1 Practice:

The New York Jets signed top draft pick Quinnen Williams who missed only one day of training camp as his agent and the Jets worked out some details of his contract. And now he’s in the fold and itching to get to work.

“It was a huge relief just to be back with my brothers, be back with my team, be back in New York, New Jersey,” Williams said, just after he signed his contract. “It’s just an amazing feeling to get everything done and get everything situated so I can focus on football and ball out with my team. It’s just a blessing, an amazing feeling, to be out here and be able to sweat and grind with your brothers again.”

Williams, widely considered the best overall player in the draft this spring was on-hand on Friday and passed his conditioning run, but head coach Adam Gase is planning on easing him into camp and that was the extent of his participation on Friday. Williams first practice was the full-pads practice on Saturday.

The Jets plan on moving the 300-pounder both inside and outside to present matchup problems for the opponent.  “He’s in the backfield a lot. He’s a good player,” Gase said. “[His intelligence] just helps him. That helps get another extra step outside of his athletic ability. You look at the guys that have a lot of success like Aaron Donald – he’s smart and he’s a freak athletically. If you put those two things together, it makes it tough to stop.”

________________

“I think that we’ll continue to try to look at ourselves in the mirror and see where we can do a better job, maybe where we can improve the process. But I think the fundamentals of the process will remain the same.” Bill Belichick

“So, how was your week?”

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 Training Camp Day 3 Observations, Old-Timers Day

Steve Balestrieri
July 27, 2019 at 6:09 pm ET

Apologies for the late post… sometimes life can throw us a curve, or strand you on the road with a broken-down car…

The Patriots were back on the field in full pads in near-perfect weather conditions on Saturday morning. Prior to the practice session, Nick Caserio spoke to the assembled media and announced that Sony Michel would return to the field today. Caserio was pressed several times for more information on the open GM position for the Houston Texans but he held firm and reiterated that his focus was on making this team better. 

“Look, I’m in a great position,” Caserio said. “I’ve got a great opportunity each day to come in here and serve this team and this organization, and I enjoy doing that, and that’s what I’m excited to do. I’m going to continue to do that to the best of my ability.”

For a complete look at the Caserio interview see our FB page.

Caserio did say that Michael Bennett was excused for a personal reason and that out of privacy concerns, they wouldn’t discuss it. Caserio also had a wry smile when discussing Tom Brady’s day off on Friday. 

“Every day, we do what we think is best,” Caserio said. “Tom’s fine. I wouldn’t put too much stock in that.”

Finally, he spoke with glowing terms about Ty Law and Rodney Harrison, and he said that Saturday’s practice was going to be run-heavy with a focus on the running game.

Michel and David Andrews did return to the field, although neither got too involved in the play. But it was a positive outlook nonetheless. 

Besides Troy Brown helping out with WRs, there were a host of former Patriot greats on hand today. Randy Moss had a moment with Tom Brady before the QB got up the stairs to the practice field. Later, Brady was uncorking some deep passes Moss’ way after the session was over. Rodney Harrison was on the field and on the hill with fans and media members. Rodney signed a ton of autographs for the fans and had a nice interaction with several. Rob Ninkovich, now with ESPN was there as well as Willie McGinest who shared some time with Bill Belichick after practice and with Brady as well. 

Rodney Harrison autographing footballs for fans (SBalestrieri photo)

And then there was practice.

Our practice observations included: 

  • N’Keal Harry caught a really nice touchdown pass from Brian Hoyer. He showed his athleticism by leaping over J.C. Jackson in the corner of the end zone.
  • Brady struggled in his return to action on Saturday, going 0-4 in 11-on-11 work and just 2-8 overall in the run-heavy session.
  • Danny Etling continued to practice as a wide receiver and filled in at QB in some running back drills for the depth guys. He stayed late after practice working on both WR and QB drills. 
  • Nick Caserio was on the field and tossing fade routes and quick slants in goalline situations on a side session with Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse
  • Brandon Bolden and Damien Harris were both getting a lot of reps in the running game. 
  • Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, and Gunner Olszewski continued to field punts and were joined by Pat Chung today (still wearing the red non-contact jersey).
  • James White took a pretty good pop on an inside run by Christian Sam. It was an audible hit that got everyone’s attention.
  • In other side sessions, Brady worked with Harry and Jakobi Meyers while Hoyer worked with James White and Damien Harris.
  • Maurice Harris continues to catch everything thrown his way. He’s off to a strong start thus far.
  • The big men had some one-on-one battles at the far end of the field. Derek Rivers beat Marcus Cannon, Mike Pennel bull-rushed Ted Karras in a good battle, James Ferentz beat both Adam Butler and Nick Thurman in good action.
  • Umfomba Kamalu appeared to beat Andrew Beck but afterward had to run a lap so he may have jumped offside.
  • Jarrett Stidham hit James Develin for an easy touchdown when someone in the secondary blew their coverage and left him all alone.
  • Stidham also hit Maurice Harris on a nice throw.
  • Stephon Gilmore and  Jackson had pass breakups 

Play of the Day:

Jackson had a beautiful pass breakup on a deep ball from Tom Brady to Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett had gotten behind him and had a step and a half lead. Brady arced a deep 40-yard pass perfectly in the bucket, but Jackson closed and tore the ball out as they tumbled to the ground. 

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.