Tag Archives: Brock Vereen

Tuesday Daily Rundown 8/16: New England Patriots News and Notes

Ian Logue
August 16, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Here’s a look at this morning’s top stories.

Gronkowski leaves early on Monday due to injury – Training camp has had some scary moments thus far, and on Monday tight end Rob Gronkowski left fans gasping as he hobbled off the field after coming up lame during 7-on-7s.  The veteran left practice accompanied by a trainer after looking like he was in serious pain, although there doesn’t seem to be any real indication of what his injury was.

The good news is, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the injury was “minor”, with Rapoport Tweeting “No worries” about the veteran tight end.

After practice, Jimmy Garoppolo was asked about the injury but the quarterback told the media he was unaware the veteran had left practice.

“I didn’t even see him leave to be honest,” said Garoppolo. “Hopefully he’s alright, and we’ll see what it is.”

Fights break out at practice – One of the things Bill Belichick doesn’t tolerate are his players getting in physical altercations, and on Monday against the Bears he went so far as to eject one of his most important players.

Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery and Butler battled it out during practice, which started off with the veteran cornerback giving the receiver a hard jam with both hands to his chest as he seemingly tried to send a message.  That fired Jeffery up, and the battle was on as they went back and forth, although the Bears receiver was able to make plays against the veteran.

That seemingly led to frustration that ultimately ignited the altercation.  Butler and Jeffery were spotted grabbing each other’s facemasks on Monday, and after receiver Josh Bellamy went over and shoved Butler, it sparked a brawl that led to Butler getting the boot from practice, while Bears coach John Fox kept Jeffrey out of action.

#17 says, "MINE."

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Butler’s ejection wasn’t a surprise given Belichick’s blanket policy when it comes to situations like these, but the cornerback ended up being the only player removed from play.  There ended up being a second skirmish involving former Bears tight end Martellus Bennett and Lamarr Houston, but that one didn’t escalate.

After practice, Duron Harmon told reporters that the policy Belichick has is the same for practice as it is in games, and Butler simply paid the price.

“Coach (Bill) Belichick has a no fighting rule, and when you do that, you’ve got to get kicked out, just like a game, and then go inside,” Patriots safety Duron Harmon said via NESN.com. “And that’s what happened (Monday). Malcolm Butler’s a talented player, and obviously we don’t want that to happen. We don’t want to lose him, because he’s a big part of what we do.”

Garoppolo Has Success vs Bears – Garoppolo had success against the Bears secondary, which included a terrific touchdown throw to Devin Lucien.  According to the Boston Herald, he finished 13-of-18 on the day including 9-of-12 in 11-on-11s, while completing passes to completed passes to Martellus Bennett (three), Carter (two), Dobson (one), Clay Harbor (one), Derby (one), Bolden (one), Chris Hogan (one), White (one), Washington (one) and Devin Lucien (one).

Garoppolo’s final pass of the day was a laser throw to Lucien for a touchdown on a post route, and he also threw another to Bennett earlier in the day.  He said after practice that he tries to keep a consistent approach as he continues trying to improve.

“Yeah, you know, being a quarterback you can’t be too high, can’t be too low,” said Garoppolo.  “You kind of just have to be even keeled throughout the whole thing, and I mean it’s football. Good things are going to happen, bad things are going to happen, you try and minimize the bad things, but when they do happen you have react well to them, you know your teammates are always watching you and you just want to react the right way.”

Patriots Raise The Bar For the Bears – Practicing against the Patriots was a good barometer for a Bears team that is coming off of a tough start after their loss last week, and getting to see how Belichick operates was likely a nice change of pace for the Bears.

Fox told the Chicago media that he let Belichick take the lead in terms of how they practiced on Monday, and they went ahead and adjusted.

“I think any time you come visit, the practice standpoint of the facility, you really tend to kind of go a little bit more with what they do,” Fox said via WGNRadio.com. “It’s kind of a good changeup. That’s how the Patriots have kind of done it and we’re working with their practice set up.”

They certainly need a little help.  Thursday night saw Cutler and the offense struggle, and it was pretty ugly.  Chicago’s first team offense didn’t fare too well in their disappointing 22-0 home loss, which included a less than inspiring performance.

The Bears first team offense managed just 13 yards, 12 of which came on their first play from scrimmage on a pass to Jeffery.  Cutler played in just the first three offensive series of the game as the Bears went 0-for-3 on third down, which included two third down sacks and an incompletion.

That’s not the recipe for success for a team that’s trying coming off of a disappointing season, and head coach John Fox knows it needs to be better.

“We’ve got a lot of room to improve,” Fox said. “As I mentioned before, our last outing over a season was 6-10. Last place. We need to improve.”

Brock Vereen Retires – The Patriots brought in former running back Shane Vereen’s brother, Brock, at safety over the offseason, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be on the roster for 2016.

According to the league’s transaction wire, Vereen has surprisingly opted for retirement at the age of just 23 years old.

The veteran had been having a pretty good camp with the Patriots, but for whatever reason has decided to walk away from the game.

Vereen leaves having played spent seasons in the league, having been drafted in the fourth-round by the Bears in 2014.

Could Garoppolo End Up in Chicago? – The Bears already have one former Patriot quarterback on their roster, but there’s already speculation in Chicago about whether or not another one might be in their future.

Former Patriot Brian Hoyer is currently a back-up behind Cutler right now, although he struggled in practice Monday, which included being picked off by Eastern Illinois rookie Kamu Grugier-Hill on the first snap of a two-minute drill.  The Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs wonders if given the problems the Bears continue to have whether or not they’d bring Garoppolo in to try and turn things around.

It’s an obvious landing spot if things don’t go well in Chicago this year, and dealing him out of the conference certainly makes sense.

First, he has to play well, and he’s just excited that his shot to prove himself is finally here.

“You know, it’s an opportunity and I’m excited about it,” said Garoppolo.  “It’s a privilege to be in the situation I’m in and you just got to go take advantage of it.”

Patriots Training Camp Primer – Safeties

Steve Balestrieri
July 26, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Deepest Position of the Team, Tough Cuts Ahead

The Patriots head into training camp this week and there should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. Next up are the Safeties.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. While that is true to an extent, with 89 players on the current roster, a minimum of 36 of these will be cut. That doesn’t take into consideration the tweaking that goes on during the season after the initial 53-man roster is completed.

So the next position to break down are the safeties. The backend of the Patriots secondary is set, starters Devin McCourty and Pat Chung return and each will turn 29 in training camp so their age isn’t an issue.  Duron Harmon is normally the first man on the field, but he missed all of the spring so 2nd-year player Jordan Richards was taking the majority of his reps. Richards is shorter and stockier than Harmon and is a bit stiff for the backup center field role, he’s better suited to the box or the hybrid safety/linebacker role. Nate Ebner will not be at camp, having been granted permission to play rugby in the Olympics.

Those five plus Brandon King were on last year’s roster. The team let Tavon Wilson walk in free agency but waiting in the wings is LB/S Kamu Grugier-Hill, Brock Vereen, Cedric Thompson and the recently signed Vinnie Sunseri.

The team is deep and talented at safety and they’re more than addressed the loss of Wilson who played very little the past two seasons.

So who’s locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards
McCourty is the quarterback of the secondary, a co-captain of the team and the glue that holds everything together on the backend. He still doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his center field play. With each passing year, he’s asserting his leadership more and more and still just 28 is one of the oldest established veterans of the unit.

Pat Chung has excelled in his second stint with the Pats. (USA TODAY Images)

Chung continues to enjoy a renaissance in his second go-around with the team. He plays up in the box and is extremely effective at stopping the run and covering the tight ends. It seems like Chung should be older than 28, but he still has several good years left in his career.

Harmon was considered a reach when he was drafted in 2013 but now he’s a very valuable member of the defense. In certain packages, the team will move McCourty around and bring in Harmon to play centerfield. He played in nearly 54 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and allowed just 4 of 11 passes for 69 yards and two touchdowns in 2015. He was also credited with three passes defended and three interceptions. His 58.5 passer rating against, was the best of the Patriots’ secondary men.

Richards was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft with the 64th overall pick. He has an outstanding football I.Q. and is a high character guy. As a rookie, most of his playing time (21% of the defensive snaps), came after McCourty and Chung suffered injuries late in the season. He’s best suited to the backup of Chung, being used down in the box and covering the tight ends.

On the Bubble: Nate Ebner, Brandon King,
King was a pleasant surprise a year ago, carving out a special team’s role and ending up with the second most tackles on the STs unit. He wasn’t given much of a chance of sticking but worked closely with Special Team’s Coach Joe Judge and had a solid rookie season.

Ebner was given a contract extension this spring and has been a valuable member of the STs unit. But he was granted a leave of absence to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics as a member of the US National Men’s Rugby Team. He’s been a fixture here but his absence could open the door for another player who steps up in training camp.

Kamu Grugier-Hill could be one of those players. An undersized, athletic demon on special teams, he could easily carve out a role for himself on defense as well. He’s one of those LB/S hybrids that teams are filling their rosters with.

Brandon King had a solid rookie season competing on Special Teams. (SBalestrieri/PatsFans Images)

Outside Looking in…. Longshots: Vinnie Sunseri, Brock Vereen, Cedric Thompson

Sunseri is an intriguing player, someone I was hoping the Patriots would take a look at in 2014 when he was taken by the Saints in the NFL Draft. He’s the son of the Raiders’ coach Sal Sunseri and was lauded by his teammates at ‘Bama as being a coach on the field. An excellent special teams’ leader, he is also injury prone. He blew out an ACL in his senior season, had his rookie year cut short with a broken arm and missed all of 2015. This may be an audition of another kind. He may end up being a coach in the not too distant future, and maybe Belichick is building off of some first-hand knowledge of him.

Vereen was signed to the Patriots practice squad in November after being released by the Bears and then the Vikings. After the season was over, he signed a future’s contract for 2016. Vereen can play safety and has filled in at slot corner. He’s considered a core special teams’ player and served as a gunner for a bit this spring. He is a longshot to make the roster.

Thompson spent all of 2015 on the Dolphins’ practice squad after being drafted by Miami in the 5th Round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Minnesota. He wasn’t resigned and the Pats signed him to a future’s contract. The 6’0, 212-pound safety is another longshot to make the roster given the depth.

Check out our earlier primers on the running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers and the cornerbacks.  And be sure to keep tuned into PatsFans.com during training camp as we’ll post daily updates from down in Gillette.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Don’t Go to Sleep This Spring on Patriots CB Darryl Roberts

Steve Balestrieri
May 10, 2016 at 8:53 am ET

Still an Unproven Quantity at CB, 2nd Year Player Has Plenty of Upside

The Patriots drafted Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones with their first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft with the 60th overall pick. Jones is expected to immediately contend for slot corner duties immediately with a chance at moving outside later. Another player who can possibly vie for starting reps outside in 2016 is 2nd-year corner Darryl Roberts.

Roberts was drafted by the Patriots with a 7th round draft pick (247th overall), out of Marshall last season. An incredibly gifted athlete, he had a big performance at Marshall’s Pro Day running a 4.38-second 40-yard dash with a 6.66-second time in the 3-Cone Drill, a 4.06-second short shuttle, a 39-inch vertical leap, and an 11’1”-inch broad jump. He also benched 225 pounds 23 times.

He’s the tallest of the Patriots corners currently on the roster, just topping out at 6’0 and 190 pounds. Roberts is a tough, physical corner with long arms that he uses aggressively in press coverage. He has outstanding change of direction skills and has the speed to mirror receivers downfield as well as recover when the ball is in the air.

With the huge turnover at the position last season, the competition was essentially wide open entering training camp. Roberts was tossed right into the mix, getting essentially first team reps against Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola early in training camp. The results were about what one would expect.

Coming from a small school, Roberts wasn’t prepared for the quickness off the line of the Patriots shifty receivers. He was playing too high in his backpedal and wasn’t able to get a good jam at the line. As a result, for the first couple of days, he was getting beat regularly.

But the light quickly came on and Roberts began to improve markedly as camp wound along.  His coverage got tighter, his physicality improved and he began making more and more plays as the days passed. Was he rising ala Malcolm Butler in 2014? No, not quite. But his level of play had increased to the point of being noticeably better.

Darryl Roberts came on strong during 2015’s training camp before landing on IR. (SBalestrieri/PatsFans.com image)

One day during the dog days of August, he broke up four passes in the training session, one of which was intercepted. He earned the start in the Patriots first preseason game of the year against the Green Bay Packers and it was in this game that his season came to a halt.

In trying to tackle the Packers Eddie Lacy, Roberts badly dislocated his wrist. The recovery time for that injury is about 8 weeks but the Patriots made the decision to place him on season-ending IR. He was fully healed by the time the season ended.

Now with a clean bill of health, Roberts should have no issues with once again competing for a spot on the roster and possibly for some starting reps. Unlike Jones who can play inside or out, Roberts is ideally a fit for the perimeter. There, his length, athleticism, and physicality can impact the play, giving the Patriots another option at covering opponents’ wide receivers.

He joins a crowded group of ten corners this spring including, Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, E.J. Biggers, Brock Vereen, Cre’Von LeBlanc, V’Angelo Bentley, Jonathan Jones.

But with Logan Ryan being an unrestricted free agent in 2017, the Patriots will be looking within to see if there is a player currently on the roster that can step up and play on the outside. Jones is one of those guys but for now, he’ll compete with Justin Coleman for reps in the slot. Roberts should vie with Biggers initially for reps backing up the starters outside in Butler and Ryan.

If last season is any indication, he may indeed by ready for a bigger slice of the pie. He also has special teams’ capability with his speed and athleticism, something that the Patriots always covet in their players.

While all eyes will be focused on Jones this summer and rightfully so, don’t be surprised if Roberts, the 7th round pick from last season starts to turn heads again once the players hit the field.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.