Tag Archives: Buffalo Bills

New England Patriots News 9-15, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 15, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 09-15 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, and a return to football… hopefully, this afternoon. This past week has been a ridiculously, needless testament to what the news has become in this country. The Antonio Brown saga has been in full-blown TMZ mode all week to where the Patriots opening season big win over the Steelers and the upcoming game at Miami were swept aside like unnecessary backdrops. 

“Should Belichick Release Him?”, “When did the Patriots know?” “Why Didn’t the Patriots Know?” “What Number/Helmet/cleats is AB wearing?” Non-stop since Tuesday.

You know it has gotten ridiculous when CNN fixes a GPS map finder to someone’s car so that he can find Gillette Stadium and then attempt to harangue Bill Belichick with the same question three times like they would third rate politicians as if that is really going to make him answer. 

*Hint for today* – When the team releases a statement stating they are aware of an investigation and will not comment further until there is a resolution…and you ask once, you are doing your job. Ask the same thing twice and you’re getting into rude territory. Push it a third time by talking over the coach saying “you didn’t answer it”, then you’re just a jerk who is making this about yourself…but they have a penchant for that. 

The only thing missing was for Harvey Levin to have one of his dweebs outside the stadium with a video camera. “We got Belichick coming out at 2 a.m. after meetings and film study. ‘So Bill, do you really like football?’” 

So, for a few hours, we can watch the game(s) and not have to be subjected to the same “All Antonio, All the Time” drivel non-stop. Unless Brown does play and has a big game…

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Malcolm Mitchell – opened up to NBC in an interview on how difficult it is to move on to life after football. His career ended prematurely due to numerous injuries and it was derailed just as it should have been taking off. 

“I guess I knew I would have this breakup with football, someday. I just didn’t know how bad it would be on my mental health. It’s like I’ve been reincarnated, as somebody else. And I don’t want to be anybody else,” Mitchell said. 

“I have to move on,” he added. “I know that. I have to come out of this grieving phase, and I’m working on that. I can’t stay here, because if I do, I’m as good as dead.”

Patriots Baby Boom  – Last week Kyle Van Noy was inactive for the Steelers game due to his wife going into labor and then welcoming his son into the world. On Friday it was reported that James White wouldn’t travel as his wife was giving birth as well. But on Saturday it was reported that he indeed did travel to Miami. However, it seems like there may have been a slight boom during the post-regular season time frame. Perhaps, it was across the region as well. 

Rob Gronkowski – The big man remains in the news as he’s been doing interviews and promoting his new business [CBD Oil] which he claims has healed him. Gronk told an interviewer this week, that despite nine surgeries, he had at least 20 concussions of which five were “total blackouts”. He did add that although not yet a father, he would allow his son to play football as long as he was made aware of the risks involved.

Obi Melifonwu – After being let go with the addition of Antonio Brown, the big safety from Grafton cleared waivers and the Patriots brought him back onto the practice squad. And the team did him a big solid. While the bottom line for pay for practice squad players is $8000 a week, the Patriots frequently pay more and in Melifonwu’s case, much more. The team brought him back at his regular salary of $645,000 or in this case $37,941 a week. When people talk about “how cheap” the Patriots are…remind them of this little tidbit. Melifonwu may still fit in the team’s long-term plans with Pat Chung and Devin McCourty possibly retiring soon. 

Week 1 Overreaction? Say it ain’t so – After the Patriots dismantled the Steelers on opening night, optimism was running very high in New England, and why not? Despite some uneven play at times, they dominated from start to finish, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. First, it is one game, and we all remember the horrific opener against the Chiefs a few years ago, right? And second, despite the optimism emanating from Western PA, the Patriots have owned the Steelers in Foxboro. 

That said, the defense played as advertised and the offense despite going 0-3 in the red zone looked much better than advertised. It is a good, no, very good start. But remember, today is another day and let’s wait to see how they play in Miami, where they traditionally lay an egg. FWIW, I still believe Pittsburgh wins their division.

The Patriots Passing Game Now a Position of Strength? You Bet:

The strong showing by Tom Brady and company on Sunday night, plus the addition of the aforementioned Antonio Brown definitely played a hand in the trade of WR Demaryius Thomas to the Jets. We’ll get to more of that below. But as of right now, the passing attack is, at least for one week, much farther along than we would have believed just a few short weeks ago.

With Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers at wide receiver and James White along with Rex Burkhead out of the backfield, the offense has plenty of weapons for Brady to utilize. This is before even adding Brown, running back Damien Harris, rookie WR N’Keal Harry (IR) and veteran WR Cameron Meredith (PUP) to the mix for depth purposes later in the year. Now the possibilities are very optimistic. 

So even though the situation at tight end is far from perfect with Matt LaCosse banged up and Ryan Izzo more of a blocker, there are still plenty of options for Brady to target. Ben Watson can return after the Bills game and he should help there. 

But in Thomas’ case, I received a DM on Twitter asking, “if the Patriots had known about the AB claims, would they still have traded Thomas?” It is a good question, but my answer is yes. The passing game was clicking and even without considering Brown, they still have Harris, Harry, and Meredith. So, they really didn’t need him, and were able to unload his contract so there is no dead money involved. 

But their choice of trading partners was really intriguing. I was also asked what I thought of the choice of the Jets for his landing spot. Bill Belichick has traded with 30 other NFL teams since taking over the Patriots. Until this week, the only team he hadn’t traded with was the Jets. 

My feeling is, and this is strictly just an opinion, that they didn’t feel that Thomas was ever going to recapture enough of his game to be a viable receiver once again. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have traded him to the Jets…we’ll see next week. 

Time to Get Michel More Involved in the Passing Game:

The Patriots will be looking to get Sony Michel more involved in the running game today and get him untracked but they can help in that regard by getting him more involved in the passing game. Last week the Steelers keyed off of Michel’s being on the field by crowding the box and playing the run. And in that, they were very successful as Michel had only 14 yards on 15 carries.

According to my feeble math skills, with Michel on the field, the Patriots ran the ball nearly 75 percent of the time. Pittsburgh, having watched the postseason tape of the Patriots played run-heavy and was able to stuff it time and again. After rewatching the game tape, when the Patriots passed with Michel on the field, they were very successful. Now I get it, it is a minuscule sample size, but they averaged about 15 yards per play. 

Getting Michel more involved in the passing game just removes some of the predictability that other teams will have noticed and make this offense that much harder to stop. Today would be a perfect time to start giving opposing defensive coordinators even more to consider. 

Bulked Up Josh Gordon “In the Best Shape of My Career”:

Josh Gordon is playing at nearly 240 pounds this season as he may be in line for some of Rob Gronkowski’s work in the slot. Gordon’s bulked up presence may have been by design to take on the extra workload of Gronk’s absence. He played only about 10 percent out of the slot in 2018. On Sunday it was around 35 percent.

Gordon spoke about his workload and how he feels physically this week and he’s very optimistic of his long-term outlook. NFL Network’s Mike Giardi asked him if he’s in the best shape of his career and Gordon was quick to agree.

“Oh yeah, by far. By far,” Gordon told Giardi. “I don’t have any injuries this year, fortunately. Me and [strength and conditioning coach] Moses Cabrera have been in the training room every morning getting after it and continue to grow. It’s only Week 2. I’m excited, we’re all excited to see what happens halfways toward the end of the season. I think it’s going to be a huge upside at that point.”

Gordon’s upbeat attitude is definitely a plus and we can expect him to get even more looks in the passing game as the season winds on today.

NFL Schedule Week 2, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below. Here is the link if you’d care to pick your own: https://www.patsfans.com/new-england-patriots/messageboard/picks/

Last Week: 11-4-1

TNF Carolina over Tampa Bay 0-1 

Dallas over Washington
Tennessee over Indy
Pittsburgh over Seattle
Buffalo over NY Giants
Patriots over Miami
Houston over Jacksonville
Green Bay over Minnesota
LA Chargers over Detroit
Cincinnati over San Francisco
Baltimore over Arizona
Kansas City over Oakland
Chicago over Denver
LA Rams over New Orleans – Rematch of the NFC Championship
SNF Philly over Atlanta
MNF Cleveland over NY Jets

Early Thursday Night Football pick Tennessee over Jacksonville

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Need to Slow Down Saquon Barkley Today:

The Buffalo Bills can go to 2-0 by winning in the same stadium on the road, two weeks in a row. The Bills scored 17 straight points by beating the Jets in MetLife Stadium last week and take on the Giants today. But they face a very talented back in Saquon Barkley and he’ll be a big difference in who wins or loses.

The Bills pass defense is the strength of their team and they’ve allowed 217 yards or less for nine straight weeks, heading back to last season. And the Giants are banged up at WR. So, it stands to reason that the Giants may opt to feed one of the best RBs in the business in Barkley.

Barkley averaged 10.9 yards per rushing attempt last week in Dallas garnering 120 yards on just 11 carries. Which begs the question, why didn’t they use him more? On the flip side, watch for Bills rookie Devin Singletary to get more work today. The rookie RB had 70 yards on just four carries and added 28 more on five receptions. He was fun to watch. 

Dolphins Minkah Fitzpatrick Possibly Going to Dallas:

The Miami Dolphins agreed this week to allow safety/cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick to seek a trade partner.  And while there will no doubt be several teams interested, one team, the Dallas Cowboys have already publicly expressed interest. 

Fitzpatrick was a first-round draft pick just a year ago, but he’s unhappy with the way he’s being used by the new coaching staff and wants out. Dallas has been trying to upgrade the safety position all year. They courted the idea of bringing in Earl Thomas and Eric Berry but signed neither. They signed George Iloka. But the veteran was released, beaten out by veteran Jeff Heath and rookie Donovan Wilson. Fitzpatrick is a big upgrade over either of those two. So, this will bear watching.

What would be the asking price? Some circles are pointing to DL Taco Charlton who isn’t playing much because of a deep Dallas front seven. This development may have some bearing on how much Fitzpatrick plays today.

Jets Are Banged Up and Now Lose Darnold to Mono:

The New York Jets have already suffered a rash of injuries this season, Quincy Enunwa is out for the year with a neck injury. C.J. Moseley was forced to leave last week’s opener with a groin injury. RB Le’Veon Bell hurt his shoulder and had an MRI on it. But now they’ve lost QB Sam Darnold to mononucleosis, which is expected to keep him shelved indefinitely. And the schedule isn’t doing them any favors.

Trevor Siemian takes over for Darnold and faces a daunting schedule. The Jets play a Cleveland Browns team that was embarrassed last week on Monday Night Football, then head to Foxboro to take on the Patriots, followed by games against the Eagles, Cowboys, and then the Patriots again. That is a tough five-game stretch even if Darnold was in the lineup.

The Jets offensive line will also have to deal with a very less mobile QB than Darnold as Siemian can’t make plays outside the pocket as Darnold can. 

________________

“Yeah, Troy’s done a good job. You know, we have three rookie receivers, and Troy was in the same type of situation when he came. Obviously, that was in a different system, but he’s seen a lot of guys come through that. He did it himself, and I think he can help everybody – from the rookies, the guys who have never played before, to new players, to players who have played here a long time like Julian.” – Bill Belichick on the difference former Patriot Troy Brown has made helping coach the WRs.

________________

“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 9-08, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
September 8, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 09-08 and AFC East notes this week. 

Game Day, Banner Day, the first Sunday of the 2019 NFL season and it is right on time. Watching the banner drop into place later tonight will hammer home the fact of how truly blessed we have been here. Looking back into my experience, watching the Patriots struggle year after year without a home in Fenway, Harvard, etc., the idea of one Super Bowl championship seemed like a pipe dream. Now we’re ready to drop #6. Enjoy it, folks. 

However, we have to temper our glad tidings with thoughts for those people from the Bahamas to the Carolinas as the hurricane that moved along the East Coast wrought havoc to too many people’s lives in the past week or so. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats and the NFL:

Elandon Roberts – my what a difference a week makes. Many [including here] had him on the roster bubble at the end of training camp. And now he’s voted a team captain. Congratulations. It speaks highly of how his coaches and peers, the men in the locker room regard him. 

Mitch Trubisky  – The QB from UNC didn’t throw a pass in the preseason, and boy it certainly seemed like it on Thursday night. Week 1 of the season is always full of overreactions and with the Thursday night game, there was nothing else to discuss, so the Bears and Trubisky were roasted on Friday morning. But there was no other way to dress that one up. It was ugly. 

Stephon Gilmore – It seems the loss of the All-Pro CB is still a sore subject with some of the press in Upstate NY. A glance at the headline “Buffalo Bills fleece New England Patriots in OL trade”, was based on the fact that the Bills traded center Russell Bodine to New England in the wake of the David Andrews to IR scenario. Fleeced? NE sent a sixth-round draft pick for Bodine who was released this week. But, hey when you’re 3-28 against Tom Brady, then you have to claim small victories.

Jonathan Jones – was given a three-year contract extension on Saturday that will pay him an estimated $7 million a year. This will keep him in New England thru 2022. Once the Patriots cut ties with former 2nd round pick Duke Dawson, we’ve been clamoring for the Patriots to lock him up long-term. The former UDFA is an outstanding, underrated slot corner.

Nike – dropped the 6x Super Bowl Champion Air Force 1 shoes on the market on Saturday. You can pick these up at the Patriots Pro Shop.

Raiders Reward Bad Behavior, Pay for Brown to Go to New England:

The Oakland Raiders have been played by Antonio Brown …twice. And the second one will cost them, both in their checkbook and in the draft. 

After Brown quit on the Steelers who were fighting for a playoff spot last year, he maneuvered his way out of Pittsburgh and into the Raiders building. Oakland gave him a big pay raise, which was just the tip of the iceberg for the fiasco. 

From his feet, to the fiasco over his helmet, Brown was intent on making all of the headlines about him, all while the Steelers were enjoying a drama-free and football-centric training camp with no distractions. With each passing day, it seemed Pittsburgh made the right call in getting rid of the immensely talented but also the headache that Brown is. 

GM Mike Mayock was at wit’s end and had to publicly ask if Brown was “all in or all out” which prompted the WR to show up for practice, but that wasn’t the end of it. He was fined by the Raiders for sitting out practices. Brown posted the letter on social media, like the petulant child that he is and then in a move that screams “dump me please”, unfollowed the Raiders and Derek Carr on social media.

Worse, he cussed out Mayock on the practice field and attempted to go after him in a physical altercation. He was held back by Vontaze Burfict of all people. When Burfict is the voice of reason, you’re way over the top.

The Raiders said that they were prepared to play on Monday without him, which could have cleared the way for them to cut their ties to Brown and not pay him a dime. Then, the deluge of Twitterati began with Brown playing his way right into New England. 

And, the Raiders played right into Brown’s and Rosenhaus’ plans by releasing him. Truth be told, I believe that this was their intent all along with Brown going to New England and parlaying that into a big-money deal to a place of Brown’s choosing. They both knew that there was no way the Steelers front office was going to trade Brown to New England.

So in less time than it took for Brown to get to the locker room to the field in Oakland, he signs with New England. It isn’t a good look. According to NFL sources, Brown gets a one-year [read 4-month] deal for $15 million with $9 million tied to a signing bonus. So even if he flames out here with his diva show, he’ll still get his money.

But he can play the game and act the good teammate for four months and if the Patriots go deep into the postseason again, he’ll cash in…again in a big way during free agency next spring. There’s no doubt he can be a tremendous talent on the field. With Brady, Edelman, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas and the big stable of running backs, the Patriots have an embarrassment of riches at WR. He’ll take some time to get up to speed but he’ll put the time in…he’s investing in himself, not so much the team.

The Steelers and the Patriots won this and the Raiders lost, sad as it is to say. Pittsburgh got rid of a huge talented headache. The Patriots got him off the street for nothing. The Raiders, in essence, paid Pittsburgh a 3rd and a 5th round draft pick for Brown to move to New England. You can’t make this stuff up. It is a crazy world but on the Patriots side of the house, it is never boring. I can’t imagine the league will be happy with the way this fiasco unfolded.

Belichick/McDaniels “Do Your Job” Was a Great Look:

The NFL and the NFL Network dropped “Do Your Job III” this week in time for the season opener and it was, just like the other videos in the past, must-watch television. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels appeared together and they gave a compelling look at how the two managed to reinvent the team on the fly at the end of the season and won another Super Bowl. 

At the beginning of the video Belichick is shown at the ring ceremony at Robert Kraft’s house in June. And he said, “Josh, I’m glad you didn’t go to Indianapolis. Let’s start with that.”

But the best line in the show came after the loss to the Steelers, the team had lost two in a row and the doubters were out in force. Belichick knew that the team needed to change its focus and do what they do best. He told McDaniels, 

“ Belichick said, ‘If you keep holding on to what you’d rather be — no-huddle, spread formations, 34 points a game — then you’re probably going to end up regretting a lot of things at the end of the year.’ What are we really good at? What’s the most consistent part of our team offensively? And then you commit to it. We had been a pretty decent running football team. It was something that we felt like our personnel fit.”

That was great stuff, and the team harping on its doubters was a classic Belichick move. Us against the world, nobody believes in you. Edelman screaming at Brady during the AFC Championship Game, “You’re too old!” as he throws a deep TD to Dorsett. And then Belichick talks to the team in the locker room and repeats it all over again. 

“Don’t believe all the other (expletive) out there about how bad we are and how bad we suck and all that, or how old we are. Just keep doing what we’re doing.”

McDaniels summed up his relationship with Belichick, the two have been together for all six Super Bowl wins when he talked about his mentor. 

“It’s hard for me to imagine anybody being a better leader and a better role model for a young coach. He gives you responsibility, and then he lets you do your job.”

Josh Gordon Looking Only Forward From Here:

Josh Gordon hasn’t spoken to the media since his reinstatement by the league but he’s been at practice every day and is working with Tom Brady trying to get ready for the regular season without the benefit of any spring and nearly all of the summer workouts.

Gordon did release a statement where he states, he’s not looking at his past anymore and is only working towards his future. 

“Before the 2019 season starts, I would like to address an issue that arose toward the end of last season. It’s been well documented that I have battled substance abuse for quite some time. Unfortunately, I did not take the time to focus on a solution to my problem until this past year. I am eternally grateful for the constant support from the NFL, NFLPA and the Patriots organization. I also want to thank my family, friends and all the fans who supported me while I addressed this issue. Going forward, I will not be discussing the details of my past. I plan to focus on the present and getting better every day. I hope people will judge me on what I do now and in the future. I look forward to being a member of the Patriots once again this season and doing my part by contributing on and off the field.”

This means that Gordon and the team have already laid the groundwork for the season and beyond. Any questions about his past will be met with a reference to his statement. Gordon will be expected to speak with the media after tonight’s game with Pittsburgh.

NFL Schedule Week 1, Who Are Your Winners:

How are you feeling about the games this week? We have a post on our PatsFans Forum where our readers can predict the slate of games for that week. I did it on our weekly Sunday column here and will post it up below.

Last Season: 165-89-2

Chicago over Green Bay – [hit it out of the park there] 0-1
Rams over Carolina – this one should be a good early game
Philly over Washington
Buffalo over the NY Jets
Minnesota over Atlanta
Cleveland over Tennessee
Kansas City over Jacksonville – Intriguing matchup with Foles in Jax
Baltimore over Miami
Seattle over Cincinnati
Chargers over Indy
Detroit over Arizona
Dallas over NY Giants
Tampa Bay over San Francisco
New England over Pittsburgh – [write up and details here:]
New Orleans over Houston
Denver over Oakland – Distraction Bowl

Early Thursday Pick Week 2, Carolina over Tampa Bay

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Announce Captains for the 2019 Season:

The Buffalo Bills announced on Friday the names of their captains for the upcoming 2019 season. Buffalo has six players designated as a captain, Lorenzo Alexander, Josh Allen, Dion Dawkins, Tremaine Edmunds, Reid Ferguson, and Stephen Hauschka.

Alexander and Hauschka have already been captains but they have four new faces this year. The new captains replace Kyle Williams, who retired after last season; running back LeSean McCoy, who was released; special teamer Taiwan Jones, who was signed by the Houston Texans during free agency; and fullback Patrick DiMarco, who is still with the Bills.

One interesting tidbit before the Bills – Jets game today is the friendship between starting QBs Josh Allen and Sam Darnold. The two were invited to a youth football summit by QB Coach Jordan Palmer along with then Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham. The two hit it off and have remained friends and vow to continue that friendship despite being rivals in the AFC East. Palmer characterized it saying there was an absence of jealousy between the two players. 

Dolphins Offensive Line Is a Big Question Mark Heading Into 2019:

The Miami Dolphins are trying to piece together an offensive line at the eleventh hour after trading left tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Houston Texans last week. And right now, things are not looking up. Today’s game against the Ravens will tell the early tale.

Tunsil’s replacement, Julien Davenport who wasn’t even on the team during the last preseason game. He came over in the Tunsil trade and is already penciled in as the starter, trying to learn the Dolphins offense on the fly. 

The rest of the offensive line consists of LG Michael Dieter, C Daniel Kilgore, RG Shaq Calhoun, and RT Jesse Davis. To lessen the effect on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins and Offensive Coordinator Chad O’Shea will bring a Patriots-themed feel to the offense. They’ll try to get Fitzpatrick to get the ball out quickly to lessen the impact of the young offensive linemen on the team. 

The reason Davenport was included in the trade? According to sources in Houston, he allowed 15 sacks and had 12 penalties in 2018. OL coach Dave DeGugliemo will have his hands full with this group. 

Jets, Williams Going To Be Aggressive on Rushing the QB:

The New York Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has never been the shy, retiring type when it comes to playing defense. His teams have always been aggressive and the 2019 Jets will be no different. 

Despite not landing an “elite” pass rusher and third-round pick Jachai Polite flaming out in training camp, Williams is confident that the Jets will be successful at getting after the QB this year. Actually, confidence may be an understatement.

“I think there’s a lot of people here that people are going to be shocked about by the time the season is over,” Williams said. “You haven’t heard me say one thing about needs in that area [edge rusher]. I’m not worried about it.”

The Jets’ strength is with their interior DL in their 3-4 base defense with NT Steve McClendon, Henry Anderson, Leonard Williams, and rookie Quinnen Williams. But on the edge they’ll need to get creative with Jordan Jenkins, Harvey Langi, and Tarell Basham. New ILB C.J. Mosley may be a big chess piece for the defense. 

________________

“They really can’t beat us. We just can’t screw up now. If we’re honest, we know they don’t got anything.” – Bill Belichick just prior to Stephon Gilmore’s game-sealing interception during Super Bowl LIII

________________

“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 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.

New England Patriots News 8-18, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 18, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-18 and AFC East notes this week. 

The Patriots are returning home and will prepare for the upcoming preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. The joint practices are over as is the open public portions of training camp. The media will still be allowed in but their access will be shortened as well during practices 

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:

Derek Rivers – Tough break for the Patriots 3rd year player who has been having a very good training camp and he went down with an injury and didn’t return. Hopefully, it isn’t a serious injury this time around.

Russell Wilson – Is now a part-owner of a sports franchise, [Seattle Sounders]. One has to wonder if another QB was to purchase a portion of a professional team, say Tom Brady buys a piece of the NE Revolution that just happened to be owned his own team owner, Robert Kraft, then the internet would implode…instead, crickets.

Tom Brady – playing elsewhere or retiring in 2020? The story that just won’t die but truthfully, yes it could conceivably happen. And it could snow for the Panthers game. Brady is playing for a basic one-year deal. So are Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees. But ask yourself this, the Patriots aren’t going to saddle themselves with deferred bonus payments in 2020 and 2021 if they didn’t believe that there isn’t a very good chance of his returning. Feelings here is, depending on how 2019 goes, it gets done. 

Chase Winovich – Was chastised by Brady on Instagram. Wino posted a clip from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” Act II, Scene I where he wrote:
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round.
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.

Brady responded with “Study your playbook”…savage

 Josh Gordon is Back, What Are Realistic Expectations?

The NFL has allowed Josh Gordon to be conditionally reinstated back to the team after a five-game hiatus [two regular-season games, three in the playoffs]. The league has to feel that he has his mental health and substance abuse issues in order. That is a good sign, for both the player and the person.

The Patriots kept a space open for him by offering a 2nd round tender on him and that wasn’t surprising, considering Gordon was a popular teammate and a productive one on the field. But now what? Where do the Patriots go with Gordon?

It isn’t as clear cut as one would think. During the entire offseason, NFL insiders were reporting that the Patriots would welcome Gordon back but they weren’t counting on his presence. Does that change now? As they already know, those demons that Gordon has battled don’t just magically disappear. It takes a life-long struggle against them. And just one slip-up now could mean the end of Gordon’s NFL career. 

Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick have to decide whether they just fully embrace Gordon’s return and insert him in the offense and risk losing a big piece of it somewhere down the road this season, or do they ease him in and give another wide receiver a roster spot…just in case he has issues again. 

With a healthy Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and a reacclimated Gordon at WR, all of a sudden the WR position projects to one of strength. Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Maurice Harris, and Braxton Berrios are there for depth. And they have both Demaryius Thomas and Cam Meredith on PUP. 

Dorsett and Harris are also banged up right now, which would thrust Meyers into a more prominent position, at least early in the season. How this plays out will be an intriguing story to watch. Everyone wants to see Gordon succeed in life first, football second, but the NFL is a business, which we’ve been told over and over. 

This development I believe means that they certainly have to keep an extra WR on the roster at cut down time. I’d also look for Gordon to be targeted as much as he merits this season. Brady has trust in him on the field, and with Edelman, Harry et al, it should prove to be a fun offense to watch. 

Brady and Vrabel Trash Talk Rooted In Deep Respect:

One of the more entertaining things about the joint practices this week with the Patriots and Titans was being able to witness the constant trash talk that emanated between Tom Brady and Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. 

The two were very close personal friends as teammates and remain so today, despite the fact that Vrabel now coaches another team. But their friendship was marked by constant playful jabs at one another. Brady is a Michigan man while Vrabel went to Ohio State. There were bets made before the ‘big game’ every year and frequently the winner of the bet would have his college jersey worn by the other. After one Ohio State win, Vrabel had his jersey hanging in Brady’s locker. 

This week was a continuation of that. It started on the first day as Brady strolled on to the practice field, Vrabel yelled at him for walking, where Brady retorted to basically mind his own business, but in more colorful language. 

Brady upped the ante on Vrabel’s birthday by handing him a small trophy inscribed with the score of last year’s game, where Tennessee ripped the Patriots 34-10, with the subliminal message that while Vrabel won the battle, the Patriots ultimately won the war with their sixth Super Bowl title. 

Brady spoke with the media after practice and couldn’t stop smiling while talking about his trash-talking with his former teammate. “I wouldn’t describe it as civil,” Brady said. “He’s been a good friend for a long time. Obviously, he’s done a great job leading his team. Proud of him and everything he’s accomplished. We all support him even though he’s coaching for another team.”

Vrabel, who had a reputation as a player who could even crack up Bill Belichick on occasion, gave Brady, even more razzing after he and Ben Watson failed on a connection in the red zone. “I never dropped one of those. Let me know if you need me to report.”

“It was fun. It brought back a lot of memories, just to be able to sit out there and have him make a play and he turns around and says, ‘Mikey, you know you better cover that. You guys need to do this,’” Vrabel said. “We had a lot of fun. We have a lot of respect for those guys and can learn a lot from them; how they practice and how they operate.”

The respect between the two is obvious, but it is also entertaining to watch those two jaw at each other constantly. The Patriots’ practices back then must have been something to behold. 

Michel, Harris Need to Factor More in the Passing Game:

The Patriots like to force opposing defenses to face an array of possibilities when they have the ball. That unpredictability was somewhat lost when Sony Michel was on the field in 2018. The Patriots ran the ball approximately 76 percent of the time when Sony was behind Brady. 

The plan this year is to get Michel and rookie Damien Harris involved more in the passing game out of the backfield. The benefit there would be two-fold. It would make the offense more unpredictable and would also boost the running game by keeping the opponent from loading up the box in an attempt to stuff the run. 

With injuries piling up at WR and TE, the running backs, a position of strength can really help in this regard. James White remains the primary 3rd-down pass-catching back but Rex Burkhead is the kind of versatile player they need in this scenario. Now Michel and Harris should begin to chip in more and more once the regular season begins. 

Part of Michel’s lack of productivity in the passing game last year was that he missed a significant amount of training camp with an injury and the coaches limited what they were putting on his plate as a rookie. That should change this year. 

Harris is an outstanding pass blocker and an underrated receiver out of the backfield. He was beginning to see more looks in the passing game in camp but has been slowed by a hand/wrist injury. 

Look for more passes going to the backs this season and for them to mix and match liberally to create matchup problems for the Patriots’ opposing defenses.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Josh Allen/Cole Beasley Connection Off and Running for the Bills:

The Buffalo Bills first-team offense looked extremely sharp in their preseason 27-14 win over the Carolina Panthers. Josh Allen was particularly impressive. In two drives, he completed 9-11 passes for 102 yards as the Bills’ offense put up 10 points. One of Allen’s two incompletions was a drop by Shady McCoy out in the flat. 

As we’ve posted here several times, Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll has decided to use Cole Beasley a lot in this offense. And he and Allen are thriving working together. On Allen’s 11 passes, five went to Beasley, all completions, for 44 yards. Beasley is loving this offense.

“I love Daboll so much, I have so much respect for him and I’m so appreciative for the opportunity and the belief that he has in his guys,” said Beasley. “You feel that and when you feel that from a coach you’re not afraid to go up to him and suggest things, give him some ideas. He likes to try things and have fun with it, and it makes it fun to come to work.”

Dolphins Rosen Gets the Start in PS Game vs Tampa Bay:

The Miami Dolphins started QB Josh Rosen over Ryan Fitzpatrick in their 16-14 loss to the Bucs on Friday night.  And while Rosen’s numbers were hardly eye-popping, 10-18 for 102 yards, they were much better than Fitzpatrick’s as the veteran was under pressure the entire time and could complete only 3-9 for 20 yards. Rosen was also the victim of several drops, including several by Preston Williams who, after shining in Week 1 was only able to make one catch for seven yards while getting starting reps. 

The offensive line struggled to protect their quarterbacks and to open holes in the running game. Rosen, and Fitzpatrick after him were under duress all game long. Fitzpatrick is slated to get the start next week against the Jaguars, but unless they get better OL play, it won’t matter who is under center.

Jets Lose LB Avery Williamson With Torn ACL For the Year:

New York Jets linebacker Avery Williamson is to undergo season-ending surgery after tearing the ACL in his right knee Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons. This was a huge blow for the Jets defense as he was one of the team’s most consistent and durable players a year ago, playing in all but five defensive snaps.

Williamson’s injury happened on a fluke play late in the second quarter. He and CB Tevaughn Campbell were in coverage defending running back Brian Hill in the end zone. Williamson and Campbell collided, as Campbell dove into Williamson’s knee as he tried to make a play on the ball.

He called the signals last year but turned those duties over to C.J. Mosely this season as well as moved to the weak side LB position.

________________

“Well, I have a ton of respect for Mike [Vrabel] as a person, as a coach. He’s been a friend for a long time and obviously did a great job last year in the game we played him. We really got handled down here. He’s got an excellent staff and I’m sure that he’s teaching these guys a lot of football. He was a really smart player, a very fundamental player, so I’m sure that you can see those strengths in the way he coaches his team.” Bill Belichick on joint practices with the Titans –  8-14

________________

“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 8-11, 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.

New England Patriots News 8-04, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
August 4, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-04 and AFC East notes this week. 

Training Camp is in full swing and the Patriots are on the road today, heading to Canton, Ohio for a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and then on to Detroit where they’ll begin three joint practices with the Lions before their preseason game with them on Thursday.

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

 Quick Hitters:

Tom Brady – celebrated his 42nd birthday yesterday and the team was given the day off. In past years, the fans at training camp serenaded Brady with Happy Birthday but didn’t get the opportunity to do so this year. In his 20th training camp, he still is going strong and the competitive fire still burns bright for him. 

Ty Law – was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night. Some of his biggest moments came in the biggest games. No one can ever forget his playoff game against the Colts where he intercepted Peyton Manning three times or his pick-six of  Kurt Warner in the Super Bowl XXXVI win over the Rams. Well deserved.

Ed Reed – was also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night. We all know the mad respect that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady had on him as a player. Reed said this week that he’d love to coach again and …[This must make Ravens fans cringe], he said, “I would love for it to just be with the Patriots.”

Isaiah Wynn – is making slow but welcome progress as the team began easing him into team drills this Friday, the first such development in his return from an Achilles injury last year at this time. Perhaps he should have used deer antler spray?

Martez Ivey – The big 6’5, 315 lb offensive lineman from Florida was signed by the Patriots this week as the team waived Cole Croston. Despite 31 starts for a perennial powerhouse, Ivey’s footwork and hand placement were always an issue. He’s a longshot to make the roster but we’ve seen what Dante Scarnecchia can do 

Josh Gordon Applies For Re-instatement:

Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon has applied to the NFL for reinstatement according to Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. Now the NFL must decide whether or not to reinstate Gordon and if he should be suspended for any further time.

The NFL suspended Gordon indefinitely late in the 2018 regular season for violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement under the league’s drug policy. Gordon last played in the NFL in Week 15 of the 2018 season against the Steelers. 

The Patriots, hopefull of a possible return by Gordon, placed a second-round tender on him this spring. In 11 games in 2018, Gordon caught 40 passes, for 720 yards and three touchdowns for the Patriots. Now we wait and see what comes out of Park Avenue.

Jakobi Meyers Enters a Big Week After An Impressive Start to Camp:

With the first eight practices in Foxboro in the books, the Patriots move on to joint practices with the Lions this week.  This is a big week for many of the players but for UDFA Jakobi Meyers it is another chance to shine. 

And shine he has thru the early stages of training camp. The former QB now wide receiver would be on the 53-man roster if the cutdown was today. That’s why this week against the Lions in practices and then on Thursday in the first preseason game is so important. Bill Belichick spoke highly of the progress Meyers has made thus far.

“He’s a smart kid and he understands, and has versatility, understands the offense,” Belichick said. “Like any rookie, any young player, there’s a lot of things he needs to work on technique-wise — recognition, route adjustments — just a lot of fine points. He basically knows what to do, but there are a lot of subtleties and nuances that all receivers need to pick up — certainly in our offense — and he’s doing that.

“There’s more that we’ve had to get down, but he’s making progress there. Whether that comes from his quarterback background, or his experience, or his intelligence, or his learning, I’m not really sure. But that’s not really an issue. He’s a smart kid, and he learns well.”

His hard work and grasp of learning the offensive playbook have earned him more reps with the starting unit and QB Tom Brady and he’s been making the most of them. Late in practices, the Patriots go to their hurry-up or two-minute offense. And Brady has developed a bit of chemistry with the rookie, going in his direction three times in the past two sessions, completing all three passes. 

Meyers made what many are calling the best play in camp so far on Thursday. Jarrett Stidham threw a jump ball to Meyers between two defenders. Meyers tipped the ball over the defender’s head to himself and hauled it in for a huge play. 

Meyers’ versatility, he can play outside or in the slot is always a welcome asset to have in New England. He’s bigger than most slot receivers at 6’2, 202 and his quarterback’s background has definitely helped his development. He understands the route concepts of the plays from the QB’s perspective which is of tremendous help in knowing the adjustments the WRs must make in the Patriots intricate system. He’s not all the way there yet, but he’s making some serious strides. 

On Friday, Brady threw to Meyers twice before he made his break, something that shows Brady already trusts him to be where he has to be when he has to be there. That level of trust isn’t easily earned from #12. Belichick was asked about his learning curve earlier this week. 

“The more you learn, the more you know, the more you can understand about what you do, what the people around you do, what the defense is doing, what the people on the other side of the ball are doing,” Belichick said. “I mean, that’s all good. That’s all eventually going to work to your advantage, the more you can understand the big picture and all of it.

“It’s hard to get everything the first time around, sometimes the third, fourth time around you hear things, or you hear things said to the guy next to you, or maybe the defender that’s across from you. You hear the coach correcting him, and it just helps you learn more about the overall of your position, the area that you’re involved in. 

“I think we have a lot of guys on our team that fall into that category, but understanding the big picture is certainly the goal, more than just memorizing an assignment. I mean, you have to know what to do, but the more you can understand the total concept of what’s going on, then really the easier it is to execute.”

Meyers developed quite a rapport with QB Ryan Finley at NC State catching 62 passes in his junior year and 92 passes last fall. It certainly seems like he’s on his way to carving out a role for himself in the Patriots offense with Brady. That’s why this week will be intriguing to watch how he does in Detroit. 

Sony Michel and Damian Harris Making Big Strides in the Passing Game:

One of the more intriguing developments over the last week of training camp has been the emergence of both Sony Michel and rookie Damien Harris in the passing game. Michel had a very good rookie season running the ball, followed by an outstanding playoff run where he gained over 330 yards and scored six touchdowns in three playoff games. James White has traditionally given the team outstanding production in the passing game. 

What is intriguing is that with an increased role in the passing game, the Patriots would have four running backs who can be viable targets that opponents must account for [Rex Burkhead, currently dinged up is the fourth]. The team was putting both Michel and Harris in motion a lot more in the past few sessions, getting them a freer release.

With a new WR corps and without Julian Edelman for the first few weeks of training camp, this development gives Tom Brady more valuable weapons in the passing game. With four very good running backs, the Patriots can mix and match and create matchup nightmare scenarios for the opposing defenses. 

Harris, a rookie from Alabama wasn’t asked to do a lot of receiving in college but has very good hands and is an excellent pass blocker. Michel only had 11 targets in his rookie season…that is about to change.

Patriots Sign WR Cameron Meredith And Immediately Place Him on PUP:

The Patriots signed former Bears and Saints WR Cameron Meredith this week after he was released with an injury designation from the Saints. The 6’3, 207 WR was signed by the Bears as an UDFA in 2015. His breakout season was 2016 when he caught 66 passes for 888 yards and four TDs. He missed all of 2017 with an injury and was with the Saints last year catching nine passes for 114 yards and a score in six games. 

The Patriots aren’t rushing him back and plan to work on him strengthening his knee as well as improving flexibility before he’ll be put on the field. Therefore, they immediately placed him on PUP. He can be removed at any time if he’s deemed healthy enough.

Per Doug Kyed of NESN, If the Patriots don’t remove Meredith from the PUP list by the Aug. 31 cutdown date, then he would revert to regular-season PUP and no longer takes a spot on the Patriots’ roster. Meredith then could begin practicing after the Patriots’ sixth regular-season game. If he didn’t begin practicing within a five-week window, he would be shut down for the rest of the season. If Meredith begins practicing within that five-week window, the Patriots would have a 21-day window to activate him to the 53-man roster.

So, Meredith can either begin practicing in the next 27 days or the team will place him on PUP where he can get healthy and possibly provide mid-season help at the position. It was a low-risk, high reward signing. 

Kyle Van Noy the 1st Guest on Patriots Off-Topic:

The Patriots website have created a new podcast called “Patriots Off-Topic” which deals with the stories of the players and their interests off the field. Hosted by Patriots social media coordinators Angelique Fisk and Mackenzie Knoop, it is a different type of podcast and their first stab at it was breaking some new ground.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy was their very first guest who spoke about being a father, starting his Van Noy Valor Foundation and being at the ESPYs. Van Noy who was adopted spoke about his wife’s father and brother who were both adopted and their work with foster kids. 

It is slated to be a regular podcast on the team’s schedule this season. Give it a listen on the link.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Beasley, Having “ A lot More Fun for the Bills” Than in Dallas: 

When the Buffalo Bills signed slot receiver Cole Beasley, we’ve said quite a few times that Buffalo would try to carve out a role for him similar to what the Patriots do with Julian Edelman. Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll spent a few years here in New England and it seemed like a no-brainer. 

Well, after more than a week of training camp, Beasley is just loving his time in upstate New York and especially the way he’s being used in the offense. And it doesn’t sound like he’s homesick for the Cowboys.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Beasley said, on the NFL Network. “I wanted more opportunities. I wanted more options. I wanted more freedom in my routes. And [Brian] Daboll has done a great job of giving me those things and it’s created a lot of opportunity for me here. He added, “It’s been a lot more fun playing out there with the guys.”

It sounds like Daboll is incorporating a lot of the same offensive plays that the Patriots run from Daboll’s comments.

“When you’re given the freedom that I am in this offense, you have to be very definitive in the way you run your routes and your breaks,” Beasley said, in the NFL segment. “I have some routes where I can go five different directions and make a decision at the top [of the route]. I just can’t go one way and then make a decision late to go someplace else or it’s going to be an interception.

“So there is a lot of pressure on me for that, but that’s exactly how I wanted it and that’s why I came here.”

“I’m just glad to be [Buffalo] where it’s 100 percent about ball and not a show or a brand,” Beasley said last month. “It’s purer here. I’m proud to be part of something like that.”

Dolphins Pro Football Hall of Famer Buoniconti Dies at 78:

The Miami Dolphins lost a legend last week. Nick Buoniconti, an undersized, over-achieving linebacker passed away at the age of 78. Buoniconti began his career with the Boston Patriots. He was a six-time All-Star with the Patriots before moving on to Miami in 1969.

Buoniconti was an eight-time Pro Bowler and won two Super Bowl titles with the Dolphins in 1972, with the 17-0 team, and 1973. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. He was the leader of the Dolphins “No-Name Defense.” He played for Miami from 1969-1974, and then in 1976. 

“Nick was the leader of our defense and another coach on the field,” said safety Dick Anderson. “You combine him with our defense coach, Bill Arnsparger, and you know why he always bragged that we made just 11 mental errors on defense during the entire perfect season of 1972. We just had to go where they told us to go and make the play.”

“Nick was special to me in every way. He was someone I greatly admired,” said Don Shula, Dolphins coach during his playing career.”… His groundbreaking work with The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis [after his son Marc was paralyzed playing football] has made a huge difference in the lives of so many people. I am thankful to have had Nick in my life. I will miss him.” RIP

Jets Sign Center Ryan Kalil:

The New York Jets agreed to terms with former Carolina Panther Ryan Kalil on a one-year deal worth up to $8.4 million on Thursday.

This is a big move as Kalil is a big upgrade over Jonathan Harrison. However, he did suffer a serious neck injury in 2017 and that could play a factor in his effectiveness down the road. But GM Joe Douglas has been working for nearly two months to get the veteran center to come out of retirement. 

Kalil is a five-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro at the position. But serious injuries to his shoulder and neck led to a decline in his effectiveness. Kalil was on to his second career as a Hollywood producer [worked with Will Farrell for an NFL spoof], and felt that after a year, his body was healed up enough to give the NFL one more go around.

________________

“We have a lot of things that we need to work on, in every area of the team; everything. So I don’t think I feel good about anything right now. I don’t feel necessarily bad about it. We’ll see how it is. Start to find out when we’re in competitive situations in the next couple weeks. Might not really know where we are on some things until the middle of the season. I don’t know, we’ll see.” Bill Belichick on 8-1

“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 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.

New England Patriots News, 7-21, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 21, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-21 and AFC East notes this week. 

Just 4 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Tony Romo- was effusive in his praise of Bill Belichick this week while doing an interview on 105.3 the Fan in Dallas. Romo called the Patriots Super Bowl LIII game plan as “one of the greatest defensive performances I have ever seen in football.”

“He genuinely is not scared to go outside the box,” Romo said. “And I find in the NFL very few teams vary from what they do. So what he does then, is he drafts people that he believes can adapt from week-to-week.”

Patriots Cheerleaders – were doing their annual calendar shoot in St. Lucia this week, catch up on that on Patriots.com

Tom Brady – was cliff diving with his daughter in Costa Rica, then went horseback riding with his wife Gisele in his last family getaway before training camp starts next week. But his shot at Max Kellerman was the stuff of gold…

Mike Lombardi – Former Patriots front office person and friend of Bill Belichick was a guest on VSIN’s “A Number’s Game” and said he believes the Patriots defense will be better than the 2018 version.

“I think they are better on defense,” Lombardi said. “I think New England is better on defense this year. I think Jamie Collins wanted to come back to New England. He wanted to play. I think he will make them a better team and allow (Dont’a) Hightower to play more on the edge, which is what he’s more suited for than playing in the base. Then, there’s Kyle Van Noy. I think Michael Bennett still has some gas left in the tank, so I do think they will be better on defense. I think the guy that is coaching the defense is a Hall of Fame defensive coach — forget the fact that he’s a Hall of Fame head coach. I do think they will be better.”

Gordon Not In Patriots Plans, But Would Be Welcomed Back:

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and NFL.com was on WEEI this week and addressed the Josh Gordon situation with the Patriots. He stated that the team would most certainly welcome the troubled but very talented wide receiver back, but that they were not counting on him in 2019 and have no idea when or if he’ll even be reinstated. 

“Josh Gordon, I don’t know,” Rapoport said. “It’s not a guy who’s in their plans right now. I think that they would certainly welcome him back if he showed that he’s going to be a better version — as a person, I’m talking about — a better version of the one they got last year. I just don’t know that he’s actually going to get reinstated, prove to the Patriots that he has turned the corner, that he’s a different person, show that he’s in the right frame of mind.”

“As always with Josh Gordon, the talent is incredible. We’ve seen probably one-tenth of it, honestly,” Rapoport added. “But there’s always so much that goes into it. I think the Patriots know better than to say this is a guy we’re counting on for next season.”

Hill Situation Highlights Lack of Consistency with NFL:

The NFL decided that Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill will not be disciplined under the league’s personal conduct policy. Whenever an NFL player is accused of off-field wrongdoing, the conduct policy is detailed in Article 46 of the league’s collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the National Football League Players’ Association is brought into play. 

Back in March Hill’s son who is just three years old suffered a broken arm and was removed from the home of Hill and fiancee Crystal Espinal by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF). 

The District Attorney declined to press charges against either which prompted Hill’s attorneys to write the NFL that it was an accident and that he played no role in his son’s injuries.

After doing an investigation, Park Avenue decided not to punish Hill saying it “cannot conclude” that Hill, whom the Chiefs ordered to stay away from the team pending the NFL’s investigation, violated the personal conduct policy. 

This is the same Hill who still proclaims his innocence of beating Espinal while she was pregnant four years ago. He pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery charges that he hit Espinal in the face and stomach while she was eight weeks pregnant. He also strangled her. Despite his repeated claims of innocence of those charges, he admitted to them in court. 

Then there is the taped phone conversation. In it, Espinal says their son is terrified of his father, Hill responds with a threat.

“A 3-year-old is not going to lie about what happened to his arm,” Crystal Espinal tells Hill in the recording, adding, “He is terrified of you.”

Hill responds, “You need to be terrified of me, too, dumb bitch.”

So while the NFL says that the child’s safety is their priority, it rings with insincerity. 

It cannot conclude Hill caused the child’s injuries…Really? The same man who punched his pregnant girlfriend in the face and stomach, strangled her and threatens her on the phone. Someone broke the child’s arm. So, they have to consider that Espinal is guilty?

The utter lack of consistency is plain to see. Less than a year ago, the NFL suspended Ravens CB Jimmy Smith for threatening and abusive behavior. 

New England fans began to harp on this latest fiasco from Park Ave. Of course, this entailed some people stating it doesn’t apply. to this case. To that, we reply… respectfully, “Bull excrement”. 

The NFL in the Wells report, (Pg 228) it stated that the league couldn’t conclude with certainty that anyone did or did not tamper with a football, but their analysis is “dependent on assumptions and information that is not certain.”  There was a total lack of evidence that anyone even attempted to deflate a football, when in fact a reasonable scientific explanation was right at hand.

But in this case, a player with a history of abuse suddenly has a child with a broken arm and threatens his fiancee openly. And … nada. “There isn’t evidence?” It never stopped them before. One has to conclude that the child’s safety takes a backseat to the fantasy points that will be generated by Hill in the highest-scoring offense in the league. 

“You do not have to be convicted or even charged of a crime to be able to demonstrate that you’ve violated a personal conduct policy, and reflect poorly not only on themselves, but all of their teammates, every NFL player in the league, and everyone associated with the NFL.” Roger Goodell

Joe Thuney Enters Pivotal Contract Year:

Joe Thuney 62) during minicamp a few summers ago SBalestrieri photo

With training camp set to begin later this week, one player who will be garnering a lot of attention this season will be guard Joe Thuney. Thuney is entering a contract year and is part of arguably the best guard tandem in the league with Shaq Mason. 

He is slotted to make about $2 million dollars in 2019 in the final year of his rookie contract and is in line to make much more in 2020. Will it be with the Patriots? Time will tell, but if he plays it out until free agency, the chances of him making significantly more cash will be available to him. The Patriots locked up center David Andrews this spring with a three-year $9 million dollar deal. Last summer, Mason signed a five-year contract worth a total of $50 million with $23.5 million of it guaranteed. Will the Patriots make Thuney as big an offer as he’ll get on the open market? Doubtful. 

Thuney’s versatility, he can play anywhere along the offensive line was apparent this spring. With both Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste out of minicamp due to offseason surgery, Thuney was taking all of the first-team reps at left tackle. If for any reason Wynn and Cajuste aren’t ready for training camp, look for Thuney to continue to fill in. That will further drive up his already considerable …and growing value. 

He has been remarkably durable, not only playing in all 48 games of his NFL career but in every one of the Patriots 1119 offensive snaps in 2018. Since entering the league, he’s been constantly improving under the tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia. Last year he was the NFL’s 7th rated guard by Pro Football Focus (PFF). 

If you make it down to training camp this week, be sure to check out big #63. It may just be his last season in a Patriots uniform. And he’s been one of their better performers. 

Patriots Players Needing to Rebound in 2019:

Training camp is the time for the young players to show what they can do to earn a roster spot. It is also time for some of the veterans to show that they can still perform at a high level. Here are a couple of players who will be looking to ignite their production in 2019 on the eve of training camp.

Demaryius Thomas – The former Broncos and Texans wide receiver was once one of the most productive WRs in the game but his game has been in steady decline for several years. He’s gone from 1619, 1304,1083, 949 to 677 in the past five years. Then he tore his Achilles with the Texans late last season. 

Thomas may not even be ready for training camp, having not taken part in any activities this spring. He may begin camp (and we suspect he will) on the PUP list. While no one expects him to return to his glory years with Denver, there is some hope that he can still be a viable target in the Patriots offense…time will tell. 

Derek Rivers – We already identified 2019 as a make or break season for the Patriots top draft pick in 2017. He tore his ACL in preseason of his rookie season but was still not looking 100 percent last year. While he did make the team in 2018, he played very sparingly in six games and registered just two tackles and one sack. That isn’t the kind of production the team was looking for out of him. 

He’ll get the opportunity to show what he’s got this summer and he’ll have to shine. With a much more crowded front seven this year, we currently have Rivers on the outside looking in. He’ll have to leapfrog some players and show he can produce at the NFL level. 

Ryan Allen – If it seems strange to you for a player who could’ve been named the MVP of the Super Bowl to need “to rebound” in 2019, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, it is true. The 2018 season wasn’t the most consistent of Allen’s career. But he did turn it on for the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, he was outstanding, out-punting the Rams Johnny Hekker who is among the best in the game.

But for the second year in a row, the Patriots have brought in competition for Allen. This year they moved up in the draft to take Jake Bailey from Stanford. The reports about the strength of Bailey’s leg are well-founded. After watching him at minicamp he puts an absolute charge into the ball. Plus he’s more versatile and can kickoff as well as fill in as a field goal kicker in an emergency. His issue has been consistency as well. 

But with the Patriots possibly relying more on the running game this year, especially early in the year, they may be looking for a punter with more range and hang time in the event they’re punting more from their own side of the field and deeper than in year’s past. Allen will be on watch this summer. 

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Cole Beasley Looks to Be the Top Target in Bills Passing Game: 

When the Buffalo Bills throw the ball this season, they will have a new and revamped passing attack. When we wrote about the changes forthcoming here a while back, we mentioned that Brian Daboll who used to be on the Patriots staff could be looking to replicate a lot of what the Patriots do with Julian Edelman. And that player on Buffalo would be Cole Beasley.

Beasley left Dallas and complained that he wasn’t getting enough looks in the passing game. And he’d have a point. In 2016, he led the Cowboys with 75 catches, 833 yards, and 5 TDs. The Cowboys went 13-3. In 2017, Dallas’ offense went away from Beasley, in 15 games he had just 36 catches for 314 yards and 4TDs. Dallas went 9-7. Last year, he was second on the team with 65 catches for 672 yards and 3 TDs, with Dallas going 10-6. But once Amari Cooper came onboard, Beasley’s numbers and targets went down. In the playoff loss to the Rams in the Divisional Round, he was targeted just twice.

With Buffalo and Daboll as the Offensive Coordinator, he has a chance to be the safety blanket, the chains mover and 2nd-year QB Josh Allen’s favorite target. Like Edelman, he excels in the short-area quickness part of the field. Buffalo threw the ball down the field too often in 2018. Look for them to utilize the short areas of the field more this year. And with the sure-handed Beasley in the mix, he should be the boon of his QB’s throws, especially on a team that had more than their share of drops.

Rosen or Fitzpatrick? The Dolphins TC Will Answer That:

The Miami Dolphins have (finally) moved away from QB Ryan Tannehill, who got more than a fair shake as their team’s QB. Now with a new coach and staff, new QBs and a fresh attitude, they’re going to attempt to turn things around.

With a full rebuild going on, no one is expecting Miami to be very competitive this season for a playoff spot. But with new coach Brian Flores and new signal callers under center, the Fins will be intriguing to watch. 

After signing Ryan Fitzpatrick as their bridge QB, Miami swooped after the Arizona Cardinals simply had to have QB Kyler Murray after drafting Josh Rosen with a Top 10 pick just a year ago. This could prove to be highway robbery. 

While no one knows how this will play out, Flores is going to let the players decide on who starts and who sits. But at some point, he’ll have to let Rosen show what he can do so that they can either stick with him as a potential franchise quarterback or that they have to address the situation next year in the NFL Draft. 

Our money here is on Rosen; he was awful last year, but he was a rookie saddled with an even more awful team. It was a total lose-lose situation. The games in the AFC East this year within the division are much more compelling with all of the new quarterbacks in place. 

Jets Williams Still Unsigned, May Miss the Beginning of Training Camp:

The New York Jets rookie players were scheduled to report for training camp on Friday. Quinnen Williams was not to be one of them. Williams still hasn’t signed his contract, making it the second year in a row that the team has had its top draft pick not show up on time for training camp. Last year, Sam Darnold missed the first three days of training camp while getting his deal finalized. 

Williams took part in all of the Jets’ spring workouts and the hold on his contract isn’t about his salary, which is mandated by the league. The Jets took Williams with the #3 pick in the NFL Draft this spring. What the holdup is, probably centers around offsets and cash flow. 

Is it a big worry? No, but the team never likes having their top draft pick miss any time during his first training camp. This is something that should be worked out fairly quickly and then Williams, who is considered one of the top picks in the draft, should be ready to go. 

________________

“I no longer listen to what people say, I just watch what they do. Behavior never lies” Winston Churchill

“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 7-14, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 14, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-14 and AFC East notes this week. 

Just 11 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

Patriots Football is back in 11 days

 Quick Hitters:

Devin & Jason McCourty- continue their work in the community. The twins spent time with both We Belong and the Peace Unit, which are initiatives dedicated to helping the youth and young adults of the area.

Rob Gronkowski – was honored at the ESPYs in LA this week and spoke about being a good teammate. “When I look back on my career, what I look back on, what I’m most proud of was the teammate I am,” he said. “My teammates knew I would do anything for them, and I knew they’d do anything for me. I know the relationships we formed will stay with us for the rest of our lives, so thank you to all the guys I played with and thank you for making the ride so much more fun and so much more memorable.”

Melvin Gordon – the Chargers running back will be the latest RB to test market for RB value. Gordon has informed the team that he wants a new contract or be traded. Gordon is scheduled to make $5.605 million this year but is looking for much more or he won’t report to training camp. His agent said it could sit into the regular season 

Allen Bailey – Former NFL GM Gil Brandt wrote on the NFL.com site that the Patriots are still the best landing spot for the free-agent DL. Bailey, 30, visited the Patriots on March 14 and reportedly had contract discussions. But he left without signing anything. The former Chiefs’ DL also visited with the Panthers, Falcons, and Seahawks.

Nick Caserio – was back in the news for the wrong reason. The Texans, who have been pursuing him for their GM job for two years, announced they aren’t going to have a GM for the 2019 season. The plan is to share the responsibilities between several men including Jack Easterby, who is now on the outs with the Krafts. All signs point to them coming hard after Caserio again in 2020 when his current deal expires. It may be time to give the man a title and pay him to keep him around…if he wants to remain.

Brady NFL Best at Throws 10+ Yards Downfield:

Pro Football Focus (PFF) Steve Palazzolo put out some startling stats on Friday which got social media aflame, especially those who consider Tom Brady a “dink and dunk” QB. According to the stats that Palazzolo posted, not only did Brady have the best percentage of passes completed of 10+ yards downfield, he attempted the most in the past three seasons. 

Of course, this ignited the troll population who then wanted to know who led the league in short passes. Well, Palazzolo’s stats showed that Brady wasn’t even in the Top 10 of passes thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage. 


This won’t stop the Brady-haters who were already flooding Palazzolo’s mentions about his data being biased, but it was funny to watch the questions spew forth and answered. Well, it isn’t “dink and dunk”, it must be that dreaded Patriots “system”…

18 Game Schedule? This is a Ridiculous Scenario:

We were thinking that this was a satire piece when we first saw it but unfortunately that was not the case and someone at the NFL front office actually believes this to be a good idea. The NFL has been pushing an 18-game schedule for quite some time now, that isn’t new, but what they’re proposing is…

The league is proposing that there will be only two exhibition games and expand the regular season slate to 18 games. But the kicker is, that the league knowing the NFLPA (NFL Players Association) will certain dig their heels in over this, wants to limit each player can only dress for 16 of those games. 

I have no idea what is on the menu at Park Avenue, but please feel free to share some. 

Fans will not be happy, imagine a fan from another city knowing that say the Patriots or Chiefs are coming to town, shelling out big money for tickets only to find out that Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes is sitting this week? 

This one doesn’t even sound good on paper, it will never pass with the NFLPA but just shows two things. The owners aren’t going to stop pushing for an 18-game schedule and the bargaining agreement with the league and NFLPA is not going to be pretty.

Gronk and Brady Play Catch While Social Media Melts Down :

Slow your roll folks, there is no reason to lose your mind over a game of catch between Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. And no, it does not point to Gronkowski coming back in mid-season this year. 

Gronkowski was in LA for the Monster Energy $50K Charity Challenge Celebrity Basketball Game Monday night at UCLA. So, once he found out Brady was doing a private workout at UCLA with his personal trainer Alex Guererro it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the two would link up. 

“He saw I was in town for this basketball game,” Gronkowski said in an interview on Monday. “He was like, ‘Yo, Gronk, man, yo, Gronk, come throw with me in the morning.’ So I was like, ‘No problem. It’ll give me a warm-up to this basketball game tonight.’”

Getting together in shorts and tossing the football around is hardly proof he’s returning. It had more to do with good friends taking advantage of being in close proximity to one another when each has a busy, demanding schedule. 

This week I went to a shooting range with an old Special Forces buddy to catch up. It doesn’t mean Mrs. Balestrieri’s bouncing baby boy is heading to Afghanistan anytime this century. 

Elandon Roberts Traffic Stop Wasn’t About Race, Sheriff Says:

Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts was pulled over by Sheriff’s Deputies back on March 10 in the Pecan Grove neighborhood of Richmond, Texas outside of Houston. Roberts has charged that the deputy in question acted unprofessionally because of Roberts’ race. 

The sheriff’s deputy, Adam Watkins tried to pull over Roberts for doing 59 mph in a 35 mph zone, but things went south from there. Roberts assertation that he was harassed “because he is a big black guy” (Deputy’s words), was frightening and unprofessional. 

Roberts tried to exit his vehicle with his hands up and was ordered back into the vehicle. Roberts tried to tell the deputy that he lived there. The deputy called for backup because he had “ a large black guy who wouldn’t obey his commands.” 

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said that the stop wasn’t based on race but that his deputy didn’t act as professionally as he should and received a verbal reprimand. Roberts received citations for speeding and not having proof of insurance (Roberts couldn’t find it during the stop).

The sheriff’s comments and the entire traffic stop video can be seen here:

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Hoping Kroft Is Ready For Camp: 

When the Buffalo Bills were looking to revamp their tight end position during free agency, they gambled that Tyler Kroft was destined for big things in their offense in 2019. They paid Kroft handsomely, with a three-year, $18.75 million dollar deal. Outside of 2017, when he filled in for the oft-injured Tyler Eifert, Kroft has just 25 catches over three seasons. It was in 2017, that Bills are hoping for when he caught 42 passes. In 2018, he played only five games before breaking his foot.

But in the first practices this spring Kroft broke his foot and that leaves them with questions. They drafted Dawson Knox in the third round of the draft and Tommy Sweeney in the 7th round. Knox has good size and is athletic but has suspect hands. The knock on him in college was he was always double catching passes. Sweeney is a very physical presence and a good blocker but limited athletically and in the passing game.

Jason Croom was the lone holdover from the 2018 Bills, catching 22 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown. Which was more than starter Charles Clay who was let go. Croom isn’t a lock for the roster but if Kroft is out for the beginning of camp he will get a chance to carve out a nice role for himself. 

Lee Smith who spent the first four years of his career in Buffalo was also brought back this spring.

Dolphins Norton Cited For Crash That Cost Him His Arm:

The Miami Dolphins Kendrick Norton was cited for the accident last week that caused emergency personnel to amputate his left arm at the scene, police officials said this week.

Norton, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, made an improper lane change prior to the two-car crash on State Road 836 near Miami in the early morning hours of July 4. Police officials said his black 2017 Ford F250 cut off a gray 2015 Maserati Quattroporte, driven by Jessie Pena and sideswiped the vehicle.

Neither Norton, nor his passenger, identified as Shakira Williams were wearing seatbelts. Williams wasn’t hurt. Norton however, was focusing on the positive rather than what he has lost.

“I am alive,” he said. “To be here, I am alive. One thing keeps me going and that is that I am still able to be here. Seeing my family is so important. It is very good that I have this support system. It keeps me strong and it keeps me tall.

“But I realize that I will not be able to play for anyone. We are working past that, you know. That reality is sinking in. I am alive and I am grateful. Now I want to organize a blood drive.”

Jets Herndon Suspended for First Four Games of 2019:

The New York Jets TE Chris Herndon will be suspended for the first four games of their 2019 season in the aftermath of a DUI arrest. The Jets first four games are at home against the Bills and the Browns; on the road at New England against the Patriots and Week 5 in Philadelphia against the Eagles. The Jets have a bye week early in Week 4 this season. 

Herndon developed very good chemistry with QB Sam Darnold in 2018 and was second on the team with 39 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns. He is expected to be an even more important piece of the offense in 2019.

With Herndon out, the Jets have journeymen Daniel Brown, Eric Tomlinson, and rookie Trevon Wesco on the roster.

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“There is an old saying about the strength of the wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that. On a football team, it’s not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together.” Bill Belichick

“So, how was your week?”

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