Tag Archives: Damien Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other observations include:

Brady Looks Sharp In Preseason Debut:

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

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

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

Dorsett and Michel Shine in Early Action: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Injuries Pile Up:

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

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

Quick Hitters:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Watch For, Preseason Week 3 Patriots vs Panthers

Steve Balestrieri
August 22, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots are taking on the Carolina Panthers tonight in Foxboro for the third preseason game for both teams. This is the week that the starters traditionally see a lot of game action. But I have always disliked the term “dress rehearsal”, so for the eighth year in a row here at PatsFans.com, I’ll use my favorite quote from Willie Nelson. My wife and I spent time back and onstage with Willie at one venue and partied on his bus with him at others. [Those are stories for a different time.] But Willie’s words ring true.

“There are no dress rehearsals, we are professionals and this IS the big time”

So, both teams’ starters should see about a half of work and maybe a series in the second half to get acclimated to the entire process. This will be Cam Newton’s first game action this year after off-season shoulder surgery. So, he may not be as apt as he’s shown in the past about tucking the ball away and running with it. This will also be Tom Brady’s first preseason action this summer.

So, what are we looking for from a Patriots perspective tonight? 

Can Brady and the New Faces Click on Offense?

Julian Edelman came off of NFI on Monday, Demaryius Thomas was removed from PUP on Tuesday. I don’t imagine either will play. Josh Gordon is still on NFI and has already been ruled out of tonight’s game. N’Keal Harry just returned to practice this week and may not play either. 

So, this will be a really big test for Jakobi Meyers, going against the top Carolina defense as Brady’s go-to receiver. Phillip Dorsett and Braxton Berrios should also get a lot of snaps with the first unit. 

This should be a good time to see how Sony Michel and Damien Harris are used out of the backfield in the passing game, something they’ve worked on this summer. We know James White’s value there, but the coaches made a concerted effort to by more unpredictable this summer. Michel and Harris should handle the bulk of the work in the running game. Isaiah Wynn’s workload should increase this week and we want to see how he handles this as well as how he holds up against a stout Panthers defense.

Matt LaCosse is back on the field after being injured in Detroit, and this is his opportunity to shine. No one has really stepped up at tight end this summer, so this a big chance to carve out a role with the team. 

How Well the Front Seven [Starters] can Create Pressure:

We’ve seen the top guys dominate in workouts and joint practices. The second and third-tier guys have looked really good in preseason games, but now the starters get to show their stuff. And they get a good test against a Panthers team that has given them problems in the past.

With players like Micheal Bennett, Dont’a Hightower, and Kyle Van Noy getting into their first game action of the year, mixing in Jamie Collins, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and John Simon, we’ll get a better idea on how they are planning on using these players. In particular, will the coaches continue to be aggressive and we’ll be wanting to see the personnel groupings that they will rollout.

This front seven looks deep and versatile, with guys like Chase Winovich, Shalique Calhoun, and Derek Rivers coming on later to spell the starters, the 2019 front seven is as deep a unit the Patriots have had since the 2003-2004 teams.

Watching the Starting Secondary Gel On the Field:

This secondary unit of the Patriots is one of the more stronger ones in the league and arguably the deepest secondary unit that Bill Belichick has coached since he took over the reins of the Patriots in 2000.

Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Jason McCourty give the team their top three boundary corners. Jonathan Jones has easily bested former 2nd round pick Duke Dawson for the top slot corner. Now watching the starters and their communication with Devin McCourty and Pat Chung at safety is a step. This unit hasn’t played together in a game since the Super Bowl. This is a big week of preparation for the season. Many of them probably won’t play next week. 

Dawson should see plenty of reps in the second half as he’s one of the guys who is fighting for a roster spot. Joejuan Williams, the rookie 2nd round CB, who has improved markedly since training camp began and Keion Crossen should also see a lot of work in the second half.

Special Teams Get Ready For Week 1:

With the release of Ryan Allen, Jake Bailey has won the starting punting position. But the pressure doesn’t let up now, it just gets even tougher. He’s replacing a very popular player with the fanbase and this will be his first game action in Foxboro. He’ll also be tasked with holding on field goal and extra-point attempts. It will be important for him to get off to a good, clean start.

Stephen Gostkowski has missed field goals in each of the first two games, whether that was all on him or something in the exchange between Joe Cardona and his new holder Bailey will bear watching. For all of the fans who would like to see the third most accurate kicker in NFL history replaced, who is out there and most importantly available? Other than the Ravens’ Justin Tucker, Gostkowski is right up there with the best kickers in the game. With a better career accuracy average than the guy he replaced 14 years ago.

The kick return game will bear particular watching tonight. Braxton Berrios or Gunner Olszewski’s roster spot may depend on how well they produce in the kick return game. 

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

Best Of Social Media: Preseason Week 2 Patriots vs Titans

Robert Alvarez
August 20, 2019 at 8:44 am ET

After a week of joint-practices together, the New England Patriots squared off with the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night in Nashville.

Check out all of the best sights and sounds from Preseason Week 2.

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Prove yourself season. #GameDay

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My brothers!!!

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Thumbs up. Bow down.

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In the first quarter, onlookers got to watch more promising plays out of the Patriots pass rush and rookie Byron Coward out of Maryland.

The Titans struck first as tight end Delanie Walker hauled in an 11 yard pass from Marcus Mariota.

A successful two point attempt after gave the home team a 7-0 lead.

In the second, another Patriots rookie made it into the highlight reel, running back Damien Harris broke free for a 20 yard gain to setup the tying score.

Brandon Bolden finished the drive and the game was knotted up at 8 all following a successful two point attempt.

The Titans would close the half on a 9-0 run following a Jeremy McNichols 15 touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill and a defensive safety.

17-8 Titans at Halftime.

In the second half rookie linebacker Chase Winovich continued to impress on defense.

With rookie Jarret Stidham now under center, the Patriots rallied back to cut their deficit to two.

Jakobi Meyers hot preseason continued.

A Nick Brossette one yard run finished the drive.

17-15 Titans after 3

The game remained deadlocked at 17-15 until under 5 minutes to play in the fourth.

Stidham found Damoun Patterson from 23 yards out to give the Patriots their first lead of the night.

The Patriots would go on to win 22-17 and move to 2-0 in the Preseason.

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I always knew you would ride with me.. #Year1 #LFG

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Journey.

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

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

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

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

Offense –

Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
Out: none

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense –

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

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

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

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Other quick observations include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New England Patriots News 8-11, AFC East Notes

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

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

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

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

 Quick Hitters:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jarrett Stidham Finishes Off Good Week With An Impressive Game:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meyers Continues A Stellar Camp With A Big Game Performance:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winovich, Unlike Samson May Get to Keep His Hair:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Trade Eli Harold to Philly For OL Ryan Bates:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quinnen Williams and Jachai Polite Quiet in Jets PS Opener:

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

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

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

________________

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

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

Patriots at Lions, Preseason Game 1, What to Watch For

Steve Balestrieri
August 7, 2019 at 9:01 am ET

The Patriots are wrapping up their final joint practice with the Lions on Wednesday and then all of the attention will turn to the first preseason game of the year. With that said, we should finally get a look at the Patriots rookie players with the real numbers that they’ll be wearing this season. 

Don’t expect to see any of Tom Brady and most of the starting lineups in Thursday’s game, they’ll get eased more into the next two games. This one is usually about the rookies and the new players to the roster. Expect to see a lot of QB Jarrett Stidham in this one. 

*For you who have been going to training camp, the following are the jersey numbers of the Patriots rookies for the game, unlike the funky numbers they’ve been wearing in training camp.

#4 Jarrett Stidham QB
#7 Jake Bailey P
#9 Gunner Olszewski WR/KR
#10 N’Keal Harry WR
#16 Jakobi Meyers WR
#19 Ryan Davis WR
#33 Joejuan Williams CB
#37 Damien Harris RB
#41 D’Angelo Ross DB
#42 Nick Brossette, RB
#42 Malik Gant, S
#47 Ken Webster CB
#50 Chase Winovich Edge
#63 Martez Ivey OL
#64 Hjalte Froholdt G
#65 Yodny Cajuste T
#67 Tyler Gauthier, OL
#68 Tyree St. Louis OL
#86 Andrew Beck TE
#99 Byron Cowart DL

So, with all of the roster number hoopla out of the way, what exactly are we looking for after preseason Week 1? 

Come Back to Foxboro Healthy: 

Injuries are part of the game and we know they are inevitable, but the last thing you want to see is a player from either team going down with an injury. Just two years ago it was there in Detroit when Julian Edelman made a cut and went down with a torn ACL without being contacted. It ended his season before it began and may have cost the team down the road in Super Bowl LII. 

So, while the coaches want to see their players perform well in all three phases of the game, coming out of the game as intact as possible, health-wise will be paramount.

Watching Stidham and Young Receivers in the Passing Game:

Stidham was drafted by the Patriots with little fanfare, he was hardly thought to be one of the best QB prospects in the draft. Part of the issue was the terrible offensive system they ran at Auburn. Stidham still has a long, long way to go but has been progressing nicely in camp and had a really good day on Tuesday’s joint practice. 

Now, he’ll get to put his foot in the water for his first NFL game action. Thus far, he’s had a typical rookie spring/summer with issues holding the ball too long and trying to learn an entire new offensive system, to some sessions where he’s thrown the ball well.

And he’s got a plethora of receivers who are new to the Patriots. Unfortunately, top draft pick N’Keal Harry may not be among them. Harry tweaked a hamstring in Tuesday’s practice session, so he may be held out of this one…it will bear watching. 

But rookies Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Ryan Davis, 2nd-year man Braxton Berrios, as well veteran newcomers Maurice Harris, and Dontrelle Inman are getting their first reps in Patriots uniforms. 

Meyers is generating a ton of buzz around his play and his early grasp of the Patriots playbook but Berrios, who had a strong spring and a frustrating beginning to camp has shown signs of life against the Lions secondary. These preseason games will tell the tale of who earns more reps and carves out a role on the roster. 

Harris and Inman are veterans but want to put forward solid contributions in preseason working against mainly vanilla coverages to earn more reps with Brady, who is doubtful to make an appearance. 

Rookie Damien Harris has shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield during camp sessions. It will interesting to see if the coaches decide to use him and Brandon Bolden in that capacity in their first game action of 2019. 

Running Game Can Be Hit or Miss:

The problem with trying to judge running backs, and Harris should see a ton of action along with Nick Brossette and Jakob Johnson, is that the back-up offensive lines are in the game. And it frequently occurs that the offense can sputter in running situations as the backups don’t have the reps together to work in harmony with one another. 

However, I’m intrigued to watch what Harris and Brossette can do. Brossette will have a very tough time cracking the 53-man roster as the position is loaded this year. But I liked what I saw of him in college and thus far in limited reps. He’s playing for a practice squad role. 

Brandon Bolden is one of our favorite Patriots players to watch. The reserve running back and special teams ace should also see quite a bit of action in the preseason opener both in the running and passing game. 

Special Teams Battle: 

As much as I thought Ryan Allen could have made a case for Super Bowl LIII MVP, I’ve been sold on Jake Bailey since minicamp. He has a leg that puts distance and incredible hang time into the ball which almost puts it into the outer marker for Logan. He and Allen are battling it out for the punter’s job in 2019. While Bailey has the much stronger leg, Allen’s forte is directional punting and consistency, where he has the edge over the rookie.

One thing to watch all thru the preseason is kickoffs. Bailey is adept at it as well as being an emergency field goal kicker. He’s shared duties with Stephen Gostkowski on kickoffs in camp thus far and it could make a difference in the final cutdown. 

Defense As a Whole, But Keep an Eye on the Secondary:

The Patriots defense looks to be much better, deeper and more versatile than last year’s unit.  While many of the starting members may only play sparingly, the guys that really bear watching are the new players or those fighting for roster spots. 

Chase Winovich has stepped up his game in the practices with the Lions, it promises to be intriguing to see A. How they use him and B. How well he does in his first game action. The rookie from Michigan looks to be a very promising player. Shilique Calhoun, we wrote the other day is having a very solid camp. He continued his strong play against the Lions and has a chance to earn more reps as camp progresses. 

Other edge players on the bubble and bear watching are Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Ufomba Kamalu, and Nick Thurman. All of them have played well so far but need to step it up during the next four weeks. 

In the secondary, with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Jason McCourty known quantities, the guys we really want to see are new 2nd round pick Joejuan Williams, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen and D’Angelo Ross at cornerback. 

At safety, Terrence Brooks, Obi Melifonwu, and Malik Gant are all vying for roster spots behind Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, and Duron Harmon. Both Brooks and Melifonwu have played well and have gotten reps with the starting unit. 

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

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

New England Patriots 53-man Roster Projection 2.0

Steve Balestrieri
August 5, 2019 at 8:30 am ET

With the Patriots first ten days of training camp over, it is time to take another crack at our New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. With eight practices in, several of them fully padded, we’ll look at the early risers and whose falling. We’ll revisit this after a week with the Detroit Lions and their first preseason game.

Offense –
Quarterbacks: (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
Out: Danny Etling

The Patriots will continue to go with three QBs as Brady, Hoyer, and Jarrett Stidham will man the position this year. It will be interesting to see if Stidham shows enough in the upcoming preseason games to push Hoyer as Brady’s backup in case of emergency.

Running backs: (6)

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

Sony Michel looks good, now that he is back on the field and he and Damien Harris are getting more frequent looks in the passing game. James White looks as good as ever while Brandon Bolden isn’t going anywhere, he’s a good depth guy and outstanding on STs. Develin could easily be posted with the tight ends as he practices with them frequently. If the Patriots decide five is enough would that make Burkhead expendable? Possibly, but for now, he sticks.

Brosette is a victim of the numbers and lands on the practice squad. Ditto for Johnson who is automatically granted an extra spot on the PS due to his NFL International status

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

The Patriots have Lacosse being the receiving tight end with Izzo as the blocker who nudges out Anderson, the move tight end thus far. Ben Watson will return after the first month which means they’ll have to make another cut somewhere.

Beck got a fair amount of guaranteed money and could become another fullback option if Develin gets hurt, he’ll be a practice squad candidate.

Wide Receivers: (5)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers
Out: Braxton Berrios, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, **Josh Gordon Suspended** Demaryius Thomas [PUP], Cameron Meredith [PUP]

Edelman, Harry, and Dorsett are the top three, Dorsett is still an intriguing case. He has all of the tools to be a very productive receiver but only produces in short flashes. But given the cuts, he’s the only viable kick returner on the roster unless the coaches want to push Edelman or Michel back out there. 

Harris has been the most consistent receiver on the field thus far and Meyers is already beginning to develop the chemistry with Brady that will be needed. Thomas has yet to see the field so no one knows if he has anything left in the tank. Gordon has applied for reinstatement by the league so we’ll be watching to see how that unfolds.  

Berrios can’t get any separation and after a strong showing in the spring, has taken a step back. This coming week with the Lions will be huge for him. Inman has been largely invisible but just began making progress this week. Patterson, Davis, and Olszewski are practice squad candidates.

However, Berrios and/or Olszewski could carve out a role in the return game. Preseason will tell the tale.

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

Hmm, depth at tackle remains a dicey situation with Isaiah Wynn still not a full go at practice. At this point, they need to start getting him real reps and not a walk-thru if he’s going to be ready for the regular season. The team is giving Dan Skipper every opportunity to win a roster spot but he’s shown that even against the 2nd tier guys, he’s getting beat. Not good for a left tackle.

Cajuste is still on NFI and the longer it drags on, the more it seems that he won’t be ready until midseason. The answer for the short term? Joe Thuney at LT, Karras at LG and now it makes more sense to keep Ferentz. 

Defense –

Edge Players: (4)
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich
Out: Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris, Nick Thurman, Ufomba Kamalu

Bennett and Wise are your defensive ends in a base 3-4, which they’ve run a lot of this spring/summer. Simon and Winovich could easily be lumped in with the linebackers. It is curious if they do run a 3-4, Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler could be 3-4 DEs as well. Rivers has looked good so far, but Winovich is looking just a strong right now and would, IMO get the nod. 

Nobody is closing the door on Davis, Harris, Thurman, or Kamalu at this point. All of them have had good moments in camp. Plenty can happen in the next few weeks, but as of today, they’re on the wrong side of the numbers crunch.

Interior Defensive Line: (4)

Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler

Out: Bryon Cowart, David Parry

Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup nose tackle. Guy and Butler offer versatility in either inside DL in a 4-3 or as 3-4 DEs playing a five-technique. This is a solid group and Mike Pennel should be an immediate early downs producer. 

Cowart and Parry have some ground to make up but are for the time being, outside looking in. 

Linebacker: (6)

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

Linebacker is a position of strength and the Patriots could still play Winovich and Simon here as well. If they were to add another roster spot for extra depth, Sam, who is having an under the radar camp or Calhoun who has played well in limited reps could find their way on the roster. 

Hightower, Bentley, and Roberts will handle the inside duties while the others will play outside, but moving players around seems like a given this year. 

Cornerback: (7)
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen
Out: Ken Webster, D’Angelo Ross

You can never have enough talented corners…right? Gilmore, McCourty, and Jackson give the team three very good to excellent boundary corners. Jones and Dawson will handle the slot. Williams is a big corner (6’4) that allows him to play against the bigger WRs or matchup with tight ends. 

The versatility and depth of this group give the Patriots their deepest part of the roster. Both Ross and Webster are candidates for the practice squad.

Safety: (4)
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks
Out: Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, Nate Ebner [PUP], AJ Howard

Brooks has been seeing a lot of reps on defense with the top unit and the veteran ST’s ace edges out Obi Melifonwu right now. Obi has had a good camp and has gotten a lot of reps himself with the top unit. His size and athleticism make this one a tough choice. But the competition continues. 

Ebner is on PUP for now and Gant is a candidate for the practice squad.

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

Gostkowski and  Cardona aren’t facing any competition in camp and other than Brady, perhaps, these two should rest easiest in training camp. Bailey the strong-legged punter and Allen are locked in a good camp battle. Bailey has a booming leg with incredible hang time while Allen is the steady vet. But Bailey can also kickoff and fill in for Gostkowski on FGs if need be. Slater practices hard on his own all session long with a staff member, working on his gunner skills. 

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

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

New England Patriots News 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.