Last week, one of the most well-known Patriots players among the missing at the mandatory mini-camp was running back Sony Michel. No one knew why the second-year back from Georgia was missing until Wednesday. Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, “now we know, … the rest of the story.”
Jeff Howe of the Athletic was the first to report that Michel, who has had knee problems dating back to high school had his knee scoped earlier this offseason. The knee procedure is considered to be minor and Michel is reportedly on track for being ready for training camp at the end of July.
Michel had a very solid rookie season for the Patriots. Despite missing three games, he led the team with 209 carries for 931 yards and six touchdowns. In the playoffs, Michel was immense, carrying the ball 71 times for 336 yards and a rookie record six post-season touchdowns, including the only one in the Patriots Super Bowl win over the Rams.
So, despite the procedure being considered minor, it is still disconcerting in the fact that Michel needed to have another procedure on his knees. He missed time last year in training camp and wasn’t ready for the season opener. While missing three days of minicamp isn’t a show stopper, it was hoped that Michel would carve out a bigger role in the passing game this year. Getting those reps in minicamp is a great way to lay the foundation for that.
The Patriots under Bill Belichick have always been cautious in the offseason when it comes to players returning from injury or surgery, opting to keep them off the field. Which could be partly the reason why Michel wasn’t spotted at any of the final four practices open to the media.
Perhaps now it is becoming clearer why the Patriots drafted Damien Harris from Alabama in the third round of the draft this season. Harris is a player who excels at running between the tackles and making yards after contact. He can take some of the onus off of Michel in the running game.
Running back is one of the deepest positions on the team, Michel would be considered the primary ball carrier while James White is the top pass catcher. But with Rex Burkhead who can do a bit of both well and veteran Brandon Bolden who returned this spring as well as the rookie Harris, the team is well stocked and should have plenty of depth for another run to the postseason.
With Michel missing in minicamp, Bolden and Harris got the lion’s share of the carries in the running game drills. Michel’s status and his workload once training camp opens will definitely be one of the more closely watched developments this summer. His long-term viability is definitely a concern, as it was reported last summer that he may have a “bone-on-bone” condition in his knee.
He is a very talented running back whose potential was shown last year in the postseason, but he may not have a very long career. However, with the running back rotational system that the Patriots employ, it would definitely add some mileage to that.
With the Patriots mandatory mini-camp over, it is time to a very early look at a New England Patriots 53-man roster projection. We were fortunate enough to be there for the entire three days this season. While there was no contact and no pads, it gave a good if albeit premature look at how the 2019 roster could play out.
Later this summer, we’ll post primers for each position but here is our first crack at a workable 53-man roster.
Offense – Quarterbacks: (3)
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
The Patriots will once again go with three quarterbacks this summer. Hoyer is entrenched as the #2 for now and in minicamp the rookie Stidham was taking all of the #3 reps, at times on the final day, he even got #2 reps before Hoyer so the coaches could get a look at what he can do in the offense. He has a long way to go, but he’s clearly got the coaches intrigued with his down-the-road potential.
Bad news for Danny Etling who was working as the personal protector during minicamp. Oh and that Brady kid from Michigan? He’ll be okay and should stick….
Running backs: (6)
Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Sony Michel missed all of mini-camp which raises the question if he’s hurt. With the drafting of the impressive rookie Harris, he and Burkhead can spell Michel if he’s out for a while. James White isn’t going anywhere and the team brought back Bolden for STs and to fill in if needed. Develin is invaluable as the fullback who can block and catch the odd pass here or there.
Tight ends: (3) Matt Lacosse, Ryan Izzo, Stephen Anderson **Ben Watson Suspended**
The Patriots have Lacosse as the clear #1 heading into the season with Watson suspended for the first month of the season unless they make a trade. Izzo is the blocking (read Dwayne Allen) tight end who nudges out Andrew Beck while Anderson is the “move” tight end who may be on the block once Watson is eligible to return.
The position has been totally revamped since last season and it may take some time to gel once the regular season starts. Training camp will be invaluable for this group
Wide Receivers: (5) Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers **Josh Gordon Suspended** ***Demaryius Thomas PUP***
Edelman, Harry, and Dorsett are roster locks…barring injury. Meyers with his size and hands makes it yet another year with a UDFA making the roster out of training camp.
Thomas and Gordon (if reinstated), give the team some intriguing options. Berrios had a good spring and looks the part in the slot, he and Meyers will battle it out for the spot. Dontrelle Inman has a lot of ground to make up. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills during mini-camp. Ryan Davis and Gunner Olszewski are practice squad candidates.
Offensive line: (8) Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, Yodny Cajuste, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt
The state of the offensive line centers around health. Wynn missed all of last year with an Achilles injury. He was at mini-camp but was held out of team drills. Cajuste who they drafted this spring had off-season surgery and it is hoped he’ll be ready to go by September.
In the meantime, Joe Thuney played left tackle this spring. Expect him to get some work there this summer, even if Wynn is a full go for training camp. Left tackle and swing tackle are the two question marks. Cole Croston heads to the practice squad. After that, the offensive line is solid.
Edge Players: (4) Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich
After losing Trey Flowers, the Patriots brought in Bennett. Wise is a solid if unspectacular veteran now and Simon played very well for them last season. They’re hoping Winovich can step in and play as advertised. I like his motor and relentlessness. This could be the end of the line for Derek Rivers this summer. He is going to be given an opportunity to show what he can do. He got reps with the 1st personnel grouping last week. Keionta Davis and Trent Harris may still be able to step up in case of an injury.
Interior Defensive Line: (4)
Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler
Guy and Pennel should be the Week 1 starting combination inside. Shelton returns, as the backup big man inside. Butler is the best pass rusher of the group. David Parry and Byron Cowart are on the outside but will have to turn some heads in August.
Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King
Linebacker is a position of strength heading into training camp this summer. Hightower has slimmed down, gotten more pliable, and is moving well. Van Noy has been a jack of all trades, but the biggest surprise (pleasant) of the spring has been the play of Collins. He has been all over the field disrupting plays at the line and playing solid coverage
Roberts, coming off of a solid postseason and Bentley who shined early in 2018 before ending on IR, gives the group really good depth.
Cornerback: (6) Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones, Duke Dawson
Gilmore and Jackson are the starters for Week 1. But this group is really deep and very talented. Jones and Dawson (who beats out Crossen) can play in the slot and McCourty can play safety, outside or inside. Williams is a big corner (6’4) that allows him to play against the bigger WRs or even tight ends. The versatility of this group provides them with the matchups they can roll against nearly every opponent.
Safety: (4) Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner
Ebner beats out Terrence Brooks …on paper for now. Brooks has superior defensive skills but Ebner is a Belichick favorite on Special Teams. Obi Melifonwu played STs and has the size and athleticism but seems far back on the depth chart right now. He’ll need a big summer to push Ebner and Brooks off the roster. Malik Grant is a candidate for the practice squad.
Specialists: (4) Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Jake Bailey, long-snapper Joe Cardona, Gunner Matthew Slater
Gostkowski returns and has no camp competition. He and long snapper Joe Cardona are both locks for the 53-man roster. The big competition is at punter. The team brought back the steady Ryan Allen on a one-year deal but they moved up to draft Jake Bailey, the big-legged punter and kick off specialist from Stanford. By now you’ve no doubt heard about the charge he puts into the ball. If he gets his consistency down, he’ll make the roster.
Slater isn’t going anywhere. Watching him race up and down the field this spring, practicing his moves on his own shows the fire still burns very bright for him.
Tuesday morning was the Patriots first mandatory mini-camp practice. And the weather gods smiled on the team as there was plenty of sunshine with temps around 70 degrees.
Sony Michel was the most notable absence. It was reported that he was there on Monday for the individual photo day but we don’t know the reason he was missing. Pat Chung, Nate Ebner, Demaryius Thomas, Deatrich Wise, Yodny Cajuste and Nick Brosette were also missing.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins was released today. It has been widely reported that he’s been suffering thru some personal issues. It isn’t known whether the door will be open for him if he decides to return at a later date.
Kyle Van Noy worked out on the lower practice field and returned to the main field later in practice. Isaiah Wynn was present for the warmups and then retreated to the lower fields for work with the training staff.
Brady Looks Sharp:
It is funny how at times Tom Brady, who always looks focused and sharp is questioned. I received several DM’s on Twitter asking “How does Tom look?” As soon as he bounded up the steps to the practice field, walking with James Develin, there was a air of anticipation. He looked over at the assembled media and smiled. “How’s it going guys…and gals,” he said.
Wearing a blue hoodie under his uniform, Brady was sharp, mid-season sharp and was putting some zip on the passes. His mechanics are always flawless. Both he and Brian Hoyer seemed to be trying to get the ball to N’Keal Harry on some short crossers and some out routes.
Brady connected twice on deep balls down the field to Maurice Harris. On the second one, however, backup safety Terrance Brooks could have had a play on the ball in a game situation. At a minimum, he’d have laid a big hit on Harris.
After practice, Bill Belichick was asked: “How did Tom look?” In typical Belichick deadpan, he answered, “there were 90 guys out here, I can’t watch them all.”
During a Special Teams period, Brady worked on the side with James White, Ben Watson, and N’Keal Harry… Interesting stuff there.
Jarrett Stidman is the clear #3, or at least was on the first day of minicamp. We’ll see what Wednesday’s practice brings. Stidman and David Andrews botched a snap on a miscommunication and both had to run a penalty lap.
Danny Etling got very little play with 11-on-11. Stidman’s release needs to get worked on. He has a longer, looping release, but much like he was advertised, he throws a nice tight spiral. Brian Hoyer had an okay day. He had a few passes batted at the line, including one by Van Noy that was picked off by Ja’Whaun Bentley. But he also zipped a few nice passes into tight coverage during the 11-on-11 drills. That being said…
Play of the Day:
Hoyer connected with Braxton Berrios on a deep pass down the right sideline on the far practice field. Berrios had to dive for it and came up with a fantastic catch. The players on the field roared and Berrios just beat rookie corner Joejuan Williams to the pylon. He then spiked the ball.
Other offensive impressions included:
Berrios had an impressive day. While it is hard to get a true read on performances like these in shorts and shirts with no hitting, contact or jamming at the line. He didn’t hurt his chances moving forward. He exhibited quickness off the line and out of his breaks. He got snaps with both Brady and Hoyer, although Brady never targeted him. He made another nice touchdown catch from Hoyer when he cut across the back of the end zone and Hoyer zipped a laser (I can’t believe I just wrote that) in tight coverage.
Maurice Harris had a nice practice, hauling in some contested catches. I like his length, route running, and hands. He’ll be a guy to watch more of as camp wears on. Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett were the first guys in every WR and team drill. Edelman looks like vintage #11.
N’Keal Harry had plenty of good moments but struggled at times. He lined up wrong once and had a drop along the sideline. But he also went up against Stephon Gilmore too, which will only make him better moving forward.
With Michel out, Brandon Bolden got quite a few snaps during the running back drills and 11-on-11s. It is good to see him back, and he’s a popular teammate.
Damien Harris had a nice day. I like the way he hits the hole quickly in the running game and runs low. He’s a solid looking back and looks quick. He got some reps in the passing game and did well.
Ben Watson still moves well for a 38-year old tight end. He was working on his chemistry and timing with Brady. But I was pretty impressed with Matt LaCosse. He moves well and has very good hands. I’d say he was the best TE of the group on the day. Stephen Anderson was active with both Brady and Hoyer.
Joe Thuney was taking the majority of left tackle reps with Cole Croston getting some work, Ted Karras took Thuney’s slot at left guard.
Secondary Looks Strong:
The Patriots have a plethora of cornerbacks, very good cornerbacks and all of these guys can play. They are a fun group to watch.
Defensive observations included:
Gilmore is an All-Pro, J.C. Jackson has the look of a guy who is going to start…and excel. He broke up a pass. Although Jason McCourty got a lot of reps with the first group. Duke Dawson and Keion Crossen also broke up passes.
With Chung missing, Duron Harmon was filling in but Terrance Brooks was getting more reps than Obi Melifonwu and looked better in coverage on the day.
With no pads, it is tough to gauge the offensive and defensive line play. But it does matter how they match up and Michael Bennett, Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, and John Simon got first reps… Chase Winovich, as advertised went all out on every rep.
Jamie Collins was getting a lot of first reps with the defense (wearing #8)
Jerod Mayo was calling the defensive signals again.
Jake Bailey can put a charge into the ball. He launched a few punts into the ozone. He just needs to be more consistent. However, Ryan Allen had a few excellent punts as well. It will be an interesting competition this summer.
Punt returners included Berrios, Harry, Edelman, Harris, Dorsett, and Gunner Olszewski. No kickoffs were conducted, no field goals or extra points either.
Robert Kraft was there for nearly the entire practice. Troy Brown and Deion Branch were again helping out at practice again.
Wednesday’s practice again kicks off at 11:15 a.m. We’ll be there again. On a personal note, I was asked to be an in-studio guest on the Patriots Unfiltered Podcast as soon as practice was over. Fred Kirsch, Paul Perillo, Megan O’Brien from Patriots.com and I spoke about our observations from practice. It can be heard here:
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 05-19 and AFC East notes this week.
Patriots Plane Makeover – The Patriots team plane got a makeover recently and the results were pretty impressive. The tail now has six Lombardi trophies on it while the fuselage sports the “6X Champions” lettering.
Hardly subtle, but the fans of the team will love the new look for the “AirKraft 767”. At this rate, the painters for the Patriots plane and Bill Belichick’s boat are going to get put on a full-time basis. See the pics below, courtesy of the Patriots.
Brandon King was the recipient of a 2-year contract extension this week. Although he practices with the linebackers, King hasn’t played a snap of defense in his career. The Special Teams stalwart should be pretty much a lock for the roster now. King has had the most STs snaps beside Nate Ebner
Scott Pioli, the former Patriot front-office exec and the assistant GM in Atlanta, resigned his position “to pursue other opportunities”. One potential suitor could be the Jets now that their GM position is semi-open. Adam Gase was named the interim GM as well as holding down the head coach position….more below.
N’Keal Harry and Damien Harris, are representing the Patriots at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere this weekend. According to the NFLPA press release, the rookie premiere is the first major business and marketing event featuring NFL players since becoming professionals. The 40 rookies that are there can get a jump start on their endorsement careers by meeting and signing on with some big-name brands for marketing purposes.
Speaking of N’Keal Harry, he signed his first professional contract this week. Harry is been signed to a 4-year, $10,098,348 deal that includes a $5,364,252 signing bonus, per Adam Schefter
After the NBA Draft Lottery situation played out, many people are now clamoring for an NFL Draft Lottery. Count me totally out on that. Don’t need it, don’t want it. The NFL has already turned everything into an event. Now we’ll have non-stop coverage of the pre-Draft Lottery? No thanks, the current system works just fine.
Jamie Collins Contract Low-Risk Move By the Patriots:
The Patriots have brought linebacker, Jamie Collins, back in the fold, but they hardly threw down the gauntlet of a ton of money to bring the former 2nd round draft pick back. The actual guaranteed money amount is rather small. The team-friendly deal was reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The total amount of guaranteed money is just $250,000 and a base salary of only $1.05 million dollars. Collins has bonuses tied up with incentives and he’d receive $500,000 for making either the Pro Bowl or an All-Pro. He can also earn $100,000 in workout bonuses and $850,000 in roster bonuses.
Collins can make an additional $250,000 for playing 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, another $250,000 for playing 60 percent, another $250,000 for playing 70 percent, and another $250,000 for playing 80 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He can make another $500,000 by playing 91 percent, and then another $500,000 by playing 95 percent of the Patriots defensive snaps.
Last season, as a member of the Cleveland Browns, Collins was on the field for nearly 91 percent of the Browns defensive snaps. He registered 104 total tackles, four sacks, seven quarterback hits, one interception, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
Collins cap number is $3,000,000 with a maximum possible cap number of $5 million. It is a low-risk, possibly high reward scenario by the Patriots who also have Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, and Ja’Whaun Bentley at linebacker from last year. Christian Sam was on IR, and they also have Terez Hall and Calvin Munson. John Simon and 3rd round draft pick Chase Winovich can play both DE or OLB. So the depth is very high at the position. Which makes competition at training camp something to watch.
Running Back Position is Strong and Will Play A Bigger Role:
In typical fashion, while we were all lamenting the lack of depth at wide receiver and tight end this spring, Bill Belichick went out and found another running back. The Patriots selected Alabama running back Damien Harris in the 3rd round. A classic case of zigging while the rest of us were zagging.
Now, the team did go out and draft WR N’Keal Harry in the first round and signed Demaryius Thomas, and Dominique Inman at wide receiver and Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Watson at tight end but the selection of Harris was a very intriguing one.
Harris and second-year back Sony Michel are both very good at running the ball between the tackles. And the Patriots at the end of the 2018 season made a decision to put an emphasis on running the ball. In the Patriots’ three playoff games they rushed for 485 yards or an average of 161.6 yards per game against the Chargers, Chiefs, and Rams. It was after the Pittsburgh game that the team made their choice to lean more on the running game and if you add in those two games, in the team’s final five games of the season, they averaged 177.8 yards per game.
With Shaq Mason, David Andrews, and Joe Thuney inside, the Patriots running game has thrived. Add in the devastating blocking of fullback James Devlin and they are set up well for success again. They will miss the outstanding blocking of Rob Gronkowski who retired, however.
When Michel ran the ball between the tackles in 2018, he averaged more yards per carry than both Ezekial Elliot and Todd Gurley. Harris will certainly add to that. He and Michel can be a very effective 1-2 punch in the running game. Harris is also an underrated pass catcher with good hands and is a very good pass blocker.
But the backfield also has James White and Rex Burkhead who can run as well but are both very good out of the backfield in the passing game. With Gronkowski retired, look for the offense to place White and Burkhead out wide more often to put pressure on the linebackers with mismatches.
The NFL and the Patriots are still pass-first offensively. However, look for the team to be even more balanced between pass and run in 2019.
The Decision to Remain With the Patriots, A No-Brainer for Gostkowski:
For Stephen Gostkowski, the decision to remain with the Patriots in free agency wasn’t that hard. The 13-year vet was brought in when Adam Vinatieri left in 2006 and has spent his entire career with the Patriots. He re-signed with New England this spring on a two-year deal worth a reported $8.5 million dollars, numbers he could have probably bettered by going elsewhere. But to hear the 35-year old tell it, he’s quite content here.
“To be able to have a chance to do it on one of the most high-pressure teams in the history of sports and have a chance to continue to do it — I think it would be tough to go somewhere else,” Gostkowski said. “The grass might seem greener on the other side, but it’s not always that way. I kind of like the challenge of being here, the bad weather, the pressure of the big games.”
Gostkowski has converted on better than 87 percent of his field goals in his career, third-best in NFL history. He’s also appeared in six Super Bowls, the most for any kicker in league history. After Justin Tucker, it is easy to make the argument that Gostkowski is the best kicker in the league. Last year he converted 49 of 50 extra point attempts and 27 of 32 field goal attempts.
He has been named to four Pro Bowls and twice been named All-Pro.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Gaining Momentum With Pundits for a Playoff Berth:
The Buffalo Bills, as we wrote here earlier weren’t getting a lot of love from ESPN in their preseason rankings, putting the over/under for wins at 6.5, which is pretty low. However, the same piece put the Patriots win total over/under at 10.5 and some of the media are looking at them in a much more positive light.
Adam Schein said he’d take the over for the Bills at 8.5 if it were that high. NFL.com’s senior analyst and former scout and VP of player personnel Gil Brandt thinks that Buffalo had the 3rd best offseason in the league this spring. Brandt wrote:
All of Buffalo’s moves, combined with rebuilding projects going on with the Dolphins and Jets, mean anything less than a playoff appearance will count as a disappointment.
Also at NFL.com Michael Robinson puts the Bills at 11-5 and slotted as a Wildcard participant in the 2019 season. Pete Prisco from CBS said on the Pick Six podcast that the Bills will earn a Wildcard berth this year with better things happening in 2020.
“They’re not gonna win the division this year,” said Prisco. “They’re gonna push for a Wild Card spot (this season), but in 2020 the Buffalo Bills will finally take over and win that division. How about that?”
Prisco was then asked if he believed that Tom Brady would still be playing?
“Yeah, but the Bills are gonna take the division next year.”
Dolphins Have to go With Rosen This Year:
The Miami Dolphins made a huge splash by trading for QB Josh Rosen for a 2nd round draft pick (#62 overall) during this year’s NFL Draft. Rosen was selected with the #10 overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Cardinals.
It was a shrewd move by Miami where nearly all of Rosen’s guaranteed cash was already paid and they can see what they have in Rosen before deciding to move on or put their trust in him as their franchise QB. But he needs to be the man starting in Week 1. Miami signed journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick as a stop-gap measure after trading Ryan Tannehill earlier this spring. Fitzpatrick is a known commodity, he’s fully capable of lighting it up for a number of games but then being dreadful right behind it. The time to evaluate Rosen should begin right away.
Head coach Brian Flores is saying all the right things, stating before the recent rookie minicamp that the QB position is an open competition, a may-the-best-man-win scenario. But that isn’t really what’s in the best interest for the team in the short or long term. They need to see if Rosen is going to be the man for Miami and if they decide that he is not, then they’ll have plenty of opportunities to move on from him next spring.
With Miami in a complete makeover with a new regime in Flores this year, handing the keys to Fitzpatrick doesn’t really make any sense. They have to know if Rosen can indeed be their franchise QB and the best way to see that is on the field.
The worst-case scenario for Miami is to sit Rosen while going with Fitzpatrick and then having Fitzy go on one of his hot streaks garnering enough wins to knock the Dolphins out of a prime drafting spot. Then they’ll still not know what they have.
Jets – What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been:
The New York Jets have had a coup in the palace and the new head coach Adam Gase has won. GM Mike Maccagnan is out. Just months after hiring the new head coach, the inner workings of the Jets showed that they are a disjointed, hot mess. Right from ownership on down, this is truly the gang green that can’t shoot straight.
After hiring Gase, Maccagnan didn’t want Gase’s input on players that the scouting department was looking at. According to reports from Jets media, Gase wanted (and rightfully so) to give his take on players that he feels will fit his philosophy for playing on the field.
Not having the scouts on the same page with the head coach is a ludicrous exercise in futility for the scouting department. That is the fault with the GM, but Chris Johnson, the head of football operations was ready to fire Maccagnan in January but didn’t feel he or his staff could handle finding a new coach and GM. Wow.
So, Gase distanced himself from the draft process by moving his chair from next to the owner in the draft room to the corner where he was out of camera sight. Gase was apparently PO’d that ownership overpaid for Le’Veon Bell, in essence bidding against themselves.
So after the draft, Gase put a word in the owners’ ear and Maccagnan is out. Gase and Johnson will work on bringing in a GM (Pioli?) who they’ll both agree is a better fit for Gase’s philosophies. After the upheaval at the palace, the pressure, already and always high in New York will be magnified x 10.
And later reports (made up?) began surfacing that the Jets are pursuing Peyton Manning for the vacant GM job. Of course, it may all be a bunch of hooey but nothing would ignite the Jets fan base and some of the more hysterical media members than throwing another Manning in NY.
“Sometimes the lights are shining on me….other times I can barely see.”
The Patriots roster looks really loaded so training camp competition should be excellent this summer before the Patriots begin “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door”. Can’t wait.
With the 2019 NFL Draft in the books, the Patriots have added 10 players via the draft and the first group of undrafted free agents. Look for some movement among those, as those positions, at least initially tend to be in flux for the first week to 10 days after the draft.
The roster as it currently stands has 88 players, fullback Jakob Johnson is an international gateway program player and doesn’t count against the 90-man limit. He’ll be on the practice squad once the season starts.
At first glance, the team has a deep, strong, solid base, especially along the offensive line and at cornerback. Players in bold are draft picks. So, how is the team shaping up post draft? Let’s look at each position and where they may need to still look to add more depth this spring.
Tom Brady Brian Hoyer Jarrett Stidham Danny Etling
Four quarterbacks are probably going to be one too many, even if Tom Brady decides to skip the voluntary workout OTAs. Etling would be the odd man out, they just invested a draft pick in Stidham, who along with Hoyer should see a ton of work this spring. This position is set for the year
Running Back: (5)
Sony Michel James White Rex Burkhead Brandon Bolden Damien Harris
With the addition of Harris, this takes an already good group and makes them better. Injuries last year hurt this position. So, the only question is, will they keep all five? Bolden was brought back for STs but can fill in with the odd carry here and there. Very solid, and versatile group of backs here.
James Develin Jakob Johnson **International Gateway Player** Doesn’t Count against 90 player limit
Johnson doesn’t count against the limit and should be on the practice squad in September. Develin is extremely valuable.
Wide Receiver: (13)
Julian Edelman Josh Gordon (suspended) Demaryius Thomas Phillip Dorsett N’Keal Harry Matthew Slater Bruce Ellington Maurice Harris Braxton Berrios Damoun Patterson Jakobi Meyers UDFA Xavier Ubosi UDFA Ryan Davis UDFA
Edelman and Harry begin the season as the #1-2 WRs on the roster, Dorsett as the #3. The team brought in Ellington and Harris earlier this spring. Demaryius Thomas will probably begin the year on PUP and we don’t know when we’ll see Gordon again.
Fans have been gaga over Berrios since last spring, now we’ll get to see if the optimism there is justified. Of the UDFAs, Meyers is intriguing and had a lot of production at NC State. He has good size at 6’2, 203 but doesn’t run well (4.63 time in the 40). Ubosi is also big (6’2, 217) and averaged 23.9 yards per catch but isn’t fast either (4.58 in the 40). Davis is a slot guy who caught 69 passes but most were extended handoffs.
With questions around both Thomas and Gordon’s availability this season, they’d do well to bring in another veteran to help take the heat off their top two. Or perhaps the team feels that Ellington (23 catches for the Lions) or Harris (28 catches for the Redskins) can add something to the offense.
Tight End: (6)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins Matt Lacosse Jacob Hollister Stephen Anderson Ryan Izzo Andrew Beck UDFA
Everyone, including here, expected the team to address tight end in the draft and probably early. But they didn’t draft one, only adding UDFA Andrew Beck from Texas. Beck is known more for his blocking than pass receiving (28 catches, 281 yards 2 TDs in 2018) as is Ryan Izzo.
The team is hoping Austin Seferian-Jenkins can find his game here in New England. Newcomer Matt Lacosse had 24 catches for the Broncos last year. Hollister has shown flashes but can’t stay healthy.
Will the team add another veteran tight end (the hype is on Kyle Rudolph) or decide that for 2019, they’ll be content with the production they can get from the current crop and keep them inside as blockers and put the onus elsewhere on the roster?
Offensive Line: (18)
LT Isaiah Wynn LG Joe Thuney C David Andrews RG Shaq Mason RT Marcus Cannon OL Ted Karras OT Yodny Cajuste OL Hjalte Froholdt OL Brian Schwenke OL James Ferentz OT Cole Croston OT Cedrick Lang OL Jake Eldrenkamp OT Ryker Mathews OT Dan Skipper OT Tyree St. Louis UDFA OL Tyler Gauthier UDFA OL Calvin Anderson UDFA
Huge positional group here. They draft Wynn to be the LT last year but he got hurt in camp. All the other starters return. They drafted Cajuste to be the RT of the future and he’ll be the swing tackle this year, backed up by Croston…right now.
Draft pick Froholdt is an intriguing guy who can play guard or center and may push Karras as the top interior backup. It is going to be tough to evaluate all of these guys this spring/summer. The roster should be set unless Wynn isn’t ready to go and then they may opt for another veteran tackle.
(7)Michael Bennett John Simon Deatrich Wise Chase Winovich Derek Rivers Keionta Davis Trent Harris
After losing Trey Flowers in FA, the team brought in Michael Bennett and just added Michigan’s Chase Winovich who brings the good speed and athleticism needed for the edge. In their scheme, he was kind of their ”designated pass rusher” opposite the TE on the weak side. He should get starter reps early. Simon and Wise and solid contributors.
What do the Patriots have in Rivers? It is Year 3 so, the time is now and the clock is ticking on him, Davis and Harris. They are essentially playing for one roster spot.
Interior Defensive Line: (7)
Lawrence Guy Mike Pennel Adam Butler Byron Cowart Ufomba Kamalu Frank Herron David Parry
Lawrence Guy is an underrated solid player. The Patriots picked up Pennel to solidify the middle and he’ll be a two-down starter. Butler is a good contributor. Cowart, the big kid from Maryland is a potential 5th round steal. He was highly regarded but flamed out in Auburn before having a really good season for the Terps. He and Kamalu have the versatility to play inside or outside.
Depending on how the young guys develop, they may later opt to bring in another veteran. Allen Bailey is still out there.
Kyle Van Noy Dont’a Hightower Ja’Whaun Bentley Elandon Roberts Christian Sam Brandon King Calvin Munson Terez Hall UDFA
The team made no moves here other than bringing in Hall as an UDFA. The top three from last year (Van Noy, Hightower, and Roberts) return. Bentley impressed in the early going before getting hurt and Sam is an athletic type who was hurt in camp. King is a LB in name only. He’s a ST ace.
They should be set here unless the injury bug starts to hit.
Stephon Gilmore JC Jackson Jason McCourty Jonathan Jones Duke Dawson Keion Crossen JoeJuan Williams Ken Webster
This is the deepest position on the team with eight (8) viable players who can step in and play. The top four were the stalwarts from last year’s Super Bowl run. Crossen played a bit, Dawson was a 2nd round pick who got hurt and never saw the field.
They obviously liked Williams and moved up for him. Webster is an athletic freak who tested extremely well at the Combine. They can’t carry eight corners, so the obvious thought is they’ll try to trade some of these guys rather than just release them.
Devin McCourty Patrick Chung Duron Harmon Obi Melifonwu Terrence Brooks Nate Ebner A.J. Howard Malik Gant UDFA
The Patriots didn’t add any during the draft and signed Gant as an UDFA. The top three return and now we’ll see if they can get out of Melifonwu. Again, barring injury, this position is set for 2019.
Special Teams: (4)
K Stephen Gostkowski LS Joe Cardona P Ryan Allen P Jake Bailey
The team re-signed Gostkowski and Allen but moved up in the draft to select Bailey. He and Allen should battle it out as the #1 punter. He has a strong leg and led the nation in hang time. He can also kickoff and serve as an emergency field goal kicker.
The initial roster here and we must remember it is only the end of April looks pretty strong and barring health concerns, they should be in really good shape come September.
The thinking here is they could really use another WR and TE but they set themselves up very well with an extremely solid draft in 2019. They’ll tinker with the roster and constantly look at ways at improving the team. As we’ve said many times, the team you see in April won’t look like the team you see in September.
But for the start of OTAs, the roster is looking pretty solid.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 04-28 and AFC East Notes.
“Havlicek Stole the Ball!” RIP to a Boston Celtics legend John Havlicek who passed away this week at age 79. Older Celtics fans will always remember that iconic call when he sealed a victory against the 76ers. An iconic member of the Celtics, he’ll be missed.
Draft Quick Hitters:
Patriots Draft Room has to be the sparsest populated room in the league this weekend. I kept seeing other teams’ inside of their “war room” and there were tons of people in each. The Patriots draft room looked like a pretty lonely place, with very select people inside.
Nashville did a tremendous job with the draft this year. People came out in droves and it was located right smack in the middle of everything. Setting the bar high
DJ Metcalf had the most emotional moment of being drafted, the clip of him weeping openly on the phone even got HC Pete Carroll misty
Pat McAfee’s spot during the draft was absolute gold….watch it again, you’ll be happy that you did.
Kyle Rudolph is reportedly on the trading block after the Vikings drafted Irv Smith Jr. from Alabama. Don’t know why, however, Rudolph, who turns 30 in late November had 64 catches a year ago….hmmm
Tyreek Hill was captured on audio tape by his fiance in a very disturbing turn of events in the case of Hill’s 3-year old son who allegedly had his arm broken by the Chiefs wide receiver. Initially, prosecutors declined to press charges even though they were convinced a crime had been committed. Now in light of the audio tape, they’re re-opening the investigation.
On the tape, Hill threatened his girlfriend Crystal Espinal Espinal told Hill their son is “terrified of you.”
Hill replied, “You need to be terrified of me, too, b***h”
Later, Espinal asks Hill, “What do you do when the child is bad? You make him open up his arms and you punch him in the chest.”
Because of this development, Hill has been barred from the Chiefs facility during their voluntary strength and conditioning workouts. He may have played his last game in a Chiefs uniform over this incident.
Dont’a Hightower and David Andrews made the Patriots first picks in the second round of the draft on Friday night. Hightower tweaked the crowd, who regardless of the venue likes to boo every Patriots mention, with the “THE CHAMPS select” …classic.
Apples and Oranges – When mentioning the Hill investigation, fans are jumping all over the NFL by stating that while Hill has still not been suspended, Josh Gordon remains indefinitely suspended. While the NFL’s discipline decisions are always skewed, comparing the two cases is not a good comparison. Whether we agree with the league’s choice of making marijuana suspendable, Gordon has violated the rule multiple times. Hill is going to be suspended, the league is still gathering the facts. His earlier transgression occurred before he was a member of the league. Now the only question will be, how soon another team rushes in to sign him once he’s released by KC. Which, while they’re “deeply disturbed”, they’ve yet to move on releasing him. Why is a good question at this point.
Meet the 2019 Patriots Draft Class:
The Patriots have made several key additions to the team thus far. Let’s take a quick look at each of the new members of the 2019 Draft Class.
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona St. – The Patriots needed a big, physical wide receiver and they went out and got one of the best ones in the class. Harry was very productive (213 catches in 37 games) and he’ll make those contested catches as well as use his body to box out defenders.
JoeJuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt – Williams played in the very competitive SEC and is a very big press corner who is physical and will make jarring tackles in run support and has the length to contest passes all over the field. While not a speed merchant, he moves well for a big corner and possesses good agility.
Chase Winovich, Edge, Michigan – Winovich is bound to be an early crowd favorite with his long flowing blonde locks, big personality, and non-stop motor. For a bigger man, he runs well, has good agility and is a disruptor behind the line of scrimmage.
Damien Harris, RB, Alabama – is a good, tough, run between the tackles kind of running back who keeps his pad level low and has the burst to get to the outside. He’s patient, and gets good yardage after contact. An excellent pass blocker and an underrated receiver with good hands.
Yodny Cajuste, T, West Virginia – Cajuste is a big left tackle that will probably move to the right side in the NFL. He has good balance, agility, and quickness for the position and will probably function as the team’s swing tackle in 2019.
Hjalte Froholdt, G, Arkansas – Froholdt is a 6’4, 306-pound guard/center who played under Pats coach Bret Bielema. He was one of the most highly graded interior offensive linemen in pass protection in 2018. Team captain.
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn – Stidham has a strong arm and mechanics and can make all of the NFL throws. NFL analyst Daniel Jerimiah said he throws the best ball in the draft. But his footwork is sloppy and he can often wait too long to pull the trigger. Struggled under pressure. Very much a developmental prospect. However, Danny Etling will have camp competition.
Byron Cowart, DE, Maryland – Cowart is 6’3, 298 interior defensive lineman who went to Auburn and then transferred to junior college before landing in Maryland. Played as a five-technique or can move to a three-technique. Has the potential to be an interior pocket pusher.
Jake Bailey, P, Stanford – The Patriots moved up in the draft to select a punter. Yes, we really said that. However, he had the best hang time in the country in 2018 and can also kickoff with about 60 percent touchback rate. And he is a right-footed punter, unlike the past few Pats punters who were lefties.
Ken Webster, CB, Ole Miss – The Patriots final draft pick is another corner from Ole Miss. Webster is athletic (4.43 in the 40, 43.0 vertical, 6.85 Three Cone). He’s aggressive and a good tackler, but after a good start at Ole Miss, he never made the leap. It’s going to be tough for him with seven other viable corners on the roster to make this team.
Now come the first of the undrafted free agents, look for about a dozen or more to make their way to Foxboro in the coming days.
Brady “Must” Be At OTAs Now? Child Please
Talk about your classic case of overreaction, no sooner than the Patriots had drafted one of the best wide receivers in the class, then the hot take artists immediately descended on the team to rain on the parade. In the latest example of “It’s never sunny in Foxboro”, the chatter is already starting on how N’Keal Harry’s development is going to “be stunted” if Tom Brady decides to skip OTAs again this spring.
“We don’t want you on that wall Tom, we NEED YOU on that wall.” Really?
Harry is coming in with a clean slate, he is a rookie and because of his draft standing here, there is going to be an insane amount expectations and production that fans and media will envision. Right now, he needs to learn the playbook and the route tree for the wide receivers. That is plenty of work right there in itself.
Thrusting him into the mix and then putting the onus on he and Brady getting chemistry on Day 1 will not be beneficial to either. He’ll have enough on his plate and by working with Josh McDaniels and backups Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling he can ease into the playbook and learn his responsibilities…first.
Brady skipped OTAs for a reason a year ago, and it had nothing to do with him feuding with Bill Belichick. As he’s aging, he needs to keep fresher for the season. Having him in good form in December and January is more important than him being here in April.
Brady will no doubt work very closely with Harry in the upcoming weeks and months. Would having him prove beneficial to both? Of course, but not at the expense of him losing his sharpness down the stretch or in the playoffs.
Early on Friday morning, I had this exact conversation with someone and they said, Brady and Josh Gordon struggled with their chemistry early in the process. And while true, my answer to that is Gordon entered in mid-season and first played in Week 4 against the Dolphins. That’s quite different with the team trying to prepare for a regular season opponent than it is working out in the spring.
There will be plenty of time for those two to work out and build their chemistry together. But this talk about Brady stunting Harry’s development is nothing more than to give the hot-take artists fodder for weeks.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Offensive Line Leads the Way for a Revamped Roster:
The Buffalo Bills have really done a roster do-over, where half of the team in 2019 may be actually new players. But nowhere will the roster appear different in 2019 than the offensive line. Buffalo identified a weakness a year ago in the poor play of the offensive line and they have aggressively set out to rectify it.
Buffalo signed six free agent offensive linemen including former Patriot LaAdrian Waddle and then drafted Cody Ford from Oklahoma. Ford will obviously get one of the tackle spots. At guard, they signed free agents Quinton Spain, Spencer Long, and Jon Feliciano. They moved up in the draft to get Dawson Knox from Ole Miss at TE and took Devin Singletary at running back.
They got Ed Oliver to anchor the heart of the defense, although I wasn’t a fan of the Vosean Joseph pick at linebacker. But the Bills had a very successful spring.
Dolphins Get the Steal of the Draft, Nab Rosen for Two Picks:
The Miami Dolphins now have their quarterback. Miami packaged a 2nd round draft pick, #62 overall and a 5th rounder in 2020 to get Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals. Rosen was in an uncomfortable situation as he was drafted with the #10 pick just a year ago.
But the Cardinals were enamored with Kyler Murray and jettisoned Rosen after just one year. Their loss is Miami’s gain. Miami got a steal and for a late 2nd rounder got a QB who a top ten pick and then saddled with a terrible team a year ago.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick onboard, the onus on Rosen right now will be to learn the playbook and find a comfort level in the offense. But rest assured, as soon as Fitzpatrick struggles…and he will, the calls will come for the Dolphins to put him in. This is a very low risk, high reward for the Dolphins. The AFC East now has Brady and three young players selected in the 1st round just a year ago.
Jets Add Quinnen Williams in the Draft:
The New York Jets added one of the best players (arguably the best IMHO) in the draft in Quinnen Williams. The Alabama star should be a fixture of the defensive line for many years to come. He is a dominant player and will immediately become a guy opposing teams will have to account for on every down.
I wasn’t a fan of Jachai Polite and was surprised the Jets took him over Chase Winovich, who the Patriots scooped up after the fact. But my favorite pick for the Jets after Williams is their 4th round TE Trevon Wesco. We raved about his blocking ability and versatility during the pre-draft process. He could become an emerging pass catcher as well.
“What was your impression of the draft in Nashville? So, how was your week?”
BThe Patriots were busy on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft in Rounds 2-3 and were making trades in addition to adding players. They entered Friday evening with five draft choices. When all was said and done, they maneuvered up and down around the board and made four selections.
The team addressed some areas of need and added players to positions that were already strong. On Friday night they added the following new players:
JoeJuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt Chase Winovich, DE, Michigan Damien Williams, RB, Alabama Yodny Cajuste, T, West Virginia
JoeJuan Williams, #45: Williams joins an already loaded cornerback position, so it most definitely wasn’t a position of need. But by moving up 11 spots in the draft, Williams is someone they definitely coveted. The Patriots got the #45 pick for #56 and #101 selections in the draft.
Williams is a big, nearly 6’4, 217-pound corner who is very aggressive and physical. He’ll obviously be used in matchups with big WRs or TEs. One can foresee the Patriots using Williams, who doesn’t have great speed as their corner with help over the top with a safety. People have been already projecting him, because of his size to be a Brandon Browner-type player.
But he joins a very crowded CB position with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Keion Crossen, and Duke Dawson. With so many quality corners, one has to wonder if someone is going to be moved in a trade.
The Patriots then traded down from #64 with Seattle and added two picks #77 and #118. Then they traded down again, moving picks #73 and #205 to the Bears for #87, #172 and a 2020 4th Round pick. Confused yet?
Chase Winovich, #77: The Patriots then selected the athletic and big personality Winovich from Michigan. Winovich runs well (4.59 in the 40), and has a penchant for making plays in the backfield with 15.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2018.
He’s very disruptive and asked to describe himself to the NE media said, “I like to think of myself as a junkyard dog…Tenacious.” To say he has a high motor is an understatement. He sets the edge very well and creates pressure on the QB.
He joins Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Umfomba Kamalu, and Trent Harris at the edge for the Patriots.
Damien Harris, #87: While again, not a position of need, the Patriots added the three-year starter from Alabama to the mix at running back. Harris is 5’11, 217 and a team captain, strong locker room presence and a very experienced special teams player. He’ll be an immediate fit.
Harris will immediately inject youth and a dose of physicality to the position. The team was hurting there in 2018 and had to move Cordarrelle Patterson to the position for a while. Harris is productive (ran for over 3000 yards at Alabama), runs low and hard between the tackles, is very good in short-yardage situations and is a reliable pass catcher. He’s also an excellent pass blocker.
Will the Patriots keep all five running backs, Harris, Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, and Brandon Bolden this year? We’ll have to see.
The team then traded back again with picks #97 and #162 going to the Rams getting their pick #101 back as well as #133.
Yodny Cajuste, #101: Cajuste from West Virginia is probably the Patriots swing tackle for 2019, and a replacement for LaAdrian Waddle who went to the Bills in free agency. He has prototypical size at 6’5, 312 pounds and was pretty nimble for a big man.
Cajuste was a starter for 2.5 years for the Mountaineers and is a very good pass blocker. His work in the running game is inconsistent as WV was a definite pass-first offense. He has excellent balance, agility, and quickness for the position.
Cajuste has an injury history but will have time to work on his craft with Dante Scarnecchia and could move into a starting role by Year 2. Pro Football Weekly had Cajuste as their #4 rated tackle in their pre-draft publication.
On Day 3 the Patriots have three fourth-round picks (#118, #133, #134) and four seventh-rounders (#239, #243, #246, #252). We would expect them to add a TE, S and another developmental QB at some point today. Stay tuned.