The Patriots had a flurry of roster moves in the past few days, defensive lineman Mike Pennel was released, Maurice Harris and Keionta Davis were released with injury designations [reverted to IR], ST/LB Brandon King was also placed on IR and the team signed RB Robert Martin and LB/ST Scooby Wright. But the biggest news was that center David Andrews was admitted to the hospital with a blood clot to his lung.
The blood clot is a potentially life-threatening situation. Andrews was reportedly released from the hospital according to the Globe’s Jim McBride but he still may miss significant time. The medication to treat clots are blood-thinners which may take upward of three months to take effect.
The anti-coagulant blood thinners [heparin, warfarin] are given by injection typically for the first five days and then the patient will take pills for the next three months. During this time, the risk for bleeding is increased and may preclude Andrews from playing football.
Andrews was an undrafted free agent out of Georgia but has been the Patriots starting center for the past three years. He signed a contract extension that carries him through the 2020 season. He was present for the preseason game against Carolina but hasn’t been seen at practice since. He’ll be replaced in the interim by veteran Ted Karras.
Pennel was thought to be an under-the-radar key signing at the time, as he’s known as a big, two-gapping run stuffer. But he was passed by Danny Shelton on the depth chart and as rookie Byron Cowart has progressed, Pennel was deemed replaceable and cut loose ahead of the deadline.
Harris was another Patriot signing this spring. He had a very solid spring and picked up with a very good start to training camp. But an injury during the joint practices with the Tennessee Titans put him firmly on the roster bubble with the return of Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas. Davis was considered a longshot to make the 53-man roster on the edge due to the depth the team has this year. He was injured in the game against the Panthers last week. Both players cleared waivers and therefore have reverted to IR.
Martin played for the Giants in the preseason last year and was with the Patriots for all of one day and now he too was released. Wright spent 2016-17 with the Arizona Cardinals before getting released in their final cutdown of 2018. He played with the Arizona Hotshots of the very short-lived AAF this spring. He was recently engaged this past weekend. He should see some significant snaps against the Giants on Thursday.
While a real longshot to make the roster, Wright was one of the highest-rated linebackers in the AAF.
A short but intense rainstorm slowed the festivities of the day as the Patriots always hold their in-stadium practice for season ticket holders and Foxboro residents after their annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Rodney Harrison and Leon Gray were enshrined in the Patriots Hall of Fame in the late afternoon but the sun returned and added a steamy aspect to things. But fans didn’t care and they flocked into Gillette Stadium after the ceremonies were over.
Not Practicing – Julian Edelman and Yodny Cajuste remain on NFI, Edelman, however, was in attendance and later signed autographs after practice was over. Those on PUP remain Demaryius Thomas, Nate Ebner, Cole Croston, and Ken Webster. Croston was seen on the sidelines which may be a good sign for him returning soon. Byron Cowart and Dontrelle Inman were also not in attendance again.
Pat Chung is no longer wearing the red non-contact jersey and now seems a full participant. David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn are still limited.
And recently acquired offensive lineman JJ Dielman has retired, the third OL to do so this spring after Jared Veldheer, and Brian Schwenke.
The practice was conducted in helmets, shorts, and shirts, with no pads and no contact. In reality, it was more of a walkthru than a spirited practice session after the past two days in full pads. Our observations included:
Danny Etling was acting as the QB for the scout team while Chung was taking snaps as the scout team running back. In his stead, Obi Melifonwu saw many of Chung’s normal reps, lining up as a deep safety.
Perhaps Chung’s lining up was in homage to Rodney Harrison, who Bill Belichick earlier had said that Harrison would line up anywhere in practice. Belichick then compared Harrison and Chung and spoke about how both broke arms in the Super Bowl but wouldn’t leave the field and remained with air casts on to support their teammates.
Conducting practice in a half-speed, walkthru pace can mess with a QB’s timing, Jarrett Stidham badly overthrew James White who was all alone in one rep.
N’Keal Harry had a concentration drop on a deep ball from Tom Brady which drew groans from the crowd.
Brady targeted Braxton Berrios frequently while James White joined Brandon Bolden and Damien Harris in getting a lot of reps from the backfield.
Dan Skipper is getting a lot of reps at left tackle as Joe Thuney returns to his normal left guard position.
Bill Belichick said before practice that the team would work on Situational football as their focus Monday night and they did, conducting several down and distance scenarios during the session.
Among the players speaking with the media after practice were Maurice Harris, Mike Pennel, and Lawrence Guy.
After the session, players signed autographs for the fans and then everyone was treated to a fireworks display inside Gillette Stadium.
Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-21 and AFC East notes this week.
Just 4 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”
Tony Romo- was effusive in his praise of Bill Belichick this week while doing an interview on 105.3 the Fan in Dallas. Romo called the Patriots Super Bowl LIII game plan as “one of the greatest defensive performances I have ever seen in football.”
“He genuinely is not scared to go outside the box,” Romo said. “And I find in the NFL very few teams vary from what they do. So what he does then, is he drafts people that he believes can adapt from week-to-week.”
Patriots Cheerleaders – were doing their annual calendar shoot in St. Lucia this week, catch up on that on Patriots.com
Tom Brady – was cliff diving with his daughter in Costa Rica, then went horseback riding with his wife Gisele in his last family getaway before training camp starts next week. But his shot at Max Kellerman was the stuff of gold…
Mike Lombardi – Former Patriots front office person and friend of Bill Belichick was a guest on VSIN’s “A Number’s Game” and said he believes the Patriots defense will be better than the 2018 version.
“I think they are better on defense,” Lombardi said. “I think New England is better on defense this year. I think Jamie Collins wanted to come back to New England. He wanted to play. I think he will make them a better team and allow (Dont’a) Hightower to play more on the edge, which is what he’s more suited for than playing in the base. Then, there’s Kyle Van Noy. I think Michael Bennett still has some gas left in the tank, so I do think they will be better on defense. I think the guy that is coaching the defense is a Hall of Fame defensive coach — forget the fact that he’s a Hall of Fame head coach. I do think they will be better.”
Gordon Not In Patriots Plans, But Would Be Welcomed Back:
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and NFL.com was on WEEI this week and addressed the Josh Gordon situation with the Patriots. He stated that the team would most certainly welcome the troubled but very talented wide receiver back, but that they were not counting on him in 2019 and have no idea when or if he’ll even be reinstated.
“Josh Gordon, I don’t know,” Rapoport said. “It’s not a guy who’s in their plans right now. I think that they would certainly welcome him back if he showed that he’s going to be a better version — as a person, I’m talking about — a better version of the one they got last year. I just don’t know that he’s actually going to get reinstated, prove to the Patriots that he has turned the corner, that he’s a different person, show that he’s in the right frame of mind.”
“As always with Josh Gordon, the talent is incredible. We’ve seen probably one-tenth of it, honestly,” Rapoport added. “But there’s always so much that goes into it. I think the Patriots know better than to say this is a guy we’re counting on for next season.”
Hill Situation Highlights Lack of Consistency with NFL:
The NFL decided that Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill will not be disciplined under the league’s personal conduct policy. Whenever an NFL player is accused of off-field wrongdoing, the conduct policy is detailed in Article 46 of the league’s collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the National Football League Players’ Association is brought into play.
Back in March Hill’s son who is just three years old suffered a broken arm and was removed from the home of Hill and fiancee Crystal Espinal by the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF).
The District Attorney declined to press charges against either which prompted Hill’s attorneys to write the NFL that it was an accident and that he played no role in his son’s injuries.
After doing an investigation, Park Avenue decided not to punish Hill saying it “cannot conclude” that Hill, whom the Chiefs ordered to stay away from the team pending the NFL’s investigation, violated the personal conduct policy.
This is the same Hill who still proclaims his innocence of beating Espinal while she was pregnant four years ago. He pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery charges that he hit Espinal in the face and stomach while she was eight weeks pregnant. He also strangled her. Despite his repeated claims of innocence of those charges, he admitted to them in court.
Then there is the taped phone conversation. In it, Espinal says their son is terrified of his father, Hill responds with a threat.
“A 3-year-old is not going to lie about what happened to his arm,” Crystal Espinal tells Hill in the recording, adding, “He is terrified of you.”
Hill responds, “You need to be terrified of me, too, dumb bitch.”
So while the NFL says that the child’s safety is their priority, it rings with insincerity.
It cannot conclude Hill caused the child’s injuries…Really? The same man who punched his pregnant girlfriend in the face and stomach, strangled her and threatens her on the phone. Someone broke the child’s arm. So, they have to consider that Espinal is guilty?
The utter lack of consistency is plain to see. Less than a year ago, the NFL suspended Ravens CB Jimmy Smith for threatening and abusive behavior.
New England fans began to harp on this latest fiasco from Park Ave. Of course, this entailed some people stating it doesn’t apply. to this case. To that, we reply… respectfully, “Bull excrement”.
The NFL in the Wells report, (Pg 228) it stated that the league couldn’t conclude with certainty that anyone did or did not tamper with a football, but their analysis is “dependent on assumptions and information that is not certain.” There was a total lack of evidence that anyone even attempted to deflate a football, when in fact a reasonable scientific explanation was right at hand.
But in this case, a player with a history of abuse suddenly has a child with a broken arm and threatens his fiancee openly. And … nada. “There isn’t evidence?” It never stopped them before. One has to conclude that the child’s safety takes a backseat to the fantasy points that will be generated by Hill in the highest-scoring offense in the league.
“You do not have to be convicted or even charged of a crime to be able to demonstrate that you’ve violated a personal conduct policy, and reflect poorly not only on themselves, but all of their teammates, every NFL player in the league, and everyone associated with the NFL.” Roger Goodell
Joe Thuney Enters Pivotal Contract Year:
With training camp set to begin later this week, one player who will be garnering a lot of attention this season will be guard Joe Thuney. Thuney is entering a contract year and is part of arguably the best guard tandem in the league with Shaq Mason.
He is slotted to make about $2 million dollars in 2019 in the final year of his rookie contract and is in line to make much more in 2020. Will it be with the Patriots? Time will tell, but if he plays it out until free agency, the chances of him making significantly more cash will be available to him. The Patriots locked up center David Andrews this spring with a three-year $9 million dollar deal. Last summer, Mason signed a five-year contract worth a total of $50 million with $23.5 million of it guaranteed. Will the Patriots make Thuney as big an offer as he’ll get on the open market? Doubtful.
Thuney’s versatility, he can play anywhere along the offensive line was apparent this spring. With both Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste out of minicamp due to offseason surgery, Thuney was taking all of the first-team reps at left tackle. If for any reason Wynn and Cajuste aren’t ready for training camp, look for Thuney to continue to fill in. That will further drive up his already considerable …and growing value.
He has been remarkably durable, not only playing in all 48 games of his NFL career but in every one of the Patriots 1119 offensive snaps in 2018. Since entering the league, he’s been constantly improving under the tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia. Last year he was the NFL’s 7th rated guard by Pro Football Focus (PFF).
If you make it down to training camp this week, be sure to check out big #63. It may just be his last season in a Patriots uniform. And he’s been one of their better performers.
Patriots Players Needing to Rebound in 2019:
Training camp is the time for the young players to show what they can do to earn a roster spot. It is also time for some of the veterans to show that they can still perform at a high level. Here are a couple of players who will be looking to ignite their production in 2019 on the eve of training camp.
Demaryius Thomas – The former Broncos and Texans wide receiver was once one of the most productive WRs in the game but his game has been in steady decline for several years. He’s gone from 1619, 1304,1083, 949 to 677 in the past five years. Then he tore his Achilles with the Texans late last season.
Thomas may not even be ready for training camp, having not taken part in any activities this spring. He may begin camp (and we suspect he will) on the PUP list. While no one expects him to return to his glory years with Denver, there is some hope that he can still be a viable target in the Patriots offense…time will tell.
Derek Rivers – We already identified 2019 as a make or break season for the Patriots top draft pick in 2017. He tore his ACL in preseason of his rookie season but was still not looking 100 percent last year. While he did make the team in 2018, he played very sparingly in six games and registered just two tackles and one sack. That isn’t the kind of production the team was looking for out of him.
He’ll get the opportunity to show what he’s got this summer and he’ll have to shine. With a much more crowded front seven this year, we currently have Rivers on the outside looking in. He’ll have to leapfrog some players and show he can produce at the NFL level.
Ryan Allen – If it seems strange to you for a player who could’ve been named the MVP of the Super Bowl to need “to rebound” in 2019, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, it is true. The 2018 season wasn’t the most consistent of Allen’s career. But he did turn it on for the playoffs and in the Super Bowl, he was outstanding, out-punting the Rams Johnny Hekker who is among the best in the game.
But for the second year in a row, the Patriots have brought in competition for Allen. This year they moved up in the draft to take Jake Bailey from Stanford. The reports about the strength of Bailey’s leg are well-founded. After watching him at minicamp he puts an absolute charge into the ball. Plus he’s more versatile and can kickoff as well as fill in as a field goal kicker in an emergency. His issue has been consistency as well.
But with the Patriots possibly relying more on the running game this year, especially early in the year, they may be looking for a punter with more range and hang time in the event they’re punting more from their own side of the field and deeper than in year’s past. Allen will be on watch this summer.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Cole Beasley Looks to Be the Top Target in Bills Passing Game:
When the Buffalo Bills throw the ball this season, they will have a new and revamped passing attack. When we wrote about the changes forthcoming here a while back, we mentioned that Brian Daboll who used to be on the Patriots staff could be looking to replicate a lot of what the Patriots do with Julian Edelman. And that player on Buffalo would be Cole Beasley.
Beasley left Dallas and complained that he wasn’t getting enough looks in the passing game. And he’d have a point. In 2016, he led the Cowboys with 75 catches, 833 yards, and 5 TDs. The Cowboys went 13-3. In 2017, Dallas’ offense went away from Beasley, in 15 games he had just 36 catches for 314 yards and 4TDs. Dallas went 9-7. Last year, he was second on the team with 65 catches for 672 yards and 3 TDs, with Dallas going 10-6. But once Amari Cooper came onboard, Beasley’s numbers and targets went down. In the playoff loss to the Rams in the Divisional Round, he was targeted just twice.
With Buffalo and Daboll as the Offensive Coordinator, he has a chance to be the safety blanket, the chains mover and 2nd-year QB Josh Allen’s favorite target. Like Edelman, he excels in the short-area quickness part of the field. Buffalo threw the ball down the field too often in 2018. Look for them to utilize the short areas of the field more this year. And with the sure-handed Beasley in the mix, he should be the boon of his QB’s throws, especially on a team that had more than their share of drops.
Rosen or Fitzpatrick? The Dolphins TC Will Answer That:
The Miami Dolphins have (finally) moved away from QB Ryan Tannehill, who got more than a fair shake as their team’s QB. Now with a new coach and staff, new QBs and a fresh attitude, they’re going to attempt to turn things around.
With a full rebuild going on, no one is expecting Miami to be very competitive this season for a playoff spot. But with new coach Brian Flores and new signal callers under center, the Fins will be intriguing to watch.
After signing Ryan Fitzpatrick as their bridge QB, Miami swooped after the Arizona Cardinals simply had to have QB Kyler Murray after drafting Josh Rosen with a Top 10 pick just a year ago. This could prove to be highway robbery.
While no one knows how this will play out, Flores is going to let the players decide on who starts and who sits. But at some point, he’ll have to let Rosen show what he can do so that they can either stick with him as a potential franchise quarterback or that they have to address the situation next year in the NFL Draft.
Our money here is on Rosen; he was awful last year, but he was a rookie saddled with an even more awful team. It was a total lose-lose situation. The games in the AFC East this year within the division are much more compelling with all of the new quarterbacks in place.
Jets Williams Still Unsigned, May Miss the Beginning of Training Camp:
The New York Jets rookie players were scheduled to report for training camp on Friday. Quinnen Williams was not to be one of them. Williams still hasn’t signed his contract, making it the second year in a row that the team has had its top draft pick not show up on time for training camp. Last year, Sam Darnold missed the first three days of training camp while getting his deal finalized.
Williams took part in all of the Jets’ spring workouts and the hold on his contract isn’t about his salary, which is mandated by the league. The Jets took Williams with the #3 pick in the NFL Draft this spring. What the holdup is, probably centers around offsets and cash flow.
Is it a big worry? No, but the team never likes having their top draft pick miss any time during his first training camp. This is something that should be worked out fairly quickly and then Williams, who is considered one of the top picks in the draft, should be ready to go.
“I no longer listen to what people say, I just watch what they do. Behavior never lies” Winston Churchill
The Patriots return four of their five starters from an offensive line that was just outstanding in 2018 enroute to the team’s sixth Super Bowl title. The one very big piece both figuratively and literally is left tackle Trent Brown. Brown came to the Patriots last year with questions if he could be a viable left tackle in the NFL. He not only answered those but parlayed them into a massive 4-year contract worth $66 million dollars with the Raiders this spring.
The Patriots drafted Isaiah Wynn in the first round of the draft last year with the expectation that he would be the left tackle of the future. However, Wynn tore his Achilles in the preseason last summer and spent the entire year on IR.
The strength of the offensive line is with their guard tandem of Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason which is one of the best in the NFL. Scrappy, tough and steady David Andrews is the center and Marcus Cannon is the right tackle.
The Patriots are hoping that Wynn is ready for a full load this season and is ready to be a left tackle in the NFL. Backing him up is the underrated rookie T Yodny Cajuste from West Virginia. Cajuste is coming off quad surgery this offseason and missed all of the spring. But he is the swing tackle of the immediate future.
The team signed veteran Jared Veldheer this spring but he decided to retire when he said his body wasn’t going to withstand the rigors of another season.
With a 4th round draft pick, the Patriots selected Hjalte Froholdt, he should immediately challenge Ted Karras for the top interior backup role. The biggest question after Wynn’s status will be who will be the 4th tackle on the depth chart? Cole Croston, Cedrick Lang, Dan Skipper, Tyree St. Louis, and Calvin Anderson will be all vying for that position.
As long as Dante Scarnecchia is patrolling the Patriots sideline as the team’s offensive line coach, the Patriots can pretty much weather any storm that creeps up with the offensive line. So, with training camp just around the corner, let’s take a look at the position.
Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.
Current roster – Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt, Cole Croston, James Ferentz, Brian Schwenke, Jake Eldrenkamp, Cedrick Lang, Ryker Matthews, Dan Skipper, Calvin Anderson, Tyree St. Louis, Tyler Gauthier
Long Shot – Eldrencamp, Lang, Matthews, Skipper, Anderson, St. Louis, Gauthier
Discussion – We expect that Wynn will be ready to go for training camp. I watched him take part in individual drills during minicamp, he was held out of team drills, I believe as a precaution. He looked to me that he was moving without any issues and looked ready to go. Regardless, Wynn, Thuney, Andrews, Mason, Cannon, and Cajuste are all locks for the roster.
Froholdt and Karras are both near locks. I personally believe that the team is looking at Froholdt as starter material for next season. Joe Thuney is in a contract year and could be in the market for a big payday. He played nearly all of the starter snaps during minicamp with Wynn and Cajuste absent. If he does leave, Froholdt may be getting groomed for the next guard under Scarnecchia.
Karras has been a very good depth player and has the ability to fill in at guard and center. He’s tough, physical and versatile. Only an awful summer should stop him from earning a roster spot in 2019.
Cole Croston would be the next in line for the 4th tackle position. He’s been kept around the past few years but is in no way considered a lock for the roster. He’s a very good practice squad candidate. The Patriots could still be in the market for another tackle.
Overall, the offensive line is in very good shape overall. Even though Wynn hasn’t played a snap in the NFL, the Patriots spent the 23rd overall pick on him for a reason. And although I may be overplaying things a bit, as long as Scarnecchia is coaching up the O-line, I have no doubt that they’ll figure things out.
With training camp starting next week, the competition among the linemen should be extremely fun to watch.