Tag Archives: Deatrich Wise

 Patriots Report Card, 36-20 Win Over the New Orleans Saints

Steve Balestrieri
September 19, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

High Marks For the Team in a Winning Effort

The Patriots are back in the win column and after 10 days of being subjected to questions about their makeup and roster moves, it comes at a perfect time. Was this a game they should have won? Yes …absolutely, but after Week 1, the team made a number of improvements…. Was it perfect? No. Are they where they want to be? Hardly. But in Week 2, they looked pretty darn good, especially on offense.

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: A
Tom Brady was masterful, in control and was obliterating that poor Saints defense. Only three healthy wide receivers? No problem. Brady goes 30-39 for 447 yards and three touchdowns, no picks, and a passer rating of 139.6.

The team wanted to get off to a good, fast start and put the Saints in catchup mode. Plus, it would take the crowd right out of the game. Brady threw for 177 yards and three scores in the first quarter as the team raced out to a 20-3 lead and never looked back.

Brady hung in the pocket all day and delivered the ball pretty much exactly where they wanted him to throw on Sunday. The few passes that were off the target had to do with either the pressure getting to him or in a few cases, he got hit as he released the ball.

He also spread the ball around nicely hitting nine different receivers for passes and throwing a touchdown to a wide receiver, tight end and running back….that’s getting everyone involved.

Running Backs: B+
In our pregame write-up on the key matchups, we wrote that the team needed to get the running backs more involved in the passing game. And that they did, the backs responded with 13 catches for 143 yards, led by James White who made eight catches for 85 yards. Rex Burkhead responded with a nice afternoon catching three passes for 41 yards and a touchdown before injuring his ribs.

In the running game, the backs picked up 96 of the 119 yards on the ground. Mike Gillislee led the way with 69 yards on 18 carries including his fourth touchdown of the season. While his numbers weren’t eye-popping, he’s giving them nice production in the red zone when they ask him to.

Wide Receivers: B
These guys hung in there and did their job on Sunday. With only three healthy players at the position, they finished the game with really only one (Brandin Cooks). Both Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett had gotten dinged up but they hung in there and finished the game. Hogan was dealing with a thigh injury, that doesn’t seem serious, however, he was obviously limping a bit during the game, which surely limited his effectiveness. But he ended up with five catches on six targets for 78 yards including a touchdown.

Dorsett showed that he’s coming along in his progression with the Patriots offense and made three catches for 68 yards including a nice deep ball from Brady for 38 yards down to the four-yard line. I would have liked to have seen more production from Cooks in this game but with Brady under pressure for much of it, he was clearing out the underneath routes for the guys over the middle and it was that kind of day. Cooks should have had had an easy touchdown on a post route and had a good five yards of separation, but the pressure on Brady made his throw very short where Cooks had stop and go down at the one-yard line to haul the pass in.

It is hard to be very critical of this group. How many times do you see a team come into a game with just three wide receivers and while their numbers weren’t off the charts (11 catches for 183 yards and a score), on a day when the team rolled up 447 yards thru the air, it was plenty good enough.

Tight Ends: A-
The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski were the subjects of many pieces after the Week 1 loss. Eric Berry did a masterful job of manning up on Gronk, and when that didn’t work, he grabbed a fistful of jersey. It isn’t against the rules if it isn’t being flagged. So, Gronkowski heard the “he’s losing a step”, “he looks old and slow” etc. last week.

Until he hurt his groin in the second half, he was having a typical Gronk, monster type of afternoon. He hauled in six catches for 116 yards including a 53-yard touchdown where he broke a couple of tackles and dragged two defenders into the end zone.

Dwayne Allen has been utilized mainly as a blocker and was targeted once, Jacob Hollister had his first catch in the NFL and got a couple of reps in.

Offensive Line: C
The offensive line specifically left tackle Nate Solder didn’t have a great day. There were a lot of plays where Brady was under duress. He got hit five times and sacked just twice but often his pocket was collapsing all around him. The offensive line didn’t do a great job in the running game as the team only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. It could have, should have been much better. Especially against this Saints defense.

Defensive Line: B+
The Patriots defensive line had a nice bounce-back type of game. It was great to see all the young guys (Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, and Adam Butler) getting so much work in the game. The coaches sent a message to Alan Branch that his effort last week wasn’t good enough and he sat until the second quarter. The rush defense was much improved this week. New Orleans had 81 yards on the ground but 28 of them came off the final garbage time play of the day. After getting gashed by the Chiefs for nearly 200 yards, that is a good sign.

Wise had a terrific game, the big, talented rookie had a sack, five quarterback hits and a pair of tackles. While the pass rush is still a work in progress, Wise, Flowers, and Butler are showing some nice potential. Lawrence Guy was solid and Cassius Marsh saved a TD when he got pressure on and forced Drew Brees to throw short in the end zone when a player was open.

Linebackers: B-
Interesting that with Hightower out, David Harris was a total non-entity. Elandon Roberts had a pretty good game with eight tackles. He and Kyle Van Noy were getting the bulk of the work. The middle of the defense in the running game was much, stronger this week and it snowballed.

Hightower will probably miss at least this week’s game against the Texans, so they’ll need the rest of the guys to step it up a bit. But overall, this week’s game, against a tough opponent was a pretty good effort.

Secondary: B-
The bad news is that the Patriots allowed Drew Brees to pass for 356 yards this week. But, he does that against everyone when he’s at home in the dome so that in itself isn’t a bad sign per se. The good news is, the Patriots defense held him to just two touchdowns on Sunday. Let me ask a serious question here. If last week I said, the Pats defense would hold Brees and New Orleans to just two scores would you have taken it? Damned right you would have.

I had to read with amusement all of the “the last time the Patriots faced Brees in NO” …news flash. The Pats don’t have Jonathan Wilhite and Leigh Bodden at corner anymore…thankfully. They still have plenty of communication issues on those pick plays and rub routes but it is eminently fixable. A few of those deep balls were just absolute dimes by Brees and you just have to tip your hat to him.

Overall, again, a much better effort. Can it get better? Much. Will it? Yes.

Special Teams: B

Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point, again. He was perfect on three field goals, however. And the other three extra points. His kickoffs pinned the Saints deep but the coverage units did an okay job. The Patriots had zero return yards on one punt return for no yards and no kick returns at all.

Ryan Allen didn’t have to punt much on Sunday and had a so-so game by his standards with a 37.0-yard average.

Coaches: A
Bill Belichick had the team ready to go after a poor Week 1 showing. He made it clear that a lot had to change, and it did. They came out prepared, motivated and ran the Saints out of the building in that first quarter. After they had issues stopping the run in Week 1, they were much better and he and Matt Patricia put them in the right combinations to stop the Saints.

Josh McDaniels had everything going on early in the game. He had the Saints grasping at straws trying to find a way to stop the Patriots offense. Even as guys were getting banged up, McDaniels mixed things up nicely and the team responded. After only having Dorsett on the team for two weeks, McDaniels gets a lot of credit for getting him in tune with the offense.

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

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

Final New England Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 4.0

Steve Balestrieri
August 28, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

As we’ve been saying all summer, the New England Patriots will have many difficult decisions to make when the final 53-man cut down is due after the Giants game. The hour glass is running out and if players are going to make a move, they have a week remaining to convince the coaches that they’re worth keeping.

With some serious injuries to Derek Rivers and Julian Edelman, that will open up two spots that we had as locks. Ditto for the release of Kony Ealy. So, despite that, we can expect that the Patriots initial 53-man roster will change rather quickly as they’ll probably pick up a player or two via the waiver wire. I wouldn’t rule out a trade for an edge player either as they are really thin there right now.

With that in mind, we’ll take our final crack at the roster here on Sunday night with time to digest and re-watch the Lions game.

First up is the offense…

OFFENSE (24)
QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

Out: None
New England has traditionally kept two QBs on their roster. Last year they kept three because of the crazy Brady suspension. I didn’t expect Brissett to push Garoppolo for the #2 slot this season, but his play has been really disappointing. He holds the ball far too long and his arm, though cannon-like has the accuracy of an old smooth-bore musket and not where it should be.

But I just don’t see them cutting bait with Brissett yet. Is it possible? You betcha, but not this year. I think they will stick with three but Brissett isn’t a lock by any means.

RUNNING BACK (5): James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James Develin

Out: D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden, Glenn Gronkowski, LeShun Daniels
No changes here, I really wanted to find a way to keep both Foster and Bolden. Foster is going to be on a roster somewhere on Opening Weekend. If it isn’t here, it will be somewhere else. I thought of keeping only two TEs and utilizing him in an RB/Slot receiver mode where Devlin and an extra tackle can help in the blocking. And they still may do that.

Bolden is a superb STs performer but with Gillislee back and looking healthy, I don’t see how they keep him without cutting from somewhere else.

TIGHT END (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy

Out: Matt Lengel, Sam Cotton, Jacob Hollister
While he’s played well the past few weeks, O’Shaughnessy’s slot is still tenuous at best. He’s a better blocker but not as good as a receiver as Hollister. The UDFA rookie from Wyoming had a big game against Jax and then was barely used after that. It is obvious the team likes O’Shaughnessy and wants to keep him. Lengel, who is banged up didn’t show enough to warrant keeping him around.

WIDE RECEIVER (5): Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Austin Carr

Out: Julian Edelman (IR), Matthew Slater (IR), Devin Lucien, Cody Hollister, Tony Washington, K.J. Maye
Julian Edelman’s injury opens the door for the Patriots to keep Austin Carr, who to me has just barely edged out Devin Lucien for the final spot at the position. Both Edelman and Slater go to IR, Slater will return later this season, which will make for another interesting decision. The top four are locks and will be needed to step up a bit more.

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (4): David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras
Out: Jason King, James Ferentz, Chase Farris

No changes here. Center David Andrews and guards Mason and Thuney were all starters last year, are locked and have played well this summer. Karras gets the nod over Ferentz who will be a primary practice squad candidate

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4):  Nate Solder, Antonio Garcia, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming

Out: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Max Rich, Andrew Jelks (IR)
The good news is that Nate Solder is back at practice and although he didn’t make the trip to Detroit, he should be ready for the Chiefs game on Opening Night. Garcia has been banged up, does his injury preclude him from making the roster and going on IR? That may open the door a crack for Conor McDermott or LaAdrian Waddle (also banged up) to step in. But it appears that Solder, Cannon, and Fleming are locked in right now.

Next up in the defense.

DEFENSE (25):
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (5): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Adam Butler

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta,
With the lack of enough edge players and the release of Kony Ealy, this opens the door for another player to step up inside and that is Adam Butler who has had a very solid camp. He’s shown the ability to penetrate inside and disrupt things in the running game. Branch, Brown, and Lawrence Guy are locked. Guy had a solid camp and with Butler, the team may opt for more of a 3-4 look with the bigger bodies inside.

Hamilton, Kilgo, and Augusta played well this summer and are victims of numbers more than anything else.

EDGE RUSHER (3): Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Geneo Grissom,

Out: Derek Rivers (IR), Caleb Kidder, Keionta Davis
Ealy was released early…which means that he was in no way in their plans for 2017 after an up and down training camp. Depth has become a serious issue here. Wise will be looked to now, to provide the pressure with Trey Flowers. Grissom right now is my 53rd player on the roster. He could be replaced somewhere else but sticks around for his STs play. But he’s been virtually invisible on defense and that isn’t a good sign.

Look for the linebackers to provide help in this realm. Dont’a Hightower, Van Noy, and Langi will all be utilized as edge rushers as well. This is an area they may cherry pick off of the waiver wire and/or swing a trade. I think Davis will go to the practice squad and possibly play a factor down the road sometime in the future.

LINEBACKER (6): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Harvey Langi, Trevor Bates

Out: Elandon Roberts (IR), Jonathan Freeny, Brooks Ellis
I had the team keeping just five linebackers all summer but with the dearth of edge players, they keep an extra LB and those guys will help out on the edge as well. David Harris is an early-down inside run stuffer who is a liability in coverage (see Roberts). But the difference is, he’s a guy who is an established, smart veteran and will be rarely out of position. Hightower is a guy who can play inside or on the edge as a rusher, as well as Van Noy.

Langi and Bates, the last addition to the linebacking crew both had a good summer and training camp. Langi was a bit overaggressive at times as a pass rusher, but he’ll learn to temper those tendencies. Bates noses out Belichick favorite and STs standout Freeny and Roberts goes to IR.

CORNERBACK (6): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Kenny Moore, Cyrus Jones

Out: Justin Coleman, DJ Killings, William Likely
The top four are locked and ready for the season. Gilmore had, in my opinion, a terrific summer. He’s adapted extremely well to the Patriots system and should be an outstanding addition. He and Butler promise to be a dynamic pair of corners on the edge. Rowe and Jonathan Jones have split the nickel corner duties and will continue to do so, depending on the matchups. Both played well this summer. Kenny More displayed a nose for the ball all summer and just beats out the veteran Justin Coleman. Cyrus Jones, for now, is a corner in name only. He’s the primary Kick returner but the team may ultimately decide to go with Dion Lewis/Amendola, in which case he’d be expendable.

SAFETY (5): Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Brandon King, Nate Ebner

Out:  Jordan Richards, David Jones, Damarius Travis, Jason Thompson
The top three of Chung, McCourty, and Harmon have been solid and are locked. The team has depth for those two with Nate Ebner and Brandon King who are mainly special teamers, neither of whom plays much defense although Ebner has played in spots in the past.

Jordan Richards is a favorite of Belichick and the team is trying every way of keeping him around. They switched him to the linebacker position in the “Big Nickel” look, the Pat Chung role and he was as inconsistent as he’s been elsewhere. Too slow, too stiff with a penchant for taking bad angles. Jones was hurt all summer, Travis played well in spots. Both may be candidates for the practice squad.

SPECIAL TEAMS (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona,

Out: None
A good solid group who have had a good camp thus far. Gostkowski still seems to have a mental block for extra points. But is solid on his field goal attempts and his kickoffs which are outstanding at getting the team great field position on defense. Allen has had a very strong camp. We haven’t mentioned Cardona much at all….which tells you his snaps have been right on the money.

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

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

Hightower’s Return Opens Up Possibilities for the Defense

Steve Balestrieri
August 24, 2017 at 10:31 am ET

The Patriots got a great bit of news this week when Dont’a Hightower came off of the PUP list and returned to practice. This was the first time that he’s been in full uniform since the Super Bowl.

Hightower is back in the fold after testing the waters during free agency this spring. The market wasn’t exactly hot for the big, 6’3, 265-pound linebacker who, as he admits, fits best with the Patriots. Although he was courted by both the Jets and the Steelers, Hightower returned to Foxboro with a four-year deal worth $35.5 million dollars with a full $19 million guaranteed including a $10 million dollar signing bonus.

Hightower has the skill set to play in the middle of the defense where he’s been in the Patriots scheme the past five years as the Mike linebacker as well as off the edge as a blitzer. His strip sack of Matt Ryan in the Super Bowl was one of the big turning points in the game. He’s been effective blitzing up the A-gaps but with David Harris in the fold in 2017, this will allow Hightower to play more on the edge. So he’ll be working on playing more on the edge in practice to get ready for the season.


The Patriots defense just got a huge boost with Dont’a Hightower returning this week to practice. (USA TODAY Images)

But with the Patriots defense, they have the versatility to move players around. Harris or Hightower can play the middle while players like Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin can line up as outside linebackers, drop into coverage or blitz off the edge. The Patriots are thin on the edge with Rob Ninkovich retiring as soon as camp opened and top draft choice Derek Rivers being on IR with an ACL injury.

Fellow rookie edge player Deatrich Wise was having a very impressive summer before suffering a concussion against the Jaguars. He missed all of last week’s practice, the preseason game against the Texans and won’t travel to Detroit this week as the Patriots are just being cautious with him. Hopefully, this won’t set back his progression as he looked to be carving out a spot for himself during training camp.

With Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia and the defense, it is all about the matchups. I expect to see Hightower lineup all over the field this fall, although I do believe that they’ll utilize him more as a blitzer this season than in years past. Does this mean that he’s going to be a “designated pass rush specialist” for the Pats in 2017? Hardly. But whenever they seem a matchup they think they can exploit, then they’ll unleash him to come off the edge. And like in the Super Bowl, if Hightower sees an opening to blitz uncovered, he’ll be given the green light more frequently than he probably was allowed to in the past.

Having the big man back on the field is bound to give the defense overall a boost. Hightower is an extremely valuable member of the Patriots defense, and the rest of the league not seeing his value when he was in free agency is the Patriots gain. The two latest Super Bowl wins probably don’t happen without big plays from #54. In Super Bowl XLIX, he stopped Marshawn Lynch short of the goal line on first down, setting up the heroics for Malcolm Butler a play later to ice the victory. And last season’s strip sack of Matt Ryan set the Patriots up in prime field position to tie the game up and send it into overtime, where Tom Brady and James White, powered them to Lombardi #5.

His biggest asset, besides being a totally unselfish player, is his versatility and smarts. He’s worn the “Green Dot” communication device for the defense and is able, and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

And don’t forget, although he hasn’t had the opportunities here to rush the quarterback, he’s done some of that while he was a member of the Alabama defense. While the team is still a bit thin on the edge, with Wise and more importantly Hightower back on the field, things are looking a lot rosier for Matt Patricia’s defense.

The Patriots won’t lead the league in sacks this season, but they may be just fine with Hightower helping out the likes of Trey Flowers, Wise and Kony Ealy. It’s all about the matchups.

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

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

Derek Rivers Injury Leaves Patriots Thinner On the Edge, Options?

Steve Balestrieri
August 18, 2017 at 8:39 pm ET

The Patriots got more bad news this summer as rookie edge player Derek Rivers has torn his ACL and will be lost for the season. It was a tough blow for the rookie who was injured conducting kickoff drills during joint practices with the Texans on Wednesday and was sent home for further evaluation.

Rivers was the Patriots top pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and up until his injury the other day, been coming on as he grew accustomed to the speed and physicality of the NFL. His play has been much better lately and now, like Trey Flowers in his rookie season, he’ll watch the season on the sideline.

But now the big question is, where does the team go from here? With the loss of Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich from last year’s team, they were thin on the edge. Now they’re dangerously so. With Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy and Geneo Grissom the only healthy players at the present with experience, the pressure on the edge will have to come from somewhere. The good news is that rookie edge player Deatrich Wise should be back to practice soon after the team returns from Houston. He was kicked in the head during the first preseason game and suffered a concussion. At the time of his injury, he was having a very impressive summer. The team is obviously hoping that this injury won’t set back his progress. The team can look for upgrades in three places. Internally, via free agency and also trades.

Internal Options: The Patriots like to operate out of flexible and changing front, which is why Bill Belichick doesn’t like to classify anything as a 4-3 or 3-4. Rivers was a good fit for this as he could switch between a standup OLB and a hand in the dirt DE. With David Harris on the roster at MLB, the Patriots could use Dont’a Hightower at OLB who could help with the pressure. He’s been very effective as that.

Other linebackers that the team picked up last year, Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin have both been defensive ends or blitzed off the edge. Each could be tasked to help in that area. This injury may open the door for a guy like Adam Butler, an interior player who has shown the ability to create some pressure inside. He and Lawrence Guy, are 300 pounders who can play anywhere along the line but may be used as interior pass rushers.

Another rookie who has been turning heads is Harvey Langi. The UDFA has been both a stand up inside LB and a blitzer off the edge. He played DE in his senior year of college. He’s another guy who could conceivably fit the bill as an edge rusher. The internal options point to more of a three-man front look or a 3-4. But they can also look elsewhere.

Free Agency and/or Trade: We’ve seen in the past that Bill Belichick isn’t shy about pulling off trades during the season, Akiem Hicks, Akeem Ayers, and Van Noy a year ago are just some of the players that he’s picked up who played big roles for the team.

One of the biggest names out there is Dwight Freeney the former Patriots nemesis with the Colts who played a nice role with the Falcons a year ago. Freeney still showed he had what it took as he had seven QB hurries and a sack of Tom Brady in Super Bowl LI. At age 37, he’s no spring chicken but could be a sub-package pass rusher where he could still be effective.

Jared Odrick is a guy the Pats had in this spring for a physical, which he passed after a shoulder injury shelved him in 2016. He’s another one of those interior type pass rushers though so it would be interesting if they kick the tires on him.

Another name surfacing on social media is Mario Williams. There’s never been a question about his talent. His desire is another matter. Williams’ drive and motivation have been called into question the last few years. I highly doubt that Belichick would take a chance on wasting time with Williams if he wasn’t going to go all in. That would take a selling job not seen since Seward bought Alaska for a song.

On the trade front, there are a couple of guys out there who would be intriguing. But perhaps the most would be Za’Darius Smith of the Ravens. This possibility was first mentioned by Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit and one we’d agree with…Baltimore is another question. Smith had a solid rookie season but is being phased out of the defense as the Ravens invested heavily in the edge this spring. Baltimore needs tight end help, could one of the three Patriots TEs competing for the #3 spot be of interest to Ozzie Newsome? It would be an interesting fit. He’s 6’4, 275-pounds and about the approximate size of Wise. With him on the outs in Baltimore, he may be available…if the price is right.

While I wouldn’t be surprised if they kicked the tires on a free agent, I think Belichick may decide to fill the position from within. One dark horse that we didn’t mention is DE Keionta Davis. Davis was signed just recently and the Patriots may be stashing him on the roster for down the road, future use. He’s an athletic 6-3, 271-pound edge rusher who, if healthy, can help the team out. But our best bet here….most of the slack they may try to fill internally.

Which probably means Freeney signs about two minutes after this is posted…

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

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

With Ninkovich Retired, Who Steps Up on the Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
July 31, 2017 at 8:59 am ET

The retirement of Rob Ninkovich on Sunday afternoon was a significant loss for the Patriots in both terms of experience, (he’s been a stalwart on the team for eight years) but in terms of snaps. Other than last year where he missed the first four games and was bothered by his triceps injury all season, he’s always been one of the leaders in snap percentage on the defense.

The Patriots lost a lot of combined experience on the edge this season, Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long are all gone from the 2016 team, a combined 27 years of experience. Now they have as their longest tenured edge player, Trey Flowers who is entering just his third season.

We know Flowers is expected to be their main guy this season. We saw over the course of the second half of last season and the playoffs that he was arguably their best defensive lineman. One of the reasons they let Sheard and Long walk was they felt that this was the time for Flowers to shine and they went with youth.

So that part was certainly expected. But Ninkovich’s retirement leaves a void in experience and snaps, so who steps up in 2017 to fill the gap and provides the team with the pressure they’ll need?

Kony Ealy is definitely a guy the team expects big things from in 2017. They made a trade with Carolina to bring in Ealy, who has shown flashes of brilliance at times in his career but has yet to put it together.
The cards are all falling in place for Ealy to get a new jumpstart to his career. He has the most experience of any of the edge players, but he’s only 25 and is entering just his fourth NFL season. Things didn’t get off to a great start at camp for Ealy who missed the first day’s session. When asked about it, he stammered out a response that made it seem that Bill Belichick and he weren’t seeing eye-to-eye on something. It may be nothing, we’ll have to monitor this moving forward.

Ealy could team up with Flowers and give the Patriots a young, dynamic 1-2 duo on the edge…if everything plays out. The ball is in his court, and when the team gets back to work on Tuesday morning, Ealy and Flowers will be definitely under the microscope a bit more now.

Derek Rivers after his first training camp practice. (SBalestrieri photo)

The team drafted two edge players in Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise in this spring’s NFL Draft. Rivers was their top draft pick and Wise was also taken in the early going.

Rivers hasn’t turned heads yet, but we’re really only two padded practices into camp, He’s a rookie and has a steep learning curve, having not played against this level of competition in college, especially with the speed of the NFL game.

Rivers arguably has the higher ceiling of the two but he’s in a new defense and admitted on Thursday after the 1st practice session, he’s trying to just react and play his game without having to think about what he needs to do. It is early, and this is what training camp is for.

Wise has made some flashes already, the big guy from Arkansas has shown some nice moves and good explosion off the ball in the early going in both one-on-one drills and during full team work. He’s still got a long way to go as well, but thus far, the results have to be encouraging for the coaching staff.

Deatrich Wise has flashed some good explosion in the early going at training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)

The team will need at least one if not both rookies to step up a bit this season. The pass rush was so-so for much of the 2016 season although it isn’t about sacks but pressure and being able to influence the opposing quarterback’s decision-making process. If they can get their 3rd and 4th round draft picks involved and productive, it will go a long way.

Geneo Grissom is the guy who could garner the most impact with Ninkovich’s retirement. He’s been a bit of a disappointment for a 3rd round draft pick, and has had very little impact on defense, instead just being a core special teams’ player.

Entering his third campaign, he should see an immediate uptick in snaps now that Ninkovich is retired. Like Ealy, the timing is perfect for Grissom, who, if he’s ever going to make an impact on the field, this should be the time.

Grissom looks to have added extra muscle in Year3, in a pivotal year for the DE. (SBalestrieri photo)

Besides the defensive ends, the Patriots also have some linebackers who have shown the ability to rush the quarterback from the edge. Dont’a Hightower is on PUP right now, but he’s been a very effective blitzer from the outside linebacker position. His sack of Matt Ryan in the Super Bowl was one of the big turning points in the game.

Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin have also shown the ability to bring pressure on opposing QBs. And both should see some plenty of work in doing that. Rookie Harvey Langi is another LB who could see a role as a blitzer on passing downs.

So while Patriots nation, bids a fond farewell to Rob Ninkovich, the business of the NFL takes back over and the Patriots pass rush, while not glaring to the point of being called a weakness, is now an area of concern with #50’s retirement. Their depth took a hit there. And now it is up to the players that are here to step up.

 

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

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

Patriots Training Camp Practice #3 Quick Observations

Steve Balestrieri
July 29, 2017 at 1:02 pm ET

Is Brandin Cooks Fast? You betcha

The Patriots wrapped up their third practice of the 2017 training camp just about 11:30 on Saturday morning. It was their first padded practice of the summer and the team got down to positional drills, one-on-ones, and some special team’s work.

Brandin Cooks had another eye-popping performance on Saturday. His speed was once again on display as he is able to get separation from the defensive backs and is going to be a very tough man to account for in this offense. He’s been the steal of the spring for the Pats 32nd pick in the 1st round of the draft. More of this below.

  • Quick Hitters:
    As soon as practice began, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, and David Jones retreated to the lower practice fields with members of the Patriots training staff.
  • Interesting to note the QBs were doing some different footwork and pocket movement drills today. From the confines of the pocket, the coaches had cones set up and the QBs had to do their backpedal, then move forward thru the cones while a coach with a big padded arm extension hit them trying to jar the ball loose.
  • The cornerbacks practiced with the wide receivers in a drill where they tried to jam the receivers coming off of the line but while wearing big mitts. It makes it much tougher to jam when they can’t grab ahold of a jersey. It is a great drill because it makes things tougher…obviously for the DBs and will cut down on penalties.
  • David Harris had some impressive plays as the Mike linebacker. He had a few audible pops that could be heard up in the press tent. He’s moving very well so far and coupled with his veteran savvy, looks like a steal …so far.
  • Both Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead had a couple of nice runs during goal line drills. That’s what we were looking for today…Good start for the duo.

Scary Moment for Harmon: Safety Duron Harmon had a really scary moment during the 11-on-11 drills. Brady attempted to hit Chris Hogan on a crossing route in the back of the end zone. Harmon made a great move on the ball and broke up the play. However, he landed awkwardly on his leg and stayed down. He was helped off the field by the training staff and was limping noticeably.

He stayed on the field, however, and although he still walking gingerly after practice the fact that he stayed is an encouraging sign. This will bear watching.

Wise Has Impressive Day: Rookie defensive end Deatrich Wise had a pretty impressive morning session. The big defensive end looked like a veteran out there at times and despite an odd gait when walking, displayed some nice explosion off the line in both 1-on-1s and in full team drills.

During the individual drills he beat Cameron Fleming with a quick inside penetration move and rocking the veteran back on his heels. He was stonewalled by Joe Thuney while trying to bull rush his way past in another rep. But he recovered and used an outside-inside move on James Ferentz to beat him cleanly. That’s a nice repertoire for the rookie to showcase this early. He was juked hard by Rex Burkhead in a tackling drill in a kind of welcome to the NFL moment.

During the full team drills, however, Wise jumped inside of Fleming again and would have had a clean sack of Jimmy Garoppolo. Jimmy G. dumped the ball off to James White. At the end of practice, during the opportunity time with the backups, Wise again shot a gap and stuffed D.J. Foster for a loss. He has a long way to go but is showing a lot of potential in the early going.

Brady in Midseason Form: Tom Brady was sharp again on Saturday morning. From moving well in the pocket during drills to being quick and accurate with his throws. He threw a laser to Chris Hogan on a deep crossing pattern down the seam over the safety.

He hit Edelman on a deep post on nearly the same play call, which elicited huge cheers from the crowd.

Brady also spread the field and recognizing single coverage on Rob Gronkowski split wide, Brady hit the big man on a crossing route with Jordan Richards in a mismatch. Later they tried the same thing on a skinny post with Richards breaking up the play but who would have certainly been flagged for interference.

Play of the Day: Jimmy G. and Cooks hooked up on a play that brought the huge crowd to their feet. Cooks went in motion and took off down the slot on a deep post pattern. The defense was in a Deep Cover 2 with Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner in coverage. Cooks blew by both of the safeties and waited for what seemed like forever for the ball to come down for what would have been a 30-yard touchdown.

Play of the Day 2: During a goal line sequence, Rex Burkhead who had a couple of nice touchdown runs earlier, ran off-tackle to the left behind Nate Solder and Joe Thuney. Rookie linebacker Harvey Langi recognized it and flew thru the gap to nail Burkhead behind the line of scrimmage. It was a real instinctive, downhill play.

Big Men Get Into the Act: Near the end of practice, the Patriots put some of the big bodies back to catch punts off the Juggs machine. OL Jason King, DL Darius Kilgo, DL Woodrow Hamilton and DL Adam Butler all took turns catching…or trying to catch punts.

Kilgo showed some remarkable footwork and agility for a 320-pounder. He fielded his all cleanly….However, King looked a bit like a fish out of water and probably won’t be asked to be on the hands team.

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

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

Patriots Training Camp Day 3, First Padded Practice, What to Watch For

Steve Balestrieri
at 9:00 am ET

The Patriots get back to work here at Gillette Stadium on Saturday morning and now is when the work really starts. The pads come on for the first time today and as Bill Belichick so aptly put yesterday, now is when the evaluation begins.

The team had a pair of shorts and shells practices the first two days of training camp to get things started but the intensity was dialed down a bit. Today, that should change. Here are a couple of things to watch for today as the team ratchets up the tempo and intensity:

Will Rob Ninkovich Show Up? We’ve been hearing the rumors about Ninkovich possibly going to retire and the only official word we’ve heard from the Patriots is that Nink is dealing with a personal issue.

If Ninkovich indeed does decide to call it a career it will be a definite blow to the defense. Although he’s dealt with a suspension and some injuries a year ago which affected his production, Ninkovich remains one of the best Patriots players at crunch time. He’s always been at his best when the games are on the line.

He may have lost a half-step last season but he’s still a stalwart on the defense and a versatile one to boot. He can line up as a defensive end, as a linebacker and even serves as the team’s emergency long snapper in a pinch. We’ll be watching for the players coming out on the field this morning to see if he’s back….If he does retire, it would leave Kony Ealy and Trey Flowers as the probable starters with rookie draft picks Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise with veteran Geneo Grissom.

How will the Power Running Game Look: The Patriots parted ways with LeGarrette Blount this spring and brought in Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee. Those are the two backs that are expected to pick up the slack of Blount’s departure and provide the team the heavy running between the tackles that they’ll need to keep defenses honest in 2017.

James White and Dion Lewis are the primary passing back options along with D.J. Foster and veteran Brandon Bolden who can jump in for the occasional carry but the new players are the ones to watch today.

With the pads coming on today, Burkhead and Gillislee are the guys to watch. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team open in some sort of goal line drill today to set the tone for the day. UDFA rookie Leshun Daniels is a dark horse to make the roster and he is also in that power back role. It will be curious to see how he performs as well.

Can the Young Players Keep up the Pace? We wrote about how Austin Carr had turned heads in the opening days of camp with some nice catches and showing good hands. Of course, Bill Belichick pooh-poohed the entire episode during his Friday presser but the fact remains that Carr didn’t do anything to hurt his chances during the first two days of camp.

Besides Carr, the Hollister twins, Rivers and Deatrich and others in their first Patriots training camp will be guys to watch now that the heat gets turned up.

As Belichick said, the teaching part will continue but now the evaluations begin. He should be making his way to the podium shortly and after that Saturday’s practice will begin.

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

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

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer: Defensive Line

Steve Balestrieri
July 17, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

Versatility and Physicality Mark The Pats DL

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

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. With a roster of 90 players and no cuts needed before the final 53-man roster cut down, there will be plenty of time for evaluation.

So, we’re going to look at the Patriots Defensive Line and how they shake out. There is much versatility here and that what makes the Patriots defense so effective. In a sack driven league, they’re rather pedestrian at them despite leading the league in points against in 2016.

DL Malcom Brown will be expected to be more consistent in 2017. (SBalestrieri photo)

It wasn’t smoke and mirrors, the team uses a variety of different looks and squeezes offenses from running the ball and then with their pass rushers, do not let opponents out of the pocket where big plays tend to happen. They demand their edge players set the edge first, they’re not and have never been a “sell-out” pass rush team.

The team lost defensive ends, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long, this spring but drafted two younger guys in Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise while picking up Kony Ealy from the Panthers in a steal of a trade, during the NFL Draft. The team also picked up the versatile and underrated Lawrence Guy from Baltimore. Trey Flowers was arguably their best DL down the stretch and into the playoffs and Alan Branch was outstanding all season.

Roster Locks: Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Rob Ninkovich, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise, Alan Branch, Malcom Brown
Everything starts with the big men in the middle and Branch and Brown were very good in 2016. Branch frequently plays over the center and is outstanding at stuffing the run. Brown is as well. Their job is to force everything outside where the defensive ends and linebackers are supposed to clean it up. They each got a little bit of push in the passing game but that is something that Brown could do a bit more of as well as be more consistent in 2017.

Patriots rookie DE Deatrich Wise in action at minicamp in June. (SBalestrieri photo)

Ealy will be an intriguing guy to watch this year. He’s in a contract year and has been given a clean slate by the coaches in New England.  The biggest knock against him was that he didn’t buy in when he was in Carolina. He seems to be doing that right off the bat here, which is a good sign. When he’s on, he’s a difficult man to block. Just rewind to Super Bowl L and watch him against the Broncos.

Big things are expected of Flowers this season, and after the way he finished 2016, he seems to be the go-to guy in the pass rush. Flowers, like many others in the Pats defense, is versatile and can rush from the edge or push inside as an interior pass rusher.

Ninkovich is a guy who is always at his best in clutch situations. He may be losing a step but he’s another versatile guy who can line up as a defensive end or drop as an outside linebacker.

Rob Ninkovich has been a clutch performer for the Patriots defense. (SBalestrieri photo)

Rivers and Wise by virtue of their draft stock are untouchable this season. Rivers is another guy who can play DE or OLB and was the Patriots top draft choice this season. Wise is another big DE in the Patriots mold that is an edge setter first and a pass rusher second. He was hurt in his senior season in college but had a very impressive 2015.

With the depth listed above, these rookie edge players, they won’t have a ton of pressure put on them to produce much this season. They will be able to learn the defense, get used to the speed of the pro game and get some reps here and there.

Near Roster Locks: Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine
Valentine showed some nice flashes last year in his rookie campaign. He’s another big body who can stuff the run on the inside. Guy is a versatile, movable piece and plays the 1-technique or out to the 5-technique. He seems like he’s going to be a nice fit in the Patriots defense. We’ll have to see if he can translate that to the field.

It is going to take some hard work from the guys below to unseat either of these two players. But stranger things have happened. Unless someone gets hurt or a case of the Foxboro Flu.

On the Bubble: Geneo Grissom, Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta, Adam Butler
The clock is running out on Geneo Grissom. He’s a guy that was drafted ahead of Flowers and was thought to have all kinds of versatility. But it hasn’t happened for him, he’s been unable to make a dent in the defense. Hamilton made the team a year ago but with the addition of Guy from the Ravens, he’s going to have to turn it up… a lot.

Augusta is a big-body, run stuffer in the Vince Wilfork mold, he’s listed at 6’0, 335-pounds…which may be wishful thinking. Passing the conditioning test on Day 1 will be a tough task for the big man, who failed to complete a lap during minicamp…twice.

Butler is a definite under the radar guy. Signed as a UDFA from Vanderbilt, the 6’4, 305-pound DL can be a run-stuffing tackle or a penetrator from the interior on passing downs. He played OL in college before switching over. He’ll be a guy to watch to see if he can turn some heads.

Kilgo was drafted by Denver and appeared in 18 games in two seasons before being released last November. The Pats signed the big 6’3, 320 DL to the practice squad where he spent the remaining part of the season.

Our next primer will have the Patriots Linebackers… stay tuned.

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

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

New England Patriots News 4-30, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 30, 2017 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-30, & AFC East Notes.

Not that anyone really cares but on Saturday, Deflategate actually ended. The Patriots had to cede their 4th round draft pick. But if the NFL’s arbitrary enforcement of an equipment violation’s intent was to punish New England, think about this. During the timeline of Deflategate, New England was 31-7 with two Super Bowl wins…. Back to the drawing board guys.

With the draft complete, the Patriots were so deep at so many positions, they drafted only OL and DL. That is a good problem to have.

We mentioned this before here, but nobody does a better job of evaluating talent than the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock. Between his work on the Combine and then the Draft, he’s head and shoulders above everyone else. I’d be surprised if someone doesn’t try to bring him on board a franchise soon as a talent evaluator.

Draft Had the Future in Mind: The Patriots added some depth and potential impact players in the 2017 NFL Draft but this seemed to be a draft with the focus clearly on 2018 and beyond. While players such as top pick Derek Rivers will be looked at to contribute this season, he and OT Antonio Garcia were selected clearly with the future in mind. Deatrich Wise will be looked to be a sub-package player initially.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. With a roster as loaded as New England’s is and fresh off another Super Bowl victory, there aren’t a ton of open starting positions available. And they used some of their draft capital on free agent player, which will segue right into this…

Belichick, Patriots Go for Known Commodity, Value over Draft Picks:
We’ve repeated this time and again but it bears repeating. While many fans and some of the talking heads in the media lament the lack of draft picks for the Patriots, Bill Belichick doesn’t

“Obviously, we’ve been watching a lot of picks go by, but I feel like overall our opportunity in this draft started a couple of months ago, Belichick said.

“The four players that we acquired already are also part of the draft process, Belichick added.”

“Hopefully we’ve been able to improve our team, become more competitive. That’s the ultimate goal, he said.”

One needn’t have to read the tea leaves to see that Belichick considers the players traded for draft picks in free agency as draft capital. So, he deems Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy as the team’s first and second-round picks. Dwayne Allen as a fourth rounder and Mike Gillislee as a fifth-round pick.

In trading for established pro players, Belichick has a known commodity in making the deals. Cooks, for example, has been a very productive receiver in the NFL and there’s no reason to believe that at just 23 years old, he won’t continue to grow as a player.

The draft is a crap shoot because no one really knows how a player will turn out once he turns professional. How many “can’t miss” prospects end up busting? It is an inexact science, something Belichick has said numerous times. They know Cooks, Ealy, Allen, and Gillislee can produce in the NFL because they already have. Albeit, some at different levels than the others but with Belichick, he will place these players in a position to succeed, knowing that they are professionals already.

Now take a second look at the Patriots ‘draft’ haul and it looks much different.
1st Round – Brandon Cooks, WR, Trade with New Orleans
2nd Round – Kony Ealy, DE, Trade with Carolina
3rd Round – Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State
3rd Round – Antonio Garcia, T, Troy
4th Round – Dwayne Allen, TE, Trade with Indy
4th Round – Deatrich Wise, DE, Arkansas
5th Round – Mike Gillislee, RB, RFA Buffalo
5th Round – James O’Shaughnessy, TE, Trade KC
6th Round – Connor McDermott T, UCLA

Now courtesy of another lookover of the haul and it seems like a much deeper draft class, doesn’t it?

Garoppolo and Butler Stay Put, Despite All the Trade Rumors:
After much talk dedicated to the “what if” category of New England trading QB Jimmy Garoppolo and CB Malcolm Butler this offseason, both remain here and likely will for at least the 2014 season.

There were rumors that the Patriots rebuffed a Cleveland Browns trade offer on Thursday night. Whether the Browns didn’t offer enough compensation or not remains unseen but supposedly New England told the Browns that Garoppolo was not up for grabs.

Cleveland eventually took a QB in the draft, DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame with the 52nd pick, so that should put the Jimmy G. rumors to rest now.

Butler too was subject to many trade rumors to New Orleans. Although the Saints said they were impressed with him, they didn’t swing a deal for him since they would have had to give the Patriots compensation of a first-round pick and then some and subsequently signed him to a long-term contract.

Both remain on the roster and should remain there for at least the 2017 season. With no CB taken, Butler, Stephon Gilmore, and Eric Rowe seem to be the top three CBs in the rotation. Butler may see some time in the slot depending on the matchups. Cyrus Jones is in the mix too.

Rivers on Meeting Belichick on Pre-Draft Meeting, “It was Awesome”:
Top Patriots draft pick Derek Rivers

“It was awesome, man,” Rivers said to the media via conference call. “I mean, we talked ball. I love coach Belichick. I love everything he is and what he stands for and how he coaches his demeanor. I mean, he’s an awesome dude. I could learn a lot from him.”

“Man, it’s awesome,” he said when asked about coming to New England. “I’m super excited. I mean, there’s just so much I can learn from those guys that were there, as far as just the commitment that those guys have, the type of coaching that’s in that locker room.”

“I’m just ready to learn from those guys and get better with those guys.”

UDFA Signings By the Patriots:
As soon as the draft was complete, the undrafted players immediately began getting interest from teams. The Patriots have already either signed or are bringing in several players on a tryout basis. Those already linked to New England include:
DT Josh Augusta, Missouri
LB Harvey Langi, BYU
WR Austin Carr, Northwestern
S Jason Thompson, Utah
G Jason King, Purdue
TE Jacob Hollister, Wyoming
CB Kenny Moore, Valdosta State
DE Corey Vereen, Tennessee
S David Jones, Richmond
DT Adam Butler, Vanderbilt
RB Leshun Daniels Jr., Iowa
OT Cole Croston, Iowa
OT Max Rich, Harvard
S Damarius Travis, Minnesota
CB D.J. Killings, Central Florida
DE Adam Butler, Vanderbilt

There will be plenty of comings and goings on this list, so stay tuned…

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Address Needs and Move up and Down the Board:
The Buffalo Bills had needs at CB, and WR with the loss of Stephon Gilmore and Robert Woods. Their first two picks in the draft definitely met those.

LSU CB Tre’Davious White is a perfect fit for the Bills zone defense and he’s considered a solid locker room presence as well as a player. He will compete for an immediate role as a starter.

Zay Jones, the WR from East Carolina gives Buffalo a solid #2 WR that will provide the receptions to move the chains. He was an incredibly productive receiver with 399 career receptions in college.

I loved the pick of BC LB Matt Milano, who flies all over the field and will play special teams. But moving up for RT Dion Dawkins? Seemed like a reach and there wasn’t really a need to move up. Time will tell. The pick of QB Nathan Peterman from Pittsburgh was another nice move. He’ll push Cardale Jones for a roster spot.

Miami Grabs Nice Edge Rusher in Harris:
The Miami Dolphins first pick in the draft was Missouri DE Charles Harris, who we really liked in the pre-draft process. He fits an obvious need and should fit right in with the Dolphins defense.

Another excellent pick in Round 2 was Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillian. He filled a position of need at ILB where the team will eventually decide to replace Koa Misi. He’s solid, and an excellent player against the run.

Round 3 CB Cordrea Tankersley from Clemson gives them the length they needed at the position. He should compete for reps on Day 1. Isaac Assiata was another good pick. The OL was a place the Dolphins needed to upgrade and he’s a good choice. An excellent run blocker, he’ll need to work on his pass protection. A very good draft for the Dolphins.

Jets Snag Two Safeties Early:
The New York Jets double-dipped at the safety position with two good selections who fell right into their lap at the #6 and #39 positions respectively with Jamal Adams from LSU and Marcus Maye from Florida. The Jets had an obvious need there and those two should step right in and compete.

They then double-dipped at WR with Ar’Darrius Stewart and Chad Hansen but their sleeper pick is Jordan Leggett, TE from Clemson who has the tools to be a very good one in the NFL. But the biggest question still isn’t answered. Who is going to be the QB?

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 myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.